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VOICES OF SCOTLAND Divest from destruction and sign up to the peace treaty

ARTHUR WEST, joint convener of Scottish CND Trade Union Network, gives an update from the struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons

WESTMINSTER’S recent announcement that it intends to massively increase its nuclear weapons stockpile was very depressing to hear. It is also means that the government is moving away from its international obligations to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in today’s world.

This wrong-headed approach adds considerably to the already catastrophic threat which nuclear weapons pose to the human race.

However, it was also a setback for anti-nuclear weapons campaigners to hear Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey going out of his way in a recent parliamentary speech to say that Labour’s support for keeping Britain’s nuclear weapons was non-negotiable.

It is essential that Scottish CND and the wider peace movement respond to these developments by redoubling our struggle to achieve a nuclear-weapons free world. As a contribution to this struggle Scottish CND is continuing with a full programme of activities despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

During the current election period, Scottish CND have worked with Campaign Against the Arms Trade and faith-based organisation Pax Christi to produce a Manifesto for Peace which is being used to raise issues with candidates.

One of the key points of the manifesto is a call for bodies such as Scottish Enterprise to provide no public funding for manufacturers of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The main challenge of the manifesto however, is the call to promote real human security by tackling structural inequalities in areas such as health, education, race and gender. It is important that following the election the manifesto is used to continue pressing for politicians to take practical action to implement its proposals.

Scottish CND continues to work in partnership with various networks within the wider Scottish peace movement. Don‘t Bank on the Bomb – Scotland Network campaigns for Scottish financial institutions and public bodies to divest from companies that are involved in the production and development of nuclear weapons.

The Network has identified a number of financial institutions which support nuclear weapons through their investment strategies. In the last few months the Network has been involved in a letter writing campaign directed at Natwest Bank — formerly the Royal Bank — to end its nuclear weapons investments.

It is an absolute scandal that household names such as Natwest and universities such as Strathclyde and Glasgow have investments in nuclear weapons — which if they are ever used will cause massive death and destruction.

Scottish CND also continues to support the Scottish Peace Network. This brings together most of the major organisations within the Scottish peace movement to promote pro-peace and anti-war attitudes within Scottish society.

One of the issues it has been campaigning on is the support which Scottish Enterprise has given to arms firms with a base in Scotland. It would appear that Lockheed Martin, which is the world’s largest arms firm, has in the last couple of years received almost £180,000 for what Scottish Enterprise are saying are innovation and marketing purposes.

Other companies to benefit in the recent past from Scottish Enterprise grants include BAE Systems, Leonardo and the French company Thales which employs around 700 people at two Glasgow locations.

The Scottish Peace Network is very concerned about these payments and before lockdown organised a protest outside the agency’s office in Glasgow.

This is an issue which it will continue to work on with the objective of pressurising Scottish Enterprise to use its resources for projects in areas such as renewables and technologies which contribute to a more peaceful and stable world rather than putting cash into the coffers of companies involved in the arms trade.

Scottish CND also supports the charity Peace Education Scotland, a charity that develops educational resources on topics such as the moral and humanitarian implications of any use of nuclear weapons. These resources are available for use in schools — but can be used at local group meetings to promote discussion and debate.

The charity is also developing a module which will look at the significance of the protests at the Greenham Common base back in the 1980s and it has received funding to organise educational events in the run up to the Cop 26 conference taking place in Glasgow in November.

I am involved in the Scottish CND Trade Union Network which attempts to raise awareness within the union movement on the need to get rid of nuclear weapons from our world.

The current priority is to continue to make the case against Trident replacement and the shocking waste of resources it represents. Scottish CND research indicates that Trident replacement costs are estimated at the eye-watering figure of £205 billion.

As the country struggles in the aftermath of the pandemic the cancellation of the Trident replacement programme would provide resources which could be used to provide people with real security in the form of decent housing and quality jobs.

The argument in favour of cancellation of Trident also resonates across the trade union movement in Scotland and has been supported at various STUC congresses in recent years.

Other priorities for the Scottish CND trade union network are making the case for a fully funded Scottish defence diversification agency which would promote and progress peaceful alternatives to diversify the Scottish economy away from over-reliance on arms production and nuclear weapons.

A considerable body of work has already been undertaken in relation to producing ideas for the diversification of the Scottish economy. A number of imaginative and solid ideas around diversification are contained in reports by the STUC, the Reid Foundation and Scottish CND — however political will is now required to put some of these ideas into practice.

The Scottish CND trade union network are hoping to open up further dialogue with trade union reps who support workers in the defence sector in an attempt to work more closely with them on defence diversification and “just transition” issues.

Last but not least the Scottish CND trade union network in conjunction with the rest of the Scottish peace movement will be highlighting the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

This treaty outlaws the creation, ownership and deployment of nuclear weapons by signatory states and places obligations on them to assist other victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

It came into force in January 2021 and has been signed by 86 countries and has been ratified by 51, is now part of international law — and it is likely that the number of signatories and ratifications will continue to grow.

The British government has refused to co-operate, so maximum pressure needs to be put on it. They should perhaps read a recent open letter signed by 56 former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 Nato member states as well as Japan and South Korea which calls on current leaders to join the treaty.

In this remarkable letter the former leaders declare that nuclear weapons serve no military or strategic purpose in the light of the catastrophic human and environmental consequences of their use.

The struggle to rid our country and our world continues in Scotland. The task feels very uphill at times and unrealistic at times. However it is always worth remembering the words of the great Nelson Mandela when he said: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

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