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IT WAS quite something for an SNP member to sit in the seat reserved for the United Kingdom at a UN conference.
Of course, I only ended up sitting there because the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons attracted such huge interest that there wasn’t even enough standing room left in the UN chamber.
The only reason the UK’s chair was empty was because the Westminster government — along with the other nuclear-armed states — refused to acknowledge that the treaty was being negotiated and didn’t bother to send a representative.
It was just a quick visit as I didn’t want to be associated with the churlish attitude of the Westminster government, nor of course to break any UN code of conduct.
However, the fact that neither the Westminster government nor the governments of the other nuclear-armed states were willing to take seriously the concerns of the majority of the people of the world over these weapons of mass destruction speaks volumes about its lack of concern for the United Nations and about its disdain for the concept of global democracy.
Some 122 nations voted for the treaty; only the Netherlands voted against it and Singapore was the only abstention.
The Netherlands took part as the host nation of Nato nuclear weapons and was the nominee to face up to the fury and brickbats of the “romantic idealists,” as the opposers of nuclear weapons were described by the British UN ambassador last year.
However, there was a dignified silence during the Dutch speeches and interventions, observed by all other delegations and by those representing the NGOs at the back of the chamber.
At the end of the week-long conference there were cheers and tears from those who had worked long and hard for just such a moment, among whom were a number of Hibakusha, now in their eighties, who had been children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the US dropped the only two atomic bombs used in belligerance so far.
The failure of the nuclear-armed states to attend and participate in this conference will not be forgotten by all those who did so.
When the UN high-level conference on nuclear disarmament takes place next year, we can guarantee that there will be substantial debate on behalf of the majority of the world’s peoples, who will call for serious steps to be taken to achieve a world without nuclear weapons — not more mouth-music by the nuke-worshippers.
Bill Kidd is SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland.
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