Monday, October 22, 2007

Scotland the Brave! (and someday nuclear weapon free?)

Thanks to Martin Butcher for surfacing that BBC News reports that Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has “written representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)…asking them to back his bid for Scotland to have observer status at future treaty talks.” In the letter, Salmond requests support for Scotland to have observer status in future NPT Review Conference talks and articulates his government’s opposition to the planned replacement of the British Trident subamarine-launched ballistic missile capability:

"The majority of Scottish people and their elected representatives oppose these deployments."
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon explains:

“It is not about trying to make common cause with any particular country…Given that Trident is based in Scotland, I think it is right that we make sure all of these countries know Scotland's view.”
Deputy First Minister Sturgeon hosted a conference today titled A National Conversation: Scotland's Future Without Nuclear Weapons opposing Trident replacement. At this event she said:

"There are few more important issues in the world than nuclear weapons. And the position of the Scottish Government is clear - we are opposed to the replacement of the Trident system and the deployment of weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil."

"That position is shared by a majority of MSPs, a majority of Scottish MPs, and a majority of the Scottish public. The fact that defence issues are currently reserved to Westminster does not make such opposition irrelevant - rather it forces all of us to consider how best to convey that strong feeling of opposition to the UK Government."

"There are strong moral arguments against nuclear weapons. But we need to consider the practical implications of having a replacement to the Trident system on Scottish soil. That is the responsible thing to do - and that is what we are doing."

The engagement of the Government of Scotland on the question of the future of nuclear weapons has several important implications. First, it signals Scottish willingness to contribute new energy to the resolution of issues of global concern, offering an important voice to global deliberations regarding prudent and effective movement toward the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. Second, it suggests that despite the continuing exaggeration of the political value of nuclear weapons by some states, non-nuclear weapon state status within the NPT can still be used to assert sovereignty. Third, it indicates, as the Mayors for Peace have, that smaller governmental entities may be more sensitive to the nuclear weapon free ambitions of their constituents. Fourth, raises the profile of internal criticism of the United Kingdom’s plans to replace Trident, perhaps openning the door to greater public engagement on this vital issue.

Scotland may have a tough row to hoe with the three NPT depository governments (the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia) – credentialling representatives for the next Prepartory Committee meeting is likely to prove quite challenging – but the presence of Mr. Salmond, Ms. Sturgeon, or their representative at the 2010 Review Conference would be an important signal to the world.

1 comment:

  1. Ian Davis, Co-Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) surfaced this additional information:

    Re the earlier report in the Sunday Herald that Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is seeking international backing for his government's campaign to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons. See:

    Below is the full text of the letter from the First Minister sent to 122 parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on 15 October 2007. It has been published on journalist Rob Edwards' web site:

    "I am writing to you, as representative of a State Party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to inform you of the Scottish Government's views and determination to play as constructive a part as possible in
    pursuing our country's nuclear disarmament obligations under the NPT. We also intend to explore the possibility of taking up observer status at future NPT meetings, so that we can more directly and effectively represent the aspirations and interests of Scotland's people. In the event that we do seek that status, I would hope we would be able to count on your government's support.

    As you may know, the United Kingdom currently deploys a 4-submarine Trident nuclear weapon system from the Faslane Naval Base in Scotland. The UK also stores up to 200 nuclear warheads a few miles further along the coast, in Coulport. Last March the UK Government pushed through the Westminster Parliament a preliminary decision to renew the Trident system, thereby signalling its intention to continue to make and deploy nuclear weapons beyond 2050. The majority of Scottish people and their elected representatives oppose these deployments.

    In May, for the first time since the nuclear age began in 1945, the people of Scotland elected a government that is opposed to nuclear weapons. On 14 June, the Scottish Parliament debated the following motion in relation to the UK Government's policy on nuclear weapons:

    "That the Parliament congratulates the majority of Scottish MPs for voting on 14 March 2007 to reject the replacement of Trident, recognises that decisions on matters of defence are matters within the responsibility of the
    UK Government and Parliament and calls on the UK Government not to go ahead at this time with the proposal in the White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent."

    The Scottish Parliament showed clear and overwhelming opposition to the UK Government's plan to replace its Trident nuclear weapons system (by 71 votes
    to 16, with 39 abstentions), and widespread support for this Government's vision of a Scotland without nuclear weapons.

    During the debate, the Scottish Government signalled its intention to reflect on the views of the majority of Scots and carefully consider which aspects of the UK Government's plans to replace Trident impact on our responsibilities in Scotland under devolution. We made it clear that we will do all that we can, in light of those responsibilities, to persuade the UK Government to change its stance both on the replacement programme and on the
    general principle of maintaining and deploying nuclear weapons.

    Recognising that there are a range of views on the constitutional future of Scotland, we have embarked on a National conversation with the Scottish
    public on the options for constitutional change leading to further development of the way we govern ourselves. As part of this debate on Scotland's constitutional future, we will be holding a high level meeting of key stakeholders from across Scottish life to discuss the implications of the replacement of Trident and what a Scotland without nuclear weapons might look like.

    I would like to assure you of Scotland's deep commitment to international peace and security, and our desire to participate in making the case for implementation of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation provisions of the NPT and other relevant international agreements and treaties. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you or your government wish to discuss these issues further."