Sunday, May 25, 2014

YES! to Scotland; No Place for Trident

Q: What's the most important thing happening in global security in the next 12 months?

A: The YES vote in Scotland.

Okay, okay, don't feel bad.  It was under my radar, too, at least until I attended the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Prepcom in New York a few weeks ago.  Scots go to the polls on the question of independence on Thursday, September 18, 2014, and there is a possibility they will vote to secede from the United Kingdom.

The outcome is not a foregone conclusion. "A TNS poll on March 25 showed that 42 percent would reject independence, with 28 percent voting "yes" and 28 percent undecided," reported Reuters. But Reuters also reports that Alistair Carmichael, Britain's Secretary of State for Scotland, "warns that the vote could ultimately go for secession."

But wait - what's that got to do with "the most important thing happening in global security in the next 12 months"?

If Scotland secedes, there is a strong likelihood that Scotland would decide to close the Trident submarine base at Faslane, and its accompanying Coulport nuclear missile depot.

"NO ROOM FOR DEBATE: The SNP's stance on Trident was so firm
there could be no negotiation over its removal, said Scotland Office
minister David Mundell." Picture: PA in Herald Scotland

Faslane/Coulport is the only nuclear submarine base in the British Isles.

Now, there is a diversity of opinion about what might happen next.  England might negotiate to obtain lease on the base, so it can stay open. (Some commentators call that unlikely.) England might decide to move the Tridents to a port in England. (But that would require them to create a depot to store the nuclear missiles - a dicey proposition in densely populated areas.)  England might find another country to allow them to base this dangerous cargo; some have suggested France. (Um - hello? France?)

And all of this is happening smack in the runup to the every-5-year Non Proliferation Treaty review conference in May, 2015.  There is already a showdown brewing over the refusal of nuclear states (read: the U.S.) to move swiftly to full disarmament.  The spectre of British Isle de-nuclearization, combined with pushback against nukes coming from America's erstwhile NATO allies in Europe could lend great weight to calls for disarmament.

I'll be writing more soon about what I learned about anti-nuclear momentum building among the governments of Northern Europe.  In the meantime, think:

YES! to Scotland

No Place for Trident

Read more about the "Yes" campaign at

Read more about "No place for Trident" at the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Related posts

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has filed unprecedented lawsuits against all nine nuclear-armed nations for their failure to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament, as required under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The suits were filed against all nine nations at the International Court of Justice, with an additional complaint against the United States filed in U.S. Federal District Court.

 (See Now HERE'S an "Asia Pivot" I Can Believe In! (Marshall Islands Sues Nuclear "Haves") )

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry)

I'm grateful to my friend, Jim Barton, for framing the problem in a way that is adequately broad, and yet contains a measure of hope.  It's about the future, and whether we have one -- or can construct one -- he said.  Young people today are asking: Do I have an economic future? Does the planet have a future? Will (nuclear) war extinguish everybody's future?

(See A FUTURE: Can we construct one? )

More related links

September 14, 2014: Stephen Phelan, "A Better Nation: Scotland’s Divisive Independence Vote" in The Boston Review: "At this point, perhaps I should also disclose that I have always been unnerved and affronted by the storage of the United Kingdom’s entire nuclear arsenal at the Faslane naval base on the River Clyde, just twenty-five miles from Glasgow. Even after devolution, all matters of defense are reserved to Westminster, and the Trident submarine missile system has stayed in Scotland over the objections of a massive majority. If I still lived here this issue alone might make me vote Yes; the SNP’s outline for independence makes an emphatic point of removing Trident missiles from Scottish sovereign territory, thus forcing the U.K. government to find another home for those weapons, or to scrap them altogether, which seems unlikely to the point of fantasy and hinges on the faint hope that no suitable alternative bases can be found in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. To me, it seems a relatively straightforward question of morality and democracy, tinged with personal politics and memories of childhood nightmares. For others, it is more a question of jobs." (emphasis added)

September 15, 2014: Bill Kidd and Erika Simpson, "Britain’s Wee Nuclear Problem," on the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation website: "Even if not enough Scots vote Yes to win independence, their voting patterns could provide an opportunity for Britons as a whole to rethink their approach to nuclear weapons. . . . In the face of such opposition from Scotland — even in the possible wake of a decided No vote — it will remain difficult for the UK government to continue its absurd and costly pursuit of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system against the backdrop of international negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. Scotland’s vote this Thursday could go either way, but it is already sure to push Mother England to overcome her Cold War thinking about security by undermining traditional arguments in favour of maintaining these weapons of mass destruction." (emphasis added)