Trident moves centre stage

faslane fence tags

Photo: via Scrap Trident

by David McKenzie, Scrap Trident Coalition In the early days of the Yes campaign, I recall having sometimes to argue for a place for UK nukes within the list of critical issues. This changed as time went on and Trident moved almost to centre stage. This should not be surprising. On the one hand, it is a concrete reality. From my window I can see the ICBM subs going up and down the Clyde estuary, carrying their foul cargo in the middle of ordinary water traffic. But it is also a powerful and indicative symbol of the Neighbourhood-Watch-Gone-Mad philosophy to which the British state is clinging ever more desperately.

Many more people appear to have got the point that the question of the UK’s nukes is not capable of isolation from the whole fabric of concern about social justice, care for the planet and human solidarity across the globe.

As late as 17 September, there was an obvious and marked route, albeit across difficult terrain, on the road map to nuclear disarmament. An independent Scotland could have led to the abandonment of Trident across the whole UK with the possibility of kicking off a benign domino event worldwide. However, after the dejection of 19 September, the new vista is by no means as bleak as we might have predicted.

Underlying the new hope is of course the remarkable vitality and breadth of the Lets-make-it-different-in-Scotland movement post-referendum. That movement needs to work at being inclusive but it does provide in many places a significant focus on the major unaddressed issues, including Trident.

In that mix there is a realisation that intractable things can, after all, be changed. There is the tantalising possibility that the UK’s nukes could be a red line for inter-party collaboration at Westminster after the general election in May next year.

There are also other pressures on Westminster around nuclear weapons. The recent Vienna conference on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons is evidence of the strengthening will of non-nuke nations to push the disarmament agenda forward.

And among the UK establishment and its military elites there is considerable, though publicly muted, opposition to Trident renewal. All that bolsters the insane stance of the three major UK parties is terror of the right wing press and the mythical correlation between the possession of nukes and status at the top table.

All these doors are there to be pushed, though there are tactical and strategic questions about where and how that effort might best be applied, especially since the political situation is currently very fluid. At the same time there are three obvious and immediate tasks for the peace movement in Scotland. There has to be a countrywide call for people not to vote for a pro-Trident or pro-austerity party, including helping voters recognise that a vote for a Labour candidate who happens to be against Trident replacement is wasted.

Peace movement folk must also be ready to share their knowledge and understanding of Britain’s nuclear weapons, of the UK’s cynical disregard for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the ongoing work and expense already committed to replacement before a parliamentary decision, the routine passage of nuclear weapon convoys on public roads, etc.

Most of all, we cannot leave this matter in the hands of leading politicians and government figures, however welcome their stated and re-stated opposition to Trident is. When the inevitable temptation to fudge and prevaricate comes around they need to know the weight of expectation that is behind them.

The demonstration at Faslane on St. Andrews Day, which was bigger than any seen there in decades, carried that clear message. The broad-based Scrap Trident Coalition is now planning two further events for the spring, a demonstration in Glasgow on 28 March and a peaceful blockade of Faslane on 13 April. If you can, please play a part.

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