Search topics on this blog

Google+ Badge

Showing posts with label nuclear weapons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear weapons. Show all posts

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Phoney war is over – UK in full onslaught mode against YES

A contemptible spectacle - a Scottish Labour MP, Jim Sheridan, attempting to enlist his Tory BetterTogether boss Cameron into persuading Scottish business bosses to intimidate their workers - for that's what it would be, given power relationship - into voting against the independence of their country.

Between them, in just over a minute, Sheridan and Cameron manage to cram in just about every BT canard and false assertion - about business investment, about alleged Scottish Government bullying, about borders, etc.

I am appalled that many Scots cannot see the democratic threat in employers, holding the careers and livelihood of vulnerable employees in challenging economic times in their hands, trying to influence their democratic vote in a vital, historic constitutional referendum by making negative assertions about the impact on the employers business.

And this at the urging of a failing Prime Minister fighting for his political life, enmeshed in scandal (Coulson) and allegations of incompetence of Europe and management of his shaky Coalition.

 

Gemma Doyle: "What joy do you have in moving the nuclear deterrent 100 miles or so south? I mean - I really fail to grasp that argument ..."

We know you fail to grasp it, Gemma, or you wouldn't have asked such an inane question. That's why Labour is a busted flush.

But let me help you ...

Labour has been either unwilling or incapable of doing a damn thing about either UK nuclear disarmament or world multi-lateral disarmament.

Scottish Labour is even more powerless.

The Labour Party is committed to WMDs and a number of its most senior figures have had glittering careers and amassed considerable wealth by their association with UK defence posts, the MOD, the armaments trade and NATO.

No one in an independent Scotland's politics is going to get rich that way - if they even thought of it, the electorate would show them the door.

An independent Scotland will do what it can, which is to insist on the removal of these obscenities from Scotland, from proximity to our largest population centre, making us a prime target and a prime disaster zone in a major accident.

It is then for rUK to make its own political decisions, but we believe that the Scottish unilateral action may result in rUK being forced to abandon its WMDs, and the possibility that Scotland's action may act as a catalyst for world disarmament.

Meanwhile, a major scandal seems likely to engulf Westminster, with allegations of a paedophile ring in the heart of Government in the 1980,  a cover-up, a dossier mysteriously lost, and the possibility of a police investigation and enquiry.

The minister at the centre of this at the time, Leon Brittan, has changed his story about what he knew, and what he did about allegations submitted to him

Monday, 13 January 2014

Scottish Defenders of the Union – complex and varied in motivation and belief

Over the last month, I have been exposed directly to a fair sample of the infinite variety of the Scottish (defined as resident in and committed to Scotland, regardless of country of origin) defenders of the Union and advocates of a No vote, through a more or less random series of contacts.

As our intrepid YES doorstep campaigners and politicians know far better than I, direct contact yields insights and perceptions that can seem more profound than print and media exposure to more structured arguments. But they can be dangerously misleading on occasion – so I proceed here tentatively, and with many reservations and qualifications. I make no general claims – what I have to say is subjective and reflects only one - and perhaps unduly narrow – perspective. Here are the variants I have encountered, in some cases dominant and seeming to almost define the position of the individual displaying them, in other case simply one aspect of a complex and often conflicting mix. The list of course is not, and never can be comprehensive.

SOME ANTI-INDEPENDENCE  VOTER TYPES

The Patroniser: Independence? It will never happen – it’s Salmond and the SNP’s obsession – has always been a minority sport, as shown again and again by the polls. Two-term SNP Government elected? Simply a local reaction to last days of UK Labour, incompetence of Scottish Labour, the Crash and the Coalition – slap on the wrist for UK – will return to normal UK voting at referendum and in 2015. Give it up, mate – it’s a lost cause …”

A brief discussion with Patronisers quickly reveals that they have little conception of the arguments for and against independence and are sadly deficient in facts and key dates. Overall mode – complacency and reluctance to be confused by argument or hard information.

The Cringer: “Do you think Scotland’s big enough to run its own affairs? We haven’t got the people – just look at Holyrood – they’re all mediocrities in a wee, pretendy Parliament.  It would be all kilts and heather, Braveheart and tartan dolls. And the oil’s running out, there’s no real industry. All the real talent has left long ago – anybody with any sense heads south or emigrates. We couldn’t even run the Bank of Scotland – it caused the UK crash and we had to be bailed out by England. “

As in all classic Orwellian-doublethink, the Cringers don’t see themselves as inferior - or ready to head south or emigrate - and any current examples of Scottish success in running things can be dismissed by either claiming it’s an aberration – or down to UK involvement and help. Pointing to Scottish success in the past is either put down to Braveheartism or to the benefits of the Union. Overall mode – embarrassment at Scotland and Scottishness, complacency that their personal repudiation of Scottish competence somehow explains them being exempted from the criticisms, and the belief that it ingratiates them with UK power and influence.

The I’m Alright Jocks:I’ve got no complaints about the UK – it’s done alright by me. I bet it’s done alright by you too! What have we got to complain about? Yes, there’s been a bad patch since 2008 crash, and difficult things have had to be done, but we’re on the way back up. The poor? Hungry children? Pressures on the sick and vulnerable, the NHS, unemployment? There are no poor people! Have you seen any?

Growth in food banks? All exaggerated, and what do you expect – some people will always turn out for a freebie! I don’t see any deprivation or poverty near me. Most of those in trouble are in that state because of their fecklessness – they can all afford phones and iPads and holidays abroad on benefit. Too many scroungers, too many immigrants abusing NHS and benefits. My parents didn’t have much, but they scrimped and scraped to educate me, and I’ve done all right.”

There’s an element of the I’m Alright Jock callousness and denial of reality in all unionist types, but the above summarises the core ‘arguments’ in their most basic version. Overall mode: Denial of deprivation or blaming of the poor, belief in urban myths, blame, and utter callousness about the less-fortunate.

The Fearful: “The risks of dismantling a 300-year-old union are too great. These are dangerous times – we need the security of belonging to a larger, more powerful grouping. On defence, security, international clout, trade with other nations, we need the backing of UK. Duplication of services, inevitable in a newly-independent nation add extra cost and the risks of settling-in problems.”

Often mainly rational, albeit with an element of irrational fear, the Fearful will listen to argument and can be persuaded, providing their logic-based posture isn’t simply a rationalisation for deep-rooted, emotional opposition. A simple test is whether or not they’ve at least looked at the White Paper and/or are amenable to examining its argument. If they’re totally dismissive and contemptuous of it, they are probably a lost cause in the immediate term. Overall mode: The status quo of UK may not be perfect, but it’s the devil we know. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The Emotional Scot/Brit: “We have over three centuries of co-operation, a shared cultural and commercial heritage, we have fought and died together in wars for freedom, and justice. The links of family – kith and kin – cross all national boundaries. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be foreigners, to have to stop at border points. We will lose a fundamental part of our identity – not to mention our shared institutions, e.g. BBC - if we rip the union apart.”

This category exists with subtle but important variations, e.g. are they Scot/Brits or Brit/Scots – which identity is regarded as more significant? The Emotional Scot/Brit mindset can also be part of other dominant modes, indeed it can represent a residual, buried emotional mindset in some marginal independence supporters! Some are actually seeking reassurance on these points. Their fears can either be factually removed by the truth - e.g. on boundaries, border posts – or are logically inconsistent – e.g. pointing out that we fought and died together with other independent nations in wars for freedom and justice, and the majority of wars were imperialist, unjust, and in some cases, illegal. (The Emotional Scot/Brit is often present in Don’t knows.) Overall mode: There are important, unquantifiable family and emotional ties that bind us, and it is a huge risk for the stability of the British Isles to sever them.

The Internationalist Multilateralists:

“Nationalism is inherently divisive – bigger is better, economically, socially and for powerful defence. Ultimately, I favour world co-operation across boundaries, and I believe all men and women are brothers and sisters, and are equal, regardless of social class, economic or ethnic background, but meanwhile I support the UK, despite its appalling imperial record of exploiting other nations and ethnic groups for centuries, and its current record of Parliamentary, police and press corruption, its gross inequality and staggering gap between rich and poor, its inherent distrust of and opposition to trades unions, its House of Lord comprising over eight hundred unelected peers, ennobled variously because of birth, being bishops on one church, large donors to political parties or being failed, but loyal politicians.

I am morally opposed to nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and would never be the first to use them – however … (and here comes the buts and the caveats) … but in a still unstable world, with unpredictable rogue regimes, I believe it is vital to hold on to our nuclear weapons and to our nuclear alliance with those countries – our allies - who got them first, resisting any attempts by other countries to get them (that’s called nuclear proliferation, by the way!) because we can be trusted with them but they can’t.  Of course, I’m committed to nuclear disarmament for the whole world, but only if every other country goes first – that’s called multilateralism.

As I said, I would advocate only using them as a deterrent and would never use them first, if at all, but I see no contradiction on being part of a nuclear alliance, NATO, that has a first-strike policy, and is dominated by the only country in history to have used nuclear weapons twice against cities in a non-nuclear country, Japan, and in a then non-nuclear world.

The various close misses of nuclear Armageddon over the last sixty years or so I dismiss as unfortunate aberrations caused by periodic gross incompetence of military or civil authorities, greedy and amoral industrialist or lunatic politicians – including at least one President of the USA

I suppose in summation, I regard it as deeply unpatriotic of Scottish independence supporters to want to be rid of weapons of mass destruction located without their consent near to their largest centre of population, posing an ever-present threat of nuclear accident, pollution, and of Scotland being a first-strike target by the lunatic foreign dictators our whole case for WMD is predicated on.

Overall mode: Utter idiocy, moral bankruptcy, venal hopes of profit, career and preferment – almost certainly a Scottish Labour politician in UK power structure. With a tiny number, a faint hope that the corrosive effect of their amoral sophistry is beginning to weaken the rotten foundations of their strategically and morally untenable position.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tweet, tweet – Scotland’s NHS

Tweets

  1. Peter Curran@moridura

    Should Scots be scared over independence? They should on two major issues - nuclear weapons and Scotland's NHS. Two reasons we MUST vote YES

  2. Peter Curran@moridura 

    I owe my life several times over to the Scottish NHS. I'll defend them to the death, so to speak ...

      Peter Curran@moridura

  3. New blockbuster thriller out soon "What happened to Johann - the Invisible, Inaudible Woman?" Read this riveting story of a vanished leader!

     

  4. Peter Curran@moridura 

    Do you provide vital service in the public sector, want to protect the service, your job and your terms and conditions? Vote YES if you care

  5. Peter Curran@moridura

    If you're a Scottish NHS worker and plan to vote No, think again. If you don't know, make up your mind quickly - Vote YES for NHS

     

  6. Peter Curran@moridura

    The purpose of the bedroom tax is to force vulnerable people out of their homes, either by forced choice on cost or eviction on rent arrears

     

  7. Peter Curran@moridura 

    We should have a weekly independence poll from now till referendum. It can't cost too much to ask 1000 people the YES/NO/Don't know question

     

  8. Peter Curran@moridura 

    Vote YES for Scotland's NHS - keep the Tory/Labour/LibDem backroom pals - private healthcare companies - off Scotland's land, out of its NHS

    Expand

  9. Peter Curran@moridura

    #NHS Vote YES for NHS! Vote No for privatised NHS. If you're an NHS worker, YES will protect you from the horrors of creeping privatisation

    Expand

  10. Peter Curran@moridura

    English NHS moves relentlessly towards privatisation. SNP Gov. is totally committed to keeping Scotland’s NHS in public sector. Vote YES NHS

Monday, 15 July 2013

Scrap Trident before it scraps humanity!

 Scarp Trident

The only sure way to get rid of the obscenity of the Trident weapons system – a system of mass destruction on a scale the planet has never experienced – is to secure the independence of Scotland and give a moral lead to the world.

Scots – young and old, old and new! You can do it, we can do it - and will do it, by voting YES on September 18th 2014

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cameron, North Korea, Iran, Scotland and WMD

I have to keep this simple – at the risk of seeming simplistic – because the nuclear argument is buried alive in technical complexity and sophistry.

David Cameron is repeating  his  Telegraph argument for retention of the UK nuclear deterrent and the nuclear presence in Scotland – they are one and the same thing – in the offices of a defence contractor in Scotland today (Herald).

This piece of blatant self-serving sophistry by Cameron is delivered in the full knowledge that the UK nuclear deterrent deters nobody, is entirely irrelevant strategically to any conceivable global threat the UK might face, and whose presence in Scotland and the UK is in itself the main threat to the UK, but principally and directly to Scotland.

The importance to Cameron of nuclear weapons - and to the contemptible nuclear trio of political parties known as the Better Together campaign – rests on the fact that the UK’s pretensions as a world power, its place on the UN Security Council, its grossly inflated defence budget relative to the size of the UK ( it is the fourth largest defence budget in the world) and its ability to use the defence-as-job-creation scheme as a political bribe and threat are all dependent on nuclear weapons.

Additionally, there is an enduring and insidious technical, scientific, political  and profit linkage between nuclear power generation, the nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons of mass destruction – they are in a symbiotic relationship. Champions and apologists for one almost always champion the other.

CAMERON’S ARGUMENT

Cameron’s argument rests on the “highly unpredictable and aggressive regimes” argument, with the current villains being North Korea and Iran. This argument has been around since the early 1940s and was the driving force behind the Manhattan Project with Hitler’s Germany being the very real villain of the time.

The insanity of this line of thought – a paranoid fantasy based on a grim reality – made the United States the first country in the world to have nuclear weapons – and so far, the only country to use them (against a non-nuclear power, Japan). Since then, every country in the world that has nuclear weapons has acquired them because America had them. These countries then developed an uneasy, deeply unstable and to date, ineffective consensus called the non-proliferation agreement, i.e. “We’ve got them, but for God’s sake, let’s stop anybody else getting them!

It hasn’t stopped Iran allegedly New York Time Feb 2012 and North Korea undoubtedly trying to acquire them, using exactly the same rationale that Cameron uses, that the United States uses, that Israel uses – the other side are nutcases and might try to intimidate us - or actually use them - in a pre-emptive strike. So the lunatic closed circle of paranoid argument continues …

Let’s look at the highly aggressive and unpredictable regime argument, and start by saying that North Korea is a brutal, oppressive dictatorship, impoverishing its people by its militarism and its defence budget, run by a dynastic heir who is young and deeply immature. (I will resist the temptation to draw the current potential parallels in these attributes with UK and at times the US – they are not quite so far along the same lines, but they are getting there, especially the UK. )

Iran, undoubtedly unpredictable, is not quite so irrational, its nuclear weapons programme is embryo at best, and much of its posturing results from the grave instability caused in the Middle East by Blair, Bush and their misconceived illegal war.

The Cameron argument leaves us with this situation – we must have nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future – i.e. for ever – because one day there might be a nutcase regime in possession of them. But here we have a convenient example of one, maybe two nutcase regimes, North Korea and Iran – Q.E.D.!

CAMERON’S OPTIONS

Here are the options – the only options under the Cameron doctrine of nuclear deterrence-

1. Once a nutcase regime has been identified, nuke them instantly – a pre-emptive strike. This will regrettably kill millions of innocent civilians under the tyrant and pollute the planet, but hey, shit happens! Of course, such a course of action would mean that the UK would be instantly reclassified as a nutcase regime by other nuclear powers, and they would launch a pre-emptive strike against UK, just in case …

2. If the nutcase regime begins to sound belligerent, proceed as 1) above, etc., etc.

3. Try to reason with the nutcase regime by diplomacy, backed by economic sanctions. But, since they are nutcases, this won’t work, and delay creates risk, so proceed as 1) above – etc., etc.

4. Assume that the fact that the UK has a bigger nuclear deterrent will deter the nutcase regime. That, after all, is the ostensible rationale for the deterrent. But, since they are nutcases, by definition, it won’t, so best go back to 1) above ….

 THE RATIONAL APPROACH

Don’t wait for multilateral disarmament – if it is possible at all, the time scale is too long, since the risks of unpredictable international incident creating a global nuclear war are too great, and in all probability, multilateral nuclear disarmament will never happen – either the world remains in a terrifying and unstable nuclear standoff for generations or we blow ourselves apart in the next few years – perhaps a very few…

Unilaterally announce nuclear disarmament, UK – if you don’t, an independent Scotland will, and most likely force virtue and morality upon you.

This now brings me logically and inevitably to a point in my argument that I don’t want to confront – but must.

The next logical step is to persuade the UN - and allies - to follow suit, but also persuade them to make it clear that unstable regimes who are -

undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems

and 

who make threats and are actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike

must face pre-emptive action by conventional forces acting under a UN mandate  to disable their nuclear capacity.

THE IRAQ PARALLELS?

Does this turn me into Tony Blair and George W. Bush in 2003?

Wasn’t that exactly their argument?

Wasn’t that the argument that convinced at least some good people to feel that the invasion of Iraq was justified?

My answers to the above questions are NO, YES and YES.

It was their argument, and it was the argument that convinced some good people – and some honest, ethical politicians – to vote for the war.

But my conditions (above) were not met – there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons, nor that he was actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike, nor, crucially, was there a UN mandate.

The Iraq War was launched on a false prospectus, false intelligence and false evidence. It was driven by oil, ambition, vanity and profit. The American and British electorates and their legislatures were deceived.

The nuclear insanity has been with us for about 70 years, as have the specious arguments that underpin it. Reject them absolutely, electors of Scotland and vote YES in 2014 for independence and a nuclear-free Scotland.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A reminder from the Brown/Calman era –March 2009 - of what will happen to us if we lose the referendum in 2014

The Scottish unionists are singing a different, siren song these days, panicked by the re-election - with an overall majority - of the SNP and now the referendum agreement - singing a song of new powers, of devo this and devo that. They’re lying in their teeth – here’s what awaits a Scotland that rejects independence in 2014 -
The Calman threat to Scottish freedom from nuclear power – and weapons (March 2009 blog)

Two things come together today in an insidious coupling - an article by Gordon Brown in the Observer entitled "We are about to take the war against terror to a new level"

and

the news in the Scotsman from Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Editor, that the Calman Commission wants to partially reverse devolution by clawing back powers from Holyrood to Westminster, including the power of the Scottish Government to veto nuclear development.

The ostensible reason for this is the belief that the UK's energy needs can only be met by building new nuclear plants in Scotland. If this were the sole reason, it would be bad enough, exposing nakedly what the Union really means for Scotland. But the real reason is the link between civil nuclear power and the nuclear weapons industry. I covered this is some detail here on the 20th of February and I wrote to the Herald on the 21st in response to an Alf Young article.

The Gordon Brown article in today's Observer is an exercise in naked paranoia, or more accurately, an attempt to induce paranoia in the electorate by a failing Prime Minister and a failing government. One paragraph alone should send a chill down the spine of any Scot concerned for freedom.

“As the threats we face are changing rapidly, we can never assume that the established way of doing things will be enough. We will always make the necessary changes, whether through greater investment, changes to our laws or reforms to the way we do things, to ensure that Britain is protected.” GORDON BROWN

Here is my online posting to the Observer today (22 Mar 200() on the article -

Moridura
22 Mar 09, 1:03am
We lived through thirty years of IRA terror directed at our shores without resorting to the attack on our liberties that Brown has mounted. Every ruler whose coat hangs upon a shaky nail needs an enemy to deflect attention away from his inadequacies, and the more shadowy and amorphous that enemy is the better.
Does Al Quaeda exist? Of course it does, as a loose grouping of terrorist cells, but not as the mighty global entity portrayed by Brown and his ilk. Does terror exist? Of course it does. Has it comes to our shores? Undeniably, but we brought it on ourselves - in all its full, inhumane, undemocratic horror - by our own ill-considered and inhumane actions in Iraq.
People have died and are still dying to serve the overweening ambition, lust for power and vanity of Blair and Brown.
I have never voted Tory, and I voted Labour all of my life up until 2003, but Maggie and her cabinet were the targets of a terrorist attack in Brighton, yet this did not stampede her into panic reactions. I detested Maggie, and much that she stood for, but she was not a coward, and was more of a leader than vacillating, terrified Brown will ever be.
As a Scot, I have an option, and I have taken it, by joining the Scottish National Party. As I speak, the Calman Commission, a Unionist front, is trying to claw back to Westminster the powers the Scottish Government currently has over civil nuclear development. Since The Deadly Nuclear Twins of civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry are joined at the hip, the purpose of this is all too clear. It has little to do with global warming and a lot to do with WMDs.
England, wake up to what this failing regime is trying to do as it desperately tries to survive.
I have also posted on the Scotsman online comment to the Peterkin article as follows -
This must be stopped, by legal, constitutional means, and there must be public, legal demonstrations against any clawing back of powers. This is the insidious workings of the military/industrial complex, and we should have expected it. They were never going to let a little thing like democracy or the wishes of the Scottish people get in the way of their war machine.
There must be an outcry, and soon. I have been postponing my decision to rejoin CND after many years, but my cheque will be in the post on Monday.
I have written of the Deadly Nuclear Twins to the Scottish press and in my blog of 20th February 2009.
This must be stopped. They want to further pollute our country and deprive us of the right to veto further nuclear development.

Here is my Herald letter of 21st February 2009 in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald.

Dear Sir,
Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.
I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.
The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”
Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.
The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be uses to stop the inspections at any time. In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.
I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.
The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other. Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Key Facts – all you need to know about Scotland’s independence and the referendum …

I am an individual Scottish voter, I have no role within the SNP, and my opinions are my own. I am an SNP supporter but no longer a party member. I first published this in November 2011

Here are the facts that I have heard from the SNP, in publicly available statements, from printed material, newspapers, periodicals and from the broadcast media – they have been freely available to every member of the Scottish electorate.

I have no trouble understanding them, and I cannot imagine that any adult voter would have trouble understanding them. Frankly, a moderately intelligent 12-year old would understand them. But clearly the large sections of the media, politicians and spokespersons for unionist parties are either unable or unwilling to understand them.

THE KEY FACTS, AS I UNDERSTAND THEM

The SNP stated in its manifesto that, if elected, it would hold a consultative referendum on Scotland’s independence, with a YES/NO question. If the answer is YES, the Scottish voters will have mandated the Scottish Government to negotiate the timing and terms of securing Scotland’s independence with the UK Westminster Government.

The Scottish Government will be fully mandated by the sovereign Scottish People to reach agreed terms in those negotiations, subject to core stated major policy positions, e.g. non-nuclear.

The SNP has defined independence in exactly the same way as every independent democratic country in the world defines it – total freedom to act in the interests of Scotland in every aspect of Scottish life – law, defence and foreign policy, taxation and fiscal policy, public services, relations with other nations, etc.

(No other nation in history has ever felt the need to explain to its people what independence meant in more detail than that, nor has any free people, even when suffering under non-democratic regimes, ever been in doubt what independence meant.)

Only Scottish voters - as defined by normal criteria of eligibility to vote in Scottish and UK elections, plus new provisions for 16 and 16 year-olds - will be eligible to vote. Scottish, in this context, does not refer to country of birth or ethnic group but to eligibility to vote in Scottish elections.

The referendum timing, legality and how other key questions will be handled have now been agreed in the historic referendum agreement with the UK Government.

The SNP will establish relationships with other nations through normal diplomatic means, and will seek to be a part of relevant interest grouping with other nations, such as the European Union and the United Nations. There is no doubt whatsoever that one of the world’s oldest nations, one that has had made a major contribution to that world in every field of human endeavour, with a distinctive history and culture that is recognised instantly in every part of the globe, would be accepted into the European Union and the United Nations.

The SNP will maintain a Scottish defence force and will protect the traditional identities of Scottish defence groupings. Serving members of the armed forces will be offered a free choice to either join Scottish defence forces or remain in UK defence forces.

The SNP will be part of defence alliances that it considers relevant to Scotland’s defence interests, and to the maintenance of our democratic way of life, and will take part in international operations as part of a coalition of forces in pursuit of objectives with which it agrees.

The SNP is committed to retaining the Queen -and her natural successors - as the constitutional monarch of Scotland.

The SNP is committed equally to a strong, vibrant private sector and to first-rate public services, properly funded and supported in an independent Scotland.  The SNP sees the private sector and the public sector as being complementary vital parts of a civilised nation, of equal significance and status, and not as in competition for recognition or resources.

The SNP is committed to supporting businesses large and small, and to the re-industrialisation of Scotland significantly based on alternative sources of renewable energy. The SNP is committed to supporting a strong, properly regulated and controlled financial and banking industry in Scotland. It is committed to supporting tourism and leisure. It is committed to free higher educations, and to fully supporting our world-class educational institution, ancient and modern.

The SNP will retain sterling as its currency until such time as it may seem in the interests of Scotland to change that, and such a change would be put to the Scottish people in a referendum.

The SNP will not join the Euro until it is in the interests of the people of Scotland to do so, and only after a referendum on joining the Euro.

The SNP asserts that the Scottish People are sovereign.

NOTE: In my original version of this, I reflected the anti-NATO policy.

The policy on NATO membership changed on 19th October to one of seeking NATO membership, providing rUK and NATO accept a non-nuclear Scotland and the removal of Trident weapons systems from an independent Scotland.

SUMMARY

That’s all I really need to know to determine how I will vote in the referendum. My thanks to the Scottish Government and the SNP for keeping me and every other Scottish voter so fully and frankly informed.

My reason for choosing the Scottish National Party to vote for in May 2007 and in May 2011 is that they are the only major party committed to delivering the independence of Scotland.

(I have heard no coherent case for the preservation of the Union. Such conflicting arguments as have been offered have relied on a combination of vested interest groups, unelected bodies and individuals, nostalgia and emotionalism, scaremongering, indefensible statistics and a staggering lack of belief in and contempt for the Scottish people and their ability to run their own affairs.)

My reasons for wishing to be independent are -

the inability of the Union of 1707 ever to deliver equity and justice to all of the people of Scotland

the fact that the United Kingdom is not, and never has been a true democracy, but a coalition of unelected wealth, power, privilege and special interest groups, notably the military/industrial complex allied to and controlling a compliant political class and legal establishment

the staggering incompetence displayed in recent times (which I define as the last forty years) of all of the three main UK parties when in government, exemplified by the spectacular financial, fiscal, social and foreign policy incompetence displayed by the Labour Government 1997-2010 and currently being displayed by the Tory/LibDem Coalition since 2010.

A core policy reason for my support for the SNP and independence is that it is the only way we can have a nuclear-free Scotland, and only the SNP and Scotland’s independence will deliver that.

It therefore follows that my nuclear objectives cannot be delivered by anything short of independence, and therefore remaining in the UK but with radically increased powers – the devo max or full fiscal autonomy option cannot meet my requirements, nor that of many Scots voters.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Scotland and NATO–the arguments

It is always vital in debate – and  in negotiation - to be able to state the position and arguments of the other party as objectively as possible. If the other party’s position and arguments are not clearly understood, it is difficult, if not impossible to combat them effectively.

THE SNP POSITION AND ARGUMENTS ON NATO

The defence paper and resolution of mid-July from co-signatories Angus Robertson MP and Angus MacNeil MP contains the key statement.

A long-standing national consensus has existed that Scotland should not host nuclear weapons and a sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane which will be replaced by conventional naval forces. Security cooperation in our region functions primarily through NATO, which is regarded as the keystone defence organisation by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

The SNP wishes Scotland to fulfil its responsibilities to neighbours and allies. On independence Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO. An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations.

In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. Scotland will be a full member of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

Angus Robertson MP Elected Member

Angus MacNeil MP Elected Member

The above statement has the virtue of clarity and will be presented to Conference as a simple statement of claimed facts, statements of intent and negotiating deal-breakers. I use the following abbreviations to classify –

claimed fact CF

statement of intent SoI

negotiating deal-breaker NDB

conditional negotiating proposal CNP

ANALYSIS

Scotland won’t host nuclear weapons under any circumstance SoI

Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO CF

NATO is the primary defence security coordinating force in the region, the region being defined as Scotland/UK/Scandinavia CF

The SNP wants an independent Scotland to be a good neighbour to Denmark, Norway, Iceland and rUK SoI

A sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane SoI

The nuclear fleet at Faslane will be replaced by conventional naval forces. SoI

The SNP Government will stay in NATO CNP if UK accepts the removal of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland CNDB1 and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations. CNDB2

If agreement can’t be reached, an independent Scotland will join Partnership for Peace SoI

TIMEFRAME

The timeframe over which this will take place, important dates within it, and the possible context at different points in that timeframe are crucial to possible outcomes.

26th August – 18th October 2012 – the period from now until the SNP Party Conference at Perth.

This period is significant because the debate that the SNP wanted to keep in house and on hold until the conference is now in full voice, with a cross-party, cross-interest coalition of opposition, the NO to NATO Coalition set up, the SNP CND group active and vocal, the dissident MSPs openly stating their positions and wide debate and coverage in the media.

Instead of a conference where the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the party’s chief strategist, defence spokesman and party leader at Westminster threw their considerable weight behind the proposal to the delegates, in the normally disciplined, consensual and amicable atmosphere of Conference to a group with only the leadership's paper to consider, they will now face a highly informed group of delegates, many mandated by branch resolutions on NATO membership. What was intended to be one topic among many will now undoubtedly be a principal topic, if not the principal one.

There can be little doubt that at this moment the party leaders in favour of the NATO U-turn are working hard to try to shape attitudes, to persuade, to cajole, to appeal to loyalty, in short, to use all the levers that a dominant leadership can to avoid this resolution being defeated. And as always in such situations, a danger exists that the very techniques of persuasion used, if ill-judged, will be counter-productive. Media scrutiny will be intense, not only in Scotland but beyond. This debates matters in fundamental ways to a wide spectrum of interest groups and individuals.

This was not how it was intended to be in the spring of this year, when the party spokespersons were playing the whole issue down, e.g. from the Scotsman on 16th April 2012 – ‘An official SNP spokesman dismissed as “mere speculation” reports that its leadership was considering proposing a change to the party’s policy on Nato.’

(If one took that statement at face value, the leadership didn’t start considering any change till 17th April at the earliest, but managed to produce a policy paper including one by mid-July!)

The other dates in the timeframe are as follows -

Late 2013 – launch of detailed policy papers on the shape of an independent Scotland by the Scottish Government

In effect, this will embrace the key negotiating objectives for the Scottish Government across a wide range of issues if they win a YES vote in 2014.

Autumn 2014 – the independence referendum

Following a YES vote, negotiations will commence almost immediately on the terms of independence, including the crucial defence issues. If the outcome is NO, or on a two-question referendum, a devo-max outcome, what follows is anybody’s guess …

May 2015 – latest date for UK general election

A change of government at this point early in the negotiations over independence would have major significance for the negotiating agenda: the idea that there would be a seamless continuation is untenable, and a new government could repudiate provisional agreements already reached and introduce new items to a still live negotiating agenda. It is highly unlikely that they would repudiate a fully-completed and signed agreement, however.

May 2016 – Scottish Parliamentary election

At this point, negotiations on the independence of Scotland could be complete (unlikely, in my view), near-complete (a possibility) or have a long way to go, especially on the defence-related issues (highly likely).

The implications of a change in the power balance at Holyrood or even  a change of government are enormous and far-reaching.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Nicola Sturgeon on Trident on Question Time, 7th May 2009

Nicola in May 2009 in Dunfermline - only two years into the SNP's first term of minority government, filled with passion and deep anti-nuclear commitment. I wonder what she would have said then about NATO membership proposals?

If only the SNP could summon some of that clarity and vision before October, and the debate on the deeply misguided proposal to join NATO - in fact, we need more vintage Nicola, and need to hear more of her clear voice and passion for Scotland in the critical two years ahead of us.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A nuclear letter over three years ago …

My letter to the Herald of 21st February 2009 letter in full - it was edited in some aspects in the Letters page of the Herald. It was prompted by an Alf Young article, who then and now opposes Scotland’s independence and supports nuclear power. (Where he stands on the nuclear deterrent I don’t know.)

Since that letter, over three years ago, we have a majority SNP government, an independence referendum scheduled, and the continued implacable opposition of the SNP to nuclear weapons in Scotland, an opposition that I hope continues to include an equally implacable opposition to an independent Scotland being a member of NATO, a nuclear alliance, implacably committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Letter to the Herald of 21st February 2009

Dear Sir,

Alf Young (20th Feb) advances the case for nuclear power in Scotland, and criticises the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear. I am one of the very large number of Scots who, in 2007, abandoned my previous political allegiance (Labour) and transferred my vote and my commitment to the SNP. A major factor in that decision was precisely the fact of the SNP’s implacable opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In spite of my strong commitment to an independent Scotland for many other reasons, I would resign my membership of the party instantly if that commitment ever wavered, however, I am sure that will not happen.

I will not rehearse the arguments against nuclear power generation versus alternative sources of energy in relation to the global warming priorities, for the simple reason that I would rather accept the energy deficit and all that goes with it – although I do not believe that this will happen – because of the link between the civil nuclear power and the nuclear arms industry. Every advocate of civil nuclear power generation I have read, heard, or met personally is either an advocate of nuclear weapons, nuclear defence policies and the so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’, or, frankly, must be naive, and unaware or badly informed about this insidious linking of the civil and military aspects.

The facts are these, and in setting them out, I would remind readers of the famous quote by American senator, Daniel Patrick Moynahan – “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts ...”

Any country that has nuclear power has the undeniable potential to make nuclear weapons. This is why the West is making such a fuss over Iran’s nuclear programme, and was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq. The UK is a massive exporter of nuclear technology and uranium enrichment processes, and this is at the core (forgive me) of nuclear weapons production. If the UK abandoned this deadly trade and never built another nuclear power station it would be taking a major step towards reducing international tension, nuclear proliferation and creating a safer planet.

The International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) is charged with investigating the regular, and sinister, transfer of nuclear material between civil and military stockpiles, but its powers are limited, and by the UK government’s own admission, its acceptance of inspection was not intended to provide an assurance that such material would not be used for defence purposes. In any case, the notorious ‘national security reasons’, the final refuge of totalitarian, militaristic governments everywhere, can be used to stop the inspections at any time.

In America, in Britain and in France, where one might assume that there were safe and secure procedure, unaccountable and unexplained discrepancies exist on plutonium. It is not just Russia that has problems of the theft and smuggling of nuclear material, not to mention inadequate and permeable storage arrangements.

I am a grandfather, and this status provides a special focus, a special viewpoint. I may not live long enough to experience the appalling consequences of our present nuclear obsession, but my children may, and my granddaughter almost certainly will. I was born in the 1930s, the decade of an unprecedented rise in militarism, and the lead-up to war. I sat in 1945 in the Park Cinema in Glasgow (formerly The Marne Cinema) as I watched with fascinated horror the dropping of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and its appalling aftermath. I grew up in the 1950s with the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over my world. I followed with apprehension the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, when that threat became real and immediate. I don’t want my beloved granddaughter to have to live her life under this radioactive cloud.

The nuclear power industry and the nuclear arms industry are conjoined twins, locked forever in a deadly embrace, and cannot be separated. You can’t have one without the other.

Until homo sapiens evolves into a greater maturity, the world can afford neither nuclear power generation nor nuclear arms. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to reject these deadly twins. Alf Young used the word ‘meltdown’ in the title of his article. I hope it does not prove prophetic in a context other than the one he intended.


Monday, 16 April 2012

Changing the policy on NATO – who, us? Whatever gave you that idea?

I haven’t blogged much over the last few weeks because I’ve had nothing to say that wasn’t being said better by others, mainly professional journalists. Since my raison d'être on political blogging has been to fill the gaps and attempt to correct the misrepresentations or inaccuracies of the media, I’ve been kept busy for four years.

But things have changed quite a lot, and although the unionist propagandist nonsense continues, and indeed has fallen to new lows, there have been notable balancing contributions in the print media, often of outstanding quality, e.g. Gerry Hassan, and on radio and television.

There is a highly vocal sector of SNP support to whom this improvement seems to be invisible, convinced that there is a deep, dark conspiracy in the media to deny the SNP the oxygen of publicity and to misrepresent the facts as nationalists see them.

For them, the arch conspirator is the BBC, with BBC Scotland infested by hostile presenters and news readers, all of whom are fifth columnists for the Labour Party or the Coalition, or at the very least, fellow travellers. For those locked in this McCarthyite mindset, even the present or former occupations and professions of their spouses and close relatives become evidence of the conspiracy.

What can I say that I have not already said at length? I have been highly critical of specific instances I saw as unfair media reporting, and I have spent a lot of time and effort dissecting them and commenting. But this is light years away from the allegations of institutional bias levelled at the BBC. It is deeply hurtful to professional journalists and interviewers trying to do the job they are paid to do and that society needs them to do. It is highly counter-productive, breeds a completely understandable resentment among press and media professionals, and is fact calculated to bring about exactly the kind of negative image of the nationalist movement that it claims to detect.

It betrays a total failure to understand the role and function of professional journalists, interviewers and presenters, and exhibits all the worst features of stereotyping behaviour – selective scrutiny of reality, seeing and hearing only things perceived as negative and attributing them to an entire group or class.

I must emphasise that this is not SNP Party behaviour, and the party’s professional communicators and press office under Peter Murrell have a highly-developed understanding of their roles, do a superb job and are highly alive to the need to maintain open and cordial lines of communication with the media.  For them, much of this is an embarrassment and a deflection from their main thrust. In fairness, in a very small way, I also probably give them the odd minor headache and prove to be a pain in the arse.

All of this behaviour has been evident in the lead-up to the NATO story which has now engulfed the Party. Up to the weekend and even into Monday, when the story began to really break, there were still party supporters claiming that it was a storm in a teacup – just another nasty rumour planted by the usual suspects to attack Scotland’s defence policy. Party contemplating change on anti-NATO policy? Certainly not! But interestingly, a high proportion of those denying the claim were also highly sympathetic to the idea of an independent Scotland joining NATO.

After yesterday’s Scotsman, last night’s Newsnight Scotland and today’s press and media - with senior party figure, Scottish academics and spluttering generals past and present taking sides - they will have a hard time pretending that nothing is happening.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS and NATO

The wisdom of the Glesca Barras – soapbox orator, c. 1950:Ye aye ken when politicians are up tae something – they slide away fae ye when ye ask them a direct question …”

First, a confession … I am opposed to NATO, and have been for a long time, but I had a brief period a few weeks back when I felt that I should treat the NATO issue as I do the monarchy, as a republican – a price worth paying, a compromise worth making for the sake of the greater goal of independence. It was a very temporary lapse – an aberration. I am utterly and totally against Scotland joining NATO.

Why is it an issue now? Some SNP supporters, in denial over the possibility, are saying that it isn’t an issue at all, and the whole thing has been got up by the usual suspects, and the Party is contemplating no such thing. In their minds, this is just another manifestation of the wider attack on the SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland. There is no doubt that there has been such an attack, ill-co-ordinated, contradictory, and factually deficient in many instances.

Why? Because defence policy is the core issue – the root of the United Kingdom’s hostility to Scotland’s independence.

It is an issue that has been the elephant in the room up to now, because the electorate is largely indifferent to it.

It has already been admitted that UK defence chiefs have been sedulously ignoring it, in the hope that it would somehow go away. They are now faced with the reality of an SNP majority government, a referendum date,  a well-co-ordinated YES campaign and a chaotic and leaderless unionist NO campaign.

They are totally unprepared for the collapse of their nuclear strategy and almost certainly the end of the UK as a nuclear power. They are in a blind panic, running about in all directions.

But amidst all their distortions, misrepresentations, conflicting and unsupported allegations, they have identified one thing that to any objective observer of recent events is almost certainly true – a significant body of opinion exists within the SNP, within the ministerial group and the strategic planning team for the referendum that the SNP policy of non-membership of NATO is not sacrosanct, and that the policy could be changed.

It seems likely, given the nature of the arguments (as I see them) for this change of a thirty year policy that this opinion is also held by the First Minister. Since Alex Salmond is the most popular and strongest democratic political party leader in the United Kingdom, and perhaps in Europe, those opposed to a change of policy can only take heart in the fact that he is also a supreme pragmatist in strategic and tactical terms, and will very carefully weigh the arguments and the pressures for and against such a change.

THE RATIONALE

Let’s dismiss immediately the idea that membership of NATO is attractive to the SNP strategists because they are enamoured of NATO and believe it is vital to either Scotland’s defence or its place in the world. The wish to change policy is driven, in my view, by the following SNP judgments and considerations -

1. The non-nuclear stance of the SNP is a central tenet of belief of the Party, and cannot be questioned or abandoned at this time without a potentially disastrous split and total loss of credibility.

One doesn’t have to go further back than the recent Spring Conference to hear it reiterated in resounding terms from senior party officials, to be greeted by rapturous applause from the membership, without a single dissenting voice. (That is not to say there is no one in the party that is pro-nuclear deterrent – they simply have the sense to keep schtum in public.)

2. A referendum YES vote is a mandate to negotiate the terms of independence. Negotiation means mutual modification of ideal objectives and mutual concession. If NATO membership is defined as negotiable by the SNP negotiating strategists, it would provide a high-value bargaining chip, and could be conceded in return for important concessions from the UK team.

Negotiating note: Professional negotiators enter a negotiation with their objectives and desired  outcomes categorised and ranked on a scale of importance. A clear distinction must be made between goals that are negotiable and those that are not – the deal-breakers.

The removal of nuclear weapons after independence is non-negotiable – it must happen. However, an objective can be categorised as non-negotiable, i.e. a deal breaker, yet allow negotiation on the manner, timescale and terms on which that crucial objective is attained. In other words, the objective can be achieved at the ideal level or on a spectrum ranging all the way to the minimum level of achievement. For example, nuclear weapons must be removed the day after independence (unrealistic) or within ten years of independence (a betrayal!)

3. The American Presidential election will take place on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Oval Office will be occupied by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for the next four years, which will carry Scotland past the Referendum and up to a possible independence date. Exactly how either possible incumbent will view NATO is impossible to determine, but it is safe to say that neither will be happy about a non-nuclear Scotland and the loss of the weapons bases and Trident, and they will be even less happy about an rUK forced to abandon the nuclear deterrent. A Scottish commitment to membership of NATO could mitigate US hostility in the lead-up to independence and thereafter.

The possible attitudes of the US to Scotland’s non-nuclear stance and its membership status in relation to NATO could range along a spectrum from American isolationism and abandonment of the US role as Defender of the West to rampant, aggressive interventionist militarism, and either extreme could be espoused by either Obama or Romney, either one of whom may prove to be a weak President in the new Administration, vulnerable to extremist within both parties.

4. NATO has 28 member countries – United States, Canada and 26 European countries.

The UK is a NATO member and rUK is likely to remain a member, Norway is a member - a Scandinavian country and near neighbour of Scotland, much admired and frequently cited by the SNP as a model of what independence can achieve economically and socially - and most European states, including the largest are members.

Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a NATO program, formed in 1993 by an American initiative to attempt to create trust between NATO and other non-NATO states in Europe and the former Soviet Union. It currently has 22 member states, 12 of which are former parts of the Soviet Union, 4 states from the former Yugoslavia, EU states Austria, Finland, Malta and Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.

Looking at the above list, leaving aside any defence or nuclear factors, a body of opinion within the SNP sees NATO as the preferred choice, partly based on economic and trading considerations and partly on just propinquity – most of them are either near to us, or countries such as the US and Canada where there are strong Scottish links in addition to trading factors. And I believe some see it as providing the seeds of a future abandonment of the non-nuclear policy. (Screams of horror and indignation from naive supporters!)

Since an independent Scotland clearly (except to the tiny, but vocal isolationist fringe among SNP supporters who would build a wall at the border and refuse to be a member of anything not wearing a kilt) has to be a member of a defence alliance then, given the above consideration, NATO seems the obvious choice.

NEGOTIATING DYNAMICS

A key negotiating consideration is that a valuable trading concession, i.e. a bargaining chip, is one that does not cost much to concede, but which is highly prized by the other party to the negotiations. NATO membership can be seen from the perspective of the above arguments as just that.

Consider the UK perspective as it is now, and as it will be post-independence to rUK and crucially, to NATO.

Scotland has always been the postern gate of Great Britain – seen as a point of maximum vulnerability in the defence of the UK, and therefore strategically vital to control and defend. Since a nuclear-armed UK is a critical component of NATO, it is also vital to the NATO defence concept. (One key problem that this analysis ignores is that NATO was formed as a cold war defence alliance against the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. There is considerable doubt, not least in NATO, about exactly what its present role is.)

There is another view, one expressed by Dr. Phillips O’Brien last night on Newsnight Scotland to Isabel Fraser, namely that rUK and NATO would not give a damn about whether an independent Scotland was a member or not. On this analysis, far from NATO membership being a bargaining chip, it would be a negotiating objective for Scotland from a vulnerable opening position, requiring concessions from Scotland to achieve it.

Dr. O’Brien is a respected academic and historian at Glasgow University. I can therefore only offer the perspective of a reasonably well-informed member of the electorate, with no claim to special expertise on defence matters. Lest this seem an unequal contest, let me say that our democracy demands that individual voters like me form a judgement on the pronouncements of experts and politicians, decide who they believe, then cast their votes accordingly.

I have not read Dr. O’Brien’s books, nor am I likely to, and therefore can only base my assessment of him and what he says on various appearance on television and on articles such as that in the Scotsman today. My feelings about Dr. O’Brien are that he exhibits a marked tendency, displayed by many academics who operate in the area of defence, namely to almost, by a process of osmosis, absorb the values systems and core assumptions of the major military alliances and the foreign policies of the dominant countries and macro political systems they are supposed to be commenting objectively on.

There seems to be a quite remarkable correspondence between Dr. O’Brien’s views and those of NATO and the US/UK military/industrial complex, which of course may have been arrived at by totally objective academic consideration and expertise. What I am saying is that I don’t share his most of his views nor do I accept his analysis of what might be in Scotland’s best interest.

I also challenge his view that rUK wouldn’t care a damn about Scotland after independence, especially if it maintained a non-nuclear policy. If he is right, to date, the UK and one of its former luminaries, Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen have been behaving rather oddly, as has Lord West, et al, displaying near hysteria at the prospect on a non-nuclear, non-NATO Scotland aligned with Partnership for Peace.

The idea that England – as Dr. O’Brien rightly identifies the real identity of rUK – would be relaxed about an independent country of 5 million people with its own defence force, and extensive coastline, major oil fields and major natural resources, non-nuclear sitting on the northern end of the mainland of Britain – the postern gate – that had not reached any form of understanding on mutual defence priorities, on access to crucial areas of vulnerability is just nonsense.

The idea that rUK – England – and NATO would walk away in a sulk, abandoning Faslane and the nuclear submarines and weapons system to Scotland to do with what they willed, is frankly risible.

In or out of NATO, in or out of Partnership for Peace, England and NATO would have to reach some understanding on defence and nuclear issues with Scotland, and the problem is theirs, not Scotland’s.

One key idea in negotiation that has to be grasped early and firmly is that negotiating advantage and negotiating power does not lie in relative size, strength and visible power of the parties – it lies in the capacity to strategically deploy power at the right time and in the right circumstances. The harsh fact for England and NATO is that in vital strategic areas they need Scotland more than Scotland needs them – and they know it. Hence the panic over the defence implications of independence.

THE PRESENT SITUATION FOR THE SNP

Defence was always going to be the issue for Scotland and for the UK, but it has not so far been the issue for the electorate, nor was NATO membership, or so it appeared from the recent survey of 7112 SNP members by Professor James Mitchel. where they were spilt fairly evenly on the issue, but all fairly relaxed about it. Well, they ain’t relaxed anymore.

I think it was Aldous Huxley (an almost forgotten name) who said that at the very top and at the very heart of every major religion is a tight group of people who believe exactly the reverse of the main dogma of the creed, as fed to the masses. While this is not quite true of political parties, there is an element of it in the SNP’s present posture on nuclear issues and defence.

I know that as a negotiator, when one gets close to clinching a difficult deal a kind of terror grips the negotiating team – a fear that all will be lost if key compromises are not made. This is a point of maximum vulnerability, especially when the negotiators have a large constituency standing behind them with a highly developed expectancy based on earlier negotiating objectives and strategy.

So here’s is what I believe -

The SNP, nuclear weapons and NATO

Independence is within the Party’s grasp in a way that it never has been in its history. The SNP are in power with a dominant majority, the reality of the referendum has been grudgingly accepted by the opposition, the date and timescale are known, the real arguments are well-ventilated, the unionist parties are uncoordinated and electorally threatened, whereas the independence campaign is well-organised, resourced and funded.

But the electorate, if opinion polls are to be believed, is a long way from having made their minds up, and no one can be certain just what issues are vital to them, despite repeated polls, claiming to have the answer. One thing seems clear – defence issues only matter to the electorate in relation to jobs, and perhaps vague feelings about security. Otherwise there is apathy, except among core groups who see their personal interests affected by defence matters. The nuclear issue, despite polls showing a majority of Scots being anti-nuclear weapons, is not an intense one.

The Party has succeeded, more or less, to defuse certain issues – the monarchy, the currency, social union issues, border issues, EU and UN membership – by a series of small, but significant shifts.

On the nuclear issue and on NATO, I believe they are risking alienating a segment of their core support, but appear willing to do so on the realpolitik calculation that those in favour of a nuclear-free Scotland can only have it delivered by independence and the SNP, so have nowhere else to go. They are only partly right on that, in my view.

I am against NATO membership because I believe that NATO is still dragging the baggage of its cold war role behind it into what should be a new era and a new role for it. I profoundly distrust the people at the head of NATO, their values, their world view, and their judgement. I distrust NATO because, regardless of the policies and the nuclear status of its members, NATO is committed to nuclear weapons, the concept of nuclear deterrence, and the retention of WMDs – Trident - as key strategic weapons.

I reject the argument that says that since a country like Norway can be a member and still maintain a non-nuclear defence and foreign policy stance domestically while retaining its NATO membership, so can Scotland. I think Norway are wrong in this judgment, and that they should not be a member. I think NATO polarises the world into the old East/West cold war mentality, that its current role is ill-defined and ill-thought out, and that any country that remains a member increases the likelihood of nuclear conflict and reduces the chances of nuclear disarmament. I think the most of the members of NATO are in effect pawns of US, UK, French and German foreign policy, and when the chips are down, of US foreign policy.

Dr. O’Brien argues that Russia, a member of Partnership for Peace has a deeply unstable, semi-democracy and could behave unpredictably at any time. Any close observer of the modern United States could reach similar conclusions and make similar predictions, and indeed many already have. In my view, the continued existence of NATO contributes to the instability in Russia, and it is viewed by deep and justifiable suspicion by a large part of the world community. It is a polarising factor.

I also believe that a retreat from the SNP’s NATO policy would open the way for a fudged position on the status of nuclear weapons, Trident, and the submarine bases in an independent Scotland. I believe it would provide a rationale for delay in removing nuclear weapons, or even disarming them, and would lead inevitably to more and more compromises, and in extremis to the effective collapse of the SNP and Scotland’s non-nuclear stance.

I also believe that some in the SNP are in favour of nuclear weapons, of the concept of the nuclear deterrent, and are essentially far right in their core politics. If this debate flushes them into the open, I think that will be a good thing, however dangerous that might be. I think it would be a better thing if they were flushed out of the Party entirely.

Many party members, perhaps most, will not see things in this way, and would abide by a conference resolution that changed the policy on NATO, in fact many have already said as much on Twitter and elsewhere.

My position is that if the Party votes to join NATO, I cannot remain a member. I will continue to vote for the party, campaign for independence and vote YES in the referendum, but I will have to seek out other groups committed to independence and a non-nuclear, non-NATO Scotland.

I reject absolutely the argument that all this can be sorted out after the referendum vote in the negotiations, or indeed after full independence. I believe the Party has to sort it now – and fast. To do that, they have to stop equivocating and hoping it will all go away. It might just do that for the majority – it won’t for me.

If all of the above seems too long, not tightly enough structured, or otherwise less than perfect, I can only say it is a blog, not a doctorate thesis or a submission to a learned journal. It is the thoughts and reflections – and position – of one Scottish voter and one Scottish voice, no more and no less.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Nuclear bases, nuclear subs and Trident–a complex defence question for independence

The Today programme of Friday 30th December 2011, focusing on the defence implications of independence, with contributions by Lord Forsyth, Lord West, First Sea Lord and Angus Robertson MP seems to me a highly significant marker on the course to Scotland’s independence.

It illustrates how media works in this new media age, and Marshall McLuhan’s prescient words of over half a century ago acquire new force every day.  The Today programme on BBC Radio Four goes out in the early morning. It catches the early morning commuters who listen to something important in the morning than the turgid sea of mediocre to awful pop groups that seems to obsess so many young to not-so-young professionals (if Twitter is anything to go by) who should have developed better taste by this time.

I tend to miss it, because when I listen to radio at that time, it tends to be BBC Radio Scotland. I was alerted to this broadcast on the iPlayer by Twitter. I replayed it on the iPlayer and it seemed fairly interesting to me, but it was clearly necessary to isolate the three contributions from the totality of the three hour programme, scattered like currents in a dumpling as they were, and group them as a single sound clip for comparison purposes. This forced me to listen again, and I found new aspects second time around. I then prepared them as a YouTube sound clip, which involved another listening, and a third level of understanding.

I decided to then isolate the Angus Robertson contribution to permit rapid access for those who only wanted to hear the SNP position, and this fourth listening revealed new nuances.

This then led me to transcribing the broadcast clips for the purpose of commenting in my blog, and this slow process involved yet another level of understanding.

So what started out as a series of radio studio comments early in the morning – one medium, the broadcast spoken word became a second medium, the repeat on iPlayer, a third medium, the YouTube sound clips and a fourth medium, good old fashioned text – the written word.

The kernel of the broadcast for me was the nuclear issue – in more ways than one – because it matters fundamentally to me, and bluntly, to the world. It again clarified in my mind the vital distinction between nuclear-powered submarines not carrying WMDs and those that do – the delivery system for the obscene Trident weapons system.

Cutting through all the sentimental crap about Britishness and British identity, about fiscal and financial matters, this is what matters to the British Establishment – their nukes, the badge of their power, their claim to being a global power, and frankly, a money machine for the whole sordid apparatus of Westminster, the M.O.D. and the military/industrial complex. Trident is the ultimate symbol of the deliberately paranoia-inducing Unionist state, the state with its operating principle as perpetual war, perpetual fear of a nameless aggressor. This is what they fear losing, this is why Scotland’s independence strikes terror in their hearts.

And that is why Scotland must lose its WMDs – its nuclear bases. But –the picture is not a simple one. I have reprinted below my September blog on the nuclear-powered subs vs nuclear-powered subs carrying missiles aspect of this debate, crucial to the UK, to the US, to NATO and crucial to Scotland.

 

NUCLEAR (My blog of 22nd September 2011)

The nuclear lobby has been lying low since Fukushima, after an initial bout of futile propaganda, but they’ve crept out of their nuclear shelters since then, and are beginning the insidious fightback – radiation’s not so bad really, it may even be good for you, the real threat to humanity is wind farms polluting the landscape, alternative energy will never work, the wind doesn’t always blow, the waves don’t always wave, etc.

The symbiotic twin of nuclear energy, the WMD industry, is also out and about, alarmed at the prospect of losing their WMD dumping ground, Scotland, and the vital submarine bases. I was more than disturbed that the SNP government seems to be rather less hostile to nuclear submarines and appeared to be welcoming the retention of nuclear submarine bases in Scotland as part of the defence-as-job-creation scheme thinking that regularly pollutes and distorts rational debate of defence matters.

Now I accept that there are difficult moral questions when one comes to weaponry, because it is designed to kill and maim other human beings, and the scale of horror from, say, the flamethrower, designed to burn alive another human to the baton, designed to inflict a sore head, involves moral dilemmas and choices even in individual cases. Unless one rejects all defence concepts for a nation and all conventional weaponry – I don’t – choices have to be made.

When one comes to the incinerations of millions and the pollution of the planet, human imagination quails, and human morality often fails. I am become Death – the destroyer of worlds.” The Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer as the full horror of what the implications of his work dawned on him as he observed the first nuclear explosion. This choice should be simple, and for me and many others, it is – starkly simple.

But as a nuclear-powered submarine is not a weapon in itself – it is the carrier of a weapon or weapons system, and the nuclear reactor that powers it is not a weapon – why should we object to it, especially if it provides jobs?

Well firstly, I reject the defence as job creation scheme argument, and believe that defence policy and expenditure should be based solely on defence considerations. But the UK is deeply in the grip of the military/industrial complex and the armaments industry, and all our politicians are infected by this kind of thinking. It is the kind of thinking that powers graft and corruption wherever and whenever it occurs.

Secondly, I believe the retention of nuclear-power submarines in Scotland is the thin edge of a nuclear wedge – it compromises the SNP’s position on nuclear power and WMDs.

Nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. A young serviceman, armed and drunk, attacked his shipmates and killed his officer on a nuclear submarine recently. He has just been sentenced to 25 years for this crime. A recent television documentary on nuclear subs showed a crew member being disciplined for drunkenness on board the the sub. It’s not so long ago since two armed nuclear subs crashed into each other on the high seas.

This is the nuclear reality that nuclear proponents would like to slide over, with their emphasis on the safety of the systems and procedures. No system is safe against human fallibility, against human error, not to mention human greed and corruption in defence and civil nuclear contracts in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment. The nuclear error is one that humanity cannot afford to make – other errors pale into insignificance beside it. But we have politicians who are the moral and intellectual equivalent of a five-year old playing with a loaded gun or a live grenade.

Keep nuclear, in all its manifestation, out of our new Scotland.