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Last updated: 14 June 2018. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Scrap Trident



Ben Wray and Kezia Kinder of Radical Independence, Glasgow, on...


5 reasons why you have to be on the Scrap Trident mobilisations 13-15th April


The Scrap Trident mobilisations over three days in April are the most important anti-nuclear demonstrations in Britain in many years, especially if you believe Scottish independence can be a vehicle to take us towards radical social change. Below are the top five reasons why you have to be there in April.


1.Nuclear weapons are morally unjustifiable.

'A picture is worth a thousand words'. Trident nuclear bombs are eight times more explosive than the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and we hold 180 of them. The potential global catastrophe of nuclear war will always be the foremost argument against Trident.


2. Trident costs billions and is redundant.

Replacing Trident will cost £100 billion. The same amount of money it would cost to employ another 50,000 teachers, and build twenty five new schools. Or to employ 120,000 new nurses and build thirty new hospitals. Or we could pay the tuition fees of one million students.

At a time of austerity where the choices of public investment is at a forensic level of scrutiny, the choice to renew Trident is more barbaric than ever.

How can cuts to public services, to healthcare, to education, and to welfare benefits be justified when the government is spending £100 billion of public money on a nuclear weapons system that was built to target the long since extinct Soviet Union?


3. Unites the independence movement behind a common moral imperative.

The independence movement is diverse. It has different reasons visions for independence and different strategies for achieving it, stretching across the political spectrum. What everyone in the independence movement is agreed on is the moral, political and economic imperative of scrapping Trident. This unity around Trident can have a real potency when it comes to sending out a message to Scottish society about what can be achieved through independence.

Whilst across the world the proliferation of nukes continues apace, Scotland can break the mould by insisting global nuclear disarmament requires a nation to have the moral courage to take leadership in disarming first. Miliband, Obama and practically every other world leader feebly pledge their belief in global nuclear disarmament through some utopian moment in the distant future where everyone decides to do it at once. Scotland can shame these world leaders by showing that its first action as a new nation-state would be to take the initiative in bringing greater peace and security to the world, and changing the priorities of society to investing in welfare rather than warfare. If we can articulate this message as one and compare it to the rotten war-mongering track record of the UK, it can have a real resonance.

Unfortunately, unity over Trident has taken a hit recently because of the SNP's recent U-turn from an anti- to pro-NATO party. This has created a divide over whether Scotland has the powers to get rid of it whilst being part of NATO, and whether we are opposed to it for a principled universal disarmament or merely for parochial reasons, as NATO is a pro-nuclear alliance. Salmond insists the principle of nuclear disarmament will be maintained through Scotland's constitution. Whilst not convincing, those on the anti-NATO side must now insist that he keeps his word. We may find it repulsive that the SNP leadership could forego a principled opposition to NATO for electoral gain (although it isn't clear that much electoral gain can be made from this), but if we want to take this opportunity to put a dent into the nuclear weapons club which is NATO then maintaining unity until the referendum around scrapping Trident is key. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to oppose NATO at every opportunity, but it is strategically vital that we continue to say that the independence movement is united around scrapping Trident as a key principal of independence as an idea.


4.Brings the anti-cuts movement towards independence.

The Scrap Trident demonstration is not an explicitly pro-independence demonstration. Supporters include, for example, Labour party members who are opposed to Scottish independence but support opposition to Trident. This is important because the anti-nukes movement should always be organised on the basis of unity against nuclear weapons, rather than on the basis of particular tactical and strategic perspectives on how to achieve nuclear disarmament. The necessity of this becomes clear when you look at the different groups and organisations who should be supporting this demonstration are ones which have not taken a position on support for and against independence. The most important examples of this are Trade Unions and Student Unions, but also anti-cuts and anti-war campaigning organisations. We are attempting to organise the demonstration to include specific blocs: 'Fund public services Scrap Trident' bloc , 'Fund education Scrap Trident' bloc, 'Scrap Trident not disability benefits' bloc, etc.

The idea is to bring the whole anti-cuts movement behind the Scrap Trident message. In doing so, it will implicitly swing most of them towards a pro-independence perspective. Why? Because when one looks at the realistic options for getting rid of Trident, independence looks like the only serious strategy. The Labour Party have once again reinstated their commitment to renewing Trident, supporting the Tories £25 billion plan.  Short of a revolution, or the Lib-Dems winning power (probably less likely than a revolution...), independence looks like the only way to scrap Trident. And once you start to think about a new Scottish state without Trident, you also start to think about what could be re-prioritised, a renewed commitment to a welfare state being top of the list.

Over the next two years, as the coalition Governments austerity starts to bite more and more, the anti-cuts movement will need to start looking towards political solutions to end the austerity agenda, 'Trident' and 'independence' needs to be brought into the lexicon of those who want an end to the Tory austerity nightmare.


5. The anti-nuclear movement must get prepared for a post-independence scenario.

If independence is achieved, and of course as it stands that is a very big if, the anti-nuclear movement will be more important than ever as the British state will be thrown into crisis around the question of Trident. There will be no waters deep enough in any other part of the UK for the nuclear missiles to be kept. In that situation, if Salmond keeps to his word, nuclear disarmament will be forced upon the UK as a whole. This would be a disaster for the rest of UK. In our crazy international system, one key barometer of a nation-states power is whether they have the Bomb. A UK without Scotland and without the bomb would almost certainly have to surrender its place on the UN Security Council to be replaced by India. It would be the final death nail in Britain being a central player in global affairs.

Therefore the rest of UK and, more importantly, the US (and by association, NATO) would bear immense pressure on Alex Salmond to, at minimum, keep Trident in Scotland until a suitable location for the weapons South of the border can be built. From Salmond's perspective, he would be in a stronger position to negotiate a better settlement for Scotland if he can offer keeping Trident in Faslane for the time being as a bargaining chip. The only possible counter-weight to this that can be effective is mass mobilisation from the people of Scotland to demand Trident is sent packing as soon as possible, regardless of the rest of UK's ill prepared contingencies.

Therefore demonstrating now, in big numbers, in advance of the referendum is important in this respect for two reasons. Firstly, the more we can make Trident a referendum issue the harder it is for Salmond to retreat from his position post-referendum. The perceived threat of mass mobilisation post-referendum over Trident is as important as the actual thing itself. Secondly, the anti-nuclear movement can't start running from a standing start in an independent Scotland. It has been a long time since a major mobilisation against Trident took place. We need to build up the momentum of organising and demonstrating over this question so that we have a viable anti-nuclear movement ready to go if necessary. The more people we mobilise now, the more people we can mobilise in the future.

Making Trident a central campaigning issue for progressive people in Scotland again is something that cannot wait. Indeed, although 'Bin the Bomb' has a long history of campaigning in post-war Britain, it could be said that only now is it an idea whose time has come.



External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books