A Referendum On Trident? – Defusing a nuclear bomb with the click of a wee sleekit mouse…
This Friday Jan 22nd is the final day to respond to a Westminster parliamentary petition championing the case to “Hold a referendum to decide whether this country wants a nuclear deterrent.”
For those who fell asleep at the “end of history” this petition draws attention to the matter of Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, since the existing system is nearing the end of its operational life and the emotive issue of renewal is to be decided at Westminster in the coming months.
Brought to wide attention by the Independence Referendum, due to its location just 30 miles from Glasgow at Faslane Naval Base, Trident is Britain’s most powerful weapon, capable of delivering more destructive power than was unleashed during the whole of WW2.
Considering the implications, which will affect the relationship of Britain in the eyes of the World for many years to come, and the estimated operational cost of £150+ billion, the decision to renew Trident is of the utmost significance, important enough to merit a referendum. With the approaching EU referendum a case could be made to include an additional question on the ballot paper regarding the issue of Trident.
Yet this matter has attracted far less attention than a certain Donald Trump who recently secured a place in the history books by eliciting the largest ever response to a Westminster parliamentary petition in response to his electioneering hate speeches. In a matter of weeks Trump ratcheted up almost 6 times the required 100,000 signatures for a petition to be “considered for debate in Parliament”, whereas the Trident petition has fallen staggeringly short having amassed less than 3000 signatures in 5 months.
Reflecting on these figures perhaps the Trident petition has fallen foul to an Orwellian app which ensures certain parliamentary petitions never exceed an uncomfortable figure for sensitive government matters. Whereas narcissistic, presidential contender ‘The Donald’, in cahoots with the corporate media, has been deftly effective in courting the phenomenon of ‘going viral’ and stirring the chattering masses across the World. Indeed, let us not forget that having besmirched the tale of Local Hero with his Aberdeen golf enterprise, Trump did more to overshadow and undermine the popularity and credibility of the then First Minister Alex Salmond in the lead up to the Independence Referendum than perhaps any other individual. The documentary film “You’ve Been Trumped”, which was curiously given much fanfare and a peak time slot on the BBC back in 2012, would seem in retrospect like a fait accompli.
Sovereignty and the SNP
Had the Scottish Referendum actually delivered a YES vote the decommissioning of nuclear weapons from British shores would have been among the most tangible of possible outcomes.
Having failed in this regard, if the issue of Trident is in the DNA of the SNP as claimed, then with so many bums on seats at Westminster the party could surely be encouraged to find sufficient support for a petition calling for a referendum on Trident, or go one step further and actually move a parliamentary bill to this effect before slipping off to Helensburgh and D-locking on to the gates of Faslane in order to draw international attention to the issue. After all, in harbouring indiscriminate and therefore illegal weapons, the British government is in breach of International Law and its duty in accord with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty*. Moreover, having obsessed about the fiction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and then used this as a pre-text for invasion of a sovereign nation, the SNP has a rare opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the British state, whose double standards serve to inflame hatred and ferment retribution, leaving these shores vulnerable to the wrath of terrorism.
Yet D-locks, petitions and referendums are readily thwarted with all the expertise at the disposal of the British state. Saddled to the so-called “Mother of Parliaments”, the matter of opposing Trident might seem a hopeless affair in spite of the dedicated and robust critique advanced by CND.
In casting a critical eye elsewhere the SNP might consider the case of Switzerland. Rather than contend with ineffective parliamentary petitions and disingenuous democracy the Swiss Citizen has been granted a level of respect well beyond paternal contempt and is actually trusted on matters as important as investing billions on deadly weapons systems through mandatory referenda. Indeed, a referendum has recently been held which resulted in the cancellation of a billion dollar contract for fighter jets, much to the chagrin of the arms industry.
Perhaps if the SNP had been true to the spirit of what sovereignty could mean in the 21st century and simply offered Citizens the promise of meaningful participatory democracy comparable to the Swiss model instead of the obfuscation of the White Paper and the continuation of wearisome ya-boo indirect democracy, then the notion of independence might have been considerably more tantalising to the electorate back in 2014.
NEVER MIND TRIDENT, HERE’S Climate CHANGE.
The remaining operational life of the existing submarines which house the Trident system is approximately 10 years so if the British parliament can actually be encouraged to desist from renewal there still remains for the foreseeable future the ‘peace of mind’ that comes with mutually assured destruction (MAD!) for those who have come to put their faith in these mighty metallic submersible phalluses.
Since a week has come to be regarded as a long time in politics, 10 concerted years should be ample to undertake the process of multilateral disarmament, diffusing international tensions through the tried and tested process of truth and reconciliation.
Ten years also corresponds approximately to the time frame that noted scientists have given us wise beings (Homo Sapiens) to respond in a meaningful manner to the threat of anthropocentric Climate Change, the debate of which has now all but been put to rest with the revelations regarding Exxon et al complimented by the recent wild weather. After all the intransigence on this issue even high hied yins in the American military such as Admiral Samuel J. Locklear have now come out and stated that Climate Change is the greatest threat to global security!
With the cost of global military spending now exceeding 1.5 trillion dollars/ year the potential savings attributed to multilateral disarmament would be enormous. Such savings could then pay for war reparations, the eradication of global poverty etc, in addition to mitigating the effects of Climate Change and cleaning up the environment. Considering the stakes it is tragic then that the protection of jobs is still cited as a key reason for maintaining a nuclear ‘deterrent’ when in fact many, many more alternative jobs, which could prove absolutely essential to the security and stability of future generations, would be created instead.
Peace At Last?
In these centenary years of “The War To End All Wars” those living on civvy street might ponder the question “has the sacrifice of those who have given their lives since 1914 been betrayed by our failure to end war?”. Though the notion of disarmament and peace may seem like a distant pipe dream, the General Assembly of the United Nations is currently reviving the process of nuclear disarmament, with 144 countries declaring it in the interests of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again “under any circumstances” and 132 describing nuclear weapons as “inherently immoral”.
Yet can this pressure realistically shift the status quo when the possession of nuclear weapons has allowed states to behave with impunity? Having received the Nobel Peace Prize after stating “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” , the Obama administration has subsequently spent billions extending a nuclear weapons program, thus provoking other nations to develop nuclear weapons, as was revealed with the recent nuclear test in North Korea.
As preposterous as it might seem could the United Kingdom, Perfidious Albion, redeem herself and lead again as she did in the industrial age and become the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its nuclear weapons?
South Africa, famous for having pursued truth and reconciliation, led the way in becoming the first country to abolish its nuclear weapons. Then there is Costa Rica, a country which though never nuclear armed has shown extraordinary courage in pursuing an alternative path to militarism, taking the ultimate step and becoming the first nation in the World to abolish its military back in 1949, in spite of the volatility of the region. Consequently, having invested in programs of social uplift instead of armaments, Costa Rica has achieved the highest rating of wellbeing in the World, with a life expectancy greater than the USA, according to the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice, the New Economics Foundation. Though receiving little attention in the Western media a documentary film, A Bold Peace, has recently been produced which highlights these remarkable achievements.
The Redemption of Perfidious Albion?
While politicians claim that defence of the nation and our way of life are the primary responsibilities of government we must surely accept that tensions between peoples of other nations have been significantly fomented by the history of empire and our recent misadventures overseas. Moreover, the current global economic system, borne out of empire, favours the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor, precipitates environmental and social degradation, has no moral foundation, is susceptible to psychopathic excess and is therefore complicit in creating conflict and thereby compromising national security.
In protecting the existing power and wealth of the British state, by renewing Trident parliament will effectively be perpetuating the bloody barbarism of the paradigm of “might is right” and choosing to ignore the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
In a seemingly hostile world with its aspirations to be interconnected, where our rather insignificant size has in recent times punched considerably above its weight in splendid isolation, the possibility of unilateral disarmament, going beyond the age of jingoistic nuclear bravado, would represent a considerable step towards reconciliation and peace, and even potentially salvation in light of the correlation to Climate Change! Such a conciliatory gesture would set a remarkable example to the World at such a significant time, pursuing an alternative strategy, aspiring to achieve national security through peaceful means by building trust and respect, overcoming injustice and inequality, in a World where there is currently more than enough to satisfy a dignified existence for all.
As an inspirational gesture revealing a hand of encouragement, indigenous peoples of the empire “where the Sun never set” have been calling for reconciliation in the face of colonial oppression and brutality, and in so doing have shown an extraordinary capacity for forgiveness, giving meaning to the expression “Love Your Enemy”, elevating the human spirit to a higher level of dignity.
It’s been a long time coming and it may be far off yet but recalling the inspiring words of Robert Burns that have endeared the bard to so many throughout the World:
“Then let us pray that come it may, as come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth, shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that, it’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man (& Woman too!), the world o’er, shall brothers (& sisters) be for a’ that.”
For those who support disarmament, in the lead up to a decision on the future of Trident a major march and rally is being organised on Saturday 27th February in London with transport available from Glasgow and Edinburgh. More details here.
*Article VI of the Non-proliferation Treaty (signed by the UK in 1968 and still to be honoured):
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.