By David Mackenzie
On Monday 20th October a group of us visited the Scotland Office to remind the Secretary of State of his remit to represent the interests of the people of Scotland in Westminster and to register our opposition to and rejection of the UK’s nuclear weapons. Two of us were in reception passing on the message while the rest of us were outside with banners and placards. Then a smartly dressed chap strode by and called out “Dreamers!”.
The charge of naivety has a certain force. There had been the hope that Scottish independence would force the dismantling of the UK’s nuclear arsenal and kick-start a new global wave of disarmament but that door has slammed shut, at least for the time being. There are a number of inter-linked worldwide movements to ban nukes but the states that have and deploy them are as intransigent as ever. We have been at this for over 60 years – to what effect? We are pissing in the wind, tilting at windmills, comfortable in our mere continuing opposition, etc., etc.
And yet there are tiny handholds in this apparently un-scalable wall. In the early days of the Yes campaign I recall having to argue for a place for Trident within the list of critical issues. As the campaign went on this changed and it does now seem that nuclear weapon literacy has increased hugely as a result of all that activity. This should not be surprising.
On the one hand Trident is a concrete reality. From my window I can see the ICBM subs going up and down the Clyde estuary, carrying their foul cargo in the middle of ordinary water traffic. But it is also a powerful and indicative symbol of the Neighbourhood-Watch-Gone-Mad philosophy to which the British state is clinging ever more desperately. Many more people appear to have got the point that the question of UK’s nukes is not capable of isolation from the whole fabric of concern about social justice, care for the planet and human solidarity across the globe.
Our little Scotland Office escapade came at the end of Trident Ploughshares’ annual two-day meeting for members. The folk from England (around half of our number) were completely aware of the remarkable level and quality of political engagement we have seen continuing since the referendum and were frankly envious.
This was not about crediting Scottish-based activists with any particular merit but recognising that our situation is very special indeed. People seem to have discovered some power. It is as if a tree stump that has not yielded completely to an enormous input of energy has been at last been heard to give a significant creak.
Just over a month ago the disarmament road map was relatively clear, albeit with some obvious and challenging obstructions up ahead. Although we now need to draw a new one, some features of the landscape, such as the increased nuclear literacy and the realisation that intractable things can, after all, be changed, are already in place. There may also be a readiness now on the part of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to be more confrontational in their rejection of Trident than they have been heretofore.
It is precisely with a view to testing out these features on the map that the Scottish Scrap Trident Coalition is calling the “Trident still has to go – NOW!” at Faslane, at noon on the 30th November. Join us if you can. We dreamers are not alone.
David Mackenzie is a member of the Scrap Trident Coalition