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Words & Actions

We need words and actions to make the changes that can create peaceful sustainable changes in the world, and both are needed to share the news of what is happening. Actions can be campaigning and lobbying on the big issues or about things that are needed in the community. Part of the Action also features some pictures. Words are a way to communicate ideas, stand up for yourself and others and learn, and they can be written or spoken or even sung. Some words are written for this website, usually on this page, and others are posted on the Other Words page because they are inspiring, informative, funny or seem like they should be shared. Words are also for talking! See Support available, Who We Are and how to Get in Touch

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SOLSTICE

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, a ribbon at a time,” (Emily Dickinson)

We miss Rikki Fulton. If he was still around, on Hogmanay the Rev Jolly would be be saying: “What kind of year have you had? I’ve had a hell of a year.” It was wonderful the way Late Call platitudes would collapse into total chaos, and our laughter was cathartic, helping us to get the whole thing back into proportion. Then there was that other Hogmanay word from time gone: “We’re no deid yet!” Aye. So here’s some things to hope both hope and work for. The Nuclear Ban Treaty going all official on the 22nd January; as we build to Cop 26 here in November, the opening for engaging everyone in the climate crisis: as Scottish independence comes ever more sharply into focus, the chance to hold tight to that vision of a better nation. ‘A Better Nation’ aye sounds like we need it improved, but there’s plenty not to change; the very notion of us all as Jock Tamson’s bairns, the baby box, first footing, haggis pakora and fiddle tunes are high on my list. And we need to change what’s foisted on us: land reform is up there for me, along with dismantling Fortress Scotland and getting nuclear weapons not just out of the Clyde but out of the world. But in the long dark nights as we take a wee bit of time off, maybe there’s a chance to face up to the stuff that needs us to change. There’s the messy and pervasive poison that seeps out of the auld firm that has nothing to do with sport, there’s the bairns that fear ridicule where a cuddle should be, and we’re quick to start a stair heid rammy instead of sharing common courtesy . A resolution for Ne’er day might be to make a list of things we can do in this nation, just so we’re ready for the better one. And, oh, a bit slice of that better nation will be a grace between a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns as we listen with respect to each other even in the midst of vital arguments. We can go with all that.

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COVID THOUGHTS

Covid-19 has already contributed to renewed calls for a ceasefire at the highest transnational level. We have seen how quickly people can learn to make changes and sacrifices for the common good when the changes required come from evidence-led policies and are made unambiguous.
Movements to build back better, initiate a well-being economy and tackle the climate emergency as the urgent exisetential crisis that it is are growing and vocal. That’s the good news. But some reports from Syria about how the crisis responses are being delivered sound similar to the situation during the Irish famine when soup kitchens were set up at the top of the hills (people died attempting to reach them on foot) where recipients were fed. Border checks are stopping the movement of more than the virus at troubled hot spots, and preventing access to countries lke the UK by people who are deperately in need of more than hand sanitiser.
Civil society participation in diplomatic efforts can attract far more engagement by zoom than by easyjet, but in some of the most difficult diplomatic efforts, the impact of face to face quiet processes cannot be underestimated. Emergency legislation is being introduced rapidly, and with good reason, but may well be utilised now, or further down the line to limit remedy to our fundamental human rights. May we move forward with compassion and care.

Homeland Security

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Secure Scotland Welcomes Holyrood Debate on Women, Peace and Security

Secure Scotland

Press Release: 9th January 2020 – for immediate use

Yesterday, Wednesday 8th January the Scottish Parliament debated the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which deals with the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and recognizes the under-valued and under-utilised contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.

The debate was sponsored by Emma Harper MSP but drew positive input from all sides of the chamber.

Secure Scotland1 Organiser Janet Fenton said: “The debate provided a great start to Secure Scotland’s efforts in 2020 to share a more useful understanding of the kind of security that Scotland can offer. In Secure Scotland’s founding seminar, Emma had told us of her commitment to peace and to practical steps towards that through her work as an MSP in finding strong collaberative opportunities for legislative and political action. We saw that in action from the public gallery of our Parliament last night with positive contributions on how Scotland could add to the effect of the resolution. MSPs from the SNP, Green, Labour, Lib dems and Tory parties. All had concrete proposals, or examples of what Scotland already offers to increasing the effectivenness of the Resolution despite not being a UN member state or having a voice in the UK’s National Action Plan for complying with the resolution. Secure Scotland is very grateful for Emma’s commitment to our aims. We look forward to continuing the discussion with her and with equalities minister Christine McKelvie on how Scotland might pull together the ideas proposed in the debate as a step in defining an aspirational national action plan for a wholly Scottish contribution in collaboration with civil society to communciate our approach to our partners in other countries.”

Contact: Janet Fenton 07716948774

Twitter: @SecureScotland

hello@securescotland.scot

1 Secure Scotland is inspired by the Rethinking Security network, which seeks security for everyone through addressing the basic needs of people and planet, rather than through Government actions based on force, militarism and patriarchy. The Secure Scotland project aims to build on the capacity this small country has for visioning an accessible model of a sustainable, safe and responsible alternative, and the cultural identity that allows us to project a Scotland that wants to aid international peace and justice, not wage war.

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Scottish CND AGM -Responding to nuclear weapons and the climate emergency

This year’s Scottish CND AGM (Quaker Meeting House, Edinburgh 16th Nov.) will be a chance to meet the members who will take on new roles on our executive committee, and also to debate the resolutions that will move our activity forward in the year to come.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has declared that the threat of nuclear war and the climate emergency are why their Doomsday Clock stands at 2 minutes to midnight. David Attenborough’s stark warning is waking up the armchair generation to the dangers of environmental irresponsibility. Along with Trident Ploughshares, CND UK and WILPF, to name a few, SCND agreed to join XRPeace as part of the wider XR movement – and closed Whitehall in London (briefly). Many SCND members also came out to support the school students’ Strike for the Climate. It’s time to explore nuclear disarmament and climate change together if we are to have a human future. SCND has invited a small panel to our AGM to help us to see where our disarmament activity can contribute to the debate.

The AGM will be opened (10 a.m.) with a presentation from Grace Quinn, Kenneth McIvor and Rachel Sermanni, followed by a discussion on Nuclear Weapons in the Climate Emergency

Grace and Kenneth are two of the articulate and passionate school students who work to build the school climate strike movement locally (sycs.org.uk). They do a terrific job of sharing information and mobilising students in becoming active and adults to support them.

Rachel is one of Scotland’s most distinctive folk singers and a songwriter of ‘astonishing folk-noir, it’s meditative sensibility both calming and somehow unnerving’ (The Skinny). Rachel is a young mother, who cares about and considers her own responsibility for the future of her daughter’s world. She has agreed to take part in this discussion with SCND, and her newest album aims to raise funds as part of her contribution to the Extinction Rebellion in Scotland. https://tinyurl.com/yxz695on

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23 Arrests as XR Peace Blockades Victoria Embankment outside MoD

23 people have been arrested this morning after blocking Victoria Embankment in London outside the UK Ministry of Defence complex, amid calls for UK to redirect resources from military to address Climate Crisis, and as part of the XR London Rebellion beginning today. Theprotesters, from the XR Peace group, blocked the Embankment with a car and by attaching themselves to a mock Trident missile. Among the protesters were Rewilding North, a group from Wales, a group from Cornwall, a group from Yorkshire, people from Scotland and other parts of the country.

Among those arrested is Quaker Sarah Lasenby, 81, a retired social worker from Oxford. She said:“For twenty-one years my main concern has been to help get rid on UK nuclear weapons. I am still keen to do this but once I came across XR I was so relieved to have something I could do about the ghastly state we have got our planet in. The directness of the students with statements ‘There is no planet B’ and ‘it is our futures’ has driven me on.. The whole thing is so urgent that it is imperative the Government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and Global Powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuel seven if this means we need to reduce our comfort at home and so much flying. The future life of the planet is so important. So I protest with XR Peace.”

Also arrested is Angie Zelter, founder of the nonviolent direct action nuclear disarmament campaign group Trident Ploughshares, who said“Climate change causes war and war causes climate change. About 6% of global carbon emissions are from military activity. As the climate crisis gains pace there will be increasing tension. If countries continue to resort to war as a means of solving conflict wewill not be able to avert climate crisis.”

Another of those arrested is Trident Ploughshares activist Jane Tallents, who lived for six years at Faslane Peace Camp in the 1980s said “All people of the earth face the twin existential threats of nuclear weapons and the climate emergency. To avert catastrophe we must find new ways of thinking and work together to save our shared home.”

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STILL NOWHERE TO GO

In the period leading up to the 2014 referendum the late John Ainslie undertook a rigorous programme of work which enabled him to provide Scottish CND invaluable resources;Trident Nowhere To Go, and No Place for Trident to show that a Scottish Government that could control policies on defence and international relations could not only insist that the UK removed its nuclear weapons from this country, but initiate the elimination of the Trident nuclear weapons system in the UK. He additionally provided a practical guide to the steps that would need to be taken and the time frame for doing so in Disarming Trident and along with the earlier reports, the House of Commons Select Committee accepted his analysis.The reports can be downloaded from the Scottish CND website, and will shortly appear here, when Words and Actions launches its PDF Pantry for your delectation.

In John’s words, we had ‘a rare privilege, the power to cast a vote which would lead to nuclear disarmament’. He asked us not to squander that opportunity, but the nation did, and when the world came together at the UN in 2017 to adopt a legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, many of us were heartbroken that an independent Scotland was not in a position to sign it and had failed to be first to force a nuclear-armed state to disarm.

Scottish CND and the wider peace movement owe a huge debt of gratitude to John Ainslie, and his painstaking work is still relevant. This summary aims to encourage its wider application.

Let us insist that there is a second opportunity, and let us ensure that this time it is not squandered.

The UK’s nuclear weapon system based on four intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) submarines, and a renewal programme to upgrade it is an ongoing matter of controversy.

Leaving aside the questions arising from the UN Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the UK Government should consider what will happen to the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system if Scotland achieves independence and maintains in its intention to remove nuclear weapons from its territory and seas.

To persist with this continuous at sea nuclear “deterrent” the remnant UK would require to find an alternative to Faslane as home berth for the submarines and a nuclear warhead store in place of Coulport. If such a relocation proved impossible for fiscal, political or practical reasons the UK would face the choice of attempting to negotiate the continuing use of Faslane/Coulport, developing a new land or air delivery system, or ceasing to be a nuclear-armed state.

Assuming the failure of the first of these three, Scottish independence could lead to the disarming of one of the P5 nuclear-armed states, with the potential of a benign domino effect on global disarmament. It is this factor that has deepened and strengthened the role of nuclear disarmament within the Scottish independent movement. The aim is not only to rid Scotland of the internal threat from hosting the arsenal and of the shame of being the delivery platform of a hideous weapon of mass destruction, but also to contribute to global disarmament.

There are basic criteria for an adequate alternative location which were applied to the original choice of site. A deep water port accessible at all times is essential. The warhead store, with an explosives handling jetty, would require the acquisition of an extensive site (Coulport takes up nearly two square miles). A key issue is the risk arising from the missiles and their propellant fuel. An accident with a missile could cause the release of radiation from the warheads and the submarine’s reactor. This means that both the submarine berths and the warhead store must be a fair distance from large centres of population. To propose placing them closer would be obviously irresponsible and would meet critical public and political opposition. Further, the submarine berths and the warhead store must be fairly close to each other so that warheads can be removed from the missiles and replaced. The missiles themselves (leased from the US) are never removed in the UK. That task is done in the US.

Using the above criteria all the suggested English or Welsh sites are deemed inadequate. Portland fails due to the absence of a nearby site for the warhead store. Using Falmouth would require the removal of two whole villages and the ruination of local tourism and the water sports industry. Barrow in Cumbria, where submarines are built, looks likely at first glance, but turns out only to have deep water access with a full moon and a high tide. Milford Haven in Wales would be ruled out since its use would involve the complete disruption of a facility for fossil fuel imports long before the UK will achieve its transformation to a low emission state without oil or gas. Other options in England and Wales would involve the politically unacceptable use of large greenfield sites and environmental protection requirements are even more stringent than at the time the original decisions were made.

Non-UK bases have also been considered. One option discussed is King’s Bay in Georgia, one of the bases for the US ICBM submarines. To comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty this would require a separate British facility to be developed there at considerable cost. More significant would be the further undermining of any claim to operational independence for the UK’s nuclear arsenal. The option of sharing the French nuclear weapon base in Brittany is politically beyond the pale.

Faced with an anti-nuclear independent Scotland, a remnant UK committed to Trident would almost certainly focus on what might be called the Guantanimo Option – negotiating the continued use of Falsane/Coulport as the operational base for its ICBM fleet. Pressure on Scotland to agree would be intense and would include financial inducements and the matter of NATO membership. In this context Scotland will need to maintain its resolve. Its ability to do so is very much strengthened by the arrival of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted by 121 member states of the UN. A Scotland that can ratifiy the TPNW and does so, would not be alone in its resistance but will have the critical support of the majority of UN states.

In John’s words, ‘Because there is no viable alternative site for Trident, Scottish independence could result in there being no nuclear weapons in Britain. This would be welcomed by all those around the world who seek disarmament, and it could encourage other countries to follow suit. A Scotland which votes for independence and then sustains a clear policy of banning these Weapons of Mass Destruction will be able to set an example to the world.’

Disarmament

Banning the Belt and Banning the Bomb

I was a secondary school teacher in Scotland at a time when it was still permissible for teachers to hit pupils on their palms with a leather strap. As a pupil I was myself hit in this way on a number of occasions. Corporal punishment was eventually banned in 1987, though abandoned in many schools and local authorities prior to that.

Looking back on these days, which were in this respect genuinely old and bad, I am hooked by the similarities between the banning process for the tawse and for nuclear weapons.. In the UN at the moment nation states are discussing the status of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Those nuclear-weapon states which are parties to the NPT, along with their willing or unwilling allies and client states, have a standard narrative: Like all of you we want a world free of nuclear weapons but now is not the time – the security environment is not there yet – when things are better we will look at eliminating our arsenals. They call it Creating an Environment for Disarmament. Now, for me that rings a loud bell. I recall the discussions in our school in Falkirk in the late 70s when the belt retainers argued that we should work gradually towards a disciplinary environment where enforcement by corporal punishment would be no longer necessary. But the idea of a belt-free school began to grow. Could such an unimaginable change actually happen? There was an increase in pupils refusing to accept the belt and in one case in particular the mother of the pupil in question took on the system with great courage and persistence. Gradually there was an acceptance that an official ban was on the way and the strips of leather disappeared from teachers’ briefcases. Not long after, a woman who lived in the bungalows behind the school expressed to us her surprise that the big crowd fights she used to see at the end of the school day were a thing of the past. The environment had changed. The ban had changed the environment.

The long grass kickers of the nuclear weapon establishment have this exactly wrong. It is the ban which can change the environment. You could also argue that the prospect of the Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming in to force, perhaps next year, is already changing the environment. Big international investment companies have divested from nuclear weapons. There’s a growing understanding that disarmament is not the exclusive property of the nuclear club – we are all affected and must all have a say. Above all, the windows of imagination have been opened. Alongside “we have to do this if we are to survive”, there is “we can do this, it can happen and it will bring so many other gifts in its train”.

Back to the days of the belt. I guess you asked a question of me then, and yes, I did myself wield the belt on occasion in my earlier days. No excuses, it was always wrong, but I don’t think we realise just how far things have progressed in Scotland since the fifties and sixties. Read The Invisible Spirit: A Life of Post-War Scotland 1945-75 by the late Kenneth Roy to discover just how brutal life was in these decades. In the same way, in a decade or two we could look back in wonderment that apparently sensible persons were once arguing that the way to get rid of nuclear weapons was to keep them.

David Mackenzie