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
After the death of the iconic Alasdair Gray In 2019, Mike Small was quick to flag up the Scotland’s for Peace Covenant in his tribute to one of its greatest fans. Alasdair’s beautiful illustration resonated very powerfully for a lot of organisations and individuals within and beyond the peace movement and I hope that the Covenant’s words resonate in a welcome way now.
During the first decade(s) of this millennium I worked for Scotland’s for Peace (S4P) concurrently with my role as Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Resource Centre (P&J), then based at St John’s Church in Princes Street in Edinburgh. I still have copies of the extensive list of committed organisations, as well as the files from S4P parliamentary work, including guest lists and reports from events and early evening meetings held with parliamentarians at the P&J, along with the jolly video made by Phil Chetwyn of Camcorder Guerillas, which featured the kenspeckle and the lesser-known faces around both the P&J and Scottish CND. These two offices acted as hubs for SfP activities, sublime and mundane.
One example in Edinburgh was the ecumenical foot washing of the walkers participating in Scotland’s Long Walk for Peace at St John’s by various worthies from various church(es). In Glasgow, the SCND’s coordinator took care of the website and merchandise ordering. S4P organisational meetings took place alternately in Edinburgh (usually with good sandwiches and plenty of fruit and coffee) at 121 George Street, the Church of Scotland headquarters which could accommodate more people than the tiny P&J office, Glasgow could only compete because the wonderfully aromatic Super Asia was next door to the Barrland Street SCND office.
2007 was a significant year, and the P&J was in with the bricks when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was formed, particularly through its connections with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and its Reaching Critical Will Programme at the United Nations.
The P&J and SCND were the inaugural Scottish NGO supporters of ICAN, and its message of global nuclear disarmament, with Medact (Scotland) and UN House getting involved soon after.On the 9th November 2007,the then First Minister Alex Salmond was joined by all of the major Scottish faith leaders and many parliamentarians in adding their signature to the The Peace Covenant which had been launched in October. Alan MacKinnon, chair of SCND and deeply committed to S4P, had made arrangements with Alastair Gray to provide the illustration and design for the books that people could sign. Those who signed, committed to the statement
“We desire that Scotland should be known for its contribution to international peace and justice, rather than a launch pad for waging war.”
The Covenant launch was the highlight of a special ceilidh, part of a residential event at Wiston Lodge, presided over by Scotland’s for Peace Convenor, Isobel Lindsay, and it was the first of several special public events around the Scotland where the covenant books attracted signatures. Karine Polwart was engaged to sing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival event at St John’s Church in Edinburgh that year, which was an amazing occasion with a specially-made SfP flag, commissioned by the P&J replacing the iconic saltire that usually flies at the top of the west end spire of St John’s. The P&J also arranged for artist David Gray to paint the words of the covenant in huge letters on banners running along the outside of the south side of the church – you could read it from the top of Lothian Road, over the heads of the thousands of visitors to Scotland’s best-known and biggest craft fair, in the church graveyard. Karine arrived for the concert and we were wonderfully surprised and moved when she premiered her song about Trident renewal, Better Things, which she then gifted to SfP. She often performed it in her regular concert repertoire afterwards, notably in the Glasgow Concert Hall at the Celtic Connections World Turned Upside Down event in 2012. Her singing it featured on the sound track of the Camcorder Guerillas film, Deadly Cargo and can be seen and heard on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXjt5bDNzg0
I am very proud that in my role at the P&J and its part in Scotland’s For Peace, I was invited to offer the Scottish Parliament ‘Time for Reflection’ on the theme of the Covenant, although it took about two years for then to find a slot for me! On the second of February 2011, I said
‘First, I wish to thank you for the opportunity to speak here in our Parliament, and to say how happy and proud it makes me that devolution has given us a more accessible Parliament and has significantly improved the representation of women in our democracy. Edwin Morgan expressed a hope for this place when he wrote: “Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem that has been almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or forgotten.” I wish to talk to you about one strand in that thread: the idea of covenant, in particular Scotland’s peace covenant, which I have brought with me today. Today, covenanters might be regarded as prejudiced or religiously intolerant, but they represent a strong strand in our history. The point is about the anger that was felt by people who were being dictated to on a matter of conscience. That was unacceptable, and the democratic deficit was unacceptable, so people chose to witness their resistance. The need to commit to something better was paramount, and the right to hope for something better was irresistible. The covenant, as promise and witness, goes back as far as Scottish history itself—witnessing, through signatures, when people are gathered in a common cause. More than 1,000 people have been happy to sign this “Scotland’s for Peace” covenant. The First Minister, along with a moderator and Scottish church leaders, participated in a signing here in the Parliament. The covenant has attracted signatures at rock concerts, film screenings, public rallies, small focus groups and christenings. Those events all have in common the commitment not just to opposing a violent image of our country, but to raising our eyes to the vision of the kind of country that we want to be part of. Scotland’s peace covenant is no commitment to any particular group or political party—just to our kind of Scotland. Alasdair Gray has produced inspiring and beautiful artwork, which resonates with our history, for the covenant books. We collect signatures at churches and workplaces, at mosques and museums. People from all walks of life can and do sign the Scottish peace covenant. I hope that all our MSPs not only sign it but enjoy, as I do, sharing the words and the aspiration that “We desire that Scotland should be known for its contribution to peace and justice rather than for waging war”.
By the time of the Time for Reflection event, eyes were firmly on the possible prize of Scottish independence, and with independence, the opportunity to rid the UK of its nuclear weapons. This possibility was even then understood beyond our borders. A very special SfP event was held that May, chaired by Isobel Lindsay convenor of Scotland’s for Peace and organised through ICAN. We were visited in Scotland by Setsuko Thurlow, the Hiroshima survivor who has spoken out for ICAN at every opportunity. Setsuko later received, along with Beatrice Fihn, the Nobel 2017 Peace prize on behalf of ICAN. We arranged that Setsuko could speak with young people aged 13, the age she was when the US bombed Hiroshima. After this, I spent some time living and working in a rural community setting, but the urgency of the referendum brought me back to more active campaigning in 2014. I had been following the ICAN progress and for many of us in the international campaign, the possibility of gaining a nuclear free Scotland and hence the disarming of a nuclear armed state seemed as though it could become a reality. Possibly due to this important distraction, attendance at Scotland’s for Peace meetings had dwindled, the lunches in George street were too poorly attended to continue to be viable and the indy debate swung into action, a national Mexican wave where all leapt in with surprises in new alliances and disappointments in bitter differences. In 2013, Scottish CND voted to back indy, not without dissension and the parting of the ways for some dear friends. For some, and I am one, independence seems to offer a way to realise the covenant by starting again, creating a country that could fulfil that aspiration. My hopes for ICAN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (adopted 1n 2017, entered into force in 2021 and added to the purpose of the Scottish Parliament disarmament cross party group, and due its first meeting of state parties in 2022 – Covid permitting) and my hope for Scottish self determination to create a country that contributes to the solutions we need for life and the shared planet are inextricable linked.
Its comin’ yet, for a’ that. January 2022
“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.
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.
This wee list was made for 4 year-old twins who are lucky enough to have a garden and a roomy house. It just might be helpful to others here and there. I would love it if others could send me their own ideas to add to the list. Write to David at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here goes:
Release: 9th January 2020 – for immediate use
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
was sponsored by Emma Harper MSP but drew positive input from all
sides of the chamber.
Organiser Janet Fenton said: “The
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.”
Janet Fenton 07716948774
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
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
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.”
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,
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
along with the earlier reports, the House of Commons Select Committee
accepted his analysis.The reports can be downloaded from the
will shortly appear here, when Words and Actions launches its PDF
Pantry for your delectation.
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.
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.
us insist that there is a second opportunity, and let us ensure that
this time it is not squandered.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
the TPNW and
does so, would
not be alone in its resistance but will have the critical support of
the majority of UN states.
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.’
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.