Friday was the last day of the first session of the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty discussions in New York. Second session starts in June till the beginning of July.

There was an exuberant excitement in the room at the enormous significance of what is happening, hard to communicate in the UK because the UK Government has resolutely ignoring the negotiations as their main tactic for resisting the coming change in nuclear posturing. and the UK media seem to be complying with that.

During the Civil Society debrief at the end of the session, New York  International Lawyer Alice Slater, who has been working in this area and attending UN meetings for forty years, said that she had never seen such good progress and open dialogue  in a UN disarmament meeting. She was very excited!

At the present count, 132 UN Member states have participated in this meeting. We started with considerations of what the preamble should include and the first topic of the treaty, when states could outline their views on what the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons should contain. Topic one outlined the prohibitions and topic two focused on obligations. This set out prohibitions and obligations that stigmatise nuclear weapons . On Wednesday afternoon, the President suggested that member states’ delegates could engage in an interactive dialogue with civil society experts on the issues under topic 2, working to identify what the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons should contain in the way of obligations, and how it will relate to existing humanitarian law and other legal instruments governing nuclear weapons and other kinds of indiscriminate weapons. And the format for Thursday allowed thoughtful deliberation and exchanges, and a useful example of how the United Nations can operate in terms of open, fluid conversation amongst states, international organisations, academics, and non-governmental organisations. This was particularly helpful around the positive obligations for states parties, such as ensuring the rights of victims and survivors of nuclear weapons activities, identifying actions to address damage to affected environments and providing for international cooperation and assistance to meet the obligations of the treaty.

The final session,  on the third topic, looked at the Institutional arrangements, continued in the same spirit, ensuring the process was open to all interested states, international organisations and civil society with no state able to singlehandedly block the treaty’s establishment. Its also important that it is compatible with, or reinforces existing treaties, and that there are robust arrangements for how it is implemented and how it comes into force. This topic also considers the necessary arrangements regarding participation in the negotiations – how and who.

The nuclear weapon ban treaty is a categorical rejection of nuclear weapons. Its overarching objective is to help facilitate the elimination of nuclear weapons. The treaty can and should be seen as part of the larger architecture of general and complete disarmament, and of peace, security, and human rights. It is not an end itself, but a tool.
Getting there requires creativity, especially when the nine states that possess nuclear weapons have exhibited no good faith commitment to nuclear disarmament. The discussions are creating a pathway to disarmament.

The president Elaine Whyte now has the task of drawing together all the views suggested to create the first draft,.All of us hoping for a strong and effective treaty must consider what we can do in the inter sessional period before the discussions on that draft start in June,

The non participating states ‘protest’ stunt outside on the first day, saw the UK right up there outside the room, misrepresenting Scotland with even more insouciance than they demonstrated over Brexit. They offered no new information though, and they did not offer any explanation of how they can comply with the NPT and at the same time upgrade Trident. Despite their cavalier insistence that the weapons will all be deployed from Scotland, there is no explanation on offer of how they would renew, or even continue, with Trident without control of Faslane.

Meanwhile, the important point for Scots is that independence can bring an end to all that. With the lack of infrastructure and amenities anywhere else in the UK, a fact that the UK Government nor the MOD has never denied*, Scotland could non-violently force the issue, and start the badly needed unravelling of the P5 and their nuclear addiction problem. The majority of states are moving inexorably to creating the Ban Treaty. Those who support independence for Scotland should welcome these negotiations as the other arm in a pincer movement that will ensure that UK can no longer be a nuclear weapons state.

There is a real possibility of Scotland taking concrete steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons through:

  1. Scrapping Trident

  2. Committing to, and eventually joining the Nuclear Ban Treaty

That’s why its important that people in Scotland who are serious about nuclear disarmament support independence, and people in Scotland who want independence work for nuclear disarmament. Win win!


The World – nae place for nuclear weapons

Today’s start of the United Nations negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty means that multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts is at last in sight. This has come about through the examination of the real humanitarian consequences of these unspeakably destructive weapons that threaten life on this planet and even when not used, cause genetic and environmental damage beyond the imagination.

As part of its efforts to derail the process prior to the vote for this conference, the US had written to all its NATO allies to point out how difficult the ban treaty would make their nuclear ‘protection’ while simultaneously putting out press comments saying that that the treaty would be unenforceable and without meaning. Now the US are using their access to UN, not to enter the room and make their arguments in an open and accountable way, but to “protest” by offering a briefing on why they won’t participate. They are addressing the media (and any member states who will listen) but not taking questions.

The UK were right up there with them, misrepresenting Scotland with even more insouciance than they demonstrated over Brexit, despite their cavalier insistence that the weapons all be deployed from Scotland.

Independence, of course, will bring an end to all that, with the lack of infrastructure and amenities anywhere else in the UK, Scotland could non-violently force the issue, and start the badly needed unravelling of the P5 and their nuclear addiction problem.

The UN conference, which is open to all member states, starts today March 27th and runs till the end of the month, then continues in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), is a coalition from 100 countries of civil society partners who are active on nuclear disarmament. They hail the start of the conference as a major step forward.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel land-mines and cluster munitions have already been prohibited under international law. . The position of the states that do not choose to deploy nuclear weapons, and do not see them as any kind of security asset, can easily be understood in Scotland, a state not in UN membership that is forced against the expressed needs and wishes of its electorate to host nuclear weapons.

A ban treaty is only binding on the states that sign up to it,. Achieving that is a first step in unlocking the imagination required to vision a world where sharing our resources and seeking reconciliation are the first response to conflict rather than the last. Declaring these inhumane and indiscriminate means of mutual destruction for what they are, and making them unacceptable in the majority of states will change their status from political asset to the humanitarian liability they really are. Work for the ban treaty includes the important contributions that can be made by civil society . Non member states which have access as observers may be heard. Maybe an opportunity for Scotland while waiting for independence. (Scottish CND is a partner in ICAN and convenes a working group for those working for the ban treaty in Scotland.

We in ICAN hope that many more civil society groups will choose to help to make representations to their elected representatives and get all the governments to the table, and also come themselves to New York for the June and July sessions of the conference. Meanwhile, follow the news on nuclearban.org and the daily news from Reaching critical will