SPEECH: Opening Speech, Trident Debate (20th March 2013)

15:04
Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): I am sure that it has not escaped the notice of those members in the chamber that I am the only member of the independent and Green group to speak in the debate. It is unfortunate that business has been scheduled during the PCS strike, and that it has kept my fellow group members away from the debate. Members of all parties had to cross picket lines today but the topic of Trident is so central to my support for independence that I decided to come in to speak to my amendment.

At the outset, I make it clear that I support every element of the Government’s motion and applaud its decision to bring the subject to the chamber for debate. Our amendment is designed to add strength to the motion and not to replace, denigrate or contradict it. I also express my sadness, but not my surprise, at the better together campaign for issuing a briefing in advance of today’s debate on what they think is the positive case for Trident and attempting to score points against the Government over the issues raised in my amendment. I thought that, at least on the issue of squandering billions of pounds on unnecessary, unworkable and immoral weapons of indiscriminate slaughter, there would be some sort of consensus and serious debate, regardless of constitutional preference. However, it seems that the better together campaign is now a cold house for anti-Trident campaigners. It has alienated churches, unions, peace groups, and the majority of the people in Scotland.

It will not come as news to many in the chamber that the issue of an independent Scotland’s NATO membership led me to become an independent member. I cannot support Scotland’s membership of a nuclear alliance, particularly when it pressurises its members to spend a minimum of 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence, regardless of the geopolitical circumstances of the time. Not surprisingly, NATO expects a contribution to its military common fund from each member state. In 2011-12, that amounted to £106.7 million from the United Kingdom. That means that, even if we could secure an opt-out from any collective military efforts, we would still be contributing financially to drone attacks on civilians and other aggressive military action.

I doubt that those who rail against NATO actions in Afghanistan will make allowances for Scotland because we were not the country that pushed the button. The UK should have been outraged when two innocent young Afghanis were killed recently by NATO troops because they thought that they were terrorists. There was hardly a whisper from the UK Government.

Nuclear weapons are a stain on humanity, whether they are in Scottish waters, American bases or Russian silos. The argument of those who wish to keep Trident essentially boils down to, “After you, I insist,”; in the Labour Party’s case, if it is cheap enough, it does not seem to mind. However, a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament report entitled “Nowhere to Go” highlights the fact that there are no viable alternative bases for Trident in the UK. If we get rid of Trident from Scottish waters, it is gone for good. My concern is that the disarmament of the UK would not be in NATO’s interests and that barriers will be erected against such a step.

Although Canada and Greece have removed nuclear weapons from their soil as members of NATO, I believe that those weapons had reached their sell-by date and those countries had the strategic cover of close neighbours who host nuclear weapons. The imposition of nuclear missiles on German, Belgian and Dutch soil, against the wishes of their Parliaments and citizens, should be a warning to us all about the co-operative nature of NATO.

Norway’s experience with NATO should also be a lesson. Although Norway has successfully resisted the imposition of nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil, it has not succeeded in changing NATO’s nuclear policy, which was reaffirmed last year at its Chicago conference. Every member of NATO is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but no significant efforts have been made to reduce the number of weapons that the alliance holds and shares. The treaty has therefore failed.
Bob Doris (Glasgow) (SNP): I have a lot of sympathy with much of Jean Urquhart’s amendment but will she also acknowledge that the Scottish Government has made it clear that if it comes to a choice between NATO and a nuclear-free Scotland, a nuclear-free Scotland will win every time?
Jean Urquhart: I accept the member’s statement—of course I do. However, there is a positive alternative to NATO membership that allows Scotland to act as a responsible global citizen. There are many examples of other nations that operate outside NATO and yet are more than adequately prepared to defend themselves. Those countries are not pariahs on the world stage and are not subject to threats from abroad. Given the recent St Patrick’s day celebrations in America, one would have to be very brave to claim that Ireland’s non-membership of NATO has somehow resulted in its isolation or affected its ties with the world’s remaining superpower. Ireland, along with a number of other non-NATO countries such as Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and much of central and eastern Europe, is a member of partnership for peace, which promotes bilateral co-operation between NATO and the partnership for peace countries on a case-by-case basis.
The Presiding Officer: The member needs to start winding up.
Jean Urquhart: Although some of those countries plan to accede to NATO, others view partnership for peace as an opportunity to co-operate internationally without compromise and without signing up to a military alliance that is predicated on a nuclear first-strike policy.
The Presiding Officer: You must bring your remarks to a close, Ms Urquhart.
Jean Urquhart: As the SNP campaign for nuclear disarmament briefing in advance of the NATO debate stated, an independent Scotland

“should not sneak timidly onto the world stage, afraid of our own shadow.”

Getting rid of Trident would herald the beginning of real nuclear disarmament, as would a distinctly different Scottish defence policy.

I move amendment S4M-05988.1, to leave out from “and further” to end and insert:

“; considers membership of NATO to be a barrier to the removal of Trident, whether as part of the UK or as an independent Scotland; believes that membership of an alliance predicated on a nuclear first strike policy is as harmful to Scotland’s international reputation, and poses the same threat from external agents, as the presence of a nuclear deterrent in Scottish waters; notes that European countries such as Ireland, Finland and Sweden are not members of NATO and are still considered to be full, cooperative members of the international community; further calls on the UK Government to disarm Trident and not to replace it with any other nuclear weapons system, and commits to ensuring that, in the event of independence, Trident will not be permitted to operate from Scottish waters.”

15:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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