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WHY independence?

There are many reasons why a thoughtful person should choose independence, but one stands out among these so pre-eminently that, like the elephant in the kitchen, everyone is too polite to actually talk about it. Also the issue is itself so overwhelming that it defies the imagination.

Independence means an end to our nuclear nightmare. Every group that supports independence wants a nuclear-free Scotland, whereas all Unionist parties want not only to maintain Trident but to replace it when it reaches its “use by” date in a few years’ time.

This puts Scottish independence in its true international context. This country is unique as it is the only country in the world which has nuclear weapons imposed upon it against the wishes of its own government and people. The churches and trade unions are united in rejecting these criminal and illegal WMD (weapons of mass destruction).

The world wants to have a future, not an ever-accelerating race to Armageddon. On January 22 of this year, there took place a truly momentous event. After decades of campaigning, we finally did in fact “Ban the Bomb”. Because the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which was agreed at the United Nations on September 20, 2017, entered into force on that day.

The new treaty makes it illegal under international law to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

It will be “ius cogens” – that is, a peremptory norm from which there is no derogation (like piracy, genocide or enslavement), as opposed to customary law, where parties have to make a mutual agreement. I make this point in response to the obvious question – what do we do if this law is simply ignored by rogue states? The answer is that nuclear weapons will be delegitimised, and those who have them will be stigmatised. They may perversely persist, but their criminality will be blatant and indisputable.

This is not an innovation – nuclear weapons have always been illegal and genocide always been criminal. It’s just while other means of killing people have been specifically outlawed (biological weapons in 1972, chemical weapons in 1993, land mines in 1997, cluster munitions in 2008), consideration of nuclear weapons has been avoided. It is vital to grasp that this treaty is unique. It is the Charter of the Victims (ie. you and me) because it is focused on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, and does not get side-tracked into discussing “deterrence”, or the imagined advantages of nuclear weapons. Previous agreements were deals among the members of the exclusive Big Boys’ Nuclear Club. They argued about numbers and stockpiles but took no cognisance of the human beings involved. In fact, the realities of consequential human suffering were deliberately ignored. All this is changed, utterly changed and a “terrible beauty is born” – the burden of freedom and with it the responsibility of choice.

And this dream can be realized with independence and only with independence. All other justifications for independence flow from this, and follow from it.

For Scotland is the obvious weakest link in the nuclear chains that bind the nations of the world together in the suicide club. But Scotland has always prided itself on having a distinctive legal system, and this is its chance to prove it is seriously independent. It is inconceivable that the Scottish legal establishment should simply ignore a ruling of the United Nations, the highest international legal authority.

On October 21, 1999, Sheriff Margaret Gimblett instructed the jury at Greenock Sheriff Court to acquit Angie Zelter, Ellen Moxley and Ulla Roder, who had been charged with causing £80,000 damage to a Trident-related barge by peaceful, non-violent direct action. The jury did so, and Trident was – ipso facto – recognised as being illegal. This was a momentous ruling. The Daily Record carried the absurd headline “Sheriff disarms Britain”, as if this ruling magicked away all the UK’s armed forces!

However, the prosecution appealed against this decision, and on March 30, 2001, in the Lord Advocate’s Referral (LAR), Lords Prosser, Kirkwood and Penrose overturned this verdict and ruled that Trident was in fact legal. But if this were so, then every state in the world that wants to could also legally deploy Trident – an absurdity which proves the original hypothesis is untenable. It is essential that the opinions of the LAR be reconsidered in the light of the TPNW.

This legal ruling has an impact not only on the highest levels of law, but at the lowest, and must affect the way ordinary policing of the nuclear base is conducted. The police simply cannot go on arresting people who are upholding international law, charging them with breach of the peace and imprisoning them. They must decide which side they are on. Are they upholding international law, or is it a case of “my country, right or wrong, and I am only obeying orders”?

Do they not know that the 1945 London Agreement on War Crimes, which led to the prosecution and conviction of the Nazis, enshrined the principle that no-one, of whatever office or rank, is above the jurisdiction of international law? All individuals are deemed to be personally responsible for their actions. You cannot plead in your defence that you are merely obeying orders. Anyone who is involved in the manufacture, transportation, guarding or firing of nuclear weapons is part of a conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against peace, and is liable to prosecution under international law.

This was the case even before January 22 and the TPNW. Now it is even more blindingly obvious. Our police have to decide which side they are on.

Deterrence is a vile euphemism used to conceal the terrible truth of our present willingness to slaughter untold thousands instantly and to condemn many more to a slow and lingering death by radioactive poisoning. The word is its own pre-packed lie. We don’t have to fabricate a lie, just use the official jargon. That is why the world's moral leaders have denounced it. The Dalai Lama and the Pope have condemned deterrence. In a landmark statement on nuclear arms on November 10, Pope Francis has categorically condemned not only “the threat of their use” but also “their very possession”.

I don’t know if you’ve seen “Scotland the Dump” on Facebook. This is a map of all the military sites in Scotland, and it makes depressing viewing. We are up to our necks in the bloody war game. Lockheed Martin, who manufacture Trident, have an office in Glasgow, and Raytheon, the third largest weapons manufacturer in the world, has a factory at Glenrothes in Fife.

But the terrible truth is that we ourselves are the first victims of this manic militarism. Because we must first stifle the basic sense of humanity that is in each one of us, before we can sell our souls to the killing machine.

There is direct causal link between nuclear weapons and Scotland’s abject and subservient role in the British state. The cause of independence and the struggle against British nuclear WMD are inseparable. Because the bomb is deeply symbolic of the status and prestige of the UK; it is the supreme totem of the British state. Nuclearism is the highest form of imperialism, as Lenin did not say.

Arundhati Roy wrote: “Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behaviour. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meathooks deep in the base of our brains. They are the purveyors of madness. They are the ultimate colonizer. Whiter than any white man that ever lived. The very heart of whiteness.”

Because of this intrinsic connection between Britishness and the Bomb, the anti-nuclear campaign leads inexorably to the demand for the break-up of the British state – for Scottish and English independence. The bomb is the great British Shibboleth; attack it, and you attack the very heart and soul of the state. This may not yet be obvious to anti-nuclear campaigners in England; but, I believe, it is increasingly seen to be the case in Scotland. Since all British nuclear weapons are dumped on us here in Scotland, this is perhaps understandable that we see it this way.

Our independence is thus not merely a matter of local democracy – though it certainly is that fundamentally – but is an issue of global significance.

The worst form of colonialism is where it is interiorised and assimilated by the victim. This way, he becomes the agent of his own oppression. So here in Scotland, every day people by the thousand drive past Faslane as if it were not there. They gaze at it with unseeing, dead-fish eyes, as if it were a marina or a shipyard. The actuality is, that this is the biggest arsenal of nuclear bombs in Europe. The WHO (World Health Organisation), an official body of the UN, has calculated that it would take approximately 200 atom bombs to cause a nuclear winter, and in effect, to sterilise the planet. There are more than 200 atom bombs stored at Coulport/Faslane. What they are looking at is – quite literally – the end of the world. But the response of the British Government is to announce a 40% increase in killpower.

No self-respecting country would tolerate this obscenity being landed on them. But we do, because we lack independence. So Scottish freedom from the British state, means freedom from nuclear weapons. The issues are inseparable and indivisible.

A nuclear-free Scotland can take its place proudly among the other nuclear-free independent states of the world. This is a vision worth striving for.