Could Scotland lead on global nuclear disarmament?
Scotland lead toward abolishing nuclear weapons worldwide, you say? How’s that? Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the New York Times (not published) in response to Roger Cohen’s March 31 op-ed “The Case for Scotland” about the likelihood of Scottish voters choosing independence from the United Kingdom in a September referendum (and then kicking the UK;s nuclear weapons out of Scotland).
April 2, 2014
To the editor,
Roger Cohen’s read on the possibility of Scottish voters choosing independence in a referendum this September (“The Case for Scotland,” March 31) generally rang true, but omitted entirely a key issue – staunch Scottish opposition to nuclear weapons.
The United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal consists of 225 thermonuclear warheads on missiles aboard Trident submarines based at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, generally known as Faslane, a mere twenty-five miles northwest of Glasgow. Scotland has long been a leader in promoting global nuclear disarmament, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) is dead serious about removing the nuclear submarines if the people vote for independence. SNP Leader Alex Salmond recently stated, “Our opposition to nuclear weapons is not a campaign tactic or a negotiating position – it is one of the reasons for Scotland being independent.”
London appears to have no ready alternative basing plan for the Tridents, so an independent Scotland’s kicking the subs out of Faslane would force the UK into unilateral nuclear disarmament for a period of twenty years while a new base was constructed, according to a 2012 Parliament committee report. And where would they be temporarily based for two decades? The U.S.? France? Local opposition to such a scheme would no doubt be fierce.
It would be far better to decommission and dismantle the submarines, missiles and warheads rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money to maintain and relocate them. Such a development would be cheered not only in Scotland, but in the rest of Britain and around the world. While the UK’s nuclear arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia, an acknowledged nuclear power giving up these weapons it surely doesn’t need would boost lethargic efforts toward getting the world to nuclear zero.