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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Thursday, January 20, 2022


Nuclear Weapons Treaties

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-02639, in the name of Bill Kidd, on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021; notes that the first meeting of state parties (1st MSP) will take place in Vienna from 22 to 24 March 2022; further notes that the 1st MSP will determine the rules of procedure for observers and state participators, deadlines for disarmament, verification and removal of nuclear weapons, and victim remediation with an emphasis on the disproportionate impact on indigenous communities and women and girls; recognises that the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will take place from 4 to 28 January 2022; understands that the UK is a state party to this treaty, and is accordingly bound by Article 6, which is to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”; believes that civil society groups in Scotland, including in the Glasgow Anniesland constituency, consider that the decision to increase the UK’s nuclear stockpile creates a higher risk of an accident on Scottish roads, as warheads are transported to and from Faslane, Coulport, and notes the reported calls from civil society groups for the UK Government to uphold its commitment to Article 6 of the NPT and to engage with the 1st MSP on the TPNW in Vienna next year.


Bill Kidd (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)

I thank my fellow MSPs who join me in this debate to bring attention to the serious concern surrounding, and the continued importance of, the international implementation of nuclear disarmament.

Saturday marks the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As the motion highlights, the 10th review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons—the NPT review conference—was scheduled to take place this month. However, as members may be aware, it was postponed due to the pandemic. It is now likely that the review conference will take place in August.

I am determined to attend the conference in person as the head of delegation for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, or PNND—members can see why we use the abbreviation. [Interruption.] I laughed there because I thought that was funny. As the co-president of PNND, I will represent parliamentarians from across the globe who are committed to seeing the implementation of total nuclear disarmament.

We are debating two international treaties: the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is otherwise known as the ban treaty. Both are critical to nuclear disarmament.

The NPT, which has been in force since 1970, is a landmark international treaty through which nuclear states committed to stopping the proliferation of nuclear arms. The United Kingdom, the US, Russia, China and France, all of which are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the P5—are nuclear states that have signed that treaty. It is a highly important international treaty that needs to be respected by all its parties, as it underpins critical international security structures.

The NPT commits its members to stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology to other countries and to stopping an increase in their own nuclear weapon stockpiles. Moreover, in signing the treaty, the P5 members all committed in international law to furthering the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and to actively working towards complete nuclear disarmament. Therefore, the treaty is hugely important. However, although the treaty entered into force more than 50 years ago, total nuclear disarmament obviously has not been achieved. Moreover, in recent years, there have been worrying instances of non-compliance among nuclear states, including the current UK Government.

As international security concerns heighten and the world changes, we need fresh impetus to encourage nuclear states to renew their investment in the nuclear disarmament process. That is where the new international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—the ban treaty—comes in.

The threat of nuclear arms has not diminished, and, although the commitment of nuclear states to “no first use” of those weapons is welcome, it is not enough. The nuclear disarmament debate needs to be reframed and diplomatic thinking needs to be renewed. Nuclear-armed states need to reconcile their security strategies with the moral question of whether it would ever be right to use nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate. They do not target only a military base; they devastate entire nations, including hundreds of thousands of civilians who, in any country, cannot afford to have to bear the weight of the actions of their leaders.

The ban treaty is, like the NPT, a landmark treaty. For the first time ever, non-nuclear states and civil society led an international treaty on nuclear disarmament. That perhaps, ironically, helped the NPT in its 50-year-old commitment to stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states.

The Scottish National Party has stood firm in its opposition to nuclear weapons, as the many invaluable civil society organisations in Scotland and MSPs from across the parties continue to do in our cross-party group on nuclear disarmament. As the convener of that cross-party group, I must mention that here, in the Scottish Parliament, we stand for the majority wish of Scottish people from across the parties in our commitment to rid Scotland of the nuclear weapons that are currently stored here against our will.

As many people will be aware, the international non-governmental organisation called ICAN—the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—was the driver in getting the ban treaty into the United Nations and accepted and ratified in international law. ICAN won the Nobel peace prize for that work, and an atomic bomb survivor whom many of us have met—an incredible woman called Setsuko Thurlow—accepted the award on ICAN’s behalf.

After the atomic bomb was first made, Albert Einstein, one of Thurlow’s fellow Nobel prize winners, commented:

“I do not fear the explosive power of the atom bomb. What I fear is the explosive power of evil in the human heart.”

As much as the deterrence argument can persuade some, I believe that it can never rule out or compensate for the reality that evil actions take place and can sometimes override the good governance of nations. The only way out of that is through total nuclear disarmament and continued oversight of international agencies on compliance.

Until recently, the cold war felt long gone and it was easy to push the matter to the back of our minds, but the threat of nuclear weapons has not diminished. We have a responsibility, whether Scotland is devolved or independent, to look at that reality head on. I am pleased that the majority of MSPs have signed the ICAN pledge to support the ban treaty. That means that there is enough political will and commitment within Parliament to stand together in working for an end to the danger to the world’s long-term future that nuclear weapons stand for.

I take the opportunity to mention the work of all the organisations involved in the cross-party group on nuclear disarmament who have, over the years, continued in their efforts to promote the nuclear disarmament agenda among Scottish parliamentarians and the general public of our country. I must mention, in particular, Janet Fenton, the ICAN Scottish liaison and chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who has worked tirelessly in that regard and who has been a tremendous help to the cause.

Alongside those partners, I will—Covid rules allowing—attend the first meeting of state parties in Vienna this March, to develop the ban treaty rules further. I encourage my fellow MSPs from across the chamber to do likewise if that is at all possible.


Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

I thank Bill Kidd for securing this important debate on the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which came into force on 22 January 2021. I acknowledge Bill’s long-standing commitment to nuclear disarmament, peace and justice. I will not call him a veteran campaigner—the last time I did that, he did not like it very much—but I will say that his perseverance is inspiring.

The TPNW entered into force on 22 January 2021 and, so far, 59 states have fully ratified it and are now bound by its provisions. Countries that have signed up to the treaty must never

“Develop, test, produce ... acquire ... stockpile ... transfer ... use, or threaten to use nuclear weapons”.

They are also forbidden to host another country’s nuclear weapons on their territory or to assist or encourage anyone else to engage in any of those prohibited activities.

I have to ask why anyone—or any state—would wish to use these abhorrent weapons, which are the most inhumane instruments of destruction ever created and weapons that, when they are deployed, incinerate human life. Close to 250,000 civilians met that unimaginable end in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and many thousands more have since died from radiation-related illnesses.

To date, the UK has continued to insist that it will not sign the treaty nor be an observer at the first meeting of the state parties to the treaty, in March. The UK has also—shockingly—decided to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons, in clear breach of its obligations under the NPT. The TPNW, with its emphasis on prohibition and elimination, could rectify that deficit.

Safety and security are about more than the absence of violence and war. They are about creating a just and equal society in which everyone can achieve their full potential, in which no one is left behind and in which we help to nurture and support those who need it. The challenges and sacrifices that we have endured over the past couple of years have highlighted that point more than ever—they have highlighted what is important. As we build back from Covid, recovery must include the end of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are, of course, immoral. However, it is not just immoral but economically illiterate to spend hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction when that money could be invested in a recovery that actually benefits our citizens.

Paragraph 4 of article 4 of the treaty has a clear relevance for Scotland. It states that

“each State Party that has any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or in any place under its jurisdiction or control that are owned, possessed or controlled by another State shall ensure the prompt removal of such weapons, as soon as possible”.

When the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, endorsed the Scottish Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s covenant to support the TPNW’s entering into force, she said:

“While the Scottish Government is unable to become a party to the treaty, as First Minister I strongly support the principles of the treaty and the work of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.”

As Bill Kidd pointed out, the majority of parliamentarians in Scotland have signed the ICAN parliamentary pledge, and our First Minister has spoken in support of nuclear disarmament. I believe that the only way to guarantee an end to nuclear weapons in Scotland is for us to regain our independence as a nation, and I look forward to the day when we do that.


Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I am a lone voice on the Conservative side of the chamber but I will do my best to contribute to the debate, which I am pleased to take part in.

I commend Bill Kidd not just for securing the debate but for his endless campaigning for nuclear disarmament. The name Bill Kidd is synonymous with that campaign not just in Scotland and the UK, but across the world. His letter to Joe Biden, the new president of the United States, is testament to that. I say to Mr Kidd that a Nobel gong is yet within reach and that, in my view, it would be well deserved. I suspect that some of my contribution might not always be in agreement with the premise of the motion, but I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who has a life-long passion such as that about which we have just heard. Politics with principles—who knew, Presiding Officer?

I am more inclined to agree with the motion than to disagree with it, because I do not want to live in a world in which nuclear weapons are a live and active threat to humanity. However, the sad reality is that we do, and it is difficult to see the end of that scenario any time soon.

The black and white images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where hundreds of thousands of civilians died, are the sort of images that stick in spongy minds—certainly that of a modern studies student, which I was. The thrice-postponed NPT summit, which we will hopefully get around to, will be as tough and monumentally important as the 26th UN climate change conference of the parties—COP26—was last year.

However, there is a problem. The sad reality is that the NPT is plagued by a disarmament deficit. Five nuclear states that are parties to the treaty are currently not meeting their commitments, and tensions between the US, China and Russia are increasing—by the day—the unlikelihood of reducing that deficit.

The theory and the practice of disarmament are awkward friends. Bill Kidd is correct in saying that, for a safer world, all nuclear weapons should be dismantled—that is the theory, but the practice is different. The NPT must be worth more than the paper on which it is written. I agree with that. A treaty that was fit for purpose in 1968 is not necessarily fit for purpose in 2022—I note the absence from it of Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan, although the last two are more likely to have a change of heart on the issue. However, reforms to legacy treaties such as this are difficult and will not come easily. Negotiations will take a long time to conclude.

The practice is different from the theory. Right now, there are serious geopolitical threats to not just Scotland and the UK but all our NATO allies. That is what they are—our allies. Mr Kidd is on the record recently as saying that the three big issues that the next generation faces—

Will Jamie Greene take an intervention?

I do not have a huge amount of time, but I am happy to take an intervention if I will get some time back.

Yes, you will get time back.

Ruth Maguire

I thank Jamie Greene for taking an intervention, as I know that we are short of time. I am interested in hearing his reflections on whether rising global tensions reinforce the case for getting rid of nuclear weapons and perhaps make that more urgent.

Jamie Greene

They do reinforce the case, but the problem is that there are some very live active threats whereby the people who pose the threat are increasing their nuclear capability. Therefore, acceleration is inevitable and hard to stop. It is hard to see an end to that.

Since 2007, Russia has been completely overhauling its nuclear capabilities, with underwater nuclear drones and hypersonic missiles. It does not take much more than a cursory look at Channel 5 television in the evening to see real-life examples of what our armed forces are doing out in the seas to stave off threats. The fact that, at this very second, Russian troops are lining up on the Belarus-Ukraine border shows that these are not just military exercises but a real threat. China’s current hostility towards, for example, Taiwan—I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests—is testament to the fact that these are not academic or theoretical questions but live issues, and how we react to them is a valid question.

Back in 2020, in the space of just six days, planes from RAF Lossiemouth took to the skies on three separate occasions to ward off aircraft that failed to identify themselves. The unidentified aircraft were not lost. Was someone testing our response times and capabilities? I am pretty sure that they were and that those three occasions were only the instances that officials were willing to talk about.

The issue of the continuous at-sea deterrent is a complex one. The capability sits in my region. I have been to Faslane and have met personnel there. I am proud of them and have faith that they take their monumental responsibility extremely seriously. In my part of the world, there are very mixed views about the presence of the deterrent, but I genuinely do not think—this is where I disagree with Bill Kidd—that simply moving it across the border to Liverpool or north-east England will move the problem away or make Scotland any safer.

It is worth noting that the global number of nuclear warheads is down from around 70,000 in 1986 to just over 13,000 last year, but that is 13,000 too many, because it takes only one. Clearly, more has to be done. The UK has a role to play in that, and we must do better.

Notwithstanding our differences of views and opinions, I commend Bill Kidd on his efforts. We, in politics, could perhaps learn from him and the zeitgeist.


Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I thank Bill Kidd for securing the debate and for his long-term commitment to the cause.

Back in 1982, I was in the fourth year at Dunbar grammar school, sitting in class for my favourite subject, modern studies. We were asked to choose a topic to study as part of our work that year. In 1982, we were in the middle of the cold war, with President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher on one side and President Brezhnev and then Yuri Andropov on the other. I decided that I wanted my study subject to be the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I joined the CND that year and I have been a member ever since. It is a red line in my political beliefs and always will be. The phrase that stuck in my head from when we were researching the subject was “mutually assured destruction”—MAD. Let that sink in—mutually assured destruction.

Here in Scotland, we are the home of the UK submarine service, including the UK nuclear deterrent and the new generation of hunter-killer submarines. Hunter-killer—the name says it all. Those four submarines are permanently based at Faslane, at least until Scotland becomes independent and we remove nuclear weapons. We are told that Faslane was chosen to host those vessels at the height of the cold war because of its geographical position,

“which forms a bastion on the relatively secluded but deep and easily navigable Gare Loch and Firth of Clyde”.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—the nuclear ban treaty—is an international agreement between countries. All countries that have signed or ratified the TPNW have committed to a complete global ban on nuclear weapons, and on all activities related to the creation or use of nuclear weapons. Today we are celebrating the first year of the treaty; to be precise, Saturday 22 January marks one year since the treaty came into force as international law.

The nuclear ban has already begun to change the world. Billions of pounds have been taken out of investment in nuclear weapons, with more than 100 financial institutions completely disinvesting from them. Countries continue to join the treaty, while a growing number of non-member states have committed to observing the first meeting of state parties. Cities and local authorities around the world are showing their support in growing numbers through the ICAN cities appeal, where parliamentarians here in Scotland and worldwide stand firm in support of nuclear disarmament.

Scotland cannot sign the TPNW unless we become an independent country. However, we can be guided by the principles of the treaty and can take steps to embed as much of it as possible into domestic law. We can prepare for a day when Scotland is able to achieve full nuclear disarmament and sign up to the global nuclear ban.

ICAN asked parliamentarians to sign the following pledge:

“We, the undersigned parliamentarians, warmly welcome the entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a significant step towards the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

We share the deep concern expressed in the preamble about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons and we recognize the consequent need to eliminate these inhumane and abhorrent weapons.

As parliamentarians, we pledge to work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty by our respective countries, as we consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order and an essential step to promote the security and well-being of all peoples.”

I was proud to sign that pledge, and I look forward to the day when Scotland becomes independent and nuclear weapons are finally removed from the Clyde.


Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Bill Kidd for bringing this important debate to Parliament. As the motion points out, article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty is clear. It calls for the

“cessation of the nuclear arms race”,

but it also calls for “complete”—complete!—

“disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

In addition, 120 countries have now signed up to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which proposes a total global ban on these weapons of mass destruction.

For the avoidance of doubt, these are treaties that carry with them binding obligations. We hear a lot about the rule of law and the rule of international law, so what about the observance of this international law? I have a long-held view that nuclear weapons themselves are illegal, and nearly 40 years ago, along with others, I tried to take Margaret Thatcher to court on the grounds that their possession is in direct contravention of international law because they destroy lives indiscriminately. They kill completely innocent women, children and men.

Today, we continue to witness the flouting of international law with no evidence whatsoever of meaningful negotiation, of material progress, or of anything resembling even a strategy for disarmament. We are told that these weapons are a deterrent. The nuclear deterrent is part of the language, the doublespeak and the propaganda of the debate on disarmament. Does anybody really believe that the threat of first-strike nuclear weapons or their location 80 miles from this Parliament makes us any safer? Incidentally, their relocation to 180 miles away in Barrow-in-Furness would not make them any safer.

In wilful or ignorant defiance of the non-proliferation treaty—who knows which?—Boris Johnson announced last year that he was escalating the number of Trident 100-kiloton nuclear warheads from 180 to 260. By any definition, that is not multilateral disarmament—it is unilateral rearmament. It represents a proliferation of ballistic missiles, but it also represents a proliferation of risk, lies and disinformation; a proliferation of nuclear waste, missile convoys and terror threats; and a proliferation of instability, curbs on civil liberties and austerity in every other public service.

So, the honest division in this debate is not between those of us who support unilateral nuclear disarmament and those who support multilateral nuclear disarmament. The honest division is between those of us who believe in nuclear disarmament and those who, frankly, do not. That is what the Trident debate is about. Of course, it is also about jobs. We need to understand that the £200 billion that is to be spent on Trident’s replacement would create jobs—of course it would—but, with that kind of money, how many more jobs could we create to rebuild our manufacturing base, to invest in our national health service and to provide the education, health and environmental protection that the world is crying out for?

Finally, I am in no doubt that what we need at this time is political leadership, but I am equally certain that it will not come from the political elite whose heads are turned by the twin temptations of militarism and nationalism. It will come from the people, who will once again lead the leaders. That is what this debate—and the motion—is about. It is about summoning up a renewed spirit of popular resistance; it is about taking action in support of our moral objection to genocide to secure our common survival; and it is about grasping the historic opportunity to build a just, civilised and peaceful society in a just, civilised and peaceful world.

I call Bob Doris, to be followed by Maggie Chapman, who will be the final speaker before the minister responds to the debate.


Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

I congratulate Bill Kidd on securing this important debate and pay tribute to him for his work over many years on nuclear disarmament. I also acknowledge his current role as co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

This debate and, of course, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is the subject of it, are powerful reminders that there is nothing moral, normal, acceptable, palatable or humane about nuclear weapons and their use for human destruction and the destruction of the planet. Nations must raise their voices against them and, of course, meet their international legal obligations.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force almost a year ago. It is a sweeping treaty that was designed to outlaw and rid the world of weapons from a bygone, cold war era. Despite that, it is with great sadness that I note that the British Government has failed to ratify the treaty. Its failure to do so demonstrates the failure of the United Kingdom to be a world leader in the fight for nuclear disarmament. Westminster continues to fund a nuclear defence system that goes against the United Kingdom’s long-established commitment to the United Nations. Unfortunately, that Westminster nuclear obsession includes the UK Labour Party, whose defence spokesperson describes the UK’s nuclear weapons as “non-negotiable”.

However, I acknowledge that members of all parties, including the Labour Party, and of the Labour movement and, of course, wider civic society, have, over many years, campaigned to rid our shores and the world of nuclear weapons. I wish to see an independent, nuclear-free Scotland. We must make common cause with all those who seek the elimination of nuclear weapons, and I commend the work on that of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on nuclear disarmament.

The UK’s position is wholly counterproductive. How can Westminster condemn the actions of foreign states in their development of nuclear weapons while demonstrating its complicit failure to act on eliminating its own nuclear arsenal, on the replenishment of which another £200 billion is to be spent, as we heard from Richard Leonard?

If the British Government’s is not opposed to nuclear weapons for moral reasons, perhaps it ought to ratify the UN treaty on economic grounds. The annual cost to the UK of maintaining and running such a system is £18 billion, which equates to the state spending more than £30,000 per minute to continue the programme. That financial burden is itself a moral outrage. Such eye-watering sums could be better spent by helping those most in need at home and by contributing more to our overseas aid obligations, rather than cutting resources as the UK Government currently does.

It is the moral case that is at the heart of encouraging all nations to sign and ratify the UN treaty and to play their part in ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

I welcome the first meeting of state parties, which will take place in March this year. I am delighted that Bill Kidd will attend to discuss the continued strength of the UN’s commitment to nuclear prohibition. I wish all participants well when they meet in Vienna and I heartily thank Bill Kidd MSP for his on-going leadership in seeking to advance the cause of a nuclear-free Scotland and a nuclear-free world.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call the minister, Ash Regan, to speak for up to seven minutes in response to the debate.

I apologise: the minister is looking at me with a confused expression on her face, and rightly so. I also apologise to Maggie Chapman. I got ahead of myself. I call Maggie Chapman to speak for up to four minutes.


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

That is no problem, Presiding Officer. Thank you.

I thank Bill Kidd for lodging his motion and for securing the debate. I share his enthusiasm for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and was delighted when it came into force a year ago. I also appreciate the detail that Bill and others have given about the prohibition and non-proliferation treaties.

It is absolutely right that we devote parliamentary time to this important issue. We have a role to play in educating ourselves and others. I thank Bill Kidd for his leadership in that and for acknowledging the work of Janet Fenton, who has been inspirational for so many in Scotland and further afield.

I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate, although I wish that it were not necessary. Nuclear weapons are a stain on us all. They are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. They are unlike any other military force: they cause devastation in the moment and for generations, they are uniquely persistent and they spread genetically damaging radioactive fallout. They are weapons of indiscriminate intergenerational mass murder.

As if all that is not bad enough, use of nuclear weapons would destroy all forms of life, and their development disrupts life-support systems, including our climate. Use of less than 1 per cent of the nuclear weapons that currently exist in the world could disrupt the global climate and threaten as many as 2 billion people with starvation in a nuclear famine. The thousands of nuclear weapons that are possessed by just the United States and Russia would destroy the world. The expression “nuclear winter” does not even come close to describing what would be experienced.

That those weapons exist and that Governments play politics with them should shame us all. Nuclear weapons epitomise the worst of politics. To use the threat of world-obliterating force means that politics has failed. It teaches us that violence is a legitimate answer to difficult questions and indicates that Governments care more about their egos and about making shows of strength and power than they do about life.

As a South African citizen, I am pleased that South Africa made the conscious decision to disarm. The South African Government dismantled all of its nuclear weapons and was the first state in the world voluntarily to give up all the nuclear arms that it had developed. The country has been a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons since 1991 and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons three years ago, thereby becoming the first country to have had nuclear weapons, disarmed them and gone on to sign those treaties.

For the many economic, humanitarian and moral reasons that have already been outlined by others, I wish that the country that I have chosen as my home could sign the prohibition treaty today. Unfortunately, it looks as if we must wait until Scotland is an independent country before we can do that. We must make sure that we do that when we can.

I agree with Jamie Greene and others. I do not just want nuclear weapons out of Scotland; I want them out of every country. We can, and should, use all our resources for good.

We must also use the powers that we have now, and powers that I hope we will have in the future, to restrict and stop the proliferation not only of nuclear machinery, but of the broader military-industrial complex. The two are related. As a priority, we should stop the preferential Government support for Raytheon, BAE Systems and other dealers in death. We can see in Yemen the damage that Britain, including Scotland, continues to do in the world through support for arms manufacture. We need to use all peaceful avenues that are open to us to prevent the UK Government from renewing its huge financial support for Trident and other nuclear weapons.

We can and must be a force for good in the world. We can be peace builders, we can be peacemakers, and we can say that we will never again use indiscriminate weapons of mass murder.

I can, now, call the minister, Ash Regan, to respond to the debate. You have up to seven minutes.


The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Regan)

I thank Bill Kidd for bringing his motion to the chamber for debate. I express to him and the wider cross-party group on nuclear disarmament my appreciation for their commitment and their work on this important issue, and I thank him for his powerful speech.

There have been thoughtful contributions from members throughout the chamber, including among others Ruth Maguire, Jamie Greene and Bob Doris. It is very good to see Ruth Maguire back in the chamber this week.

The Scottish Government is firmly opposed to the possession, threat and use of nuclear weapons. We are committed to pursuing safe and complete withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from Scotland and we have repeatedly called on the UK Government to cancel its plans for the Dreadnought programme.

Nuclear weapons are morally wrong—that point was made by a number of speakers in the debate—as well as being strategically wrong and economically wrong, as Bob Doris said. They are indiscriminate and devastating in their impacts, and their use would bring unspeakable humanitarian suffering and widespread environmental damage.

Nuclear weapons are obsolete, dangerous and impractical, yet last year the UK Government broke its commitment to the international community by increasing the nuclear weapon stockpile cap to no more than 260 warheads. That represents a 40 per cent increase from its 2010 commitment to having no more than 180 warheads. The move is completely at odds with article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty, to which the UK Government is a signatory. Two independent defence experts from the London School of Economics concluded that the UK’s increase of warheads constitutes a breach of article 6.

Nuclear weapons do not provide a meaningful deterrent to many modern-day threats, such as terrorist attacks, nor have they proved to be a deterrent to other nuclear-armed states carrying out atrocious acts on British soil. Rather than making repeated and damaging cuts to conventional military forces and capabilities, the UK Government would do better to use the £41 billion that it is spending on replacing Trident to invest in modern warfare capabilities that are relevant to today’s threats.

The Scottish Government supports the objectives of the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the non-proliferation treaty. We recognise the important role that the international community has in collectively creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. The three pillars of the non-proliferation treaty—non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy—provide the international community with a balanced step-by-step framework for disarmament. We will follow the outcomes of both treaty conferences carefully in order to further our thinking on the nuclear debate.

Jamie Greene

I have a question for the minister that goes back to my concept of theory and practice. If every signatory to the treaty got rid of all their nuclear weapons, how would the world deal with the countries that are not party to the treaty and have not signed up to disarmament but still hold weapons or have ambitions to do so?

Ash Regan

Jamie Greene raises an important point. As I said, that is the how we need to look at such things, which is why the Scottish Government will follow the outcomes of the treaty conferences carefully to help to develop our thinking further.

I turn to transportation of defence nuclear material. The responsibility for transportation of nuclear warheads lies with the Ministry of Defence, but the Scottish Government expects that transportation to be carried out safely and securely, and has made that expectation clear to the UK Government.

As lead Government department for the response to a defence nuclear emergency, the Ministry of Defence organises regular training and exercises in respect of its emergency response planning and arrangements, and Scotland’s emergency responders participate as appropriate. Although there has never been a defence nuclear transport incident that posed a radiation hazard, I understand public concern about those convoys, and I stress that we in the Scottish Government take the matter very seriously.

There is significant resilience planning in place. Scotland’s three regional resilience partnerships include the local authorities, but are led by Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and supported by Scottish Government resilience co-ordinator teams. Members might wish to note that those partnerships undertake risk and preparedness assessment processes regularly. The resilience register is maintained on an on-going basis, and the Scottish Government has published a range of guidance for the resilience partnerships, which enables them to identify and assess the main risks that are relevant to their regions, and to determine how prepared they are to deal with the consequences of those risks.

The MOD has provided assurance that transport routes that are adopted are carefully selected as part of a rigorous risk assessment process and are regularly reassessed for their continued suitability. The MOD has also provided assurance that operational planning always takes into account other factors, including road and weather conditions.

There are well-established resilience structures in place to manage the consequences of any emergency, and they have been and continue to be robustly tested and proved by exercises and real events.

Ruth Maguire

Having seen the details of risk assessments, does the minister personally feel that there is ever an acceptable level of risk in having those weapons travelling on our roads and through our major cities at any time, but perhaps especially when we are in a pandemic and our emergency services are already stretched?

Ash Regan

Ruth Maguire raises a very understandable point. I completely understand public concern about the level of risk that nuclear weapons transport poses to communities in Scotland.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has put in place plans and has made pragmatic preparations to deal with incidents that involve nuclear defence material, including convoys of such material. Similarly, Police Scotland can give assurance that up-to-date plans are in place to deal with all major incidents, including nuclear incidents, and its procedures for defence nuclear material are current. Its resilience staff liaise regularly with the Ministry of Defence Police on a range of matters, including what I have outlined.

As I said at the outset, the Scottish Government believes that nuclear weapons are immoral, illegal and a colossal waste of money. We wish to see the Trident replacement programme being scrapped and the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money put to better use, and we have called on the UK Government to do that.

The Scottish Government supports the objectives of the international treaties on nuclear weapons and we will work with partners to make an independent Scotland a nation that is free of nuclear weapons.

Thank you, minister; that concludes the debate.

13:28 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—