To nuke or not to nuke?


“Safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation.” Winston Churchill’s famous last words on mutually assured destruction to the House of Commons in 1955 seem to have been long forgotten.

Britain no longer possess nuclear weapons for the purpose of striking back, we continue to develop them as a means of deterring an attack.

Churchill dwelt on the threat of a nuclear war and hoped that one day we would no longer be living under a nuclear shadow. Churchill’s wish may soon be a reality.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

“Young people today, by the way they vote in September, can have more impact on nuclear disarmament than what the older generation have been able to achieve in the last half century,” claims John Ainslie, the co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The Scottish CND, formed in 1958, are firmly championing the idea that Scottish independence is the answer to Britain’s intention of continuing to be a nuclear power.

The Scottish Government’s independence whitepaper has laid out plans to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland. First Minister Alex Salmond said: “It is my priority to make sure that we don’t see a new generation of nuclear weapons.”

A yes vote in the referendum would mean a nuclear free Scotland. A no vote would insure that Trident remains at Faslane.

This then begs the question should we relinquish the nuclear weapons system? What could be gained by doing so?

The United States has been heavily criticised since President Harry Truman’s decision to launch the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

From the ashes of Hiroshima a new threat then arose; the nuclear arms race. Britain’s participation in the development of nuclear arms during the Cold War has been criticized in part for the cost to British taxpayers.

It is no secret that Westminster has spent a significant amount of money developing its nuclear programme.

“There are plans to build a new system to replace Trident, which will be in service in the next 50 years,” says Ainslie

“Over that time scale the total cost of it is £100 billion. Now that £100 billion is money that is not being spent on childcare or schools and education or anything else.”

“Not only that, Trident is also a very inefficient job creation scheme. A lot of the money goes to the United States. From Scotland’s point of view it’s not a good deal, most of the jobs are down south where they make the weapons and where they keep the submarines. Scotland lives with the risks but it doesn’t actually get the jobs.”

“The weapons at Faslane are the equivalent of five times the power of all the bombs dropped during WW2.”

Faslane is home to 180 nuclear missiles, each one equaling to roughly the same amount of explosive force of 1000 tonnes of TNT. Just one of these missiles will destroy everything within a 1.6 mile radius. Ainslie said:

“If you have lorries packed full of explosives and you line them up all the way from Glasgow to Edinburgh that is about the same amount of explosive that is in one warhead detonation. The total weapons at Faslane are the equivalent of about 5 times the power of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War. It is huge amounts just in terms of the explosive detonation part and then on top of that you have the question of radiation as well.”

All of the nastiest aspects aside, could an independent Scotland really stand up against the sheer force of the nuclear powers.

“Although it is possible there might be pressure from London and Washington, there are going to be other countries in the world that will be very glad.” Ainslie says.

“A lot of the countries in the world are frustrated at the fact that Britain, America, France, Russia and China are not really doing as much as they should. So Scotland as an independent country would find that it had a lot of allies around the world if we take a disarmament stance.”

The future of Britain’s nuclear weapons system now lies in our hands. Now the real question is where do we stand? Do we swap warfare for welfare?


This article was originally produced for Gen Y Times.


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