24 March 2005

S2M-2640 Nuclear Weapons

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 24 March 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Nuclear Weapons

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2640, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on nuclear weapons.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It is always interesting to hear the straw men that are put up by the other parties to represent the SNP's position. Much of the debate has been characterised by members constructing an edifice and then shooting at it rather than addressing the real issues, but I think that there is consensus in the chamber that we wish to see nuclear weapons removed.

Michael McMahon: I would like to make a frivolous intervention, as there have been frivolous interventions by SNP members. Did the member's dad happen to have a nuclear weapon given to him, which he shoved in his cupboard?

Stewart Stevenson: Michael McMahon welcomed the end of air-launched nuclear weapons. So be it. However, it does not matter whether weapons are launched from the air, land or water—what matters is where they land. Weapons cause damage when they land rather than when they are launched, and nuclear weapons in the UK are designed to damage civilians rather than military targets—that is the morality behind the debate.

Troops from our islands—from Scotland in particular—are deployed in conflicts here, there and everywhere throughout the world. They are stretched thin and worked hard—perhaps they are overworked—because we choose to divert our resources to weapons that we hope we will never use and for which we cannot envisage the circumstances in which we would use them.

In 1985, in the fictional "Yes, Prime Minister" television series, James Hacker visited defence chiefs and discussed the nuclear deterrent. Afterwards, in a review of what was happening, he was asked what the deterrent was for and whom it deterred, but he could not say. In the modern world, we certainly cannot say what the deterrent is for and whom it deters. Hacker was asked how the deterrent deterred, but he could not say. He said that he would use it, but certainly not if the East Germans crossed into west Berlin or if the Russians went in to support civil unrest in west Berlin. All the scenarios developed. As he came up Whitehall, he still could not say when he would use nuclear weapons. We remain in the same position today.

Jackie Baillie asked why there are SNP members in the House of Commons. Perhaps she should consult the House of Commons library. All the SNP members in the House of Commons are in the top 10 for activity, but the feeble 50 Scottish Labour members languish at the bottom of that table. In an independent Scotland, Scotland's defence forces would be active and engaged to meet Scotland's priorities just as we now have defence forces—a wonderful five members—defending Scotland in Westminster.

Jackie Baillie, properly, mentioned jobs in her constituency and she favours the elimination of nuclear weapons, of course. What preparation is she making for the elimination of jobs that depend on nuclear weapons? Service personnel should have no fears. Again, I remind members that we are committed to ensuring that every person who is employed in the services in Scotland will have the opportunity to work in the Scottish independent defence forces when there is independence.

We are clinging grimly to immorality, twitching in fear of the advance of rationality and failing actively to support a world order. Eliminating nuclear weapons from the world is a long and difficult job, so we must start to do so now. Where better to start than with ourselves? There is no time to waste.


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