With regards to the ongoing debate about Trident, “weapons of mass destruction” certainly has a chilling ring to it and is usually enunciated in any criticism of the UK nuclear deterrent, but what is the reality?
Since the end of the Second World War, the number of people killed by so-called conventional – and presumably acceptable – weapons must be of the order of a few millions, but by nuclear weapons, to the best of my knowledge, zero.
From this it could just as easily be concluded that nuclear weapons are in fact weapons for the prevention of mass destruction. Indeed, in their non-possession by either of the opposing sides in the Cold War which followed the world war, it is highly likely that this would have developed into a very hot third world war in which many more millions would have died. This was evidently part of the thinking of Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee in pursuing the development of the UK weapons system.
The argument that we will never use Trident as a reason for disposing of it is misguided. The whole point of the system is that it is not a weapon of attack, but the ultimate deterrent of such. That it would be more acceptable if usable seems absurd – like suggesting deliberate car crashing to justify insurance costs.
No-one in their right senses could actually approve of nuclear weapons, or indeed of any weapons, but we cannot uninvent the technology, so it will continue to be available to potential enemies who, in the absence of a retaliatory capability, might be tempted to use it. Remember that neither neutrality nor inadequate defence saved Norway in the two world wars of the last century. In any attack on Europe, Scotland and Norway, being oil producers, would be prime targets. What indeed would be the benefits of an independent Scotland unilaterally banning the continued presence of our current weapons system? Apart from feeding the triumphalism of pressure groups, I can see none.
What would be the disadvantages? Most of the costs of such systems are in salaries and wages, which are spent mainly in supporting local employment. In this instance to my knowledge the local authority usually quotes around five to six thousand such posts.
Forcing on Nato the abandonment of its ultimate security system is not going to help Scotland’s case for joining the alliance. Having no say at all in our monetary policy as has recently been promised is simply not, in my opinion, better than having just some.
The same goes for the universal multilateral abandonment of nuclear weaponry, which is the only safe way of setting about this problem if circumstances should ever allow. I would like to see Scotland having a voice in this. Ducking out is hardly an honourable alternative.
Dr A McCormick