John’s Speech in the Trident Debate on Hiroshima Day

You can read John’s speech from the Trident debate on August 6th 2014

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): “I declare my membership of Scottish CND.The Trident weapons system is the easiest way to illustrate a perversity of thought and futility of expenditure that are not unique to the UK, as the Trident nuclear system is heavily dependent on the US in many ways.

The obligation on every country—this applies no less to the minister here—is to assess the risks that a country faces and put in place mechanisms to address those risks. I commend the Jimmy Reid Foundation’s report, “No Need To Be Afraid”, which highlights that the risks shared by many countries relate to things such as continuity of energy supply, food, water—which is not a challenge for Scotland—and cyber attack. As many others have said, Trident and other such systems have done nothing to offset those risks.

We need human security. In 2003, the UN Commission on Human Security said:

“Human security means protecting vital freedoms. It means protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations, building on their strengths and aspirations. It also means creating systems that give people the building blocks of survival, dignity and livelihood …To do this, it offers two general strategies: protection and empowerment. Protection shields people from dangers … Empowerment enables people to develop their potential and become full participants in decision making.”

I like the use of the words “speediest safe withdrawal” that are in the minister’s motion. I do not see that as a withdrawal from Scotland, but as a withdrawal from service. That is a rich prize to gain and a rich contribution to give the world. I also like the words that suggest collaborative working. I commend Patrick Harvie’s amendment, which enhances that aspect and brings in the constitutional element. I hope that the Government will support that call.

We occupy a small planet. I see an important role for the UN. The UN General Assembly’s very first resolution, which was adopted unanimously, called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. There have been many fine words along those lines and I will quote some more of them.

“I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”

Those are very fine words indeed. However, when one knows that they were uttered by President Ronald Reagan, that perhaps takes off some of their edge.

How has the scientific community turned its attention to the cause of mankind? The cause of mankind will never be served by the creation of more, better or smarter weapons. The drone wars are a cowardly compact, with an equally flawed legal basis for waging them.

It is interesting that a US President called on scientists to turn their great talents to “world peace”. In this unequal world, peace will always be more likely if we see progress for mankind, which would come with the eradication of malaria or AIDS. Indeed, that would do far more for humanity than nuclear weapons.

There is growing inequality around the globe, which could lead to conflict. Therefore, it is important that we share our resources with the developing world.

I see arms diversification as the future. I commend the reference in the Government’s white paper to that issue. We know that foreign and defence policies are inextricably linked. I commend some of the actions that have happened in Scotland. This city played its part, at a time of thawing relations in the cold war, when the Edinburgh conversations, which were high-level discussions between academics and military people, contributed to making the world a better place. Talks took place in Craigellachie about the dispute in the caucuses. That is the future that I want to see for Scotland: talks not tanks; talks not Trident.

We have a glorious opportunity. I differ from the minister, in that the issue is not about defence procurement; rather, it is about having a new outlook and a new Scotland—an outward-looking Scotland that is committed to social and environmental justice. We have one world; we have one humanity. If we work together and if Neil Findlay, for example, focuses his mind on the issue, he will see that, if he is genuinely committed to the eradication of nuclear weapons, there is but one route to go.

Neil Findlay: I hope that Mr Finnie will reflect on his emphasis on the word “genuinely”. Many people on the Labour side genuinely have that interest. He should not just assume that it is only on one side of the argument that people’s convictions are genuine. That is an insult.
John Finnie: Mr Findlay misheard what I said, because I was commending his position and saying that, given that position, we should all work together for a better cause. The likelihood is that the withdrawal of Trident will not be delivered within the present constitutional settlement, but that it would be delivered with a strong will. Bits of paper will not deliver it, but a commitment to deliver it will. I do not doubt for one second the commitment of the Scottish Government and those on the yes side to deliver that better world. “

You can also watch it using the link below: