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An independent Scotland and membership of a nuclear armed NATO are not incompatible – Yet another policy stood on its head by the SNP

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Motion addressed by MSP’s, in the Scottish Parliament

That this Parliament recognises that the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021:

The first meeting of state parties (1st MSP) will take place in Vienna from 22 to 24 March 2022:

It 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:

The Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will take place from 4 to 28 January 2022:

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”:

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.

Speaking to the debate for the SNP government Ash Denham, Minister for Community Safety said: “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.”

Comment: Note the weasel words. Use of the pluralistic term “treaties” is revealing.

A Nuclear Ban in Scotland

Scotland cannot sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in its own right.

Obligations of Parties to the Treaty

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) prohibits States Parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Signatories are barred from transferring or receiving nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, control over such weapons, or any assistance with activities prohibited under the Treaty. States are also prohibited from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. Lastly, States Parties cannot allow the stationing, installation, or deployment of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices in their territory. In addition to the Treaty’s prohibitions, States Parties are obligated to provide victim assistance and help with environmental remediation efforts.

States Parties of the Nuclear Ban Treaty met at the Vienna International Centre in June 2022 to discuss and analyse the treaty’s progress thus far.

The UK did not attend, despite the fact that it was responsible for untold suffering due to nuclear testing in the 1950s. The UK’s absence demonstrated a refusal to accept responsibility in remediating the harm caused to indigenous people living in Australia and The Christmas Islands due to nuclear testing. Article 6 of the Treaty states:

“Each State Party shall, with respect to individuals under its jurisdiction who are affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, adequately provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance, without discrimination, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.”

The UK Government’s position

The UK is committed to the long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

As a responsible Nuclear Weapons State the UK continues to work with international partners towards creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. However, it will not sign the treaty which has been published today. It has previously been made very clear that the treaty, if signed by all nations will bring lead to a world without nuclear weapons. But this treaty fails to address the key issues that must first be overcome to achieve lasting global nuclear disarmament.

It will not improve the international security environment or increase trust and transparency. The unpredictable international security environment of today demands the maintenance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. And further shifts in the international security context cannot be ruled out which could put the UK and it’s NATO allies, under grave threat.

This treaty also risks undermining and weakening the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which has played an unparalleled role in curtailing the nuclear arms race. The NPT continues to make a significant contribution to the strategic stability that the international community requires. The NPT must be upheld and strengthened because of, not despite, the complex security challenges that we all face. It remains the right framework for progress across all three, mutually reinforcing, pillars, including disarmament.

The UK firmly believes that the best way to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach, within existing international frameworks. Productive results can only be achieved through a consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security context. It is only through building the necessary mutual trust between states, and through putting into place the key international architecture to help build the conditions for further disarmament, that realistic and effective route can be progressed towards the mutual goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

The UK has not taken part in the negotiation of this treaty, and does not intend to sign, ratify or become party to it. The treaty will therefore not be binding on the UK. Furthermore, the UK would not accept any argument that this treaty can constitute a development of customary international law binding on the UK or on other non-parties. Importantly, states possessing nuclear weapons have not taken part in the negotiations. As has been made clear, the UK, as a Nuclear Weapons State, has been pursuing a step by step approach to nuclear disarmament consistent with the NPT and its other treaty commitments.

The UK will continue to work with partners across the international community to press for key steps towards multilateral disarmament, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and successful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament. And will continue to play a leading role in disarmament verification.

Stewart McDonald SNP Shadow Cabinet Defence Minister

Asked if an independent Scotland would ban any nuclear weapons including, for example, a visiting US nuclear-armed submarine, McDonald would only say that an independent Scotland would not “permanently host nuclear weapons from other states.”

Quite where his statement squares with official SNP policy is confusing since until now the party has insisted that an independent Scotland would ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

NATO membership is incompatible with TPNW

The TPNW is clearly at odds with NATO membership and incompatible with a US nuclear-armed sub using Scotland as a base. NATO’s opposition to the treaty could not be clearer, as evidenced by the statement it issued when the treaty came into force, which said:

“NATO is a defensive alliance. The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression. A world where the states that challenge the international rules-based order have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is not a safer world. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Allies are determined to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective, and reject any attempt to delegitimise nuclear deterrence. We do not accept any argument that the ban treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary international law. The ban treaty will not change the legal obligations of our countries with respect to nuclear weapons.”

Has Nicola Sturgeon handed Scotland’s defence policy to Westminster

The First Minister publicly boasted about being a member of CND before she joined the SNP but it appears she has handed over defence policy to Stewart McDonald. Policy made on the hoof is never satisfactory but it might just be that anti-nuclear party members will have other thoughts on the matter.

Scottish peace activists head for Nobel Peace Prize procession with backing of Nicola Sturgeon

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The imminent introduction of city states in Scotland by Westminster is driven by a determination to destroy the endless campaigning for Scottish independence – but there is a solution – adopt the Hoppean blueprint for secession

Scotland and the Hoppean Blueprint for Secession

Daily Oct 2 Scotland map

TAGS Global EconomyPolitical Theory10/02/2014Andrei Kreptul

Over a week has passed since the release of the final voting results from last Thursday’s Scottish independence referendum. Upon further analysis, it would appear that (now former) Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Yes Scotland may have employed the wrong strategy. What they should have done is insist during pre-referendum negotiations that any unitary council area that voted “Yes” to independence would be permitted to leave the UK. In other words, the secession movement should have been decentralist and piecemeal.

Consider the following:

  • The referendum question posed to voters last Thursday was: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The term “Scotland” was defined to include the existing Scottish territorial and maritime boundaries. 
  • The final vote result was Yes 44.7 percent and No 55.3 percent with 3.6 million votes cast. As required by the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013, those votes were cast and counted within 32 unitary council areas around Scotland. 
  • With 32 of 32 council areas declared, the results showed that four council areas (Glasgow, Dundee City, North Lanarkshire, and West Dunbartonshire) voted for independence. Voter turnout in those three areas ranged from 75 percent to 88 percent. 
  • The “No” vote prevailed in eight other council areas with slim majorities that ranged from 51 percent to 54 percent. Voter turnout in those eight areas ranged from 84 percent. to 89 percent.

The final vote results revealed just how difficult it was for Yes Scotland to obtain a majority vote for independence from 3.6 million voters spread across all of Scotland, and illustrates why they should have pushed for the small-scale secession of Scottish council areas using a model proposed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

In his book Democracy: The God That Failed, Hoppe suggests a means of employing secession to minimize conflict with central governments and maximize success:

[A] modern liberal-libertarian strategy of secession should take its cues from the European Middle Ages when, from about the twelfth until well into the seventeenth century (with the emergence of the modem central state), Europe was characterized by the existence of hundreds of free and independent cities, interspersed into a predominantly feudal social structure.

By choosing this model and striving to create a U.S. [or Scotland, etc.] punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities — a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn out over the entire continent — two otherwise unattainable but central objectives can be accomplished.

First, besides recognizing the fact that the liberal-libertarian potential is distributed highly unevenly across the country, such a strategy of piecemeal withdrawal renders secession less threatening politically, socially and economically.

Second, by pursuing this strategy simultaneously at a great number of locations all over the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the central state to create a unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists which would secure the level of popular support and voluntary cooperation necessary for a successful crackdown.

Hoppe further notes that:

[T]he danger of a government crackdown is greatest … while the number of free city territories is still small. Hence, during this phase it is advisable to avoid any direct confrontation with the central government. Rather than renouncing its legitimacy altogether, it would seem prudent, for instance, to guarantee the government’s “property” of federal buildings, etc., within the free territory, and “only” deny its right to future taxation and legislation concerning anyone and anything within this territory. Provided that this is done with the appropriate diplomatic tact and given the necessity of a substantial level of support in public opinion, it is difficult to imagine how the central government would dare to invade a territory and crush a group of people who had committed no other sin than trying to mind their own business. Subsequently, once the number of secessionist territories has reached a critical mass — and every success in one location promoted imitation by other localities — the difficulties of crushing the secessionists will increase exponentially, and the central government would quickly be rendered impotent and implode under its own weight.

It is worth noting that the UK and Scottish governments each committed in the Edinburgh Agreement “to continue to work together constructively” in the best interests of their respective countries, even if the “Yes” side prevailed. Thus, in this particular case, a post-referendum crackdown by the central government would have been unlikely.

It is also possible that, based on the belief that most of Scotland would vote to stay within the UK, David Cameron and the Better Together coalition might have accepted a proposal from Yes Scotland to allow any council area that achieved a majority “Yes” vote to leave the UK.

Of course, there were various local non-libertarian political and ideological reasons that this strategy was not employed by the Scots. If Yes Scotland had used the Hoppe secession strategy, the newly independent city-states of Glasgow and Dundee City and council areas of North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire would have emerged and to survive they would have been forced to seek genuine free trade policies with the UK and the rest of the world, rather than for preserving the Scottish welfare state with tax revenues generated from North Sea oil and gas fields. They would have had to educate voters about the economic success stories of small and independent city-states like Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and others which adopt free-trade policies in order to survive and many of which have their own currencies.

Media sources reported last week that Nicola Sturgeon, the early favorite to become Scotland’s next First Minister, has not ruled out the possibility of another independence referendum in the future. If such a vote were to happen, a Hoppean approach of de-centralized and localized secession would bring far greater prospects for both political and economic success both in the short term and long term.