No More Silence – We Demand Answers

It has long been clear that, if they remain in government, the Tories intend to replace Trident, and this week’s Lib Dem Trident Alternatives Review shows that they are also committed to maintaining the UK as a nuclear state in the face of public opposition. But what of the Labour party?

The Blair government imposed a three-line whip on a Westminster vote on the issue back in 14 March 2007, and Jim Murphy, currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, stated earlier this year on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland that, “We’re in favour of the UK retaining a nuclear capability”.

However, we also recall that when Ed Miliband was elected leader of the Labour party in 2010 he said that the UK needs “to look very carefully at whether renewing Trident is the necessary or the right thing to do”. On that much, he is right. The UK coalition government’s austerity measures are nothing more than an attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Welfare and health budgets are being slashed whilst politicians of all hues rush to tell us that we need a £100 billion nuclear ‘deterrent’ to give us ‘security’ and a ‘seat at the top table’.

Here in Scotland, the trade unions, the churches, and civic society all stand against nuclear weapons. Anyone who does not live in a political ivory tower can tell you exactly what the priorities are in our communities – and it is not for the renewal of a massively expensive, Cold War relic that can never be used.

NOW is the time for Ed to spell out exactly what the Labour Party policy is on Trident. There are voices within the Labour Party who still claim to support disarmament. However, the truth is that these people are increasingly looking like no more than a progressive fig-leaf, and history shows that successive Labour governments have been happy to retain nuclear weapons. For too long, elements in the Labour party have been running with the nuclear fox and hunting with the disarmament hounds. It’s time for them to come clean. In 2014, the people of Scotland will vote in an independence referendum that gives them an opportunity to make Scotland a nuclear free country.

Arthur West, Chair of Scottish CND, is on record as saying,

“Trident is emerging as a key issue in the referendum campaign, but the leader of the Scottish Labour party has refused to say anything about it. Does Johann Lamont want Weapons of Mass Destruction to stay on the Clyde for the next 50 years? Does she think that this is the best way to spend £100 billion? Does she support the twelve Scottish Labour MPs who want to scrap the plans to replace Trident? The Scottish people have a right to know where she and the Scottish Labour Party stand.”

Back in 2011, the Scottish Labour Party held a leadership election. Johann Lamont was duly elected as leader, and Anas Sarwar as deputy leader. During the leadership campaign, Scottish CND asked each of the leadership candidates to complete a survey to find out their respective views on the issue of Trident renewal.

The results make for interesting, and confusing, reading with no clear consensus amongst the candidates, as this summary of the responses illustrates;

Summary

Ken Macintosh and Tom Harris both thought that the UK should retain nuclear weapons

Ian Davidson thought Trident should be scrapped

Anas Sarwar thought the UK should be should be actively seeking multi-lateral nuclear disarmament but also looking at alternatives to Trident, including a non-nuclear defence policy.

Ian Davidson and Anas Sarwar both thought the Scottish Labour conference should look at Trident

Lewis Macdonald thought the UK should keep Trident as a bargaining counter for disarmament and the issue should be dealt with at the UK Policy Forum.

Johann Lamont did not respond to the survey which was sent by post then by email (twice). Nor did she reply to a message left on the answering machine in her office.

Scottish CND wrote to Ms Lamont again on 7 September 2012, asking for her views on Trident. No reply was ever received.

Time To Come Clean

It is a widely recognised that Johann Lamont has a disappointing record on the issue of Trident. On numerous occasions she has abstained or voted against motions in the Scottish parliament opposing Trident replacement. In fact, as recently as March 20 this year she abstained from voting on Scottish Parliament Motion S4M-05988, calling on the UK Government to acknowledge the opposition of the Scottish Parliament to nuclear weapons and to the presence of Trident in Scotland, and further calling on the UK Government to explore options for the removal of Trident ahead of the so-called main gate decision in 2016. The vote was carried regardless, despite not a single Scottish Labour MSP voting in favour (if you’re interested in how your own MSP voted on the day, search ‘here’ using ‘Trident’ as you key word).

Labour’s mixed messages and Lamont’s continued silence on this issue simply isn’t good enough. They are our elected representatives – we deserve to know what they think on such a major issue. A failure to communicate, a failure to disclose, a failure of transparency is a failure of democracy. It is for that reason that, yesterday, the Scrap Trident coalition sent a letter to every individual Scottish Labour MP and MSP whose views are in doubt asking them to clarify their position on Trident.

The replies may take some time to return, especially now that both parliaments are on their long summer holidays. Nevertheless, we are patient and we can be persistent, and we intend to make sure that we get a clear statement from every single Scottish Labour parliamentarian. As we receive those replies we will post them here so that the public can judge them for themselves.

Here is the full text of our letter to Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont MSP:

Dear Ms. Lamont,

The recent letter by 36 representatives of the Labour Party to the Guardian newspaper, on Thursday 20 June, regarding replacing the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system has reignited the nuclear weapons debate within the Labour Party.

A decision on the replacement of Trident is due to be taken in 2016. The cost to do so has been estimated at £100 billion. Many people in the UK would choose to prioritise this level of spending on health, welfare or education, particularly during a period of government imposed austerity.

As an organisation established in explicit opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland, the Scrap Trident coalition would be interested in hearing your own views on this matter. We realise that this may well be a judgement for your party’s conference, but we’d like to know your opinion. Do you personally support a debate on Trident replacement at your party conference?

We note that on Scottish Parliament Motion S4M-05988, debated in the Scottish Parliament on 20 March 2013, calling on the UK Government to acknowledge the opposition of the Scottish Parliament to nuclear weapons and to the presence of Trident in Scotland, and further calling on the UK Government to explore options for the removal of Trident ahead of the so-called main gate decision in 2016 that you abstained

An opinion poll by TNS BMRB for Scottish CND, published in March, indicated widespread opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland. As an elected representative in the Scottish Parliament, we believe that, on such an important issue, it is incumbent upon you to clarify your own opinion.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Below is the full text of our letter to Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar MP:

Dear Mr. Sarwar,

The recent letter by 36 representatives of the Labour Party to the Guardian newspaper, on Thursday 20 June, regarding replacing the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system has reignited the nuclear weapons debate within the Labour Party.

A decision on the replacement of Trident is due to be taken in 2016. The cost to do so has been estimated at £100 billion. Many people in the UK would choose to prioritise this level of spending on health, welfare or education, particularly during a period of government imposed austerity.

As an organisation established in explicit opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland, the Scrap Trident coalition would be interested in hearing your own views on this matter. We realise that this may well be a judgement for your party’s conference, but we’d like to know your opinion. Do you personally support a debate on Trident replacement at your party conference?

In addition to this, Early day motion 150, tabled 21 May, for the 2013/14 session states:

That this House notes the findings of the National Security Strategy that a nuclear weapon threat from another state is of low likelihood; further notes a procurement cost of £25 billion and an estimated lifetime cost of over £100 billion for the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system; believes that there are greater spending priorities both at the Ministry of Defence and across other departments; and urges the Government to cancel plans to replace Trident.”

Do you intend to support this motion?

An opinion poll by TNS BMRB for Scottish CND, published in March, indicated widespread opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland. As an elected representative to Parliament for a Scottish constituency, we believe that, on such an important issue, it is incumbent upon you to clarify your own opinion.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Johann Lamont and the Scottish Labour party cannot stay mute indefinitely. At some point before 2014 they need to voice an opinion – for or against. If they refuse to give an answer on this major issue, which could hardly be higher on the political agenda, then they will lose all political credibility. Perhaps they already have? Nevertheless, the future of Scottish Labour is not our concern. Our only concern is to Scrap Trident and our message could not be clearer: No More Silence – We Demand Answers!

 

Time to Scrap Trident

The Liberal Democrats’ long awaited Trident Alternatives Review was published today and suggests Britain could reduce the present Trident fleet of four submarines to two.  Unfortunately, for those who fail to see why Britain needs to spend more money on nuclear weapons that have no clear target and can never be used, the Lib Dems’ watered-down Trident-lite solution is neither here nor there.

We now have all the major UK establishment parties telling the people of Scotland, who have had to live with weapons of mass destruction on their doorstep for fifty years, that they will have to do so for at least another fifty – and pay handsomely for the privilege.

Trident is a relic from the Cold War. It does not offer us security, and at a time of unprecedented austerity that has seen the dismantling of the welfare state, we cannot afford it. The only sensible option, which was glaringly omitted from the Lib Dems’ review, is to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. It is time to Scrap Trident!

Britain at War part 3 – Business As Usual

tank flag

In the first two instalments of this series we looked at the true nature of the UK state’s brutal foreign policy and the damage done to working-class communities as a result of their role within UK imperialism. In this instalment, I’d like to consider how the Military–industrial complex (1) operates within the UK, particularly with respect to government subsidies to the arms trade. In doing so, I’d like to illustrate another aspect of our political culture which demonstrates that the UK is a state in thrall to a military culture which values the profit from arms over the profit from renewable technology. Much of the evidence I will present in support of this view has been provided by the excellent Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) website.

The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It is responsible for supporting, and profiting from conflict. Its customer base largely consists of human rights abusing regimes all over the globe. Yet this grim trade carries on with the full and explicit support of successive UK governments. The arms trade has traditionally been dominated by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: US, China, Russia, UK and France. These five nations are all nuclear weapons states and they are also the five countries which top the list for global arms spending (2). As well as being the world’s largest spenders on weapons, these five nations, with the inclusion of Germany, also head the list of nations which are the world’s largest arms exporters (3).

The weapons sold range from CS hand grenades, teargas and riot control agents to fighter aircraft, helicopters, tanks and warships complete with guided missiles. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfer database shows that the US, Russia, China, UK and France regularly supply around three quarters of all major conventional weapons sold. Given that world military expenditure in 2012 was $1.75 trillion, that’s a hefty sum of money. In fact, it’s equivalent to approximately $240 for every person in the world (4).

This trade is carefully nurtured and highly valued by the UK government, regardless of who’s buying. You may be aware that in April 2013, in New York, the UN General Assembly passed an Arms Trade Treaty. NGOs and countries hailed the treaty as a great step forward in the control of the “illegal” arms trade. This news may have left you with the impression that it is the “illegal” arms trade that is damaging while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. This is not the case, the illegal arms trade accounts for less than 10% of world trade (5). In fact, the vast majority of arms sold around the world, including those to human rights abusing governments or into conflict areas, are legal and actively supported by governments, including our own (6).

The UK government claims, of course, that arms exports are managed responsibly. This is not true; the UK consistently sells arms to repressive regimes that have outrageous records of human rights abuses. Every year, the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries across the globe with only a token effort at meaningful control and restraint (7). In 2010, 10,850 arms export licenses were accepted and only 230 were refused.

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major armed conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12 (8). In 2010, the UK Government’s own Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 “countries of concern” (9).  In that year, the UK approved arms export licences to 16 of these including Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The following year, 2011, immortalised in history as the year of ‘The Arab Spring’, the UK sold arms to the regimes in Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. Export licences were also granted for 45 different types of shipment to Egypt, 43 to Saudi Arabia and 38 to Iraq. Licences were granted for the export of 10 types of weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia alone, including sniper rifles and submachine guns. (10).

For decades, regardless of which of the UK establishment parties is in power at Westminster, it has been UK government policy to vigorously support arms exports. To facilitate this, successive UK Governments have allowed arms companies unrivalled influence in policy-making. As well as day-to-day involvement with the MoD and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), a key feature of the relationship between the Government and military industry is the so-called revolving door. This is the process whereby senior military officers, key UKTI civil servants and MoD officials are employed by the arms industry once they leave public service. Research by The Guardian newspaper in 2012 found that senior military officers and MoD officials had taken up 3,572 jobs in arms companies since 1996.

The most infamous example of the above is the case of of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles. As Britain’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia he pressured the Serious Fraud Office to drop its investigation into BAE-Saudi arms deals. On leaving the Foreign Office he was given a job with, wouldn’t you guess, BAE Systems.

The Government’s UKTI department is a vital element of the UK’s arms dealing and is treated accordingly. In 2008, it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (DSO) which promotes UK weaponry around the world on behalf of arms companies. To demonstrate its importance to the UK government, it’s worth noting that there are 158 civil servants employed in UKTI DSO while all other non-arms sectors have a combined total of 137 staff (11).

Now, you may be of the opinion that the government is correct to promote the arms trade like this as, after all, it’s supporting British jobs, right? Well, wrong, actually. Although UK establishment politicians never miss an opportunity to champion the arms trade and extol its job-creating powers, it is really a fairly insignificant part of the total UK economy. Even worse, those jobs that do exist are all heavily subsidised by you, the taxpayer. So, how important to the economy is the arms trade?

As a percentage of employment in the UK, arms export jobs contribute 0.2% of the total (12). As a percentage of all exports, arms contribute 1.5% of the total (13). So, despite our government being historically keen on selling as many weapons as possible to all and sundry, the industry isn’t particularly valuable to our economy. But the government has a special place in its heart for its friends in the arms industry it would seem, and just loves to shower money on them. For instance, 27% of all UK Government research expenditure is spent on arms (14) and, as noted above, the UKTI dedicates 54% of its entire staff complement to the sale of arms (15).

But this isn’t the end of government and the arms trade’s special relationship in the UK. No, it gets much, much worse. According to figures obtained by CAAT, £700 million a year is spent on government subsidies to the arms trade (16). This total includes arms export promotion activity, export credit support and, the largest element of the subsidy, research & development funding. This works out at a phenomenal £9000 subsidy for each job in the arms industry in Britain. That is your money – used by your government to subsidise an industry that produces the weapons used to quell democratic protests all over the world. Makes you proud to be British, right?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine we lived in a state which did not have a history of aggressive imperialist wars and which was not obsessed with its role on the world stage. Imagine we lived in a country where people and the environment were valued more highly than profit and military might; a country where our politicians were not mesmerised by the shiny allure of military hardware.

An independent Scotland, built on our shared values of equality, tolerance, justice and fairness could be that country. Rather than revelling in war and warfare, we could choose to prioritise other areas of the economy. Spending public money on areas other than arms will create at least equivalent numbers of jobs.  A recent study by US academics analysed the employment effects of devoting $1 billion to the military versus the same amount of money spent on clean energy, health care, and education (17). They concluded:

  • $1 billion spent on each of the domestic spending priorities will create substantially more jobs within the economy than would the same $1 billion spent on the military
  • investments in clean energy, health care and education create a larger number of jobs in both lower and higher pay ranges.

The Better Together campaign makes great play of the Scottish defence jobs supposedly lost if Scotland votes Yes, and they love to shoehorn in a reference to BAE Systems. The fact of the matter is that we can have both jobs AND a greener, more peaceful nation. The skills required in the renewable technology sector are extremely similar to those in the arms sector. The bottom line is that, despite being the world’s second largest arms producer (18), BAE’s workers are effectively paid for by taxpayers. The BAE portfolio includes fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, missiles and small arms ammunition. Wouldn’t it be possible to subsidise highly-skilled engineering jobs elsewhere in the economy?

Voting Yes presents us with a perfect opportunity to decide the future direction of our nation. Having a national conversation about our ideals and our future aims allows us to seriously consider diversification; to rethink industrial support and subsidy, and to move it from the problematic arms industry towards renewable energy technologies.  Renewable energy presents a massive new market, it is already large, about eight times bigger than the defence sector (19), and unlike the arms market, is growing swiftly and has immense potential. However, in 2011 the UK government chose to spend 30 times more on research & development for the arms industry than it did on the renewable energy sector (20).

According to CAAT, the UK government spends more money buying arms from BAE Systems than it does on tackling climate change- equivalent to £64 a year for every adult and child in the UK. Instead of investing for our collective future, the UK government is wasting money, skills and expertise on weapons and warfare. This historical UK government attitude is not set to change, regardless of which of the Westminster based parties is in power.

In Scotland, however, we have the unique circumstance of affecting a truly radical change. The Scottish referendum next year gives us a chance to create a better Scotland for all of us. The market for arms is worth billions, but it is positively dwarfed by the market for green, sustainable energy. Because arms jobs are paid for by taxpayers, resources can be redirected if the people have the will to do so. Shifting priorities away from warfare to tackling climate change could have a dramatic impact on the whole world. We could choose to become a nation that improves human security rather than threatens it. We could choose the show the world a better way to live. Why would we say NO to such an opportunity?

Steven Griffiths,
Member of Scottish CND
Supporter of the Radical Independence Campaign

Footnotes and References

(1) The Military–industrial complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the military industrial base that supports them.

(2) Figures from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): The 15 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2011. See http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/resultoutput/milex_15/the-15-countries-with-the-highest-military-expenditure-in-2011-table/view

(3) Figures from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): Arms transfer database. See http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/toplist.php

(4)  See http://books.sipri.org/files/FS/SIPRIFS1304.pdf

(5) Stohl, Rachel and Grillot, Suzette (2009):The International Arms Trade, Polity Press

(6) Ibid.

(7) Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Strategic Export Controls Country Pivot Report 2009

(8) SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 2010, Oxford University Press, 2010 and Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Strategic Export Controls Country Pivot Report 2009

(9) Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy: The 2010 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, March 2011

(10) Committees on Arms Export Controls – First Joint Report . Scrutiny of Arms Exports (2012): UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2010, Quarterly Reports for July to December 2010 and January to September 2011, the Government’s Review of arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa, and wider arms control issues.See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmquad/419/41902.htm

(11) UK Trade & Investment, UKTI Corporate Plan 2010-2011, March 2010, pp.38-39

(12) Total UK employment in 2010 was 29.02 million (Office for National Statistics, Labour Market Statistics, April 2011, Table 3 ). UK arms export jobs are estimated to total 55,000 (ADS trade association estimate provided by UKTI DSO to CAAT, 22 December 2010). Using these figures, arms export jobs comprise 0.19% of the workforce.

(13) Total exports of goods and services in 2010 were £428 billion (Office for National Statistics, Exports and Imports of Goods and Services. Total arms exports (goods and services) are approximately £5 billion per year. In 2008, the Government stopped publishing the data on arms deliveries, however, figures prior to that oscillated around £5 billion (Defence Analytical Services and Advice, UK Defence Statistics 2008), and the lack of any increase since then can be seen in Richard Grimmett, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009, Congressional Research Service, 10 September 2010. Using these figures, arms exports comprise 1.17% of total exports. 1.5% is used in the table to cover year-by-year variations in arms exports.

(14) Total Government funded R&D for 2008 was £7,949 million (Office for National Statistics, UK gross domestic expenditure on research and development, 26 March 2010). Ministry of Defence R&D expenditure for 2008 was £2,111 million (Defence Analytical Services and Advice, Defence Statistics 2010, Table 1.8, using 2007/8 and 2008/9 figures).

(15) UKTI DSO has 158 staff. Other sectors have a total of 137 staff (UK Trade & Investment, UKTI Corporate Plan 2010-2011, March 2010, pp38-39)

(16) Assessment of UK arms export subsidies. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, May 2011 PDF (153k)

(17) Pollin, R & Garrett-Peltier, H. (2011)  ”The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: Update” . Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts
Read the report on the PERI website

(18) http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/02/arms-sales-top-100-producers

(19) Submission from the Campaign Against Arms Trade to the Defence Committee on the impact on UK Defence of the Proposed Merger of BAE Systems and EADS (2012). http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/publications/government/defcomm-bae-eads-oct12.pdf

(20) UK Research & Development spending on arms was £1,560 million in 2010/11 (BIS, SET Statistics 2012) while R&D for renewable energy was £50.3 million in 2011 (International Energy Agency, R&D Statistics)

Recommended further reading:

http://armourersfaith.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/voodoo-economics-and-arms-trade-jobs/

http://www.newsunspun.org/article/downplaying-the-arms-trade-bbc-complicity

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/united-kingdom/2009-british-arms-deals-a-tale-of-quick-death-dirty-money-and-fast-profits

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/barnaby-pace/dealing-in-death-battle-against-uk-arms-trade

Britain at War part 2 – Kill the Poor

Kill the Poor

In the first instalment of this series of articles examining the belligerent and aggressive nature of UK foreign policy (Britain at War – The Never Ending Story?) we considered the historical wars and conflicts in which the UK has engaged. In that article I claimed that:

“Millions of working-class soldiers have died miserably and needlessly, thousands of miles from home, as part of a system designed to make a tiny elite extremely wealthy.”

and that:

“For hundreds of years the fighting has been carried out by those from the poorest parts of society who, denied work at home, are used as cannon fodder by the British establishment.”

In this instalment, I’d like to examine this issue in more detail and look at the evidence available about who does the dirty work, i.e. the actual fighting, killing and dying, for the UK state and, further, how they are rewarded by the state for which they give so much.

Let’s start by looking at Armed Forces recruitment practice in the UK about which there is quite a bit of evidence available from the excellent Forces Watch website.

In 2010, the armed forces had around 190,000 regular (full-time, trained and untrained) service men and women (1). To keep Britain’s perpetual war-machine running the Armed Forces need to recruit around 20,000 personnel annually (2). Meeting this requirement currently depends on attracting a large number of minors. Yes, in this land of hope and glory, the primary target group for armed forces marketing are children and adolescents (3). As well as shoving military personnel and Union flags in our face at every large public event, e.g. Wimbledon, the Olympic Games etc, this involves schools visits, youth-oriented literature and internet resources, and of course, the ubiquitous local cadet forces (4). Every year, the British Armed Forces visit thousands of schools and colleges throughout the UK offering a range of activities designed to be attractive to young people. Subsequently, in the UK, there are around 138,000 cadets, of whom 75,100 are Army Cadets (5). These are aged from 12 years-old and are not deployable. No, for that, the army has to wait 4 long years until they are 16.

Yes, you did read that right, the British Armed Forces recruits 16 year-olds.  Disgracefully, the UK is the only state in the European Union, Council of Europe or NATO to recruit 16 year-olds into the armed forces. No other permanent member of the UN Security Council carries out this practice. Indeed, the UK, that global bastion of liberty and peace, is one of only 20 countries in the world to do so (6). This recruitment of minors has been criticised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (7), Parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights (8), and children’s rights organisations including UNICEF UK, the Children’s Society, and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

To further compound matters, it seems that once these young people are signed up, the British Armed Forces make sure they stay that way. Research shows that career information provided to potential recruits and their parents is selective and often misleading. Further, recruitment literature for the army glamorises warfare, poorly explains the terms of service and largely omits to mention the risks of the career. (9)

“It is common for recruits to enlist without knowing the risks or their legal rights and obligations. The terms of service are complicated, confusing and severely restricting.”

Quote from Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment in the United Kingdom, 2007.

Remember too, that the armed forces are the only employers in the UK who legally require their employees to commit themselves for several years, with the risk of a criminal conviction if they try to leave sooner. There is evidence that many personnel are unclear about the length of their commitment and their rights to leave and that they do not receive adequate information before they enlist. (10)

Understandably, there is a problem in the British Army with serving soldiers going Absence Without Leave (AWOL) (11). Going AWOL is punishable by up to two years in detention (military prison), or up to a life sentence if deemed to be desertion. More than 2000 members of the armed forces go AWOL each year and although Under 18s are, by law, not allowed to take part in hostilities, they are often posted to barracks abroad. Not surprisingly, those going AWOL include under 18-year-old recruits.  Once returned, these teenagers are frequently held in military detention centres.

So, the evidence seems clear that the British Armed Forces are targeting our young, and perhaps gullible, people – but are they after any young people in particular? Yes they are, and you might not be entirely surprised to learn that in order to fight its economic wars abroad the inherently conservative UK state, which loves a bit of heritage and tradition, still relies on its time-served technique of recruiting the poor.

The armed forces draw non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with low educational attainment and living in poor communities. A large proportion join for negative reasons, including the lack of civilian career options. A survey in the Cardiff area in 2004 found that 40% of army recruits were joining as “a last resort”. (12) In 2008-09 army recruiters visited 40% of London schools with the poorest schools being visited most often (13).

“Non-officer recruitment draws mostly on young people from 16 years of age living in disadvantaged communities, with many recruits joining as a last resort.”

Quote from Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment in the United Kingdom, 2007.

So, where does the Army employ these young, disadvantaged people with low educational attainments? Does it offer them a trade in today’s modern high-tech military – engineering or IT based, perhaps? No, those young, disadvantaged recruits tend to end up in the infantry and the Royal Marines (14). And who are the principal front-line troops in Afghanistan? Yep, you guessed it, the infantry and the Royal Marines. Indeed, the government’s own Operations statistics show that these are the most dangerous roles in the armed forces (15). Horrifyingly, the only test candidates are subject to for qualification for the infantry and Royal Marines is a reading age of 7; no other academic qualifications are necessary (16).

The report A review of fatalities in Afghanistan by David Gee and Anna Goodman for Informed Choice? in 2009 showed:

  • The infantry’s mortality rate in Afghanistan was 13 times greater than that in the rest of the armed forces. The marines’ mortality rate was 1.7 times greater than that in the rest of the armed forces. Combined, the mortality rate was 13 times greater than the rest of the forces.
  • Infantry and marines fatalities were younger than average, with 59% of these aged 18‐25, compared with 41% of fatalities at that age in the rest of the armed forces.

So, the UK state makes a practice of turning its poor and disadvantaged into cannon fodder for its endless wars. And hasn’t it always been that way? It’s well known that the British Empire utilised “colonial” troops from the states it conquered. Less well known, especially amongst the loyal Union Flag waving members of our society, is that Irish volunteers formed the backbone of recruitment to the British Army for more than two centuries until Irish independence. At one point during the 19th century 42% of soldiers in the British Army were Irish born, which meant there were more Irish soldiers in the army than English (17). These Irish soldiers, like their 21st century counterparts, were typically poor and often illiterate. Described in Army Medical Board of Ireland reports as being of “the peasantry” their enlistment was inspired by economic distress or “starvation” as one recruiter put it (18). Their part in the enrichment of the British ruling classes is, nowadays, mainly forgotten but it was their blood which paid for the grand Victorian mansions so beloved by the BBC’s drama department. Slowly, the numbers of Irish in the British Army declined throughout the nineteenth century as a result of a population decrease in Ireland due to the famine, itself a product of the UK, and emigration.

The British state continues to use the world’s poor in its Armed Forces, however. Currently, more than 12% of soldiers in the British Army were born outside the United Kingdom, according to official figures. Of the 101,290 currently serving in the army, figures obtained by The Sun newspaper using the Freedom of Information Act show that 12,185 of these soldiers are from overseas (19). The figures have increased significantly in the last decade and are mainly composed of Gurkhas, recruited in Nepal where enrolment in the British Army is seen as one of the few ways Nepalese have of escaping poverty. As a result each year, there are thousands of applicants, as in 2007 when  over 17,349 applied for just 230 posts.  In all, 38 other nations also serve in the army, almost all from the developing world, including Fijians, Ghanaians, Jamaicans, Zimbabweans, Gambians and Malawians.

Meanwhile, the officer class too continues to be drawn from a narrow segment of society. Traditionally, from privileged backgrounds, with most having attended public schools, it is often said that “the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton”. This feature of the British Army has also, for the most part, endured into the 21st century.

That the UK state and its Armed Forces are exemplars of hidebound class distinction seems self-evident and the case that the poor are used as an expendable resource also seems to be made, but we will finish by considering the fate of those poor lured into the Armed Forces by the promise of employment. What happens to them after they have been exposed to the brutalizing violence of warfare and are then released back into civilian life? Often, they are unable to cope with the traumatising experiences to which they have been exposed.

Young British men who have served in the armed forces are three times more likely to have been convicted of violent offences than their civilian peers. They are  twice as likely to commit suicide. British service people are more likely to have been victims of sexual assault. They are more likely to abuse alcohol. They are more likely to become homeless, and they are more likely to be in prison, particularly for domestic violence. The British government, meanwhile, having spent billions on recruiting, training and deploying these ex-service people soon washes its hands of them once they are no longer in active service and, instead of providing much-needed assistance for their shattered bodies and minds, passes over their care to a plethora of charities. Support for “Our Boys” is no longer forthcoming from the British state, it seems, once they are no longer militarily or economically useful.

For 300 years the armed forces have been considered as part of the Union glue, one of the key institutions that keeps the United Kingdom together. Scotland’s identity in particular has been heavily bound up in the military prowess of its poor at the sharp end of the British Empire. Many people still argue that Scotland’s investment in Britain is almost all about the blood that Scots shed for Britain; our history of shared warfare. I believe, however, that it is time for Scotland to look beyond this self-defeating ideal of damaging and destructive working-class sacrifice. Is it really beyond our collective imagination to envisage a better future for our young people?

Now is the time to invent a new Scottish mythology, to write a new chapter in our story. Let’s make poverty, warfare and exploitation history. Let us make our gift to the next generation, our gift to the world, a tale of peace, justice and equality. We have had 300 years of blood-soaked British imperialism, which has treated our most disadvantaged children as though their lives were trivial and disposable. We can bring this to an end, peacefully.  It is time for a radical change in this country. The Scottish referendum next year gives us a chance to change our world for the better. Do we dare to take it?

Steven Griffiths,
Member of Scottish CND
Supporter of the Radical Independence Campaign

 

References

(1) Defence Analytical Service and Advice (MoD), www.dasa.mod.uk

(2) Ibid.

(3) Gee, David (2007): Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment in the United Kingdom, published by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Available for download – http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/informedchoice/informedchoiceweb.pdf

(4) Ibid.

(5) Defence Analytical Service and Advice (MoD), www.dasa.mod.uk

(6) Catch 16‐22: Recruitment and retention of minors in the British armed forces, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, March 2011

(7) UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, 2008

 (8) Joint Committee on Human Rights report: Children’s Rights, 2009

(9) Gee, David (2007): Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment in the United Kingdom, published by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

(10) Ibid.

(11)https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/16803/FOI20082010160944005_AWOL_20002010.pdf

(12) Ministry of Defence: ‘Analysis of socio-economic and educational background of non-officer recruits’ [Memorandum to the House of Commons Defence Committee, 2004], cited in House of Commons Defence Committee, Duty of Care, (Third Report of Session 2004-05), Vol 2, Ev 255-257.

(13) Gee, David and Goodman, A (2010): Army recruiters visit London’s poorest schools most often, www.informedchoice.org.uk

 (14) Gee, David (2007): Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment in the United Kingdom, published by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

(15) https://www.gov.uk/government/fields-of-operation/afghanistan

(16) House of Commons Defence Committee report: Duty of Care, 2005

(17) Black, Jeremy (2008): A military history of Britain: from 1775 to the present

(18) Karsten, Peter (1983): Irish Soldiers in the British Army, 1792-1922: Suborned or Subordinate. Journal of Social History, Vol. 17, No. 1. Available for download –http://www.reenactor.ru/ARH/PDF/Karsten.pdf

(19) http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_story.asp?id=21018

Britain at War – The Never Ending Story?

UK imperialism

As the political establishment of the UK state begins to soften up the populace, via an ever-compliant media, for yet another foreign military adventure – this time in Syria – I thought it would be worthwhile seeing how the military history of Britain informs this latest rush to war. Another inducement for examining this issue is the tone of the current rhetoric coming from the Scottish Referendum ‘No’ Campaign regarding the so-called benefits of staying within the UK. The political parties which comprise the Better Together campaign are all of the opinion that the people of Scotland should be jolly grateful to have nuclear weapons stationed a mere 30 miles from our most heavily-populated city. What’s more, we should be positively euphoric to belong to a state which, according to the SIPRI Yearbook 2013(1), is the world’s fourth largest military spender, bettered only by the US, China and Russia, all of which have much larger populations.

So, at a time when all of the mainstream parties are telling us that public spending is too high and that, as a result, we have to suffer the bitter medicine of austerity, why does the UK spend so much on ‘defence’? Why do none of the parties in Westminster make the case for radically reducing defence spending in favour of increased spending on social welfare, for instance? If we have a quick look at the Better Together website it is easy to recognise the familiar yet vague phrases which those who champion the UK state use to justify this prioritising of taxpayers’ money on military expenditure:

“As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has a strong voice in the world.”

“ Not only are we at the top table, but being part of the UK it means we have real clout and influence too.”

“The UK is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – sitting alongside China, France, Russia and the United States. However, the nationalists’ plans for independence put the strength, influence and security at threat.”

The British nationalist parties put much emphasis on a rather nebulous notion of “strength, influence and security” and often use phrases, such as “a strong voice in the world” or “at the top table”, when attempting to explain the benefits of remaining part of the UK – but what do they really mean, and why do these terms crop up time and time again in the mouths of Westminster politicians? It seems that they reveal a particular UK establishment mindset and that what they really represent are euphemisms for the just-below-the-surface threat of violence and intimidation which has been the primary tool of British foreign policy since the Act of Union.

Now, some may protest at this point that I’ve gone too far and that the UK is a peace-loving country and a force for good in the world. This view, although completely at odds with the evidence, isn’t surprising, as the military history of the British State and its automatic, consistent and enduring use of violence to build and maintain the Empire are subjects which are almost taboo in this country. Let’s examine them now.

By 1922, the British Empire was the largest empire in world history, holding under its control about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time (2). The empire covered more than 33,700,000 km2 (13,012,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area, with territories on every continent (3). So, how did Britain come to claim these far-flung possessions and how did so many people across the globe come to be governed by one nation?

The answer is both simple and brutal. Since the political construction of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 by the ruling classes in Scotland and England, this state has been a devastatingly effective imperialist machine designed to wage war, to enslave, and to steal territory from other nations. From the moment of its inception, this is what it has done almost continuously, using its military power to inflict terror and its financial power to control through economic means. During its history, Britain has been involved in armed conflict on all continents except for Antarctica. British forces, or forces with a British mandate, have invaded at some point of time all but 22 of the world’s countries, or nine out of ten of all countries (4).

For those raised on the idea that the British Empire was a benevolent project designed to bring cricket, Christianity and the civil service to a grateful and welcoming world, the thought that Britain is an aggressor out to grab resources rather than a resolute defender of decency can bring on a bad case of cognitive dissonance. Nevertheless, the history of the UK demonstrates one simple fact – Britain is the world’s most belligerent state with only a handful of years in its entire history without an armed conflict. To demonstrate this, please take a look at the following:

This is a list of the wars and armed conflicts fought by the Kingdom of Great Britain from 1707–1801, those fought by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801–1922 and those by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1922
(5):

1707-21        Great Northern War
1707-14        War of the Spanish Succession (including Queen Anne’s War)
1715             Jacobite Rising (including the uprising in Cornwall)
1717-20        War of the Quadruple Alliance (including The Nineteen Uprising in Britain)
1721-25        Dummer’s War
1740-48        War of the Austrian Succession (including King George’s War, The War of Jenkin’s Ear, The First Carnatic War)
1745-46        Jacobite Uprising
1749-54        The Second Carnatic War
1754-63        The Seven Years War
1757-63        The Third Carnatic War
1758-61         Anglo-Cherokee War
1763-66         Pontiac’s Rebellion
1766-69         First Anglo-Mysore War
1774-83         First Anglo-Maratha War
1775-84         American Revolution (including Anglo-French war, Anglo-Spanish War, Fourth Anglo-Dutch War)
1780-84          Second Anglo-Mysore War
1788-1934      Australian Frontier wars
1789-92          Third Anglo-Mysore War
1793-96          War in the Vendée
1793-97          The War of the First Coalition
1798                Irish Rebellion of 1798
1798-99           Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
1799-1802       War of the Second Coalition
1801-07           Temne War
1802-05           Second Anglo-Maratha War
1803                Emmet’s Insurrection
1803-05           First Kandyan War
1803-05           War of the Third Coalition
1806                Vellore Mutiny
1806-07           War of the Fourth Coalition
1806-07           British Invasion of the Rio de la Plata
1806-07           Ashanti-Fante War
1807-09           Anglo-Turkish War
1807-12           Anglo-Russian War
1807-14           Gunboat War
1807-14           Peninsular War
1809                War of the Fifth Coalition
1810-11           Anglo-Dutch Java War
1810-17           Merina Conquest of Madagascar
1811                Ga-Fante War
1811-12           Fourth Xhosa War
1812-15           War of 1812
1814-16           Anglo-Nepalese War
1815                Second Kandyan War
1815                Hundred days War (War of the Seventh Coalition)
1817-18          Third Anglo-Maratha War
1818-19          Fifth Xhosa War
1820-30          Greek War of Independence
1823-31          First Ashanti-War
1824-26          First Anglo-Burmese war
1828-34          Portuguese Civil War
1833-40          First Carlist War
1834-36          Sixth Xhosa War
1837-38          Rebellions of 1837
1839-40          Egyptian–Ottoman War
1839-42          First Anglo-Afghan war
1839-42          First Opium war
1839-51          Uruguayan Civil War
1843               Gwalior Campaign
1845-46          First Anglo-Sikh War
1845-46          Flagstaff War
1846               Hutt Valley Campaign
1846-7            Seventh Xhosa War
1847               Wanganui Campaign
1848-49          Second Anglo-Sikh War
1851-53          Eighth Xhosa War
1852-53          Second Anglo-Burmese War
1853-56          Crimean War
1856-57          The National War in Nicaragua
1856-60          Second Opium War
1856-57          Anglo-Persian War
1857-58          Indian Mutiny
1859                Pig War
1860-61          First Taranaki War
1863-64          Second Ashanti War
1863-66           Invasion of Waikato
1864-65           Bhutan War
1867-74           Klang War
1868                Expedition to Abyssinia
1868-69           Titokowaru’s War
1868-72           Te Kooti’s War
1869                Red River Rebellion
1873-74           Third Ashanti War
1877-78           Ninth Xhosa War
1878-80           Second Anglo-Afghan War
1879                Anglo-Zulu War
1880-81           Basuto Gun War
1880-81           First Boer War
1884-89           Mahdist War
1885                Third Anglo-Burmese War
1888                Sikkim Expedition
1896                 Anglo-Zanzibar War
1897-98           Tirah Campaign
1899-1901       Boxer Rebellion
1899-1902       Second Boer War
1901-02           Anglo-Aro War
1903-04           British Expedition to Tibet
1914-18           World War I
1916                Easter Rising
1918-20           Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War
1919-23           Turkish War of Independence
1919                Third Anglo-Afghan War
1919-21           Irish War of Independence
1920                Somaliland Campaign
1920                Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920
1936-39           Great Arab Revolt in Palestine
1938-48           British-Zionist Conflict
1939-45           World War II
1945-49           Indonesian National Revolution
1945-46           Operation Masterdom
1946-47           Greek Civil War
1946-90           Cold War
1948-60            Malayan Emergency
1950-53            Korean War
1952-60            Mau Mau uprising
1955-60            Cyprus Emergency
1956-57            Suez Crisis
1956-62            Border Campaign
1958                  First Cod War
1962                  Brunei Revolt
1962-66             Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation
1962-75             Dhofar Rebellion
1963-67             Aden Emergency
1969-98             The Troubles
1972-73             Second Cod War
1975-76             Third Cod War
1982                   Falklands War
1991                   Gulf War
1992-96              Bosnian War
1998                   Operation Desert Fox
1998-99              Kosovo War
2001- present     War in Afghanistan (Fourth Anglo-Afghan War)
2001- present     The War on Terror
2002                   Sierra Leone Civil War
2003-9                Iraq War
2011                    Libyan Intervention
2013                   Northern Mali Conflict

As you scroll down through that list you will, hopefully, have observed that the overwhelming majority took place many miles from the British Isles. What was Britain defending – Freedom, democracy, justice? No, the answer, sadly, is British economic interest. How many of the countries featured above invited the British war machine to come and ‘solve their problems’, do you think?

The list above starkly demonstrates 300 years of plundering by the British ruling classes. Plundering in which rape, torture and murder happened on a grand scale. Tens of millions of people all across the globe have died at the hands of the UK state – some of them as a direct result of policies which promoted racist genocide (6)(7). Millions of working-class soldiers have died miserably and needlessly, thousands of miles from home, as part of a system designed to make a tiny elite extremely wealthy. “Rule Britannia” we sing, while holding to a romantic, last-night-at-the-proms, version of Empire, but the truth is Britain’s wealth and Britain’s power was, and is, all based on murder, theft and exploitation.

And who paid for all of these military adventures? Certainly not the ruling classes who grew fat and rich on the profits of empire. The price, in both financial and human terms, was paid by the mass of ordinary working people. For hundreds of years the UK state has levied taxes and redirected resources to pay for overseas wars while simultaneously telling the poor to ‘tighten their belts’. For hundreds of years the fighting has been carried out by those from the poorest parts of society who, denied work at home, are used as cannon fodder by the British establishment. Does this sound familiar in 2013?

As time has gone by, the UK war machine has kept grinding up human lives. The reasons for going to war have become more obscure as lies pile on lies. The death tolls have got higher, the weapons more destructive and more expensive. We now have weapons that cost £100 billion and can destroy all human life on earth. Where does it end?

Next year, the people of Scotland have a chance to bring to an end the history of the war-mongering UK state. This state is one of only nine in the world which possesses nuclear weapons. We have a chance to disarm it forever. For over 60 years the UK has maintained a nuclear arsenal – for most of that time based in Scotland. Regardless of which of the UK establishment parties is in government, none has ever seriously considered disarmament; they are all committed to preserving the status quo. This is not set to change. Where does this leave the people of Scotland, saddled with expensive, dangerous nuclear weapons in our backyard?

Perhaps it is time for a truly radical change. The Scottish referendum next year gives us a chance to make Scotland work in the interests of its people, and not just in the interests of its rulers. What sort of country would you choose to live in? What ideals do you cherish? What is most important to you and your family? Do you value peace, justice and fairness? Will you choose to take an opportunity to put these values at the heart of government, better still, at the heart of society, or will you fall for the repetition of empty phrases like “strength, influence and security” with their insidious, subtle evocations of 300 years of warfare?

Choose carefully – the next generation of children, all over the world, may live or die by your decision.

Steven Griffiths,
Member of Scottish CND
Supporter of the Radical Independence Campaign

Footnotes and References

(1) Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. http://www.sipri.org/
(2) Maddison, Angus (2001). The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. ISBN 92-64-18608-5.
(3) Elkins, Caroline (2005). Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. Owl Books. ISBN 0-8050-8001-5.
(4) Laycock, S. (2012). All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded – And the Few We Never Got Round To. The History Press.
(5) For further information on each specific conflict see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_the_United_Kingdom and/or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Great_Britain. The nomenclature used to for each conflict is that used in wikipedia. I have done this for ease of searching within that site but recognise that the conflicts may be referred to by different names in different cultures. This list does not include the UK intelligence operations, covert interventions and coup d’état. Nor does it include all instances of the use of the military in the suppression of rebellions at home.
(6) Davis, Mike (2000). Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. ISBN 1-85984-382-4
(7) Tatz, Colin (1999). Genocide in Australia. Research Discussion Paper – Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Pilgrimage for Peace and Economic Justice Edinburgh Events Coming Up Sunday & Monday

Sunday 2 June

Peace Pilgrimage Ceilidh. St John’s Church Hall. 7 – 9:30pm.
With Hud yer Wheesht
Poetry by Tessa Ransford, founder of the Scottish Poetry Library hud_yer_wheesht

£7 / £5 unwaged. Pay at the door. Tickets available in advance from Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre. St John’s church. Lothian Rd, Edinburgh.

Walk with the Pilgrims from Currie to Edinburgh. 3pm.
Assemble – Scout Hall in Currie, 45 Lanark Road West. 2:30pm.

Or Join the Walk at Water of Leith Visitors Centre 4pm or at Haymarket 4:30pm.

Welcome the Walkers. On the Terrace. St Johns Church. 5:30pm.
Reception ceremony around the Peace Pole.
With Poet Tessa Ransford founder of the Scottish Poetry Library                             and Peace and Justice Singers.

Dinner with the Walkers. 6pm. Bring and Share.

Monday 3 June

Walk: Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, St Johns Church, Princes St to Scottish Parliament. 10am Remarks by Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh. Walk starts 10:15am.

Declaration and Send off to London. Scottish Parliament .11am.
Speakers, Marco Biagi, MSP for Edinburgh Central.
Singers from Peace and Justice Singers

Walk with the Pilgrimage from Holyrood. 11:30am.

City Council Reception. City Chambers, Royal Mile. 11:50am.
Councillor Maureen Child representing the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh and others Councillors.

The 2013 Pilgrimage for Peace and Economic Justice in Glasgow

2013 Justice and Peace pilgrimage - Oban
We are pleased to now have further detail to flesh out the sequence of events over the next week as the 2013 Pilgrimage for Peace and Economic Justice passes through west central Scotland and the Glasgow area.

Scottish CND is hosting an event to welcome the pilgrims to the city of Glasgow on Wednesday May 29.

The event takes place in the Wellington Church Library (side entrance by the SCND offices) 77 Southpark Avenue, Glasgow, G12 8LE.
The event will start at 6.30 and Scottish CND would really appreciate it if you could bring some vegetarian food or snacks along for the pilgrims.
The evening will also feature live entertainment in the form of:

Marc Livingstone – spoken words set/vocal poetry (confirmed)

Haley Hewitt – harp (confirmed) & Ioanna Tsimikow – acoustic guitar (invited)

Short Videos (presentation of old and new inspirational peace videos and Scrap Trident short films)

Please come along, share the peace and invite your friends!

Phone: 0141 357 1529 or 07788738887 for more details.

If you want to find out more about the pilgrimage itinerary as it passes threough Scotland, Scottish CND have posted useful and detailed information of each individual section ‘here’. Please take a look and consider joining the pilgrims where you can, even if it’s only for a hundred yards your support will be greatly appreciated.

You can also contact the pilgrimage team on 0778 0939 199 or visit their website ‘here’ and their facebok page ‘here’.

Iona to London – Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice 2013

2013 Justice and Peace pilgrimage - Oban
The 2013 Pilgrimage for Peace and Economic Justice commenced on May 19 with the pilgrims setting off on the first leg of their mammoth journey, which will see them arrive in London on Saturday July 20.

A primary aim of the 2013 Pilgrimage is to focus national public attention on the Government’s proposal to spend up to £100 billion renewing the Trident nuclear missile system, while continuing to slash NHS, education and social welfare budgets, including vital financial support for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities across the UK.

The Scrap Trident coalition are delighted to offer our support and encouragement to the pilgrims, and we are urging all of our supporters and activists to check out the pilgrims’ schedule (see below) to find out when they are passing through your area. If you can get along and give your support we urge you to do so. Even better, you can walk with the pilgrims a part of the way and become a pilgrim for peace yourself!

The model for the organisation and staging of this year’s Iona to London pilgrimage is the way the Olympic Torch was relayed throughout the UK ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games. In the context of the ongoing economic crisis, the Pilgrimage’s journey from Iona to london will be like lighting a series of beacons in the centres of spiritual and political power it visits along the route.

As the Pilgrimage makes its way southwards, there will be numerous opportunities for local churches, Quaker Meetings and other groups to promote discussion in the news media about the case for the renewal of Trident, and related wider issues of social and economic justice.

Much more than this, the Pilgrimage provides an opportunity to reaffirm and celebrate our common humanity: to share with each other along the way food, companionship, encouragement, our stories and music, laughter in the midst of austerity – our vision of a fairer, more generous future for all, based on cooperation and mutual support, rather than the survival of the fittest or richest.

2013 Justice and Peace Pilgrimage

Iona to London – Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice 2013 Schedule

MAY Sun 19 IONA – Oban Kilmelford 15
2 Mon 20 Kilmelford Kilmartin 15
3 Tue 21 Kilmartin Lochgilphead 10
4 Wed 22 Lochgilphead Tarbert 16
5 Thu 23 Tarbert/ Portavadie (ferry)
Portavadie Glendaruel (3) 13
6 Fri 24 Glendaruel Hunter’s Quay 16
7 Sat 25 Hunter’s Quay/ Gourock (ferry)
Gourock/Kilcreggan (ferry) (3)
Gourock -Kilcreggan -Faslane (3) 11
8 Sun 26 FASLANE EVENT
9 Mon27 Faslane Dumbarton 15
10 Tues 28 Dumbarton Glasgow 15
11 Wed 29 GLASGOW EVENT
12 Thu 30 Glasgow Banknock 17
13 Fri 31 Banknock Linlithgow 15
JUNE Sat 1st Linlithgow Edinburgh 18
15 Sun 2 EDINBURGH EVENT
16 Mon 3 Edinburgh Gorebridge 15
17 Tue 4 Gorebridge Stow 15
18 Wed 5 Stow Newstead, Melrose 13
19 Thu 6 Newstead Kelso 14
20 Fri 7 Kelso Yetholm 12
21 Sat 8 Yetholm Wooler 13
22 Sun 9 Wooler Beale 13
23 Mon 10 Beale HOLY ISLAND 4
24 Tue 11 Holy Island Budle Bay 16
25 Wed 12 Budle Bay Craster 14
26 Thu 13 Craster Alnwick 7
27 Fri 14 Alnwick Rothbury 12
28 Sat 15 Rothbury Kirkwhelp’ton 15
29 Sun 16 Kirkwhelp’ton Hexham 19
30 Mon 17 HEXHAM REST / EVENT
31 Tue 18 Hexham Stocksfield 9
32 Wed 19 Stocksfield Newcastle 14
33 Thu 20 Newcastle Durham 15
34 Fri 21 DURHAM Sedgefield 7
35 Sat 22 Sedgefield Darlington 12
36 Sun 23 Darlington Northallerton 16
37 Mon 24 Northallerton Thirsk 14
38 Tue 24 Thirsk Ripon 12
39 Wed 26 Ripon Harrogate 12
40 Thu 27 Harrogate Kirk Hamm 12
41 Fri 28 Kirk Hamm York 10
42 Sat 29 YORK REST / EVENT
43 Sun 30 York Selby 14
JULY Mon 1st Selby Pontefract 14
45 Tue 2 Pontefract Doncaster 16
46 Wed 3 Doncaster Bawtry 9
47 Thu 4 Bawtry Gainsborough 12
48 Fri 5 Gainsborough Lincoln 18
49 Sat 6 LINCOLN REST / EVENT
50 Sun 7 Lincoln Sleaford 18
51 Mon 8 Sleaford Bourne 17
52 Tue 9 Bourne Peterborough 16
53 Wed 10 Peterborough Little Gidding 13
54 Thu 11 Little Gidding Huntingdon 11
55 Fri 12 Huntingdon Cambridge 18
56 Sat 13 CAMBRIDGE REST / EVENT
57 Sun 14 Cambridge Saffron Walden 15
58 Mon 15 Saffron Walden Buntingford 15
59 Tue16 Buntingford Hertford 15
60 Wed17 Hertford St Albans 13
61 Thu 18 St Albans Barnet 11
62 Fri 19 Barnet Westminster 11
63 Sat 20 LONDON EVENT

If you want to find out more details about any paticular leg of the pilgrimage please contact the pilgrimage team on 0778 0939 199. You can also visit their website ‘here’ and their facebok page ‘here’.

For more details of the events planned at Faslane and Glasgow, please keep an eye on this site and on the Scrap Trident facebook page over the next few days. For details of the Edinburgh events, please contact Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre ‘here’ or download a programme of events ‘here’.

If you are in the Renfrewshire/Inverclyde region and you want to greet the pilgrims as they arrive by ferry at McInroys Point in Gourock this Saturday morning and/or accompany them at any point along the route from there to the SPT Kilcreggan ferry service, please contact Steven Griffiths of Renfrewshire CND at 07577247866.

Visit Faslane Peace Camp

Now that the decision has been made to keep Faslane Peace Camp open, the hard work really begins. The Peace Camp cannot function properly without support from the wider community that share its aims and aspirations. Right now, the Peace Camp is looking for people to come to the site to help out or to join existing support groups. Or better yet, starting your own support groups in your own town or city. The support groups exist to offer practical support and solidarity with the Peace Camp. This is essential to prevent the camp from crisis in the future and to help organise upcoming events and actions.

If you’re interested, get in touch via the Faslane Peace Camp Support Group on Facebook or just drop in to the Peace Camp for a visit and a chat. To inspire you to do so, here’s a recent video, called Visit Faslane Peace Camp, produced by the lovely people at Camcorder Guerrillas film-making collective.

The Phoenix Has Risen

Faslane peace camp

After a recent call out to activists across the country, Faslane Peace Camp hosted a series of meetings/gatherings to see what could be done to save the camp from closing due to low numbers of residents willing to live on the site. Newspapers across the world published articles indicating the camp would likely close, and activist groups across the country publicised our plight.

The final meeting held yesterday saw many individuals, including past and present residents, travel from all over the UK to offer their time and support to keep the camp running.

It has been widely agreed that it would be a bad move to close the camp at this crucial time in Scottish politics, what with the Trident replacement programme and the introduction of the new Astute Class submarine; not to mention the end of a rich tradition and history of autonomous resistance to nuclear weapons and militarisation.

We have created a stronger group of residents and a wider network of support for the camp, both groups will now be working together to strengthen the campaign and we have exciting plans for the immediate and long term future. We are not out of the woods yet, however. Faslane peace camp, now more than ever, requires your support. We are looking for people to come to site to help out or join/help existing support groups. Or better yet, starting your own support groups in your own town or city. The support groups exist to offer practical support and solidarity with the peace camp. This is essential to prevent the camp from closing/crisis in the future and to help organise upcoming events and actions.

Why is it important to keep the peace camp open?

Faslane peace camp is the longest running permanent peace camp in the world and has been a thorn in the side of Britain’s nuclear deterrent for almost 31 years, through the use of non-violent direct action, civil disobedience and monitoring the movements of submarines. By monitoring the submarines’ movements, peace campers have discovered that both of the new Astute Class submarines, Ambush, and Astute, are having serious reactor problems. In the past it has been the observations of the peace campers that have forced the M.O.D to admit reactor troubles on submarines. It is vital that we keep this up.

How to get involved?

Come and visit the camp to help out with day-to-day activities or come for one of our many planned actions, demos or events. Join or support one of our existing support groups or start your own. This year we plan to focus not only on nuclear campaigning, but on training and workshops for sustainable low-impact living. We have a huge list of projects ready to get off the ground and many are already working hard to make these a reality, but the more people we have joining this motivated group the more things we can achieve!

The Faslane Peace Campers