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I took part in a members debate on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 


Motion debated

That the Parliament recognises that the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021; notes that the first meeting of state parties (1st MSP) will take place in Vienna from 22 to 24 March 2022; 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; recognises that the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will take place from 4 to 28 January 2022; understands that 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”; believes that 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.


Text of my speech

I congratulate Bill Kidd on securing this important debate and pay tribute to him for his work over many years on nuclear disarmament. I also acknowledge his current role as co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

This debate and, of course, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is the subject of it, are powerful reminders that there is nothing moral, normal, acceptable, palatable or humane about nuclear weapons and their use for human destruction and the destruction of the planet. Nations must raise their voices against them and, of course, meet their international legal obligations.

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force almost a year ago. It is a sweeping treaty that was designed to outlaw and rid the world of weapons from a bygone, cold war era. Despite that, it is with great sadness that I note that the British Government has failed to ratify the treaty. Its failure to do so demonstrates the failure of the United Kingdom to be a world leader in the fight for nuclear disarmament. Westminster continues to fund a nuclear defence system that goes against the United Kingdom’s long-established commitment to the United Nations. Unfortunately, that Westminster nuclear obsession includes the UK Labour Party, whose defence spokesperson describes the UK’s nuclear weapons as “non-negotiable”.

However, I acknowledge that members of all parties, including the Labour Party, and of the Labour movement and, of course, wider civic society, have, over many years, campaigned to rid our shores and the world of nuclear weapons. I wish to see an independent, nuclear-free Scotland. We must make common cause with all those who seek the elimination of nuclear weapons, and I commend the work on that of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on nuclear disarmament.

The UK’s position is wholly counterproductive. How can Westminster condemn the actions of foreign states in their development of nuclear weapons while demonstrating its complicit failure to act on eliminating its own nuclear arsenal, on the replenishment of which another £200 billion is to be spent, as we heard from Richard Leonard?

If the British Government’s is not opposed to nuclear weapons for moral reasons, perhaps it ought to ratify the UN treaty on economic grounds. The annual cost to the UK of maintaining and running such a system is £18 billion, which equates to the state spending more than £30,000 per minute to continue the programme. That financial burden is itself a moral outrage. Such eye-watering sums could be better spent by helping those most in need at home and by contributing more to our overseas aid obligations, rather than cutting resources as the UK Government currently does.

It is the moral case that is at the heart of encouraging all nations to sign and ratify the UN treaty and to play their part in ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

I welcome the first meeting of state parties, which will take place in March this year. I am delighted that Bill Kidd will attend to discuss the continued strength of the UN’s commitment to nuclear prohibition. I wish all participants well when they meet in Vienna and I heartily thank Bill Kidd MSP for his on-going leadership in seeking to advance the cause of a nuclear-free Scotland and a nuclear-free world.

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