‘YES”. No, not Molly Bloom exulting at the end of Joyce’s Ulysses. Nor the heart-and-soul-filled tick of a box in a national referendum. Not even the word you’ve never said with as much intensity as he or she kneels before you.

No, this was the one-word answer given by the Milngavie-bred leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, to the following question, asked on an ITN General Election special this week: “Would you ever be prepared to use a nuclear weapon?”

Yes. “That was a brilliant short answer, thank you very much”, the brisk interviewer said. More brilliant, or brighter, than a thousand suns? This was the line Robert Oppenheimer, inventor of the atomic bomb, took from the Bhagavad Gita when he observed the first weapons test. There’s another line he took from the Hindu scripture, uttered by the god Vishnu: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

And there she is, Death, the destroyer of worlds, moving glibly through the next set of short-fire questions (“Which world leader would you call first if you became PM?”, “Would you limit the amount of flights people can take each year to help the environment?”). Behind her, with no further explanation, the charred ruin of all governments, the poisoning of all climates, and (to say the least) the permanent grounding of happy fliers.

Weird, weird, weird. There’s nothing like the spectre of mutually assured destruction, and the tailored sociopaths so often entrusted with its triggering, to put the old ragtime of tax-and-spend in some perspective. What’s unusual about this election is that the many arms of Vishnu now have a competitor. Technology has provided us with another way to end ourselves, less theatrically and more incrementally, via the climate crisis.

It was quite a spectacle the other day, to see the Corbyn Labour Party seize the opportunity of zero-carboning our industries and societies. They used the crisis to make a case for directive state action not seen on these islands for generations. The Scottish Government could now have an ally in its ambitious targets for climate progress. Together, we might be able to banish a great spectre.

But the charred old bastard found his way inside. At the end of their manifesto, page 101 (a gift to Orwell fans), come these short, deathless words: “Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. Labour will also actively lead multilateral efforts under our obligations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to create a nuclear-free world.” More Orwellianism: the commitment in the first sentence directly subverts the commitment in the second.

But it seems that we are to have a “Green Industrial Revolution”, “British Broadband” and many other “institutional turns” (as the policy wonks phrase it), before we can even address this permanently possible collective death threat.

We have had much talk in recent years about the growing disillusionment of the people with their politicians, and with authorities in general. We point to their broken promises, hypocrisies, shameless lying, whipped opinions, outright corruption, elitist language.

Electoral mechanisms, one way or another, allow for the expression of this gathering contempt. We are where are, in this juddering General Election, as a result of these tendencies. We seek to take (or take back) control, in a runaway world.

Yet I have long thought that nuclear weapons are a much deeper cause of our malaise, cynicism and weariness with the official power structures of our lives.

We can elect whatever composites of ideology and personality we like to lead the country. But in a nuclear state, we know there is a darker, more terrible power these politicians must bow towards: the logic of deterrence, where our capacity for utter destruction must match, or at least threaten, our assumed opponents. Peace, sustained on the rim of a volcano.

Politics is a culture of choice, argumentation, priorities.

How can it truly function, never mind flourish, if it always exists under this finality?

Indeed, nuclear weapons then become the only real politics, the annihilating power trumping all other kinds, which it is so tempting to possess. Which is why treaties of non-proliferation are so vital. Because as Pakistan, Israel, Iran and North Korea show, it’s so easy for beleaguered states to establish nuclear weapons as their ultimate “insurance policy”.

Yet once they’re installed, once Vishnu is undulating furiously at the side of the statesperson, the brain seems to freeze over. Their pattern of force is so overwhelming, the equation of fear so binding. Swinson was only revealing the conventional wisdom, in her one word answer.

Yes – because this is where all political justification ends.

This, of course, is why the anti-nuclear position is always at the heart of the Scottish independence movement. Something precious about democracy, and the sovereignty that gives it teeth and substance, is expressed here.

Do the Scottish people have the power to remove the entire threat from their lives – to escape from nuclear exterminism entirely?

Of course not.

It’s gut-wrenching to read the geopolitical consensus on how we’re about to move into an age of increased nuclear dangers.

Trump’s standoffs with Iran and North Korea, and nuclear patronage of Israel; the explosive tensions between Pakistan and India; never mind the shift towards in-the-field tactical nukes, whose very construction makes their usage more likely. (The 1980s acronym for “nuclear utilisation strategy” has never left me: NUTS).

Yet there are only a few ways to change your position from nose pressed flat against the glass, watching the operations of great and lethal powers.

Extinction Rebellion and the young climate strikers are using the streets to warn establishments of the total threat from global warming. One could argue, with considerable success so far.

Yet another way is through democratic sovereignty. Again, what is distinctive about modern Scottish nationalism is that this power will be exercised morally, and not in the form of realpolitik. Ukraine’s deal with Russia, where it leased the superpower’s missiles and bases back to it for a considerable fee – and a political guarantee – has obviously fallen apart.

There is the odd burst of gnarly pragmatism from the indy movement, about striking a similar deal with Westminster over Trident. And there’s all kind of backsliding and delay, grimly imagined to be behind the phrase “speedily and safely disarmed” that comes from SNP ministers.

But we should never underestimate the moral energy that will emanate from Scottish independence, if one of the first things we self-determine is the disarming of Trident missiles.

We’ll be a display to the world that democratic intent can shift the most severe, lethal, paralysing power structure humans have ever made. It will be our best, most substantial entry on to the world stage: a beautiful act of planetary civility.

So to Ms Swinson, her hand-waving attempts at brief political notoriety, and her nihilistic nuclear careerism, we say, crisply and definitively: No.