I WELCOME Martin Docherty-Hughes MP’s commitment to existing SNP policy on nuclear weapons and his opposition to any arrangement which would allow the government of rUK to lease the base at Faslane/Coulport for its future use (Faslane ‘lease’ calls just don’t hold water, October 3). He also makes a good point about the huge costs the Scottish Government would have to meet to create a new centre for its defence forces if rUK was allowed continued use of Faslane.

The purpose of SNP CND’s paper “Guantanamo on the Clyde” is to draw attention to the grave dangers of a leasing or any other arrangement with rUK, and to strengthen existing policy by proposing a timescale for the closure of the base, and the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland.

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The First Minister has signalled her support for the first government of an independent Scotland supporting the Treaty on The Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. With only another four ratifications by states required, it will come into force in the very near future. Paragraph 4 of Article 4 of the Treaty states that “each state party that has any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or in any place under its jurisdiction or control that are owned, possessed or controlled by another State shall ensure the prompt removal of such weapons, as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of [the two] states parties.”

To ensure that it is the Scottish Government which determines when the nuclear weapons are removed and that it is done without unnecessary delay, it will be essential that before a meeting takes place with the government of rUK, the Scottish Government has itself agreed what a realistic timescale would be. The one proposed by SNP CND is based on the report “Disarming Trident”, which was written by the late John Ainslie when he was co-ordinator of SCND. John was an authoritative and internationally recognised expert on nuclear weapons. In the report he set out the steps and time required for each stage in the de-activating, dismantling and removal process. Based on consideration of the technical and logistical issues, the report concluded that the process could be completed in two years.

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The report was peer-reviewed. Professor Richard Garwin, who was a member of the scientific panel which advised American governments on nuclear weapons, said: “The missiles and nuclear weapons can be disabled within weeks and removed within two years”. Dr Bruce Blair, the leading expert on how to de-activate nuclear weapons, said: “If anything the timetable is somewhat conservative. My studies have determined that some of the steps could be taken at a pace that is nearly twice as fast, though the more leisurely pace in the SCND timetable ensures a completely safe process.”

In this context, the three years from the date of a referendum which SNP CND has proposed for consideration at the SNP’s annual conference this year is realistic and practicable. Martin Docherty-Hughes himself said the timetable is a good starting point. It is also important to note the warning given by Bill Kidd MSP that anything beyond five years would potentially allow a Trojan horse situation to develop that could result in there being nuclear weapons in Scotland for decades to come.

David Peutherer

THANK you for publishing the article by Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire. Martin makes some good points, in particular his dismissal of any kind of Faslane/Coulport lease to r-UK post independence (the “Guantanamo on the Clyde” option).

However, Martin also appears to mis-state the position of the SNP CND group of which I am teasurer. He says SNP CND’s arguments “seem to focus mainly on the financial imperative” post-independence. While this may not have been his intention, it could be misconstrued that he is implying that SNP CND in some way would support the leasing of Faslane and Coulport.

Nothing could be further from the truth. My colleague Jean Anderson, secretary of SNP CND, and I presented as delegates from our respective SNP branches at the 2018 SNP annual conference. We moved and seconded The Roadmap to Trident Removal motion, which was, with one amendment, unanimously adopted.

Nuclear weapons are indefensible, especially so close to Scotland’s most populated area. They must be removed before there is an accident or terror or other form of attack.

There may be logistics challenges, and of course the UK Government will do everything it can to drag its feet and accentuate those. However, these are exactly the reasons we need a timescale.

The objective of Scotland as a nuclear-weapon-free country, a proud signatory of the Treaty for the Prevention of Nuclear Weapons, does not change.

One final point – a detail, but important nonetheless. Many of us have used the term nuclear “deterrent". We all, SNP activists and SNP parliamentarians, need to stop using the term, unless we really believe they in any way enhance our security. Rather we should call them “nuclear weapons”, or “weapons of mass destruction”. Michael Portillo, former Secretary of Defence, said of Trident: “Our independent nuclear deterrent ... is not independent [missile supply and maintenance by US] nor is it a deterrent to anyone we would regard as a threat.”

Dr Ron Dickinson