IN a crowded field of reasons why Scotland needs to be independent and in charge of our own affairs, the dumping of toxic nuclear weapons and decaying munitions has got to be pretty close to the top of the list.

Not content with the enormous nuclear arsenal stationed at Faslane, the UK Government has decided to spend £24 billion on defence, with more warheads to bolster security. No prizes for guessing where the new nuclear warheads will no doubt be homed – in Scotland, against the democratic wishes of the electorate and the Scottish Government.

As my colleague Philippa Whitford noted this past week, when the UK pledged to “love bomb” Scotland to save their “precious Union”, we didn’t realise they meant it literally. She also wondered if these weapons of mass destruction would be festooned in Union flags as some sort of jingoistic icing on the cake – branded in Britain; stranded in Scotland.

This gross increase in Trident nuclear warheads, the first of its size since the Cold War, has received international condemnation from the UN, and our German and Norwegian neighbours to name but a few. Analysts have described this move as “provocative” or, in other words, a diplomatic disaster for a country that had pledged to reduce its warhead stockpile in line with obligations under the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty.

At home, Scottish church leaders described the new mega spend on nuclear defence as “a deeply worrying development” which could not possibly be justified financially in light of the catastrophic economic hit from Covid and climate change (don’t forget Brexit) and the UK’s disgraceful high rates of poverty and deprivation.

It’s not the first time the UK is out of step with morality or indeed the global community and its certainly not the first time that Johnson and co had thumbed their nose at international treaties and cross-nation co-operation. As for respecting Scotland? Johnson has form on contempt for the five million people that live north of the Border and, in this instance, our safety too.

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This cavalier attitude to safety, morality and democracy is as much a local as a national issue in Scotland. Last week in Parliament, I asked the Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin, why the dismantling of decaying nuclear submarines in my constituency at Rosyth had been continually delayed, despite the commitment to uphold the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee. Back in 2019, PAC reported on the Government’s “continued failure” to progress as “unacceptable”. Quinn admitted that there had been “some small delays” in scrapping the subs due to the pandemic these past 12 months, but in truth this is an issue that has concerned my constituents for decades due to a lack of serious progress and at great expense to the taxpayer.

Just up the road from Rosyth at Dalgety Bay it took the Ministry of Defence years to take proper action on the radiation contamination caused by the dumping of Second World War aircraft close by, which had radium-226 deposits in the luminous paintwork. The MoD finally accepted responsibility in 2014 – clean-up is still to commence.

These examples are just two more injustices in a long line of safety issues. In a post-event analysis published in 2020 by the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch, investigators reported that, had it not been for the quick-witted response of a Stena ferry look-out, a serious collision between the ferry with 282 passengers on board and a nuclear submarine could have occurred. It appeared that an unsupervised trainee on periscope watch-keeping duty had vastly over-estimated the distance between the vessels.

And let’s not forget the vast Second World War chemical munitions dumped in the Beaufort’s Dyke, including nuclear waste. Yet Johnson still pretends to want his bridge built between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Health and safety might find some issues with that.

The UK Government is hoping of course that out of sight is out of mind for us Scots – we can’t see the radiation on the beach, we can’t see the work being done on the subs, the ferry never hit the submarine, the munitions are buried at the bottom of the sea. Now they’re trying to downplay their broken promises on the reduction of nuclear capability with the idea that the UK is “a responsible nuclear weapons state”. Beatrice Fihn, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, is right to point out the hypocrisy and indeed the inherent racism of this stance – just imagine if this 40% increase was happening in another country?

Johnson of course cares little for diplomacy, democracy or commitment, or for what the international community thinks. It’s Britain First and last all the way, except for viewers in Scotland. All the risks and none of the rewards.

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