Brian Quail has spent his adult life demonstrating against nuclear weapons and war. As we approach 20th September and the ratification of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, Brian writes our latest blog and gives his personal views on the how Scotland should move forward to becoming nuclear free.
You see things differently when you are flat on your back under a nuclear convoy. Above I see the drive shaft, steering rods, the other various parts of the vehicle, beyond that the driver sits in his cabin, with the other 19 vehicles in the convoy all working together, the powers that control the death machine, governmental, departmental, political, the unseen high priests of Moloch and Mammon serving our Gods of Metal, the unimaginable power and might I am opposing - all seem quite different when viewed from the ground.
For a start the sheer absurdity of defying such power is overwhelming. But defy it I must. I do infinitesimally small things because that is all I can do. And no one ever made a bigger mistake than the person who doesn’t do anything because he can’t do everything.
So the police go through the regulation five stages before I am dragged out from under the vehicle, arrested and taken off to the cell in the police station. Precious time alone to pray and think.
Of all the thoughts that crowd into my brain, this above all: I would not be here if we had made the right decision in the referendum of 2014, because today Trident would not be here - or anywhere in Britain. The cosmic joke is that what the government of an independent Scotland would have to do, is, well, absolutely nothing at all. If the four subs stay tied up at Faslane they are not deployed, and if they are not deployed they can’t fire their missiles. They are, in effect, disarmed. The Scottish government then requests that the UK government remove its missiles. End of.
Since John Ainslie has shown in his masterly work “Trident - Nowhere To Go” there is no other place that Trident can operate from in the UK apart from the Faslane/Coulport complex, it follows that a nuclear free Scotland means a UK without Trident.
For me, the 2014 referendum was the Trident referendum. Either I voted for a Unionist party, all of which supported the continued deployment of Trident, or I voted for an independence party, all of which maintain a principled rejection of Trident. The referendum was about a moral issue of the utmost gravity.
All the Churches maintain an anti-Trident stance, so their position should have been clear. But was it?
Back at the start of the nuclear age, Albert Camus wrote “What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.”
That referendum was about much more than the governance of Scotland. It had a clear and unambiguous moral dimension, on which the churches had in fact already taken a firm stance. One side wanted a constitution banning nuclear weapons from Scottish land and waters, the other supported the present threat to use H Bombs.
I don’t think this was addressed from the pulpits. Churches can’t tell people how to vote, but I believe congregations should have been reminded that they had a clear choice between voting for the removal of nuclear WMD, and supporting their retention, and that the churches had in fact already condemned these.
Our job is to speak truth to power, not to try to be all things to all men. The collective failure of the churches to raise a prophetic voice on this occasion was in my opinion a failure to give Christian witness.
With a second referendum a real possibility, I can only hope and pray that this time the Church would speak out with a truly prophetic voice, so that there is no doubt of their rejection of Trident. Because for me Trident is the worst thing in the world, the machine for the extinction of all life. It is the undoing of Genesis.
August 27, 2017