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Image: Campaigners urge MSP's for a strong Climate Change Bill

05/10/2018

Kenneth Sadler, Justice and Peace Scotland commissioner from Aberdeen made the journey to the Scottish Parliament to join with around 70 other people in urging our MSPs to aim high on the environment.


On Wednesday 19 September around 70 people from across Scotland gathered in the Harry Younger Hall near the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to demand strong and radical action on climate change. This Climate Change Lobby was organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a coalition of organisations brought together to campaign for climate justice, which includes SCIAF and Justice and Peace Scotland among its members.


Before lobbying started, Tom Ballantine of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland reminded us that public pressure on MSPs helped increase Scotland’s climate ambitions in 2009; and Sally Foster-Fulton of Christian Aid Scotland spoke passionately about the importance of working for environmental justice for our brothers and sisters in the global south, who suffer most through climate change despite having done least to cause it.


Our main goal was to persuade MSPs that, in the light of our responsibilities under the Paris Agreement, Scotland should adopt a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest, supported by an interim target of a 77% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


As I am from Aberdeen, I was part of the North East Scotland group of lobbyists. We saw three MSPs, from Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives respectively, and made clear to each of them the need for the strongest possible Climate Bill. Reflecting the positions of the three parties, our aim of a clear target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was supported by Labour, while the SNP and Conservative representatives did not agree with this key demand. However, we were able to have informative discussions with all the MSPs we met.


It was ironic, frustrating, yet curiously appropriate that the arrangements for the Climate Change Lobby had to be changed due the extreme weather event of Storm Ali. And given the challenging conditions it was natural that the travel plans of those from outwith Edinburgh were likewise affected by road closures and train cancellations.


In the evening before getting a coach or, if I was lucky, a train back to Aberdeen, I took a walk from the east end of Princes Street to the Scottish Parliament itself, having neglected to make the short journey from the Harry Younger Hall earlier. Visiting Holyrood again in the Edinburgh gloaming was a moving experience for me, being of the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the 1979 referendum in which Scotland voted for devolution but was denied because of the ‘40% rule’. During the 80s the kind of Scottish autonomy that we now take for granted seemed a distant dream.


The Climate Change Lobby which so many of us had participated in earlier that day to argue for environmental justice was an example of democracy in action.

Whatever our views on Scotland’s constitutional status, we should all be grateful that we have the Parliament in Edinburgh as a forum where people of goodwill can work together for the sake of the common good.



Image: Nae Nukes Anywhere

28/09/2018

This week, in our blog, Ellen Charlton reflects on a day of anti-nuclear protest and the Church’s stance.


On an exceptionally bright and sunny day in late September hundreds of kindred spirits from all airts and pairts walked the mile from the Peace Camp to the North Gate of the Ministry of Defence nuclear base at Faslane. We came from all over the UK and further afield - America, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands - to protest against the threat of nuclear weapons and to promote respect for life.


We each had our reasons for being there. I carried with me the perspective of the Catholic Church.


Although many of us understand our church’s stance on other moral and ethical issues, her position on nuclear weapons and disarmament seems less clear. Some even believe that the Church has no views on this (or worse, that it should hold no views.)


But the Church has for more than 50 years been consistent in its condemnation of nuclear weapons. In 1963, Pope John XXIII, in his document Pacem in Terris, wrote ‘Justice, right reason and consideration for human dignity and life urgently demand that the arms race should cease.’ And in 1982, the Scottish Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, stated ‘If it is immoral to use these weapons, it is also immoral to threaten their use.’


That consistency was clear on 7 July 2017, when a long-sought, multilaterally negotiated treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the UN in New York. Just one state voted against it, 122 states voted in favour. It opened for signature on 20 September and will remain open for all states to sign and ratify.


Over 50 states signed on the first day. One of the first to sign was the Holy See.
When this Treaty becomes law, its framework will facilitate the cancellation of the Trident replacement, and the dismantling and elimination of existing UK nuclear weapons. Bishop William Nolan on behalf of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference helped draft a recent statement, subsequently signed by the leaders of all the major Scottish churches, calling on the UK government to sign the Treaty.


Among us on that day in September there had been members of the UK government to listen to the horrifying statistics proffered by Kathy Galloway of the Iona Community. Good that they had heard Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, speak of her adoptive parents protesting against Polaris in the early 1960s and being imprisoned (her father in a police cell, her mother in a Catholic church) for their efforts.


We heard a visitor from the US, who spoke of his despondency and anxiety when trying to engage fellow Americans in real debate on nuclear issues, saying that most of his countrymen had little knowledge or understanding of the implications of nuclear weapons and their potential for destruction. ‘For the most part they just do not understand and do not want to make the effort to understand.’


His despair reminded me of the words of the Anglo-American poet T.S Eliot, ‘…human kind cannot bear very much reality’. But this is a reality we must all face, and face it urgently.
 



Image: Scottish CND 60 Years On, 1958 - 2018

21/09/2018

Arthur West is chair of Scottish CND and secretary of Ayrshire CND. Here he reflects on the need to push for peace.


This year is the 60th anniversary of CND. The organisation was founded in London on 17th February 1958 and Scottish CND came into existence following a meeting in the Simpson Institute Edinburgh on March 22nd 1958.


During this very important anniversary year, Scottish CND is organising an international march and rally from Faslane peace camp to the main gate at Faslane naval base in September.


We also have a road show that will visit towns and cities across Scotland during the course of this year carrying a message that it is time to rid our country and our world of the scourge of nuclear weapons.


I am very proud to be the current chair of Scottish CND during this anniversary year. I have been a member of Scottish CND for over 20 years and I have been active in my local Ayrshire CND branch for since the early 1990s.


One of my main reasons for remaining  active in Scottish CND and the wider peace movement is  because of the destruction and devastation which would be caused if nuclear weapons were ever used by any of the countries which have them in their possession.


Modern day nuclear weapons are many times more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US Air Force on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.


According to medical and scientific research provided to Scottish CND, the impact of any use of nuclear weapons in our world today would kill millions of people. The radioactive fallout would render parts of the planet uninhabitable and would cause cancer and birth deformities. If anyone needs convincing of the destructive power of modern nuclear weapons, they should visit https://outrider.org/nuclear-weapons/interactive/bomb-blast/ .


I am a former trade union convener in local government, which is why I am also opposed to nuclear weapons on economic and social grounds. The annual running costs for Britain's current Trident nuclear weapons system is around £2 billion, which could be better spent on decent things such as health, education and housing.


As I reflect after twenty years of membership, some positive and negative points come to mind.


On the negative side, US President Donald Trump seems intent on modernising his country's stockpile of nuclear weapons, and the UK Government is pressing ahead to renew Britain's Trident system at the cost of billions of pounds.


On the positive side, 122 countries voted for a global ban on nuclear weapons in July 2017, and the majority of Scotland's politicians are opposed to Trident replacement, taking a position against nuclear weapons.


Scottish CND is the largest peace movement organisation in Scotland and our membership had increased significantly since the 2014 referendum. Even so, I would ask all people who are sympathetic to our aims to consider joining Scottish CND.


Given the worrying situation in our world at the present time, it seems that CND is needed now more than ever.
 




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