Arthur West, Chair of Scottish CND, had clearly filed his ‘Voice of Scotland’ article “Trident: A scandalous waste of public money, “ (MStar, 25 October, http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-83e2-Trident-A-scandalous-waste-of-public-money#.WBH4weQzWM8) before the untimely death last Friday ( 21st October) of John Ainslie, co-ordinator of Scottish CND for over 25 years.
I only met John twice in person, but his legend lives by his remarkable collection of research documentation, which attests to hi contribution as the best and most assiduous and rigorous independent British-based researcher on nuclear weapons of mass destruction, making full public service use of his degree in International Relations.
John also ran the Scottish CND office for many years and he was a tireless organiser of events and activities all aimed at making the case for a nuclear weapons free world.
Here are some extracts from Joh’s masterly evidence on Trident and nuclear disarmament to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee oral hearing on 16 July 2012
“What we are looking at is disarmament not just as an abstract concept, but as a real practical possibility and how it could be brought about. The initial step is that Trident could be deactivated, in a sense, so that it cannot be used within a matter of days. There is a trigger that the weapons operating officer presses and the captain turns a key. If you take away the triggers and the keys and you take the submarine off patrol, there are components of the missile that can be removed within a period of a day. That deactivates it in a sense so that it cannot be used in anger within a matter of days. Within a period of about eight weeks or so, you could remove all the warheads and store them at Coulport [near Glasgow], which again is a further step. They are still there, but the system has been taken apart. Then it would take two years to physically move those warheads out of Scotland, which is based on frequency of convoys in the mid - ’90s.
The actual dismantlement of warheads at Burghfield might take as long as four years. Having said that, Bruce Blair, the leading world expert on de-alerting nuclear forces in America, basically said that this programme is credible. His own studies show that these various steps can be done in half the time, but that the proposal that I am putting forward is therefore a safe and reasonable way of doing it. You could in fact do it more quickly is what Bruce Blair was saying, but because this is not as quick as possible, that then builds more of an element of safety in the process.
In response to Lindsay Roy MP question:” What are the main limiting factors that prevent this [disarmament] happening within two years? John Ainslie explained:” The safety of moving the warheads. They used to take three days to drive up and three days to drive down, so it was at least a week’s operation every time. They are now quicker, but, even so, we have to allow time for the crew and for training. That would be having the vehicles operationally on the road for possibly a week every month and then three weeks’ build up. There are clearly lots of safety and security concerns about moving nuclear warheads…this is moving nine or 10 a month over 24 months. The current stockpile is 225.”
John later added: One of the areas of research that I have been working on is international archives, particularly the Polaris track decision between 1977 and 1982. There are now several thousand pages of declassified files on that decision-making process. Part of what I am saying here is based on that information, which at the time was top secret. In that period, they looked at possibly basing them at Kings Bay. Frank Cooper, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence at the time, basically said it was not feasible or viable to build a replacement for Coulport on any greenfield site. If he is saying it was not viable at that point, at the height of the cold war-before Chernobyl and before Fukushima-then I would think it is less viable now than it was back then.
“ ..I was at the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation] NPT PrepCom earlier this year, there are a lot of countries around the world that are on the disarmament side-Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany or Scandinavian countries. We would be trying to move towards nuclear disarmament, concerned about nuclear proliferation. If you have one country trying to insist that another country continues to host its nuclear weapons, I think that the international context might well be international support for Scotland’s position, rather than for the UK’s position.”
A few weeks ago on 13 October, Alison Johnstone MSP, submitted this important resolution in the Scottish Parliament, inspired by John’s work.
“That the Parliament welcomes the recommendation from the UN Security Council’s Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament (OEWG) calling for a UN conference in 2017 to negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons and lead to their complete elimination; deeply regrets the UK’s absence from the OEWG’s talks; considers that the Scottish Parliament and citizens of Scotland have stood against the possession of nuclear weapons, including opposing the recent Trident renewal; regrets that Scotland is unable to participate in the OEWG’s negotiations; supports action by states such as Ireland, Austria, South Africa, Nigeria and New Zealand to submit an additional supporting resolution to the First Committee of the UN, and recognises that the Scottish Government's efforts to dissuade the UK Government from supporting Trident are in line with the majority of states participating in the OEWG.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - who chaired Parliamentary CND for a decade - tweeted last Saturday: “Very sad news indeed, such a well informed and intelligent peace campaigner who did so much for CND in Scotland as well as the wider peace community. My sympathies and regards to all his family and many friends.”
And so say many of us