Saturday 31 May 2014

Not in our name

Dear Shirley Williams

You clearly wanted to speak about the Scottish independence referendum on Radio 4 this morning, and you made it clear that the principal reason you don't want us to choose independence is that it would rob the UK of it's place at the world's top table.

For many of us in Scotland, that is precisely the point. We don't want illegal weapons of mass destruction parked anywhere on our soil, let alone in the purlieus of our largest city. We also don't want the rusting contaminated hulks of nuclear submarines lying just across the firth from our capital city, but that might be negotiable. We don't want illegal foreign adventurism in our name. We don't want to be part of a nation justly hated all over the world for its centuries-old history of exporting warfare and weapons across the globe.

We know that it is the small countries of Europe that achieve positive change on the world stage. We saw the role of Iceland in easing the tensions of the cold war. We saw the role of Norway in bringing Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table - before the US sabotaged all the progress made. We've seen the role of Austria in providing a venue for the de-escalation of the tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions. We've seen again and again the role of Switzerland in providing a neutral venue for talks between warring nations. All these nations are trusted because they do not try to 'punch above their weight'. They are trusted because they don't seek to be the world's policeman. They are trusted because they don't have imperialist ambition.

Scotland will join this honourable company. We've always been an outward-looking, an internationalist nation; we will continue so to be. But instead of using our influence, as Britain has, to promote and foment war, Scotland will be in a position (which Britain, with its tainted record, can never be) to become a venue for building peace.

If you want Scotland to remain in the UK, the answers simple: disarm, unilaterally, dismantling all weapons of mass destruction and cutting defence spending as a proportion of GDP to at most no more than the European average. Adopt a written constitution which prevents Britain from going to war at all unless either invaded or requested to do so by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Voluntarily resign Britain's permanent seat on the Security Council. Send Tony Blair to the Hague to face indictment on war crimes charges.

If the government were to do all these things before September 18th, I think you might still achieve a 'no' vote. For sufficient Scots, this is the key issue: you may not hold illegal weapons, or illegally invade foreign countries, or trade arms across the world, in our name. Never again. But promises to do these things are not enough. Everyone knows what the promises of the British state are worth. I appreciate that it would be impossible to dismantle all the nuclear weapons in just three months, but a start could be made. All the other things could be done quickly.

We don't hate the English (or the Welsh). We don't want to see England dragged through more years of Tory government, whether propped up by the Liberal Democrats or by UKIP. We would like you still to have an NHS as good as ours, and a benefits system as good as we aspire to. But we want to hold our heads up in the world, to be able to say honestly and clearly that we are not warmongers, meddlers, arms traders, imperialists.

Will you do this for us? Or is, ultimately, that 'seat at the top table', that delusion of power, of greater value to you than the Union?

Yours sincerely

Simon Brooke

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