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Showing posts with label nuclear subs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear subs. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Tom Gallagher in Scottish Review on the Paxman/Salmond interview

When this blog was posted,(Thursday, 29 October 2009) Barack Obama had been President for just under a year and Alex Salmond and the SNP were still a minority government.  Tom Gallagher popped up again yesterday in Scottish review, defending the notorious Paxman interview. This clip is now approaching 9000 hits, high by my modest standards, and there seems to be pretty much a consensus in the comment – and elsewhere in the media- about this little episode, which reflected no credit on Paxman, but did the SNP a lot of good. (Interesting to note Gallagher was attacking the Bannockburn theme way back in 2009.)

Why should Alex Salmond be caressed with a feather duster by Paxo?

Tom Gallagher got one thing right, although not as he doubtless intended it -

Lots of people are scrambling around trying to find the elusive artefacts of Britishness which will enable them to derail the nationalist juggernaut. It occurred to me that the mercurial and choleric Mr Paxman exemplified one of the strands that have defined Britishness in the eyes of the rest of the world.TOM GALLAGER

It would be too kind to call the unionist opposition a juggernaut so far – more of a rickety empire wagon with the wheels coming off – but the Paxman interview undoubtedly caused to to jolt dangerously as it ran into yet another Paxo rut …


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Prof. Tom Gallagher, Alex Salmond - and the NED?
I sent the following letter to the Herald as a response to yet another misconceived attack by Professor Tom Gallagher of the Bradford University Peace Studies department. It wasn't published, and, in fairness to the Herald, I was really responding to Prof Gallagher's earlier attacks on Alex Salmond, and not the ridiculous charge of Anglophobia directed against him yesterday, and to that degree, I was 'off thread'.
Today's letters include a number of robust and effective responses to the Professor Gallagher, and I am content that balance has been served, however I reproduce my unpublished letter below because it refers to something that tends to be skated over in embarrassment by the Scottish media, and I am bound to say on occasion by the SNP itself, namely the hostility by America to Scotland's ambitions for independence on strategic - and covert - foreign policy grounds.
America's appalling - and murderous - record of interfering in democratic processes in other nations, notably in Latin America, is well known, or at least it should be to anyone who has not had their head firmly in the sand for the last half a century or so. In the Reagan era, a certain embarrassment set in over the egregious nature of the CIA's brutal suppression of democratic regimes, and an organisation was set up to sanitise this arm of America's foreign policy, called the National Endowment for Democracy.
The criticisms of this organisation are numerous, coming both from Americans and from the rest of the world. It has two aspects - a smiling public aspect of good works and worthy initiatives, and another, secret aspect of covert operations and the channelling of money to politicians and groups deemed to be favourable to American interest in countries that are deemed to be strategically important to America, which means just about anywhere on the globe. It uses a complex, concealed money trail as the conduit for these funds.
It also sponsors carefully selected academics from other countries deemed to be sympathetic to its public aims, and what ambitious academic could quibble with the aims of a foundation that endows democracy?

Professor Tom Gallagher is a Research Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Dear Sir,
Tom Gallagher (Letters 28th October) remains entirely consistent, if increasingly intemperate, in his attacks on Alex Salmond, the SNP, and his interpretation of what he calls “ethnic politics”. He seems to wilfully ignore the fact that all political parties are engaged in ethnic politics, and have to embrace within their policies and their activities the realities of ethnicity, ethnic groupings, religious belief and its complex relationship to national identity, colour, and ethnicity.
Alex Salmond faces the reality of a Scotland where three large faith groups exist, together with a large secular block that professes no faith. He faces the reality of faith schools within the state sector for two Christian faiths, but not currently for the Muslim faith. I am personally opposed to faith schools, and believe that they can contribute to ethnic division in communities, but unless we are prepared to dismantle them for Christian religions, I cannot see how in equity we can deny them to Muslims. The vital thing is that they should not be faith schools of the fundamentalist, Christian Zionist type that Blair endowed, nor the extreme Islamicist type that propagate a violent version of Islam that is alien to the vast majority of Muslims
However, Professor Gallagher, as an acknowledged expert on ethnicity and religion as it affects politics, seems to be highly selective in what he attacks, and he displays a remarkable capacity to ignore the rampant militarism, religiosity and celebration of imperial values that characterises Britishness, and seems totally blind to an even more militaristic religious nationalism displayed by America. Perhaps the fact that he is a research fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. contributes to his myopia in this regard, because the NED is a very odd body indeed.
Founded in the Reagan era, this organisation was designed to sanitise the brutal suppression of Latin America democracies by the CIA – its purpose was, in the words of former CIA operative Philip Agee, “seeking to promote free, fair, transparent democratic elections, but in such a way that power went to the elites and not to the people.” We can see its dubious operations in Afghanistan and its spectacular failure in Iraq.
Alex Salmond and the SNP are resolutely anti-nuclear, and committed to the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Scotland. One would expect this to sit well with a Professor of Peace Studies, but perhaps not so well with a Research Fellow of the NED, an organisation that uses a complex system of directing money to shadowy political forces in ways that make it impossible to “follow the money”.
Scottish nationalism represents a threat to the kind of American foreign policy epitomised by the Bush, Cheney and Blair years, a bitter destructive era that we may be painfully emerging from under Obama. Prof. Gallagher can find better targets than celebrations of Bannockburn if he wishes to further this vital process.
Yours faithfully,
Peter Curran


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Scotland’s defence–Angus Robertson’s response to the leaping Lords on Today

Naughtie:On the defence question – do you accept that it’s going to be a very, very costly business if Scotland does go independent? And not only costly to Scots, but costly to people elsewhere in the United Kingdom?”

Angus Robertson:That’s not the way I see it, Jim. Firstly, the prospect of people in Scotland being able to determine their own future is extremely exciting and historic. We look forward to the referendum as a real opportunity for the country, and it is true to say that it will impact on all policy areas of life, and we think it will bring tremendous advantages - and it’s important to understand what those are in defence and security terms.

“We’re in a slightly odd position in Scotland at the present time, where we’re already responsible in Scotland for veterans, but we’re not for defence and security policy, So, the point that we believe is that Scotland, Scotland’s Parliament – the government here – should be able to decide whether our servicemen and women go to war or not, how we defend our regiments, how we retain our bases, what posture we should take – whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.

“All of these are the decisions that normal countries make, and we want Scotland to be a normal, successful country.”

Naughtie:Yes – but in the event of independence, there would be a very simple decision to be made, because the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet is in Scotland. Now that would still be  -em – the defence equipment used by the government of Westminster: in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right? At a cost of many, many tens of millions of pounds?”

I held my breath at this point, because the nuclear issue is at the very heart of my wish to see an independent Scotland. I regard most things as negotiable, and politics and diplomacy are the art of the possible, but for me, the objective of Scotland as a non-nuclear nation is not negotiable – it is a deal breaker – a sine qua non – as the Romans said, “a condition without which there is nothing.”

Why am I holding my breath, I asked myself? I have heard Angus Robertson confirm this very point a few weeks ago to a large and enthusiastic audience at Drummond Community School in Edinburgh, flanked by Derek Mackay. But Naughtie formulated his question as a double-header question – a very dangerous form to respond to. He asked for a single YES/NO answer to what in effect was two questions – nukes leaving Scotland and the cost. YES or NO confirms or denies both possibilities. The question must not therefore be given an unqualified YEs or NO if one answer is YES and the other is not.

Angus Robertson:Well, first off, let’s deal with the financial basis of the defence in Scotland and the UK, before …

That’s my boy, Angus!

Naughtie: “No, no, but hang on .. we’re talking about.” (Naughtie doesn’t like his double header being rejected.)

Angus Robertson:It’s important for listeners in England, who’ve never heard this, to understand the way that defence is currently organised and paid for in the UK, and at the present time, there’s a massive defence underspend in Scotland – incidentally, also in many English regions.

“But in Scotland, £5.6 billion less has been spent here than taxpayers have contributed to the M.O.D. In manpower terms, we’ve seen disproportionate cuts – 10,500 jobs lost – and in the recent strategic defence and basing review, we’ve seen two out of three air bases closed, the total withdrawal of the Royal Marines, and the closure of Army Command in Scotland. That is happening within the United Kingdom …”

Naughtie:Yes, and a couple of billion quid in defence order, which would go down the drain if Scotland were independent, because you wouldn’t be building stuff for UK defence.”

Angus Robertson: “I’m happy to move on to that in a second, Jim – it’s not true – but if I can just finish the point that I’m trying to make. It’s really important for people to understand that the UK Government does not look after defence well in Scotland, and I would argue in other parts of the UK, particularly the North of England either. And one of the advantages of being able to make defence decisions in Scotland is that we would utilise all of our resources – and Scottish taxpayers contribute about £3 billion a year towards UK defence, adequately just for Scotland.

“Now, you talked about procurement there. Let’s move on to procurement.  58% of the defence industry in Scotland in procurement is for export beyond the United Kingdom. Point two – where we have have an excellent domestic producing defence sector - excellent in shipbuilding, excellent in radar, excellent in optronics – I have no reason to believe the decision makers, either in Edinburgh or in London, will not continue to resource the best equipment wherever its made. And at the present time, the UK Government won’t spend 4.4% of its equipment and non-equipment spending in Scotland. That means that Scottish taxpayers are paying for considerable investment in the defence sector in England.”

Naughtie: “Well, the defence sector of the UK – these are matters that we  are going to – well, we will return to often and at length between now and the date of the promised referendum – but for now, Angus Robertson, SNP defence spokesman – thank you.”


I was disappointed that Angus didn’t get round to answering the first part of Naughtie’s question on the “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet ..“ … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?

But he was right to concentrate on the threat/bribe aspect of Lord West’s nonsense on defence procurement in Scotland and its impact on jobs, especially in shipbuilding. Angus Robertson demonstrated a superb grasp of the real issues, and the figures, unlike the two fumbling, bumbling peers who preceded him, and he did an effective demolition job on their feeble scaremongering tactics.

To Angus’ own question in his opening response – “… whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.” We already know the FM’s answer, Angus’ answer, the SNP’s answer and the Scottish Government’s answer – it is a resounding, decisive, unequivocal NO and it has been given in many forums. For the SNP to renege on that posture would be an inconceivable betrayal of trust, and they will never do it.

As for the question “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?”, I think know your answer, Angus, because you have already given it many times in the context of Scotland being non-nuclear, opposed to WMDs, whether carried on nuclear submarines, or by other delivery systems.

Or do I? Is it more complex? Perhaps … A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor, whether or not it carries nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapons could be allowed to remain in Scotland under clearly and repeatedly stated SNP policy, i.e Trident, but nuclear subs and their bases without a nuclear payload?

I know there are existing treaty obligations about Scotland providing safe havens in Scottish waters to our allies – and we will continue to have allies, and will be part of non-nuclear defence groupings. Clearly, there are complex questions to be considered and discussed there with the UK and European allies. Angus Robertson is well equipped to discuss them rationally, objectively, and without rancour. But are the representatives of the UK anti-unionist parties and Establishment?

Not on Friday’s today showing, they’re not … The doughty Baroness was right about one thing – they had better get their act together, and field some politicians or diplomats who know what they’re talking about, unlike the ones we’ve just heard. The Scottish Government – and the SNP – have got their act together, and a superb one it is.

Ah, 2012- what will you bring?

Saor Alba!