Monday 22 October 2007

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - document of the looney left?

Since moving house I've been a bit lax at reading the Sunday papers - partly because I no longer live above a 24 hour newsagent, partly because I've been rushed off my feet and partly because Domino's on Ally Parade don't have newspapers to read while you wait... Yesterday, however, I did things a bit better by buying the Scotland on Sunday and reading the Sunday Herald and Sunday Times when I visited my parents.
I was struck in particular by the varying coverage of the story of our First Minister's stance on the Non-Proliferation Treaty; Alex Salmond believes that the Scottish Government should get observer status since the UK's nuclear arsenal is based in Scotland, and has written to signatories of the treaty to seek their support.

The Scotland on Sunday ran with the issue on it's front page, whereas the Sunday Herald had the story a bit further inside.

Reaction to the move from the Labour Government in Westminster was predictable, but worryingly, the Scotland Office appears to have either lost the plot or missed the point of the NPT:

Scotland Office Minister David Cairns said: "Another week, another conflict. Alex Salmond prefers posturing on the world stage to delivering on bread-and-butter issues. He should be funding 1,000 extra police officers and sorting out the mess over free personal care. Instead he seeks to cavort across the world stage with his discredited looney left policies."

A Scotland Office source added: "For Alex Salmond to seek an alliance with Iran and South Korea is an unpardonable folly"

Looney left policies? How is seeking to participate in the NPT "looney"? The text of the treaty is freely available, has stood since 1968 and has been accepted by the nuclear weapon holding permenant members of the UN Security Council. Wikipedia lists the nations who are members of the NPT, which as you can see includes not only the United Kingdom, the nations of the EU, but most of the nations of the world. And South Korea - are they suddenly on the "bad boy list", or did Mr Cairns mean North Korea, who have actually withdrawn from the NPT and wouldn't have been on the First Minister's mailing list as a result? A retraction on behalf of the people of South Korea should surely be issued by Mr Cairns!

Over on the BBC website, Eric Joyce MP singles out Iran and Zimbabwe - again, a political point which ignores the other 187 signatories.

The point of the NPT is clear, and while Alex Salmond's bid to get Scotland involved is a political move, it is not a rash or unreasonable one. Scotland is in an unusual position, where the Scottish Government opposes nuclear weapons, but the UK Government has the right to station them on Scottish soil and in Scottish waters. When Scotland becomes independent, that becomes a more pressing issue, one which last came up when the Soviet Union dissolved. Interestingly, the successor states were not keen to keep these weapons on their soil.

PS: The Sunday Herald mentions that the letter was sent to "the UK ambassadors of 122 countries party to the NPT". Scotland on Sunday claims that "First Minister has written to representatives of the 189 countries who have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty". Not quite sure who's right there, but I'm looking into it!

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