Scottish opposition to Trident replacement continues to grow

By staff writers
January 8, 2007

Catholic Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen is the latest church leader to appeal to Scotland’s Christians to write to their MPs in opposition to the planned renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Christian leaders across Britain are also calling for concerted debate and action.

In his letter, read out at churches on Sunday 7 January 2007, Bishop Moran appealed to Catholics in particular to condemn plans by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to replace the controversial Trident system with a new generation of nuclear wepaons - which campaigners argue will make the world a more dangerous place, not a safer one.

"The world's most powerful governments, including our own, seem determined to base our security on having nuclear weapons available,” the bishop wrote in this latest pastoral appeal.

Instead of arming ourselves to death with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), Bishop Moran stressed the need to build "a culture of peace" - echoing the terms of the World Council of Churches' decade of action - and he called on Scotland's Catholics and others to "challenge any pride and selfishness in our own lives".

Scottish churches have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Trident renewal, which the government has said it will push through in spite of massive opposition both at home and internationally.

Meanwhile, in their first ever joint New Year’s statement, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rev Alan McDonald, and Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, President of the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, spoke with one voice against the “menace of nuclear weapons”.

The Church of Scotland, part of the Presbyterian family of churches, is by far the largest Protestant denomination in Scotland, and is "recognised" by the Queen, although it is not formally an Established church in the way that the (Anglican) Church of England is down south.

As previously reported on Ekklesia, the Catholic and Protestant leaders' statement at the beginning of last week read: “This year [2007] there is a wonderful opportunity for our Westminster parliamentarians finally to take steps to fulfil the obligations this country made many years ago to rid itself of nuclear weapons."

They continued: “We pray that our MPs will make a stand for the principles of peace, and will have the courage to refuse to endorse a replacement for Trident. Peace cannot be advanced by the commissioning of new weapons of mass destruction.”

In December 2006, Richard McCready of the Scottish Catholic Church was joined by the Church of Scotland chief minister and the Primus (head) of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev Idris Jones, in handing into the UK Ministry of Defence a church petition with 21,000 signatures against Trident replacement.

The groundswell of opposition has continued to grow. Prime Minister Blair, himself a proclaimed Christian, has promised a parliamentary debate on Trident this month (January 2007). But since the Conservative Party is staunchly pro-nuclear and the rebellion in Labour ranks relatively small, there is no chance that he will lose the vote.

Critics including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition say that, as with the war in Ieaq, the PM is defying public opinion and undermining confidence in democracy on the nuclear arms issue.

The two organisations have called a national demonstration on 24 February 2007 "to oppose Tony Blair's plans for new weapons of mass destruction in Britain and to call for the immediate withdrawal of the British army from Iraq."

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