Scottish bishops urge Britain not to renew Trident weapons system

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joey Kelly, EPA

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — The British government must
take “decisive and courageous steps” toward ridding the country of
nuclear weapons, said the Catholic bishops of Scotland.

All eight bishops issued a joint statement calling for
nuclear disarmament ahead of a July 18 vote in Parliament on whether to renew
the Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system.

They said Britain had an obligation under the 1968 Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty “to work toward the disposing and elimination of
all nuclear weapons.”

“Britain should take more decisive and courageous steps
to revive that aspect of the treaty and not seek to prolong the status quo,”
the bishops said in the July 12 statement.

The bishops also suggested the $272 billion cost of
replacing the aging arsenal of nuclear weapons could not be morally justified.

“The bishops of Scotland have, for a long time, pointed
out the immorality of the use of strategic nuclear weapons due to the
indiscriminate destruction of innocent human life that their use would cause,”
they said.

“Lives are being lost now because money that could be
spent on the needy and the poor is tied up in nuclear arsenals,” the
bishops said, adding that they endorsed the words of Pope Francis that “spending
on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations.”

The Trident warheads are carried on four Vanguard-class
strategic nuclear submarines based at Faslane in Gare Loch in the west of

One of the submarines is always at sea, ensuring that
Britain has the capability of firing a nuclear missile at any time.

The system dates back to the early 1980s, however, and soon will
become antiquated. This means that politicians have reached the point when they
have to choose to either renew or decommission it.

Theresa May, the incoming prime minister and leader of the
ruling Conservative Party, is keen to retain a nuclear capacity, but the Labor
Party leadership and the Scottish National Party want to scrap the warheads.

The intervention by the Scottish bishops represents the
second time in a decade and the third in 35 years that they have called on
Britain to rid itself of nuclear weapons.

The statement comes less than a year after Pope Francis
marked the 70th anniversary of the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb
on Nagasaki, Japan, by inviting humanity to reject war and to “ban nuclear
weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.”

It also comes as the Washington Post reported that U.S. President
Barack Obama will use his final six months in office to push for a radical
reduction of nuclear weapons globally, in the hope that the policy might lead
to eventual abolition.

According to the newspaper, Ben Rhodes, the deputy national
security adviser, told a meeting of the Arms Control Association in early June
that Obama was keen to return to the objectives of the 2009 “Prague agenda,”
when he used his first foreign policy speech to push for global abolition of
nuclear weapons.

“I can promise you today that President Obama is
continuing to review a number of ways he can advance the Prague agenda,”
Rhodes said. “Put simply, our work is not finished on these issues.”

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