News from the frontline – with thanks to Jonathan Russell, Chair Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Both the Scrap Trident Demonstration and the Blockade were a great success. The atmosphere at both events was terrific.
The courage shown by the 47 people mostly women some in their 70’s who decided to be arrested by sitting in front of the entrances of the Faslane Nuclear base was an example to us all.
One of the people arrested was a man from the North-East who has been charged with breach of the peace and resisting arrest. It is hoped that the charges will be dropped.
The actions and in particular the blockade received considerable positive press coverage however there was for whatever reason a noticeable gap in TV coverage.
There was a large contingent of people from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire involved in both events with representation at both the South and North Gates of Faslane as part of the blockade.
A coalition of groups opposed to Trident known as Scrap Trident has been formed both at Scottish level and in Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire – see: http://scraptrident.org/
A weekend of Action will be taking place this coming weekend 13th/15th April as part of the Scrap Trident Campaign.
This will include:
A National demonstration against Trident in Glasgow this Saturday 13th of April
Mass workshops on non violent direct action training in Glasgow on Sunday 14th April
Finally next Monday 15th there will be a mass blockade of Faslane and supporting demonstration
Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament stated:
“There are many reasons to get involved in particular abhorrence of Nuclear weapons and their potential for mass slaughter and ultimately their ability destroy our planet. At a time of massive cuts in public spending the one obvious cut is that of the replacement for Trident, estimated by Greenpeace at £97 billion
“Whether you are for, against or undecided on the question of independence, the actions will foreground the question on whether we should have nuclear weapons in Scotland, the UK or, indeed, anywhere in the world. These actions will be the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in Scotland and blockade of Faslane since the 1980’s”
Coaches will be going to the demonstration in Glasgow from Aberdeen on Saturday 13th April.
A special event will take place on Saturday 30th March at 2 p.m. in St Nicholas Square, to raise awareness of the ‘Scrap Trident’ Weekend of Action coming up on the 13th to the 15th of April.
A coalition of groups opposed to Trident, known as Scrap Trident, has been formed, both at Scottish level and in Aberdeen and shire. Find out more at http://scraptrident.org/
The Weekend of Action will be taking place as part of this campaign. It will include:
A national demonstration against Trident in Glasgow on the 13th of April; and
workshops on non-violent direct action training in Glasgow, on Sunday 14th of April.
Finally on Monday the 15th, there will be a mass blockade of Faslane and a supporting demonstration.
To raise awareness of these actions, there will be a gathering in St Nicholas Square Aberdeen, outside Marks and Spencer on Saturday 30th March at 2 p.m. The gathering will include music and speakers from trade unions, student bodies and a variety of political and pressure groups opposed to Trident.
The speakers will include Leonna O’Neill from Scrap Trident, who will also be running a workshop on non-violent direct action on Sunday 31st March, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Belmont Cinema. Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament says
“There are many reasons to get involved in the particular abhorrence of nuclear weapons, and their potential for mass slaughter and ultimately the destruction of our planet. At a time of massive cuts in public spending, the one obvious cut is that of the replacement for Trident, at a cost estimated by Greenpeace at £97 billion.
“Whether you are for, against or undecided on the question of independence, the debate will foreground the question of whether we should have nuclear weapons in Scotland, the UK or, indeed, anywhere in the world.”
Coaches will be going to the demonstration in Glasgow from Aberdeen on Saturday 13th April.
A coach will leave for Glasgow from behind His Majesty’s Theatre at 7.30 a.m. on the 13th April and leave for Aberdeen on the return journey at 4 p.m. It will cost £12 for waged and £8 for unwaged people. If you want to book a place on the coach, or need further information, please contact Jonathan Russell on 01224-586435, mobile 0758-245-6233 or via email: email@example.com .
Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament invite you to a weekend of action from 13th to 15th April to scrap the Trident nuclear missile system. With thanks to Jonathan Russell.
There are many reasons to get involved:
The abhorrence of Nuclear weapons and their potential for mass slaughter and ultimately to destroy our planet.
At a time of massive cuts in public spending the one obvious cut is that of the replacement for Trident, estimated by Greenpeace at £97 billion
Whether you are for, against or undecided on the question of independence, the debate will foreground the question on whether we should have nuclear weapons in Scotland, the UK or, indeed, anywhere in the world.
A coalition of groups opposed to Trident has been formed both at Scottish level and locally – see: http://scraptrident.org/ - as a result of which there will be joint action by a number of local groups over the coming weeks which will include:
Weekly stalls/leafleting outside Marks and Spencer’s on every Saturday: 23rd, 30th March and 6thApril from 2-4pm
On March 30th at 2pm there will be a gathering outside Marks and Spencer with speakers opposed to Trident
On Sunday 31st March there will be non-violent direct action training from 2-6pm at the Belmont Cinema
On Saturday 13th April there will be a coach going to the demonstration in Glasgow leaving from Spa Street (at the back of His Majesty’s Theatre) at 7.30am. The coach will leave from Glasgow at 4pm and return to Aberdeen for around 7.30pm. Cost of tickets will be £12 waged / £8 unwaged.
If you wish to travel on the coach please let Jonathan know either by phone leaving a message at 01224 586435 or via email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Alas, there are few, if any heroes left of the International Brigade who fought for democracy in Spain in the 1930s. They were in the vanguard in fighting the inevitable battle against Fascism which would result in the slaughter and waste of a second World War in less than a quarter of a century.
Those who left the UK, and Scotland in particular, are enduring heroes of the left, and of freedom fighters everywhere.
There are memorials and books and commemorative gatherings for these brave socialists, but their dogged idealistic commitment and shared suffering led to great folk art.
Greentrax Recordings are to be commended for compiling the best of the Scottish Civil War songs and poems on a terrific and moving collection.
When the idea for the album was suggested, the compilers were staggered by the wealth of songs and poems available. They were heartened too, by the offers of new material on the theme. Editing the selection down to fifteen songs and a poem must have been a difficult task. Might we expect a second volume?
The collection veers between stirring anthems, none better than the joyous singalong Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa, the tender – Jamie Foyers and Si Me Quieres Escribir and simple stories of working class idealists who saw beyond the romantic adventure of the fight for freedom, yet still regarded it as a calling and their duty to enlist. Hasta Luego, a moving tale of a football fan leaving his younger brother at the turnstile to travel to Paris there and then, en route to Spain, is among the best of these.
A highlight for Aberdonians, though, will be local Brigadeer Bob Cooney’s Hasta La Vista, Madrid. Some of us were privileged enough to hear Comrade Cooney read this himself at meetings in the 1970s. This version, impeccably inhabited by Radio Scotland’s Iain Anderson, gives wonderful and moving expression to a rich, celebratory poem full of defiance and hope, scarce currency these days.
It is a fitting coda to a heart-stirring and emotional tribute to the immortal International Brigade.
Tracks: The Peatbog Soldiers (The McCalmans); Jamie Foyers (Dick Gaughan); Jarama Valley/Bandiera Rosa (The Laggan); Another Valley (Geordie McIntyre); Si Me Quieres Escribir (If You Want To Write); (Christine Kydd); These Hands (The Wakes); Owt For Nowt (John Watt); Viva La 15th Brigada/Viva Nicaragua (Carlos Arredondo); Picasso Paints Guernica (Robin Laing); Graves In Spain (Eileen Penman); When The Call Comes (George Archibald & Ian McCalman); Salud International Brigade (Jim Brown); Viva Los Brigadistas (Alison McMorland & Geordie McIntyre); Hasta Luego (Frank Rae); ¡No Pasaran! (Gallo Rojo); Hasta La Vista, Madrid (Iain Anderson)
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As part of Aberdeen City Arts Board’s Autumn Series, in conjunction with the Shared Planet Society, Mike Valance from Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Campaign talks about the Mexican Zapatista Movement at Belmont Cinema Café.
Mike Valance has spent time in the Chiapas region with the Zapatistas and has a detailed knowledge of the workings and history of the movement.
He will be selling a selection of goods produced by the Zapatistas after the event, the proceeds of which will help fund various projects in the autonomous Zapatista zones in Chiapas.
Background: On the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was due to be implemented in 1994, a guerrilla force calling itself the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (the EZLN, or ‘Zapatistas’), stormed five towns in Mexico’s Chiapas, taking the Mexican government by surprise. The Mexican army promptly deployed 15,000 troops in Chiapas to crush the uprising, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the execution of dozens of Zapatista prisoners.
The influx of Mexican troops was matched, however, by an influx of journalists, political activists and human rights workers from all over Mexico. News of the rebellion, and of the living conditions of many of the indigenous people, swiftly filtered out via the media and solidarity demonstrations subsequently took place all over Mexico, North America and the world.
Mexico’s business and political elite was terrified of the effect of the uprising on their NAFTA trading partners, and within 12 days a ceasefire was called with negotiations due to start in early February 1994. Mike will explore those beginnings and discuss the progress the movement has made over the last 18 years.
Following the latest, ongoing outbreak of Israeli violence against the people of Gaza, citizens of Aberdeen demonstrate their solidarity and support for those under attack. With thanks to Dave Black.
On Saturday 17 November, some 50 people gathered at short notice to show their support and solidarity for the people of Gaza, who are facing daily massacres at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force.
Meeting in Aberdeen’s St Nicholas Square, many carried flags or banners stating “Stand With Gaza” and “End Israeli War Crimes,” while shouts of “Free Palestine” rang in the air.
Powerful speeches were delivered by Brian Carroll (Aberdeen TUC President) and Tommy Campbell (Unite Regional Officer).
Veteran pro-Palestinian activist and member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace Hilda Meers gave the crowd a moving rendition of her poem Erasure – Death-Dance for a Palestinian Child.
Many passers-by stopped and took the time to sign a petition demanding Alec Salmond immediately halts any political and economic relationships with Israel until the oppression of Gaza has ended and the human rights of Palestinians are recognised.
Plans for taking forward solidarity with the people of Gaza will be progressed at a public meeting upstairs at the Belmont Cinema this Thursday 22 November at 7.30pm.
The agenda will include building towards an Aberdeen-Gaza Skype link-up at 2pm on 08 December at the University of Aberdeen’s MacRobert Building (room 613). This event is aimed at hearing directly the experiences of people in Gaza, forging links between activists and interested groups/individuals in Aberdeen and Gaza and looking at how these can be taken forward in the future.
ERASURE - Death-Dance For A Palestinian Child, As Seen On A Video From Gaza
(During the Israeli Cast Lead attack on Gaza, Israeli soldiers fired on Palestinian ambulances to prevent them carrying wounded civilians to hospital. Sixteen medics were killed, resulting in casualties being ferried in donkey carts).
See the donkey-cart driver
race along the road, fast, fast -
pulling up with a jerk, not a word,
now his journey’s done. .
See a mother leap out of the cart.
As she runs, runs, runs,
see her feet pound the ground,
the child in her arms so still, silent and still. .
A man comes at a run, running quick, quick,
he runs towards the woman,
his arms reach for the child who lies silent,
unmoving and silent in sheltering arms. .
Then turning, he runs, runs fast, quickly nears,
nearing the open door he surrenders the child
to other arms reaching, to bring help
for the child lying silent and still.
The Iraq war was rubber-stamped despite the wishes of protesting millions; the justification that then Prime Minister Tony Blair used was a report. This report had been notoriously ‘sexed up’ to the extent that the Americans refused to endorse it. Blair aide, the foul-mouthed Alistair Campbell, was one of the main editors of this ‘dodgy dossier’. Blair stood by its robustness. We all know better now. Suzanne Kelly examines the quality standards of the reports on which life-changing decisions are taken.
Closer to home, what kinds of reporting standards are we seeing? Very poor ones, I’m afraid.
A report prepared for Aberdeen FC’s stadium plans for Loirston included a lengthy commentary from MSP Brian Adam, who favoured the project.
Labour MSP Richard Baker’s comments against the stadium were excluded from this report, leaving it unbalanced. At the time, Kate Dean first insisted that Baker missed the deadline, but Baker proved otherwise. Dean later apologised, but by then, the hearing was long finished, and planning permission was granted.
PriceWaterhouse Cooper were hired as consultants for the City Gardens Project. They were paid out of public funds and Scottish Enterprise was involved in the invoicing arrangements.
PwC used a very small sample of business people in its research, yet somehow came to the conclusion that 6500 permanent new jobs would be created by the Granite Web and £122m would flow into Aberdeen every year until 2023, this also due to the Web. These figures were seized on by Vote for the City Gardens Project during the referendum and printed as if they were factual in VftCGP literature.
PwC did quite handsomely from the consultation (£41100 in March 2010, for example), and might well have gained further work from SE, the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust or other involved party, had the Web gone ahead.
When questioned as to the appropriateness of their projections being used in an advertising campaign during the referendum, PwC declined to comment, saying the work had been done for ‘a private client’ – despite the taxpayer picking up the bill.
Had the reports using these figures to justify the Web included further background on the statistics used, and details of the money already paid to PwC? For purposes of transparency and accuracy, one would hope so. See: PwC Invoices To Aberdeen Council
The report sealing the fate of Tullos Hill’s roe deer and many of its other former flora and fauna, was created by the City Council’s Peter Leonard, a senior civil servant in Housing, and by CJ Piper & Associates, an entity related to one Chris Piper, the man who stood to gain tens of thousands of pounds if Phase 2 of the Tree for Every Citizen scheme went ahead.
The report is riddled with bias, not least of which is the assertion that objections to the cull came from a ‘small but vociferous minority’. In reality, 2,500 people signed a petition handed to Aileen Malone, and three community councils representing tens of thousands of citizens, and animal charities including Animal Concern Advice Line and Scottish SPCA condemned the cull.
It would be bad enough if this kind of bias was an isolated event; it is not. We recently saw a report concluding that elected councillors were treating the city’s administration in a ‘bullying’ manner. The report also claims that councillors don’t fully understand what the administration does.
It is wholly one-sided, despite its assertions to the contrary. If it had been thorough, it surely would have picked up on the many failings of the unelected senior administration, such as the dubious reports going out from their departments.
Councillors on committees will all tell you that they have to make their votes based on the reports before them – reports that are almost all prepared by the administration. Most of these reports are required to adhere to values which have all but lost their meaning. Reports have to relate to ‘vibrant and dynamic’ aspirations, have to prove the programme in question will deliver ‘value for money’, and so on.
From national ‘sexed up’ reports to those on local issues, information given to those who have to vote on their contents must become more accurate and details of any consultants employed and those involved in preparation must be included in the contents.
At present, Aberdeen’s reporting system relies on a formula which is far from perfect.
There is always an opening section which requires the writer to say whether or not the proposal fits with ‘vibrant/dynamic’ and other archaic criteria. The report writer is supposed to indicate whether or not there are financial implications. In many cases, the financial implications are overlooked.
For instance, we were promised that the Tree for Every Citizen scheme was ‘cost neutral’. Even when the primary report’s author Pete Leonard surely realised the scheme was not cost neutral (ie when the £43800 refund was demanded for the failure of Phase I and when no sponsors came forward to pay for Phase 2 and its deer cull), no correction was publicly issued or sent to councillors on the Housing Committee.
The failures are mounting up.
Perhaps it is time for report writers to pay less heed to the existing report framework’s demands for rhetoric about ‘vibrancy’ and the like, and be required to ensure that all future reports include a form along these lines:
Editor(s) (if any changes made to original author’s report)
Company type: (sole trader, limited company, PLC)
Company registration no
Conflict of Interest Issues
Fee paid for assistance, consultancy, preparation of this report to date
Any additional fee to be paid specific to this report
Is there any likelihood the external preparer will be hired for further assistance if this report and/or its recommendations is accepted?
Estimate of the extent of further earnings the preparer could earn from acceptance of this report and/or its recommendations
Does this report contain any statement or input from a political party or politicians?
If so, have other parties been offered an opportunity to give their input?
Does the author, editor or preparer have any personal interest in the issues contained in the report?
Has the editor deleted any substantial part or parts of the original report? (if so, these must be listed)
Does this report cover all of the known, relevant factors pertaining to the issues?
Until we can rely on the information in the reports going to our elected officials, and the impartiality of those involved in preparing them, we will continue to have a flawed system subject to abuse. It’s time for a ‘vibrant and dynamic’ overhaul of our city’s reporting standards – if not the country’s.
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Suzanne Kelly, Chair of campaigning group ‘Democracy Watch’ called upon UK and EU regulatory agencies to investigate details of the proposed City Garden Project today. Citing both past invoices paid by the public worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and the revelation that leading businessmen plan to add £15 million towards the project’s estimated £140 million costs may have conflict of interest issues. The project is subject to a vote of the Full Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday 22 August.
Sir Ian Wood will ‘give’ £50 million to the City if it agrees to borrow £92 million more via Tax Incremental Funding to build a ‘Granite Web’ over the existing Victorian Union Terrace Gardens.
The subject has been voted down in a previous consultation, but narrowly passed a non-binding referendum exercise.
Labour promised that it came to power it would end the scheme; Labour duly gained a majority in the May elections
In correspondence today to regulatory entities and leading political figures, Kelly writes:-
“I would ask for an investigation into the situation in Aberdeen concerning the potential development of Union Terrace Gardens with regard to procurement issues and potential conflict of interests.
“I am not a legal professional, but it certainly seems to me that people who have or had influential posts on publicly-funded quangos might have used their roles to further their own interests – this should be investigated before any moves to proceed with the ‘City Garden Project’ are approved. The entire situation needs to be looked at in detail.
“Stewart Milne and Tom Smith have been actively pushing this scheme via their memberships and positions of influence in the publicly-funded Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future quango, ACSEF. Milne owns the ‘Triple Kirks’ site next to the proposed area of development. His land at present would be hard to develop or even access. If the development of UTG goes ahead, the Triple Kirks area could only increase in value; this is obvious.
“Milne would therefore likely stand to gain financially. How he has been permitted to act within his ACSEF role to further a scheme which seems set to enrich him – largely at the taxpayer’s cost – should be investigated. I did ask ACSEF to comment and they replied it was a matter for his conscience. When millions of pounds of public money and common good land are at stake, this is not nearly good enough.
“Tom Smith likewise has used his position in ACSEF to further the plan to build a ‘granite web’ over the gardens. He and Colin Crosby were the original directors of an entity set up named Aberdeen City Gardens Trust. The Trust would apparently wind up managing the garden development and be in a position to handle millions of pounds – yet Smith has been allowed to pursue a role in ACSEF which directly impacts on his ACGT entity.
“For reasons unclear to me, this Trust has been granted automatic rights to perform these valuable services without any tender exercise whatsoever being done. I cannot help but think this is against UK and EU procurement policies and laws.
“In the end, we have a situation where common good land, owned by the people of Aberdeen, is being considered for development simply because Sir Ian Wood will ‘give’ the city £50 million towards a building project there. He will not let us use this ‘gift’ on another site (the now vacant St Nicholas House would be one alternative); he will not entertain alternatives of any kind.
“This scheme will take a green park and its 250 year-old trees and turn it into a turfed-over concrete jungle – with an outdoor theatre directly in front of another theatre. The Aberdeen taxpayer is already subsidising two entertainment venues; using public funds to create a third is unacceptable. Wood may call this a ‘gift’’ I would personally call it ‘coercion.’
“I would also ask the relevant regulators to look at the various personnel overlaps between public and private sector groups influencing this scheme – a scheme which will still cost the taxpayer £92 million at current estimate – a scheme which does not yet have a timetable, actual budget or scope.”
Kelly campaigned as chair of ‘Democracy Watch’ in the local referendum, and had this to say:-
“Labour were sceptical over agreeing to a referendum; and having participated in the exercise, I see they were right. There was an unofficial group campaigning for the City Garden Project; and they bombarded the public with literature which I personally found misleading.
“I did try to complain to the Electoral Commission and to Advertising Standards, but neither could intervene in a referendum. There were glossy brochures, newspapers, print and radio advertising placed by this group which far exceeded the value that the official groups were allowed to spend. There were problems with the official material as well; the Green Party’s statement was cut off in the paper brochures for instance.
“But to tell the public that the web would create 6,500 new jobs as this literature did seems highly unlikely. I am told that some of the people behind this ‘unofficial’ group are also members of ACSEF and/or Aberdeen City Gardens Trust – possibly people who stand to gain financially from the project proceeding. This makes the entire referendum exercise a mere ‘he who spends the most wins’ exercise. I would ask the authorities which might look into my other concerns to look into this as well.”
“The vast sums of public money spent on PR, consultants and advertising to push this scheme could have gone on education and community projects. This city does not need to borrow £92 million to turn its green park into a construction zone and a potential ‘trams fiasco.’ This city does need its existing buildings occupied and unused brownfield put back into use. Businesses continue to operate here because of our industry.
“Unnecessary, grandiose building projects detrimental to the environment seem to me designed to enrich the rich at public expense: this scheme must be scrapped and the roles and actions of its powerful supporters examined.”
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At the next meeting of Aberdeen CND on Monday 10th April, Jonathan Russell, Chair of Aberdeen CND and also a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, will be leading a discussion on the Arms Trade. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm on the Top Floor of the Belmont Cinema, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.
The arms trade is a deadly, corrupt business. It supports conflicts and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources which could be used to deal with the many social and environmental challenges we face here on Planet Earth. It does this with the full support of governments around the world, in particular the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom.
These are the very countries which are meant to be our global custodians, but are in fact the very countries which are feeding global insecurity and conflict.
While very few countries sell large volumes of weaponry, the buyers are spread across the world. Other than to the five permanent UN Security Council members, the largest buyers are in the Middle East and South East Asia. The arms themselves range from fighter aircraft, helicopters and warships with guided missiles, radar and electronic warfare systems, tanks, armoured vehicles, machine guns and rifles.
The common misconception is that it is the illegal trade that is damaging, while the legal trade is tightly controlled and acceptable. However, the vast majority of arms sold around the world including those to human rights abusing governments or into areas of conflict are legal and are supported by governments. In 2007 the value of legal arms around the world amounted to 60 billion dollars. The illegal market is estimated at 5 billion dollars: many illegal weapons end up as legal weapons.
The arms trade exists to provide weapons to those who can pay for them. What the buyers do with the arms, what political approval the sales signify, and how money could be better spent appears irrelevant to the arms companies and our governments. The UK Government’s 2010 Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries of concern. In that year the UK approved arms licences to 16 of these.
There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.
David Cameron was in the Middle East on a high-profile mission to sell arms when the democracy movement started in the Middle East. Selling arms to a country in conflict whether internal or external makes the conflict more deadly and longer lasting.
If there is tension between countries or within a country, then arms purchases are likely to increase this tension and make actual conflict more likely.
Even when conflict has ended, arms, particularly small arms, may remain in large numbers (as in Libya at present), fuelling further conflicts and/or criminal activity.
Every year the UK Government authorises the sale of arms to well over 100 countries. This is hardly surprising given that it is Government policy to vigorously support arms exports. Peter Luff, Minister of Defence Exports in the present UK Government, has stated that:
“There’s a sense that in the past we were embarrassed about supporting defence exports. There’s no such embarrassment in this Government.”
Arms companies and Government are inseparable when it comes to selling arms. The Government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 the Government opened the Defence and Security Organisation which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. There are 158 civil servants in the Defence and Security Organisation while other non-arms sectors have137 staff. This is despite arms accounting for less than 1.5 Percent of UK exports.
• Arms export jobs as a percentage of total employment: 0.2%
• Arms as a percentage of exports: 1.5 %
• UK Government Research Expenditure Spent on Arms: 27%
• UK trade and investment staff committed to selling arms: 54%
Research carried out for Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) by the Stockholm International Peace Institute assesses the level of subsidy by Government to the arms trade in the UK to be around £700 million a year. In 2010 the UK Government issued 10,850 arms export licences, refused 230, and revoked 14.
Half of the refusals related to proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, with a maximum of 76 being revoked on the grounds that they contributed to internal repression, internal conflict or regional instability. Foreign office embassies also promote the arms sales, as do the Ministry of Defence armed services. Arms fairs are common in the UK and around the world. The governments of host countries provides support for their arms firms.
Arms sales from the UK seem to vary from year to year:
• 2007 9651 million (particularly high because of sales of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia)
• 2008 4367 million
• 2009 7261 million also high as included Typhoon support services to Saudi Arabia)
• 2010 5819 million
Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.
Columnist Will Self - “War, the arms trade and the abuse of language”
BAE arms are the UK’s main arms company and has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE’s focus over the past few years has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and supplying Euro fighters and other arms to Saudi Arabia. BAE routinely supplies countries which the UK Foreign Office considers as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns’.
The casualties of conflict are now overwhelmingly civilian, increasing from 50% of war related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90% near the end of the century.
The arms trade affects development both through the money wasted on arms purchased and through the conflicts fuelled by arms.
A study in 2007 by Oxfam of the economic cost of armed conflict to Africa estimated that Africa loses around 18 billion dollars a year due to wars and that armed conflict shrinks an African nations economy by 15%.
As well as the direct effects of military spending, medical costs and the destruction of infrastructure, there are indirect costs on the economy and employment suffers ( this does not take into account the countless human misery caused by loss of life and sustained injuries effecting families and friends as well as the individuals concerned).
The study estimated that the cost of conflicts in Africa since 1990 was equivalent to the aid provided to them by major donors.
Even when conflict is not taking place money diverted to arms is a drain on government resources and takes away from vital spending on health education and infrastructure. The massive 1998 South African arms deals for aircraft, helicopters, warships and submarines cost the country over £8billion. Yet most of the population live in shanty towns and other poor housing and South Africans with HIV/AIDS were told that the country could not afford ant-retroviral medication.
Despite desperate poverty and its recent appalling history of armed struggle, the UK government is actively promoting arms struggle to Angola. The UK government not only approved arms exports to Angola it actively organised an “industry day’’ when HMS Liverpool docked in Angola waters and hosted Angolan political and military officials.
The arms trade causes countless misery in our world; it is a poor use of limited resources which should be used to make this world a better place. We need to question the thinking in the world that believes you only get what you want by force. The five members of the Security Council should start taking on their responsibilities and use conflict resolution rather than warfare to sort the many conflicts that take place both between and within countries.