By Bob Smith.
A committee made up o MSPs
An American chiel named Carusone
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
By Bob Smith.
A committee made up o MSPs
An American chiel named Carusone
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
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.
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.
Self-outed, unfit men of a certain age with a higher-than-is-strictly-good-for-you Body Mass Index have been gathering at all SPL clubs and Hamilton Accies to take part in a health and fitness programme allied to research being carried out by the Medical Research Council and universities. A participating Voice contributor reports, between gulps of oxygen and mouthfuls of bananas.
About fifteen of us gather every Tuesday at Pittodrie with community coaches Jason and Scott, weigh ourselves, discuss topics such as food intake, mild exercising and the downsides of booze. Everyone has a pedometer with weekly targets on step count.
Last week, following the previous session’s discussions on calorie intake and fat-burning, the pre-session chat was like an edition of ‘Loose Women’ as hairy men discussed the relative merits of low-fat yoghurt and M&M addiction.
Said one participant:
“Of course, I’ll go home and tell the wife that we spent the time talking about last week’s Dons game”
We all knew what he meant.
There’s a superb atmosphere of mutual support for our shared pursuit. Each participant knows what 5% and 10% weight losses will mean personally. Hard work goes on between weekly sessions to reach and exceed step count targets, to avoid industrial estate cheeseburger vans and to reduce the five pints/steak pie matchday ritual.
The track around The Hallowed Turf is ours for the evening to increase that step count. That’s also a time to chat to new friends about our efforts in the previous week and make obscene gestures to the empty away section on each circuit. Old habits die hard.
In the concourse of the Richard Donald Stand, Jason and Scott introduce us to simple exercises to aid fitness and increase strength and suppleness. Rudimentary football drills also feature, but Craig Brown has yet to pop his head round the door and say,
“You’re just what I’m looking for son, you’re partnering Verno upfront on Saturday”.
We’re nearly halfway through the programme, the second that has been run by the Dons Community Department this season. The previous group still meets on a Monday evening to exercise and play mildly strenuous 5-a-side. Some from the current programme have joined them and have been made welcome.
The encouragement and enthusiasm is phenomenal, the laughs many and the dedication remarkable considering we all have day jobs, family commitments and the temptation to lounge on the settee watching Corrie when we really should be strolling around the suburbs overdriving the pedometer.
All results are confidential to the participants and the researchers, but of course we all share our step count and our weight loss, if any.
The current programme completes at the end of April. You’ll hear from me again then.
People in Aberdeen are being asked to support the British Heart Foundation’s biggest ever fundraising appeal – Mending Broken Hearts – by organising a local fundraising event or by volunteering their time to help raise money.
The Appeal was launched to mark the charity’s 50th anniversary this year.
Kathy McIlwaine, local BHF Scotland Volunteer Fundraising Manager, says:
“We are urgently looking for big-hearted locals to support BHF Scotland by organising their own fundraising event. There are so many different ways to get involved, and we can help you get started. You can support us however you want to – we have had lawnmower races, sponsored silences, zumbathons. Just tell us what you want to do and we’ll support you.
“We’ve all been touched by heart disease in some way, and we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the most ground-breaking, innovative and important achievements in heart research over the past 50 years without your help. If you feel inspired then please pick up the phone or drop me an email to get involved. We want to see you involved in our biggest ever fundraising appeal, helping BHF Scotland make history.”
The goal of the Mending Broken Heart Appeal is simple: to fund the research that could begin to ‘mend broken hearts’ in as little as 10 years and save and improve the lives of millions within decades. There is currently no cure for a broken heart.
This ground-breaking research can change that and help researchers learn how to teach the heart to ‘heal itself’.
In order to do this the charity needs to spend £50 million on the research to repair damaged hearts. The hope is, if it can get the money, it could be funding trials with heart failure patients in as little as five years. That’s why local support is so vital. Every person in Aberdeen really can make a difference and help give hope to millions.
If you would like to find out more about organising your own 50th anniversary fundraising event, or are interested in volunteering for BHF Scotland, please contact Kathy on 01466 740375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org today. Because together we can beat heart disease, for good.
For more information about the BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, visit bhf.org.uk/mbh
Nuclear Power has always been a contentious issue. There have always been advocates for and against. International concerns about Climate Change, an impending energy crisis and the nuclear accident in Japan have highlighted the issues concerned. Jonathan Hamilton Russell writes.
This followed a Government White Paper in 2003 which had concluded that Nuclear Power was not an Economic Option. Several days after the Sustainable Development Commission reported, Tony Blair announced that Nuclear Power was to be an essential component of our future Energy Provision.
Recently high profile environmentalists James Lovelock and George Monbiot have been converts to Nuclear Power given their concerns about Climate Change and the resulting requirements to cut back on Carbon omissions.
The SNP have long championed alternative energy and have been against Nuclear Power, as have the Scottish and English Green Parties, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Jonathon Porritt, who was sacked as the chair of the Sustainable Development commission still sees alternative energy and energy conservation as the way forward.
We have had until recently a bonanza of cheap energy in Scotland and the UK and the public has become used to cheap energy and the ability to regularly drive, fly and live and work in centrally heated buildings. This situation will soon end. The reality of peak oil and the need to import Russian Gas have yet to be admitted to the public by most politicians, and the expectations of the general public is that the status quo remains. Whatever decisions are made, there will be inevitable opposition to both nuclear power and alternative energy. Climate Change has already gone down the political agenda.
We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear
The costs of producing both Nuclear Power and Alternative Energy will be much higher than present costs and will require both increased public subsidy and will mean rising costs for the consumer. The costs are likely to reduce as we become more expert at production of nuclear or its alternatives.
The costs of South Korea’s Nuclear Reactors went down by 28% by the time they produced their 7th and 8th Reactors.
Safety measures have improved – the Reactors in Japan are 40 years old – and the safety technology no longer requires power from outside. However, the risk of human error intentional or otherwise and unknown hazards still exist. The costs of insurance are high and do not include de-commissioning. The potential hazards of storage of spent Uranium still remain to be seen. Only three councils have agreed to storage underground – all three being in Cumbria.
There is however still uncertainty of risk in relation to this method of storage. Storage and waste costs still have to be borne by government. Increased use of Uranium will lead to shortages as estimates are that about 100 Years worth still remain, and when it runs out what will happen?
There are concerns and restrictions in many countries regarding the mining of Uranium, and Kazakhstan – a Muslim country on Iran’s border – has the main stocks. The costs of Uranium are likely to increase if there is more demand. There has historically been considerable contamination of local communities when mining has taken place, and even with greater safety measures some risks will remain.
The alternative is increased energy conservation and the use of renewables. As identified by the Sustainable Development Commission the UK – and in particular Scotland – has the potential with tidal energy, wind power, carbon capture, waste and power, and solar developments to cover our energy needs.
However there are challenges. We have failed to invest and research sufficiently, concentrating our efforts on oil, gas and also nuclear. There would have to be significant resources put into research and design, and if we were also putting our efforts into nuclear then opportunities with renewable would be lost.
The recession will mean there is less money to invest. A much better use than cutting the cost of petrol in the long term would have been to use the money from taxing oil companies to pay for the development of renewable energy resources.
There has been significant public opposition both to nuclear and wind developments. The Crown Estate commission has powers in relation to developing resources at sea which would have to be overcome.
The North-East of Scotland has a huge potential for the development of renewable energy and the area would benefit from more focus on its development. The main problem I would suggest in relation to our future energy provision, is public expectations and politicians needs in terms of re-election. People have become used to private transport and cheap central heating and whichever way we go will be unpopular.
My own conclusion is, that spending on Nuclear Energy developments will divert money that could be spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is a challenge in relation to needs in terms of peak usage – such as before Christmas – but these could be overcome by us linking into a European network of energy.
In historical terms Nuclear Power is just another short term fix whilst the opportunity of renewable energy will always be with us. In some countries which are landlocked, Nuclear may be the only possible route but given what has happened in Japan potential risks of location would have to be taken into account.
Pictures: © Mark Rasmussen | Dreamstime.com, © Devy | Dreamstime.com
Two brave, possibly crazy, volunteers from Aberdeen have decided to take part in the annual Mongol Rally by driving a car from the UK to Mongolia for charity. These two heroic souls are Brian Youngson and Pete Harper, both members of local band Deadloss Superstar.
So what has inspired a student and a gig promoter to take part in such an exciting, yet dangerous challenge? Aberdeen Voice’s Ross Cunningham met Brian, intrigued to find out more.