Molly Harvey under arrest at Faslane Naval Base. Argyll & Bute, Scotland, February 2001
For all of our working lives – we are now both retired – we have been active especially in two areas of Scottish civil life: seeking the removal of weapons of mass destruction from our waters, and living and working alongside people living in poverty, especially in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Molly was for many years co-ordinator of a voluntary organisation supporting families living in poverty, and has been involved for decades in anti-Trident activity, including several arrests and a short spell in prison for refusing to pay a fine for 'breach of the peace' (sitting down at Faslane and taking part in a Communion service). John is a Presbyterian minister, and has served in parishes in areas of multiple deprivation.
Both of us are members of the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community committed to an integrated witness for peace, justice and the integrity of creation; we are also involved with the Poverty Truth Commission, which over the last five years has been bringing together people living in poverty and leaders of civic society, to work together at addressing issues connected with the persistence of the income gap and the unacceptable levels of poverty in Scottish society.
Neither of us is a member of any political party. We recognise that constitutional separation from the rest of the countries in these islands will not bring about any instant solution to either of these major concerns; and we understand that in the modern world there is no such position as complete independence – we are all dependent to a greater or lesser extent on each other. Nevertheless, we support the movement for Scottish independence for the following reasons.
An independent Scotland will build into its constitution the requirement that weapons of mass destruction can find no place within our borders. We are aware that there is no alternative site for them anywhere else within these islands. The removal of them from Scottish waters will therefore kick-start at last a serious look at how the rest of the UK can finally act more fully on its long-held commitment to a reduction of its weapons of mass destruction, as per the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.
Molly Harvey and her brother, Colin Douglas, Faslane protest against Nuclear Weapons, March 2012We are also aware that it has been estimated that the world is spending the equivalent of £30,000 a day since the birth of Christ on developing and maintaining weapons of mass destruction – weapons which not only can never be used, but which are increasingly recognised to be totally ineffective against the increasing variety of threats to the security of all our countries – weapons which have been consistently declared to be illegal by the International Court of Human Rights – and the cost of which is quite blasphemous when one considers the huge needs for food, shelter, and health throughout the world, not to mention the need to maintain properly equipped non-nuclear defence forces.
In relation to the second of our concerns, the need to tackle the poverty which still blights so many of our fellow citizens, clearly the release of money spent on weapons of mass destruction will help considerably – Molly has consistently argued that she would be failing in her duty to support families living on poverty if she did not oppose this appalling expenditure.
We recognise, however, that much more will need to be done to tackle poverty, and that to make any real and sustainable progress in this regard, simple constitutional change will not be enough. It will help that we will have the levers of economic and political power in our own hands, while at the same time recognising that in an interdependent world such power has always to be used in conjunction with international and multi-national bodies and corporations.
At present, for example, the disgraceful attack on the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens, through the so-called 'welfare reforms', is something we can do very little about; this could change with independence. What it will also require, we believe, will be an increased acceptance of responsibility at a personal and a local community level to address the growing inequality in our society; a responsibility which we have seen grasped in a number of ways already through bodies like the Poverty Truth Commission.
For too long, Scottish society has lurched between a dependency culture on the one hand and a scapegoating culture on the other. The vote on September 18th will entail risks, whichever way the decision goes. We see it as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take responsibility for ourselves, in this interdependent world, into our own hands; we believe that we have in Scotland both the personal and the corporate ability to attempt this with a reasonable degree of success.
We have to remember of course that even if we do get independence, we may not take this chance to make some difficult changes; but we believe that we have to take the risk. And we further believe that doing this will send an encouraging signal to other communities to follow suit, thus leading, hopefully, to a more appropriate sharing of power and responsibility all round, for the benefit of everyone living in these islands.
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