A message from Karine Polwart came in on the Nae Nukes Day, it was good to know we were in her thoughts – and Sylvia Mc Gowan chose to sing “Better Things”,the song Karine wrote and gifted to Scotland’s For Peace about Trident replacement and so her spirit was very much in the air, and I remembered her performance at Celtic Connections the day Donald Trump was inaugurated.
But the 22nd was not a day for politicians though several were there as citizens of the Scotland they chose to represent. There were the international campaigners many from the other nuclear-armed states which, like the UK have chosen to ignore the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted last year at the UN. They came to support Scotland in standing firm in the face of the UK’s intransigence, and to make it clear that it is not Scotland that holds a minority, out-of-step view, but the UK’s government at Westminster. And there are plenty who believe that Scotland’s view must prevail if we are to survive. A celebration, albeit around a sombre topic.
Jackie Kay welcomed our guests, talking about her childhood with her intrepid campaigning parents who had been arrested and taken her on marches and in her unmistakably measured clear voice she made the whole idea of nuclear disarmament as sensible as wearing your wellies when it is raining. How ably she was supported by Kathy Galloway, with the message very clearly about the yearning from Scotland for peace, common sense, and for sharing and supporting each other. A Polis said to me at one point that he thought he was at a party rather than a protest, and Russian academic Ekaterino Mikhaylenko quoted the Scottish Peace Covenant, which states how we ‘desire to contribute to international Peace and justice, rather than being a launch pad for waging war’ in her presentation a few days before in a panel discussion. She may set it as an essay topic for her students when she returns to her academic life on the far side of the Ural mountains. Eileen Penman was there singing as well, and of course Penny Stone, the whole of Protest in Harmony doing an ICAN can can,. That made its mark for Vicky Elson and Tim Wallis from Nuclear Ban dot US who performed a rap about nuclear divestment and by the time they spent a bit of time with Protest in Harmony at Rab Ha’s in Glasgow later that night, they had an air to sing it in future.
Maaike Beenes from the Netherlands became very involved with the twenty foot long Nessie that led off the walk and she still managed to inform Scotland about how the people in her homeland had forced their Government to attend the Treaty negotiations and Reiner Braun from Germany gave an inspiring and encouraging address to close the rally on the theme of solidarity, democracy and upholding our shared hopes for peace. Then the Gairloch Horticulturalists did an unscheduled and very welcomed tribute to Abba. Before that, Rebecca Johnson, ICAN founding chair had displayed the Nobel Peace medal and had brought a group from the ICAN partners to the stage including Allison Pytlak of Reaching Critical Will, the women’s peace organisation that had worked so hard to ensure that civil society was heard at the negotiations, and my son Adam Holmes told us he didn’t do protest songs but quoted Pete Seeger ( “a lullaby is a propaganda song”) before he sang, while Willie Sinclair and Pauline Bradley reminded us that protest songs are indeed traditional on the Clyde, and one of our US friends Anthony Donovan produced his moothie so there was plenty of music. When Sharon Dolev from Israel expressed her hope that Scotland could be the first country that would succeed in disarming a nuclear-armed state, she made it sound as though we could pull it off next week.
Four days later was the UN Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, just after the anniversary of the TPNW opening for member states to sign, and new states signed on so that we now have 60 signatures (10 more than the number required for entry-into-force) and 19 of them have ratified already so our objective for the treaty to enter into force by 2020 appears to be well on track. And we are counting, and then the tsunami in Indonesia…
The world turns and we realize that we are chasing rainbows, looking inwards to understand what we might have or offer, sometimes that means to let go, and other days it can be to try harder to do some thing that is not directed to the big questions, just the simple tending of the hearth, the child, the beggar, the exhausted waitress, the lost traveller. When that is what we can attend to, it can trouble and comfort in equal measure.
Janet Fenton 1 October 2018