SNP anti-war campaigners demand end to Scottish public funding of arms merchants

Ben Wray

Anti-war campaigners demand Scottish diversification strategy

ANTI-WAR campaigners in the SNP have hit out at the Scottish Government as the row over public funding of the arms trade in Scotland escalates.

The debate kicked off after a special investigation by the Sunday Mail (19 August) uncovered Scottish Enterprise funding to Raytheon worth over £185,000 since 2014.

Guidance systems for Raytheon Paveway missiles, one of which is thought to have killed 51 and injured 79 in a Saudi attack on a school bus in Yemen, are produced at the US company’s plant in Fife.

Now anti-war SNP members are calling for the an end to public subsidies for arms firms. The SNP Neutral Scotland group, which campaigns for the party to adopt a stance of leaving the Nato military alliance, called on the Scottish Government to end its financial assistance to Raytheon.

A Neutral Scotland spokesperson said: “At a time when anti-war consciousness is growing faster than ever before, not only is it morally unacceptable that our party dole out handouts to arms manufacturers involved in Yemen, the bloodiest war happening as we speak – it is politically untenable.”

READ MORE: ‘People power works’: Peace campaigners welcome Glasgow council announcement of no more arms fairs

SNP MPs at Westminster have consistently criticised the UK Government for it’s military assistance to its ally Saudi Arabia.

Neutral Scotland said this was “right and proper” but that this had to be a consistent position.

The spokesperson said: “It is right and proper that we as a party rigorously oppose British arms sales to Saudi Arabia and RAF assistance to the Saudi military in their bombing raids – but that is not enough. It is ultimately with arms manufactured right here in Scotland that school buses full of children are blown up, and that cannot happen in our name.”

Concerns about the relationship between the Scottish Government and the arms industry were further heightened by revelations in the investigation that Paul Wheelhouse MSP, minister for energy, connectivity and the Islands, had requested that his visit to the Glenrothes plant went without communications.

Scottish Enterprise has defended its relationship with Raytheon on the grounds that funds go towards diversification away from the production of weapons.

In pictures and videos: #SinkUDT arms fair protest at Glasgow SECC

In a statement to the Sunday Mail investigation a Scottish Enterprise spokesperson said: “We do not provide financial support for the manufacture or export of munitions from Scotland.

“Our widely publicised work with Raytheon involves helping the company diversify into non-military, civilian applications.”

However Neutral Scotland rejected the significance of the intention behind the fund, as it would “still free up other funds for the company to invest back into the arms trade.”

The Common Weal think tank has argued that true diversification from the arms trade requires a national reorganisation of the economy, with a new framework designed to promote “socially useful production.”

Common Weal policy officer Linda Pearson told CommonSpace: “The Scottish Government has rightly called for an immediate end to British arms sales to Saudi Arabia but continues to subsidise arms giants like Raytheon through Scottish Enterprise grants.

“The government’s standard response to allegations of hypocrisy is that the grants are intended to help arms companies diversify and do not support the manufacture of weapons. However, in the absence of a national defence diversification strategy, such grants will simply free up money for Raytheon to spend on arms manufacturing, which accounts for 95 per cent of its business. 

“Scotland needs a national defence diversification agency and a clear strategy to transition the Scottish arms industry towards socially useful production. This should be developed with the input of workers, communities and industry and the new Scottish National Investment Bank could provide the investment required for the transition.”

Read more: As famine threatens Yemen following Saudi offensive on Hodeidah, campaigners demand UK ends its complicity

The debate has also seen a clash between Labour and the Scottish Government, with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard accusing the SNP of “saying one thing in opposition at Westminster but doing the opposite at Holyrood.”

Wheelhouse hit back by pointing to the publication of Scottish Labour funders in 1998, which show Scottish Labour accepting donations from Raytheon Systems Ltd.

A protest by a coalition of peace groups took place at the Raytheon site in Fife on Wednesday last week (15 August). A spokesperson for the protestors said they would return to the site to protest.

An increasingly brutal war has engulfed Yemen since 2015, when Saudi Arabia began an intensive bombing campaign along with allies against a Houthi rebel insurgency it saw as in the interests of rival power Iran. The UK has traditionally backed the Gulf dictatorships in this power struggle.

Picture courtesy of Felton Davis

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