SNP-led council accused of trying to “whitewash” arms fair

Ben Wray

Council deputy leader refused to rule out future arms fairs in the city

CAMPAIGNERS have accused the SNP-led Glasgow City Council of trying to “whitewash” an arms fair set to take place in the city.

The Underwater Defence Technology (UDT) exhibition will be held at the city’s SEC from 26-28 June.

Its lead sponsors, BAE Systems and Babcock International, are responsible for the development of the UK’s Trident renewal programme, and the front-page of the UDT website uses a picture of an Astute Class Submarine at Faslane Naval Base to promote the event.

The exhibition came under renewed criticism earlier this week due to its ties to the Israeli military, which has attacked and killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza injuring thousands more since protests began on the 30 March.

READ MORE: Pressure on Glasgow council to rethink arms fair renewed amid Israeli state violence

At the monthly full city council meeting yesterday [17 May], Green councillor Jon Molyneux asked the SNP administration whether it was appropriate to support the conference given the Council’s stated opposition to nuclear weapons since its “main sponsors are both involved in the Trident renewal programme?”

Deputy leader and head of Glasgow Life councillor David McDonald responded by stating that UDT “did not feature any discussion of the Trident Replacement Programme”, adding that it was a “technical exhibition and conference for underwater technology, defence and security. It includes topics that range from acoustic modelling through to energy conservation and its use in underwater environments.”

Molyneux responded by asking the deputy leader whether he acknowledged “the public outcry” over the event, and whether the Council, which currently has no policy on which types of events to host, will be developing a “ethical policy” for future events.

McDonald said the council would be developing a policy on what events it would like to host, but refused to rule out more arms fairs in the future, stating hosting conventions was good for Glasgow’s economy and therefore the Council would not commit to “take any decision which undermines those jobs or future prosperity”.

But campaigners have slammed the councillor’s response, saying he refused to acknowledge the “reality of the event”.

READ MORE: £320m in arms sales to Israel since 2014 render UK ‘complicit’ in Gaza atrocities, campaigners argue

A spokesperson for Campaign Against the Arms Trade in Scotland said: “The council are trying to whitewash what is clearly an arms exhibition. The depute leader mentioned acoustics and energy conservation but decided not to mention other listed topics such as Weapons and Weapon Systems, Weapon Training and Torpedoes. The council is not facing up to the reality of the event.

“Arms companies involved in this fair sell weapons to countries with terrible human rights records such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. The conference also features an exhibition from Israeli arms firm DSIT, who have many links to the Israeli Navy, Air and Defense Forces.

“Many members of the SNP are now calling for the council to drop their support for this event. It is plainly clear the people of Scotland and Glasgow do not want arms and weapons paraded here by the makers of the new Tomahawk nuclear missiles. The council simply have to drop their support.”

Jay Sutherland of Scotland Against Militarism stated that the campaign group against military recruitment in schools “was shocked at the SNP group’s comments affirming their support for an industry which has killed millions.”

“We will be taking bold actions in the upcoming month to try and ensure that the council and the SNP drop it’s support for the event,” Sutherland added.

After the meeting, councillor Molyneux told CommonSpace that “the SNP position on this is still really confused”.

“Councillor McDonald said he would address my call for an ethical events policy, in the coming weeks, which is very welcome.  But it’s not clear whether that will have any bearing on Council support for next month’s event. We need clarity on that urgently. 

“Also, if McDonald now agrees there is a need for an ethical events policy, why not come out and admit that’s because the Council has got it wrong in supporting this particular event.  

“Instead he chose to defend the arms fair, effectively arguing it is mostly harmless. The SNP can’t have it both ways; claiming an ethical foreign policy and anti-nuclear stance whilst defending cosy corporate get-togethers for arms companies, Trident architects and their elite clients.”

Musician and prominent Yes campaigner Pat Kane tweeted his disbelief about the event on Thursday, asking council leader Susan Aitken: “What the actual fk?!!”

Campaign groups, including Scottish CND and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, have called for a large scale demonstration on 26 June, the opening day of the conference.

BAE Systems is a major supplier of arms to the Saudi Arabian regime which has been accused of violating international law in its bombing of Yemen, as well as the Israeli military, which the UN this week accused of “outrageous human rights violation”.

Professor Nick Grief, a member of Kent Law School and barrister at the bar from Doughty Street Chambers, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that there was a growing case for Israel leader Benjamin Netanyahu to be brought before the Geneva Convention for war crimes, something the UN International Criminal Court has been officially examining the evidence for since January 2015.

“’wilful killing’ and ‘wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health’ are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention – war crimes.” Professor Nick Grief

Grief said: “As the occupying power, Israel has a legal obligation to protect the people of Gaza, not to endanger or worse still take their lives.

“Although Israel has the right of self-defence, using lethal force in the absence of an immediate threat to life is wholly excessive, neither necessary nor proportionate, and thus a flagrant breach of international law.

“In particular, it violates Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the International Court of Justice has confirmed applies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory) which declares that ‘No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life’.

“Furthermore, ‘wilful killing’ and ‘wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health’ are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention – war crimes.”

Israel Defence will be a media partner for the event, while other exhibitors include Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin, also major arms suppliers to Israel. The Israeli government has been an official participant in previous UDT events.

Picture courtesy of waldopepper