Report from a campaigning workshop

The Scrap Trident Coalition was invited to run a workshop at the RIC conference held in Edinburgh on 20 February 2016. The workshop began with a brief introduction from representatives of Scottish CND, Edinburgh CND, Scottish Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Trident Ploughshares and the Stop the War Coalition who work together in the Coalition. The 80 or so people attending then split into two discussion strands – one on Trident Nuclear Weapons and one on the Middle East.

What follows is a report from the two Middle East discussion groups.

There was wide ranging discussion in both groups. We’ve grouped the questions raised and the points made under three headings, which we shared with participants at the start of the discussion.

  • What kind of materials and information do we need to get a greater understanding among wider layers of people about what’s going on in Syria and the Middle East?   Please give examples and ideas for where effective material already exists.

People made the point that there remains strong support for an anti-war position and distrust of the government. However, whereas there was a widely shared understanding of what was happening in Iraq in 2003 this is no longer the case.  Britain’s role in bombing is limited, although its remains actively engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as is in Syria. There is talk about a new bombing campaign in Libya. There is a need to support campaigning with clear and accessible information. This includes:

  • More information online that brings information together about UK involvement but that also highlights links in Scotland.
  • We need to link into the excellent information that the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has on Britain’s role in the arms business.
  • We should highlight and provide information on the arms industry in Scotland; Raytheon, Selex and the growth of companies like Lockheed in Scotland who are focus on data systems and the ‘soft’ IT focus end of the global arms business.
  • We need to provide information on pension fund investments by public sector organisations, universities etc. to support the growth of campaigns for disinvestment. We noted the lessons from and the links with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
  • We agreed that proactively seeking opportunities to speak to a wide range of groups should be a priority in building the anti-war movement. We felt it was particularly important to link up with Trade Unions where in some cases the argument that arms sales are necessary to support jobs is still used.
  • There was a contribution from a Kurdish campaigner who highlighted the way in which Turkey, Assad and IS are attacking the Kurds. Turkey is a NATO member and gets support from Britain.
  • We agreed on the importance of joint work with the communities from the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa who come to Scotland as refugees.

We noted that David Cameron like Blair and others conflates the ‘national interest’ with the interests of the big arms companies – there is a good example here from an interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khGa49rM6iM

The strongest theme coming out of both groups was the importance of information that helps people understand the issues and informs campaigning. We agreed to use develop the Scottish Stop the War website and social media presence to assist in the provision of useful and accessible information. 

  • In contrast to the rest of the UK the majority of elected politicians have taken an anti-war position. How can the anti-war movement in Scotland build on this?
  • There have been useful contacts with MSPs and their support helps to raise the public profile of campaigning. We agreed that it will be important to move quickly when the May election is over establish strong links of Middle East (and also Trident and Prevent).
  • Agreed that we should get Scottish MPs to take a strong position when Chilcott comes out.
  • We should continue the pressure on the Scottish Parliament to support and arms embargo on Israel.
  • Important to put pressure on the Scottish Parliament to halt military visits to schools which are on the increase again
  • War, refugees, racism/Islamophobia, civil liberties and austerity are interconnected and shape the kind of society we live in. Our response to all of this shapes the kind of future we will have. Another Scotland is possible – what should the campaigning priorities be for the anti-war movement in Scotland be?
  • We noted how war, refugees and the rise of racism and Islamohobia are interlinked and the importance of united campaigning.
  • We agreed on the importance of supporting the anti-racist demonstrations on March 19.
  • Prevent is now being actively rolled out in Scotland with the backing of the Scottish Government. It is based on deeply racist and Islamophobic assumptions about the origins and causes of terrorism.
  • We agreed on the importance of campaigning against Prevent. This means using very clear publicity that explains what it’s about. A small number of unions in the education sector are opposing Prevent – this should be supported and taken actively into other unions and sectors.

Notes produced by Edinburgh Stop the War

 

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