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Every Scottish political party supports Pope’s condemnation of ‘hypocritical’ arms-dealing countries

MSPs from every parliamentary party back Pope Francis' comments as bishop accuses UK arms policy of fuelling global conflict. — By Peter Diamond and Ryan McDougall

EVERY Scottish parliamentary party has given their support to Pope Francis after he said that countries that sell arms have no right to talk about peace.

On Monday the Pope said that countries who ‘help foment war in other countries should not expect to find peace in their own lands.’

The Pope’s comments have been backed by MSPs from across the political spectrum, the Campaign Against Arms Trade, and Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, who accused the UK of helping to fuel conflicts around the world through its arm exports.

Speaking on Monday April 1 to a Spanish news outlet, Pope Francis spoke about the Spanish government’s sale of weapons to the Saudi regime.

The Pope said that while he was saddened by the country’s action, Spain ‘isn’t the only country’ involved in arms dealing.

Countries that sell arms, he said, ‘have no right to talk about peace. They are fomenting war in another country, and then they want peace in their own land.’

Pope Francis added the trade has a ‘boomerang’ effect in which there’s always a price to pay when taking a life. “If you start war over there, you’re going to have it at home whether you want it or not.”


Ethical policy

Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of UK arms and since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Asked about the Holy Father’s remarks, Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles, a former soldier, defended the UK’s right to develop arms as part of a defence policy, but questioned the morality of current export policies.

“We ought to have an ethical foreign and defence policy where such arm sales to countries actively engaged in offensive war are forbidden,” he said.

“I am not arguing against developing arms for our own defence and that of our allies—after all I spent 15 years in the British Army before I became a member of the Scottish Parliament.

“I am however arguing that it is surely our moral duty to ensure that the arms that we develop and export are not used in aggressive wars such as we now see in Yemen.

“Pope Francis is correct to speak out and should be joined by everyone who has a voice. I am able to speak to my MP colleagues in Westminster about this while everyone can write or email their own representative.

“To paraphrase Edmund Burke… ‘For evil to prevail all it requires is for good people to do nothing.’

“Let us all do something about this and make our voice heard.”


Bishop’s response

The Bishop of Galloway Diocese and president bishop of Justice and Peace Scotland has also said that the UK ‘keeps alive conflicts throughout the world’ with its arms trade.

Bishop William Nolan of Galloway Diocese said: “Military spending worldwide is now over $1.7 trillion per annum. That is money that could better achieve peace by being spent alleviating poverty and tackling the injustices that are often the source and cause of conflict and war.

Bishop Nolan added: “The United Kingdom is a major supplier of arms and military equipment. The UK contributes to the global arms trade, which helps fuel, and keeps alive conflicts throughout the world.

“Many of the refugees risking life and limb to enter Europe and the UK are fleeing unjust oppressive regimes who purchase weapons from the West, or are trying to escape the horrors of conflicts and wars which are being fed by the arms industry.

“We should all urge our political and business leaders to make our economy less dependent on exporting arms and so help make the world a more peaceful place.”



SNP MSP John Mason said: “I agree very much with Pope Francis that the international arms trade should be hugely reduced, but I would not go as far as saying it should not exist at all.

“What I am against is the quantity of arms involved, in many cases, like Saudi Arabia, and the types of weapons, i.e. there should be no nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

“However, I do think a responsible country could manufacture and export arms while promoting peace at the same time.”

Scottish Conservative Glasgow MSP Annie Wells said: “Pope Francis is absolutely right to speak out on this matter.

“His views are important and much-needed, both within the Catholic community and in the political arena more generally.

“Of course, in an ideal world there would be no need for any country or government to acquire arms from another.

“And while history tells us it’s far from being that simple, every government has a responsibility to ensure that commodities its country is selling don’t end up being used in a barbaric and murderous way.”


Scottish Greens

Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said: “The Pope has, not for the first time, expertly highlighted the hypocrisy of nations like Spain—and the UK—who sell weapons to the world’s most brutal regimes while professing to be peacemakers.

“Even here in Scotland, the government gives millions of pounds of public money and free account management services to arms dealers like Fife-based Raytheon, whose products are linked to alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

“Continuing to do this robs the Scottish Government of any moral authority when they condemn the UK government for its support of Saudi Arabia.”

Scottish Labour

Labour MSPs Elaine Smith and Monica Lennon condemned the UK’s arms policy.

Mrs Smith said: “This is an important intervention by Pope Francis into the debate.”

She added that the UK ‘must stop exporting arms to Saudi Arabia’ given its ‘brutal campaign’ in Yemen.

Ms Lennon said the UK Government should ‘immediately suspend selling arms to Saudi Arabia, pending an independent investigation into alleged crimes during the conflict, and hold them to account.’

“The UK Government cannot possibly be a broker for peace when it continues to sell arms to the perpetrators of this war, whilst the people of Yemen are so desperately in need of aid.”



Last weekend the Sunday Mail newspaper reported that a publically funded bomb factory in Scotland was supplying arms to Saudi Arabia.

Raytheon, based in Glenrothes, Fife, makes laser-guided systems for smart bombs.

The Saudi-led coalition has used UK warplanes and Raytheon bombs part made in Scotland in a war against rebels in Yemen that has killed around 60,000 people since bombing began just over four years ago.

Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, told the SCO: “Pope Francis is right, it is impossible to promote rights and democracy at the same time as offering political and military support to despots and dictatorships.

“The Saudi regime is one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, but is also the larges buyer of UK-made weapons. It’s time for the government to finally stop putting arms company profits ahead of human rights.”

A spokesman for Justice and Peace Scotland said they fully endorse Pope Francis’ comments.

“It is deeply regrettable that the UK is one of those ‘other countries’ that the Holy Father referred to; who trade in weapons fomenting war in other countries while demanding peace in our own land,” he said.

“It is the worst hypocrisy that the government profiteers from providing the tools of war, whilst simultaneously refusing to do more to assist the victims of those wars; throwing up ever stronger borders and higher walls to prevent them seeking a place of safety.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Export licenses for arms is a reserved matter over which the Scottish Government has no control. It is the UK Government which has the power to end the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and it should do so now.”‎

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