By Dr Lesley Morrison


LAST Saturday (October 24), on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the UN confirmed that the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) had been ratified by its 50th state party, Honduras, and will therefore enter into international legal force 90 days later, on January 22. This Treaty bans nuclear weapons production, testing, possession and use, along with other activities that could enable and assist anyone to acquire or use these weapons of mass destruction ever again.

International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Steering Group member and coordinator of ICAN in Scotland, Janet Fenton, summed up the feelings of many: “The Scottish Peace Covenant expressed our desire for a Scotland that can contribute to international peace and justice, rather than being a launch pad for waging war. Now that aspiration is within our grasp. The TPNW shows the will of the sane majority of the world, and will ensure that we have unambiguous protection under international law when we stand strong in demonstrating our desire for nuclear disarmament and peace.”

Dr Rebecca Johnson, first president of ICAN welcomed the treaty. “It exists now because of 75 years of humanitarian activism, from the “Hibakusha” and indigenous survivors of nuclear weapons and testing, to the Aldermaston marchers and Greenham Common Peace Women who helped to ban nuclear testing and get cruise missiles banned and off the roads.”

Since its inception in the early 1980s, Medact, then the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), has been working to rid the world of nuclear weapons and to make the world a better, fairer, safer place. IPPNW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 and the work has continued since with Medact, including Medact Scotland, a partner organisation of ICAN which, in 2017, was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize..

As coordinator of Medact Scotland I am delighted that, as a culmination of the hard work of many, many organisations, politicians and committed individuals, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been ratified. Amidst all the dire threats to the climate, freedom, democracy and epidemic safety that we, as the international community, are dealing with at the moment, this is a piece of extremely positive news. When, in 90 days, the treaty comes into force, the world will have taken a major step away from the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

I have rarely been prouder to be part of the international peace movement. The ratification of this treaty shows that good can prevail over malice, and that the international community can come together effectively, despite forces trying to thwart it, to prioritise safety and compassion. Sadly, existing nuclear weapons states, including, shamefully, the UK, have for the most part refused to engage with it and the US has even attempted to pressurise states that have already ratified to withdraw.

But it is now possible to imagine the day when the world will be free of weapons of mass destruction. As health professionals, it is our duty to care, not only for individual patients, but for the wider international community and the planet, and to engage in the work to eliminate weapons which would destroy it. There is a lot of work still to do but, today, we have a lot to celebrate.

Dr Lesley Morrison is a retired GP and coordinator of Medact Scotland