By Beatrice Fihn and Dr Michael Orgel

THAT nuclear weapons are now illegal may well have passed some Scots by. After all, mainstream media didn’t exactly make a fuss about it. Yet there has been opposition to the nuclear weapons based in the Clyde for the half a century or so they have menacingly been situated there. "Ordinary" Scots, civil society, the STUC, Scotland’s churches, the Scottish Parliament and many of Scotland’s MPs have spoken out, demonstrated and campaigned against them both because of the existential risks they represent and the conviction that the funds invested in them could be better used to build back better and fairer from the pandemic.

And then in January, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into legal effect. The treaty makes it clear that no activities assisting the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons are permitted.

So what now? Those weapons are not only still sitting in the Clyde, but the Westminster Government is determined to renew them. Its recent decision to increase the UK’s number of nuclear weapons by up to 40% is a dangerous and provocative move.

The Scots who have taken a stand against nuclear weapons may not be aware how their personal savings and pension contributions are contributing to Trident renewal, and to other nuclear weapons programmes. It is our money – our savings, our pension funds – that finance the companies making nuclear weapons that threaten our planet. The 19 million NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank customers probably don’t know that the group lent £1.6 billion to 11 companies involved in the French, British and American nuclear arsenals.

From NatWest’s recently-released annual report it is clear that the outstanding loans to these 11 companies are just a drop in the ocean and terminating them now is not likely to make a significant difference to NatWest’s bottom line. Now there’s a chance for change.

NatWest Group is updating its investment policies. That’s why the Church of Scotland, numerous Scottish trade union councils and dozens of other civil society organisations joined a call to NatWest Group to make sure no companies involved in any nuclear weapon programmes can borrow money.

Other big financial institutions, like KBC Group, already recognise that nuclear weapons are illegal under international law and issued statements showing they are in compliance with the new treaty. NatWest has the chance to change its policy and reflect the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons makes nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

The group has committed to “work responsibly” with clients and customers “to encourage sustainable practices and enable economic activities that create shared prosperity for current and future generations”.

Prosperity is not bought by nuclear bombs, nor by spending our money on weapons that are outlawed. NatWest has the chance to take concrete steps toward joining the Scottish people in building a responsible and sustainable future with investments in products and communities that build up our world, and avoiding weapons that risk ending it.

Beatrice Fihn is Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Dr Michael Orgel is a member of Medact Scotland