I GREW up in the shadow of nuclear extinction. My mother was a prominent peace campaigner, and much of my childhood was spent attending demonstrations against nuclear weapons in the Clyde and elsewhere. People said it was a waste of time, but it did achieve some notable results.

The 1987 peace accord between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, which banned the use of Intermediate Nuclear Weapons (INF), wasn’t a direct result of peace marches. But the then Soviet leader always praised the Western peace movement for keeping the issue alive in the 1980s. Public intellectuals, like the historian EP Thompson, ensured that voters fully understood that the nuclear arms race had only one finish line: Armageddon. Politicians listened, and at least paid lip-service to nuclear disarmament.

Now, that very 1987 INF treaty has been torn up by President Trump. We are back in a full-on nuclear arms race – only in some respects it is more dangerous this time, because there is less public awareness of the risks. Mikhail Gorbachev, and even Ronald Reagan in retrospect, were reasonable statesmen, capable of understanding their responsibility to posterity and willing to compromise. Their modern equivalents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, are irresponsible and bellicose populists, who see their weapons as an extension of national virility.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump blame each other for restarting the Cold War. The Russian president has been boasting all year about his new “invincible” ICBMs and medium-range missiles, like the Novator 9M729, which is clearly a breach of the INF Treaty. Mr Putin justifies this by pointing to how, in 2002, George W Bush pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a move which was regarded as a direct threat to Russia. In reality, both countries are looking over their shoulders at China, which wasn’t a signifiant player in the last Cold War, and has never been a signatory to the INF.

But what’s particularly worrying about this recent escalation of the nuclear threat is that there’s been very little public reaction to it. Curiously, the threat of nuclear war, which in the 1980s inspired popular culture with films like When the Wind Blows, The Day After and Threads, is not seen by the Twitter generation as an existential threat. With the focus on #metoo and the politics of race and identity, nuclear disarmament doesn’t get much of a look in. Yet the fact that nuclear extinction could be only 10 minutes away makes the safe space movement on university campuses look almost comically beside the point.

People simply don’t believe that nuclear war is a real threat. Yet, the reintroduction of short and medium-range nuclear weapons, as well as anti-ballistic missiles, makes the possibility of nuclear war in Europe much greater. It compresses reaction time and is leading to nuclear arsenals being put on “automatic”, with the risk that computers will ultimately make the decision about how and when to respond to a perceived threat. The computers may be better than in the 1980s, but that is small consolation. The prospect of nuclear arsenals being placed under the effective control of artificial intelligence is straight out of Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Also, unlike in the 1980s, there is an actual shooting war taking place in Europe, in the Ukraine, between supporters of Nato and revanchist pro-Russian militias. We saw the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Baltic countries have been inviting in Nato troops as a show of force against Russian expansionism. No one is suggesting that a nuclear war is imminent, but what we used to call the “balance of terror” has been upset. Russia is no longer a super-power, but it retains a super-power nuclear arsenal, and has an insecure leader who is more likely to use it.

Scotland remains, as always, very much on the nuclear front line. We host Nato’s strategic deterrent in the Trident/Vanguard submarines based in Faslane. There are probably more nuclear warheads targeted near Glasgow than near any other major city on earth. Convoys transport nuclear warheads on a regular basis between Coulport and the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, using public roads. There have been numerous minor collisions and mechanical failures, but the Scottish public appear largely unconcerned about weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde.

Yet, back in the early 1980s, unilateral nuclear disarmament was THE key political issue. It divided the Labour Party from top to bottom and was the decisive issue in the 1983 General Election. Under Tony Blair, Labour’s anti-nuclear policy lapsed, and you might have thought it would have revived under Jeremy Corbyn, since he’s a lifelong supporter of CND. But that is not the case. In the 2017 General Election, Labour’s manifesto made clear its commitment to like-for-like replacement of the four nuclear-armed submarines and to a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. What divides the Labour Party today is a row over anti-Semitism.

The Scottish National Party remains the only major party still committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Nicola Sturgeon reaffirmed this at the SNP conference this year. But even in the SNP, unilateralism is no longer a hot-button issue, and many in the party will tell you that they expect Trident to remain in the Clyde for some years after independence. The party has also abandoned its opposition to membership of Nato – a nuclear alliance – and agreed that an independent Scotland would fulfil its commitments.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament remains a significant presence in Scotland. It organised a 600-strong “Nae Nukes” march in Faslane only last month. But the issue has not captivated the media – mainstream or social – in the way it did 35 years ago, when the threat was arguably less than it is today.

Of course, it takes time for public opinion to catch up with developments. Many still believe that the threat of nuclear war ended with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But we are entering a new age of nuclear confrontation dominated by political figures who simply cannot be trusted to see the folly of actually using weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps it’s time to dust off those Ban the Bomb banners.