March 13th 2016. Lord’s Day – as Pepys would say. To Dunblane Cathedral. Nothing special about that. I always go if I’m within coo-wee (Kiwi expression). Well, something special after all. It is twenty years, to the day, since the Dunblane massacre.
The town was not taking any official notice of the day. Yet I can hardly think it coincidental that the cathedral was packed. The minister did make a short, dignified statement, culminating in a two minute silence. And the organist, a master musician, played, on the magnificent Flentrop organ, the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, by J S Bach.
After the Dunblane massacre, the UK introduced some of the strictest gun control laws in the western world. Have they worked? It’s an impossible question. All one can say is, with the occasional setback, so far, so good. Today, in Scotland, firearms account for just 2% of all homicides. In the USA, they account for about 70% .There, there are over 300 million firearms; 8,855 people were shot dead in 2012. Thanks to The Sunday Herald for these statistics.
Something else caught my eye in the papers this week. In yesterday’s National, there was a brief report that on Thursday a 77 year old Glasgow pensioner had been arrested for lying down on the road in front of a convoy conveying nuclear warheads through central Scotland. This is Brian Quail. Mr Quail is well known to readers of The Herald because he writes letters of the utmost eloquence on the imperative necessity that we get rid of Trident. I take my hat off to Mr Quail, a man who does not merely express his opinion, but who lives it out. He reminds me of the man who stood in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square. I find it ironic that he has been charged with “breach of the peace”.
Mr Obama is tearing his hair out because he cannot persuade the American people that the National Rifle Association has got it all wrong. Meanwhile here in Scotland the notion of having a population that is essentially disarmed is generally acceptable to all. Should we not take this further, and not merely ban handguns, but ban the bomb? Mr Quail thinks so, but for the most part he is a lone voice in the wilderness. The current government policy (Westminster government, Defence being a reserved matter) is that Trident be renewed for the next 50 years at a cost variously estimated at between 100 billion and 160 billion pounds. The argument is that nuclear “deterrence” has kept the peace now for over 70 years. Campaigners for unilateral nuclear disarmament are characterised as being well-meaning but hopelessly naïve, and ultimately dangerous.
Yet little is said about the dangers of having these hellish contraptions on our doorstep. I have no doubt that people of less noble intent than Mr Quail will have read the report in The National, and thought, well, if a 77 year old Glasgow pensioner can stop a nuclear convoy that easily…
It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.