Irvine Times column, 25 September 2018

Last week I contributed to a debate in the Scottish Parliament to tie in with the International Day of Peace 2018, for which the theme was “The Right to Peace—The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”.

I believe that the Declaration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in Paris in 1948, remains as relevant today as when it was first adopted, especially Article 3 which states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the Declaration does not include an article on a right to peace, and for this reason, we were this year asked to consider what a right to peace might entail.

For me, a right to peace means a right to an absence of violence or war, and to a just and equal society where everyone can achieve their full potential, where no-one is left behind, and where we help, nurture and protect those who need it the most. As individuals, we must always seek peaceful resolutions for conflicts in our everyday lives, prevent injustices within groups of friends, and speak up when others are at risk, wherever this may occur. Human rights are everyone’s rights, and we must all continue to stand up for them every day.

To help build a more peaceful society we must equally continue to address violence and its many causes, and in a separate debate this week, I was pleased to see the Scottish Parliament acknowledge Scotland’s progress in turning around its record on violence over the last decade.

Much of this success lies with the Violence Reduction Unit, established in 2005. Comprised of researchers, police officers, civilian staff and former offenders, it uses a public health approach to tackle violence in all its forms. It has been so successful that London has announced that it will follow Scotland’s lead, to adopt prevention activity such as early education and intervention, alongside appropriate law enforcement where essential.

To build further on this success, I am absolutely delighted that our Government is extending a Violence Reduction Unit initiative called the Navigator Project, with ‘navigators’ soon to start work in Crosshouse Hospital. Navigators work to break the cycle of violence for individuals, and ease the pressure placed on the NHS through early intervention. They talk to patients affected by violence and use a wide range of contacts, services and resources outside the emergency room to offer help and support, to change people’s lives. I wish the hospital’s new navigators the best of luck with their task. 

This week, I also attended a meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Nuclear Disarmament, which heard from both peace campaigners from Scotland and International visitors .

It is a national disgrace that the UK has not signed up to United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, established last year as the first legally binding international agreement committing its signatories not to hold, develop or test nuclear weapons.

With Scotland being the country in which the UK hosts its nuclear deterrent, a well-attended rally at Faslane at the weekend reminded the world that Scotland remains vehemently opposed to the obscenity of nuclear weapons – something I will personally continue to oppose at every available opportunity.