‘No Authority Which Cares for its Citizens Can Afford to Ignore the Threat’: Scotland and the Nuclear Free Local Authorities Organisation Since 1980

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


There is a strong global connection between SRT and environmental justice (see for instance DI Chiro, 2008). More locally, Jonathan Hogg and Kate Brown (2019) have placed 1980s Britain in the context of a ‘technopolitical’ nuclear project bridging civil energy and defence which ‘structured social and political change, and shaped lives, in deeply ambiguous ways.’ Given that local councils embody the most intimate, albeit imperfect and constitutionally precarious, community and place-based democratically-mandated administrative units in Scotland, it is unsurprising that nuclear issues have intersected with local politics in complex and contested ways. This paper examines the work of Scottish councils, in coordination with other local authorities in the British Isles and around the world, in campaigning for the elimination of nuclear arms and the promotion of viable alternatives to nuclear energy production. The development and activities of British Isles Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLAs) since their founding in 1980 raises key questions about the role, status, aspirations and ideological positioning of local government institutions and the communities they aim to represent.

The paper explores Scotland’s instrumental contribution to the NFLA organisation and relevant NGOs, and its local and wider implications, drawing on archival and newspaper research. It contributes to the theory and praxis of civil society nuclear peace work through contemporary history examination of local state paradiplomacy and its contested, contingent interaction with central state diplomacy and sub-state protodiplomacy. Christian Joppke (1993: 3), following Clause Offe (1969, 1985) has written about the 1970s- onwards nuclear energy and ecology conflicts as ‘cutting across conventional group boundaries’, with antinuclear groups casting themselves as guardians of collective and existential rather than sectional and transitory interests - ranging from life and bodily integrity through to the survival of humanity and ecosphere. The paper argues that not least among the achievements of Scottish NFLAs (working in concert with their British Isles and international counterparts) was their successfully challenging a narrow interpretation of local government’s status and functions to anticipate what was eventually (2003) formalised in law as a power to ‘promote [general] wellbeing in their communities’.
Period22 May 2021
Event titleReproducing Scotland: Class, oppression and everyday life
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational