As an MP, a person is afforded many privileges. I go to work in what is basically a castle from a fairy story. I can have my morning coffee in London while enjoying one of the best uncluttered views of the Thames from the terrace. There's absolutely no doubt that MPs have access to a great lifestyle, but the greatest privilege of all is the ability to change things. I campaigned on my deepest held beliefs and was elected to make them a reality, and only a tiny proportion of the population will ever hold that privilege.
Equally, though, I'm a representative for a minority party in Westminster. My vote is frequently lost in the arithmetic of debates. Sometimes I feel plucky, I've put up a good fight, I'm gallant in defeat. I've stood up to the Tories and lost, but I've made my voice heard. Other times, I'm devastated. I feel the crushing weight of responsibility and I can't believe the futility of trying to influence a system where people can't and won't understand what I have to say.
One of those times was the debate on renewing Trident.
I've been opposed to nuclear weapons for as long as I can remember. I'm no imperialist, I don't need any expensive weapons to show what a great country I live in. I'm not worried about my country saving face on the world stage by clinging onto the last throws of a dying empire. I just want a country which cares for its poorest and most vulnerable. £200billion could be better spent. There are families in my constituency who can't feed their kids and we're spending this money on a bomb that will never be fired? It's obscene.
I have campaigned several times in my life on a platform of 'bairns not bombs' and I will do so again until the whole nuclear deterrent scheme is scrapped, and it's no longer an issue. If truth be told, it's not strictly 'bairns' or weans (as we say where I come from) either. There's a huge list of things I would rather spend that money on; the NHS, housing, education, to name a few.
I know that the debate is not strictly that simple. Somebody asked me if I would still oppose the renewal of Trident if it only cost a pound. Of course I would. These weapons cause horrific damage to human beings. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if it didn't kill people outright, it took them weeks or months to die from radiation sickness and other after effects of the attack. The fallout from nuclear weapons is gruesome and brutal and I couldn't justify subjecting anybody to such an ordeal.
Many people argue that the attack on Hiroshima ended the second world war. It's difficult to argue with this viewpoint, although I believe it could have been done with targeted conventional weapons and spared the lives of over 100,000 civilians. The attack on Nagasaki a few days later has historically been more difficult to justify. Even some people who agree that the attack on Hiroshima was ethically justifiable have reservations about Nagasaki. It's thought the attack, which killed between 40,000-80,000 people was largely superfluous, as the Japanese would likely have surrendered after dealing with the aftermath of Hiroshima, but were only given three days to collect themselves.
Nagasaki illustrates to me how sickeningly easy it is to wipe out large swathes of people when the technology is easy enough. A president gets carried away, a command is misunderstood, political circumstances move more slowly than people on the ground do.
Lots of people who support nuclear weapons don't see how killing people using this technology is any worse than with conventional bombs. I don't generally support any bombing unless it's the last possible resort, but I think that conventional weapons are preferable for this reason: Nuclear weapons are dehumanising. When a nuclear weapon hits a city, all the people in that radius are destroyed, all the buildings are destroyed. All the things that collectively bind those people, the folk stories, music, songs, culture are wiped out. Libraries, museums, theatres, are forgotten about. The places where people are born, get married, pray, fall in love, no longer exist. All that these people are, were and would ever have been is annihilated. All that remains is the bomb.
London has a fancy parliament that looks like a castle, beautiful buildings and museums and pearly kings and queens, Eastenders and Camden cool kids. Glasgow has a wicked sense of humour, some of the funniest stories you will ever hear, red Clydeside, George Square and the Clockwork Orange. I love the vitality, history and the beating hearts of the cities in my life. God forbid, if a nuclear weapon were ever to fall, all that humanity would be lost in an instant.
Anne McLaughlin is the SNP MP for Glasgow North East and party Westminster SNP spokesperson for civil libertiesSuggest a correction