Justifying Trident?

vanguard_1819364cDefence policy promises to feature more
prominently in the 2015 UK General Election than in any in living memory (see the Director’s letter on the recent debate regarding the allocation of defence spending and international aid)

tridentnoOverwhelmingly, the most divisive and important defence-policy issue is the continued existence of the UK Trident programme. Its importance in national politics has been magnified by its pivotal role in the ongoing debate over Scottish Independence. Some commentators have suggested that a SNP-Labour coalition or (more likely) a ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangement between the SNP and Labour in the wake of the latter’s likely electoral collapse in Scotland, could lead to the permanent closure of the programme.

On Friday 20 March, the McDonald Centre organised and hosted a colloquium on the question of nuclear deterrence, Trident, and Trident’s role in contemporary Scottish politics. Attendees included several highly experienced and distinguished experts from the civil service, academia, and journalism:

  • General Sir Hugh Beach, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.K. Land Forces
  • Professor Nigel Biggar, Moral Theology, University of Oxford; author of In Defence of War
  • Peter Burt, Researcher, Nuclear Information Service
  • Desmond Bowen, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.
  • Professor Paul Cornish, Research Group Director, Defence, Security & Infrastructure at RAND Europe, Cambridge
  • Professor Andrew Dorman, International Security, Defence Academy and King’s College London; editor, International Affairs
  • Tom McKane, L.S.E. and R.U.S.I.; former Director General for Strategy, and Director General for Security Policy, at the M.o.D.
  • Dr James Orr, McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics and Public Life, University of Oxford
  • Professor Paul Schulte, Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Bruno Tertrais, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris; author of In Defense of Deterrence: The Relevance, Morality, and Cost-effectiveness of Nuclear Weapons (2011)
  • David Torrance, freelance journalist; author of Salmond: Against the Odds (2010)
  • Simon Webb, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.

Several of the participants attended a special edition of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 at Chatham House on the evening before the event, which examined the future of defence in the UK. The discussion can be viewed here on BBC iPlayer until 20 April 2015.  The colloquium itself was referred to in a recent article for the Glasgow Herald by one of the participants.

Who Would Jesus Shoot?


On November 12, 2014, the Director of the McDonald Centre, Prof. Nigel Biggar, participated in a debateon the theological legitimacy of war entitled “Who Would Jesus Shoot?” with Dr. Thomas Yoder Neufeld, a Mennonite theologian and author of Jesus and the Subversion of Violence.

Around 160 people attended the event, which was held at Union Chapel in Bloomsbury, London, and chaired by Karen Stallard, minister at Union Chapel and a member of the Anabaptist Network steering committee, and Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian political think-tank Ekklesia. One attendee reported that it was ‘the best, most constructive public conversation about peace and war from a Christian perspective that I think I’ve ever been part of.’

The two main addresses can be streamed here and downloaded here.

Making Sense of Life: Can War Be Justified?

St Andrews OxfordOn 16 November 2014, the Director of the McDonald Centre, Prof. Nigel Biggar, was interviewed at St. Andrew’s Church, Oxford, by Revd. Andrew Wingfield-Digby.  The interview was followed by an address in which the Director discussed his recent work on the moral and theological legitimacy of war with particular reference to the First World War and the current crisis in Syria and Iraq.