Scotland’s largest council has been condemned for sponsoring an arms fair dubbed a “carnival of militarism” due to be held in Glasgow next month.
The Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) event will take place from 26 to 28 June at the SEC in Glasgow with more than 1,000 people from around 40 nations invited.
But critics of the arms trade have slammed Glasgow City Council for supporting the conference, arguing that a public body should not be endorsing events that “promote nuclear weapons and war”.
UDT brings together professionals from the military, industry and academic sectors, describing itself as, “the underwater defence and security community’s most relevant exhibition and conference.”
Glasgow Life – a charity that organises cultural events on behalf of the council – is one of the event’s sponsors along with several arms firms.
They include the Italian multinational Leonardo MW, which has a factory in Edinburgh. The firm was recently revealed to have links to the bombing of Kurds in Syria, an assault described by critics as “ethnic cleansing”.
Other sponsors include BAE Systems and Babcock, both pivotal to a new fleet of Trident nuclear submarines. This prompted criticism from anti-nuclear campaigners who said they plan to demonstrate.
The event is run by Clarion Events which organises the controversial Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair in London, which has attracted major protests in recent years.
Firms listed to exhibit include the world’s 11th largest arms firm, Thales, a French company that makes drones, among other products, in a joint venture with Israeli arms company, Elbit.
Also due to attend is Cobham, which makes phone surveillance technology, including a system capable of identifying and tracking mobile phones without the knowledge of the operator.
US firm Harris Corporation is also invited. The company makes IMSI-catchers which gather information from people’s mobile phones, and bomb release units for fighter jets and drones.
The fifth largest arms firm in the world – Northrop Grumman – is also listed as an exhibitor. It makes drones, stealth bombers and nuclear missiles.
Which companies are on the guest list?
Thales – A French company which counts itself as a leader in the production of unmanned drones.
Northrop Grumman – The fifth largest arms firm in the world, which produces stealth bombers and nuclear missiles
Leonardo – An Italian arms producer makes laser technology for F16 fighter jets. Received £6m from Scottish Enterprise.
Cobham – A company which makes phone surveillance technology, including mobile phone trackers.
Lockheed Martin – An international arms dealer which makes the F35 fighter jet.
Harris Corporation – US firm which makes ISMI-catchers and release units for fighter jets and drones.
Speakers include Rear Admiral Moises DelToro III, Deputy Commander for Undersea Warfare with the United States Navy, and Fredrik Palmquist, Commanding Officer with Sweden’s armed forces.
The CV of Rear Admiral Moises DelToro III says he once served as Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program Manager at Navy Recruiting Command.
Another speaker is Rear Admiral Paolo Pezzutti, Commander of Italian Navy Special Forces.
The conference agenda includes talks on drones, weapons systems, a new generation of torpedos and unmanned submarines and unmanned surface vessels (USVs)
There is also a session called acoustic passive classifier by the Italian Navy, which will discuss using artificial intelligence for decision making.
“In these cases it could be useful to have a decision support software able to recognise peculiar acoustic features of the different naval vectors in order to automatically classify targets, helping in this way the operators to focus their attention only on valuable targets,” says UDT’s website.
A session on USVs by ASV Global will discuss whether the proper legal frameworks are in place for these in modern naval warfare and whether they are safe.
Critics of the event include Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
“It is frankly disgusting that an event which seems to be about developing weapons of war also looks to have gained the support of public agencies such as Glasgow Life,” said the group’s chair, Arthur West.
“This type of conference is not only morally questionable but in the view of Scottish CND it is also economically wrong headed.”
He added: “We understand that there is a consensus among many economic commentators that there is a need to diversify the Scottish economy. It really is time to move away from concentrating research and financial resources into weapons of war such as Trident and to start giving meaningful support to areas such as dealing with climate and building decent and dynamic public services.”
Green MSP Ross Greer said: “The Scottish Government is giving public money to arms manufactures and ministers admit as much. Their excuse, that the money is to support diversification projects away from making weapons, just doesn’t wash.
“To see our largest city council in on the act shows that the SNP just can’t walk their own talk on ethical foreign policy. Given their longstanding opposition to Trident, it’s just inexplicable that their administration could support a showcase for these genocidal weapons systems.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Council bodies should not be sponsoring an event that is a blatant propaganda vehicle for arms dealers. Councils are meant to work in the public interest, not endorse and legitimise events that promote nuclear weapons and war.
“Many of the companies at Undersea Defence Technology have profited from arming human rights abusers and dictatorships, and some are central to maintaining Trident. It’s time for Glasgow City Council to admit it got it wrong and end its support for this carnival of militarism.”
However, Aileen Crawford, head of conventions at the Glasgow Convention Bureau, defended UDT. “Last year, Glasgow hosted more than 500 conferences, which brought £130 million to the local economy,” she said.
“In recent years, the UDT conference has been hosted in major cities including London, Oslo and Liverpool. The conference will bring more than 1,000 delegates to Glasgow with an estimated economic benefit of £1.2 million for the city – helping to secure jobs across our hospitality, transport and retail sectors.”
A spokesperson for UDT stressed the event would not feature Trident or the Trident replacement programme. “UDT is a technical exhibition and conference for the underwater technology, defence and security community,” he said.
“The event brings together figures from the military, academia, and the legitimate defence industry to focus on cutting edge technologies and developments within one of the harshest environments known to man.
“UDT’s world-leading conference programme will explore topics ranging from acoustic modelling through to energy conservation and use in the underwater environment.”
The SNP did not respond to a request for comment.
This story is being published in tandem with The Sunday Post.