Trident nuclear submarines, each carrying about 120 nuclear warheads capable of mass destruction, have been held on the deep loch of Coulport, near the military town of Helensborough, Scotland for over 30 years.
A peace camp of many caravans and buses, was built 31 years ago near the base. Life can be tough there, some want to leave and there are discussions about keeping the peace camp open. It will close unless enough people willing to live there come forward.
Although Britain has signed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty the Tories want to renew Trident and spend around £100 billion on building and maintaining a new nuclear weapons system. Whilst ordinary people suffer their cuts the Tories would rather continue to be the imperialist big boys at the international table than keep us safe.
Trident is deeply unpopular in Scotland and the SNP are promising that if we vote for independence in September 2014, they will ensure Trident goes. This is very appealing (except in Helensborough) so the Greens, Scottish Socialist Party, SNP, Radical Independence Conference and Women for Independence want it to be a central requirement of an independent Scotland. This could swing the result.
Between 13-15 April Scotland for Peace, Scottish CND, Stop the War Scotland, SSP, Scottish Greens, Trident Ploughshares, Radical Independence Conference, SWP, ISG, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, and Scottish Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom organised three days of action on the issue ending with a mass blockade of Faslane Naval base on 15 April.
Around 5,000 people attended a Glasgow demonstration on the 13th, buoyed up by the sunny weather and the news of Thatcher’s death. A wide range of speakers and live music at the rally was followed by was a social in the evening with the Stargazers, the Carlton Jug band and some poets.
People had travelled from all over the UK and the world to attend workshops and non-violence direct action training on the 14th. I met an MP from France, people from Spain, a Dutch MP, an American man, and a wonderful Welsh choir, Cor Chocion Caerdydd. People who travelled stayed in a large community centre in Glasgow, which was effectively the nerve centre of the whole operation.
Many peace activists have been arrested many times but don’t brag or have big egos about it (like some on the left); this is just something they do. We took part in an enactment of a blockade and how it would feel to be arrested and were given lots of advice. There was no pressure to put yourself in the front line; you could be a supporter giving food, water, music etc. to the people sitting in the road. There is a quiet, understated strength among many peace activists who are dedicated to this as a way of life.
A satellite link was made with a peace group in the USA and communicated through Brian Larkin in Scotland. A Scottish disabled woman spoke to them saying, “We’re gonnae fight eh and scrap the bedroom tax, ken….” She looked surprised as Brian conveyed, “I’ll translate that as she’s from Perth.” Then it was early to bed for a 4.30am start the following day.
Buses took people from all over Glasgow to Faslane naval base for 7am on Sunday when people were due to arrive for work at the base. There are two big and two small gates at the base.
I have some questions over the tactics of blockading and would like to see more work done with unionised workers in the base. I understand there has been work done with Trade Union CND around how Faslane workers’ engineering skills can be used for more peaceful purposes; I’d like to see this developed.
On arrival protesters unfurled large banners and sat in the road; some locked themselves to each other through drainpipes, and others had flags, banners, fiddles, percussion and voices.
The police were ready with their cutting team, cameras, vans and temporary police station nearby.
Soon protesters were asked to move. They refused to do so and so were arrested, or the cutting team carefully cut through their pipes and locks. Apparently the police like dealing with peace activists, as they are polite and do not shout or abuse the police. (There is a code of conduct activists are expected to follow).
A tail back of traffic soon began and the base was closed down for three hours.
47 people (including myself) were arrested; more than had been expected so the police station at Clydebank became full and the overspill were sent to Glasgow.
Prisoners were detained for 13 hours and court cases are due to be held at Dumbarton Sheriff court from 1 May. Experienced activists say some cases may be dropped; we don’t know how things will transpire.
A gathering is taking place at the camp on 3-5 May.