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Mounting protests against Scottish harbours, facilities for war

Special to Shunpiking Online

MANX (29 January 2007) - Alba/Scotland's Faslane naval base is attracting mounting criticism and protests from across Alba/Scotland and beyond, ahead of Westminster's decision in March 2006 to replace the Trident nuclear missile programme.

A permanent peace camp is outside the base gates, and there are frequent demonstrations at the base gate. The camp has been occupied continuously since 12 June 1982.

A new Faslane 365 campaign is an effort to establish a continuous protest at the base for a 365-day period using autonomous groups of 100 people. Since September, according to the website, faslane365.org, there have been 473 arrests up to 8 January 2007. The most recent independent corroboration of the number of arrests appeared in The Guardian on 12 December 2006, which reported that there had been 344 arrests to that date.

On 7 January 2007 a group of around forty world renowned academics including Sir Richard Jolly and 25 students from Oxford, Cambridge, Sussex and Edinburgh held a seminar discussing the replacement of the trident missiles at the base. The students took part in a two-day sit-in outside the naval base on the Clyde. Then some days later nine people were arrested, including several politicians from Alba/Scotland, Cymru/Wales and the Netherlands trying to blockade the entrance to the submarine base. A group of some thirty Doctors and other health workers from Alba/Scotland have also protested this month, saying that to possess such weapons is "illegal, immoral and unethical."

Protesters subsequently managed to stage the most successful blockade of the campaign (apart from a negotiated three day blockage over Christmas) so far closing the North Gate for six hours. All those who blockaded were arrested and held overnight. The majority of these arrests have been for breach of the peace, with only four prosecutions being made so far: the vast majority of arrested protestors are released, receiving a letter from the Procurator Fiscal's office explaining that although "evidence is sufficient to justify my bringing you before the Court on this criminal charge", the Procurator Fiscal has "decided not to take such proceedings."

The UK currently has four nuclear submarines, each carrying enough firepower to destroy 1500 Hiroshimas within 15 minutes. Both Faslane and Royal Devonport Dockyard naval base in Plymouth, who refit nuclear submarines, pose a very real direct threat to the Celtic countries of Kernow/Cornwall and Alba/Scotland. The Campaign Against Nuclear Radiation and Storage (CANSAR), who campaign against the nuclear activities of Devonport Management Limited, state on their website that a risk of nuclear accident at the site is only 80:1.

This week a defence expert from the US told the Commons Defence Select Committee that the decision to replace Trident was "highly premature." Many campaigners, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, have called on the Westminster Government to question the urgency of their decision.

Under the Scottish parliament, the people of Scotland have no sovereignty over defence questions, which are reserved under the dictate of Westminister.

TAIN - locals oppose range continuation

Meanwhile, local people living near the RAF weapons range at Tain on the Dornoch Firth in north eastern Scotland have demanded that the facility should close.

The ranges at Tain provide a variety of targets for aircrew from both RAF and NATO air forces to practice their skills.

locals maintain that activity has been more intense
Although the Ministry of Defence (MoD) maintain there is less usage of the range at the present time locals maintain that activity has been more intense with the range operating times extending until late evening.

The Celtic League has long been opposed to military activity in the Celtic countries and in particular the use of military ranges. In the 1970-80s the League waged a long campaign seeking the closure of the Jurby sea bombing range, operated by the RAF for the United States and NATO off the north west coast of the Isle of Man (Mann).

The range was eventually closed in the early 1990s. However prior to its closure there was initial success in having restrictions applied to its operation in respect of hours but also and more significantly a proscription on the operation of military aircraft below 2000' over any part of the Isle of Man.

increased usage of facilities in northern Scotland by the US Air Force and Navy
More recently the League has expressed its opposition to the increased usage of facilities in northern Scotland by the United States Air Force and Navy who paradoxically face increased domestic opposition in their own country to exercise activity.

As part of the propaganda war and to try to put a 'positive spin' on range activity the RAF cite environmental advantages which accrue from the facilities presence in that part of Scotland. The RAF Tain web pages claim the site boasts "around 15 to 20 per cent of the Juniper in the whole of the UK. Without doubt the pride of the range is the fact that a number of the rare and elusive Scottish Wildcats live there. This is very important because the numbers of true, large, Wildcats have been decreasing". However MOD claims of environmental advantage from range activity have in the past been proved specious.

The range facility off Mann's north west coast was left heavily polluted by munitions and wildlife, particularly marine mammals and sea birds, proliferated after the range closed. Meanwhile in south west Scotland ranges (some still in use) have been polluted by both conventional and depleted uranium munitions.

Further reading

Scottish political crisis deepens over Trident nuclear weapons


*Director of Information, Celtic League

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at http://www.manxman.co.im/cleague

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