By David Kelly, Vice Chair, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Last year was the fortieth anniversary of the Faslane Peace camp, situated across the road from the home of Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet. The four submarines that are equipped with Trident nuclear missiles, have been joined by the seven nuclear powered submarines of the Astute class, transferred from Devonport. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has increased the amount of permitted pollution into the sea, to accommodate the near tripling of nuclear reactor powered submarines based here.
The juxtaposition of the immaculate industrial site, designed for genocide, with its miles of perfect, electrified fence, and the Peace camp immediately across the road, looking hand-knitted, with its aging caravans, solar power, and wood burning stoves is remarkable. More police are employed to protect Faslane than all of the rest of Argyll and Bute. Every ten minutes a police patrol car passes by. The message of the base is ‘they keep us safe’. There are other interpretations of the patriarchy’s most treasured and insane installation. I think of the peace camp as ‘They keep us sane’, how can planning to kill tens of millions of people be anything other than lunacy? How should we respond to the threat of mass murder as a political strategy?
As part of the celebration, an Open Day on the 12th of December was organised in conjunction with the ‘Embrace the Base’ collective, setup to celebrate the anniversary of the demonstration when 30,000 women surrounded the Greenham Common base for nuclear armed cruise missiles.
I set off from my home in Glasgow, all ‘layered up’, the camp is not warm in December, collected a chum and we were off.
The Peace Camp occupies a strip of land, one path wide with caravans and self-assembled buildings that run for about one hundred meters, by ten meters wide. We got there a little behind the others. Not connected to the world to football, I had not allowed any extra time to collect someone from Ibrox on match day! The visitors and most of the camp regulars were on their way by foot to a vigil at the North Gate. We quickly made-up time by car. Of course, we are quickly joined by small group of Police, keen to understand this was a vigil, rather than anything disruptive. We are blessed in Scotland with a Police force who are properly briefed in our right to protest.
Always good to have new visitors to the camp, so a wee trip to Coulport was quickly organised for those who had never been. Coulport is where all of the UK’s nuclear warheads are kept and loaded onto submarines. In contravention of the non-proliferation treaty that we are signatories of, the number of bombs is being increased. I took the ‘military’ road to get there, a road recently built to accommodate the huge convoys that take our nuclear warheads on public roads to Aldermaston and Burghfield for maintenance. We know little of the process they go through while being refurbished, but we do know that Tritium which has a half-life of only 12 years is an essential component of these bombs. We didn’t stay long with the promise of a hot bowl of soup back at the peace camp, but I took the long road over the top of Peaton Hill, from where you can see what a fabulous piece of countryside has been despoiled by the enormous base. Glasgow CND will be organising a ‘Reclaim the Clyde’ campaign in 2023, and are actively looking for groups or individuals to join in.
In recent years, the Peace Camp has struggled to have enough residents, this has improved in the last year, but numbers could still go up, and new residents are welcome. It is quite a tough life if you are used to waking up to a warm house with an electric kettle for that first cup of coffee. Someone has to do it, glad it’s not me!
The gathering was about twenty strong, and included philosophy student Matty Maslen, which is why I am writing this. I met several new ‘campers’ which was very encouraging. Great sense of community as we shared a meal, exchanged our histories, and met old friends. I caught up on the news, such as it was, on the ‘missing’ eight metre ‘Happy 40th Birthday’ sign that Kate and I made for the camp, which disappeared from inside the camp the night before the 40th birthday party. Looked like a classic ‘capture the flag’ operation, and my Kate will write to the base commander asking if there is any light he can cast on this.
This is the front line in our decades long struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons. The United Nations passed the Treaty to Prevent Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which is being adopted by more countries all of the time. Of course, the real struggle is to persuade those countries that have nuclear weapons to work to abandon them. The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is at the forefront of this.
There are other organisations that pursue particular objectives in this global campaign:
and of course, the world-wide umbrella organisation, who got the ban through the United Nations General Assembly:
And, of course,