Trident Ploughshares and Faslane Peace Camp activists in Scotland jointly blockaded Faslane starting at 7 a.m. on May 10, shutting down the Trident submarine base for two hours. Four members of Trident Ploughshares blocked the North Gate of the base while six Peace Campers blocked the South Gate by locking themselves together. Just four days after the Scottish elections the activists called for the anti-Trident SNP government to fulfill its commitments and demand immediate disarmament of Trident and a global ban on nuclear weapons.
All 10 were arrested for Breach of the Peace. The six from the peace camp were released from jail after 12 hours. The four from Trident Ploughshares were to remain in custody overnight and go to court the following day.
Speaking on behalf of Trident Ploughshares, Janet Fenton, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, Secretary of Scottish CND and Secretary of the Scottish branch of Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, said “Our actions here are not illegal, and are in support of the new Scottish Government. Once again the Scottish people have voted overwhelmingly in opposition to nuclear weapons. This time, there is a clear parliamentary majority for a single party with a manifesto promise to put pressure on the UK Government to remove these illegal weapons from Scotland. We are seeking prompt action from the SNP, a party that has supported our actions in the past. Sandra White MSP (SNP) called for direct action for disarmament at Hiroshima Day remembrance events in August. We are here today to remind the new administration of the strength of feeling and the support that it can expect from the Scottish people in requesting an opinion from the Lord Advocate on the legality of Trident in relation to the Scotland Act requirement for it to uphold international humanitarian law and calling on the UK Government to remove Trident and enter negotiations with other powers to establish a nuclear weapons convention to ban them globally.
“Scotland has the obligation and the right, under the terms of the Scotland Act, to refuse to be complicit with the possession of Trident. It constitutes a threat to use it, and using it would inevitably kill hundreds of thousands of civilians indiscriminately and cause environmental devastation that would last for thousands of years. This is illegal. as well as immoral, wasteful and undemocratic.”
Leona O’Neill, speaking on behalf of the Faslane Peace Camp, said, “We, the Peace Camp, are acting today to make clear our objections to a world with nuclear weapons. As residents of Scotland, we are echoing the opinion of the majority of Scottish people and MSP’s who do not wish for a continuing British nuclear weapons programme on Scottish land. As citizens of a world ruled by fear, where the interests and wealth of a few are served by the subjection and poverty of the majority, we are acting to encourage the newly elected Scottish government to uphold international humanitarian law and meet our obligations under Article V! of the NPT and Article 2(4) of the UN charter. As citizens of a world suffering the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and ongoing environmental devastation caused by nuclear technology, we are enacting our objections to nuclear weapons in our seas and the continual presence of submarines powered by nuclear reactors.”
Barbara Dowling quoted the opinion of Judge Bedjaoui, President of the International Court of Justice, on a nuclear weapons system such as Trident “that deploys over 100 nuclear warheads with an approximate yield of 100 kilotons per warhead.” He said that “warheads of this size constitute around eight times the explosive power of the bomb that flattened Hiroshima and killed over 100,000 civilians. … In my opinion, such a system deployed and ready for action would be unlawful.”
In June, Faslane Peace Camp will mark its continuous presence on the road outside Faslane for twenty-nine years. The two groups, together with Helensburgh CND, have maintained a peaceful weekly vigil at the North gate of Faslane for more than three years. Less than a month ago, two hundred Christians, including Cardinal Keith O’Brien, gathered at Faslane for an Easter Witness for Peace.
Brian Larkin, a resident of Helensburgh, said “The UK government, as signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, undertook more than 40 years ago to disarm its nuclear weapons. And the Scottish government formed a working group for a future Scotland without nuclear weapons over three years ago but failed to take any relevant action. The new Scottish government must demand that the UK disarm Trident. As long as the governments fail to fulfill their responsibilities under international law, citizens have a right and duty to intervene in order to prevent crimes against humanity and war crimes. Trident Ploughshares is committed to such nonviolent action. Six weeks ago we sent a letter to the Commodore of Faslane calling on him to cease the deployment of these illegal weapons. He did not reply. Today we delivered a letter calling on him to fulfill his Nuremberg obligation to take action to stop these crimes against humanity. The government should redirect the resources currently allocated to Trident to meet real human needs and invest in retraining people working at the base in the skills needed to building the infrastructure for renewable energy.”