HUNDREDS of people are set to form a blockade at the Faslane Naval Base this morning as part of a series of protests against the renewal of the Trident Nuclear Weapons System.
Organisers of the event are expecting more than 250 people to be in attendance at the site near Helensburgh, gathering before 7am in an attempt to stop workers entering the site.
Buses are leaving Glasgow and Edinburgh as early as 5am to get to the demo, with groups also travelling from as far afield and Aberdeen, Inverness and the Borders.
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A lengthy briefing has been made available to all those who planned to attend, outlining the legal rights and possible ramifications of partaking in the protest. A “bust card” with contact details and a brief legal rights section will be issued to all protestors at the base.
Some activists plan to chain themselves to the fence at the site, while others will join hands and sit on the road, blocking the flow of traffic into the base.
A spokesperson for the MoD said it recognised the right to peaceful process but that the “safety and security of the site will be maintained at all times”.
Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie will be among those in attendance, after speaking at the Bairns not Bombs rally in Glasgow last weekend. A crowd of about 4000 gathered in George Square for the demonstration, at which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Radical Independence Campaign’s Cat Boyd and Labour candidate Katy Clark all spoke out against Trident.
The numbers will be significantly lower at today’s blockade, and the nature of the protest is very different. A training day was held at Kinning Park in Glasgow yesterday, giving people information about the consequences of their actions.
Brian Larkin, spokesperson for the Scrap Trident group and co-ordinator of Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, said people had to decide for themselves if they were willing to be arrested.
He said: “Through the course of the training people will make up their own minds as to whether they are going to put themselves on the road and risk arrest. We can’t be sure of numbers but there will hopefully be at least 40 people ready to put themselves in that position.”
Although arrests have been anticipated, a similar blockade at the AWE Burghfield plant, where the Trident warheads are built, resulted in no arrests and a successful shut-down of the site. The “lockdown” protest at the plant near Reading resulted in the MoD closing the plant for the day, something the Faslane blockade organisers have not ruled out happening.
Non-violence was also a major theme of yesterday's training day. Larkin said: “This day is also about training and preparation in non-violence. We acknowledge that there is a conflict here and we want to engage that conflict directly and draw a red line, but in a non-violent way.”
Although the anti-nuclear movement seems to be gaining ground, it was revealed in yesterday’s Sunday Herald that the MoD has already started preparing for the renewal of the Trident submarines, despite the new system not yet being approved.
The MoD has begun funding studies into how the base could facilitate the new, larger, submarines, which Defence Secretary Michael Fallon hinted could be the biggest ever assembled in the UK.
SNP Defence spokesman Angus Robertson wrote to the Defence Secretary demanding to know exactly how much is being spent on the preparation.
Robertson said: “This raises some serious questions for the MoD, as costs are being incurred before there has been any democratic scrutiny, debate or even approval."
Harvie also condemned the MoD activity, saying: “There is a growing voice against the renewal of Trident, so any planning being done now by military bosses is premature, bordering on the arrogant.”
A spokesman for the MoD said a decision was yet to be taken on a Trident successor, and it was simply upgrading ageing facilities at the Faslane Base, with the aim of making the site the centre of UK submarine operations within the next five years.
While SNP leaders are pushing for the removal of the nuclear weapons from the Clyde, leading anti-nuclear campaigner Bill Kidd MSP said the process may take several years, adding that any delay in the weapons renewal was a victory.
The SNP’s Holyrood Chief Whip said: “We’re not going to be able to get rid of it straight away; that just can’t be done. That’s just promising people something that isn’t going to happen."
He added: “Labour are saying they’re going to replace Trident. However, our belief is that because of the internal problems they would have trying to force that through in the face of austerity, it’s actually something they might want to park.”
Today's protesters hope a shut-down of the plant will “send a signal to voters UK-wide”.
WITH Trident at the forefront of the UK’s election battle, figures such as Frankie Boyle, Vivienne Westwood, Noam Chomsky and Nobel Prize-winner Professor Peter Higgs have signed an open letter condemning renewal of the nuclear weapons.
They said the weapons themselves make the UK a target, and an accident with them would lead to a humanitarian disaster.
The open letter says: “The election campaign to date suggests decommissioning Trident nuclear weapons is a dangerous, minority demand led by the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru.
“Yet poll after poll reveals that it is indeed a majority popular demand throughout the UK. One poll recently revealed 81 per cent of 500 General Election candidates are opposed to renewal.”
It concluded: “The UK should become the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its nuclear weapons, transforming the nuclear club from within. Instead of protecting us, hosting nuclear weapons makes us a target for the disaffected.
“And any accident would lead to a humanitarian disaster. Having nuclear weapons diverts resources and attention from tackling our most urgent security problems, including climate and environmental destruction.”