FIFTY years ago this week the first nuclear submarines armed with nuclear missiles arrived at the naval base in Faslane, cutting the district off from the rest of Scotland with barbed wire and warnings.

There was a time, not so long ago, when holidaymakers from Glasgow came to the shores of the Gareloch to enjoy the peace and tranquility. Now the landscape is scarred by machines of death and weapons of mass destruction. A once beautiful bay is defaced and deformed by military equipment and armaments that threaten devastation.

READ MORE: Faslane – 50 years since the naval base opened

Perhaps it was fate. According to one interpretation the name Faslane derives from the Gaelic Fàs-Lann, the barren place, the land laid waste, the land of desolation. There is little that is more desolate than the grey concrete of the military base, occupying the green hillside like a malevolent beast that lays waste to the landscape. It’s a creature with the power to make the world barren and bare.

On the site of the base – now buried underneath metres of concrete and steel and the tramping boots of service people who know nothing about the significance of the site in Scottish myth and legend – there used to be a stream which flowed into the Gareloch. At the site where the stream entered the loch there was a low hill called Cnoc a’ Chullaich, the hillock of the cockerel. According to an ancient story there was once an oak tree there underneath which lived a cockerel, and when the Faslane cockerel crowed it was a warning of death.

Scotland wasn’t consulted when the British government decided to host nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines on the banks of the Gareloch, just 25 miles from the largest city in the country. The decision was made on the banks of the Thames, by people for whom the Clyde was a remote and distant province, far from power, far from anywhere important. Ever since, Scotland has lived under a nuclear shadow, fearful of the crowing of the cockrell of Cnoc a’ Chullaich. It’s the price we pay for living in a land whose government considers it remote. Scotland as a part of the UK is remote from power, remote from influence, its voice drowned out by the crowing of the nuclear cockrell.

WE do not know what damage the MoD base has caused to the environment, yet it is likely to be significant. We do know that between 2013 and 2014 alone there were 99 reported “radioactive incidents”.

We do know that during the 1980s the MoD refused to allow the exploitation of oil reserves in the Clyde because it would interfere with its precious submarines. Instead of enjoying an oil boom in the 1980s, Scotland enjoyed Thatcher’s deindustrialisation. We know that the base isn’t creating jobs, but rather preventing real economic development and creating environmental damage.

The Polaris missiles and warheads based on the Clyde, and the Trident missiles and warheads which succeeded them, exist to perpetuate the myth that the UK is still a major power, even though their guidance systems are built and determined by the Americans and no British government could ever countenance their use without the Pentagon’s approval. They’re as much a myth as the cockrell of Cnoc a’ Chullaich, only infinitely more harmful.

There are few things in modern Scotland more delusional than those politicians who claim that Trident is a glorified job-creation scheme, as though the sole purpose of hosting obscene weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde was to keep open a medium-sized Tesco Express in the greater Helensburgh area. If a job creation scheme was the primary consideration, we could spend a fraction of the cost of Trident on creating jobs on the Clyde, and still have billions to spare.

For as long as those weapons have been next to Scotland’s largest city, Scotland has protested against them. We have marched. We have demonstrated. We have set up peace camps. Yet all these decades later we are still no closer to ridding Scotland of a blight on all humanity.

It’s clear now that there is only one way to rid Scotland of nukes, and that’s with independence. Then the base can be converted into the base for a new Scottish navy, a conventional navy, preserving and creating jobs, and removing the threat of nuclear mass destruction from our soil.

For half a century, Scotland has lived in fear of the death warning  of the Cullach of Fàs-Lann, the whining howl of sirens that signal impending destruction.  One day, when Scotland takes back control of its own destiny, the weapons of mass destruction will be removed from this country.  The cockrell will be silenced and will vanish into the pages of history books. The site of the barren wasteland will be restored to the people of Scotland, and we will no longer fear the siren scream of the Cullach of Fàs-Lann.