‘BRIDGE closed due to bad weather’. How often has this sign brought dread to travellers, realising that they face either an longer detour or having to put off their journey to another day? How often have such travellers thought there must be a better option than a delay involving either extra distance or time?

Well it seems there is an alternative. Simply ignore the warning signs about bridges closed to strong winds etc and carry on regardless.

That’s exactly what the Ministry of Defence has been doing whilst carrying nuclear warheads from the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield, near Reading to the naval base at Coulport. Not for the MOD the fear of lorries being blown off bridges or potential traffic accidents as their death cargoes travel through Scotland’s most densely populated areas. No need for the MOD to worry about the potential risk of such lorries being overturned, or traffic chaos if bad weather threatens their journey to Coulport.

CND Scotland estimate tht on average there is such a convoy travelling along public roads and through some of Scotland’s most populated areas once every month. Following a change in MOD policy these convoys also travel at night, attempting to make the 500-mile journey in one go, rather than travelling more safely through daylight hours. If there are concerns about this traffic going through areas like Glasgow with its motorway network, then what about travelling in the dark and through bad weather on the roads in Argyllshire? Surely this isn’t the safest option for transporting such a deadly cargo?

Anti-Trident campaigners have also highlighted concern about a lack of safety features within the British warheads that are usually found in their American equivalents. Although a nuclear explosion may be unlikely, all the warheads contain conventional high explosives and there is a danger that any damage to a warhead could detonate and scatter plutonium or uranium dust over a large area. Plutonium is deadly if inhaled or ingested and remains dangerous for 24,000 years. Any explosion that transmits this into the atmosphere would have disastrous consequences.

There have already been accidents – that we know of – but as yet none of the nuclear warheads have been damaged enough to release any radioactive material (again – that we know of), and of course our luck may hold out indefinitely, but then again there could be an accident next week that could have long-lasting implications.

Apart from any immediate danger to people in the local area, what about the restrictions that would have to be implemented? Large areas of Scotland would have to be abandoned or cleaned up. The impact on local economies would be staggering, let alone the impact on health.

The campaign group Nukewatch has warned of the potential dangers of these convoys, especially at night and in severe weather conditions. Only last year it was reported that whilst Scotland was suffering from 100mph winds and the Erskine Bridge was shut to all traffic, the nuclear weapons convoys continued – with their high-sided vehicles crossing the bridge and continuing their journey to Coulport.

It sounds like the script of a bad disaster movie but this is what is happening in Scotland just now. Our Government in Holyrood has no say and no powers to prevent it. The UK Government simply doesn’t care about the impact any accidents could have on Scotland.

Even though some newspapers and campaign groups have managed to extract some information on the seemingly regular "incidents" that occur in this death convoy, it’s almost certain we’re not getting the full story.

Between July 2007 and December 2012 the MoD admits to about 70 safety lapses, ranging from engineering incidents where the trucks carrying nuclear warheads break down to more operational factors such as the time where the convoy took the wrong route.

You really start to wonder why there hasn’t already been a major incident. With such potential danger on every trip – and such a catalogue of mistakes – the so-called insurance policy of having nuclear weapons is starting to look more and more like a risk not worth taking.

However, it is not just the transport of nuclear weapons that should cause concern.

CND Scotland has highlighted that nuclear waste is regularly transported across the Scottish rail network, with this freight slotted in between other freight and passenger trains. Recent repairs to the west coast main line has meant these waste trains have taken some unusual routes, passing through areas such as Paisley.

As well as being Scotland’s largest town, it also boasts Paisley Gilmour Street Railway Station – the fourth-busiest train station in Scotland – which only this week saw a train passing through carrying spent nuclear fuel rods. The sealed flasks contain not only the spent nuclear fuel rods but also water to cool them. According to CND Scotland the most hazardous parts of these journeys are when the train crosses a bridge, goes through a tunnel or crosses a level crossing. At these points even a minor accident could cause the flasks to leak, causing an effect similar to a dirty bomb, affecting the health of a large swathe of the population and contaminating surrounding land.

CND Scotland also warns there is a danger of low-level leakage from the flasks, which raises concern about the health of railway workers and the length of time such a train may be left in one siding outside a nuclear complex.

Whether it’s transporting nuclear warheads or spent nuclear fuel rods, the safety of the public doesn’t seem to figure too largely in these plans. Whilst we have such dangerous cargoes we need to find a more secure and safe method of transportation – one that doesn’t put our communities or environment at risk. We only have to look at Chernobyl or Fukushima to see what the consequences would be if there was an accident with these deadly cargoes.

We need to think again about the use of not only nuclear weapons but also nuclear power, and in the meantime we need stronger safety measures implemented for the transportation of nuclear weapons and waste.