MAKAR Jackie Kay has defended her role in a major weekend protest against nuclear weapons at the home of the Trident arsenal in Scotland.

One of the country’s most beloved writers, Kay was appointed to the post of national poet in 2016 and has since penned the verse delivered to all new parents as part of the baby box scheme.

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She will now head up a rally at Faslane as peace campaigners from Israel, Russia and Iran tell Scots why the world must disarm.

In an exclusive interview with The National, Kay explains that the move is not at odds with the non-political makar role, stating: “The very existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to all humanity.”

According to organisers the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the Nae Nukes Anywhere event will “welcome the world” to the base near Helensburgh.

Participants will gather at Faslane Peace Camp, which has become a permanent symbol of opposition to nuclear weapons, before marching to the north gates of the Royal Navy base for a rally where Kay will give the welcome.

This includes a reading of her poem George Square, which centres around her parents’ activism, as well as a letter to the Herald newspaper written by her mother Helen Kay.

In the letter, the veteran peace campaigner told of how she and husband John had been arrested for a public protest against weapons of mass destruction in the 1960s.

Describing herself as “quite staid” compared to her mother and father, Kay said: “My parents were arrested at Dunoon in 1961.

“They couldn’t fit everybody into the jail so one was in the jail and the other was locked up in the Catholic church. My dad’s 93 now and my mum’s 88, so they can’t get out as easily. I’m going to take them with me in poem form.

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“My mum said, ‘go for me.’”

However, Kay, who was raised in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, recognises that involvement with the Nae Nukes Anywhere event may attract criticism.

The acclaimed writer, who succeeded Liz Lochhead in the makar role, said: “You know certain things will bring you approbation.

“There are people who live at Faslane whose livelihoods depend on that base being open.

“When they asked me to welcome the international protestors, they said they didn’t want a politician to do it.

“I think that poetry does have and can have an ambassadorial role. I’m keen on expanding the role of makar. It can get put in a corner, but poets are stepping out onto the world stage in different ways, socially and artistically.

“I said when I took the role that I wanted to expand the conversations Scotland has with itself and the rest of the world.”

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The march comes as Scottish CND and partner groups urge the public to press major financial institutions to divest from nuclear weapons.

The National has revealed how the Don’t Bank on the Bomb campaign has released a new guide aimed at cutting the links between banks, universities and pensions funds with the companies that make and maintain the potentially devastating devices and their key components.

This includes the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme, the Royal Bank of Scotland group, the Scottish Parliament Pension Scheme and more.

Demonstrations opposing the Trident missile system and other forms of nuclear weaponry have taken place in Scotland over a number of decades, with the peace camp – which was intended as a temporary settlement – becoming a long-standing marker of the fight against the multi-billion pound systems.

But despite this and Scottish Government opposition to nuclear weapons on the River Clyde, the UK Government remains committed to the “deterrent”.

Kay said she feels “very passionate” about the issue. Branding the weapons of mass destruction “a threat to all humanity”, she stated: “I’ve been on peace demos all my life. I was always very politically engaged in different causes. This is an issue close to my heart.

“If it wasn’t for protest, we wouldn’t have had so many changes in the world.

“Because things don’t change in the way that people want them to – ie, the base hasn’t closed down – doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be protesting.

“Protesting means people get to hear about that and think about it, to think about the proximity of having this base on our doorstep right here in Scotland.

“We have to keep ruminating on it, we have to keep asking questions.”

Kay, famed for collections including The Adoption Papers and Wish I Was Here, went on: “Protest is part of the lifeblood. If you think of poetry as the music of being human, protest is part of that music. As long as you keep making that music, you keep affirming that you are alive and the kind of life you want to live.”