Faslane 365 - Freeing Britain of Nuclear Weapons

By Rebecca Johnson

The UK government has put nuclear weapons back on the political agenda, with its announcement of a decision in 2006-7 on replacing the Trident submarine-based system, at a likely cost of some £25-40 billion. With the opposition in Scotland especially in mind, a new civil resistance movement is being launched, called Faslane 365.

Starting on October 1, 2006, this movement plans a year-long peaceful blockade of the Faslane naval base where UK nuclear weapons are deployed, on Firth of Clyde, 30 miles from Glasgow. With these blockades, Faslane 365 intends to highlight the political and financial costs of deploying Trident, while raising questions about the relevance of any kind of nuclear weapons for our security in the 21st century. 

The aim is to mobilize public opinion, especially in Scotland, where over 70 percent of people tell opinion polls that they want nuclear weapons taken out of their country. The strategy, combining persistent, nonviolent opposition at the site of deployment with political pressure, has worked before, notably in the 1980s, when peace movements succeeded in getting the US and Soviet Union to remove and destroy newly-deployed cruise and Pershing missiles and SS20s from Europe.

In honor of this achievement, and 25 years after women set up the Greenham Common peace camp in 1981, Faslane 365 will be launched by a three-day women's action, from October 1-3. Thereafter, more than 50 different groups have signed up to join the blockade. The list includes regional groups, political parties (Scottish National Party and Greens), organizations (CND, Quakers, Stop the War, etc.) and groups sharing a common interest or profession (e.g. cyclists, Parliamentarians, writers, health professionals).

In an unprecedented show of support, on September 9, the Lord Provost and City Council of Edinburgh hosted a civil reception for Faslane 365, welcoming representatives of participating groups. Rev. Ewan Aitken, Leader of Edinburgh Council gave strong backing to the civil resistance, noting that from the abolition of slavery to winning the vote for women, people have needed to stand up and be counted. Among the speakers, Professor Alastair McIntosh, a Scottish writer and broadcaster, emphasized that the planned blockades would not be breaking the law: "It's the government deploying Trident that is breaking the law, and the protesters at Faslane who are upholding the laws."

Disarming Trident and Preventing its Replacement

The Trident nuclear weapon system consists of four nuclear-powered submarines, around 58 US D5 missiles, and up to 200 warheads of some 100 kt - that is, around 7 Hiroshima bombs each. If no decision to disarm is made, Trident would continue to be deployed to the 2020s. Blair is asking whether Britain can deploy nuclear weapons well into the second half of this century. The defence ministry may be considering:

Such options assume a nuclear follow-on for Trident in some form, which the majority of Scottish people do not want. The Parliamentary Defence Committee, in a June 2006 preliminary report, noted that a more fundamental decision actually faces the British people: keeping nuclear weapons or eliminating them. Britain's choice could determine the future of non-proliferation.

What can we do?

If we can get one nuclear weapon state to start toward real disarmament, it will have far-reaching impact. Canadians can join this action. Visit the websites of Faslane365 and the UK-based WMD Awareness Program. Write to members of the Scottish and Westminster (UK) parliaments. In May 2000, the UK government made an "unequivocal undertaking...to accomplish the total elimination" of the nuclear arsenals. Help us to exert pressure on the decision-makers in both the Scottish and UK parliaments to fulfil their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Each participating group plans to bring at least 100 people to blockade and demonstrate at the Faslane nuclear base for up to two days at a time, urging: "Don't replace Trident: Get rid of it!" These groups will also be addressing issues such as climate change, poverty and resource allocation, to highlight human security priorities.

Dr Rebecca Johnson is a member of the Faslane 365 Steering Group. For information see www.comeclean.org.uk and www.faslane365.org.

Peace Magazine Oct-Dec 2006

Peace Magazine Oct-Dec 2006, page 27. Some rights reserved.

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