The Eyesore at Faslane and the Joy of Resistance

Nuclear warheads are the most destructive objects present anywhere on the surface of our planet and they have been constructed and maintained by six of the worlds most powerful democracies1. If the arguments against nuclear proliferation are both moral and pragmatic (which I believe they are), then how has this been allowed to happen? Why have people continued to vote for the bomb? Is this a global conspiracy? Are people being lied to, or are they not listening? What can we as individuals do when all three main parties believe in the need to the nuclear “deterrent”?

Breaking the law is the last resort for the campaigner. I decided to answer the call.

I have never risked arrest before but in the company of good friends with shared objectives I felt I could do anything. Plunging into new situations with new people is always daunting, yet my experience at Faslane was both empowering and exciting.

I overcame my natural tendency to avoid the unknown and at the same time worked hard against my natural urge to volunteer for everything (it is my 3rd year after all2). I pretty much managed it. Months of planning, training, construction, fundraising and practising lead up to the weekend. York was due to hold the torch for the year round blockade 18th-19th March.

I arrived in the middle of the night having missed the day of (legal) protest on account of being stuck in Nottingham. I had six hours to lay down my bags, sleep, wake up, eat, find out what I was supposed to be doing, wake up and put what was about to happen out of my mind. Then I woke up and tumbled into the van with my comrades on our merry way. With a strong sense of doom in the air, we sung exerts from Team America and prepared for deployment. 5.45am – the enclosed industrial city of the nuclear base appears out of the window. It is time. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. It’s a nuclear base. What the HELL am I doing. Oh shit. Oh shit. Ok. Ok. Do I have my tube. I… where’s my karabiner? Oh shit. Oh shit. Doors open. We run. Oh shit. Get Down! We’re down.

Lying on your back attached to two people through some plumbing inside the gate of a nuclear submarine base watching the clouds go by, is more relaxing than you might think. It’s about 2oC and it’s considering snowing. The concrete is cold. I’m very tired. But we made it. The traffic is stopped. At 6am the police arrive (they’re not very surprised) and the traffic starts to queue up. It makes me smile to think of that moment. We had succeeded.

It gets colder and noisier, and the “cutting team” arrives. By 6.30am we’re being picked off one by one and the traffic starts to move again. The good news is those at the South Gate kept the resistance for another hour.

I was covered with a sheet and the cast-cutter got to work on our tubes. I was marched down the road (chatting merrily about the weather) by two somewhat confused policemen, asked some questions, photographed, and put in a van where I shared my hobnobs with the male arrestees (not the policeman, they declined) and listened to the radio. Then through the beautiful Strathclyde countryside to Dunbarton where an equally genial officer discussed his last holiday to York with us. We had our possessions confiscated, details recorded, and were put in solitary confinement.

The cell is a bit bigger than a toilet in a train, with no window, just a crash mat and a toilet. The florescent light flickered and it smelt a bit of sick. But I suppose there had to a hard part to this experience somewhere. I thought I was in there for 24 hours. But after some lunch, a cup of tea (free food!) we were, to our great surprise, given back our possessions and our freedom. We discussed our relief in the foyer of Dunbarton police station and cheered the women’s release in Greenock. In Scotland at least, resistance is not futile: it’s a daytrip.

I didn’t get the impression I was being treated like a danger to society. It was more like the detention with the teach who actually liked you but felt your shenanigans needed to be punished to make sure no-one else was encouraged. I trust that isn’t the message you are receiving. Come to Faslane to protest this debacle. And if you like, you can lie down on the concrete too.

Join the list at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/yorkf365/
or email york@faslane365.org

1 That’s India, Israel, UK, USA, Russia and France. China and Pakistan having nuclear capabilities but not being democracies. There are a lot more countries without and they do fine.

2Voice in my head

This article was originally published in the June 2007 edition of ‘GoodMag’.


The Trident Farce. Discuss.

In the autumn of 2006 Tony Blair announced that Britain needed to replace its nuclear weapons system, ‘Trident.’ This will cost £15,000,000,000 of taxpayers money and occupy years of government and industry time.

Is this really what our government should be preoccupied with? If Trident is a weapon we will not use, it is worthless. If it is a weapon we must be prepared to use, this sends a dangerous message to the world, kick starting a new nuclear arms race. Britain stands at a crossroads – one way to war, and one way to peace.

A decision on Trident will be voted on in Parliament later this month. Don’t stay silent. Resist.

Faslane 365 is a peaceful blockade of the Trident nuclear submarine base in Scotland and York is joining for a weekend in Easter. Visit York at Faslane 365 for more info or email rjl502.

Want to join the blockade or just find out more? York@Faslane is meeting 8.30pm weds week 5 in V/123
+ Caroline Lucas MEP talks on Trident 3.15pm thurs week 5 in A/TB057
+ Saturday 24th of February is the National Demo against Trident, email peaceeducation@cnd.org.uk for £9 coach tickets to London

Protestors at the Faslane nuclear base in Scotland.


Britain’s current Trident submarines at Faslane.

This article was originally published in Issue 2 of GoodMag.


DESO: A helping hand for all Your Weapons Export Needs!

DESO is bad. Let’s just make that clear. This mag is called good people against bad things. DESO fits into the latter quite cosily. There’s not a lot good about it. But before you run out on the streets to let everyone know this, I’ll let you in on a little more info.

The Defence Export Services Organization was founded in 1966 under PM Denis Healey to help sell arms to other countries. At the time the industry was largely nationalised and it was felt that the MOD should get a chunk of this increasingly global market. Since then the world has changed. And DESO has grown – a lot. At its inception it employed around 20 people – now it has 400 staff in London alone, with a hundred more employees in various other countries, including Saudia Arabia, India and Pakistan.

DESOs aim is to make sure that when these countries buy another 10 fighter jets or another 100 missiles, they buy them from British companies. Hurrah for that you say! If they’re going to blow each other up let’s have some good old Blighty chaps employed for their pains… Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that any more – companies like BAE Systems are multi-national and many of the arms DESO helps to sell are manufactured abroad. The only winners are share holders.

No other industry in the UK receives this level of help from a government agency. Surely taxpayers’ money could be spent better? DESO is a contradiction of foreign policy, a symbol of corporate influence on government, and a huge waste of money.

DESO needs to be shut down. Visit www.caat.org.uk and email your MP now.

This article was originally written for the February 2007 edition of ‘GoodMag’.