On the evening of 30 July, two dozen peace activists from around the world gathered in Gretna to begin Scotland’s month-long “Footprints for Peace” walk. Participants came from Scotland, England, France, Switzerland, South Africa, Poland and Australia to follow the various routes taken by the nuclear weapons convoys travelling between Burghfield /Aldermaston in the south of England and Faslane/Coulport on the west coast of Scotland.
Many were veterans of either the 2006 “Long Walk for Peace” from Faslane to Edinburgh, or last year’s “Footprints” walk taking in Dublin, London, Geneva and Brussels. For others this was their first involvement in a long-distance protest walk.
I was only doing the first week of the walk, the 87 miles between Gretna and Glasgow, but many of those taking part had committed to the full 30 days of the event, moving on to Faslane, then to Stirling and down into the borders before the final leg, on 28 August, from Portobello into Edinburgh.
As well as the main theme of the walk – raising awareness of, and resistance to, the missile convoys – flags, banners and T-shirts also proclaimed opposition to other elements of the nuclear “cycle” including nuclear energy and uranium mining, with activists exchanging both information and their experiences in the different components of these linked struggles.
Support was also expressed for the campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, the subject of a meeting to be hosted by Scotland’s for Peace in the Scottish Parliament on 21 September.
Inspiration and fear
Day one saw us walk from Gretna to Lockerbie, day two to Moffat, then on to Crawford, the co-operative settlement of Talamh, 18 miles into Blantyre and then into Glasgow on Thursday where we were hosted by the inspirational Gal Gael project in their centre in Govan.
On a number of overnight stops we were able to show the remarkable film about the nuclear convoys, Deadly Cargo, made by Nukewatch and Camcorder Guerillas, detailing the road shipments which take the Trident warheads for their regular reconditioning at Burghfield/Aldermaston and then return them to Faslane/Coulport.
The fact that these multi-vehicle convoys use public roads, sharing them with everyday traffic through major centres of population, makes the recorded instances of accidents and their possible consequences even more frightening.
The logistics of organising a walk like this are breathtaking and huge credit must go to those who have planned the route, organised accommodation and food, provided first aid and other support functions. Thanks must also go to the various organisations who have agreed to host the walkers on their overnight stops.