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Militarism & resistance

Decent exposure

It has been a month full of sharp reminders of how the military dominates our lives.

During the last week of April a group of activists peacefully blockaded the Defence Munitions Depot at Beith in Scotland (see PN2461). This huge depot has a workforce of 500, and its main work is to store, produce, test and issue a range of missiles (including Tomahawks) and torpedoes.

In an arcane twist, HMG contracts big arms companies like BAE Systems to do the manufacturing and these companies then sub-contract the work back to the MOD's Defence, Storage and Distribution agency. The blockade has let the MOD know that they are under scrutiny, as well as informing the public through the national media that there is an Isengard in the quiet fields of Ayrshire.

Bombing the heather

Next, I managed to catch the first part of the UXB conference in Glasgow, which aimed to learn the lessons from the successful resistance of Vieques in Puerto Rico and apply them to resisting the military domination of Scotland. There is after all a close practical connection.

Having been chased out of Vieques by an amazing popular resistance movement, the US and its allies intensified the use of the Cape Wrath area in north-east Scotland as a live bombing and shelling range, with a series of huge exercises in recent years. The occupation there is an environmental and economic disaster. It provides the grand total of three local jobs and while the MOD have denied using depleted uranium (there is always the outside possibility that they may be telling the truth), it has contaminated a vast area of land and sea. But then, bombing the heather is great fun.

Local complicity

Meanwhile the MOD has been caught taking a nuclear weapons convoy over weight restricted roads to the west of Stirling. Of course when I say “caught” I really mean “spotted by ordinary citizens” (AKA Nukewatch monitors), not flagged down by the police, for the simple reason that the local police obediently accompanied them on their way.

The roads (we have worked out it was one of two small rural roads with sharp corners and dubious bridges) are limited to vehicles of under 13 tonnes, while each of the three warhead carriers doing the business on the day in question is at least 48tonnes -- a discrepancy one might think worth noting.

The MOD are now saying that the local Council (Stirling) are revising their weight restrictions on these roads and have assured the MOD that it is all quite safe, go ahead, don't worry, and anyway the suggestion that we would do anything unsafe is absurd and offensive, huff, huff, livid with indignation.

Although the restrictions are set by the Council, they are supposed to be enforced by the police so a complaint has been submitted to the boys who used to be in blue. We do not have a clue as to why they switched from a relatively safe road to weight restricted ones. The theory that a modest demonstration, waiting for them on the usual route, made them feel all shy and retiring, does perhaps too much for the ego of the demonstrators.

One of the vehicles may just have taken the wrong exit at a roundabout and when you are a seven axle monster you a recommitted to the road you land on. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that they were trying out variations which they might take to avoid problems or threats.

Engaging & resisting

Anyway, one should not be surprised. If you are allowed to carry plutonium and high explosive in the same truck on an open public road in the service of a system of weapons of mass destruction, then petty traffic restrictions, however much they may be framed for public safety, are not going to present much of a hindrance.

The simple and hope-filled lesson of Vieques is that it is possible to expose the occupation for what it is and engage a whole people in resisting it. In the UK we are just at the early stages of that exposure process.

For an account of the military strangehold on Scotland see Fortress Scotland 2004 - #2 from Scottish CND, 14 Barrland Street, Glasgow G41 1QH (0141 423 1222; email scnd@banthebomb.org). To get involved in monitoring nuclear weapons convoys, depending on where you are, call or email:
Di: 02380 554434;
di@nuclearinfo.org (South)
TJ: 01706 839132;
tj@fudge75.freeserve.co.uk (East)
Alison: 01785 611768;
alison.crane@ntlworld.com (West)
Roz: 01555 820550
r.wensum@virgin.net (North)