No Trident placard No Trident placard, Photo: David Holt / cropped from original / licensed under CC-BY-2.0, linked at bottom of article

Activists who blockaded Faslane nuclear base in Glasgow are calling for a safer and greener future, reports Mark Porciani.

As news was filtering out that the Prime Minister’s personal mobile number has been publicly available online since 2006 – and while most of us breathed a sigh of relief that the Trident nuclear system still runs off Windows XP and not a phone app – a group of women from Extinction Rebellion (XR) were starting a protest and blockade to the entrance of Faslane nuclear base.

The facility contains the core of the submarine system, including the UK’s nuclear weapons.  It is also home to the new generation of ‘hunter-killer’ submarines. 

In the first blockade action at the base since August 2018, the XR activists attached themselves to three planters with the words ‘safe’, ‘green’ and ‘future’.

In the early 2000s, blockades were a regular disruption to the activities at Faslane. At the October 2001 protests, I was arrested wearing a Tony Blair mask and sign around my neck saying ‘War Criminal’. At the time, I saw this as much an opportunity to protest against the horrific emerging war in Afghanistan.

A slogan often chanted at the gates is ‘Nuclear Weapons Are Insane, Shutdown Faslane’. Recently, the insanity has been truly exposed. The latest government defence spending review has pledged yet more money to these weapons of mass destruction.

The money wasted on nuclear weapons would have been much better directed towards preparing us better for the pandemic, possibly enough to cover a Zero Covid strategy. Roughly the annual operating cost of Faslane is the same size of budget as Glasgow City Council. This means that every cut is even more unnecessary.

This isn’t the only disruption to activities at the facility on the Clyde this year. In March, civilian workers at the base were involved in strike action as part of an ongoing dispute with the privatised companies who run the base.

The workers at Faslane are in much need of a just transition to green jobs as part of a Green New Deal, as are the workers in Scotland who work in the fossil fuels sectors. This demand can cut through the argument we have often heard from trade unionists that nuclear weapons should be maintained to protect jobs.

It’s now six months to the Cop26 coming to Glasgow. During the UN Climate Summit, a mass protest will likely happen at Faslane. If that happens, uniting the workers and their unions at Faslane with XR activists has the potential to resonate in a similar way to the Seattle protests in 1999, when the Teamsters marched to join the ‘turtle kids’ against the World Trade Organisation.

A Global Action of protest has been called for 6 and 7 November, and will be a key date for all activists. This is to be similar in spirit to the global climate strike in September 2019. The for need a society which directs money, resources and skills towards sustainability rather than destruction is greater than ever.

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