A March for Peace

On Saturday 22nd September, around thirty people from Arran’s CND group joined hundreds of demonstrators at the naval base on the Clyde, for the international anti-nuclear rally organised by Scottish CND.      

The journey from Ardrossan to Faslane

A bus met us off the first boat in Ardrossan and drove first to Helensburgh and then onto the Peace Camp at Faslane. Here coaches arrived from all over Scotland, and further afield, bringing people from as far north as Cromarty and Inverness, and from Manchester and Reading south of the border. There were representatives from groups including the Quakers, and Badger Trust, and members from the Clydebank Trades Council. And there were individuals who came, including gardeners, who shared their wish for a  ‘Nuclear Free World for Fuchsias’. Folk came with flags and banners, with guitars and bagpipes, and with their hope for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The radical singing group Protest in Harmony gathered at the Peace camp before the walk to the naval base, and sang peace classics such as ‘Deep Blue Sea’ by Pete Seeger, as well as an original interpretation of the Can Can – the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Can Can!

The Peace Camp has had a continuous presence near the Trident base since 1982, when Bobby and Margaret Harrison pitched their tent on a grass verge on the side of the A82. Bobby and Margaret Harrison were well known peace campaigners and a formidable force in CND from its foundation in 1958. They were arrested many times during demonstrations at Faslane and Holy Loch, the latter being the home of a US ballistic missile submarine base from 1961 to 1992.

In 1981, along with other campaigners, Bobby and Margaret cycled from Iona to Canterbury on a Pilgrimage of Peace, requesting Nuclear Disarmament. Beginning on Good Friday, they set off, stopping along the way to publicise the issues posed by the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the use of Trident as a defence strategy. They visited the Civil Defence College and bunker at Easingwold and joined fellow demonstrators at Aldermaston and Greenham Common. On reaching London on 3 June, Margaret and her fellow pilgrims visited Downing Street but Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, was ‘too busy’ to see them. They did however leave a box with thousands of signatures, stating that people were prepared to live in a ‘world without arms’.

On Saturday, the crowd walked the mile or so from the peace camp to the north gate of the HMNB Naval Base Clyde decorating the 10 ft high fence which surrounds the base with origami cranes, banners and messages for peace as they went.

Once at the gates of the navy base, Jackie Kay, poet and scottish Makar addressed the crowd, telling of her childhood visits to Faslane and her history of peace campaigning with her family. She read poems that shared her belief in a world without nuclear weapons before we heard from peace campaigners from around the world. There were speakers from Germany, Holland, Russia, Israel, and America, who conveyed their solidarity with Scotland and the message that we are a country with a unique role at the moment – a devolved and relatively autonomous nation that is hosting nuclear weapons despite the majority of people and the Scottish government being against their presence here.

Looking through the fence at Faslane, with submarine parked in the middle distance

Organisers from Scottish CND said: “Scotland is a significant and relatively autonomous part of a nuclear-armed state which opposes its possession of weapons of mass destruction. As things stand we cannot become a party to the new UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but there are lots of ways in which we can align ourselves to the Treaty. The rally is a fine opportunity to mark our determination to do so.”

There was a small amount of media coverage of the demonstration. Out of all the demonstrators, flags and banners that were at the rally, this picture below was chosen by the journalist and posted on the BBC website! It is of King’s Cross resident and long time peace activist John Webster (on the left) with one of the Isle of Arran banners, very clearly telling the world what (some of) Arran thinks about Trident!