On Saturday 4 April some four to five thousand people marched through the streets of Glasgow and filled George Square calling on the UK government to abandon its plans to replace Trident nuclear weapons. The Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre was one of the organising groups. Here’s the full report.
George Square was filled with people holding a thousand placards that proclaimed “Scrap Trident” and “Bairns Not Bombs” as well as homemade banners and placards. The march was led round Glasgow City Centre by the She-Boom Samba Band and the beautiful “Bairns Not Bombs” banner carried by, amongst others, Green MSPs Patick Harvie and John Wilson.
On returning to the Square Arthur West Chair of Scottish CND welcomed the thousands who were gathered and singer Karine Polwart kicked things off with her beautiful song “Better Things” saying that apart from all the political, ethical and practical arguments against Trident it shows a dreadful lack of imagination.
Patrick Harvie MSP, the first speaker couldn’t resist taking a selfie with the huge crowd at his back. The Scottish Greens Co-convenor who has been described by the Daily Mail as the “voice of the irresponsible left led anti Christian anti-family gay whales against the bomb coalition” said he was proud to be appearing with the “most dangerous woman in Britain”. He added “If you have never been to Faslane where this evil systme of mass destruction is based , if you have never come to join us on a blockade, take this moment to decide you’re going to join the blockade on the 13th..I’ll be there. I hope many of you will too.”
Welcoming people from across the political spectrum Jenny Gunn from the Scottish Socialist Party introduced Nuala Watt, founder of Human Beings on Benefit. Standing with her walker decorated with “Bairns Not Bombs” and “Scrap Trident” slogans Nuala spoke about a different kind of Defense than that usually talked about in debates around Trident, the Welfare State. Her organisation provides support for people dealing with the psychological consequences of cuts to their Benefits. “Working capability assessment” she said “forces people to focus on wha they can not do when all their life they triedd to do the opposite.”
Next up was Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said this was “without a doubt the biggest anti Trident gathering in George Square ever.” “We have a chance in this election” she continued ” to change the priorites of the out of touch Westminster system in the interest of ordinary people across the UK, to say to that out of touch system that its priorites are not our priiorites and instead rewrite those priorites. I want to see the scarce resources of our country invested in the future of our children, in health, education and protecting the most vulnerable in our society. I don’t want a single penny, let alone £100 Billion invested in nuclear weapons of mass destruction.”
Nicola Sturgeon continued “People ask me all the time, in the event of a hung Parliament, if we are in discussions with labour about a working arrangement if Trident will be a Red Line. Let me answer in very simple terms. You better believe Trident will be a Red Line. So let us put this issue at the heart of the Westminster debate. If we send to Westminster MPs that are prepared to vote against Trident renewal then we can insure the debate in the next Parliament is not about renewal of Trident but about getting rid of it once and for all. Do not vote for any candidate that will vote for renewal of Trident. Let us make sure we send an alliance of anti-Trident candiadates to Westminster to say No to Trident once and for all.”
Labour MP Katy Clark who has voted against Trident consistently for ten years in Parliament said that Trident, with its terrible destructive potential is no use against the threats of terrorism, hunger and climate change we face today. “All of the arguments we put forward for keeping Trident can be used by others and the more countries that have them the greater the chance of their being used. I want the money to be spent on welfare and arms diversification. So let’s build anlliances to rid the UK, Europe and the worldl of nuclear weapons.”
Anne Henderson of the STUC recalled that the Sctotish Trade Union Council had opposed nuclear weapons since they were first introduced by the Tory government in 1961 and that the STUC had worked together in 2007 to produce a report that challenged some of the statistics on the number of Trident related jobs at Faslane and that its work on diversification was important for those families who will be affected if we get rid of Trident.
Calling Trident “that neo-liberal sex toy” Disability Rights campaigner Sasha Callahan said we “always have money for war, weapons and for the bankers but nothing for us, the disabled and ordinary people of Scotland.. If we have money for war we have money for the welfare state, social security, fairness, equality, justice, everything we’ve dreamed of. We live in a rich country where children are going to bed hungry, people are begging on the streets. We stand for freedom, justice, peace and a new solidarity.”
The final speaker, Cat Boyd from the Radical Independence Campaign said there was a tradition of standing for what’s right in George Square. It was the place where Nelson Mandela was given the keys to the city and where we stood against Bush and Blair.” “Now we are drawing a line in the streets against Trident.” “If you go from here to Faslane you will pass through Clydebank where the Job Centre is overcrowded and people are queueing at Food Banks.” “Trident” she said “is a symbol of Britain’s failure. Successive governments have cared more about providing space for nuclear weapons than shelter for people.” “We are told that Trident is necessary for our security. What we need to be protected from is the Westminster government. What will keep us safe is a decent social settlement that doesn’t discriminate or stigmatize.”
“Britain has been a bad global citizen, from empire to illegal wars to backing dictatorships like in Chile, to backing apartheid states. Trident is a symbol of the governement’s commitment to spending on war over welfare, bombs over bairns. RIC will fight until Trident is decommisssioned, until it is a relic like the political system it represents.~”
A solidarity demo was held in Penzance and a message of solidarity from CND Cymru was also read out.
“An overwhelming majority of people in Wales are opposed to nuclear weapons. Wales is suffering as badly as anywhere under austerity – we can see what is going on. Many candidates in Wales are standing in the coming Westminster Election under the banner of ‘No to Trident!’; ‘No to Trident Replacement!’. “If using a nuclear weapon is described as ‘MAD’ (Mutually Assured Destruction), then buying new ones at a time of crushing austerity will come with a demand that language specialists devise a new word to describe an insanity that is beyond imagination. We know that people in Scotland and Wales don’t want Trident – and if people in England want it, they can start dredging the Thames!
Peace campaigner and singer Penny Stone brought everyone together and brought the rally to a close leading us all in singing the civil rights anthem “We shall overcome”. It seems at this time that we might just do that. But we must keep up the struggle to make sure. The next stage of the Scrap Trident Coalition activities will take place at Faslane with a Big Blockade of the nuclear weapons base on 13 April. JOIN and SHARE the event on Facebook. For full details and a Briefing visit the website.
Everyone thinking of coming along is invited to come to the nonviolent direct action training on Sunday 12 April in Glasgow. Register for accomodation and the training here. All are welcome to come along and support the blockaded. You can also book a place on a bus from Glasgow, Edinburgh or the Borders here.