Is this the end of the Faslane Peace Camp af­ter 35 years?

AF­TER MORE THAN THREE DECADES OF PROTEST­ING AGAINST NU­CLEAR WEAPONS, AC­TIVISTS AT THE FASLANE PEACE CAMP MIGHT BE FORCED TO FI­NALLY CALL IT A DAY, RE­PORTS BRIDGET MOR­RIS

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 NEWS -

IT’S the world’s long­est-run­ning anti-nu­clear protest camp – spring­ing up near the Faslane naval base in 1982, less than a mile from the sub­marines which carry Tri­dent bal­lis­tic mis­siles – but now its fu­ture is in peril. Thirty-five years on, the sprawl­ing wood­land site is so run down that half of the di­lap­i­dated car­a­vans are to be razed to the ground within weeks.

And a new gen­er­a­tion of ac­tivists who ar­rived at Faslane Peace Camp last sum­mer have is­sued a des­per­ate ap­peal for sup­port so that the cam­paign of non-violent di­rect ac­tion against the UK’s nu­clear de­ter­rent can con­tinue.

The tra­di­tion of civil dis­obe­di­ence over more than three decades has seen pro­test­ers block­ade roads near the naval base and even scale barbed wire fences and board sub­marines. Last month five anti-nu­clear ac­tivists locked arms at the fa­cil­ity’s high se­cu­rity main gate, caus­ing a two-mile tail­back near He­lens­burgh dur­ing the early morn­ing rush hour.

While the pro­test­ers are youth­ful and en­er­getic, the com­mune they’ve made their home is old and tired and it will be an up­hill strug­gle to raise the funds to re­build it. Pro­test­ers have de­cided to de­mol­ish the un­in­hab­it­able parts of the camp, but if they can’t find the money to re­build, it might be game over for the fa­mous peace site.

The snaking wood­land paths be­tween the makeshift res­i­dences are well main­tained but lead to car­a­vans that are vis­i­bly crum­bling. Many of the hab­it­able res­i­dences have wood-burn­ing stoves, how­ever the camp’s bath­room is cur­rently with­out hot wa­ter af­ter the boiler cracked.

And to make mat­ters worse the com­mu­nal sit­ting room and ad­join­ing kitchen must be flat­tened be­cause they’re fall­ing apart.

Chloe McKir­dle, from Glas­gow, has been vis­it­ing the camp for four years and moved in last sum­mer. The 21-year-old, who looks like she could have come straight from the T in the Park mu­sic fes­ti­val, said: “We’ve got a great group of peo­ple here just now. We’re to­tally re­do­ing ev­ery­thing. It needs to be live­able.”

Matt Watling, 42, from Kent, who has been at the site for seven months said: “Of the 10 car­a­vans, there are a five that need to be de­mol­ished. Some are so bad they can’t be used.

“And some of the tem­po­rary struc­tures were only in­tended to last six months but have ac­tu­ally been up for around 16 years.

“We have built the new kitchen but we’ve got no hot wa­ter, which is not ideal. We’re us­ing an out­door bath. You fill it up with river wa­ter and light a fire un­der­neath it. We’re try­ing to raise money for new boiler.”

The group re­lies on do­na­tions from sup­port­ers but ac­tivist Gary McDonald, 27, from Ud­dingston, who moved to the peace camp last sum­mer, ad­mits it’s not easy to raise money.

He said: “It’s dif­fi­cult. We do street stalls. Some peo­ple are quite gen­er­ous. We re­cently held an open day and some in­ter­est­ing peo­ple turned up. CND (Cam­paign for Nu­clear Dis­ar­ma­ment) help us. They’re pro­vid­ing a skip so that we can get rid of stuff, like old mat­tresses, so we don’t want to ask for too much more.” The pro­test­ers were re­cently of­fered a 36-foot static car­a­van fol­low­ing an on­line ap­peal but they are so cash-strapped that they can’t af­ford to trans­port it to the peace camp. Watling said: “It would cost about 500 quid to move it. We had a meet­ing to dis­cuss how to raise that sort of money but we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to have to say no to it.” At one time the site was home to dozens of ac­tivists and wel­comed hun­dreds of visi­tors who backed their cen­tral mis­sion to rid the world of nu­clear weapons. “When­ever any­one asks how many peo­ple are here nowa­days we say 300,” Watling said, with a smile. “Some peo­ple say 400.” When pressed on the true fig­ure he ad­mits the num­ber is closer to 10 – and Watling is now one of the long­est serv­ing. Be­fore ar­riv­ing at the peace camp, he “worked on the rail­ways” for many years, and was part of the huge team that con­structed the Chan­nel Tun­nel. Watling will now turn his hand to re­build­ing the peace camp, along with fel­low ac­tivists whose spir­its are high, de­spite the task at hand. We’re in the mid­dle of re­build­ing

the in­fra­struc­ture. We’re re­ally start­ing to work to­gether as a good team. Stuff is get­ting done. It’s all go­ing to look very nice,” he said.

McKir­dle, a for­mer army cadet who con­verted to the cause as a teenager, rep­re­sents the next gen­er­a­tion of anti-nu­clear ac­tivists.

She de­scribes her­self as an an­ar­chist with no af­fil­i­a­tion to any po­lit­i­cal party and is pro-in­de­pen­dence. She said: “I guess the SNP is good for us be­cause Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence is prob­a­bly the only op­por­tu­nity we’ve got to get rid of these weapons. But we have an­ar­chism val­ues. And ev­ery­one works on con­sen­sus. It’s a com­mu­nity.”

She was set to join the Army be­fore the colour­ful anti-nu­clear signs by the side of the road caught her eye and changed her mind.

She said: “When I was a kid we used to drive past here a lot be­cause my cousin was in the Royal Marines and was based at Faslane. I al­ways re­mem­ber see­ing the peace signs. About four years ago I de­cided to see what it’s all about.

“My mum is very proud of me. I mean there are some mem­bers of my fam­ily who aren’t, be­cause they’re quite mil­i­tary. The mil­i­tary was my orig­i­nal plan. I was in the cadets from the age of 13.

“But the best de­ci­sion I ever made was not go­ing to the Army be­cause I wouldn’t be here now.”

We’re re­ally start­ing to work to­gether as a good team. Stuff is get­ting done

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