T WAS 1958 and the Cold War was chilling. The UK had been working with the US to develop nuclear weapons since World War II. The RAF had the country’s first atomic bomb – the Blue Danube.
The year before, the Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik satellite. The fear was that weapons could be launched on the West from space.
Across the country, people were gathering to discuss what they could do about this new, unfathomable threat. In England, plans were afoot to march on the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Scotland.
In Edinburgh, on March 22, the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) were formed.
The first meeting was held in Simpson House in the city’s Queen Street. Long time anti-nuclear activist George MacLeod, the founder of the Iona Community, was there. So were writer Naomi Mitchison, Doctor in the House actor James Robertson Justice and Whisky Galore author Sir Compton Mackenzie.
The first Aldermaston march, from the weapons institute to London, took place in April, with a Scottish contingent joining the 52-mile protest.
A Scottish “Aldermaston” march was held in Glasgow in May, with protesters gathering in Kelvingrove Park. Local CND groups sprang up in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Kirkcaldy and Ayr.
The issue did not go away. In 1960, Westminster did a deal to buy Skybolt air-launched missiles from the US. In return, the Americans wanted to base their nuclear submarines in Scotland. The ballistic missile subs, called Polaris, would be on the Holy Loch, just 25 miles from Glasgow.
This was the call to action that the peace movement needed.
Isobel Lindsay was sitting her Highers in Hamilton when the news broke. She had grown up hearing about the horrors of nuclear war from her father, whose military career took him into Hiroshima after the bomb dropped.
He had brought back a melted bottle that had survived the blast.
Isobel said: “I knew that nuclear weapons were real. All of a sudden they were arriving in Scotland in three months with no debate, no vote, no discussion at all.”
She spent the summer working on the campaign to stop Polaris coming to Scotland. Isobel was far from the only person galvanised into action by the
MAKING WAVES A protest against Polaris nuclear submarines in the Holy Loch in February 1961 STRONG MESSAGE Arthur West and Iona Soper with exhibition signs