Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the kinds of questions we've been asked as we've talked to groups and individuals to mobilise for Faslane 365, with some basicresponses.
Why focus on nuclear weapons when there are so many important issues?
Surely people are more concerned nowadays with debt relief, climate change, the war in Iraq, the crumbling of our health and education infrastructure, terrorism........ Nuclear weapons are such an outdated, cold war issue, why bother?
You're right that nuclear weapons are outdated, but the issue is not. Recent developments make clear that we need to confront nuclear policy now, with a major push, as a matter of urgency. Tony Blair's government is planning to spend more than £40 billion over time on a so-called replacement nuclear system for Trident (with the same purpose but new and improved!). The present Trident is meant to last to 2024 as it is, so the plan is to ensure that Britain will rely on nuclear weapons (and therefore also on the United States) until at least the year 2055. The decision has to be taken in the next few years, and if we pull out all the stops we can prevent this criminal waste of resources. This is possible, and if we succeed it will have a major impact on a host of other vital issues that are interrelated.
But even more important than the waste of resources - and we can all think of better ways to spend £40 billion - is the way in which our government's determination to hang on to its ability to threaten mass destruction undermines the very roots of our society. It makes a mockery of all law and morality when, as a matter of routine defence policy, this country breaches the most fundamental of international and humanitarian laws by deploying and threatening to use the most heinous of weapons of mass destruction. And what does it say to the rest of the world when Britain cannot face the prospect of being without nuclear weapons, even though we have undertaken as a matter of international law to accomplish the complete elimination of our nuclear arsenal.
Representing a quick and violent 'fix' to complex threats and challenges, nuclear weapons epitomise the abuses of power and skewed values that fuel terrorism and the growing levels of violence in our homes and on our streets. Trident has thus become inextricably related to a wide range of economic, humanitarian and justice issues.
If we succeed in cutting the cord that binds our country to nuclear weapons, we will find that we have gone a long way towards cutting or at least loosening the hold of the military mindset and the dominant corporations, giving us a better chance to turn things around on a host of other issues, from climate change to human rights and poverty. We're not saying 'drop what you're doing and switch to stopping Trident': this isn't either/or, because the issues are linked. We're asking for 48 hours of your time to make the connections: to publicise and work on your issues while helping us physically to close the Faslane nuclear base.
Why go to Faslane?
Why not Devonport (where the Trident submarines go for their re-fit) or Aldermaston (where nuclear warheads are refurbished and new warheads researched and built)? Isn't there a risk that such a long blockade at Faslane might take away energy from the protests at these other places?
Faslane is where our nuclear weapons system is actively based - it is the home base of Trident. It is thus of prime importance. However, there are many military sites in the UK, where demonstrations and civil resistance need to be maintained and built upon, so that people do not forget the complex military network that keeps Trident ready for war. Faslane 365 is not going to replace protests and civil resistance at these places. From past experience, it is more likely to add energy and help these other places to become better known, so that the government can see there is opposition to what is going on at all the nuclear bases.
Won't such a long blockade use up the energies of activists and cause even more burn out?
Won't it mean fewer actions overall? People and groups are low, so much is wrong, there is so much to do.....
Success breeds success; and if we make this work, energy will flow once more in many directions. Though in its entirety the blockade will be a year long, activists and groups are only being asked to commit to making their own 48 hours a success - that is the equivalent of one weekend out of a whole year, which is surely not too much to ask when the stakes - getting rid of nuclear weapons - are so high. Some activists or groups will no doubt want to commit to more, which will be welcome, but we need to be careful to help each other and be respectful of when activists need recuperation time, while trusting and knowing that this initiative will bring in more activists to share the work.
Such a focus on direct action and civil resistance might split the peace movement...
there are already problems between rival factions and perspectives, won't this exacerbate them?
There are many different roads to peace and disarmament and a more sustainable and healthy world community, and we must respect and support the contributions made by all. Splits, factions and undermining other people's ways of working are not helpful. There is a place for everyone. Conferences, peace education, academic studies,lobbying, letter writing and civil resistance are all important. Fresh momentum in any one of these different ways of working helps us all. We must applaud and encourage diversity of method and be prepared to share and involve ourselves in a range of different initiatives.
Won't this only lead to more repression?
There might be a backlash against the peace movement or the wider activist community (anti-terrorist laws being used against blockades in the environmental and solidarity movements for instance). Or Faslane Peace Camp might get threatened with closure once more...
We live in an increasingly repressive state where the 'threat of terrorism' is more and more widely used to justify repressive techniques being used by the police and 'authorities'. It may be likely that the more effective we become the more repressive will be the response, but this is something we need to challenge, not give in and let it get worse. If we give up because of fear, the abuses of power and repressive acts will become worse, particularly against more vulnerable groups in our society. We must not self-censor as that lets repression win, with dire consequences for society and human rights; instead, we need to keep each other informed, face repression in solidarity, give strong support to those who are particularly targeted, and find ways of challenging repressive laws. There are many supportive lawyers who will help us to challenge and change these repressive laws and techniques.
Won't the police make it impossible for the protesters and their supporters to reach Faslane
Like the stopping of coaches to prevent protesters from getting anywhere near Fairford during the anti-war protests in
the build up to the war against Iraq. Or by containing people away from the gates so they cannot block them.
This may happen so we will have to come up with contingency plans. In some ways it does not matter where we are stopped. The important fact is that we seriously intend to get to Faslane, and that we continue to try to do this throughout our 48 hour block. If we are stopped by the police along the way, we should try to do our blockade where we are, even if it's in the middle of a road. That extra disruption becomes their responsibility too, and they will quickly learn that this tactic is more trouble than it is worth! If stopped, we need to explain our purpose of upholding international law and preventing preparations for mass murder from continuing at Faslane, and we should ask them to release us and join us! However far from the gates of Faslane we are, we should be prepared to make a visible blockade and protest, and as long as is feasible to continue to make attempts to get to Faslane.
We can undermine such police techniques by using such stops to demonstrate to an even wider public that we are part of the Faslane 365 blockade and so send our messages out, regardless of where they try to stop us. Later we can get a second chance by challenging such stops through the courts, which will tie up more of their time and resources!
We can also draw on our creativity and determination to find different ways to reach Faslane, including splitting into smaller groups to walk or take buses, taxis, trains, bicycles, even boats to Faslane. The important thing is that at least 100 new people will be coming each day, and one way or another our visibility and commitments to blockade and disrupt the work at Faslane will send a strong message of shared people power, and give that necessary push to the Scottish and British Parliaments to uphold international law and get rid of Trident.
I'm worried that heavy-handed tactics of the police could make groups and individuals change their mind and cause the rota to fail.
This will depend on how prepared and determined we all are. Police tactics have not been particularly heavy handed in the past (see some blockading stories on our website), but if they become so, we must ensure that the rota commitments are taken seriously and that we act in solidarity with each other. We need to ensure we are well prepared and trained, where necessary, and that we've thought through the various scenarios. Most importantly, we need to follow through our commitments and if one group is singled out by the police then we must both support that group and also keep the blockade going.
What if the police leave us blockading the gates we are at
but instead open up new gates or find other routes to ferry everyone in and carry on as normal?
If the base were to resort to such methods that would already be a major indication that we were being successful in preventing business as usual. Furthermore, it would be psychologically hard for the military to allow any gate - especially the Main Gate - to be closed by protest for any length of time. If they open up new routes into the base then we may have to flow into these new places. Each group will write up their experiences and put this on the website so that those coming after know what has happened before and can contact each other for suggestions and ideas.
Is there a risk that our actions will put the people who run Faslane Base into a corner?
In any nonviolent struggle should we not make sure there is a way out?
There is a way out. We will keep all doors open for dialogue and discussion with the base and the Scottish and British politicians, who have overall responsibility for decisions concerning Faslane. We will be establishing an experienced dialogue and negotiation team that will try to talk to the politicians and ask them to uphold international law. The Scottish Parliament can reject Trident as being unlawful. With our pressure we may be able to help them do what they have wanted to do for many years: get rid of weapons of mass destruction and create a truly defensive defence approach that puts human security at the heart of its work.
What happens/how will we feel if we complete the year-long blockade and Trident is still here and the replacement to Trident is going ahead?
This depends on how we conduct the campaign. If we act in positive, loving and respectful ways then the actions in themselves will be worthwhile. Success is unlikely to come in one fell swoop, but the year-long blockade will have a very powerful impact on public consciousness and political decision-making, and in the process the next phase of ideas and strategies will emerge.
We have to recognise that nuclear disarmament is not a linear process where progress can be measured step by step; it is more like dislodging a heavily-embedded boulder that has deep roots in the military-industrial complex and is held in place by strong tentacles of bureaucratic, corporate and political vested interests. To get it to budge even slightly takes a lot of digging in many places underneath, as well as cutting the tentacles and concerted pushing with everything we've got - Trident Ploughshares, Aldermaston Women's Campaign, CND groups, the peace camp and the anti-nuclear work of the past decades have already done a huge amount of this digging and chipping away to loosen the boulder. It's now a bit loose, and has been put a bit off balance because the government has started trying to get another boulder down on top to last for another 50 years - and they want to do this fast, before anyone notices and stops them! This is our chance! To get it to shift we now need a really big, strong, sustained push. That is what Faslane 365 hopes to do. Once the Trident boulder starts to shift, disarmament will pick up momentum and carry other issues forward as well.
I'm worried about the impact on the locals through the disruption caused by the blocking of the roads/tailbacks/increased police surveillance?
We will need to listen and talk to local people and make them aware of why we are doing what we are doing. Since the Faslane Peace Camp and Trident Ploughshares have been taking actions for many years, contacts have been made that can be further built on, but we do need to make it clear that our target is Trident, and our aim is not to make life difficult for ordinary people. The impact of Trident nuclear weapons and the infrastructure and activities of Faslane Naval Base on local life is immense, and many local people are unhappy aboutwhat has happened to their mountains and lochs. We need to engage with them. We should do regular leafleting and hold some public meetings on the impact of Trident and the nuclear base. We need to ask for their help and support in getting rid of this evil and we need to offer our help in thinking through and developing economic alternatives for when the base is closed down.
There may be other concerns too, such as the clogging up of local courts, public money spent on covering increased police presence and thus being diverted from local public services and so on. We will have to explain the connections between what we are doing and these concerns, and that in addition to trying to prevent a nuclear holocaust we want to stop the misuse of public money on illegal weapons of mass destruction. Scottish groups that have the resources might like to put on local public meetings in Glasgow or Helensburgh, to explain why they are taking part in Faslane 365 and why they want the local population to join in with them. It is also worth pointing out that the local government should not allow their money to be used for ill-advised police protection for a military base that is involved in preparing to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
How can we cope with the practical difficulties of rain, wind, cold winter nights, midges in the summer?
Preparation. Thinking ahead. Practice. Refugees cope, when they generally have no warning and very few of the resources that will be available to us. Peace campers have also lived through weeks, months, even years of such conditions, whereas we will be doing it for only 48 hours at a time. We need to wear clothes appropriate to the season and our actions, and can get anti-midge lotion or wear nets to keep midges out in summer. We can also come provided with rainproof gear, plastic or tarpaulin, or take chairs or folding beds or blow-up mats with us. Plan on bringing food, drinks, even thermos flasks (and if all else fails, a fire in front of the gates can be a very effective blockading technique, enabling us to keep warm and boil a kettle to boot!). The important thing is to think through potential needs and problems and use our creativity, not only to survive but to enjoy ourselves too!
How will we be able to attract the numbers required for this initiative?
What happens if we fail to recruit enough even for the first hundred days? Doesn't this plan to blockade for such a long time rely on large numbers of people willing and able to be arrested, as it is unlikely that the police will let us stay for any length of time or accept our arguments that what we are doing is lawful. The failure of not even being able to start could result in even more depression and lack of hope.
It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. The need to stop the next wave of nuclear weapons is so urgent that we have to be prepared to give it everything we've got. In addition to seeking people prepared to brave arrest for the sake of preventing these nuclear war-crimes and human rights abuses, each group will also need people willing to come to Faslane in a variety of other, non-arrestable capacities, to provide visibility, legal support, drivers, music, food and theatre, for example. The very process of trying can make things happen and inspire other ideas or actions, too. If we find we have to adjust our sights, then we may need to be flexible about the plan. To try with hope and act with true intent is all that is asked - we cannot fail at that. Peace is the way not the end.
There is a fear factor to address. Some people are afraid of being arrested, especially if they've just embarked on careers, in case any resulting conviction is reported to their employer, or becomes part of their job application history. In fact, people arrested for anti-nuclear protests include serving MPs, ministers, doctors, nurses, social workers, academics - even Martin Sheen (the US President in the West Wing, arrested three times for nonviolent trespasses at the Nevada nuclear test site)! The briefing pack explains what may be involved, and nonviolence training will include ways of addressing these fears and finding out what role is best for each person to take.
By the time the blockade begins the political context may be very different
What if, for example, a nuclear power station has been blown up, maybe by non-state terrorists here or by state terrorists trying to prevent Iran's nuclear programme, or other dramatic and destabilising developments like that?
The need for the UK to disarm its nuclear weapons will still be imperative. We know we are not terrorists, and this underscores the necessity for all groups participating in the blockade to be totally nonviolent, open and accountable, so that it is clear to any honest person that we are not terrorists.
What if the police and media try to smear us, calling us terrorists, saying we are a threat to national security?
These kinds of smears have been hurled at protesters for a long time. In the cold war we were called commies, for example. We must learn the lessons from the past and from other countries where such smears are regularly employed to discredit dissenters. Our best protection is to involve a wide range of people from all walks of life, to stand up for what we believe in, and to be engaged courteously with everyone we approach. The more people who know someone from their family or community or work-place who is involved with Faslane 365, the easier it will be to dismiss the smears.
What if the police specifically target any Asian or Muslim groups taking part?
There will be many different religious groups involved in Faslane 365. We have to acknowledge that racism poses greater dangers for some communities than others, and that the recent anti-terrorist legislation may encourage the police to specifically target Asian or Muslim people that get involved, using the excuse that they think they might be terrorists. Our ground rules of nonviolence are very clear - there will be no rational basis for the police to think that we are terrorists. Faslane 365 will make it clear that we expect equal treatment under the law and we need to insist on this and pay particular attention to ensuring that minority groups are not picked off for special harassment.
We need to be vigilant to support people if abuses and racism do occur. We are also working on getting a group of lawyers and journalists who will monitor the overall conduct of the blockade and policing throughout the months. Blockaders will be able to call on these experts if abuses occur. In addition, we strongly encourage groups to provide supporters and observers of their own: for example, maybe they could get religious leaders or local parliamentary representatives or supportive lawyers or other 'respected members of the town or community' to be present during their block as observers (an especially useful role for those who don't feel able to be an arrestable part of the blockade themselves). They can act as witnesses, able to vouch for the peacefulness and courtesy of the blockaders and making sure that the police and courts know that their behaviour is being monitored as well.
What of all the unknown consequences?
There are always unknown consequences. All we can do is to think hard and try to imagine what they may be, but we will not be able to imagine them all. Our only guide is to act purely and with honest good intent, to be mindful and thoughtful.
Our fears can either paralyse us, or - more constructively, we can use them to act as a stimulus for our creativity to overcome any obstacles or unanticipated developments. There are many 'what ifs'? we need to think about the possibilities and our responses, while also being prepared and flexible to deal positively with anything that might arise.
What if Trident is removed from Scotland only to be placed in Devonport?
Though unlikely, such a move - which would be hugely costly and inconvenient for the government and navy - would of course count as a significant victory. If they did do this, we would need to mobilise as effectively at Devonport and they would have nowhere else to put it! If we successfully dislodged them from Faslane, where they've been entrenched for a long time, it will be even easier next time!
How will we be able to maintain nonviolence with so many diverse groups participating in such an autonomous manner?
Whether viewed as a way of life or a tactic in actions, nonviolence is a core principle of the Faslane 365 actions that must be respected by all. It will also provide significant strength and protection for us, especially if we are faced with violence from the police or anyone else. All participating groups will have to agree to the guidelines on nonviolence and mutual respect. All individuals and groups will be responsible for maintaining complete nonviolence during their own blockading times. We will encourage participating groups to take nonviolence workshops so that we all share a similar preparatory background. The problem is the same for all nonviolent actions. We must set the framework, take responsibility for ourselves and our group and then have faith that others will do the same. If things go wrong or individuals temporarily lose control, as sometimes happens, it will be important for other members of those groups to help defuse the situation and restore nonviolence.
Won't an insistence on a 48-hour blockading block exclude old or disabled people from participating?
Absolutely not! Groups are asked to commit to the 48-hour period, but individuals can find practical ways to participate in accordance with their needs and capabilities, such as taking turns of just an hour or two. Another possibility might be to have a larger group spreading the 48 hour period between them, e.g. for a group of 200 to commit to doing 24 hours each. Take into account what your group feels able to carry out and build that into your planning. Then there are other practical arrangements of taking beds and shelters with you???
However, as with any activities, some people will not be able to take part in the blockading. All people, including disabled people, have different abilities, circumstances and capacities, and this long blockade may not be equally accessible to everyone in terms of risking arrest. Some people will have dependents, some may be too ill, some will be asylum seekers or 'illegal' immigrants, or will have learning disabilities; there may be a variety of reasons why vulnerable people would not feel able to risk arrest, including the stress, claustrophobia etc. It is important that everyone who wants to participate is made to feel that their contribution is of equal value, whether or not they feel able to sit in front of the gates for long hours or risk arrest. People may choose to provide support that is just as important and necessary - work as legal and court observers, researchers, communicators, educators, banner holders, cooks, clearer uppers, drivers?? We are a diverse community and everyone cannot and should not take exactly the same role.
Are we asking too much of the Scottish people?
Trident was dumped on the Scottish people without their willing consent and many would like to see it taken away. This is not a Scottish problem, but a problem for all. Although we are calling on people from all over the UK and even from other countries to get involved, because Trident is a threat to world peace, it's true that Scotland bears a heavier burden because that's where Trident is based.
Civil resistance works most effectively if the local population backs it, so it is very important that we ask the Scottish people to back Faslane 365 and to become involved. The more support Scottish people can give and the more they join the blockade, the more support will be pulled in from people from other countries.
Isn't the Scottish Parliament too weak to do anything about Trident? Isn't the plan politically naïve?
The Scottish Parliament is as weak as it allows itself to be. It does not have to accept illegal weapons of mass destruction on its land. Although defence matters are reserved to Westminster, Westminster cannot force Scotland to engage in illegal acts even if they concern the defence forces. But it needs strength of character and determination to stand up to Westminster? maybe a people's blockade going on for so long will give courage to the politicians to stand up for Scotland's right to refuse to collaborate in an illegal deployment of nuclear weapons foisted on them from London.
And aren't all matters of ethics and right livelihood sneered at as being naïve? The Suffragettes were sneered at for being politically naive, but they won the vote for women. Often when people bring matters of ethics and law into political demands they are dismissed as naive. It is far more naive to imagine that Britain can have any influence on preventing proliferation if it hangs on to nuclear weapons itself, and very naive to think that nuclear weapons will not be used some time in the near future unless we make much greater progress in nuclear disarmament worldwide.
We have already had discussion with three political parties in Scotland who have indicated support and said that they are willing to take on 48-hour blocks. One party said that they may want to take on 3 separate blocks in the run-up to the Scottish General Election.
The project sounds like a kind of Rolling Activists' Social Forum
Who would the groups be presenting their respective programmes to, and where? The European Social Forum typically takes
place over days, and in a single gathering-place.
The blockade is whatever the participating people and groups make of it. Some will want to be autonomous, using their blocks for political visibility and to make the links between their issues and the crimes and costs of this nuclear nonsense. Others will want to view it as a rolling civil resistance forum, which can happen because of the overlapping of 48-hour blocks. As a new group arrives each day, there will be overlap with the groups before and after (except the first and last). It makes sense to think of the first day of each group's block - when energy is at its highest - as their main day for publicity and for getting their messages to the public. The second day may be for winding down and some of a group's energies may be taken up with supporting members who may have been arrested by then. They can also hear the incoming group's messages and issues, if they want, or move to a different gate for the second day. The opportunity would be there for overlapping groups to network and even work together, but this doesn't have to be the pattern for all to follow.
We're also thinking of holding a public launch (in Glasgow or Edinburgh) around a month before the blockade starts, at which as many groups as wish to can introduce themselves and their work and explain what they see as the link between their specific issues and the weapons of mass destruction being deployed by the UK government in Scotland. There will be opportunities for cross-issue panels, press interviews and stalls for groups to make their information and publications available to others. The press, Members of the Scottish Parliament and various local authorities, the police and military will be invited to the launch, along with the general public.
Another way for groups to share their respective programmes will be through the website where each participating group will have a dedicated page where they will explain their work, give links to their websites, and explain why they are taking part in the blockade.
How will such a project be funded?
Many of the organisations that are being approached are struggling to raise funds for their own campaigns.
This will be difficult, but we are raising money from various sources and have confidence that with mutual support, respect and networking we can raise enough for the core mobilising, training and materials, and that groups will be able to raise funds to cover the costs of their 48-hour blocks. We will need to approach people for funds in the same way as we approach them to support us spiritually and physically. If everyone gives a little then we can fund ourselves. Problems can be overcome and will become a strength.
Donations can be made to :- 'Faslane 365' and sent to Faslane 365,
Valley Farmhouse, East Runton, Cromer, Norfolk NR27 9PN, UK.
What About These New Anti-Terrorist Laws At Faslane?
I've heard that you can now get arrested under the Terrorism Act at Faslane. Is this true?
There are a number of sites around the UK, one of which is Faslane, which are "Designated Areas" under a new power in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (as amended by the Terrorism Act 2006). It is an offence under this to be inside Faslane without lawful authority.
However, this only applies if you go inside the fence. As long as you stay outside the fence this does not apply - even if you are on MoD land and blockading the gates.
For more information on this see