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Peace Camp Eviction Update

Rab Fulton

28 July came and went. Argyll and Bute had told us to leave by that date or else they would start eviction proceedings. Needless to say nobody left - indeed many have now joined the camp to resist this threat.

On the weekend before the MOD plods were in a bit of a panick and started cautioning everybody who went onto the land behind the peace camp. Campers were stopped and cautioned for pickin berries and flowers, or washing in the waterfall. Peace Campers were told that if they were caught again they would be arrested and charged with Breach of the Peace. Quote of the weekend went tae a muckle MOD plod wae a muckle MOD plod dog who, after cautioning a couple of peace camp berry pickers, dramatically pronounced "remember we are the peace keepers - though on Monday things may be different." Campers were completely underwhelmed by this.

Peace Camp

Monday arrived and a niagara of journalists poured doon upon the camp in their millions, with satellite dishes, despatch riders, photographers. Peace campers were filmed digging holes, mixing cement, making tea. No officials from the council showed up. Round one to the Peace Camp. But councillors are still adamant that the camp will be cleared and are meeting this week to make plans. Their next move is likely to be going to the courts to get a formal eviction notice. The camp though is now well defended with a good thirty dissidents preparing for the eviction.

Councillors are now trying to win the media over to their side ( and failing badly) by making a lot of strange pronouncements. They have raised the possibility of giving council houses to camp residents if they leave the site quietly. The offer of council housing is an attempt to distract from the real issue - our right to peacefully monitor nuclear bases and weapons. The offer is also a cynical slap in the face to the many people who are currently waiting for council houses in Argyll and Bute. With a budget shortfall of seven million pounds,the councillors are still to explain where the money for the eviction is to come from - what schools, community centres, libraries etc will lose funding. Are they now seriously proposing to encourage council house queue jumping to solve political problems that they themselves have created.

Councillor Petrie has recently said of the camp: "It is a road verge, and who in their right mind would have a group of people staying there with danger to their own children, as has been in the past ". Let us be clear - no child has ever been injured on the road outside the camp. Indeed there has never been any complaint made to the Roads Department about Faslane Peace Camp. We have a fence separating the road from the camp. Indeed we look after our children in exactly the same way as countless families who have roads in front of their homes. If councillors are seriously concerned about road safety will they guarantee that polis will stop motorists who break speeding laws outside the camp. Will they guarantee that money for the eviction will not come from any council road safety measures. Will they condemn the transportation of nuclear warheads by road - the latest convoy having crossed the Kingston and Erskine bridges, as well as passing through Glasgow and Dumbarton.

Councillor Petrie has also made great issue of his ten year old petition against the camp signed by 900 people. If a petition indicates any form of mandate why has he chosen to ignore the 5,000 signatures on a current petition supporting the peace camp. We recognise that our tenancy and our camp is unique in Scotland, yet so too are the naval bases we monitor; naval bases that stockpile the highest concentration of nuclear weapons in Europe. Yet instead of bringing any of their concerns to us to be discussed, councillors have simply torn up our lease at a secret meeting. We do not believe that they would have treated other tenants in this manner. Why the double standards? Is it true that Montague and Evans want the camp closed so it can sell adjacent land on behalf of the Ministry of Defence?

We are concerned that the proposed eviction has nothing to do with who we are or where we are situated. The eviction is linked to what we stand for - a nuclear and war free world - and the questions we raise about Naval Bases in Argyll. The councillors' comments about rehousing and road safety are red herrings. The real issue is the continued presence in Scotland of nuclear weapons which the vast majority of Scots do not want. Nuclear warheads are regularly transported through Scotland and England by road. Faslane Peace Camp plays an important role in monitoring both nuclear convoys and the Naval Base itself. If it was not for Faslane Peace Camp the public and the media would never know about incidents like the fire on a nuclear submarine on 24th June, and the mercury spill on 28th July.

These threats to public safety should not be kept secret, nor should the workings of a supposedly democratic council. We, the residents of Faslane Peace Camp do not want to be, or need to be, rehoused. We simply want openness and honesty from our democratically elected representatives. We want the chance to have a say about our own future. And we want to be allowed to continue our service to the public - that is monitoring the Naval Bases and promoting peace.

All this we have said to the councillors clearly and repeatedly. We have stated that even though the camp is now defended, we do not want or seek any confrontation. Nor do we believe that exchanging insults is a healthy way to discuss and solve problems. we simply wish to talk to councillors about this proposed eviction. Like the rest of Argyll and Bute we remain ignorant of the Council's motives. We have asked them to suspend eviction proceedings until this matter has been fully and publicly debated. Indeed we have also told the councillors that they are welcome to attend the Peace Camp's weekly public meetings. Yet still they haven't responded to our requests. It seems that they remain determined to clear the camp - whilst we remain determined to stop them.

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