ROLE IN MODERN CONFLICT
A number of military facilities in Scotland played a direct role
in the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops, air and
naval forces based in Scotland took part in the invasion of Iraq.
In the run up to the war, facilities in Scotland also played an
important part. The munitions depot at Glen Douglas in Argyll is
used for stocking up munitions, shells and weapons prior to conflict.
In January 2003, two of the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers berthed
at the adjacent Glen Mallan jetty to stock up on armaments before
heading to war. Glen Douglas is a huge munitions depot, covers an
area of 650 acres, employs 150 people and stores an unknown amount
of 'conventional weapons'.
In February 2003, just prior to the invasion of Iraq, almost 200
DU shells were fired at Dundrennan by British Challenger II tanks
before departing for Iraq. The Kirkcudbright range near Dundrennan,
in south-west Scotland, is the only open air testing area for depleted
uranium munitions in the UK. The range covers 4,500 acres and has
a danger area extending over 120 square miles of the Solway Firth.
Since 1982, over 6,000 depleted uranium munitions, mainly anti-tank
shells have been fired on the range into the Solway without any
having been recovered. British Challenger II tanks almost exclusively
fire DU shells. As a chemically toxic substance, depleted uranium
dust contaminates land and causes ill health and cancers to many,
including the soldiers who deploy them, the armies they target,
and civilians caught in the middle.
Just over 50 miles west of the range at Dundrennan, is the QinetiQ
owned bombing range and weapons facility at West Freugh in Luce
Bay. Activities that take place at the range include a number of
bombing activities and short-range weapons trials including the
testing of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are a major armament of
the RAF's Tornado GR4 attack aircraft, 64 of which are based at
RAF Lossiemouth, on the east coast of Scotland, making Lossiemouth
the largest Tornado base in the UK. Cluster Bombs are munitions
that on explosion hurl hundreds of pieces of metal fragments and
shrapnel in all directions. Civilian casualties and injuries are
a common occurrence when they are used. On the 22nd March 2003 at
least 50 Iraqi civilians in Basra were killed as a result of an
aerial bombardment that included the use of cluster bombs.
Luce bay is also used for NATO training exercises. In September
2003, the RAF contributed to a NATO training exercise called Northern
Light, that was a huge mock amphibious landing involving nearly
50 ships and submarines and 34 aircraft from UK and foreign forces.
And, also in Scotland there are a number of important NATO communications
and intelligence stations. At Aird Uig on Lewis, the radar station
there forms part of NATO's monitoring of the North Atlantic. The
station had been expected to close, but work was completed in 2003
to reactivate it, a decision partially connected to the prospect
of terrorist attacks on Britain.
In Kinross, the 'Golf Ball' radar station at Balado Bridge is a
satellite ground station for the NATO-IV communication satellite,
providing long distance secure communications between NATO forces.
Next door to the 'T-in-The-Park' music festival site, Balado Bridge
had been linked to the Scottish command centre at Pitreavie in Fife
by microwave transmitter. When Pitreavie was closed in the mid-1990s,
its functions were transferred to Faslane. A microwave link between
Balado Bridge and Faslane could be in operation today.
Scotland was exploited by the military during the Cold War and
that situation remains. Cape Wrath is the only ship-to-shore bombardment
range in Europe and since the United States Navy was forced to withdraw
from a similar range in Puerto Rico in 2003, Cape Wrath can unwittingly
claim to be the most important area for naval training in the world,
or at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The range also contains
the only place in Europe where aircraft can release live one thousand
pound bombs. For a country as small as Scotland, it is staggering
that it contains:
· All of Britain's nuclear weapons at Coulport and the strategic
nuclear submarine fleet at Faslane
· Britain's biggest Tornado base at Lossiemouth
· The largest and most frequently used low flying area in
Britain in the north west Highlands
· The only open air live depleted uranium weapons test range
in Britain at Dundrennan
The utilisation of Scottish based troops, aircraft and equipment
in the 'War on Terror' in Afghanistan and Iraq, highlights that
Scotland still has an active role in present world conflict. Scotland's
Cold War legacy is still being felt today, and without concerted
effort by those who believe Scotland should play more of a role
as a force for peace in the world, this situation is unlikely to
change in the near future.