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Speech in Scottish Parliament Jackie Baillie

14 June 2007

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): I refer members to my contributions to the various debates on this subject that have taken place in the chamber—I do not intend to rehearse the arguments in detail again. Murdo Fraser did not share a platform with me, but he will be able to read the Official Report.

I will concentrate on the impact on and disruption to the lives of the people who live on the Roseneath peninsula and have to cope with the blockades organised by Faslane 365. I say at the outset that peaceful protest plays a vital part in a democratic society, and we have a long and respected tradition of it in this country. Many of the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today were gained because people were prepared to protest. I therefore defend absolutely the right to peaceful protest.

I acknowledge the Faslane 365 activists' determination to make their views known, but their illegal blockades cause more severe disruption than just preventing workers from clocking in at the base. In fact, the activists have caused little, if any, disruption to the base's operation. Instead, students have missed examinations, carers have been unable to get to their older and more vulnerable charges, and others have been unable to get to work or to go about their daily lives. That is to say nothing about the potential for fatalities if emergency vehicles are caught up in the blockades.

When not actively stopping the flow of traffic, protesters are known to illegally paint road markings and obscure sight lines for drivers. That is not just further disruption, it is criminal damage that could cause accidents.

Jamie Hepburn: Will the member take an intervention?

Jackie Baillie: I would rather make progress.

Members will be aware that the SNP supports Faslane 365, the organisation that is responsible for the blockades. In a letter from Alex Salmond's office, I was told that the SNP support does not extend to the blockading of adjacent roads. However, there is really only one road in and out of the peninsula, and supporters of Faslane 365 are blockading it quite deliberately. Will SNP members encourage their First Minister to withdraw his support for that illegal action but not necessarily his support for the principle of what Faslane 365 is trying to do? Mr Hepburn wishes to intervene. I look forward to receiving a yes or no answer from him.

Jamie Hepburn: The member is not actually going to get a yes or no answer—

Jackie Baillie: Then I am not going to accept the intervention.

I turn to the Greens, who take a principled stance on the issue. I quote from an e-mail from Robin Harper to one of my constituents.

Alasdair Allan (Western Isles) (SNP): Will the member give way?

Jackie Baillie: No.

These are Robin Harper's words, not mine:

"Given that my perception was that these blockades were I thought designed to make things difficult at the base, not aimed at the local community, and that according to recent reports, the protesters are fighting amongst themselves, I am seriously considering withdrawing my support—I need to consult with colleagues, and write to the camp before I take such a step, so give me a little time over this".

That is a well-judged comment.

If members need to be further convinced, they should consider the ill-conceived proposal to hold a disco and barbecue with live music outside the gates of Faslane cemetery. I am grateful that that will not now happen. The organisers did not realise the sensitivities and I commend them for changing their view. That is an illustration of the problem for local people, and I encourage Robin Harper and others in the chamber to reflect on it.

In closing, I refer to Peninsula 24/7, which is a group formed by local people to give them a voice in what is going on in their area. I ask all MSPs and parties that support Faslane 365 to think about the consequences for local people, many of whom do not support the presence of Trident on the Clyde.

What about the peace camp? I understand that there have already been two evictions, and on that basis it looks like "Big Brother" has nothing on the peace camp at Faslane. It is hardly behaving in unity to oppose Trident, which is what Faslane 365 seeks to do.