Thousands of people have marched through Glasgow today (4 April), calling for an end to Trident nuclear weapons.
Participants in the ‘Bairns not Bombs’ rally insisted that the billions spent on Trident could be better used to prevent cuts to public services and the welfare state. ‘Bairns’ is a colloquial Scottish word for ‘children’.
Protests against Trident are becoming more frequent as the UK general election approaches.
The Scrap Trident Coalition said that about 4,000 people had attended the Glasgow rally, although police put the figure at 2,500.
The speakers included Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. As her devolved administration has no control over foreign and defence policy, she cannot prevent Trident submarines being docked in the Scottish base of Faslane.
"We all know that Trident is morally unjustifiable”, Sturgeon told the rally. “But at a time when the Westminster parties are all committed to forcing yet more austerity on us after the election, Trident is economically indefensible.”
Sturgeon insisted that her Scottish National Party (SNP) would use its influence at Westminster to push for an end to Trident. Parliament is due to make a decision on Trident renewal next year. While it is backed by Conservatives and the Labour leadership, opinion polls suggest the SNP may hold the balance of power.
“One of the biggest decisions that MPs will take in the next parliament is whether to waste £100 billion on renewing these morally obscene weapons”, said Sturgeon. “Broken down, that will be around £3 billion a year, peaking at an eye-watering £4 billion in the 2020s. Just think of what could be achieved with this money for the NHS, education or other public services – not just in Scotland, but across the UK.”
Others speakers included Nuala Watt, founder of Human Beings on Benefits, who said she was there because, like so many others, she is personally at the sharp end of the Westminster government’s savage attacks on welfare.
Helensburgh resident Eric Wallace, who can see Trident submarines from his window, said that renewing Trident would mean gambling with the lives of future generations.
There was a reminder that the Labour Party is not united in backing Trident, with Labour MP Katy Clark among the speakers.
Others speakers included Green MSP Patrick Harvie and Ann Henderson from the Scottish Trades Union Congress. They were joined by Cat Boyd from the Radical Independence Campaign, disability rights campaigner Sasha Callaghan and pacifist singer Penny Stone.
Patrick Harvie, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party, told the crowd, “There's a wave of anger up and down Scotland and throughout these islands at the idea of cutting billions from the budget that support the most vulnerable people in society, while spending even more billions on a new generation of weapons of mass destruction.”
He added, "Your job over the coming weeks is to make sure people hear the alternative voice. You need to take the message out day after day, to friends, family, your colleagues, your neighbours. Make sure they bring the issue of Trident to the top of the political agenda when they decide how they will cast their vote.”
Glasgow has a long tradition of peace campaigning. A century ago, during World War One, the city saw some of the largest anti-war demonstrations in Britain.
* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015