111 held in Faslane protest

POLICE arrested 111 anti-nuclear campaigners, including MSPs and members of the clergy, at the Faslane naval base yesterday as a three-day protest began.

More than 300 demonstrators from across Europe massed at the Clyde nuclear-submarine base in an attempt to blockade the home of Britain’s Trident submarine fleet.

The Scottish Socialist Party leader, Tommy Sheridan, and Lloyd Quinan MSP, of the Scottish National Party, were among the first to be escorted away by police.

The chairwoman of British CND, Carol Naughton, was also among those detained.

Many of the demonstrators lay on the ground bound to each other by clay pipes and handcuffs outside the main entrance of the MoD base near Helensburgh.

Buses began disgorging crowds of demonstrators early yesterday morning, including the SNP leader, John Swinney, nationalist MSPs Dorothy Grace Elder and Sandra White, and the Scottish author, Alisdair Gray.

Protesters came from as far afield as Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, the United States, India and Japan.

Mr Sheridan was arrested after taking part in a sit-down protest outside the base.

Shortly after 9am, he produced a small, black plastic bag from his pocket and sat on it. He then linked arms with about nine other protesters who held their hands in the air in remembrance of those killed by weapons of mass destruction. They then began chanting: "Shut down Faslane, nuclear weapons are insane."

After issuing a warning that campaigners would be detained if they refused to budge, police moved in to arrest the defiant MSP after 30 minutes.

Mr Sheridan insisted that he was doing nothing illegal and the real crime was being committed inside the base.

As he was carried away by four police officers, his wife, Gail shouted after him: "Not guilty. You have done it before, son, you will do it again."

Before being taken to a local police station, Mr Sheridan said he was protesting against the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons. "I’ve not, in any way, caused alarm to another citizen. I therefore object that I have caused a breach of the peace."

Yesterday’s protest was the first of three planned by the anti-nuclear weapons group Trident Ploughshares, the CND and Faslane Peace Camp.

More than 30 Church of Scotland ministers were among the phalanx of campaigners at the site, and they held a special communion service outside the gates of the base.

Around ten ministers lay down on the ground before being arrested. The Rev Mitchell Bunting, of the Augustine Church in Edinburgh, was one of those taken away by police.

Mr Swinney said he was there to highlight both his party’s and his personal stance on nuclear weapons. He said: "I believe it is important to remove nuclear weapons from Scottish waters."

Chief Superintendent Harry Bunch, of Strathclyde Police, said last night that 58 men and 53 women were arrested during the day. The number was "very much reduced" compared to previous years.

A spokesman for the MoD said the protest cause "some disruption", but the safe running of the site was maintained.