Greens seek review of nuclear convoy safety

The Scottish Government will this week face calls to hold a review into concerns over nuclear weapons 'convoys' travelling through towns and cities in Scotland.

Army vehicles transport nuclear warheads from sites in the south of England to Scotland regularly. Picture: TSPL

The Greens have said the SNP government, which opposes nuclear weapons, is responsible for community safety and emergency planning and cannot dismiss the issue as being reserved to Westminster.

MSPs are preparing to debate the issue at Holyrood on Wednesday, where Green MSP Mark Ruskell will call for a review.

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Up to eight times a year, a convoy of heavy trucks containing weapon materials and nuclear warheads travels between the Aldermaston and Burghfield atomic weapon plants in Berkshire to the Royal Navy base at Coulport on Loch Long where the UK’s nuclear weapons are stored. These trucks will often be carrying weapons materials for maintenance or replacement.

But a Freedom of Information request by Green MSPs last year found that none of the relevant local authorities the trucks pass through has conducted risk assessments in relation to the convoys.

Mr Ruskell, the Greens’ environment spokesman at Holyrood, said: “Many people are still surprised when told that nuclear weapon convoys routinely pass by houses and schools in our communities.

“Councils have not assessed the impact of a release of radioactive material from these convoys. This is a critical gap in our emergency planning. Nuclear weapons are ­abhorrent but until we can put them beyond use, we must be ­honest about the risks to our communities.”

SNP and Labour MSPs have backed Mr Ruskell’s motion. Greens say that Argyll and Bute, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, Stirling, Falkirk, Edinburgh, East & West Lothian, Midlothian, Scottish Borders, North and South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway are among the Scottish council areas which the convoys pass through.

Information on what to do in an emergency involving a nuclear reactor is regularly circulated to residents close to the Coulport and Faslane nuclear submarine bases, but no equivalent information is given to communities along the regular convoy route.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said transportation must be carried out “safely and securely”.

She added: “We have made this expectation clear to the UK government. It is vital that the transport of nuclear weapons in Scotland is rigorously planned, carried out with close co-operation with Police Scotland, and supported by a large number of highly-trained specialists.”