Protesters gather in Glasgow as arms conference opens

The protestors gathered outside the SEC in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
The protestors gathered outside the SEC in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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Dozens of protesters have picketed the entrance to an arms conference which opened today in Glasgow.

The Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) event, hosted at the Scottish Exhibition Centre (SEC) until Thursday, will bring together leading military professionals and undersea experts to promote “cutting edge technologies and developments”.

The event is sponsored by some of the world’s leading arms manufacturers including Babcock, the firm which runs the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane, and BAE Systems, also involved in the Trident renewal programme.

Several civic groups, including CND, protested outside the venue. Police made one arrest after a protester attempted to run inside the venue.

Today, 31 GPs, professors and other healthcare workers put their names to a letter composed by public health charity Medact, which referred to the “humanitarian consequences of the arms trade”.

The letter said: “Among customers will be the government of Saudi Arabia who are accused of committing war crimes against the civilian population of Yemen, which have included deadly attacks on medical facilities and have been implicated in a devastating public health crisis.”

Signatory Dr James Bogie added: “The health and social impacts of war and the arms trade are clearly understood and are even being felt here in Scotland, with families seeking refuge here from war-torn homelands.

“As a doctor I have met patients who are suffering the physical and emotional effects of war. Weapons that are used in foreign combat should not be promoted within our city.

“The fact that such a fair brings revenue to the city is not strong enough justification for supporting an industry that is leading to such destruction worldwide.”

Nearly 1,500 representatives from 50 companies are expected to attend the event, backed by the SNP-led Glasgow authority despite the party’s official opposition to nuclear weapons.

The council came under fire last week for its stance after it removed its ‘People Make Glasgow’ logo from the event’s list of sponsors but refused to withdraw practical support.

Glasgow Life, a charity which operates cultural events on behalf of the council, initially bid for the city to host the conference under the previous Labour administration, but confirmation was awarded in July last year by the new SNP-led body.

Reem Abu-Hayyeh, peace and security campaigner with Medact, said: “The arms trade is a clear example of companies putting profit over human life: products made by many of the arms and technology companies participating in the Undersea Defence conference have directly contributed to the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the world.

“Health professionals in Scotland are raising their voices against the celebration and legitimisation of the arms trade, and we call on Glasgow City Council to commit to never to support an arms fair in this city again.”

UDT, now in its 31st year, previously held a conference in Glasgow in 2008 and its promotional material says it provides arms companies with the chance to “meet face-to-face with over 1,400 international, senior military and industry leaders”.

The event is organised by Clarion Events, one of the world’s leading events organisers and member of the arms industry trades body ADS.

Campaigners from the Sink the Arms Fair coalition, which includes groups such as Scottish CND and Campaign Against the Arms Trade Scotland, have called a protest outside the SEC today.

Glasgow City Council has been approached for comment.