More than 30 protesters were arrested during an anti-Trident blockade at HMNB Clyde on Monday – but widespread disruption to the local community feared ahead of the event failed to materialise.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said 34 people were arrested, although organisers Scrap Trident said the event was ‘a huge success’.
Around 200 protesters turned up at Faslane – where the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines are based – and attempted to block all the gates into the naval facility.
It was the second of three events organised by the Scrap Trident Coalition, following on from a widely attended march in Glasgow on April 4.
The protest began at around 7am to disrupt a shift change at the base, and by 3pm, the protesters still at the base left and held a closing ceremony at the base’s north gate.
Ministry of Defence police made two arrests for ‘malicious damage’ after protesters allegedly spray painted the fence.
Councillor George Freeman, who last week raised concerns about protesters appeals to police ‘not to arrest them’, said it ‘must be the lowest turnout’ for what was claimed to be a major demonstration.
He said: “I was not surprised to see that the Scrap Trident Coalition could not muster more than 200 individuals to take part in their latest demonstration and attempted blockade at Faslane. This indicates to me a declining interest in such demonstrations.
“This must be the lowest turnout for what the organisers claimed was a major demonstration at Faslane.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland confirmed they arrested 32 people on Monday at the base, and a further two were arrested by the navy police.
A spokesman for HMNB Clyde told the Advertiser that there were measures in place to ‘minimise any disruption’.
He said: “HM Naval Base Clyde put robust planning measures in place to minimise any disruption to normal operations as a result of this demonstration. The effective safety and security of the site was maintained at all times.
“The MOD recognises the democratic right of individuals to participate in lawful and peaceful protest activities. MOD Police and Police Scotland seek to facilitate safe and peaceful protest activity but any breaches in criminal law will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.”
Cllr Freeman said he was ‘delighted’ Police Scotland had arrested unlawful individuals.
He said: “I was also delighted to note that Police Scotland stuck by the assurances they gave me that they had not agreed to the organisers request not to arrest any of the demonstrators. They had also confirmed to me that infringements of the law would be dealt with appropriately and, if the demonstrators fail to desist, arrests would be made.
“Given that the information I have is that a total of 34 arrests were made, it is clear that a many of those attending did break the law.
“I was delighted at the way the Police Scotland handled this demonstration. I have had no complaints from constituents and again, the public highway was kept open allowing the public to go about their lawful business.”
Jackie Baillie, Helensburgh and Lomond’s MSP, said it was ‘disappointing’ protesters had to cause disruption to the Peninsula in an attempt to get their point across.
She told the Advertiser: “People have a right to protest but that must be balanced with responsibility and respect for the rights of residents on the Peninsula to travel freely to their place of work, or education, or for healthcare without road blocks and traffic chaos.
“Workers at the base have had to endure this kind of disruption many times in the past but it is disappointing that the demonstrators do not feel able to make their point in a way that respects the rights of Peninsula residents to get out and about.”
Stuart McMillan, MSP for West Scotland, said that he supported individual’s right to protest — as long as they did not break the law.
He told the Advertiser: “I support people’s right to protest and make your voice heard, as long as it’s within the confines of the law.”
A spokesman for the Scrap Trident Coalition said it was ‘one of the moset effective’ blockades they have done, and noted the importance of Trident in the general election debates.
He said: “This has been one of the most effective blockades in our experience with so many workers being unable to enter the base and such a relaxed, colourful and upbeat vibe to the whole protest.
“It has been wonderful to have the presence of people ranging in age from five to over 80 years-old, to have a member of our own parliament sitting down with us, and so many others from diverse backgrounds.
“Trident is a hot topic at the general election and this gives us hope that at last we can tackle the British state’s addiction to monstrous and mindless violence.
“We are also aware that even among the workers in the base and the police who attended today there is growing support for removing the WMD stain from our shores.”