The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is writing to the Defence Minister Michael Fallon to seek urgent answers to safety and security concerns of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, following presentations provided at its Scottish Forum meeting last Friday in Paisley. (1) NFLA is also alarmed to hear the comments made yesterday by Foreign Minister Philip Hammond that Britain could again host US cruise missiles on UK soil, due to concerns over growing tensions with Russia. (2)
At the NFLA Scotland seminar, councillors and attendees heard from the Sunday Herald’s Environment Editor, Rob Edwards, of the very serious allegations made by Trident whistleblower Able Seaman William McNeilly, over the safety of Trident submarines and wider security lapses on the submarine and at the Faslane naval base. These included concerns around whether the submarines were actually capable of firing missiles, the potential of catastrophic fire and flooding concerns on the submarines and the mental health of some of the submariners on board.
It greatly concerns NFLA that Able Seaman McNeilly’s allegations have been met by a wholly inadequate response from the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It is even more surprising that McNeilly has not been charged with any offence – when clearly the allegations are of a highly serious nature – and is now apparently back at work as if nothing has happened. The response provided by the MOD to Parliament has not responded in any real detail to the allegations made by McNeilly and leaves the NFLA, MPs and other disarmament groups perplexed that something as serious as a “disaster waiting to happen” does not seem to being dealt with properly by safety regulators or the UK Government. NFLA is urgently writing to the Defence Minister requesting it provide a detailed rebuttal of McNeilly’s allegations. Without that, it leads to the implicit view that there remain serious safety and security issues with Trident submarines.
At the seminar NFLA also heard about the safety of transporting by road nuclear weapon convoys from Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire to Faslane and Coulport in Scotland. Nukewatch Scotland Co-ordinator Jane Tallents outlined that two convoys earlier this year took place in periods of severe, inclement weather with snowfall, icy roads and high winds. NFLA are also writing to the Defence Minister calling for the cancellation of road convoys during periods of such weather, particularly when a yellow or red severe weather warning is issued. The potential for an accident involving such a convoy is inevitably increased in such conditions, and the risk to the public should be removed by cancelling transports in such periods of bad weather.
NFLA are also greatly alarmed with the public comments made yesterday by Foreign Minister Philip Hammond that the increased tensions with Russia may lead to US ground-based Cruise nuclear missiles being sited on UK bases. The UK should not be sucked into a new Cold War, and taking forward this type of action puts at risk the public living near US bases in the UK. Nuclear weapons do not protect the UK from Russia; they actually increase the potential risk to the country. NFLA will seek urgent clarification as to these comments.
NFLA Chair Councillor Mark Hackett said:
I was alarmed to hear of major safety and security concerns of Trident submarines and nuclear weapons convoys at the NFLA Scotland Forum seminar in Paisley. To also hear that the MOD response is to downplay McNeilly’s sensational allegations and let him go back to work as if nothing has happened is quite surprising. We need urgent answers from the MOD on these issues and I am writing to the Defence Minister to seek them. I am also greatly alarmed about the possibility of US nuclear weapons appearing again on UK soil. I genuinely thought the days of Greenham Common would be seen again, but if this takes place the risks of a new and unnecessary Cold War could be brought back to communities and cities across the country. We need calm heads at this moment, not sabre rattling. This is symptomatic of a government not taking its nuclear disarmament responsibilities seriously.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 0161 234 3244 or 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Media Release, 2nd June
Sunday Herald, 17th May 2015
Further more detailed information on:
RobEdwards.com, 17th May 2015
(2) Daily Telegraph, 7th June 2015