Scotland

Scotland lives directly in the shadow of the bomb. Faslane, the home of the UK's current nuclear deterrent, Trident, is on the beautiful west coast of Scotland - only 26 miles from Glasgow, our country's largest city. Five miles from the town of Helensburgh. Just over two miles from the village of Garelochhead, with its 3700 inhabitants.

 

Imagine the outcry if it were located near Guildford, a similar distance from London. Or in some district five miles from central London - like Tottenham or Camden Town. What if it were two miles from the delightful Shropshire market town of Church Stretton? Would the English public be happy about that?

 

Here we have no choice. Most of Scotland's political parties oppose nuclear weapons (apart from the traditional parties, Labour and Conservative) yet the government in Westminster voted in 2016 to renew the UK's nuclear weapons programme and replace Trident with Dreadnought. The UK, along with our special allies, the Americans, has refused to sign the Treaty on the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. No wonder Barack Obama chipped in to oppose Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum. Scotland is an important military base for the USA.

 

We who live directly in the shadow of the bomb feel fear and anger. We know the fragility of the natural world and we know what's important in life. Along with hundreds of protesters we say, Bairns Not Bombs.

MAIRI JACK

The Whistleblower      

 

McNeilly’s whistle shrieked

Shattering

Scattering

Dark dangerous secrets

From beneath a black blanket

Of doom

 

He scared citizens

Made them pause to think

On his devastating claim

Thirty security flaws

On Trident submarines

At Faslane

 

The Royal Navy

Reacted with fury

Pooh-poohed his dossier

And scandalously

Discharged this young mariner

Dishonourably

 

William McNeilly

Still insists Trident

Is without doubt

A disaster

Waiting to happen

On our doorstep

 

And now we know

The twists and turns

Of corrupt U.K. government

We shiver and spare a thought

For brave McNeilly

Who blew the whistle

And was silenced.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The Circle Games

As blunders galore explode from nuclear sites

We could well vanish like the white doves

disappeared by magicians’ sleight of hand.

A nuclear flash, a mushroom puff of smoke,

fire, brimstone and pouf! – our nation is destroyed.

A swirl of purple satin, jet-black cloak

and startled doves enjoy a fluttering rebirth.

The black-eyed magic man earns his applause.

Not so for us when stashed by Faslane nuclear base

two hundred and fifteen deadly fireworks

masquerade as our defence. Our protection.

Armageddon in Bondesque hollow hills

A display that could be lit by lax security

or terrorists, not enemy attack.

By piling nuclear warheads on a Highland fault line

will death blast from our beautiful landscape?

For victims, no beauty can be found in such a death,

vaporised if caught in the core blast,

others torched, irradiated, cancer-ridden.

Boffins played their deadly circle games.

Compasses in hand, they swirled the killing zones.

As Joni crooned her song The Circle Game - of

joy at seasons’ turn, nature’s cycle of life,

they spun annihilation, devastation,

us the chosen ones – as accidents here

in Scotland are judged ‘tolerable deaths’.

(Nuclear safety assessments, revealed by The Ferret, have highlight 'regulatory risks' 86 times. Many involved the Trident warheads and nuclear submarines based on the Clyde.)

GEORGE T. WATT

Craggan Hill

It wuid be graund tae walk again ower Craggan hill,
yon ben o ma bairnhood that haes niver left ma ee.
I hae sclimmed mony a heich ben,
mony ae kenspeckled mountain prized by yon Munro baggers,
fail braggarts, twitchers o mountains faa fail tae see
the bweuty o oor kintraside. Bens are like weemen,
tae be considered, respekted, luved even,
but nae tae be mounted an syne forgotten o.
Craggan I luved wi a bairn's ee, ma mither earth,
pap tae ma yung shanks as I explored her gentle braes,
her rustlin burnies, her braken covert howes
an rockie ootcraps wi clingin, wund hewn rowan.
I kent whaur the hoolet bid, whaur the bizzard nested,
an the birthyird o mony a yowe.

I kent whaur the roe hiddled, the birks the spinkies looed

an lauchit at the midges as I peltit thaim wi braken leafs.
I sat on favoured stanes an watched the deep watters
an scanned ower atward 'Argyll's bowlin green'
but thir heich hills meant nocht tae me like Craggan.
It wuid be graund again tae traipse ower Craggan hill
but yon airt is noo awned by a furren pooer,
hame tae an arsenal o deith,
its milk sap turnt tae pyson,
but ma childish een can still sclim
thay innocent braes.

PETER CLIVE

Caesium 137

I remember when I first met you:

1988, Glasgow, an undergraduate lab class,

radioactive mud taken from the drains

in the aftermath of Chernobyl two years before.

We were suitably cautioned,

and we handled you with care

lest you infiltrate ribs, settle in marrow,

to eject gene-shredding electrons

and announce your presence with leukemia

and leave a signature of barium in bones

lying undisturbed for centuries

in a premature grave,

but you entered my life before that:

in the rain that fell that day in April 1986,

and in the grass that fed the sheep

and cooked them from the inside just enough

to take them by the million from the hills

in case they ended up on our tables,

but even before that you were there,

a minute residue of Hiroshima, a trace, a stratum,

dividing all of human history into two eras:

the Pre-caesium-137 Age and the Post,

your absence in old bottles of claret

a proof of vintage, as bought and paid for,

because we'd have to go back aeons,

long before grapes grew

in the chalky soils of St Emilion,

before the beguiling balance of risk and reward

teased life into the diversity we see around us

that erupted in the Cambrian Explosion,

before single cells first embraced as gametes,

to find you in the detritus and rubble

from which the Earth was formed, dwindling away

after the concatenation of half lives

that had elapsed since you were first born

in the collision of neutron stars

that we unravel today to heat our homes,

and destroy the armies of our enemies,

and confer on you a second birth

that buries us in your resurrection.

Werewolves

(A poem written in Glasgow during the solar eclipse of 20th March 2015)

We ran together, you and I,

as wolves and werewolves through the thickening dusk,

racing for two and a half delirious minutes,

twisting through vanishing twilit forests of hidden desire,

transformed to reveal our secret selves,

drunk with ecstasy and apocalypse,

drunk with the darkness of the eclipse, rioting,

giddy, swooning with the swift sudden reperfusion

of all the glorious unspent rage of ages past,

restored by the wider world's paralysis,

set free, gone wild.

The birds meekly surrender their songs to silence.

The deranged Sun rides the Moon along a course

plotted upon the surface of the Earth by helpless astronomers.

A few brief seconds are turned into an epoch, an age of wonder,

in which our howls are tribute, not to some Moon of myth,

but one suddenly present and full with night during the brightest day,  

stealthily stashing the Sun’s stolen light on its dark side.

Her lead disc offers a single coin to reckon the whole world's worth:

Quoth the Moon, 'why should I return your Sun to you?

The world it illuminates only excites your cupidity.

By its light your suspicious spy satellites peer over shoulders,

reading communiques or love letters from one hundred miles high.

Why should I readmit you to their orbit,

let alone allow you to trespass upon mine?

Your society is a crime committed in broad daylight:

isn't the cover of darkness more fitting for your conspiracies?'

Inexorable and punctilious physical law

punctually peels away the darkness She adores

from the highest mountain peaks to shingle shores

and the returning day is met, not with joy,

but by our own resignation and indifference once more,

as we return to our desks and our dull quotidian chores

but we will run again as wolves and werewolves,

across the blazing caesium fields of Chernobyl

where we buried alive the angry fires we made

for a while at least,

across the glittering bismuth marsh of Pripyat,

drooling with the bitter potash filling our mouths and nostrils

leached from the ashes of this burned and bleached land

as all the world’s gold melts and sublimates to nothing

under an inevitable hot thermonuclear glare

and houses with walls made of feathers take flight,

startled by the bomb’s loud blast,

and the fireball brings the eclipse home to stay at last,

pulling the Sun out of the Earth,

its cloudy fist first clenched around it,

obscuring it like the Moon had done,

before opening its hand to blow the ashes from its palm,

releasing us to roam and bay forever at the Moon,

in the parched grey twilight woods of nuclear winter.

ROSE ANN FRASER RITCHIE

Faslane

She knows adventures

diving

champagne

escaping

running

hanging out

washing

ladders

stockings

aristocratic

liaisons

creative

innovations

family

complications

stained red

lipstick collar

spare

time

Love

Not

Faslane

Love

Bairns not bombs

Image by Iona Soper

FINOLA SCOTT

Here be dragons

Loaded with binoculars, heather and whisky

they scour the highlands, hearts beating.

Such excitement - Monsters!

Glens, corries and heather moors tempt

with tales of Clearance, but it's the lochs

that draw. Tourists scan for movement

below waves, yearn to be scared.

But the guide books are very rough

and don't advise travel to the Clyde,

that wonderful river of our tartan sing-along.

Here in glacial waters, creatures hunker deep.  

Chain link fences march miles to defend

these dark Each Uisges, that flash terror

threaten to shift our shapes.

Such shoals, time-bombs tick all our days.

Summer bright, winter dark, in spite of

opposition, in spite of Parliament,

in spite.

How many ways?

For snow the Inuit have millions

drifts, banks, avalanches.

For sure Scots have a wheen

for rain – smirr, drizzle, drookit,

beltin, lashin, daggy.

But for this rain, which didn't drop gentle from heaven

which burnt, corroded, melted,

flesh, banes, een, marrow, pinkies, oxters.

Then, now and futures destroyed

no

no

there are

no words.