Posts tagged ‘Coulport’

Sep 12, 2012

Agnes, Jean, Ian Jack and Trident




Ian Jack’s Scotland is a sepia comic-cut, a wistful D. C. Thomson-inspired world which only exists in his imagination. Little old ladies, scones and genteel tearooms and no doubt un soupçon of och aye the noo thrown in for good measure.

The division of wealth is an east-west split in Scotland, he observes, which has some truth in it although I doubt his contention would survive real scrutiny. I’ll pass over his benchmark of wealth indicator, the existence of a Waitrose store, for he himself introduces an element of doubt over its applicability.

The essence of Jack’s article is the threat to Trident of a ‘yes-vote’ for Scottish independence in 2014 and the impact this would have on the Ministry of Defence workforce employed in and around the Faslane and Coulport bases close to Helensburgh where ‘Agnes’ and ‘Jean’ indulge in a post-high tea genteel bicker over who should treat the other.

It is Jack’s contention that the area, – “The most militarised district in western Europe”- is so dependent on maintaining the UK’s weapons of mass destruction that were an independent Scotland to banish Trident the impact on the region’s current relative prosperity would be severely threatened.

He hints at the English composition of the MoD’s workforce for he tells us – ‘English voices mingle with Scottish ones’ on the streets of Helensburgh underlining the point with an observation that the profusion of union flags decorating properties hint at a significant workforce which has migrated into the area from England. What will become of this 7000 of a workforce and a further 4000 peripheral jobs? he asks.

Similar circumstances were faced at Kinloss and Lossiemouth with Westminster’s cuts pushing for the removal of the RAF to England. There were grave concerns in Moray over ‘lost’ employment with all that would mean for the local economy. But much of the displaced military personnel followed their jobs south so reducing the number of ‘lost jobs’. As for civilians working with the MoD in Moray many were in lower paid work than their military colleagues – having fewer qualifications or employed part-timers. The point being non-skilled work is easier to find than specialised employment and many skills are transferable.

If the Trident bases go then it could be expected that, as with the Moray experience, a bulk of the MoD personnel would leave along with it echoing in reverse their migration north. The effect would be to reduce Jack’s 7000 although admittedly doing little to reduce concern over the estimated 4000 associated jobs which are likely to affect permanent or indigenous rather peripatetic personnel. Certainly Jack’s figures become improbable.

If Trident is removed from the area or scrapped then there are real issues regarding employment in this part of Argyll and Bute but should we be prepared to continue paying our taxes to maintain these nuclear defence jobs at any price?

Jack boils down his argument to three main points.

1. These MoD ports and defence infrastructure are big, so big that it would be hard to move them.

2. Their removal would destroy the local economy “for the sake of its (SNP) anti-nuclear principles”.

3. The “rump government of the UK” would struggle to build an equivalent base to retain Trident – “even if it could find a locality willing to take it.”

The first point demonstrates how out of touch Jack has become with the mood in Scotland.

As for point two – God preserve us from a political party sticking to its principles, eh Jack?

And three the idea that no other place outside Scotland would want this type of installation beggars belief – were we ever asked if we wanted it here?

The article peters out with Jack asserting that Trident will become an important bargaining chip in any independence negotiations. Indeed. He forecasts that by not replacing Trident the issue will just disappear by the 2020s, in which case Mr Jack what will happen to the 7000 plus 4000 workers you are so concerned about? Are they only important as a tool to knock the SNP/nationalist movement? Will your next piece be about the Ministry of Defence throwing its workforce on the nuclear scrap heap when Trident is finally abandoned?

The paucity of any proper understanding or conception of how Scotland has grown in confidence sufficient to challenge its exploitation as a dumping ground for the UK’s weapons of mass destruction would have Jean and Agnes spluttering over their Earl Grey teas and dropped scones.

For a columnist who formerly wrote pointedly and with sparkle his recent output has become disappointingly tired, stale outbursts of prejudice signifying nothing much at all.


Ref: Guardian Sat 8 September 2012

Gruinard and anthrax