An SNP MSP is to complain to the chief constable of Police Scotland after activists from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) were pulled over near Stirling, and their car was subjected to a detailed roadworthiness check. Students filming the convoy from a roundabout were also questioned by police.
Heavily guarded 20-vehicle convoys regularly transport nuclear weapons in need of maintenance between the Burghfield bomb factory in Berkshire and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport on Loch Long. The convoys are often tracked by anti-nuclear campaigners, but they say this is the first time they have been hassled by police in recent years.
The SNP MSP Bill Kidd, co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on nuclear disarmament, accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) police who guard the convoy of tipping off Police Scotland.
“It seems to be a waste of police time to be stopping and questioning law-abiding peace campaigners, who are simply performing a legitimate public service by keeping a watchful eye on the transport of nuclear missiles along our roads,” he said.
“It appears that the MoD has, without good reason, requested that police officers detain peaceful nuclear disarmers by means of carrying out spurious car searches. I will be writing to the chief constable asking that this unwarranted practice should stop henceforth.”
SCND coordinator, John Ainslie, who was a passenger in the car that was stopped, accused the police of “harassing” campaigners. “We should not allow our police to be complicit in a conspiracy of silence or to reinforce the view that driving weapons of mass destruction through our towns and cities is normal and not worthy of note,” he said.
The car’s driver, SCND assistant coordinator, Veronika Tudhope, said it felt intrusive to have police officers inspect under the bonnet of her car. She was told that the police had received a report of “erratic driving”, and was threatened with a fine for a faulty rear numberplate light.
She said: “I have been driving safely on Scotland roads for over 27 years without once attracting the attention of the police. It is puzzling and annoying that the only time I have ever been accused of erratic driving was when there was also a convoy on the road.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay called on Police Scotland to clarify what happened. “I fully support the police in their work but they have to be absolutely clear that will not prevent peaceful, law abiding campaigners from going about their business,” he said.
Police Scotland confirmed that a car was traced near Stirling on Saturday “following a report of concern over how it was being driven”. After an inspection, a form was issued requiring the repair of a lighting defect, a police spokesman told The National.
“Officers also spoke with two males who appeared to be filming the convoy at Ballengeich Roundabout but were satisfied that there was no criminal offence taking place,” he added. “We thank the public for the patience and cooperation.”
The MoD said it had no authority over the civil police in this situation. “The safety of the public is always our priority and the safety and security of the convoy is carefully considered at all stages,” said an MoD spokesman.