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Reverend Norman Shanks
"Trident is theoretically and morally indefensible"
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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 09:22 GMT
New Trident submarine in service

The MoD has confirmed a new submarine is operational
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed the latest addition to the Trident submarine fleet has entered full service at Faslane.

A spokesman for the MoD said HMS Vengeance was now part of Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Tuesday's announcement came less than 24 hours after an estimated 1000 people gathered outside the Clyde facility to voice their opposition to the Trident system.

Armed forces minister John Spellar also underlined the government's commitment to Trident and the maintenance of nuclear deterrent patrols "in future decades".

Police arrested more than 370 people during the demonstration which was attended by leading churchmen and politicians.

Reverend Norman Shanks
Reverend Norman Shanks was arrested
Church of Scotland Minister, Reverend Norman Shanks, the leader of the Iona Community, was among those arrested.

He also suffered a similar fate at a Trident protest a year earlier.

But he told BBC Newsnight Scotland on Monday, the protest was not something he entered into lightly.

"What is happening at Faslane is a clear attempt on the part of those of us who are there from within the church to make a statement against violence, and to say that weapons of war - particularly the kinds of weapons that are represented by Trident missiles - are contrary to God's purpose for humanity," he said.

Speaking out

He said that being arrested was an ordeal, but part of the Christian faith involved putting yourself on the line.

"There is clear justification, both within the traditions of the church and on the basis of scripture, for people - whether ministers or lay people who have Christian convictions - to stand up and speak out for what they believe, even if that involves civil disobedience," he said.

"We believe that Trident represents something that is so significantly wrong and offensive, and such a huge waste of Britain's money in today's world, that this is justified.

Sheridan and Galloway
Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway were also arrested
"The position of the church in Scotland is clearly against Trident. We are embodying the views within churches in Scotland today."

He said the UK Government had shown that it was not prepared to move on the issue.

"We have gone a long way down the road with all the alternatives," he said.

"The government refuses to talk to the people who are prominently involved with the Trident Ploughshares campaign."

He added that the level of support at the demonstration had been "tremendously encouraging".

'Nuisance' factor

Police have estimated the number of protesters at about 500, although he thought the figure was closer to the 1000 predicted by campaign organisers.

However, Conservative MSP Ben Wallace said the British people had been given the chance to vote for disarmament back in 1983 and had chosen not to do so.

Ben Wallace MSP
Tory MSP Ben Wallace
And he said that blocking the road into Faslane amounted to "nuisance" rather than disobedience.

"If he is protesting to stop nuclear submarines you don't sit on the road. Nuclear submarines leave by the loch," he said.

He said the Rev Shanks did not speak for the whole church, pointing out that there were ministers and padres in the armed forces.

And he said nuclear weapons were cheaper when compared to conventional armed forces - and stressed that there was still a need for such a deterrent.

The biggest anti-nuclear protest seen in Scotland since the early 1960s was organised by anti-nuclear weapons group Trident Ploughshares and Scottish CND.

A number of protesters formed a human chain at the north gate entrance to the base at Helensburgh and they were cheered on by crowds on either side of the main gate who waved banners of support.

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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Scotland
Fourth Trident ready for service
12 Feb 01 | Scotland
Trident protest in pictures
22 Dec 00 | Scotland
Jailed MSP unrepentant
14 Feb 00 | Scotland
150 held in Trident protest
09 Oct 00 | Scotland
Trident 'legal' says Crown
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