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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 00:31 GMT
Residents await Trident verdict
Stephen Stewart
BBC Scotland news website

Dawn Furniss is living proof that Helensburgh is a navy town. The 35-year-old is one of many local people who want to see the nearby nuclear bases stay open to safeguard the area's long-term future.

Helensburgh's main street
Helensburgh is hugely economically dependent on the local bases

Like many naval staff and their families, she is closely monitoring the UK parliament's deliberations over the future of Trident and the subsequent retention of the nuclear fleet at HM Naval Base Clyde.

Helensburgh is just minutes from the naval bases at Coulport and Faslane.

The casual observer of the town's streetscape is immediately struck by the tangible impact of having a large number of military personnel nearby.

For a generally quiet seaside town, there is a thriving pub scene populated by large numbers of predominantly young naval staff eager to let off steam.

Sitting in her flat just a few streets away from the bustling seafront, Dawn explained that her father served in the Navy for decades as did her former partner.

Her young son, Michael, is already keen to forge a career in the service despite still being just six-years-old.

A vociferous, high-profile anti-Trident campaign over the years has tended to dominate the headlines, but Dawn was markedly positive about Faslane's impact.

Economic benefits

Helensburgh, one of Scotland's most salubrious areas, currently has the second highest house prices in the country.

But without the economic benefits of Faslane and Coulport, Dawn said the entire area would be reduced to an economic backwater.

The mother-of-two said: "I think local people are a bit apprehensive (in case Trident and the base are scrapped). The base is hugely important for local businesses.

Dawn Furniss and her son Michael
Dawn has lived in Helensburgh for more than 20 years

"Without it, the economy would really be in dire straits. There are a huge amount of people who either work at the base or in a job linked to it.

"Some shops are struggling already and if the base was to go, this would be a ghost town. There is not a lot else here to support the economy.

"My little boy would love to join the Navy just like his father. It would be a real blow if it was to close."

Faslane employs more than 7,000 civilian and Royal Navy staff with the same numbers in support of the facility.

The bulk of Faslane's industrial staff is drawn from outwith Argyll and Bute, with the largest proportion of workers coming from West Dunbartonshire.

Moral quandary

Alan Greenwood, the editor of the Helensburgh Advertiser, a local newspaper which covers both Coulport and Faslane, said the sites had a huge economic impact on the area.

He added: "We only have to look at Dunoon to see what happened with the closure of the Holy Loch base.

Alan Greenwood
Alan Greenwood said locals were acutely aware of the economics

"People are very mindful of the problems which could arise."

Faslane was first constructed in World War II but it was during the 1960s that talks began with the US about the purchase of a nuclear missile system to be fired from specially constructed submarines.

Some residents are thrown into a moral quandary by the base's nuclear capability.

One shopkeeper, who declined to be named, said: "Ethically, I completely abhor the base but without it, economically, we would be dead in the water."




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Local residents speak about the Faslane base



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