13th May 2021 was a day of three connected events in Glasgow. Most folk are now familiar with what happened that day in Kenmure Street, when a dawn raid by UK immigration enforcers to remove two residents for deportation was foiled by a peaceful citizen’s sit-down, leading to the release of the two detained men. Not so many people know that the success of that determined act depended on an already established network of communication, lots of local preparation for responding to dawn raids, the readiness of so many to put their bodies in the way, plus a well organised legal support system in case anyone should face arrest. All in all it was an amazing act of resistance to the UK’s brutal immigration system and it resonated far and wide. And it was a collective act that expressed a general aspiration for the kind of community people want Scotland to be.
On the same day in the City Chambers a kilometre to the north of Kenmure Street the city decided to sign up to the ICAN Cities Appeal in backing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, joining hundreds of cities across the world, many of them in nuclear-armed states and in other states whose governments are in league with the nuclear big boys. In Scotland Edinburgh, Fife, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire have joined the Appeal. This is not gesture politics – it is an expression of solidarity with the worldwide movement to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons.
And now for something completely different. While the Kenmure Street rescue was going on a nuclear weapon convoy passed along the M74, just 800 metres away. It was heading back to the atomic weapon factories in Berkshire and its massive bomb trucks were probably empty after dropping its load in the warhead depot at Coulport on Loch Long. When loaded, one of these convoys can carry up to 8 nuclear weapons, each containing high explosive and plutonium, and each capable of around 8 times the destructive power of the bomb that levelled Hiroshima in 1945. This is the antithesis of decent human aspirations – a tangible part of a machine of mass destruction that makes us a target, makes us the launch pad for mass slaughter and poses huge risks for the communities the convoys pass through. In the case of Kenmure Street it was heart-warming that both our First Minister and Cabinet Minister for Justice were outspoken about the behaviour of UK immigration and we are a bit sad and puzzled as to why the same assertiveness is not deployed against the convoy threat. But we have a new parliament and a new government, bearing fresh hope that we can move forward to a full understanding of human and planetary security. Let’s ask them to do their bit.