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Target Glasgow

I noticed in the discussion of the future of the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde if Scots were vote "yes" in the independence referendum next year that it was suggested that the base's presence makes Scotland safer. My mind went back to a crazy day at the Glasgow Herald in late 1981. The news desk got a tip that US sailors at the Holy Loch nuclear submarine base were running around in protective suits and there was a major nuclear weapons accident alert going on. That led to some questions about what a nuclear warhead detonation in the Faslane or Holy Loch areas would mean for Glasgow. The answers were not pretty or reassuring. You could call it a wake-up call as regards something to which most Scots did not give a lot of thought. It turned out that something had gone wrong while handling one of the US subs with nuclear missiles at Holy Loch. I don't know if it was ever determined that a crane operator had indeed, as was suggested, dropped a Poseidon missile while his lever-handling skills were impaired by a narcotic substance. Dropping a missile onto, literally, the deck could have resulted in conventional explosive used to trigger the warhead detonating. And that could apparently have led to a nasty little nuclear death-cloud blowing over central Scotland. The Americans did a pretty good job of hushing the whole thing up and refused to say whether there was nuclear warhead on the missile at the time. But if there wasn't - why all the guys running around in protective suits? My point is that the scare brought home the fact that one of the mostly densely populated areas of western Europe was playing host to two of the most dangerous military bases on the planet. It would be hard to argue that day in 1981 that the presence of the Holy Loch and Faslane bases was making Scotland safer. And we're not even talking about a targeted strike by the nation's enemies. Anyway, that's my tuppence-worth.

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