Back in the day, when our primary school teachers were showing us how to cower properly under our desks to stay safe when the Russians decided to unleash their nuclear arsenal against us, I remember my dad saying that the Russians were the least of our worries – our own atomic bombs will blast us all to kingdom come first. His bedtime stories were always the best. Our wee corner of Ayrshire sits right on the edge of the suggested reach of a nuclear explosion, and, just up the road, Glasgow’s right in the middle of the prospective ground zero. Growing a little older a smidgen of maths hasn’t come as much comfort; given long enough all probabilities become certainties. Today, thanks to William McNeilly and the good people at WikiLeaks, the last of my comfort has gone. What McNeilly has seen at the nuclear submarine base on the Holy Loch has troubled him enough to put his liberty on the line by passing the information he has spent a year gathering to WikiLeaks and going on the run. Thank God that some employees of the Ministry of Defence have intact consciences. He did this because what he saw wasn’t what we might describe as best practices.
Alan Ferrier (@alanferrier) May 17, 2015
William McNeilly is a submariner engineer with responsibility for weapons, and we’re not talking pee-shooters here – we are talking about nuclear warheads to the magnitude of hundreds of megatons. I’ll confess I don’t know quite what that means, but I’ll put fifty pence on it that it’s not good when these things go pear shaped. How can these things go pear shaped? Well, there are an infinite number of possibilities for things to go wrong. One problem arises from the fact that we don’t need them. We’ve never needed them, but now the Russian excuse doesn’t kid anyone on anymore. Not needing these things means that those responsible stop caring about them. Maintenance and security go by the wayside, and they simply keep being re-stocked so that Washington still thinks we’re hard – or to help Westminster think that America still thinks it’s hard. All that this means is that those probabilities we are talking about get notched up a few digits. This engineer guy is now telling us that the crummy situation is a ticking time bomb, and he believes this enough to let an MI5 hit be put out on him. We’ve been talking a lot about risks in Scotland over the past couple of years. I’d like to elevate this particular one to the top spot.