Thatcher was not content with destroying Scottish industry and society. Scotland was to the store house for more nuclear weapons and nuclear waste. Exhausted as Scots were by the struggles against Tory rule, such arrogance and contempt carried the danger of reviving nationalist feeling. In May 1985 leading nationalist lawyer and anti-nuclear campaigner Willie McRea was found mortally wounded by gun shots. His death occurred ten months after the abduction and murder of the English anti-nuclear campaigner Hilda Murrell. Whether McRea’s death was suicide, murder or a Special Branch assassination is still open to question. Certainly the British State has never baulked at killing troublesome lawyers. No fatal accident inquiry was held. And despite requests from politicians and campaigners no public inquiry has ever been held.
In the latter half of 1985 I was still a SNP member and was involved in the battle to save the Gartcosh steel mill. I’m sure there must have been marches and drums and applause and sausage, onion and tomato sauce baps – that was part of the fun of campaigning in the early 1980s – but my memories of Gartcosh lack any colour or sense of defiance. It was savage cold that winter when I took my turn staying in the camp set outside the gates of the steel mill. The men and the women who lived in the surrounding houses always seemed to talk quietly. It felt like a funeral. Even when trade unionists and Labour and Nationalist activists stood together and discussed tactics there was little sense of hope.
I only stayed overnight at the camp on a couple of occasions, most of my work was leafleting and bucketing. But a curious thing happened on one of the nights I did stay in the camp. The older activists were away having a meeting so there was only a handful of young men and teenagers, including myself, huddled in a cold and leaky tent. Then an older man stepped into the tent. He spoke passionately about the steel mill and how its closure would destroy him and his family. He also told us he had some dynamite and wouldn’t it be great to blow up a nearby bridge. I was eighteen and it seemed like a great idea to me. Fortunately my companions were more copped on then I, and the man's offer was politely declined. He tried to bring the subject up a few more times and then left. With hindsight I still cannot say whether he was Special Branch or a local bam or just some guy so distraught with the threat to his community that anger was getting the better of him.
No bridge was blown up. Gartcosh closed in 1986. Scotland was a despondent place. Even Special Branch wound down its Tartan Terror frolics; Scotland was so despondent, it seemed a futile occupation. In 1987 the song ‘Letter from America’ rose to number three in the UK charts. It pretty much summed up the despair in Scotland at the time: ‘Bathgate no more, Linwood no more, Methil no more, Irvine no more’.
Now read Part Six: Keeping the faith
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