Icelandic Ash Scuppers War Game

One unexpected, though welcome, spin-off from the Icelandic Eyjafjallajoekull Volcano ash clouds which wreathed the UK last month was the cancellation of the NATO `Joint Warrior’ military exercise off Northern Scotland.

Naval units, ground forces and air forces from several NATO countries were in place and ready to go as the ash cloud struck. Within a matter of hours the exercise had `ground’ to a halt and the festival of violence which rains devastation on some of the most important wildlife habitat in Britain was first deferred and then aborted.

The `Joint Warrior’ series of exercises are bi-annual efforts which have caused considerable damage to the Cape Wrath area. After the 2008 exercises over 350 acres of important heath-land habitat were destroyed by fire and it is estimated the area will take over a decade to recover.

The Celtic League have long opposed the NATO usage of the area pointing out that the damage caused would not be countenanced in many of the NATO countries from which participants come. Pointedly, live firing exercises by the US Navy had to be curtailed in Puerto Rico several years ago following local opposition. The US military now carry out this training off Cape Wrath.

The next series of exercises are due to take place in the autumn and we can only hope that the Icelandic volcano works its magic and disrupts these as well giving Cape Wrath and its wildlife a well needed `sabbatical’ from the activities of NATO.

In the longer term with a Defence Review due to be undertaken by the incoming UK government it is hoped that the SNP government at Holyrood will press for NATO’s `open access’ to Cape Wrath to be curtailed.

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J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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