Newly-elected MPs from the Scottish National Party were first on the scene when Able Seaman William McNeilly leaked his dossier on the security and maintenance failings around Trident last week, renewing their calls for an end to British nuclear weapons.
Now he has handed himself over to police, being taken into custody at Edinburgh airport on Monday night, human rights lawyers have their sights on the rogue submariner. Desperate to handle the case – and no doubt a helpful boost to their public profile – the Guardian reports: “Several experienced human rights lawyers have offered to assist McNeilly and it is understood that his family would be able to instruct them on his behalf if he was not in a position to do so”.
The paper also reported the concerns of a spokesman for the Scottish branch of the now near-defunct Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), who said: “The concern at this stage is that he is being questioned but is not fully aware of his rights. There are obviously human rights issues with someone in this position”.
Unfortunately for them it seems there may be no case to answer. Never shy of an opportunity to accuse the government of a cover-up, the Guardian reports the Navy is attempting to shut down publicity over the leaks, the contents of which they dismiss as being “subjective” and without basis in truth, by charging McNeilly with going absent without leave, instead of leaking secrets.
Again quoting the CND, the paper reports: ““Had it gone [to criminal prosecution under the Official Secrets Act] then the navy gets a second round of publicity and the details surface again. From their point of view, this is a way to close it down”. If the Navy had prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, the move would have carried with it a tacit implication the accusations of failures in security over the protection and maintenance of nuclear weapons was true.
Elsewhere, The Guardian again gives air to the grievances of the SNP and CND, which it has long supported, when it reports the comments of Brendan O’Hara, whose Argyll and Bute constituency contains Britain’s nuclear submarine base. He wasted no time in making their point: “As an SNP MP implacably opposed to Trident but also as the local MP, I am extremely worried by these allegations, even if only half of what the report claims is true. The issue of safety is absolutely paramount, especially when the base is so close to a major centre of population”.
O’Hara has already written to the defence secretary, urging him to investigate all of the accusations made, despite a senior retired Royal Navy officer saying the report is so clearly sensationalised it would warrant nothing more than a local security inquiry by Faslane staff.