Government’s hypocritical ‘welcome’ for refugees as migrant barge arrives in UK

HMS Maidstone was a submarine depot ship at Faslane on the Gareloch and was launched in 1937 at John Brown’s in Clydebank. She was used as an accommodation ship and as a prison ship in Belfast and was broken up in 1978. 

Ceud mile failte. Sure, we all love immigrants and refugees, don’t we? How then should we give these desperate people approaching our shores the 100,000 welcomes that we boast is our traditional Gaelic greeting to all visitors who arrive here from places throughout the world?

‘I know,’ says Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. ‘We’ll stick them in a prison ship.’
‘That’s not a prison ship,’ says Mr Sunak’s first lieutenant Suella Braverman. ‘It’s an accommodation barge. The very thing that will do the job we want it for. It’ll save this country £ millions on hotel bills.’
Naturally, the readers and writers of The Dumbarton Democrat will be dismayed at this ‘money before all else’ government approach.
Really, Prime Minister. You cannot be serious. Not for a moment you can’t. Behave yourself.
If it looks like a prison ship and floats like a prison ship then it’s a prison ship.
The Bibby Stockholm looks more like Barlinnie than Britannia.
It’s a prison ship alright and that is exactly how it will appear to the 500 immigrant young men who will be accommodated there.
If you’re Scottish come into the parlour. There’s a welcome here for you and I don’t think.
We have some first hand knowledge of prison ships around these parts. Bear with us, please.
HMS Maidstone, the Royal Navy submarine depot ship based at Faslane on the Gareloch, was swiftly moved to Belfast Harbour to accommodate the over-spill of IRA prisoners from The Troubles in the North of Ireland in the 1970s.
The government of the day was said to have got the idea from the fact that there had been many years before a “training” ship in a loch off Kidston Park at Rhu, where juveniles were held and unfortunately cruelly treated and sexually abused by the personnel assigned to look after them.
Now, a similar scheme is being brought back by the Westminster government to accommodate asylum seekers and refugees, some of whom are so desperate to get out of their own place of birth  to escape persecution or even death that they have taken to small boats to escape across the Channel from France to the UK.
The Conservatives have a plan. And this is it.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made it one of his five priorities – if not his main priority – during his Conservative government’s rapidly diminishing time left in power to ‘Stop the Boats’.
It’s not yet known what our newly crowned King Charles III thinks of this miserable Conservative plan, but what is known is that the monarch, prior to his coronation, had a stand-up row with the previous Prime Minister, Boris Johnston, over his Cabinet’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. We like that.
And to this we say Long Live the King! Good on ye Charlie.


TRAINING SHIPS were a way of life — and a hard one — in the Gareloch from 1869 for 54 years. But Helensburgh and Rhu benefited in various ways from the two former sailing ships moored off Kidston Point and the boys who lived on them.

Given the recent and long-past history recorded by the Helensburgh Heritage Trust, it is not surprising that the scenic port of Falmouth, where this barge for housing asylum seekers is set to dock, has reportedly removed its cruise ship schedule from its website in a bid to deter far-right protests.

The Bibby Stockholm arrived on Tuesday in Falmouth, Cornwall, where the accommodation barge will undergo an assessment and refurbishment.

The vessel, which will house around 500 migrants, all of them young men from a total refugee cohort of 50,000, is then expected to be moved into position at the Portland Port in Dorset in the next few weeks.

According to The Times, the Portland Port has looked to deter anti-migrant demonstrations, which are expected in protest at the barge’s presence, from targeting the arrival of well-heeled tourists coming into the area on cruise ships.

Anti-migrant protests

The newspaper said the south Dorset harbour usually advertises the arrival and departure dates on its website of the 40 or more cruises set to dock at the port during the year.

But The Times said that, after criticism of its plans to allow the Bibby Stockholm to moor in its waters, the port’s website has removed the dates.

The media outlet cited a source involved in the planning as saying the dates were taken down because of concerns that far-right activists could organise anti-migrant protests on days when thousands of tourists are due to arrive on cruise ships.

A Portland Port spokesman, when asked about the report, said: “All cruise calls are proceeding as normal at Portland Port but arrivals and departures are subject to change, as they are at any port.

“Therefore, it is best to contact the cruise line involved for the most up-to-date information.”

The barge is part of a series of schemes from the UK Government aimed at moving asylum seekers away from costly hotel accommodation.

The Home Office says asylum seeker hotels cost the British public £6 million a day.

However, the leader of Dorset Council and the county’s police and crime commissioner have voiced concerns about the port’s decision to allow the barge to dock

Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick last week called for funding talks with Home Secretary Braverman for the extra policing that will be required when the vessel arrives.

It comes after more small boats were seen carrying migrants across the English Channel. They  arrived at Dover, Kent, on bank holiday Monday.

A group of people were pictured on the docks after being rescued by a Border Force vessel.

The Home Office has not yet declared how many arrived on Monday, but Saturday saw 135 people arrive on three detected boats, with a further three carrying 134 across the strait on Sunday.  At least 6,500 migrants have arrived via the unauthorised route this year.

An account of life aboard the aforementioned HMS Maidstone first appeared in the March 2010 edition of the newsletter of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society, and was written by one of its members, William B.Black.

With the massive expansion of Glasgow in the early 19th century poverty and social deprivation reached horrific levels — in particular the numbers of children living on the streets with no obvious means of support.
Among the more prosperous citizens some considered that it was their moral duty to try to make these children “respectable members of the community.”
This led to the founding of an industrial school in 1847, a day school only up until 1854, then came the Industrial Schools Act in 1866, defining precisely the children to be included and also introducing a licensing system.

Ten years earlier the Royal Navy had introduced training ships to prepare boys for entry into the Service and, following the new Act, Lord Shaftesbury decided that this concept had merit for the Merchant Navy, opening the first civilian training ship Chichester in December 1866.

Others followed and on November 5, 1868, John Burns, senior partner in Cunard, hosted a meeting in the Royal Exchange, Glasgow, with a similar objective.

This agreed to the foundation of the Clyde Industrial Training Ship Association, with Burns as president and the local MP, Robert Dalglish, was asked to approach the Admiralty for provision of a suitable vessel.

The vessel selected was the obsolete wooden sailing warship Cumberland, which arrived on the Clyde in May 1869.

By September she had been refitted and was berthed midway between Rosneath and Rhu, with a row of houses in Rhu — Cumberland Terrace — being provided for the use of families of staff.

The age range of boys was from eleven to fourteen and, when the ship opened there were 176 aboard of a capacity for 360, sleeping in the lower deck in iron framed beds.

Day started at 0530, 0600 in winter and was broken down in to a mixture of school and practical classes. As well as seamanship, boys received instruction in tailoring, shoe-making, bookbinding and brush making, while working with the cook taught basic culinary skills.

Their work day ended at 1630 and, after supper at 1700, they had some recreation time until pipe down at 2130.

Let’s hope the new immigrants and their supporters pipe up and tell Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman to stick their plan in a pipe and smoke it.

Prince Charles, Prime Minister Sunak, Home Secretary Braverman and disgraced Boris Johnston.

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