Scottish CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) has responded with "anger and concern" to the NATO exercise Strike Warrior, largely taking place in Scotland from next week.

Scotland is to play host to elements of Exercise Strike Warrior 21, one of the largest military exercises of its kind, which has prompted fears over the potential environmental impacts inflicted on Scotland's waters.

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The exercise will run from May 8-20 as part of the final preparations for the first deployment of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG) next month.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s fleet flagship at the centre of the CSG, will deploy shortly after the completion of Strike Warrior.

Ten nations will take part, with 31 warships, three submarines, 150 aircraft and around 13,400 military personnel involved.

It will include 1,500 ground troops at military ranges across the country and maritime exercise areas off the west and north coasts.

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Australia will join Nato nations the UK, the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland in taking part with 34 naval units.

Exercise activity will also be held in the North Minch to the west of Ullapool involving fast small boats, both civilian and military, with GPS denial operations off the west coast.

Mine counter measures operations will take place in areas around Campbeltown and Loch Ewe, while joint firing activity will take place at Cape Wrath weapons range, Garvie Island and the QinetiQ Hebrides range.

The 150 aircraft involved will operate from RAF Lossiemouth, Prestwick Airport and Stornoway Airport.

The exercises will mirror a broad range of crisis and conflict situations which could happen in real-world operations.

'Infantile and irresponsible'

However, Scottish CND, founded in 1958, have expressed their anger at the "war game" and accused it of being irresponsible in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis.

The organisation's main activities include campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Lynn Jamieson, chair of the Scottish CND, said: "The UK government has not been coy about this war game.

"This aggressive behaviour is utterly infantile and irresponsible in the midst of a pandemic, and a climate crisis, when the clear and urgent challenge is to learn to collaborate for the safety of us all and the future of the planet.

"It will involve a colossal addition to carbon emissions and a foolish diversion of resources from socially vital services.

"Importing 1500 personnel to the area during the pandemic shows a fundamental disregard for the current restrictions and for the people of the Western Isles and the Western Highlands.

The Scottish CND says it wants something more "wholesome" for Scotland's waters in a bid to gain a reputation for "peace, not war."

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Ms Jamieson added: "We are already hosting a multitude of UK military bases and installations and it is intolerable that we are also forced to be the military playground for the United Kingdom and NATO."

However, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has insisted it takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously, with the environmental impacts of military exercises always considered in their planning.

Royal Navy spokesperson Commander A J Stevens said: “It is essential that the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom exercise to ensure they are ready to deal with the many threats posed to our nation. 

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Joint Warrior is one of many long-planned exercises that provide realistic training for not just the UK’s forces but provides an opportunity for the our allies and partners to conduct joint training against a range of current and potential future threats.”

According to the MoD, Environmental Impact Assessments were produced and findings implemented where required, including for the use of Active Sonar and live weapons in order to reflect all current and proposed protected wildlife areas within the exercise operating area.

That includes the proposed Inner Hebrides and the Minches Special Area of Conservation which is currently under public consultation.