MARK MCLAUGHLIN AND MURDO MACLEOD
A SCOTTISH electronics factory producing guidance systems for "bunker-busting" bombs used by the Israelis in Lebanon has upped its security amid fears that its workers are at risk of being attacked by protesters.
Raytheon Systems Ltd in Glenrothes, which manufactures the GPS-aided navigation system for the Paveway guided bombs, has been in talks with police following a series of wrecking sprees at similar factories around the UK.
The bombs, which are produced in the United States and sold to Israel, have been used in attacks on Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
In one operation, two of the 2,350lb bombs were dropped on the hideout of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He escaped, but most of the surrounding buildings were destroyed.
Last week, Raytheon's Northern Ireland office, in Derry, was raided by protesters who destroyed thousands of pounds worth of computer equipment and threw files out of windows.
Police arrested nine activists who had broken in, despite the Northern Irish plant having little involvement with the weapons. Raytheon Northern Ireland produces mostly commercial air traffic control and radar systems.
Brighton firm EDO MBM, which produces the release mechanisms for Paveway, has also been the target for protests.
Scotland last month took centre stage in demonstrations over the UK's involvement in Israel's offensive when Prestwick Airport was used as a refuelling stop for US-charter planes carrying munitions to Tel Aviv.
Management at the Glenrothes facility, which manufactures the GPS system that helps the bombs find their target, have been working with Fife Police to ensure similar protests do not disrupt work at the plant.
A Raytheon spokesman said: "We cannot discuss specific security arrangements at any of our sites, but the safety of our staff is of the utmost priority.
"The Glenrothes plant does not produce the weapons on site. It produces electronic components that are then shipped off to our plants in the United States where they are assembled and then sold on to our customers in the Department of Defence (DoD).
"Raytheon has no influence in the distribution of these weapons once they have been sold on, and any further decisions on where they are shipped or deployed is a matter for the US DoD."
A spokeswoman for Fife Police said: "We are aware of the troubles the company has had in other parts of the country. Raytheon has stepped up security at all of its sites in the wake of the recent problems and their own security firm is dealing with it.
"We are working with the company with regards to their security situation, along with other forces at their sites throughout the country, and we are sending police patrols to ensure the area is safe."
However, security expert Clive Fairweather, a former deputy commander of the SAS, said safeguarding staff would be a difficult task. He said: "The company can put up fences and hire a few security guards, and maybe try and bus their employees in. But there's ultimately not much they can do except rely on the local police force to protect themselves and their staff from protesters."
Central Fife Labour MSP Christine May said: "Raytheon is one Fife's biggest companies. It has been very successful in securing a range of defence contracts and it employs a great number of my constituents.
"With regards to security at the plant, Raytheon will have to respond to a range of issues and I'm sure they will do that with the safety of their staff at the forefront of their minds."
SNP foreign affairs and defence spokesman Angus Robertson reacted with concern to the news that Scottish-made munitions were being used in the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Robertson, who previously campaigned against the use of Prestwick Airport for arms flights to Israel, said: "People throughout Scotland have been horrified that our country has been indirectly arming one of the belligerents in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
"That was true with the arms flights through Prestwick and will be reinforced by the confirmation of manufacturing of weapons systems used in bombs to attack Lebanon.
"Scotland needs an ethical foreign policy which supports defence jobs but at the same time does not involve us in disproportionate and unjustifiable attacks in the Middle East.
He added: "The only way to secure an ethical foreign policy is to have the powers of any other country and make decisions for ourselves."
This article: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1178112006
Last updated: 12-Aug-06 00:42 BST