Leaders: Defence details needed, not political posturing | Weighty issues must be tackled
WITHOUT warship-building work, it is doubtful whether there would be anything left of the much shrunken shipbuilding industry on the Clyde.
World trade levels are depressed and new merchant shipping contracts are few and far between. These are facts of life of which UK government ministers are well aware.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday published the specifications for the next generation of frigates, 13 of which it intends to order for the Royal Navy. The contracts for them, however, will not be awarded until about 2015, which of course is just a year after the Scottish Government’s intended referendum on independence.
The MoD, making use of exclusion clauses in normal European Union tendering rules, has never awarded a warship-building contract to a foreign yard. If Scotland votes for independence, then Scotland will be a foreign country. So goodbye to frigate orders and goodbye to shipbuilding on the Clyde and the 16,000 jobs said to be associated with it.
Officially, the MoD maintains that this is just a normal time-table for the awarding of defence-related work, and the timing of the referendum does not figure in ministerial calculations. That may be so, but it does bring home the realisation that should Scotland become independent then a lot of work from one of our most traditional idustries will be lost. What this means is the UK government is promising to behave in a vengeful fashion should Scots choose to depart the Union and portends possible Scotland/rest of UK relationships as dominated by recriminations rather than equality and constructiveness.
The SNP has responded, in part, in kind. By remarking that “expensive and obscene” Trident nuclear weapons would be ousted from Scotland, it is engaging in the same club-waving game. It also implies that talk of co-operative defence arrangements retaining some joint political control of UK forces is just that – mere talk.
Other retorts – that the Royal Navy does buy ships from foreign yards and would surely have regard to the skills available on the Clyde – are weak. A refuelling tanker, which is being procured from a Korean yard, is not a warship and skilled people can move to follow work. Since any opening up of warship work to a non-UK yard would entail all foreign yards being able to bid, it is by no means certain that the Clyde would win the contract.
The SNP is on better ground by pointing out that an independent Scotland would require a navy of some sort, which necessitates shipbuilding work. That, however, requires the nationalists to lay out a rather more precise defence programme than so far presented. The uncertainty over this issue, and now the certainty that the vital contracts will probably not be awarded until after a referendum has taken place, does a dis-service to all the men and women who rely on the Clyde work for their livlihood.
Weighty issues must be tackled
TRADITIONAL folklore has it that fat people are happy people. Scientific research, however, is busy destroying this myth. Some of the latest findings from a British-French project suggest that people who are overweight and who have other health issues, such as high blood pressure, are likely to suffer declines in mental abilities a fifth faster than people of average weight.
This is a study which has been conducted over ten years, following a huge population of some 6,000 people. According to the study’s author, while all people of all weights will lose some of their mental faculties as they get older, obese people are liable to be, in effect, seven years further into mental decline by the time they are 60.
It is another compelling reason for the obesity problem to be tackled. A growing problem for all developed societies is that with greater wealth has come greater waistlines, and with the advance of medical science has come a more long-lived population. Put the two together, and you have a much bigger elderly population, which needs more costly care because a bigger incidence of dementia problems than ought to be the case.
With a quarter of Scots reckoned to be obese, there is an obvious need to tackle this issue. This research shows that being overweight does not just cause a greater incidence of health problems such as heart disease among overweight people now, but is also storing up serious long-term problems for the future.
Action against tobacco has shown that the number of people smoking can be reduced. A similar programme of action to cajole people into weight-loss is just as urgently needed.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North east