Defence spend should not be a priority
Your leader on defence (11 July) questions the size of our armed forces. It makes the point that it might be too small for further global deployment. But is this a bad thing?
Look at many of the trouble spots of the world and somewhere in history there will be the interfering footprint of the British military.
Some of the present terrorism and radicalism can be directly connected to the British presence in other countries.
Modern media makes the taking of casualties much more unacceptable.
The real question is whether the army is still too large. Westminster has the fourth largest defence budget in the world.
It is far higher in proportion to GDP than most other countries.
Do we need 82,000 troops to defend the country? We spend more on defence than on education.
The reality is that there are going to be further cuts and regimental names are going to merge and disappear.
The modern individual soldier has far more firepower than his Crimean equivalent and is far more mobile as the helicopter is slightly faster than the horse, the modern rapid firing gun more than a match for the musket and the laser-guided missile a little more accurate than the cannonball.
There is an argument as part of the devolution settlement for devolving defence to the Scottish Parliament.
There are major differences in view between them and Westminster over nuclear weapons and strategic defence.
Some respected commentators have suggested that instead of the £3.5 billion share of defence that Scotland presently bears at Westminster, Scotland could exist with a defence budget of around £1.1bn, more like that of other small countries.
The £2.5bn surplus could be spent on other things like social care, the health service and education.
It would more than cover the elderly care budget. Spending money on real problems rather than continuing to maintain and even order new unusable military hardware makes better sense.
There is little antagonism in the world towards Scotland, and our relations with most countries are cordial.
The real enemies of Scottish society are poverty, poor health and falling education standards.
We should be budgeting to fight them.
Bruce D Skivington
Gairloch, Wester Ross
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