Leaders: Jawing better than warring

THE talks in Lausanne concerning Iran’s nuclear ambitions appear to be reaching a deal, but the question remains about whether this is a good deal, or indeed whether any deal that allows Iran to keep centrifuges that can produce weapons grade enriched uranium is a move forward towards global security.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "deep concern" over a pending Iran nuclear deal. Picture: AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "deep concern" over a pending Iran nuclear deal. Picture: AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "deep concern" over a pending Iran nuclear deal. Picture: AP

Iran insists that it wants the nuclear technology for power plants and peaceful uses only. It would be fair to say there is a degree of scepticism around that statement. Israel is, of course, very concerned and has threatened to attack Iran if it feels that is the only way to assuredly protect itself from nuclear attack. In 1981 Israel carried out the world’s first airstrike against a nuclear plant when its jets bombed a French-built site in Iraq.

But surrounding these discussion, the Israeli line appears to have softened. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not played up past threats to attack Iran. Now Israelis, who are not party to the talks, are instead talking about the details of the proposed deal being hammered out in Switzerland after 18 months of negotiations.

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But that is not to say the Israelis are in favour of the way the talks are going. Netanyahu has reiterated his opposition to the proposed deal, saying it “bears out all of our fears, and even more than that”.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said that any deal must put the bomb beyond reach of Iran. The problem here is that Israel does not believe that the restrictions being imposed would do that if it chose to suddenly abandon the agreement and gear up its nuclear programme.

There are only eight countries that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea – but it is widely believed that Israel also has nuclear weapons, a point the country is deliberately vague about.

It appears there is a real appetite for a deal and a real prospect that one can be hammered out.

There will always be doubts that any deal will simply legitimise parts of the process and therefore make it easier for Iran to build a bomb should it choose to do so. But there have to be long-term doubts anyway about keeping all the necessary equipment and expertise for bomb-making out of Iran. We cannot be certain the current sanctions are working.

And in the long term it is surely better to have negotiations that keep Iran talking to the international community. Isolation will probably work against long-term peace and security.

But if a deal is done it must do as Hammond says and put the bomb beyond reach. And that must be verifiable and there must be confidence in that verification process.

A winning script for Scotland

The benefits of thriving home-grown film and television industries cannot be easily dismissed. In a world emerging from recession, where people have greater disposable incomes, the tourism market is only ever going to get bigger and worth more money to a country with as much to offer as Scotland.

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A blockbuster film or a successful TV show can have more effect on tourism numbers than spending on advertising or marketing campaigns, but it is not just in tourism that the benefits can be had. Scotland, known as a nation full of creativity, needs to give those creative people an outlet in their own land so that writers, directors, producers, actors and the other multitude of varied professions that the industries support can be kept here so that we see the full economic benefit.

So we need to take heed of the report by Holyrood’s economy committee which found that Scotland was “lagging behind” UK and international competitors when it came to film funding, and that the conflicting remits of Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise were “acting as a barrier” to supporting the industry. The report also made clear that the industry itself needs to be involved in any strategy for growth if it is to succeed.

Hats off, then, to Creative Scotland for saying: “We will consider it carefully as a matter of priority and work closely with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government and other partners to develop a clear shared plan for their delivery.”

Let us hope, given the potential size of the prize, they stick to that undertaking and also that the other partners are within the industry itself.