Nuclear disaster

Honesty compels me to say that for many decades I have voted Labour not so much for what it was but for what it was not.

I had always seen the party as a centre-left, moderate, compassionate body. Like most parties it had a semi-lunatic wing, but it was kept well under wraps and those running things seemed to have realised the essential, no, crucial differences between natural Labour voters and Labour activists and noisy conference delegates.

With the latest demonstration of tail wagging dog by those with unilateral disarmament opinions at the Scottish Labour conference (your report, 2 November) my heart sinks. Labour has lost all hope of power and bettering the lives of the many with this latest turn of events and apparently wishes merely to posture pointlessly and make noises from the sidelines in the same manner as the other fringe parties.

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There are already too many dogma-driven, posturing Scots involved in politics. It is time for logic and common sense.

Not only is multilateral disarmament good sense, and will keep tens of thousands in employment in Scotland, it is the best option for the safety of all in the UK and the wider world.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

There is something Neanderthal about trade union officials wanting to build the Successor-class of nuclear ballistic missile submarines merely to make sure that the GMB union can exist. Submarine-launched ballistic missile systems have been overtaken by technology and are no longer effective. Advances in Digital Signal Processing, Passive Sonar and Magnetic Anomaly Detection mean that presently submarines can be tracked and by the time the Successor-class is ready those subs can be monitored and destroyed in a pre-emptive strike before any attack on us.

There are many more successful delivery systems for both conventional and nuclear weapons which are already more reliable and cheaper. Like many previous weapons systems, the submarine can no longer function in the way it did in the last century.

Of course, the workers who build and maintain the obsolescent systems can be retrained and, since there are long lead times, many present workers are going to have retired while new workers can enter directly into the areas of work concerned with new systems, most of which are not relevant to GMB membership.

The newer threats are more relevant and require different skills so the only real problem is that GMB officials, who I imagine are well-paid, would find themselves without a support network of workers.

Defence is about identifying threats and producing the technology to counter them. It is not about spending scarce resources on vanity projects or out-of-date technology. Having nuclear weapons may be a moral issue, but depending on a technology that doesn’t work anymore is simply not sensible.

Bruce D Skivington

Strath, Gairloch, Wester Ross

So the Scottish Labour Party thinks that nuclear weapons are immoral (your report, 2 ­November).

Do party members not realise that, had it not been for the existence of nuclear weapons over the past 70 years, we would most certainly have had a third and probably a fourth World War in which many millions would have died?

Tony Box

Strathalmond Road, Edinburgh

Tax be damned

Kezia Dugdale’s transparency over income tax plans is to be applauded (your report, 2 November). But will this help Scottish Labour retain seats in next May’s Holyrood elections?

The SNP conference provided scant detail about how new devolved income tax powers would be used. Nicola Sturgeon sweeps away such discussion, ignoring the UK government’s intention to devolve tax changes as early as 2017. Why? Because Ms Sturgeon realises tax increases, however laudable their intention, turn off voters.

Ms Dugdale’s plan to introduce a 50p tax rate on Scots earning over £150,000 is, since there are only 15,000 high earners in ­Scotland, fundamentally uncontroversial.

Yet her intention not to press ahead with Conservative medium-term plans to raise the higher rate income-tax threshold from £43,600 to £50,000 will mean a significant number of comfortably-off Scots would be disadvantaged. And many will be Labour voters.

The SNP, despite its anti-austerity rhetoric, is as conservative as New Labour on tax and fiscal policy. Tony Blair’s approach won him three elections, so for Ms Sturgeon, what’s not to like? Most Scots are politically moderate so the pragmatic First Minister will tailor her policy accordingly. And she must win to keep her party’s raison d’etre – independence – centre stage.

Ms Dugdale’s honesty over plans to increase the tax burden for middle-income earners could risk driving her better-off supporters possibly into the arms of the SNP. But much more likely, with a second referendum threat ever-present, into the arms of the Tories.

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh


Come autumn, come the poppy unpleasantness. All countries should respect their war dead, of course, but Britain appropriates the carnage of, in particular, the First and Second World Wars in a peculiarly arrogant way, it seems to me.

The poppy signifies Flanders field – the Western Front – where Britain suffered most of its casualties in the First War, but its allies lost many times that number further east.

In France – and in other countries – a dignified remembrance ceremony at the local war memorial suffices to honour the sacrifice of their dead – as we do – but in Britain the “poppy lobby” demands that we display our patriotism for weeks in advance to honour not just those who fell, but the vainglorious politicians and professional Armed Forces who have led us into many nasty “little” wars (Kenya, Aden, Suez, Northern Ireland, Iraq, etc etc), and still threaten us with a nuclear war-to-end-all wars to retain UK clout on the United Nations Security Council.

Like many others, I decline to be bullied into honouring this Imperial mindset. We don’t need to wear a poppy to honour the sacrifice of those who died – and continue to die – in particular the hapless conscripts and innocent civilians who always suffer most.

David Roche

Hill House, Coupar Angus

EU hokey-cokey

Brian Monteith has confused me. A fortnight ago he was calling for a positive case for remaining in the European Union. His latest contribution (Perspective, 2 November) seems to read like a positive case for departure.

Even more confusing are his thoughts about “immoral barriers to trade… torn down… making the EU… redundant”. This assertion sits uneasily with the contention that the “Common Agricultural Policy… has denied markets to farmers”. 

The history of the World Trade Organisation and its predecessor the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) reveals that policy and practice in the trade in agricultural products pose huge difficulties. They are influenced by the domestic concerns of the EU and other developed countries, such as the US, which wish to protect their ­producers and maintain food security.

As to the thought that the “common fisheries policy … so distorted our own food production”, this is arguable to say the least. Norway, like Iceland and the Faroes, has to have regard to the international law of the sea in its territorial waters. They also have to agree catch limits and other conservation measures to deal with fish tending to have no fixed abode. Fishermen follow them into others’ waters.

On a more parochial level, I suspect that Scotland, including Shetland, would not have its thriving mackerel and herring fishery without the EU. Chances are that the Russian factory ships would still be receiving the catch and paying very little for it.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

While one hopes that our Prime Minister and Chancellor will improve Britain’s position within the European Union, it is worth remembering that Margaret Thatcher almost single-handedly obtained a rebate of 66 per cent of Britain’s net contribution to the then European Economic Community in 1984, after putting pressure on France and Germany right from the start of her premiership in 1979. And all while repairing the economic damage done by the previous Labour government.

The next 1997 Labour government, led by Tony Blair, gave it all back again, of course. 

Malcolm Parkin

Kinnesswood, Kinross

Mental health call

As a coalition, whose members support children and young people with mental health problems, we were struck by the launch of the star-studded campaign calling for a boost in funding for mental health services in England.

We in Scotland have also been seeking to ensure the levels of investment match those of physical health, achieving “parity of esteem”. As we know, half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before 14 and 75 per cent 21 years old. Early intervention is, therefore, crucial, with the health, economic and social costs of mental health problems well-established.

However, despite the welcome attention paid by the Scottish Government to this matter, we know that NHS Scotland spends just 8.6 per cent of its total funding treating mental health problems, whereas in the English and Welsh health services the figure is 11.9 per cent.

When it comes to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), only 0.45 per cent of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on addressing this, amounting to 5.56 per cent of the total mental health budget.

We need considerably greater resourcing to address a greatly increased demand. Staffing levels have not kept pace with this, a number of health boards are failing to meet their targets for CAMHS treatment and we are also witnessing more youngsters being sent to non-specialist adult and paediatric wards for treatment.

What is required is early intervention and preventative measures, rather than wait until people require more intensive – and expensive – treatment later.

In the run-up to the forthcoming Holyrood elections we urge all the political parties to join with us in calling for greater resourcing for our mental health services.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:

Sophie Pilgrim

Director, Kindred Scotland

Tom McGhee

Managing director, Spark of Genius

Duncan Dunlop

Chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland

Stuart Jacob

Director, Falkland House School

Niall Kelly

Managing director, Young Foundations