On 19 August, in a dramatic final day, the groundbreaking UN talks on nuclear disarmament concluded by making a clear recommendation to start negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Known as the “Open-Ended Working Group” (OEWG), the talks have taken place in February, May and August of this year and have outlined elements to be included in a new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. The majority support for the ban treaty was clearly underlined by joint statements delivered by many countries.
This breakthrough is a result of the new global discourse on nuclear weapons. Bringing together governments, academia and civil society, a series of three conferences have uncovered new evidence about the devastating humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the risks of their use, whether accidental or intentional.
The momentum generated by the “humanitarian initiative” has now culminated with the international community on the verge of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban.
Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet specifically prohibited under international law, despite their inhumane and indiscriminate nature. A ban would not only make it illegal for nations to use or possess nuclear weapons; it would also help pave the way to their complete elimination.
Nations committed to reaching the goal of abolition have shown that they are ready to start negotiations next year.
It is now up to the October meeting of the UN General Assembly to bring forward this process by issuing a mandate to start the negotiating process.
For all the pious talk about multilateralism, Britain does not support this initiative. No matter – this will not stop its ratification. Overwhelming global approval of it will give the treaty the status of “ius cogens”, that is, a law from which there is no derogation, whether you agreed with it or not.
Either humanity has a future free of nuclear weapons, or it has no future at all.
Hyndland Avenue, Glasgow
Fishing for ideas
Dennis Forbes-Grattan (Letters 23 August) says that Scottish fishermen “await in joyful anticipation the EU shackles coming off their industry,” and “Scottish waters are well stocked with fish”.
The reason our waters are well stocked is simply that the EU quota system allowed stocks to recover from many years of crazy overfishing, which almost wiped out cod and herring stocks and drastically reduced most other species. Every attempt to limit this overfishing was fought tooth and nail by fishermen, of all nationalities, all demanding bigger quotas, and some even fishing out the sand eels which the other species depend on for food.
I am aware that the Scottish fishing industry was treated very shabbily by Westminster during the EU negotiations, but a return to a free for all would be madness.
Simply setting up no-fish areas as breeding sanctuaries and banning cod fishing during the spawning season would go along way to ensuring a prosperous future for the industry.
Rattray Grove, Edinburgh
Cost of success
Our success in the Olympics has been built on spending money on it. After we won only one gold medal in the Atlanta Games in 1996 as a result of leaving funding predominantly to the private sector, John Major, the prime minister at the time, decided to pour National Lottery money into elite sport.
So we are now spending £350 million a year at the UK government’s behest, picking winners (and not funding sectors which do not succeed), and leaving Germany, France and Japan far behind.
That’s what some countries like South Korea also do with sectors of their economy, rather than leaving it to the financial markets where there is no more interest in investing in Britain or Scotland than in Argentina or Malaysia, and holding shares for a few weeks is seen as long-term.
Or if that idea is too radical, consider this: when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown put up National Insurance by 1 per cent to increase NHS spending, waiting lists shrank and patients benefitted. Conversely, under this government we are spending a smaller percentage of our national wealth on the NHS than other advanced nations spend on healthcare, and the NHS is crumbling.
When we have increased what we spend on sport, we have more success in sport. Despite this clear evidence, our SNP government refuses to countenance any increase in spending or taxes, unless there is first a crisis.
Craiglockhart Road, Edinburgh
Thin blue line
As a retired police officer it is hard to believe how much Police Scotland has run down frontline policing since its inception only a few years ago. Aided and abetted by Scottish Government cutbacks, these officers who deal with virtually all the calls made by the general public are now nearing an endangered species.
This was confirmed by a Police Federation spokesman when he made known the safe staffing levels for the Lothians and Scottish Borders area as 47 and Edinburgh 38. This is the old Lothian and Borders Police area which once had in excess of 2,500 officers. Yet here we are only 85 officers on a shift at any one time. How have numbers fallen to this unacceptable level?
Scottish Government cutbacks have resulted in officers back-filling civilian posts made redundant as a cost saving and the format of Police Scotland has also put untold numbers of officers in offices measuring performance targets such as stop and search.
Comments made after the publication of these figures by Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, a former Lothian and Borders officer, are frankly embarrassing in his attempt to justify a 50 per cent reduction in frontline resources.
As for the Scottish Government usual pre-prepared waffle that gets trumpeted out and means absolutely nothing to anyone other than themselves ... in truth both are failing the Scottish public on a daily basis.
Sadly it is only when you require the services of the police that you realise how long and hard it can be to contact them and how response times to your complaint have changed.
Investigating the complaint is another matter all together. Only recently the Chief Constable stated that certain crimes are no longer a priority for the police. It is hardly surprising when you see how few police officers there are out there. How things have changed and not for the better.
St Boswells, Scottish Borders