When human extermination became the official policy of certain states we had the collective lunacy of the Cold War; trillions of dollars was wasted on weapons, while millions perished through hunger and disease. And we suffered endless proxy wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan, Central America to Africa.
Meanwhile, the good people who wanted us to have a future rallied round the call to “ban the bomb”. We said ban the bomb and – guess what – that is exactly what we have done. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January, 2021. This is compulsory international law. The nuclear states may ignore this but they are thereby stigmatised as pariah states.
Today the Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than at any other time in the past. Scotland, which is home to the biggest arsenal of hydrogen bombs in Europe, is unique in that it is the only country which has nuclear weapons imposed on it against the wishes of the people and parliament. So we have a prime moral duty to respond.
For this reason there will be a protest at Faslane’s North Gate at 11am on 22 January, the anniversary of the TPNW, to demand that the criminal deployment of Trident, the UK’s illegal WMD, cease.
Our choice is stark. Either we have a future without nuclear weapons, or we have no future at all.
Brian Quail, Glasgow
David Brittain-Catlin mentions “the ancient art of waving down a train” (Letters, 10 January 2022). I must be very ancient, because when I was a boy “halts”, as they were called, had signals which we had to set to get the train to stop.
I was born and brought up on Borrobol hill sheep farm in the Strath of Kildonan, through which the Inverness-Wick/Thurso line runs. Borrobol Halt (long since gone) had a platform and a waiting room with a railway phone which was useful in emergencies before telephone lines arrived. There was also a siding where trucks would be shunted so that we could load sheep and lambs to transport to the sales in Lairg.
When I started school in 1949 my older brother and I went by train to Kildonan Primary, four miles away. We had to set the signal by removing a hook and chain that held a lever so that the signal came to rest horizontally. The guard would ask us, or anyone else present, to replace the hook and chain to make sure the next train would not stop unnecessarily. One of them used to say, “Mind the stickie (lever)!” I still remember the excitement of being able to bring the great steam engine to a halt. On the return journey we had to ask the guard in good time to stop the train.
(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald, Edinburgh
I read with interest (and some amusement) Andrew Arbuckle's article on the demise of auction sale reports (Scotsman, 10 January).
Your correspondent welcomes their exclusion from the farming pages of your paper, and other non-farming publications. Some years ago, the farming press of the day threatened Scottish auction companies that sale reports with excessive verbiage would not see the light of publication, and after negotation with the Institute of Auctioneers a strict code of practice was established.
This met generalapproval, not least by the poor unfortunate apprentice auctioneers charged with compiling such reports, invariably at the conclusion of anarduous sale day.
However, more recently this arrangement appears to have been overlooked or forgotten, and sale reports in some provincial publications seem to go on forever. Indeed, readers could be excused for suspecting that they were surveying every transaction in that day's roup roll. So when will common sense return, and where do we go from here?
Iain M Thomson, Tain, Highland
So, after 21 months as leader of the opposition at Westminster, it seems that Sir Keir Starmer may have finally found the guts to take on one of the most corrupt and malevolent Westminster Tory governments Scotland has ever had to endure. But wait – the Labour Party’s solution is to offer EU-supporting Scotland a “make Brexit work” strategy !
Apart from the obvious fatal flaw, there is also the fantasy that anyone in Scotland actually cares much about the British Labour Party (the head office of the misleadingly titled ‘Scottish Labour’), which for all its years of power in urban Scotland achieved very little of lasting consequence. Whether its Gordon Brown and his broken vows or Ian Murray, egged on by his wee pals in the Lib Dems, trying to fool us that a ‘fully federal UK’ is an actual possibility (federalism only works in countries with roughly equal constituent parts, like Germany or Canada), Scotland has moved on from this obvious nonsense.
There is also the fantasy that the British Labour Party will automatically get an equal chance to form a more progressive Westminster government often enough and for long enough – and therefore protect Scotland from the permanently pro-Tory UK.
Despite the apparently reinvigorated Sir Keir, the fact is that, as part of the UK, Scots face both this Conservative administration (with or without Johnson) until 2024, and subsequent Conservative administrations to 2030 and beyond. This simply isn’t good enough – either for our country or for democracy.
D Jamieson, Dunbar, East Lothian
Lack of focus
Education is going down the pan, jobs, freeports and new investment are going south, there's an SNP-Green fatwa on oil and gas, the care and health services are in desperate need of reform, young families can't find or afford housing – and the Labour Party is arguing the toss about devo-max and fielding candidates who support independence.
Two million people voted No in 2014. No more than 1.4m have voted for a pro-UK party in the last six elections. How many of that missing 600,000 voters do Anas Sarwar and Kier Starmer think are excited by this?
Instead of trying to woo back the people who know that if you want independence you vote SNP, not Labour, how about coming up with policies to properly fix our declining, joyless, divided country?
This mess started with devolution and Labour, it should be their mission to clear it up.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
Most people will be sadly aware of rapidly increasing electricity bills but how many are aware that the non supply based costs such as subsidies, green levies, taxes and similar costs form over 30 per cent of the bill?
These include the climate change levy, the renewables obligation subsidy, the carbon floor price, the carbon reduction commitment, the emissions trading scheme cost and social obligation levies (for insulation, fuel poverty etc). According to Ofgem these costs add 25.5 per cent to our bills. On top of this there is VAT at five per cent. Little wonder our energy costs are amongst the highest in Europe.
GM Lindsay, Kinross, Perth and Kinross
The British government needs to prioritise people’s needs for warm homes, affordable fuel and jobs over doubtful claims about the future of the planet (energy policy is reserved). In any event, our climate change policy is pointless while others massively increase their burning of fossil fuels.
Because we cannot store large amounts of electricity, we need real power stations, which are available whether the winds blows or not. In the short run, we will need to start building new gas-fired power stations. On a clear site, these can be built in as little as 28 months.
Longer term, we need a new generation of nuclear power stations that can provide carbon-free power for generations. The modular design championed by Rolls-Royce offers the chance to build these far quicker and at a far lower price than was previously possible.
For gas, we need strategic storage to protect us from foreign action and spikes in wholesale prices. We also need to start fracking to give us a secure domestic source of gas.
VAT holidays and other symptomatic reliefs for utility bills are just not enough.
Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife
A history lesson would inform Alan Black and Jane Anne Liston (Letters, 11 January) that, prior to joining the EU, 55 per cent of Ireland exports went to the UK but this has fallen to nine per cent while over half now go to the EU with 44 direct sailings each week to bypass Brexit Britain.
As Scotland is one of England’s largest export markets, an open trading border along the lines of what Northern Ireland has with the Republic is the most likely outcome after independence. Norway has a free trade open border with Sweden despite Norway being outside the EU and although over 70 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the USA, they don’t feel the need to be governed by Washington.
Prior to their independence, Dubai, Malta and Singapore were all told that they could not possibly survive without London’s subsidies.
Without Scotland’s vast energy resources and natural wealth, Denmark, Finland and Ireland all have a higher GDP per capita than the UK so there is no logical reason why an independent Scotland couldn’t emulate them with the proper government economic policies.
Fraser Grant, Edinburgh
Write to The Scotsman
We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number – we won't print full details. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid 'Letters to the Editor/Readers’ Letters' or similar in your subject line. If referring to an article, include date, page number and heading.
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription. Click on this link for more details.