IN his well-intentioned but ill-informed appeal for pragmatism, Mark Breingan (Letters, October 13) chooses the worst possible example to prove his point – Trident.

The acid test of independence is control over the Life or Death question of War and Peace. If we don’t have that, we are not independent. All political parties supporting independence want a written constitution banning nuclear weapons from Scottish land and waters. Trident must not operate out of Scotland.

The cosmic joke is that what an independent Scotland has to do is, well, nothing at all! On day one of independence, the boats will be berthed at Faslane. They remain there, tied up, pending discussion with rUK as to their removal. As they are tied up, they cannot put to sea. As they cannot put to sea, the missiles cannot be fired. Thus the boats are useless. Disarmament has started. Simples.

There is no magic wand, but what is required is firmness. Nobody suggests that Trident is “forced to be stored in a less-than-secure facility”. The fact is that Trident cannot operate from anywhere else in the UK other than the Faslane/Coulport complex, so our principled stand means a nuclear-free Britain. Mr Breignan’s Guantanamo Bay type suggestion that we lease Faslane for “about” five years may seem like a good deal money-wise, but demonstrates a complete lack of principle. It merely proves the cynic’s claim that “every man has his price”.

Also he makes the assumption that Trident will not actually be used during this period. This optimism is not justified by history. On January 6, 2003, the Ministry of Defence admitted for the first time that British ships carried nuclear weapons to the Falklands war (at the time some hotheads openly advocated “a second’s sunburst over Buenos Aires”). And before the start of the Gulf War, a Vanguard sub slipped quietly through the Straits of Gibraltar heading for the near East ready for action in the imminent conflict.

It is vital to know that in November, 1993, then defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind stated Trident could fire a single missile “in order to convey an unmistakable message of Britain’s willingness to defend her vital interests”. In other words, we are prepared to actually use Trident, use it first and use it against a non-nuclear country that steps out of line.

This Rifkind doctrine of “Sub-Strategic” or Tactical Trident is still operative, and is the basis on which Trident is on patrol 24/7. Most people naively assume that it is a weapon of last resort. In fact, both the UK and USA have always refused to give a “no first use” guarantee. As America controls Nato (described by one American cynic as “Snow White and the 27 dwarfs”) this is also Nato policy – hence my loathing of this military alliance.

Mr Breignan’s Baldric-style cunning plan to allow Trident to operate for this extra five years also means that we will continue with the lunatic policy of allowing nuclear convoys to trundle along our roads. The Ferret has reported that during the last three years, there have been 43 safety incidents with these convoys according to Ministry of Defence reports. The mishaps include three collisions and a series of breakdowns and equipment failures.

Since 2000, there have been 180 incidents involving nuclear convoys. Brakes have failed, fuel has leaked and engines have overheated. The convoy has got lost and been delayed or diverted by bad weather, accidents and protests. On one occasion it had to cope with “dogs loose on the carriageway”.

I personally witnessed the occasion when a convoy broke down on the slipway off the Erskine Bridge (May 18, 1993). It pulled up at the side of the road and lay helpless and vulnerable to the vagaries of passing traffic for four hours. Armed soldiers patrolled anxiously round the convoy in the growing dark.

On another occasion, I was following a convoy up the M74 (the way one does) when smoke began pouring out from the rear of a carrier. The police directed the convoy into the service station in Hamilton, and frantically waved the traffic on. I was driving a Nissan Micra at the time, (when the slogan was “you can with a Nissan”), and dry-lipped, I put the boot down in a desperate “let’s get the hell out of here” mode.

These are just my personal “encounters of the third kind”. Who knows what has happened unseen and unreported?

Mr Breigan asks if we are prepared to take our place on the world stage. What better way could there be of doing this than by supporting the 122 states that voted to support a nuclear ban treaty in 2017 at the UN?

The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight now than it has ever been before. Either we have a future free from nuclear weapons, or we have no future at all. In supporting this historic decision, Scotland, along with the other visionary states, could indeed be the “saviour of the world”, as Mr Breignan sarcastically asks.

As the Bible says, “Unless the people have a vision, they perish”.
Brian Quail