On the day the Westminster Parliament approved one of the biggest assaults on the welfare state in the last 50 years, some Tory-led Coalition ministers and Scottish Labour leaders felt it was more important to promote the future of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde ("Yes vote would put 19,000 Faslane jobs at risk", The Herald, January 9).
While any job loss is a serious matter, the 19,000 threatened was a gross exaggeration against the recent Ministry of Defence response to a Freedom of Information request that only 520 civilian jobs at Faslane and Coulport near Helensburgh are directly dependent on Trident ("Labour and Tories under fire for inflating Trident job losses", The Herald, October 27).
Westminster politicians ought to read the STUC and SCND report Cancelling Trident – The Economic and Employment Consequences for Scotland. The detailed study found "the funds released by Trident cancellation would create a major opportunity for productive investment in Scotland's economy".
The report proposed a Scottish Arms Conversion Agency, a skills audit of staff involved, a Lower Clyde Defence Skills Employment Office, a managed transition from Trident with defence workers on conserved salaries for a period of re-skilling, savings used for funding university departmental R&D, a North Clyde Lochs Development Partnership for local economic development and priority for the Scottish share of Trident savings to be invested in renewable energy and economic development. This could all be accomplished using Scotland's £168 million future annual share of Trident nuclear missile replacement, with millions of pounds available for positive economic investments.
There would surely be a common interest between an independent Scottish Government and the rest of the UK to carefully plan the major defence and employment consequences of nuclear missile removal from the Clyde, which should take place over perhaps 10 years. As in so many other respects, the pro-Union parties are stuck in an imperial and Cold War past, with a lack of clarity about our defence requirements in the 21st century and few ideas or ambitions for Scotland's future.
Sadly we are starting the New Year with a new round of doomsday threats from the Westminster Coalition and the Labour Party on Scottish issues. My own vision is for Faslane/Coulport to become an International Sea Energy Centre for research and development and to service and support the huge growth in marine energy production off Islay, south-west of Campbeltown and right up the west coast. More probably, we would have the main naval base of a Scottish Defence Force.
Whatever its future, we should be exploring the huge opportunities for different ways of using Faslane's excellent facilities, drawing on the vast experience of Babcock International in marine technology and support, and using the knowledge and skills of Faslane and Coulport's civilian and naval workforce.
Armadale, Shore Road, Cove.
If the Scottish public is to be properly and meaningfully informed about how to vote in the independence referendum in 2014, then this has to be the year when politicians on all sides of the debate have to commit to asking clear and relevant questions and, in turn, providing precise and unambiguous answers.
The people entitled to vote would then be in a better position to come to a decision based on fact rather than political dogma. The story on Faslane jobs at risk quotes Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, saying: "Faslane has a bright future as the base for Scotland's conventional naval forces."
The concept of Scotland having a conventional naval force has intrigued many and bewildered most. Hence the following questions:
l What will the composition of Scotland's naval forces be, presumably including the present and proposed 8000 jobs at Faslane?
l Has this concept been costed in the short and longer-term?
l Has the feasibility of a Scottish naval force been reviewed and agreed by any relevant, independent experts, either naval or academic, or is this merely a concept hatched by politicians to avoid facing the consequences of other parts of their stated policies?
Precise answers to these clear questions would inform the debate. No doubt many more questions will be asked and answered in the months to come.
Duncan C McGhie,
65 Corrour Road,