DISTRACTED as we are by the pandemic, not enough attention has been paid to this week's Defence Review, the most far-reaching since the Cold War. It comes against a backdrop of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace complaining that UK defence is not fit for purpose and the scathing assessment by the National Audit Office that the defence funding gap stands at £21 billion. The Treasury is desperately concerned that the UK economy could be derailed by inflation at a time when we are in the middle of our worst economic crash in recorded history.

Boris Johnson wants to see an increase in defence spending of £16bn in four years. He has talked of an RAF Space Command, National Cyber Force, the new RAF Stealth Tempest aircraft and unmanned drones. How then to make ends meet given no Conservative PM will jettison the eye-watering £50bn Dreadnought programme? Indeed he has reaffirmed his commitment to it with the unexpected announcement of an increase to 260 nuclear warheads. The question is pertinent. The UK already has the most sophisticated submarines in the world with the seven Astute-class boats with Tomahawk Cruise missiles; weapons this country could actually use.

The answer is staring us in the face.We have long known that the UK could not afford to operate the two super aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Of Wales, which left Rosyth in 2017 and 2019.To some they were a vanity project, holed below the waterline and a relic of a bygone age. They were useless against terrorism, or cyber warfare or attack by a swathe of small fast attack boats with anti ship missiles.

With little public scrutiny or knowledge, the first has effectively been integrated with the US Navy accompanied by US warships and with mainly US F35bs on deck.These aircraft which have cost the UK £100 million each have a myriad problems worth googling.

The fact they are not stealth at supersonic speed, lose in dogfights with 1970s F16s and are inferior to the RAF Typhoon is all rather disconcerting. It is clear, and not before time, that the UK is to cancel the order for the 138, leaving the 48 we are committed to.

HMS Prince Of Wales will get "Cats And Traps" (electromagnetic catapult and arrestor wire) to facilitate the use of unmanned drones and the new RAF Tempest in time. There are other options. The French want a replacement for the Charles De Gaulle and the Germans want a European aircraft carrier but those (and the suggestion of mothballing her), do not signify a global reach.

The Queen's Speech talked of forging stronger ties of European security.Will these straitened times even yet impose realpolitik on our defence policy?

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.


LEWIS Carroll would have made hay with the new topsy-turvy future envisaged for us in the Prime Minister's recent presentation.

His vision of a Trans-Pacific partnership reeks of a fantasy world where agreements can be reached at the drop of a hat or a scurry down a rabbit hole, their conditions meaning whatever you want them to mean.

Our geographical locale harnesses us conveniently to the nearest land mass on our doorstep and yet we have ventured to cut those ties to pursue a cavalier Brexit. Trade with our closest neighbours still looks far more advantageous with the convenience of the supply lines to guarantee the smooth flow of goods rather than throwing our hands in with emerging economies so remote in geographical terms.

Militarily we are small fry in global terms, our armed services being in steep decline numerically and in functioning equipment from all accounts, and we appear to be throwing in our lot with distant powers such as Japan, India, Australia and Uncle Tom Cobley and all with a Trans-Pacific partnership. Would we expect them to ride to our rescue ,if we were threatened by Russia?

Common sense tells us that our security rests upon close collaboration with our nearby neighbours with the added support which stems from our historic relationship with the United States, which is best placed to protect the interests of all allies in the Pacific region against the intrusions of China.

We belong to the peashooter brigade in any likely confrontation with the might of China.

Britain's prosperity and security are both tied up with, and dependent upon, a harmonious relationship with our next-door neighbours from whom we have chosen to estrange ourselves.

Boris Through The Looking Glass is an oeuvre worthy of the imagination of the man who immortalised Alice for our entertainment.

Dennis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


IT has just been revealed, after a freedom of information request, that Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham contacted China over the cost of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo and the lack of income caused by the coronavirus lockdown. The annual fee for these giant pandas is about £600,000. Ms Cunningham said the pandas were "a great symbol of the friendship between Scotland and China".

"Friendship"? So her SNP Government condones violence in Hong Kong and the detention of millions of Uighurs in "re-education centres" in Xinjiang region? China recently warned Taiwan that any attempt to seek independence "means war". What would she say if the UK Government told the Scottish Government that any attempt to seek independence "means war"?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.


WHAT a relief it was to read Willie Maclean’s response (Letters, March 14) to Dr Gerald Edwards (Letters, March 7). I too have often wondered how so many of your correspondents can be so easily conned into believing that the government of an independent Scotland would be an SNP one, and how someone with a doctorate can be so unable to apply the simplest of logic to disprove this assumption.

At the moment, there are many folk in the independence movement who are not SNP supporters, quite a number of Labour ones, dissatisfied with their natural party’s stance, and even a few Tories. So when independence comes, as it certainly will, these people will vote for the party they want to hold power and whose policies they want implemented.

One point therefore, which Mr Maclean could have added, is that when the SNP has helped us achieve our goal, it may actually have signed its own death warrant as a party.

Independence is not about any one party, either in power or opposition at the moment, but about ensuring that when the majority of Scots vote, they get the government they voted for.

L McGregor, Falkirk.


IN response to Douglas Cowe (Letters, March 14), why does he ignore achievements like free tuition, elderly care, female sanitary products, prescriptions, the mitigation of the bedroom tax, a better, fairer social security system with the powers we have, the Scots child poverty payment scheme, the Queensferry Crossing, new hospitals, free tolls and much more.

He mentioned BiFab and Prestwick Airport, but unlike the Tories, the SNP chose to retain jobs rather than shrug their shoulders and show indifference to them. We have record low crime, more GPs per head, more and better paid nurses and care staff per head and better spending on our NHS than any of the four nations. And far better waiting and appointment target success.

The SNP is solely determined to improve our lot – a Scottish people's party – and the alternatives are Scottish Labour party, a hollow branch of a twitching-corpse London opposition and an incompetent, law-breaking, anti-society Tory Party which foisted Brexit on us against our national will destroying businesses and exports. The Tories are also determined to see our Parliament crippled, by-passed, even done away with altogether.

The Scots public are not stupid and can see through the unionist media's howling, false and hysterical doom-laden narrative.

Gavin Ferguson, Coatbridge.


I WRITE this on International Women's Day, and the tragedy of Sarah Everard's murder led me think deeply once more about the weight of feelings that so many women must live with, occasionally, or on a daily basis.

Hers was by no means a singular devastating event, and the apparent escalation of such is testament to the need for men to stop the pain.

It is of course a Utopian concept, that men should be caring partners to all women, and protective fathers to all children, but is this too much to aspire to?

I feel so saddened, and not a little ashamed by the behaviour of so many men who create so much pain, ugliness and desolation in this world, despite knowing that there are so many more men who do love and care for our women folk.

Woman gives Life, she creates, nourishes, and nurture and deserves so much more from us men, ( whose input is rather minimal!).

A profound redefinition of what masculinity really means must be faced and embraced, not the the "sensitive-new-age-guys" but men with real courage to face their own problems, and to be able to admit it is us that are the problem for women. This is not an abnegation of manhood, rather it is a celebration. The lack of love in its greater and wider sense is a manifestation of current events, and has no place in the hearts and minds of self-aware, questing, progressive 21st century men.

Women should never under any circumstances live under the shroud of fear of any sort, but feel cared for, respected, and safe.

So come on men, time to man up, rethink, grow, and bring some peace and love to our world, or at least to our own small corner of it.

Peter Ryan, Moffat.