DAVID Torrance rehashes the hoary distinction between multilateralism and unilateralism beloved of Tory nuclear apologists ("Losing Trident just too big a blow to 'prestige' obsessives", The Herald, March 23).

The indisputable fact remains that no British nuclear weapon has ever been negotiated away at a disarmament conference. They have never even been put on the table. Hence, as Bruce Kent said, "a unilateralist is a multilateralist who means what he says".

We have always upgraded our weapons, decreasing the numbers yes, but increasing lethality, accuracy and usability. Thus, the obsolete free-fall W177 was replaced by the superior Polaris missile; Polaris upgraded by Chevaline; Chevaline by Trident, and so on. We have taken no steps towards de-escalation and elimination, but operate a "new lamps for old" policy.

Mr Torrance quotes Margaret Thatcher's adage "you can't dis-invent the nuclear weapon, any more than you can dis-invent dynamite" as if this were obvious common sense. However, you can't dis-invent gas chambers and concentration camps either, but you can outlaw them by international law. Either that, or every country in the world follows the inevitable path of acquiring nuclear weapons, and we're all on a handcart to hell.

Mr Torrance admits that opposition to Trident doesn't define his political world-view. I don't know what does, but I do know that while I write a young man sits at a control panel waiting for the order. He is here and now, ready to launch H Bombs bringing hell on earth to untold thousands of our fellow human beings. I know that we have already consented to this atrocity. In fact - morally speaking - we have already done the deed. We have already signed the nuclear blank cheque and wait in the pious and hypocritical hope that it won't actually be cashed.

I find it an intolerable anguish that I live in a community that has agreed to this, the ultimate evil.

I don't know what issues he does choose to define his world-view, but I do know that, compared to this, all other issues are relatively insignificant.

Brian M Quail,

2 Hyndland Avenue, Glasgow.

A FAVOURITE response of my late mother, when her son was trying to pull a fast one was: "Do you think I floated up the Clyde on a water biscuit?" This surely must be the response of the Scottish anti-nuclear movement in general and the SNP in particular to David Torrance's speculation around the anti-Trident red line of the post-General Election SNP bloc.

The notion that this bloc will let the Tories into number 10 by the front door, the back door or the political equivalent of the Downing Street fire escape is troubling no-one I know, because it is a non-starter. The prospect of May 7 is surely making the entire Establishment's collective head hurt and it will get much worse thereafter. The relationship between Labour and the Scottish Bloc will be important. So too, though we have understandably heard little about it, will be the relationship between some progressive English Labour MPs and the bloc and the lever that the very existence of that bloc may give them to work upon their own leadership.

The Trident discourse may not be quite as closed down as Mr Torrrance seems to imply. There is one crucial dimension of it that has still to be opened up and explored. As Sir Hugh Beech has often pointed out, and it's worth remembering that he was for a time the Army's principal thinker as Commandant of Camberly Staff College, nuclear weapons in general and UK nukes in particular, have no military utility. Opening up this discourse to the general public will be one of the myriad positive consequences of the advent of the Scottish bloc at Westminster.

One of the outcomes of this year's Westminster election will be an opportunity to actually ask fundamentals about what national security actually is. Does it chime with the basic tenets of 21st century democracy? At its centre should be the welfare of a citizenry as outlined by the principles of human security championed by the United Nations. Or is it the outdated 18th and 19th century notions of state coherence, or even worse, "national interest" which is really often a euphemism for global corporate advantage paid for in the deaths and broken lives of our service men and women?

Bill Ramsay,

Convener, SNP CND,

84 Albert Avenue, Glasgow.