THIS afternoon (July 21), I had the humbling experience of watching Christopher Nolan's new film Oppenheimer. The film offers no clear answer about the morality of developing or, for that matter, using the atomic bomb. Instead, its moral drive is on who will be the first to develop and use the bomb. Because the race to develop the atomic bomb was precisely that; a race. If the Nazis had succeeded in developing the bomb before us, they would have undoubtedly used it; and Hitler would have won the war. With the stakes that high, I sat in the cinema feeling immensely grateful that Oppenheimer's team in New Mexico beat the Nazi Uranverein.

Scotland has an important connection in the race to stop Hitler getting the bomb. Shortly before the Nazis' invasion of Norway, the entire stock of heavy water from the Norsk Hydro Plant at Vemork was smuggled out of the country and brought here. When the decision was made to destroy the plant, it was the military training camp in Drumintoul near Aviemore that was used to train the men who would become known as the heroes of Telemark. Even the kit the men of Operation Grouse wore to survive in conditions as extreme as anywhere on the planet, was purchased from a shop in Dumfries.

Susan Martin (Letters, July 21) argues that Trident casts the shadow of death across Scotland. It is a strikingly emotive image. It's also not true. Nuclear weapons are at their most successful when they are not used. They are designed to stop nuclear war; and for nearly 80 years that is exactly what they have done. They are terrible, and they are costly, but they are the price of our peace and our freedom. We cannot simply wish away history.

So it was with some relief that Nato recently renewed its strong opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And yet, as countries the length and breadth of Europe seek protection under Nato’s nuclear umbrella, unilateralists here continue to seek to remove our nuclear shield in the naive hope that it will remove the shadow of death. If they ever get their way, we will truly live in death's shadow: one caused by the nuclear weapons of Russia, China, and North Korea. We cannot simply wish away reality.

The Norwegian memorial stone at Glenmore bears witness that we took them into our homes, and gave them the hope that they would get their country back. We should be proud of our history, and remember that we have the privilege to debate the ethical rights and wrongs of the atomic bomb, because Robert Oppenheimer won us the freedom to have that debate.

Unilateralists would effectively reverse the outcome of the race won in Los Alamos. They would disarm us and leave nuclear weapons in the hands of tyrants. I urge Ms Martin to go see the film.

Graeme Arnott, Stewarton.

Read more: Won't someone give Humza Yousaf a lesson on priorities?

SNP should collapse the system

IT will be more than a year before the next General Election, and even Mystic Meg would hesitate to predict the outcome based on by-election results ("Sunak left seeking crumbs after two bruising by-election defeats", The Herald, July 22).

Although now in government the Tories are hopelessly split into warring factions with another unpopular leader, so it looks certain we will have a Labour government next. Labour is also split between Old Labour and New Labour, but Sir Keir Starmer is very much in charge. Scotland is still to play for, with relentless media negativity toward the SNP allowing policy-free Labour a comeback.

Humza Yousaf may or may not be an interim leader, but he does have time and space to formulate his own policy, not least on the road to independence. As all leaders of British political parties have vetoed Scots having a direct say in their own future, then Mr Yousaf must assert that Scotland has the right to choose via election ballots, just as unionists have used elections in Scotland on the single issue of a referendum (they repeatedly lost). If a pro-independence majority does not result in negotiations, the SNP should remove its MPs from Westminster and collapse Holyrood (it should have done this years ago after the Brexit referendum). Let our big neighbour rule us without the consent of the majority, and see what the world thinks.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Short-term thinking wins out

OF the three by-elections last week, Uxbridge threw up several questions posing a problem for our politicians.

High on the wish list of most people is tackling climate change.

That wish seems to be tempered by one's personal circumstances in much the same way that those who make money out of poaching the dwindling number of the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo) are torn between preserving those amazing creatures and their own needs to house and feed their families.

ULEZ and its introduction have to be placed on the plus side of saving the environment and protecting the health of those in the community. On the negative side, account has to be taken of how in the immediate short term that policy makes a serious impact upon individuals' financial circumstances. How to reconcile those conflicting interests lies within the remit of the politician.

What is the function of a politician?

Some people prefer to think of a politician as the delegate elected to promote popular opinion; others as one who leads, guides and listens but acts upon principle and conscience.

Sadiq Khan clearly comes into the principled politician category in a hurry where the new MP for Uxbridge epitomises the delegate view.

If a politician puts forward a policy, that politician has to be prepared to persuade the community to get on board by pointing out persuasively the advantages which will outweigh the short-term disincentives in the long term. That may well amount to adopting a gradualist approach to bring the people along with the politician's policy. Mr Khan may have failed to factor in the gradualist approach to his timescale for the implementation of ULEZ .

What sadly is becoming clear from the fallout from that election is that all sides are seriously reconsidering their commitment to the imperative green agenda in the hope of either retaining or regaining Number 10.

If that is carried to fruition, we can abandon any hope that politicians will ever be seen as trusted to act on behalf of the common good when they will have set themselves up as merely in pursuit of power for their own self-serving ends.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

• UXBRIDGE once voted for Boris, and now against ultra low emission zones. Obviously they prefer hot air to fresh air.

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.

Read more: Why not try to bring the friendly games to friendly Scotland?

Reaping benefits of Brexit

ALEX Orr (Letters, July 22) cites an American organisation to claim that Brexit has been "an economic disaster". Well, as a member of the European Movement and a Scottish nationalist he would say that, wouldn't he?

Since 2010, including the post-Brexit years, the UK economy has outperformed those of Germany, Japan, France and Italy. Since 2010 the UK has one million more businesses and one million fewer unemployed. The pound to euro exchange rate is the same this year as it was in 2013. The UK has the largest stock market in Europe and London remains the world's second-largest financial centre.

Last month's Financial Services and Markets Act repealed 100 pieces of unnecessary EU legislation to focus on growth. Earlier this month Britain joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership of trading nations which will prove a boost to wealth in future years and would not be possible within the EU. By next year spending on the NHS will be £1 billion a week more than it was in 2016-17. Eleven freeports are being established.

In January 2022 HMG published a 105-page report, "The Benefits of Brexit: How the UK is taking advantage of leaving the EU". It makes for an informative read.

This is only the beginning. Thanks to the Remainer movement, actually leaving the EU after the referendum was delayed by three years, and then the economy was disrupted by Covid and the Ukraine war which are the reasons for the present cost of living crisis – along with The Bank of England delaying raising interest rates. We haven't got going yet, but the future, free from the decrees of a foreign power, is bright.

William Loneskie, Lauder.

So is prayer permissible?

ON Saturday you stated: “Non-violent civil disobedience can arouse hostility and fierce opposition but is permissible in a free society” ("Climate disruption is in the name of an urgent cause", Herald View, July 22).

Does that apply to praying outside abortion clinics?

John Kelly, Edinburgh.