GRAEME Arnott’s panegyric to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence (Letters, July 24) appears eloquent and persuasive, and is indeed beautifully written, but does his argument stand up?

It is true that Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt as early as August 2, 1939, effectively kick-starting the Manhattan Project, but in the event the successful Trinity nuclear detonation occurred two months after Nazi Germany had been defeated. Then the US dropped two bombs on two Japanese cities that were exhausted and defenceless, and of no strategic military importance. The choice of Nagasaki was based on the vagaries of the local weather on August 9, 1945. These detonations were effectively a demonstration to Soviet Russia, and a warning not to encroach any further into Western Europe. Joseph Goebbels said the Nazis would win in the end, because the Allies would have adopted their methods. Such is the nature of evil.

George Santayana’s remark has become a cliché, that those who do not study the past are condemned to repeat it. But the trouble is that history seldom repeats itself exactly. . It doesn’t even rhyme, but, like a Wilfred Owen poem, it can half-rhyme. Back in 1945, the best minds, Chadwick, Feynman, Oppenheimer et al, devoted themselves to constructing a bomb. The Danish physicist Niels Bohr thought that nuclear research should be conducted by the scientific community in a spirit of openness, and Churchill wanted to lock him up. But Churchill in his second term came to realise that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) was untenable. He tried to arrange a “summit” – he even coined the term – of the great powers, in pursuit of a lasting peace, but by then Churchill was a spent force and he failed.

The idea that MAD is going to carry on keeping the peace is fallacious. There have been several near misses over the years, and in our own time with our devotion to automated systems, “artificial intelligence”, and managerial pseudoscience, it is only a matter of time before an “accident” occurs. We need, somehow, to get rid of these hellish contraptions. Today, rather than creating increasingly sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, our brightest and best need to address the question crucial to our own time: how can we all get along together, without destroying ourselves and the planet?

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Thornhill.

Read more: The lesson we Scots must learn from Oppenheimer

Remove the bombs from Scotland

AN enthusiast for "nuclearism" like Graeme Arnott is the equivalent of the climate change deniers. The extreme vulnerability not just of humans but of most life on our planet is dismissed in a fantasy optimism about mutually assured destruction. This is, of course, an argument for continuous proliferation. It is why North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 to develop its own nuclear weapons. This makes us all safer?

Oppenheimer himself in the post-war period opposed the development of the more destructive hydrogen bomb and promoted bringing all nuclear weapons into United Nations control. Professor Joseph Rotblat from the UK, who was part of the Manhattan Project, withdrew from it after there was reliable evidence that the German programme to develop an atomic bomb had failed. He along with many distinguished scientists became active nuclear disarmament campaigners.

The current acceleration of technical developments in nuclear weapons systems should frighten us all – they have hyper speed, manoeuvrability and destructive capacity. At least global warming might take some years to reach maximum damage. The current capacity of nuclear arsenals could destroy most of life within hours. The last two decades has seen an appalling lack of any serious interest by the nuclear powers in disarmament initiatives.

An independent Scotland could make an internationally significant contribution in ratifying the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to which the SNP, the Greens and some individual Labour MSPs have given their commitment. The removal of the 200 nuclear bombs which are based in Scotland would be a step to sanity.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.

• WHILE Graeme Arnott’s letter has much to commend it, he suggests that shortly before the Nazis’ invasion of Norway in April 1940 the entire stock of heavy water there was “brought here”, implying to Scotland.

In fact the Norwegian heavy water was first taken to France and then to England as is recorded in our national archives at

George Kirrin, Beckenham.

Westminster can, Holyrood cannot

TOM Gordon's report "More indy proposals as storm grows over cash", The Herald, July 24) laid bare the simple, stark truth about devolution: Westminster can, Holyrood cannot.

The UK (English) Government can set up hubs and committees to promote the Union at taxpayers' expense and employing UK civil servants to help carry their message with more funding provided.

But the opposition, including Scots Labour peer George Foulkes, objects to the Scottish Government delivering an alternative "Building a New Scotland" prospectus. Lord Foulkes finds it "worrying" that UK civil servants working for the Scottish Government are "effectively supporting ministers who want to break up the UK".

But the Scottish Government is doing what its electorate wants, answering questions on the economy, the environment, freedom of movement, human rights, equality and democracy in an independent Scotland.

It's the brighter future the prospectus offers that frightens opponents.

If we do live in a democracy just now, and that's questionable, surely there should be equal billing for both sides of an argument.

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.

The woes of isolationism

EXCELLENT news: our Scottish Government doing what we keep voting for.

As a Scottish taxpayer I'm delighted that it is producing papers as to what the Scotland of the future will look like. Conversely, I'm disgusted by the Westminster Government spending my tax on its isolationist Britain policies.

Twice this year we have travelled to mainland Europe, first by Eurostar where the queues on our return via Paris were so long that we almost missed the train back, running to get on to it even though it left 15 minutes late. Second was by ferry back to Newcastle (Tyne Port) where the queue was shorter but still a slow shuffle. In neither case were the border points fully staffed, thus extending the time taken to get through. Welcome to the UK.

Patricia Fort, Glasgow.

My gas boiler will remain

PATRICK Harvie is threatening to penalise homeowners who retain their gas boilers ("Gas boilers set to be penalised under energy efficiency overhaul", heraldscotland, July 23). It would be penalty enough to have to incur the expense of installing heat pumps of dubious reliability.

I have solar panels and good insulation. I recycle assiduously, and this year I bought an electric car. When I bought a new gas boiler, almost three years ago, no-one warned me that I could incur penalties for doing so. In this process, my hot and cold water tanks were removed. I am not going to spend money on – and endure the domestic upheaval of – reinstalling them to support a heat pump.

The UK’s contribution to global warming is one per cent, with Scotland’s a fraction of that. Scotland has a very good record in reducing its carbon footprint, halving its greenhouse gas emissions in the last 30 years. What, in that period, have the big polluters – China, the United States, India, Japan – done? Not a lot. There is more to be done, yet Scotland’s Government has shot itself in the foot by refusing to build new nuclear power stations. Compare this with France, which derives 78 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power.

While this situation obtains, my gas boiler will remain inviolate.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

What would Nye Bevan have said?

RAB McNeil writes that Nye Bevan, creator of the NHS, "rotates in his grave" as a result of the difficulties people are experiencing in being unable to access NHS dental services ("Red in tooth, Herald Magazine, July 22). Bevan may or may not be undergoing such gyration. However, what is for sure is that he would not have been short of a word about the step taken by consultants last week in England to take industrial action, which has been described as one of the most difficult strikes the NHS has ever had to deal with.

As an illustration of how passionately Bevan felt about the NHS, he described Conservatives who opposed the NHS at the time or sought to obstruct it in any way as "lower than vermin". His colourful language upset Winston Churchill. One can wonder what the current turmoil in the NHS, which he had done so much to bring into being, would have provoked him to say.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.