THERE is no doubt that defence is very important, which means we have to be seen spending an enormous amount of money on it. Replacing Trident is useful in that regard – £160 billion is an enormous amount of money.

As I understand it, the proposal is we should use this £160bn to create a weapons system of enormous power.

In addition we have to convince other countries we would be prepared to use it.

The approach I’m advocating is quite similar in many ways, but much cheaper.

Instead of building new nuclear submarines and buying or leasing American missiles, and pretending we’re prepared to use them (and that the Americans would let us) I suggest we just move the “pretending” bit to earlier in the sentence.

Put simply, we just pretend to have built the submarines and put them into service.

It’s always difficult to be precise when discussing defence procurement costings, of course, but a rough estimate is that it would save us about a £1.60bn.

The basic principle would operate like this. Instead of buying four new submarines and equipping them, we keep one of our existing boats, or possibly two so we have a spare.

The boats would be housed in a new purpose-built “facility” at Faslane, shielded from members of the public and other enemies.

Every week or two one of the boats would leave the facility and journey down the Clyde to begin patrol somewhere in the oceans of the world.

At least that’s what it would look like. In reality, once it had submerged it would turn around and head back into the shed.

A month or two later it would go out again, purporting to be a different submarine, and then it would come back after a day or so in a highly visible way so that people would think it was the first submarine coming back.

In this way, used responsibly, one submarine could give the impression that there is a whole fleet of the things, with one or more continuously on patrol.

Regarding the security of the base, I have some suggestions to make the whole thing convincing. The guards could be given guns which look bigger than usual (like the ones in computer games) and boots two sizes larger than they need.

In addition, since it is a nuclear facility, it might be useful if flashing red lights and alarms could be activated periodically.

Fire engines could be summoned by this means and fire officers could don full protective gear, rush into the facility, drag some people out and hose them down at the side of the building.

While this is happening the police could make half-hearted attempts to prevent the protesters from seeing the whole thing and capturing it on their phones.

Reassuring statements could be placed in the local papers making it clear there hadn’t been any kind of leak and Reporting Scotland could assure the public that there is “no danger”.

There is a downside, of course, in that the new plan would require the UK Government to lie to its own people, since they’d have to continue believing the base was real.

This could be harder than it sounds because there’s no history of that sort of behaviour in this country, so the Government might not be any good at it. If you were really unlucky you might even end up facing an inquiry led by the wrong sort of judge.

In addition I freely admit that the plan doesn’t address the moral case for replacing Trident, but that’s only because there isn’t one.

I do believe, however, that we can put aside these two caveats and give serious consideration to this new kind of deterrent because, despite the oversize boots and play-acting, it’s no stupider than what they want us to sign up to. And pay for.

David Roberts

Plans view all parents as being potentially abusive

IN her letter Liz Kraft takes exception to what she considers Angry Salmond’s lack of rigour in researching the Named Person/Getting It Right For Every Child legislation, yet her ‘facts’ would seem to be open to the same accusation (Letters, January 18).

Firstly, even the Scottish Government concedes that wellbeing “can mean different things ranging from mental health to a wider vision of happiness.” GIRFEC wellbeing assessments are indeed seeking to measure the happiness of Scottish children.

Next is the question of information-sharing without consent; the statutory guidance from the Scottish Government states that the Named Person should make it clear to parents and children that their consent is not being sought and practitioners have been advised not to seek consent if they think there is a chance that it will be refused.

That Named Persons have been in place in Highland since 2009 is not evidence in itself of success; and as for parents and children being “engaged” with the process – they have to be, there is no way to decline services which does not pose the potential for further state intervention.

This dangerous legislation conflates wellbeing worries with child protection concerns, lowering the trigger for state interference to when a child’s “wellbeing” is adversely affected by any matter arising from any factor. The Scottish Government’s own legal team conceded that every child in Scotland is now viewed as potentially “vulnerable” which holds the considerable implication that all parents are now viewed as potentially neglectful or abusive.

Lesley Scott

SO the logic behind Cameron’s thinking is that by Muslims learning English it will beat extremism? I take it the 7/11 bombers couldn’t speak English? Jihadi John? What will happen when we deport the women who fail the exams? A family split will cause anger and possible retribution. Madness.

Anon via text

EVEN considering that no one is fit to be president, in that no one should be able to command a state which rules by threatening and committing violence against innocent people, Hillary Clinton is especially unfit. No one who has done what she has done as a government official should be rewarded with power.

Many things could impose this special disqualification. Her vote for George W Bush’s criminal, lie-based Iraq war, for example, would be more than enough to rule her out. That political ambition now prompts her to express regret for her vote should count for nothing.When she says she learned her lesson, she lies.

But if no other horrors were on her record, one should be enough to bar her from office: Libya. It would be hard to find a better example of how one person can wreak havoc on a society and create far-ranging catastrophes beyond.

In 2011 the US Government led a Nato air assault on Libya under doubly false pretences. Falsehood number one was that Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi was threatening to wipe out hundreds of thousands of residents of Benghazi. Falsehood number two was related to the first: that Nato’s mission was to protect civilians when in fact it was to help the rebel opposition overthrow Gaddafi’s government, after which he was murdered extra-judicially by the rebels.

Libya is in chaos, with Al Qaeda and Daesh-affiliated guerrillas running wild. With US oversight, heavy arms from Gaddafi’s arsenal flowed freely to rebels in Syria who either were followers of Bin Laden or alleged “moderates” eager to sell the arms to Daesh. The intervention, which brought incalculable death and mayhem to Libya, Syria and Mali was no innocent blunder, and it discredits Clinton’s claim that she learned the lesson of Iraq.

Alan Hinnrichs

INTERESTING article about the financial hardships being faced by Falkirk Council (Union to consult on council’s plan for job cuts, The National, January 19). Perhaps someone from Falkirk Council – either the elected leader, or the unelected chief executive – would care to explain to their brow-beaten, beleaguered tax-payers how big a part the Labour-controlled council’s scandalous PFI schools have contributed to their woes?

Anon via text