Low-flying hospital beds

This recent blog by Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan who blew the whistle on the UK’s  involvement with the ‘rendering’ of people to Uzbekistan to be tortured (can I just say ‘boiled alive’ and leave you with the picture of a leg of lamb in a stock-pot, with the meat peeling gently, rendering, away from the bone?) and was sacked for his pains, brought back memories of my childhood on the Isle of Skye circa 1980.

Craig writes:

“We could have built 120,000 new homes, desperately needed. Instead we spent the money on a bloody big ship. To what purpose? An aircraft carrier is of no use to defend the British Isles – land based planes can do that much better. It is to enable our armed forces to operate elsewhere, far from here. In other words, it is not for defence, it is for attack. It was ordered in the Blairite era of enthusiastic invasion of other countries.

Look what that left us. The Middle East in turmoil, half the world hates us, a wrecked economy. Oh and a bloody great ship. Thanks for that.

Not only could 6.2 billion pounds have built 120,000 social housing units around the country, but doing that would have created 200,000 more jobs, and helped cool the housing bubble, as well as giving families nice places to live.

Next time a disabled person has their benefits cut, we can say “Aah, but look, we’ve got a really good boat!”

 Much of Scotland is used in some way or another as a military training ground. There are bombing ranges and torpedo ranges and places where missiles are tested, not to mention places where depleted uranium shells are fired into the sea to contaminate the seabed and marine life with radiological material for decades to come. The airspace over the Highlands is extensively used by the RAF to practice low flying and this was particularly true of the early 1980s when the RAF were training for low-level penetrations of Warsaw Pact airspace to bomb airfields in the event of war. The seas around Skye were used extensively as submarine training grounds and I remember the excitement I always felt waking up in the morning and looking out into Broadford Bay and seeing the dark shape of a submarine lying on the surface.

But it was the aircraft I remembered today. My family had a saying, which I adopted before knowing what it meant (I was only five or six at the time), each time an RAF jet – probably a Jaguar – hurtled overhead with a great rush of noise, “there goes another low-flying hospital bed!”. Obviously my memory is hazy on the details (if I ever really knew them) but I remember being told that the UK government spending decisions meant that hospital beds were being closed yet the country was still spending vast sums of money on machines of war. I believe that every single training flight conducted would have paid for a hospital bed to be kept open for a considerable length of time (a month, a year?), hence the ‘low-flying hospital bed’ remark.

We do need a military that is equipped and trained to defend this country and participate in the defence of other nations but there is a balance to be met and the UK has historically placed its military ambitions ahead of the health and welfare of its people. I would like to see that balance redressed and our military, whether it is within an on-going Union or within an independent Scotland, becoming a truly defensive force and our nation giving up its ambitions to be able to ‘project force’ (i.e. invade or bomb foreign nations) all the way around the globe. Do I see this happening any time soon if the Union lives on? Do you?

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About Hugh Wallace

Soldier, sailor, policeman, engineer, scientist, democrat, socialist, environmentalist, advocate of Scottish Independence
This entry was posted in defence, military, politics, poverty, shipbuilding, welfare and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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