The Angry Corrie 10: Dec 1992-Jan 1993
Innit marvellous? Or so says current flavour-of-the-month TV jokester Paul Merton by way of a catchphrase. Yet, as with most catchphraseology, the words have an alarming habit of ringing true - no more so than in two recent and connected items on the Scottish news.
There was the 'safe arrival' in the Clyde of HMS Vanguard, first of the Trident submarines. One hoped the newsreader was being ironic in her choice of words: whatever side of the nuclear fence one comes down on, disarmament or deterrence, there's precious little 'safe' about this latest feature in view from the Glen Douglas hills. 'Mummy Mummy what's that?', 'Ailsa Craig, son'. 'And that?', 'The Waverley on a booze cruise to Tighnabruaich'. 'And that?', 'A potential 300 megaton nuclear explosion'.
Then, perhaps more directly worrying from a hillgoer's point of view, came the announcement of impending closure for four RAF search-and-rescue bases, notable amongst them 22 Squadron at Leuchars. You don't need to be like your editor in having had actual experience of being winched skyward into one of the welcoming Wessexes for the significance of this to strike home. A comparison of this year's hill-fatality figures with those for 1993 should make interesting, if depressing, reading - while all those who put out to sea, whether for work or pleasure, must be equally fearful of their future.
But what really riles is the crass stupidity of it all - or, rather, the way the powers-that-be assume the taxpaying public to be crassly stupid themselves. Words like 'rationalisation' and 'cost effectiveness' are bandied about, yet the truth is that the one really useful branch of the armed services - the one actually dedicated to saving lives rather than doing away with them - is being cut on grounds of lack of dosh, whilst there's not a hint of a suggestion that any of the skyrocketing (or should that be ballistic missiling?) budget for Trident could be transferred laterally to keep the rescue bases open. Only the merest fraction of the £10.5 billion spent thus far on Trident would be enough to see a good few climbers, sailors and the like safely into weatherbeaten old age, but things don't work that way. The machinations of politics, the military, high finance and public spending are, as ever, inversely proportional to what the ordinary run-of-the-mill populace thinks and intuitively knows. Innit marvellous?