DETERMINED Easter Ross campaigners battling to wipe out deadly weapons responsible for maiming thousands of innocent people have stepped up efforts to raise awareness of the issue.
Soroptimist International, a world-wide volunteer service organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and across the world, has thrown its weight behind a campaign to ban cluster bombs.
Cluster munitions, which can be deployed from the air or the ground, are capable of releasing hundreds of smaller ‘bomblets’ which have resulted in hundrdeds of thousands of casualties — often decades after local conflicts have ended.
Easter Ross soroptimists have joined with colleagues across the Highlands to lobby MPs to force the issue up the political agenda and put pressure on companies — including a number of British banks and taxpayer-owned institutions — which have invested in producers of these weapons.
Ross MP Charles Kennedy, who has been lobbied at Westminster by Soroptimist Internationa representatives, told the Journal: "I am implacably against the use of cluster bombs in any circumstances. These devastating weapons risk the lives of civilians and British soldiers alike.
"As a nation we should play no part in their design, manufacture or use. I’ve questioned ministers at the Business Department about British banks – including taxpayer-owned institutions — which appear to have invested in the producers of these dreadful devices. That practice has to end.
"I have met with the Soropromists in the House of Commons to discuss the best ways to take this vital issue forward. I have enormous praise for the superb work they do."
Marianne Simpson is vice-president of the North of Scotland Regional Committee of Soroptimist International, said members of the "daughter" club in Easter Ross had got involved in the campaign.
She said: "Through our local group we learned that we could try and influence what was going on at a Government level by lobbying Charles Kennedy MP, and all the members signed petition letters addressed to Vince Cable (Business Secretary in the Coalition Government) and then managed to get a question raised through Parliament by Charles Kennedy."
She said soroptimists have long been involved in a programme to help ban ‘cluster bombs’ and munitions.
That work has been recognised by Handicap International UK, an independent international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.
Campaigner Tom Shelton told the Journal: "Over the last few years, our friends from Soroptimist International have made a massive difference in the fight against cluster munitions. Local campaigning is invaluable in making people in the UK aware of the problem.
"This is the only way that we can make sure that these terrible weapons are eliminated for good and the survivors get the support they need to rebuild their lives."
Find out more about the campaign here.