Backing Britain

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Although I may vote Yes in the referendum, I felt that there was much that was historically contentious in Gerry Hassan’s article (Perspective, 28 January).

It is difficult to reconcile Hassan’s claim that the First World War was an imperialist conflict with the fact that Britain had a Liberal government in 1914, the Liberals being the great anti-Imperial party. Expansion of the Empire invariably occurred under the Tories. As a government, the Liberals had gone to great lengths to seek a rapprochement with Germany and went to war with huge reluctance. 
The popular euphoria that greeted the outbreak of war was not shared by the cabinet, leading members of which, such as Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey, were virtual peace-niks. Their most compelling reason for going to war was to keep the Belgian sea ports out of the control of a major and hostile sea power. Their concerns were with the security and integrity of Britain’s frontiers.

The kaiser’s biggest problem in the run-up to the war was the growth in demand for constitutional reform and for democracy in Germany. Fritz Fischer has suggested that he sought the war as a distraction from national politics that would strengthen loyalty to the regime, if it won. It is difficult to see much of a future for democracy in France or Belgium had the kaiser had his way so perhaps it was, in effect, a war for democracy and not as pointless as Hassan suggests.

By 1914, Britain had made massive progress towards the establishment of real democracy. While there was not universal adult suffrage, just about every household, rich and poor, had one voter. Many rich men, as well as poor ones, did not have a vote, so political influence was not entirely class dependent. The power of the House of Lords had been broken and payment of MPs had been introduced to enable poorer men to stand for election.

Britain in 1914 was no utopia, but it had taken the most important steps towards being a functioning democracy. Exaggerating its failings is as bad as viewing it through rose-tinted glasses.

Ronald Cameron

Whinknowe

Banavie, Fort William

Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and other Scottish advocates of New Labour policies seek to persuade referendum voters that Scotland can do better by staying in the Union. This is perhaps not surprising given the prominent positions recently enjoyed by these politicians at Westminster, but it is a betrayal of the principles of the original Scottish Labour Party, founded by persons who strongly campaigned for Scottish “home rule”.

Keir Hardie and the first socialist MP, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (who also campaigned for the abolition of the House of Lords and later founded the National Party of Scotland, which was the forerunner of the SNP) would be turning in their graves if they knew that Labour Party politicians had rejected greater devolution as an option in the referendum and were today encouraging workers in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife to vote against independence.

Much has already been written about the hypocrisy of the Blair government and the deceit perpetrated in taking the UK into war in Iraq, but the current Labour Party politicians, who pretend that sustaining government by a Westminster parliament dominated by the concerns of London and the south-east of England is in the best interests of the people of Scotland, are not only betraying workers in Scotland they are also attempting to deceive the electorate throughout the UK.

Hopefully, more of those in the Labour Party who are less motivated by self-interest will start to speak-up and call on those who support “their party” to be true to the principles of the original Scottish Labour Party by voting in favour of an independent Scotland.

Stan Grodynski

Longniddry

East Lothian

DR JOHN MacDonald (Perspective Extra, 18 January) is correct to suggest that the European Union would find a way to allow Scotland membership.

In fact, as the EU is an expansive project, adding Scotland would be extremely attractive. Scotland has a well-educated population, is not overcrowded and has abundant natural energy reserves. It is a stable country and, unlike England, does not seem to have a significant anti-EU movement. However, Scotland should go into any negotiation from a position of strength: the EU needs Scotland more than Scotland needs the EU; Scotland could quite easily follow Norway’s position and stay out.

From that perspective, negotiations should include our fishing waters and better terms than Westminster has negotiated. We can probably get better terms than Westminster is hoping for in its 2017 referendum negotiations. The real question is not whether Scotland would get in, but whether it should want to join.

Bruce D Skivington

Pairc a Ghliob, Strath

Gairloch, Wester Ross

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