Humanist rise

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Having been a celebrant for almost as long as humanist marriage has been legal in Scotland, I was heartened by your leader article (Humanists offer choice, 17 August) that acknowledges the cultural shift that has taken place over the last decade, but I think that the change may be even greater than the Registrar General of Scotland’s statistics suggest.

Your leader says, ‘There were 82 in 2005. Last year the figure had topped 4,000’. According the to the Registrar General of Scotland’s statistics, there were at least 4,580 humanist marriages in 2015, conducted by a variety of organisations, including Fuze, Independent Humanist Ceremonies, the Humanist Fellowship of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland.

However, the Caledonian Humanist Association, of which I am a member, came into existence only last year, so all our weddings are conducted under temporary authorisation: if all 353 recorded by the Registrar General of Scotland as “Temporary Authorisation - Non Christian” are also included, then the total could be as high as 4933: about 17 per cent of the 29,070 marriages that took place in 2015.

Marriage as an institution has been in decline in the British Isles for half a century. Only in Scotland has it risen (by two per cent) in the last year, and that is directly attributable to the popularity of humanist weddings. What makes them so different?

One of the attractions is that couples are free to speak about their love in their own words. Another is that humanist celebrants don’t tell couples what marriage means.

Instead, we ask them to think deeply about it and then tell their families and friends what it means to them. So every humanist marriage is, in a sense, a very personal redefinition of marriage, and that, I believe, is the key to their success.

Tim Maguire

Celebrant Caledonian Humanist Association, Scotland Street Lane West, Edinburgh

Remain rushed

It would be easy for Remain voters(which included me) to console themselves with Joyce McMillan’s view on why the Leave campaign triumphed(Perspective, 19 August).But it went a lot deeper than simply millions of voters being duped by a simplistic argument put forward by knaves.

The first is that the Remain campaign was rushed, largely because of the insistence of then Prime Minister David Cameron to go for a poll so soon after the negotiations with other EU states. His decision to front the case for staying in was plainly a mistake; he should have left it to a more independent body.

Secondly, the yawning gap between the largely pro-Remain political class and millions of disaffected voters in safe parliamentary seats was cruelly exposed.

This was compounded by a gulf between graduates and non- graduates, those on median incomes of £27,000 a year and those on £18,000 a year, those who express an interest in the conventional arts and those who are at best lukewarm about them, and those who quite simply felt their way of life, their chances to influence it, were being undermined by too high a level of immigration.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

Festival fears

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop reassures us that the Brexit vote will not in any way diminish the intention to make next year’s Edinburgh Festival 70th anniversary “a celebration of culture without borders”.

Presumably the SNP is not in the midst of another divisive independence campaign, for otherwise the prospect of a new border will very much be in everyone’s minds, with the SNP attempting to drive wedges between our fellow citizens across the UK.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Busy Sturgeon

What a busy week of stage-managed events for our leader, Ms Sturgeon.

Her meeting with invited EU residents, which didn’t seem to go exactly as planned, was a cynical event, delivered, with full media presence, to keep the Brexit/Indy2 in the foreground.

She should leave this in the capable hands of the Prime Minister, who is correct to be seeking assurances from the rest of the EU states that will result in a mutually agreeable solution to this issue.

Earlier in the week, Ms Sturgeon visited a school in Hawick where the young pupils each had a Saltire flag to wave as she made her tour.

It was lovely to see all the children waving their flags but it was very reminiscent of visits to schools made by North Korean and Chinese leaders in the past... stage managed for the benefit of the media.

Meanwhile, it is a pity that Ms Sturgeon still seems to be doing nothing about her Cybernat followers who, once again this week, have shown how low they can stoop.

It seems that she is happy to ignore her promise to purge these supporters from the SNP.

Jim Houston

Winton Gardens, Edinburgh

Racism fuelled

So, without acknowledging the searing irony in her statement, Ms Sturgeon believes that Brexit has “fuelled racism” and has relegated the UK back to a “bygone age” of racism and hate-crime, (Brexit has brought racism back, 18 August) while a die-hard hardcore demographic of her deliberately-misinformed followers still rampage online with their cowardly crusade of abuse.

Indeed, Ms Sturgeon responded to Dr Patrick Harkness’ question at the recent special public meeting of EU nationals that: “I admonish anybody who is anti-anybody on the basis of their nationality, whatever that nationality may be...” as she gave assurances to EU immigrants regarding their welcome in Scotland.

Theresa May has already made her intention clear to protect their status.

Conversely, Ms Sturgeon openly allows (perhaps even encourages) her back-benchers and representatives in Westminster to rail against, condescend and patronise the rUK at each and every opportunity.

Mark Ward

Dalmellington Road, Crookston, Glasgow

Indyref 2 myth

It is rather sad that the news is dominated, day after day, north of the Border, by non-stories.

The SNP propaganda machine works relentlessly to place Nicola Sturgeon in the spotlight, as she searches for something – anything, in fact – which can be portrayed as a matter of substance.

Everything, of course, is cast in the light of a Westminster scandal. Perhaps supporters of the SNP’s failed plan for “independence”, or subservience to the EU, as more reasonable commentators would describe it, wake up in the morning with an agenda based upon gurning and disgruntlement. Who knows?

I must admit to becoming very disgruntled when I see the pages of the newspapers, The Scotsman not least amongst them, coming up with all the baloney that separatists can engender about a “highly likely” second referendum.

This is utter tosh and Nicola Sturgeon knows it.

The only game in town is Brexit and Scotland’s bright future lies within an independent UK.

Even die-hard SNP supporters are now acknowledging that.

The world has moved on and the SNP have not yet climbed back on board.

Their star is in the descendant but they are too engrossed to notice.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh#

Norway’s way

David Stevenson (Point of View, 19 August) is not entirely correct in saying that a hard border between an independent Scotland and the UK is not inevitable as he bases his case on Norway.

Norway has a common travel area with its EU neighbours ecause it has accepted the free movement of EU citizens, something the UK has voted against. If an independent Scotland was not a member of the EU and thus not forced to allow all EU citizens to enter, forcing the UK to protect its immigration policy with a hard border, then there could be a common travel area – Ms Sturgeon seems to believe that is what Scots want.

Dr Roger I Cartwright

Turretbank Place, Crieff

Currency debate

It is encouraging to see so much debate about the currency arrangements that would best suit a newly independent Scotland.

In the 2014 Scottish referendum the proposal of a currency union with England was crudely rebuffed and there seems no reason now to renew that offer, however sensible it might seem in the short-term.

As we have seen since the Brexit vote, common sense is in short supply in Westminster, and in England generally it seems. However, as a specialist in risk management in one of the largest UK banks said to me when I expressed surprise that he had voted Yes in 2014, “a period of instability is a price worth paying to gain long-term control of our assets”. This is a cold analysis perhaps but an encouraging one.

So what currency to use? In fact the options are fairly obvious. For a period of say five years we could continue to use sterling without a “bank of last resort” but with tighter, very much tighter, banking regulation. If any banks don’t like that, let them go elsewhere, to a regime that is more tolerant of their risky practises. After five years we can reconsider the situation.

But with so much volatility likely from the declining British state, it is far from clear that we want to be linked indefinitely to a declining pound sterling.

Alternatively we can go for a Scots pound pegged to sterling by a currency board. This is what Singapore does vis-vis the US dollar. But of course that choice suffers from the same disadvantage, as sterling continues to decline.

Or we can kiss sterling goodbye on day one and establish our own currency and central bank, allowing the market to determine its value. That way we would have to ride out “a period of instability in order to gain long-term control of our assets”, as my cold-blooded risk management friend would say.

Peter Craigie

East London Street, Edinburgh

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