Polls apart

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WHETHER one favours the UK remaining in the European Union or withdrawing from it, there is a far greater issue to be addressed within that basic question. The First Minister has made it quite clear that a vote to withdraw from Europe would be “highly likely” to trigger a second referendum on independence in Scotland.

On what possible authority does she make this assertion? Opinion polls, never the most reliable source of information, claim that a majority of Scots would opt to stay “in”. Other polls suggest that the majority of Scots wishing to remain in Europe are university educated under-30s. These are sample polls, hardly representative of the national will.

A further referendum on independence would require the agreement of Westminster, since, in case she has forgotten, Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom in 2014. Unless the First Minister, or one of her acolytes, can give credible, substantive reasons for staying in Europe, she should stop playing political games by using the European Referendum as a further excuse to stir up anti-Union feeling, and get on with the job of running the country.

Hamish Alldridge

Pittenweem, Fife

With the EU referendum coming up in June I am very concerned that there are people who will not vote and feel that it does not affect them.

Some areas of the country have a very low turnout in general elections. In the 2015 election, the overall turnout was only 66 per cent. That is completely unacceptable. It would be devastating if the referendum result was to remain in the EU and that was the result of a low turnout. There is no excuse not to vote, with postal voting and proxy voting available for those who find it physically difficult to access a polling station, it is a dereliction of public duty for people not to vote. In Australia and New Zealand there is a $20 fine for those who fail to vote. I think this should be introduced in the UK. So while I understand there will be a lot of campaigning going on for both sides of the argument, would campaigners please encourage people to make sure that they are registered to vote and go out and vote whatever their decision is, as it is too crucial a decision not to vote – for the sake of this country, for future generations to come. There is no excuse for apathy.

Gordon Kennedy

Simpson Square, Perth

Is it necessary for the main political leaders to appear together on platforms or in the media to put the case for staying in the European Union (The Scotsman, 29 February)?

It would certainly help build something of a reputation for unity of purpose. For those in the SNP who argue that they cannot stomach sharing facilities with the Conservatives, there should be a simple answer. There is no point in saying black is white or white is black simply to make a puritanical point about not working with a supposedly toxic group.

The case that Conservatives and Nationalists put for staying in the EU is essentially the same: that trade links both north and south of the Border with Europe are vital and should not in any way be ruptured. They could, of course, add to that the view that the European Union has been one device for maintaining peace in Europe for more than 70 years – a peace that had helped trade links to develop and prosperity to grow.

No doubt the SNP will point to Labour’s problems after the independence referendum, claiming that their almost total wipeout in the general election can be put down to too close a liaison with Conservative leaders. It could also be put down to a strong feeling that Scotland’s interests in Westminster could be best served by the SNP, and the quality of leadership offered, compared to that of Labour. In any case, this is too important a matter for internal divisions in the “Remain” camp.

There is a positive case to be made but no party should be shy of pointing out the instability that may arise from a British exit; nor should it shirk from working and appearing with other parties to make the case for a stronger Europe.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

Alarm bells

In light of the Dame Janet Smith Report regarding Jimmy Savile, we are hearing again that the authorities genuinely did not know of any allegations during his lifetime.

However, as an avid fan of the topical Channel 4 comedy Drop The Dead Donkey, I can still remember my surprise at a gag, in October 1991, about “yet more Savile allegations”.

It was not the only reference. The Lynn Barber interview in The Independent on Sunday in 1990; the BBC interview by the late psychiatrist Anthony Clare in 1990; and the BBC2 Louis Theroux documentary in 2000 should, surely, have set alarm bells ringing when taken together.

John V Lloyd

The Maltings, Keith Place, Inverkeithing, Fife

Untidy minds

I have been driving throughout Fife, Lothians and the Borders, and have had a couple of trips to Glasgow, over the last two weeks and am appalled at the vast quantities of litter that are festooned along the roadside, wherever one goes.

What a sad reflection on Scotland and our bad habits, allied to an apparent lack of will or organisation to clean up. Whatever happened to “keep Scotland tidy”?

If local authorities cannot or will not use their resources to clear up after our messy population, can we not utilise those doing community service, to at least tackle some of the problem. Perhaps we need a USA style “adopt a highway” to evoke some sense of civic pride and a desire to make a change.

Finally, there would not be a litter problem if the issue was tackled at source. Where is all the litter coming from and what is being done to stop it? How many fines were issued in Scotland last year for littering? Precious few, I suspect.

David Jerdan

Bow Butts, Crail

Whose bias?

Geoff Miller asks: How is it that the SNP electoral landslide is not reflected by your editorials or letter pages? (Letters, 29 February) He really needs to ask himself why that landslide result did not fairly represent the votes cast.

With 50 per cent of the votes cast, the SNP garnered about 95 per cent of the seats. Now it might well suit Mr Miller’s purpose to extrapolate a 95 per cent approval of the SNP policies and performance from that, but that is patently not sustainable.

Given that the vast majority of the SNP vote derives from those who are more likely to be reading “red tops” or nothing at all, and Nationalists are unlikely to be in the majority among readers of The Scotsman, I would suggest that neither are the readers unrepresentative nor the sub-editors prejudiced in generally espousing views which are contrary to SNP dogma.

Alan Thomson

Kilcamb Paddock, Strontian

Public servants?

I understand that the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee is going to interview Sir Jeremy Heywood on the subject of civil servants’ involvement in the EU referendum campaign.

Sir Jeremy is quoted as saying that “a civil servant’s job is to promote Government policy”. I would take issue strongly with some of the consequences of that statement.

In my view, a civil servant’s prime task is to proffer impartial advice to ministers before a parliamentary decision, and then, later, implement the decisions of parliament.

I speak from the experience of the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which election meetings for the Yes campaign (only) were organised by civil servants, chaired by civil servants, addressed by ministers – all paid for by the Scottish Government.

That was a huge abuse of democracy. Sir Jeremy’s stance on withholding public information of a campaigning partial nature is a double abuse.

I believe it is vital that ministers separate out their duties as candidates/campaigners for a controversial view prior to a parliamentary decision, and officers of the crown implement agreed, voted-for policies.

Sir Jeremy has some serious questions to answer on the proper sub-division between pre-decision advice and post-decision implementation.

David Fleming

David Street, Stonehaven

One brave MSP

I’ve never had much time for politicians who will say and do anything to stay on the party line. Those who tap into the zeitgeist of the moment to boost their own personal standing are in my opinion the ones the electorate should be most suspicious of.

Sometimes, as a politician, you just have to stick your head above the parapet and say what may seem, in the moment, to be against the popular line because this opinion is one you truly believe in.

So, congratulations to Margaret Mitchell Conservative MSP, who this week came out against her party line and declared for leaving the EU in the forthcoming referendum.

This must have been a difficult decision, knowing full well the media attention which would follow, and that it makes her, at the moment, a lone figure, in the political sense at Holyrood.

But how refreshing, here at last we have an MSP who is prepared to say what she thinks, and give her reasons for doing so.

Our country pays into the EU as a membership contribution approximately £8.5 thousand million, after all rebates, every year and this is increasing. Scotland’s share of that, say 9 per cent, is £760m.

£760m, wow! That money could be used to alleviate the SNP’s austerity measures against our local councils, keep our libraries open, rebuild our schools, and we’d still have more to spend.

That seems to me a very good reason to leave the EU politically – let us use the money at home.

George Cormack

McLauchlan Rise, Aberdour