THE LATEST issue of the Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, supported by the University of Strathclyde Business School, makes grim reading for Scotland and shows that the UK is doing better by comparison. Over the last year, unemployment in Scotland increased by 8.6 per cent while unemployment in the rest of the UK fell by 9.2 per cent. The Scottish unemployment rate stands at 5.8 per cent, which is above the UK rate of 5.1 per cent.
Everyday we hear of more redundancies. With the report also making critical comments about Scottish exports and our important construction industry, it is clear that the SNP Government’s economic policies are not working and we need a change.
Maxwell Street, Edinburgh
With budgets being slashed for arts and culture (The Scotsman, 5 March) the Scottish Government would do well to consider carefully what the remaining budget is spent on and the wider implications of their investment decisions.
£2.5 million of Scottish Government money is being considered to help finance the building of a new visitor centre at Tweedbank in the Borders to house The Great Tapestry of Scotland, which no other area wanted.
Should the application be approved it will plunge the already stretched Scottish Borders Council, and its population, into unacceptable long term debt to the tune of an additional £3.5m loan and the crippling repayments this incurs, lasting 20 plus years – based on a flawed business plan which cost an additional £40,000.
All this when essential social services in the area are being cut or cancelled altogether due to “lack of funding” and our roads are full of potholes. We have plenty of existing suitable empty buildings in the Galashiels, Tweedbank and surrounding area which could house the tapestry and be converted at far less cost. Many of the buildings stand empty through ill thought-out town planning decisions made by Scottish Borders Council.
The Government’s £2.5m would be better invested in more worthy and deserving causes which would benefit the country as a whole and encourage Borders Council to spend its cash more wisely.
Truths go viral
The announcement that teams from Aberdeen, Cambridge, Zaragoza and Nacional de Colombia universities, have analysed the spread of social media posts and for the first time developed a mathematical model to study the spread of new ideas once again shows the application of mathematics at its most exciting and powerful (“Scientists find formula for why social media posts go viral”, 4 March).
Dr Perez-Reche, from Aberdeen’s School of Natural and Computing Sciences, suggests that the reluctance to accept a new idea was essentially swayed as it gathered more and more support. The model shows that people’s opposition to accepting a new idea acts as a barrier to large contagion, until the transmission of the phenomenon becomes strong enough to overcome that reluctance – at which point, he says, explosive contagion happens. Physicist Max Planck once said that a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die!
Muir Wood Grove, Currie
Myths of Brexit
I am struck by the argument put forward by Jim Sillars (The Scotsman, 4 March) that leaving the EU delivers what member status cannot, “real independence” and the “unfettered ability to make our own laws”. He goes on to define this “independence” as “sovereignty”. Sovereignty is not like pregnancy, and it is not the case that a state is sovereign or not sovereign. It is, of course, a relative concept. Mr Sillars’ desire to refuse to pool sovereignty would in fact leave the UK with less sovereignty, as in an interconnected world it would have limited control over trading arrangements, pollution, the cleanliness of its seas, migration or terrorism.
The UK is already subject to some 700 international treaties and is a member of a number of international organisations. As a member of the UN, WTO, NATO and the IMF, for example, we share our sovereignty, infringing on our national self-determination. But through this approach we have influence and maximise our effectiveness. Using Mr Sillars’ rationale, “real independence” would see us withdraw from all these organisations, reflecting a sense of sovereignty that last existed in the 19th century, based on the principles of Westphalian sovereignty.
As a member of the European Economic Area, Norway, for example, is the tenth largest contributor to the EU budget and is bound by the rules of the single market without any say in the decision-making process. Many “Brexiters” see the Norwegian model as one they would like to go down, but Oslo has to adhere to all the EU’s product standards, financial regulations and employment regulations, enacting 75 per cent of EU legislative acts. A UK choosing this track would, in other words, keep paying, accept rules from Brussels without having any influence on them, and remain committed to the four freedoms, including free movement.
For those wanting true full sovereignty there is only one nation that I can think of that is truly sovereign – and that is North Korea.
Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh
How well informed on yes or no issues can voters be in this EU referendum when even cabinet ministers – unless the Prime Minister’s yes men or women – are denied access to all the papers? One wonders why David Cameron was in a rush to hold a referendum considering how little he achieved in those late-night negotiations with the 27 other member-states. He won no concessions on treaties and, like the leopard not changing its spots, the EU will move towards closer political and economic union.
Integration is a must if the euro is to be saved. Fiscal harmony and one big Treasury in Brussels overseeing tax and spending is in prospect if another Greek problem is to be avoided.
Downie Grove, Edinburgh
While I understand it suits Brian Monteith, as a Leave EU campaigner, to laud Jim Sillars, to do so on the basis of either logic or consistency is not borne out by a study of history (Perspective, 7 March). Jim, as one of the authors of “Don’t Butcher Scotland’s Future”, has changed his stance on both devolution and Europe for expediency rather than logic. When the SNP were struggling to shake off accusations of dangerous separatism it was Jim who cleverly came up with the notion of “Scotland in Europe” as a comfort blanket. That he has abandoned that now because of the current strength of the SNP is neither logical nor consistent.
For once I think Nicola Sturgeon has to be commended for her stand, albeit not her total logic or consistency, in arguing we are better together in this Union.
(Lord) George Foulkes
A myth seems to be gaining credence that a UK vote for Brexit, coupled with a Scottish vote to stay in, could trigger a second Scottish independence referendum.
This is unlikely to happen, for two reasons – firstly, a Scottish vote to stay in is by no means certain, eg, polls show one third of SNP supporters want out, some vociferously, eg Jim Sillars. Secondly, don’t believe all you hear from the SNP; for all their undoubted support at the moment, they cannot muster a majority for independence – compounded by the erosion of their economic case, thanks to the oil price collapse, witness the comments of nationalist Prof Tom Devine. Unless the independence polls change, Brexit will not bring forth a second referendum, even if the Scots vote to stay!
Dean Road, Bo’ness
An own goal?
By becoming patron of the Women’s National Football Team, Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to politicise our already too tribal national game.
Ms Sturgeon has freely admitted she knows little about football and has negligible interest in the game.
So what are her motives?
The nationalist leader’s spin doctor team will have calculated carefully the impact of her adopting this role. They’ll be hoping to chip away gradually at pockets of resistance to independence.
Voting patterns at the referendum showed women, even less than men, as unsupportive of UK break-up. The SNP needs women onside if it’s to achieve its principal objective: separating Scotland from the rest of the UK. And so Ms Sturgeon and co manufacture small gestures such as this, in the hope they’ll be regarded positively by women.
Independence opinion polls are against Ms Sturgeon – she realises she’s in for a long haul in changing hearts and minds. While I wish our Women’s National Team well, it’s highly regrettable the SNP are using them as pawns in their longterm constitutional games.
Royal Circus, Edinburgh
Elizabeth Barrett’s article on George Osborne and higher rate of income tax would have more credibility if she got her facts correct (The Scotsman, 7 March). The rate of tax relief rises to £11000 this April, not 2017! This fact is easily checked as it is in the public domain. She should really have checked her facts.
Kirkliston Road, South Queensferry
Love and money
I was struck by a public information advertisement on the radio last week. Voices in various accents from across the UK advised me that the Government has introduced a new “Living Wage” to the benefit of all, which is nice, though employers may not agree.
Then, in the midst of the other voices, a Scots lady added her three pennyworth. North of the Border, it seems, we have a “loving wage”. How sweet!
Andrew HN Gray
Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh