Unfree thinking

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Can Michael Kelly really be ­serious when he writes that there is no “issue of substance” in the current debate on independence (Perspective, 18 July)?

His remarks coincide with another account of the disgraceful levels of child poverty in Glasgow and throughout Scotland.

The fact that the situation 
appears to be even worse in 
Birmingham and Manchester actually reinforces a key point: over-centralised management of the United Kingdom economy has made only a limited impact on improving the lives of 
millions of citizens. Independence for Scotland and strong regional governments for England provides an alternative approach to making sure that poverty is tackled meaningfully.

A total of 710,000 (including 150,000 children) living in relative poverty north of the Border should be enough to prompt even the most dedicated Unionist to stop and think.

The comparisons Dr Kelly draws with the struggle for independence in the United States were misleading.

Certainly some of the great minds of civilisation (Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison and so on) were brought to bear on that issue.

But the plain fact remains that American independence was achieved through armed combat. So were some of the modern independence campaigns in Europe – in Croatia and Slovenia to cite just two examples.

The fact that independence could be achieved here, with the ballot box as the sole arbiter, ought to gladden the heart of any democrat.

The quality of debate may well improve as September 2014 
approaches; the issues of substance will not just be how to tackle social evils, but the way democracy can be used to affect peaceful change.

Bob Taylor