Reuters reported on 21 July that the UK’s finance minister, Rishi Sunak, is likely to have £30 billion headroom of extra spending this year compared to budget forecasts made in March. Long-term forecasts expect a balanced budget by 2025 and tax to rise to 1950 levels in relation to GDP. A very good position, all things considered.
Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics reports total UK births in 2020 were 615,557.
Is it then “animal spirits” which cause the Westminster government to limit Afghan migration to 5,000 people settling in the UK this year? There would appear to be no rational economic motive for such a limitation, which is tiny compared to the number of new arrivals by birth.
The UK has helped consign to misery or even death thousands of Afghan women – and what of all those schoolgirls? They are all at the mercy of fighters motivated by “animal spirts”.
There was a time when that antiquated concept of “moral responsibility” might have motivated a stand against the tide of darkness which has now overtaken Afghanistan.
Could it be that the playing fields of Eton have succumbed to ex-pupil Keynes’ “animal spirits’”or have they always been shaded from the light? Could it be time for Scotland really to be brave? Could we stand against this tide and actually help the women and children of Afghanistan?
Ken Carew, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway
On The Andrew Marr Show of 11 July, General Sir Nick Carter (Chief Of the General Staff) painted an optimistic picture of Afghanistan. He predicted the Afghan army could yet win after 20 years of Nato training and equipment or the country could split (52 per cent are not Pushtan) or there could be a political compromise. He was convinced the modern Taliban are very different – for example, he suggested they were in favour of girls' schooling.
Days later a quarter of the Afghan army had fled to Tajikistan and Sir Nick echoed the use of the word "betrayal" by Ben Wallace, Minister Of Defence.
What the Commons debate of 18 August confirmed is that the long subservient relationship with our untrustworthy ally the Unites States is at an end. It has led to the deaths of so many British citizens in illegal wars which have proved an unmitigated disaster.
Today our streets are more dangerous with the threat level certain to be upgraded as Isis leaders were freed by the Taliban and some have already tried to board RAF flights.
Nor must we lose sight of the fact Taliban operations are funded and directed from neighbouring Pakistan, the biggest recipient of UK overseas aid. That funding should be redirected to the Afghan refugees we will welcome.
We are witnessing the end of US global power with an inadequate President condemning our brave Afghan allies while his forces ran away. The US, beset by race problems, is becoming inward looking and no longer a beacon of hope for nations wanting democracy and women's rights.
John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife
Just what exactly do the Scottish Greens hope to gain from the new “co-operation agreement” that could not be achieved through the existing arrangements at Holyrood (Scotsman, 21 August)?
It is all very well to say that it will gain ministerial positions, but these are unlikely to be full Cabinet posts. For all the rhetoric about tolerance and compromise, the notion of collective responsibility will have to prevail at some point. This would make the junior partner in the pact quite vulnerable to political criticism. In the short term that opposition may be less effective in the run-up to the Cop26 summit in November. But after that there are bound to be arguments about the economy – not just North Sea oil development but road construction. Those whose long-term vision is to see net zero emissions as electrically powered vehicle saunter along a fully dualled A9 may have to polish up their arguments in the coming years.
The case for the Scottish Greens using their existing influence in the Scottish parliament remains a very strong one. Although Labour and the Liberal Democrats operated a reasonably efficient coalition between 1999 and 2007, it was on the basis of a partnership of equals, with full cabinet positions being made available to the Liberal Democrats. One important achievement was the reform of voting in local government elections and the introduction of the single transferable vote. No doubt Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater have much larger ambitions in terms of the environment and climate change. But they should be careful that the temporary attractions of power do not consign them in the long run to political oblivion. There are many lessons throughout history of how pacts and coalitions work and do not work. They should heed them.
Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife
On the same day the SNP and Greens signed a deal majoring on fairness and green-ness, ScotRail announced they are cutting 300 services (Scotsman, August 20).
The coalition assumes control of ScotRail next March. It will be interesting to see how they intend restoring the services and the lost jobs in order to adhere to their virtue-signalling mission statement and how they spin it during Cop26.
And where the money will come from.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
The SNP/Green deal must have touched a nerve judging by the tone of responses.
Douglas Ross tells the country that a 50-page agreement across a whole range of policies can be summarised as “separation”, clearly matching his leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for lazy inaccuracy. Also in a cheap copy, Ross coins a trite, three-word slogan – “Coalition of Chaos” – when across our media the scenes from Kabul airport show us what chaos really looks like. This is shameless stuff.
In a similar style, Saturday’s letters (21 August) were splattered with silly exaggeration. In brief reply, the SNP are neither “Mujahideen”, “Taliban” or “fanatics”, the Greens are not a “far-left” party and MPs, whether SNP or other, do not get paid “movie-star” money.
Finally, this year’s prize for Irony must go to Gerald Edwards who complains that the SNP/Green deal means “we really are getting a government we did not vote for”.
Robert Farquharson, Edinburgh
Those with a short memory may not recall the long-term damage done to the Liberal Party after they joined with the Conservatives in coalition in Westminster.
Yes they enjoyed their moment of power and yes they may have tempered some Tory excesses, but where are they today? Beware of politicians bearing gifts.
Maybe some time in the future our Greens will be seen to cycle off into the sunset on one of the promised freebie SNP bikes before they end up in second-hand shops. I await the outcome of the coalition with interest.
David Gerrard, Edinburgh
I received a letter on Saturday from the Electoral Registration Office informing me that everyone who lives in Scotland and is 14 or over can now register to vote.
Voting in Scottish Parliamentary or local council elections is open to those aged 16 and over and voting in UK Parliamentary elections is open to those aged 18 or over.
Can someone please assure me that Indyref 2 would not permit 14-year-olds to participate? Those who have ever, unwisely, attempted dialogue with younger teenagers on issues such as the economy, taxation, the NHS or the principles underlying our education or political systems will, in most cases, have been met with blank stares or vague aspirational views which are completely divorced from the reality which they will encounter in their adult lives.
A 14-year -old who wishes to study a complex subject such as medicine faces a decade before having to encounter the HMRC and will have many competing interests in the intervening years. As the excellent letter from Donald McCallum (Scotsman, 16 August) pointed out, they give little thought to how their computers or cooking devices are powered, how their homes are heated or food is grown, transported and processed, or how their clothes are manufactured etc.
So, how can anyone below the age of 18 vote intelligently on an issue which will determine not only their own futures but that of generations to come?
Dr Malcolm Brown, Glasgow
Piers Torday lectures us about our emissions and how he made his new children's book "as biodegradable as a book gets" (Scotsman, 21 August). Perhaps he could assure us that he no longer flies, no longer has a petrol/diesel car and does not buy goods from China.
He is, however, realistic when he says that anything the UK does to reduce emissions "would be but one drop in the ocean" while China, India, the US, India, Russia and Japan continue to pump billions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Since these countries are responsible for 61 per cent of global emissions how does Piers Torday suggest they are made to toe the green line? Perhaps in his next children's book he can reveal how mankind can eliminate the thousands of tons of emissions created by wars, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and tsunamis. Perhaps this can be achieved with a wave of a green magic wand.
Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian
Write to The Scotsman
We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid Letters to the Editor in your subject line.
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.