As a Brexiteer, the PM can’t say no to Scotland - Readers' Letters

The article this week in the London Evening Standard by the former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne has provoked outrage amongst independence supporters. He appeared to recommend suppressing Scottish independence by the jailing of political leaders, as in Catalonia. This, in order to maintain the UK’s standing as a “front-rank power”.
George Osborne has spoken of how he and David Cameron feared they had 'lost Scotland' in 2014George Osborne has spoken of how he and David Cameron feared they had 'lost Scotland' in 2014
George Osborne has spoken of how he and David Cameron feared they had 'lost Scotland' in 2014

As my brief summary indicates, the clever and cunning Osborne may be up to something other than poking Scots with a stick.

An alternative reading can see his article as an indirect but utterly damning attack on Prime Miniter Boris Johnson and Brexit. The first of two telling points is his description of the “worst evening”, as he and Cameron waited for the 2014 referendum results fearing that they had “lost Scotland”. Obliquely, he makes clear they would have accepted a democratic vote for Yes.

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The second telling point is when he states, after rehearsing some well-known arguments against Scottish independence; “But there’s a problem: this Brexiteer premier can’t say any of this.”

He can’t because every argument is the exact opposite of what he claims for Brexit. Is some short-term economic pain a fair price for “taking back control”? Of course. Can the smaller party seeking separation hold its own, even win, the negotiations? Absolutely. Has Brexit (teething-problems aside) led to easy trade, frictionless borders and a rosy future? You bet!

Osborne proceeds to paint a picture of the corner in which Johnson and his Brexit UK are trapped. The case against Scottish independence has evaporated, the only plan is to say “No”, over and over again. If Scotland is forced to hold an “illegal” poll just send in the troops and jail our democratically-elected politicians. This is how the UK will maintain it’s international standing.

Then, the final barb: “Just say no, Boris, and save yourself a long anxious night in Downing Street.” Not only is Johnson bereft of arguments, the former Chancellor silently mouths “coward”.

Robert Farquharson

Lee Crescent, Edinburgh

1707 and all that

Independence for Scotland is claimed as if Scotland were a British dependent territory (like the Falkland Islands or Bermuda).

It seems to be believed that Scotland can secede and become an independent nation (like the Bahamas), leaving a somewhat smaller United Kingdom.

But that is a false prospectus. Scotland is an integral component of the UK, a founder member of Great Britain, bound by the Treaty of Union in 1707. As such Scotland's departure would mean the end of both Great Britain and the UK.

Consequently Scotland cannot separate from England without abolition of the Treaty of Union a matter that would require negotiation. I see no calls for that to happen; nor can I see Westminster agreeing to it.

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Calls for Scottish independence are misleading. Scotland cannot leave the UK as it is itself “the UK”. It would be more honest to call for the break-up and destruction of

the UK, for that would be the consequence of independence. Is that what most Scots actually want? Is it what most UK citizens want?

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Patriot games

I wonder how many of our home-grown nationalists were cheering themselves hoarse on Wednesday evening after watching another news item following Joe Biden's inauguration on the BBC Ten O'Clock News?

After the scenes in Washington, a report was filed from Texas in which Eric, of the Southern Patriot Council, leader of a self-declared "militia", was interviewed in the light of Biden being elected. Eric declared: “States which actually have the legal right to leave the Union will do that.” Rather as Scottish nationalists always say that Westminster was not elected by Scots, these “patriots” claim that “their” man, Trump had his “landslide win” “stolen”.

For the benefit of those who are less acquainted with the history of the Lone Star State, Texas was once an independent nation, just like Scotland. That is not the only thing to be similar between Texas and Scotland, as, of course, Texas is home to America’s oil industry and it boasts two cities with distinctly Scottish names – Houston and Dallas – and many Texans have Scots ancestry.

There is yet another similarity too, as, no doubt, those who think that breaking up the UK is a good idea will also feel that these Texans have the right to break away from the American Union, if they want to. However, when the Texan separatists are considered from a neutral perspective, they look just as bonkers as the SNP do.

Peter Hopkins

Morningside Road, Edinburgh

Wishful thinking

2020 eventually delivered a couple of things on my wish-list. Craig Revel Horwood finally got through a Strictly Come Dancing show without a negative comment (almost). The Daleks are back (maybe). But I fear that one thing I waited for will be a long time coming. And the 2021 signs don't look promising.

Amidst the almost unanimous relief at Joe Biden taking the reins in the United States, there was one voice (other than the Trumpinator's “I'll be back”) that missed the mood entirely. Step forward Brian Wilson (Scotsman, 21 January).

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I have long wished to read an opinion piece from him that actually said something positive about – well – anything. To call him "glass half-empty” would be an insult to the bar trade.

At least, given the space he had to work with, we were spared his congenital inability to get past the first paragraph without crowbarring in a dig at the Scottish Government. But was the inauguration not worth more than a petulant pessimism that will not resonate with those who are just happy to move on?

Iain Masterton

Main Streeet, Kirknewton

Oh deer

Richard Cooke asserts that red deer numbers in Scotland have fallen over the last 20 years (Letters, 21 January). Going back a little further to 1959 when the Red Deer Commission was set up to address damage done by red deer there were an estimated 150,000. At the time some suggested a target of 60,000 to allow trees and other plants which deer eat a chance to naturally regenerate.

However, by 1999 the estimated red deer numbers were 300,000 and by 2019 around 400,000. So much for the Red Deer Commission and its policies.

More recently around 50 Deer Management Groups (DMGs) comprising local landowners have been established to manage deer in the wider interest. Scottish Natural Heritage’s 2019 report to the Scottish Government on the effectiveness of DMGs say in its executive summary “red deer populations have been stable since 2000”. The report also indicates that there are variations of effectiveness across the country.

In response to Duncan Orr-Ewing’s article (Scotsman, 20 January) Mr Cooke questions whether the people of Scotland wish to see deer numbers halved in the near future.

The answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you wish to see a more native Scottish landscape with a wider diversity of plants and native trees growing naturally as they do in areas where deer numbers have been reduced considerably then the answer is a resounding “yes, please”.

Benedict Bate

South Clerk Street, Edinburgh

Putin’s palace

Your report on evidence claiming that President Putin of Russia has somehow found funds to build an extravagant Black Sea palace (21 January) can come as no surprise to any reader of St Paul's teaching that the love of money is the root of all evil – and the whole Bible's history of how the wealthy lose human concern for the plight of the exploited poor. But this particular instance is truly a tragedy beyond the norm.

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In the centre of Yalta there stands a stone column commemorating a decree by Comrade President Lenin that whereas this had previously been a place for the summer palaces of the tsars – just as Western aristocrats used Nice, on the same latitude – henceforth it would be reserved for the hard-working proletariat.

And when my wife and I spent a Soviet holiday there in 1989, the town was teeming with miners' families from Siberia, bathing in the sun by day and lying stretched out along the Black Sea shore till after midnight.

(Rev) Jack Kellet

Dyers Close, Innerleithen

Healthy eating

Craig Ross, a Holyrood candidate, has left the Scottish Conservative Party following the row over his comments about food banks users (Scotsman, 16 January). Mr Ross has been castigated for telling the truth. I have often wondered exactly what kind of food the food bank users eat.

To illustrate the point, a food bank user and lone parent was filmed recently at her front door receiving the latest donation during the pandemic for herself and her children. The young mum was morbidly obese.

The Scottish Government was running cookery classes in certain schools for a brief period before withdrawing funding. Cookery classes for all school students should be included in the curriculum. This teaches planning and how to shop, literacy and numeracy-related aspects involved in food and cooking. In many families, this direction is sadly lacking. It also has to be said there are adults delivering education in healthy eating and who are in varying stages of obesity.

Well done to Mr Ross for daring to address in the room.

Joan Reed

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

Slow news day

I know news travelled slower in the old days but for a paper to record "Aberdeen man lost at sea" in 1913 in relation to the sinking of the Titanic takes the biscuit. The ship sank in 1912!

Scott Miller

Coillesdene Avenue, Edinburgh