Djokovic case shows it’s game, set and match for border security - Readers' Letters
The current stooshie in Australia over Novak Djokovic’s vaccination status (Scotsman, 7 January) highlights the importance of the ability of nations to exercise policy measures at their borders to protect their citizens. Unfortunately Scotland, as a willing partner of the UK, has no such power over its national territory and is left exposed to the policy measures of Westminster.
Shrill claims from unionist politicians that there is ‘no border within the UK’ are factually incorrect; the Scotland-England border was ratified in the 1237 Treaty of York and enshrined by the 1707 Act of Union.
The continued existence of this border today benefits ordinary Scots in numerous ways – not least from the free prescriptions, personal care and tertiary education, higher NHS/carer pay, and more progressive tax system (higher tax rate on top earners but significantly lower tax on average Scots) compared to our southern neighbours.
Unsurprisingly a future independent Scotland will indeed have a border with all other countries, including England. This is international normality. Everyone knows that most borders within 21st century Europe don’t have checkpoints or barriers to manage customs/excise and immigration matters; they are soft, smart, and managed via cooperation and digital technology.
So, like all other nations an independent Scotland would manage our national border with policies on trade and immigration, that benefit our citizens and businesses. Scottish businesses know that their ability to trade on equal terms with our European neighbours (the world’s largest single market) and the wider world is as important as our existing trade with England.
It is absurd for Tory, Labour and Lib Dem unionists to suggest that trade with England should take precedence over the wider world. Neighbouring Ireland – with its rapidly growing economy and close deep EU and US connections – illustrates the alternative connected future that awaits an independent Scotland.
D Jamieson, Dunbar, East Lothian
Court in the act
In a period of pandemic and economic uncertainty, a chief item on the news seems to be the travails of a tennis star trying to get into Australia.
Is this really the most important event of our period?
William Ballantine, Bo’ness, West Lothian
D Mason (Letters 7 January) asks how an independent Scotland would have survived the pandemic without the support of the UK government.
The short answer is we would have survived like all the other similarly sized independent countries have coped and survived, many with lesser financial impacts and fewer deaths. Or are they saying that Scotland, of the countries in the world, is uniquely incapable of looking after its own affairs?
Gill Turner, Edinburgh
In another bizarre and acrobatic twist of reasoning, Pope Francis has suggested people who choose to have pets over children are acting selfishly, adding it "is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”. So the very humanity Catholic doctrine denies its clerics then?
Reminding ourselves that the Vatican regularly “blesses” Fido but absolutely not the love of a same-sex couple, we must again ask why this religious sub-group gets taxpayers’ money to run schools.
Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society
Fuel for thought
Your report "Johnson dismisses calls to scrap VAT from household energy bills" (5 January) makes interesting reading. Electricity bills have almost doubled between 2004 and April 2021. The increase over this period had nothing to do with global gas prices but had everything to do with the privatisation of the electricity industry in 1990.
The article quotes the Prime Minister's official spokesperson saying "ministers would consider any proposals." I find this statement difficult to take seriously. There are a number of proposals which could be considered that are effective but would require the abandonment of what appear to be political ideologies.
The National Grid Co could be taken into public ownership and all new generating plants could be built by a national energy authority at government borrowing rates. For this to happen the government would need to establish a statutory body with expert staff to work independent of government to plan and develop the energy sector for the long term. The results of these decisions will take two or three years to impact on electricity prices.
The government could act immediately to reduce the price of electricity by removing the Carbon Tax from gas generation plants (presently £28 per MWh) and remove the Government Environment Levy of 12 per cent. These two taxes would reduce the price of electricity by approxiately 17 per cent.
It should be recognised that low-carbon and low-price electricity is part of the solution to global warming and to impose taxes on electricity may be detrimental to achieving net zero by 2050. If the government is genuinely concerned about reducing domestic fuel bills it will remove these two taxes immediately and electricity bills need not be increased in April 2022.
C Scott, Edinburgh
Scotland's Hunterston B nuclear power station was shut down forever on 7 January. It has provided clean electricity for 46 years.
Of course Lang Banks of WWF Scotland and formerly chief executive with wind turbine PR organisation Scottish Renewables has to get in on the act and imply that nuclear is dangerous and that renewable electricity will fill the gap.
He knows that wind turbine electricity is unreliable and that the owners are paid to produce electricity and paid not to produce it and that over £1 billion of constraint payments have been made, to the mostly foreign owners, since 2010 and added to all UK electricity bills.
Over the last 12 months in the UK, gas has supplied 41.8 per cent of our electricity, nuclear 16.4 per cent and wind a laughable 18.7 per cent yet Lang Banks wants the public to believe that unreliable wind will fill the Hunterston B gap.
Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothan
The fact that senior figures in the SNP have already dismissed devo-max (Scotsman, 6 January) on a fictitious future referendum speaks volumes. The attitude seems dismissive of an option many Scots would probably find attractive.
Devo-max is more of a threat to the SNP, not Scotland. It would, for the first time, make the SNP cost realistic policies to the electorate. It would force them to take real fiscal responsibility and not just the virtue-signalling "bread and circuses” electoral giveaways that happen every few years.
Of course, the SNP would still predictably and lamely claim that they don’t have the “correct levers” to do anything constructive, but some things never change.
David Bone, Girvan, South Ayrshire
Your article “SNP figures dismiss calls for devo-max option on Scottish independence ballot paper” reminded me of that time, prior to the independence referendum in 2014, when a poll showed support for independence reach 52 per cent.
This was followed by the Prime Minister of the day and other “big guns” from Westminster descending upon Scotland to implore us to “lead us not leave us”, plus Gordon Brown's promise of devo-max as the reward for voting No – not to mention being excluded from the EU if we voted Yes.
A majority were persuaded to vote No on that occasion, but if anyone thinks that the people of Scotland – not just native Scots but those who've chosen to make their home in Scotland – would be fooled twice, so soon, with similar promises then they are delusional.
Westminster, when faced by the Northern Ireland Protocol, has subsequently shown clearly that any “agreement” it reaches, with anyone, is only good when it continues to suit Westminster. Similarly, the already-passed "Internal Market Bill' makes it clear that Westminster will overrule any agreement with devolved nations, at any level, at the drop of the proverbial hat.
Ian Waugh, Dumfries
I note the discussion re the inclusion, or otherwise, of devo-max as an optional inclusion in any future independence referendum.
What about, additionally, an option of “devo-mini” to reflect the appalling performance of the Nationalists since they came to power?
David Edgar, Symington, South Lanarkshire
On 20 December the BBC's Reporting Scotland included a report by Lisa Summers, Health and Social Care correspondent, in which she presented projections on the growth of Covid infections. The report drew on “academic modelling” and the graphic identified the source of the data as being the Scottish Government.
The report noted that the current level of infections was over 6,500 new cases per day. It then presented projections to 3 January. These were reported as a best case scenario of 20,000 per day, a central estimate of 50,000 per day and a worst case of 130,000 per day.
Public Health Scotland has now published the actual figure for 3 January: 16,405 new cases per day. This is some 20 per cent below the best case scenario presented.
It is hard not to conclude that modelling such as this and the unquestioning, alarmist reporting of it is contributing to a collective neurosis, the impact of which is worse than the effect of the virus itself.
George Rennie, Inverness, Highland
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