Don’t undersell UK’s part in winning war – Letters

In 1940 Britain was leading fight for peace, writes a reader

Rejoicing crowds in Piccadilly, London, on VE Day, 1945

Joyce McMillan suggests, implausibly (Perspective, 8 May), that the future “the wartime generation” hoped for was to join the EU and that leaving it was “betrayal”. In fact, any survivors of the Second World War I have known were intensely proud to be British.

She fulminates against Britain’s victory because it was the victory of the Allies. True. However, there would have been no war to win if Britain, alone in Europe, had not held out against Germany in 1940 and thereafter, being the only nation to have survived the whole war unconquered.

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She should not let her nationalist politics blind her to the fact that the international institutions she praises were founded in great measure by the United Kingdom: the UN, which has attempted to make the world a better place since its founding and, especially, Nato, which has kept peace in Europe since its founding in 1949.

She claims that leaving the sclerotic, dysfunctional EU super-state is due to “false patriotism”, but would that not count equally for those advocating Scotland leaving the UK? Presumably, belief in a vast, corrupt bureaucracy like the EU is “true patriotism”, except, of course, that it is not a country. It was because the UK was and is a democracy and a decent country with compassion that so many people have come here since the end of the war; millions of them, because their own countries are not democratic, decent and compassionate – or has she not looked at the people in the street recently?

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Who’s the scoundrel?

Joyce McMillan brings out the old quote from Dr Johnson about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel; of course, in the world of Joyce, this only applies to British patriotism – not the Scottish patriotism that she shares.

Grasp this Joyce, and you will begin to understand why many of us are suspicious of the Scottish variety!

William Ballantine

Dean Road

Bo’ness, West Lothian

Seen and herd

The “herd immunity” to which Joyce McMillan sneeringly refers is not a right wing concept. The term is actually a universally accepted concept and is indeed the only effective long term measure of dealing with a pandemic for which there is no vaccine or cure.

Lockdown is simply a way of slowing down transmission (and hence that development of herd immunity ) in order not to overwhelm health services. In the UK such services have from the beginning been far from overwhelmed, so her claim that not starting earlier would have saved tens of thousands of British lives is just rubbish. How does she then explain the lower death rate in Sweden which decided against lockdown?

Lockdown itself, as we are becoming increasingly aware, has for most people serious consequences financially and on mental and other health aspects.

The big long-term problem is that the majority of the population has not developed immunity, so coming into contact with a carrier is just as dangerous as ever; therefore avoiding such, especially for those most likely to have a bad outcome including death, will be necessary for a long time yet.

Easing enforced restrictions must come to an end much sooner but it must be left to the individual to decide which is the lesser of the two evils, death risk or the problems of enforced lock-down.

The latter may, of course, worsen if voluntary lock-down means loss of financial support.

(Dr) A McCormick

Kirkland Road, Terregles

Double dealing?

Most British civilians assumed the war in Europe was over when they heard the Lunenburg Heath ceremony on the BBC in which Field Marshall Montgomery accepted the surrender of the representative of the new Fuehrer, Admiral Doenitz, at 18:30 on 4 May, 1945.

The US and Russia were furious and insisted another surrender take place. The day chosen was 8 May (President Truman’s birthday). Churchill agreed, so in a second ceremony in Berlin, poor old Field Marshall Keitel was trotted out to surrender again.

It became a total shambles when a midnight cease fire was chosen – 1am on 9 May in Russia. So the USSR continued to celebrate 9 May as VE Day until the Berlin Wall came down –but I suspect so much beer was consumed no-one minded.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

The greatest?

Oliver Dowden talks of “the greatest generation” in Thursday’s VE Day supplement. The idea of a greatest generation is an obscene emotional abuse. It’s assault on whole generations’ self-worth, with historical bloodshed actually used as the stick for that purpose, has long been used to encourage attitudes that made possible the economic marginalisation of youth since the 1980s, and the reemergence of modern poverty and ‘I Daniel Blake’ situations.

They were enabled to happen exactly by older people refusing to believe they could happen, as part of the ‘young people today’ attitude and the generational ego conceit that all superlatives happened in the 1940s.

It is absurd to believe that the superlative solving of everything to do with major wars and poverty and old infectious diseases altogether was all done in one era.

Maurice Frank

Dundas Avenue

South Queensferry

Not won round

Regarding John Wann’s ideas on getting people back on to the golf course (Letters, 7 May), I enjoy a round of golf, and given my wayward hitting, social distancing would not be an issue for any of my potential playing partners.

I’m not sure, though, that I would feel wholly comfortable, at this time and being privileged enough to get on a golf course in the first place, enjoying a round with my golf-playing pals.

It strikes me that we all went into lockdown together and while golf is a sport played by many and all sorts, I doubt I’d be bumping into many residents of the top floors of Edinburgh’s high-rise ‘cooncil’ flats during my round.

Maybe we should all come out of lockdown together too, with equal access to the sport and leisure opportunities and pastimes we all had individually in the past.

Rebooting the economy is one thing, but when others are risking lives to protect us all, I’m not sure I could get comfortable with the idea that a four-ball with a few buddies adds much to the ‘war effort’.

In times like these, sometimes perception is as important as practicalities.

Ian Gray

Moray Place, Edinburgh

Space to pray

So the British Government is thinking of “allowing outdoor sports venues such as golf courses and tennis courts to reopen and even permitting outdoor pavement seating in cafes” (your report, 8 May). Nicola Sturgeon is also thinking of “lifting once-a-day exercise limit”. In the Islamic faith Muslim prayers can be performed in open spaces, so it is worth considering Friday prayers and sermon, which are obligatory, in open spaces, gardens, seasides with social distancing.

Hasan Beg

Harcourt Road, Kirkcaldy

Billion £ question

The Scottish Government is always ready to blame Westminster for austerity but ever since the article in the Scotsman regarding the setting up of the Scottish Investment Bank I have been waiting with bated breath for one of your regular correspondents to pass comment on the sum of £2 billion donated by the Government at Holyrood.

How and from where have the Scottish Government obtained this amount of money if it has not been by cutting budgets here in Scotland and imposing their own brand of austerity on the Scottish public? And why, if it is not to avoid scrutiny, did they choose the middle of one of the worst pandemics to do so?

I am sure that the NHS, education, police and fire service, together with local government, would have been grateful for this money on top of that provided by the Westminster Government during these difficult and worrying times.

William Hope

Kings Avenue, Longniddry

No choice

The article by Laura Waddell (Perspective, 7 May) is a lucid and damning critique of the ideologically driven idiocy of a universal approach of a UK ‘lockstep’ with regard to the easing of coronavirus restrictions. Andrew Morgan disagrees (Letters 8 May), but his letter contains a few telling statements which can be questioned.

He says Ms Waddell is more interested in “calling employers cruel than in presenting a fair picture of the dilemmas faced by the UK government”. Mr Morgan then goes on to say: “If people are at high risk or frightened, let them stay inside – nobody is forcing them to go back to work”.

An article by Adam Ramsay, quoting research gathered by Professor Phil Taylor of Strathclyde University and reported on Open Democracy, illustrates the total inaccuracy of that last statement.

Professor Taylor refers to testimony from thousands of call centre workers which indicates that more than half the respondents have been designated key workers by their bosses and pressurised to continue working, even though the workers themselves disagree that their work is critical or essential. This has applied in warehouses and on building sites and in call centres.

Unions representing call centres cite people being made to go into work in dangerous conditions, sometimes with fatal consequences. With that in mind, I think Ms Waddell’s use of language was mild.

Mr Morgan ends his letter with a plea for the SNP (Scottish Government) to keep in step with the UK. However, if the evidence and science in terms of the transmission and infection curve show that Scotland is behind other parts of the UK and that it’s too early for Scotland to ease restrictions, why doesn’t Westminster delay its easing until we’re ready?

This would remove the perceived (if dramatically overstated) worry about confusion and mixed messages.

Gill Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

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