If only we were as civilised as gun-toting Americans - Readers' Letters

Despite the quite bonkers views expressed by some believers in independence that there will be nirvana if Scotland breaks away from the UK, I will grant that their rhetoric is only that.

A customer considers buying a custom made AR-15-style rifle in a gun shop in the United States

Compare Scotland then, with the United States, where a judge has ruled that California acted unconstitutionally by banning assault weapons for the last 30 years.

This has occurred when, barely a couple of weeks ago, a man succeeded in murdering nine people with a gun. In fact, there have been 15 mass killings of four people or more in the USA this year alone!

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The judge said that "the AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defence weapon and homeland defence equipment", a view with which I am sure most Scotsman readers will concur.

Clearly, before setting off for work, the average, well-dressed Californian will ask him- (or her-) self if they are ready for the off. "Hat? Yup. Coat? Yup. Wallet? Yup. Assault rifle? Yup. Two hundred rounds of armour-piercing bullets? Yup." After all, you never know who you'll meet! It's so often the case that you wished you'd remembered to bring the essentials in life with you – like an assault rifle.

Poor old us. We just have no idea about civilised living in this country!

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Project Fear’s myth

It was striking to note the figures from EY highlighting that in 2020 Scotland was the most attractive location outside London for foreign direct investment (FDI), accounting for 11 per cent of UK projects, up from nine per cent in 2019 (Scotsman, 7 June).

EY reported 107 FDI projects in Scotland in 2020, an increase of six per cent compared with the previous year. That success contrasts with declines in investment of 12 per cent for the UK as a whole and 13 per cent across Europe. The survey ranked Edinburgh as the UK’s top city outside London for FDI,

Scotland’s impressive performance came in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and it comes in the face of opinion poll after opinion poll showing a majority of those in Scotland would support independence, putting paid to the myth that independence will ‘frighten off’ investors.

Scotland is bucking the investment trends, none of them a result of remaining in the UK, as highlighted by Scottish Enterprise who said this success was down to the quality of our workforce as well as a competitive cost base, world-class universities and a supportive business environment.

While “Project Fear” is alive and well with many of those opposing independence, it is simply not borne out by the facts.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Abortion rights

Brian Wilson (‘Is discrimination against people with Down’s syndrome not just another form of prejudice?’, Scotsman 5 June) is to be lauded for speaking out about the tragic abortion of so many babies with Down’s, even up to the birth.

Abortion shall always be an emotive topic, which demands to be discussed with an abundance of compassion, Nevertheless, it is desperately sad that rational debate about the high number of abortions in Scotland – almost 14,000 in 2020, the second highest total on record – seems to be off-limits.

If the recently re-elected Scottish Government is serious about reducing these numbers, a wise action would be to ensure that “home abortions”, permitted during the Covid pandemic, are not authorised to continue once the pandemic is deemed to be under control.

Many of the responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on making home abortions permanent highlighted the obvious medical dangers to women of permitting abortions in a setting without any physical examination or ultrasound scan, and the risk that women may be coerced to end a pregnancy by an abusive partner.

Rather than advocate measures which reduce clinical safeguards, it would be heartening to see our new MSPs working to foster a culture that truly supports women in unplanned pregnancies, where both women and babies are protected from the potential harm and trauma of abortion.

Michael Veitch, Parliamentary Officer, CARE for Scotland, Glasgow

Exam lunacy

Competitive exams do seem to be the worst form of assessment – except for the alternatives. Those who suggest “continuous assessment” haven’t experienced it as I did in the US in the early 1960s. It is better described as “continuous testing” and full-time stress. Teacher-awarded grades are too subjective and open to abuse.

Under the new Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, pupils will be graded on the basis of their teachers’ assessments with the latter “informed” by SQA-approved tests conducted under “closed book conditions”. This has resulted in pupils sitting more exams than ever before and an explosion of mental health problems.

Somerville invited parents to appeal if they “disagreed” but warned the grades of children with “pushy” parents will be downgraded. An anonymous SQA functionary will perform this punishment grading rather than an alogorithm, but no law court will allow a child to be arbitrarily downgraded because its parents registered an appeal.

A social justice warrior, the Education Secretary has also encouraged appeals based on “breaches of the Equalities Act”, thus minority groups can claim they were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and suffered discrimination as a result of “white privilege”. Even by the SNP’s own standards, this is manifest lunacy.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

Home truths on foreign aid

Alexander McKay epitomises the staggering hypocrisy of die-hard supporters of the Union (Letters, 8 June). Of course there is a valid argument that foreign aid could be better targeted (especially when the UK’s reduced GDP automatically translates to reduced aid budgets), but to condemn India and Pakistan for pursuing nuclear weapons programmes while many in their countries are living in poverty conveniently avoids confronting some stark home truths.

Instead of, for example, encouraging multilateral nuclear disarmament, the UK Government is embarking on a multi-billion pound expansion of its nuclear weapons capability while millions of children across the UK are living in poverty and are dependent on food banks for survival.

This is a political choice and Mr McKay and others – who either remain silent or condone the actions of a UK government that persistently ignores the suffering of many of the UK’s most impoverished citizens and is blatantly hostile to refugees (some fleeing lands partitioned to the advantage of UK oil companies and/or devastated by UK-manufactured weapons), and immigrants in general, while furtively enriching a select group of Tory Party donors and establishment cronies – should hang their heads in shame.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

Ringfence funds

There does not seem to be much logic about who gets foreign aid, and how much each recipient is entitled to receive. Decisions seem to be made more on a political basis rather than a basis of need.

Aid should only be given to countries who use it to improve the health and education of the population – and it should be ringfenced, as this money can be used for almost any purpose. India receives aid from the UK but they are able to afford to send rockets to the moon, while many of their population lives in poverty.

The whole foreign aid principle needs re-examined to ensure aid only goes to those countries that use the money to improve the living standards of their population.

James Macintyre, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Lift restrictions

A simple, but very important question: how many people are likely to die from Covid-19 in the UK in the next 12 months?

Well it won’t be anything like the approximately 128,000, whom we have reportedly lost to this disease to date. Nor will it be close to the more than 48,000 who die with sepsis in the UK in a typical year.

Indeed, given that around 60 per cent of the population has had one dose of vaccine and at least 40 per cent, including most of the elderly and the vulnerable, have had both doses, it is likely to be very substantially less than the 10,000 that might die from influenza in a typical year. In fact, the number of deaths is likely to be rather modest for a country of over 67 million people.

Surely, we have reached the point where we should end all other Covid restrictions both domestic and international and simply continue with our very successful vaccination programme?

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife

Vaccine ethics

Presumably Richard Halliwell (Letters, 8 June) is not a professor of medical ethics when he suggests that the vaccination programme should prioritise cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow rather than adopting a universal approach throughout health boards.

Of course, as he suggests, the logistics of servicing vaccination centres in the major conurbations is easier, but doesn't his suggestion amount to prescribing protection allocation by postcode?

Clearly, his criticism completely fails to recognise that the vaccination programme prioritised the most vulnerable, regardless of where they lived. It was recognised that reaching people, for example in care homes, would be much more labour-intensive and time-consuming. Most of us were happy to see that happening, along with the consequent benefits in terms of drops in deaths and hospitalisation. Prof Halliwell would do well to acknowledge that.

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

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