It’s easy to overestimate the royal family’s power - Readers' Letters

In his convoluted case for the election of the monarch, Alastair Stewart made an oblique reference to the recent meeting between former prime minister Gordon Brown and Prince William In Edinburgh (Scotsman, 8 June).

The Earl ad Countess of Strathearn at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during their recent visit to Scotland
The Earl ad Countess of Strathearn at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during their recent visit to Scotland
The Earl ad Countess of Strathearn at the Palace of Holyroodhouse during their recent visit to Scotland

The exchange might have been about the state of the Union but I personally doubt it. More likely it covered a mutual interest in charitable work, Scottish heritage, and the link, in a constitutional monarchy, between the head of state and the occupant of 10 Downing Street. No doubt Mr Brown would be able to offer some insight.

It is easy to overestimate the amount of power the royals do actually wield. Most of it derives from the almost insatiable appetite of the public for details of their private lives and mannerisms.

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As far as political power is concerned, the link between the Crown and senior government ministers is covered by a strict and subtle protocol. Certainly, there is polite and patient listening by ministers of the Crown; but when it comes to serious matters of state – what is said about international relations, the economy, where the royals go on official duty, and often how those duties are carried out – that is in the final analysis a matter for the Prime Minister and the cabinet.

Prince William who will almost certainly inherit the crown sometime in the next 30 years, is surely aware of this already. It will have done no harm for Mr Brown to remind him of this in as charming and diplomatic way possible.

All this would apply even if the King or Queen was directly elected. It could be argued that there is little point in introducing a measure of that kind, when the real power should rightly rest with elected politicians. We have enough constitutional changes to worry about without introducing a needless one like the election of a monarch.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

UK inquiry is key

I am not sure that I agree with Allan Sutherland (Letters, 8 June) on how Nicola Sturgeon might be forced into a UK Covid inquiry, and the likelihood that she might wriggle out of any inquiry at all.

For all the heat around Covid, it has been tackled at UK, Scottish Government and local health board levels. In many areas such as here on Tayside, it has actually been the local health board who have been the big stars, making their own decisions on testing and how resources are best deployed.

Ms Sturgeon will not like to admit it, but many of the essential decisions and actions have been taken at a UK level. The lockdown decision was made at that level, the money to support businesses and individuals has came from that level, the vaccine was paid for, designed and then distributed from that level. When we struggled to get the vaccination numbers up to speed, we benefitted from UK logistical support. Throughout the second wave, a high proportion of testing has actually been done at a UK level through their labs, up to two thirds of the total for a long period, about one third now.

So any inquiry must take place at a UK level, taking evidence from devolved administrations and local health boards as required. That would reflect how the pandemic was actually fought, and it would guard against the possibility of the Scottish Government wriggling out of admitting their full suite of mistakes.

As we have found out this Spring, any inquiry where the SNP effectively investigate themselves is not going to give people the answers that they need.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

National wealth

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John Peter (Letters, 7 June) doesn’t understand the wealth of a nation, which comes from its natural resources, economic and governmental infrastructure and human capital. Scotland is immensely wealthy in all three.

Our natural resource wealth includes a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power, nearly a third of the UK’s land mass, two thirds of its offshore maritime area, 70 per cent of its fish landings, 80 per cent of its timber production and 90 per cent of its total fresh water, not to mention the vast majority of its oil and natural gas.

Scotland’s advanced infrastructure includes three of the UK’s ten busiest railway stations, five main airports and seven major international deep-water ports for export to European and North American markets. Scottish Water was not privatised, keeping costs low and quality high, and use is just a hundredth of our supply, whereas England is on track to run out of water in 25 years

Thanks to devolution, most of the government institutions needed upon independence are in place so we can hit the ground running, with just a central bank and financial regulatory body to create.

Scotland’s people are the most highly educated in Europe, with nearly half holding university or higher qualifications, four per cent higher than the UK and 15 per cent above the EU average.

Westminster is terrified of losing Scotland because it would lose unfettered access to this immense wealth. Independence is not just a matter of the heart, but the head. It’s a no-brainer.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Safer cycling

More and more people are cycling these days. At the same time traffic is increasing and the roads are getting busy again.

Although cycle lanes are being installed, cyclists are continually at risk as they compete with cars for space on the roads. Cyclists do not realise that, even on a bright day, if they are wearing dark clothing, they merge into the background and motorists do not see them.

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One way cyclists can take responsibility for their safety is to ensure that they are visible to motorists, at all times, day and night, in towns and in the countryside. A simple high-viz waistcoat or body band, together with good lights and wearing a helmet could help towards keepig cyclists safe.

As the mandatory wearing of seat belts in cars has reduced the injury and death of motorists so the mandatory of wearing high-viz could help towards safer cycling.

Chris Seiler, Edinburgh

The Money Tree

Clearly a disciple of the Magic Money Tree school of economics, Rob Gibson (Scotsman, 8 June) gleefully describes proposals for locally administered land value taxes to fund compulsory purchase orders and vast social housing projects.

Hoisting the inevitable saltire, he continues: "Remember, other wealth taxes such as capital gains tax and inheritance tax will become available to an independent Scotland. These can also fund our community-led recovery from Covid-19." Bravo, Comrade Gibson! That'll definitely make the place a hub of enterprise and magnet for inward investment.

Seriously though, what individual person, business or industry would bother generating wealth and prosperity in the first place if their profits were continually hammered with the levels of land, corporation, income and inheritance taxes advocated here?

Throughout his article, Mr Gibson quotes the (mecifully) retiring Mike Russell at length. Neither of these men would appreciate the observation by a certain other political figure: "The only problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money to spend."

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Cruise control

Last July you were kind enough to publish my letter telling of how in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, as an ex-seaman, I watched in horror as crew members, with no face masks or social distancing, disembarked from the passenger liner Black Watch, anchored off Hound Point in the Forth, on to the pleasure cruiser Maid of the Forth.

My concerns were based on the fact that this ship and others were known to have been infected with the Covid virus and had been refused entry into Caribbean ports, yet here they were being waved through without any apparent pratique, quarantine or other measures.

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At that time I wrote: “The fact that Scotland was a country of free and easy access must have had some bearing on the numbers of Scots lost to the pandemic.”

My views on this now haven’t changed but apparently the Scottish Government’s has, given Alastair Dalton’s article “UK-only cruise ship MSC Virtuosa ‘barred from docking in Greenock’” (Scotsman, 8 June).

I suppose I should be pleased that, even at this late stage, almost two years after we should have been putting such pratique measures in place, our government has got round to it. I doubt if my grudging view will be shared with the thousands of families mourning the unnecessary loss of a loved one due to the failings of our government.

I see a First Minister who is terrific at PR. The sharp-dressed woman who strides to the podium and delivers long statistics in a confident manner is indeed a charismatic and approachable leader, always available for a selfie, but she has failed hopelessly in the matters that count. That may be due in no small way to the fact that concerns such as the ones I raised at the start of the pandemic are seldom put to her in her ubiquitous press briefings.

Tom Minogue, Dunfermline, Fife

Own goal

Uefa has now insisted on proof of full vaccination or a negative test result for Euro 2020 spectators at Wembley. In the light of that and recent events in Glasgow, it is utterly incomprehensible and irresponsible that the Scottish Government is still planning to allow spectators into Hampden and the Glasgow fan zone without even a test.

Could this be because the SNP are afraid of upsetting some of their voters? Or is it a result of their incompetence in organising even paper certificates to prove vaccination, never mind a digital version?

Bill Cooper, Kinross, Perth and Kinross

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