Readers' letters: A time for respect, not for debating the Union

Queen Elizabeth produced more soft power in her 70-year reign than our collective governments and ambassadors put together.

She championed faith and diversity and did more to stabilise and unify the nation than many will ever know. It’s clearly right to mourn but this must not collapse into a long period of inward national grief and saturation TV coverage as it did 25 years ago following the death of Princess Diana

That was a different set of circumstances. The Queen has had the longest and most distinguished reign of any monarch and we must use this time ahead to celebrate the achievements and hard work of many of the royal family and the Queen in particular. Only on Tuesday by accident I witnessed Princess Anne’s visit to Raasay. She like the Queen has undertaken thousands of engagements to strengthen charities and allow organisations gain greater recognition.

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It is perhaps fitting that the Queen died in Scotland, the country where she felt most at home and at ease.

The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, passes down the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, on the journey from Balmoral to the Palace of Holyroodhouse
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It is easy to speculate how her passing might affect the Union that the Queen strongly cherished, as BBC political editor Sarah Smith did last week, but it would be wrong to engage in that debate right now.

This is a time for both respecting and celebrating our ultimate national treasure, to pay tribute to her devotion to duty driven by her faith. We are a stronger and stabler nation as a result and we can all learn from her example.

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Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

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Safe in his hands

If there was any doubt beforehand then the massive throngs of people throughout the route of the journey of the royal hearse must have dispelled them. The foyal family and hence the Union is not in imminent danger of being consigned to history.

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The very positive start to King Charles III’s reign reinforces this position. Contrast these huge crowds to the rather meagre ones for Scottish independence marches and you get the true flavour of what lies ahead for Scotland. Do we really need very costly “advisory referendums”?

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

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Propaganda

“Mourners lined the streets all the way from Balmoral to Holyrood.” This was the message broadcast as “news” over the radio while TV cameras searched for another person waving a Union flag in Edinburgh after overhead cameras had borne witness to the funeral procession passing more than a hundred miles of roadside devoid of people, never mind an emblem of British nationalism.

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The passing of a life provides a moment for respectful reflection, but blatant propaganda stains the memory of a monarch regarded highly by many in Scotland.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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Right a wrong

Is it too late for the SNP administration to reconsider its, in my opinion, frankly puerile antipathy to the special children's book to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee? Readers will remember that 52 amendments to the book were requested by the SNP, including asking that the Queen Mother's death shouldn't be referenced as “tragic”. Unlike in England where books were provided free of charge to state school children, in Scotland schools had to opt-in, meaning many children were deprived of the opportunity.

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Many thousands of Scots, including children, turned out to watch Queen Elizabeth II's coffin on its journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh with thousands more expected to show their respects as she lies at rest in Edinburgh. Nicola Sturgeon and indeed Ian Blackford have chosen to spend recent days at the heart of the UK establishment (unlike fellow nationalists, Sinn Fein) seemingly revelling in fully participating in all the British pomp and ceremony.

As head of the SNP and so very clearly now a passionate supporter of the monarchy, can we hope that Nicola Sturgeon will now show leadership and ensure the children's jubilee book is at last widely distributed in Scotland?

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Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Inglis parallel

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We all saw the crowds who turned out on Sunday to see the cortège of Queen Elizabeth make its way from Balmoral to Edinburgh. A true mark of respect for our last monarch.

One previous occasion, when so many people lined the Edinburgh streets to pay their respects, was following the death of Dr Elsie Inglis in 1917. Her body lay in state in St Giles’ Cathedral and hers was a funeral with full military honours. The Scotsman reported this as “an occasion of an impressive public tribute”.

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Apart from her headstone in the Dean Cemetery, we have no visible memorial to her in Edinburgh.

Fiona Garwood, Edinburgh

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Flying south

I was saddened to learn the Queen's body will be flown from Edinburgh to London because there are many railway stations between Edinburgh and London on the East Coast Main Line.

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I believe significant numbers of people would attend each train station and watch in quiet respect had a train carrying the Queen's body gone by. But as the East Coast Main Line has become so unreliable lately, I shouldn't be really that surprised the Earl Marshal is flying her remains south from Edinburgh Airport.

Cllr Nigel Boddy, Darlington, England

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Price of populism

Further to Lilian Clephane’s worrying description of the plight faced by many landlords (Letters, 9 September) let us consider the following.

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There is currently an unprecedented housing crisis in Ireland. House values are sky-high and long queues form to view the limited number of homes available for rent. Students starting college courses are unable to find accommodation.

However, populist Irish politicians knew there were votes to be gained by inflicting punitive taxes and red tape on the traditionally hated “landlord class". The private rental sector has therefore almost vanished. The result is that in a country of five million people there are now only about 700 properties to let.

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A similar situation is developing here in the People’s Republic of Scotland, with a rent freeze and legislation making tenants almost immune from eviction.

The consequences of these decisions (along with the cost of Scottish public sector pay rises) will soon demonstrate to our First Minister that such virtue-signalling comes at a price.

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Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Frozen out

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The more I read about the Holyrood government's emergency rent freeze legislation the more puzzled I become. Although the legislation may not become effective for up to three months, the “stop day” of rent price increases is to be 6 September. This means that local authority tenants, for example, will have already paid five months of their increases introduced in April.

Only a minority actually pay the full rent. They will have the remaining seven months of the financial year with rents frozen. In a council where the rent increase was, say, £2 per week, those tenants will save just over £50 for the rest of the year – in other words about £1 a week for the whole year. They are already receiving a £150 council tax rebate introduced at the right time in April. Certainly the £1 a week saving is something, but is it worth the upheaval to housing revenue budgets throughout the land?

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The freeze in the private rented sector may well enthuse the more vigilant housing activists. A great deal more thought needs to be given to how that sector operates in practice. There is a serious prospect of properties being withdrawn from the market altogether. Throughout history rent freezes achieved after dedicated protests have simply led to under-investment.

That is not to say that there were some private landlords who abused their power. But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her advisers need to balance the real need to protect vulnerable groups against inflation with a need to ensure a properly functioning housing market.

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There is a lot more explaining to do if the public and private sectors are to be convinced that a rent freeze policy is viable.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

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Referendum rules

Colin Hamilton (Letters, 10 September) draws attention to the super majority he says is required to alter the constitution of the SNP and other correspondents have referred to similar arrangements in golf clubs etc. However, in such cases those in the losing majority who are sufficiently disgruntled can easily leave and go elsewhere.

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The irony in the UK is that any change in the constitution requires legislation to be passed by the House of Commons, where all decisions are by a simple majority and abstentions definitely do not count; MPs wishing to vote have to present themselves in person at the appropriate lobby even if it means the sick being wheeled in on occasion.

As is usual in the UK, we do not have a codified system but traditional practices and ad hoc arrangements which makes for uncertainty but has the advantage of flexibility.

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In the quite recent past plebiscites were regarded as un-British and incompatible with parliamentary democracy but now they seem not merely desirable but necessary in appropriate circumstances. I think a major reason has been the desire of governments to demonstrate support for contentious policies and encourage the disappointed to accept the result – the latter not having been noticeably successful in the case of Scottish Independence or Brexit.

Whatever the reason the referendum seems here to stay so perhaps ground rules need to be established. However, this is a major step. Perhaps we should have a referendum on it.

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S Beck, Edinburgh

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