Readers' Letters: Gordon Brown’s vision of a UK consensus is a fantasy

Gordon Brown has been away from active politics for a long time. Perhaps this explains his avoidance of the painful truth that we live with the political decisions of elected governments, not an apparent consensus around equality, diversity, tolerance and co-operation (“Scotland and England are now moving together, not flying apart”, Scotsman, 16 September).

Gordon Brown believes there are similar levels of support for equality, tolerance and diversity across the UK

No doubt it is also true that, when asked, a majority across the UK voice their support for the NHS.

But that does not prevent sufficient numbers, in England, voting for – again and again – a Conservative government in whose hands it has never been “safe”.

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So far, we’ve seen a creeping privatisation, but this government is in the grip of its extreme right-wing, even more so since Tuesday’s reshuffle. The new, National Insurance levy is primed to switch to private health insurance in two years’ time.

It will neatly coincide with the concessions required for a US trade deal that will allow their private health insurance companies into the UK Scotland has no powers to resist this, trumped as they now are by the internal market legislation.

Quite how co-operation within the UK can address this threat is not explained, yet Brown insists it is the way forward.

He avoids the fact that, if we lived in a UK which valued cooperation between nations, we would not have Brexit. We’ve rejected the rigours, concessions and successes of daily, practical co-operation between independent countries because enough voters in England have more “values” in the mix when it comes to an actual vote than those claimed by Brown.

Robert Farquharson, Edinburgh

Glass houses

I was disappointed to read the banner headline of Joyce McMillan's article (Scotsman, 17 September) and her use of disrespectful language referring to UK Government Ministers as “clowns”.

At best, she may have been to review a circus performance and mixed her review notes with other papers. At worst, she is peddling nationalist propaganda.

In a millisecond, the claimed principles and aims of respect and co-operation have been kicked into touch. Once the new cabinet appointees have had a chance to show their mettle or lack of it, she is entitled to comment disparagingly.

Or perhaps she has just picked up old notes (and changed the names), about the Scottish cabinet and its proven incompetence over the years (health, police, education, shipbuilding, drug deaths etc), simply resulting in the same incompetents being retained and recycled to do more damage in other departments.

People in glass houses and pots and kettles come to mind.

Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh

Clowning around

I cannot disagree with Joyce McMillan’s description of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet of Clowns, but she need look no further than Holyrood to see that it is not unique.

As a child, I found clowns frightening rather than funny, and the present manifestations in London and Edinburgh have done nothing to allay those fears.

EP Carruthers, Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

So quick to clap

The UK Government is providing three free Covid vaccines for every adult in a the UK. In addition, it has funded billions extra for the NHS and paid out billions in furlough funding. Covid tests remain free in the UK where other countries like Germany are starting to charge.

To pay for all of this the average person in full-time work is being asked to pay £5 extra a week in National Insurance, the equivalent of one pint of beer a week, or ten cigarettes.

Sadly the public think that this is too much, and would rather just clap on a Thursday night.

David Watson, Edinburgh

Unfair attack

Politically motivated attacks on Humza Yousaf such as that by Richard Allison (Letters, 17 September) are unwarranted and unjustified, not least as ambulance services and health boards throughout the UK have also advised people to think twice before calling for an ambulance unless the situation is life-threatening.

The Scottish Ambulance Service changed the way it responds in 2016, with 999 call handlers giving the highest ­priority to incidents such as cardiac arrests. An evaluation of the changes found the new system has saved the equivalent of 1,182 lives but call handlers are taking longer on the phone to dispatch paramedics and some lower priority calls are waiting longer for an ambulance.

Despite having a greater rural distance to cover, the Scottish Ambulance Service is performing at a much higher level than in England and the situation is even worse in Wales where the BBC reported on 11 August that ambulances can’t take 999 calls.

There is also increased pressure on the NHS through the lack of staffing in care homes due to Brexit which has resulted in many delayed discharges and bed blocking.

As for snide remarks about having to call in the British Army, we should remember that the latest GERS figures show Scottish taxpayers are charged over the odds for UK defence expenditure in Scotland

The pressure on NHS Scotland is enormous due to the recent explosion of Covid cases due to opening up the economy. We all need to take more personal responsibility for our actions if we want life to get back to normal and that includes wearing masks plus agreeing to vaccine passports.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Army irony

I note that Nicola Sturgeon has been caught with her pants down again.

The Scottish ambulance service is struggling to cope with the high demand on its services. As a result of the ongoing pandemic such a situation is understandable, and requires immediate action by the government.

But surely the irony of this whole situation is that Nicola Sturgeon's first port of call for assistance in this emergency has been the British Army (Scotsman, 17 September)?

When will she get round to acknowledging the fact that the people of these Islands are British, and in spite of her SNP inclinations, we are "better together”?

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife

Fighting fit?

One of the benefits of being in the UK is that we can call on the British armed forces in the event of a civil emergency.

Given the SNP’s non-existent plan for Scotland’s independent defence, their ludicrous social spending and a gargantuan deficit, we’d be lucky to have enough armed forces personnel to fit in the back of an ambulance, let alone drive a fleet of them.

David Bone. Girvan, South Ayrshire

Sleep it off

From what I hear a not insignificant number of the “emergencies” Scottish ambulance crews are called to attend concern people who will be fine after a night’s sleep – apart, probably, for a thick head.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Economic flaws

There are many flaws in the recent Institute for Government report (Scotsman, 17 September) but the biggest is the assumption that Scotland’s structural deficit is real, when it’s not. GERS was designed by the Tories to make Scotland look like an economic basket case when it’s one of the richest countries in the world.

The accounting in GERS wouldn’t pass muster with any professional auditor because it’s riddled with estimates, not real numbers, and the accounting is dodgy.

It significantly understates Scottish revenue, recording rent, interest and insurance income in England, not Scotland, making us look poorer. It burdens Scotland with billions for nuclear weapons we don’t want, an English Parliament and Westminster bureaucracy we don’t need, and a population share of UK debt we didn’t create. Scotland has no legal obligation to pay any debt at all, and London conceded this years ago.

So the Unionist mantra that Scotland will be too indebted to afford independence is nonsense. If Scotland were such a drain, London would have cut us loose long ago. It hasn’t because England can’t afford to live without our revenue, resources and land.

The Scottish Government must urgently introduce plans for a Scottish currency and central bank to take back control of our economy. It must create a green industrial strategy that harnesses our resources and land and productively employs our people, and eradicates poverty. It’s time for Scotland to become a grown-up nation that engages with the world, not remain a colonial outpost in an increasingly isolated and diminished little England.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Sir Clive recalled

Many years ago I met Sir Clive Sinclair at a typical Scottish wedding (ie most of the guests were well wrecked).

As we were the only sober ones at our table I had him to myself through lunch and most of the afternoon. He was excellent company and a great raconteur.

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Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor behind Spectrum computer and C5, dies aged 81

As I was taught by Richard Feynman in Cal Tech and used St Andrews University’s IBM main-frames in the 1960s, I loved his take on the birth of personal computers.

Even more entertaining were his narratives about the character and antics of the iconic American pioneers such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. Some of these accounts were so “colourful” I found them seriously difficult to believe.

It’s only recently, as more of their private lives and professional shenanigans have come to light, that I realise that the more outrageous were Sir Clive’s stories, the more likely they were to be true!

Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

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