Readers' Letters: Johnson alone isn’t reason enough to end UK

Ian Blackford, the SNP Commons leader, renewed his attack on Boris Johnson as a “walking advert” for independence when the Prime Minister visited Scotland yesterday. Indeed, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

Does Ian Blackford, second right, think Boris Johnson is reason enough to dismantle the UK? (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
Does Ian Blackford, second right, think Boris Johnson is reason enough to dismantle the UK? (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

The SNP argument for separating us from the rest of the UK can be found not in rigorously thought through, clearly articulated nationalist dogma, nor in irrefutable economic logic, but in relentless ad hominem attacks on the PM of the day, who may not be with us much longer. Work to do, Mr Blackford?

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

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Vain hopes

Your editorial “The UK is cosying up to a dictatorship” (February 12) was well-founded, but 20 years overdue. It was clear when Boris Yeltsin inexplicably handed the Kremlin to the ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin that the Russia we hoped for in the early 1990s would not materialise.

Whatever statements were made (which are disputed) about Nato not expanding eastwards became invalid as Russia’s fledgling move to democracy was reversed and Putin was obviously a very different character from Mikhail Gorbachev.

You refer to the additional danger from China, but it is the new axis of Russia and China (plus their junior partners Belarus, other ex-Soviet republics, Iran and North Korea) that is reviving the Cold War which never ended, despite the naive actions of the West’s politicos, business leaders and academics, who deliberately ensured in only 30 years that, in your words, “China’s economy is so large that it cannot be ignored”.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind said in 2014 that Putin was no Hitler or Stalin. Maybe not (he doesn’t need to be) but he has rehabilitated Stalin (who was as much a Nazi as Hitler), considers the demise of the USSR “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, ignores the Budapest Memorandum signed by Russia in 1994 recognising Ukraine’s political independence, and wants to reinstate the Soviet Empire on Russian terms. Maybe Sir Malcolm, who was robust in his support for Poland’s Solidarity movement but as Defence and then Foreign Secretary from 1992-97 accepted the “peace dividend” from the apparent end of the Cold War (albeit maybe forced on him by the Treasury) might update his views in your columns?

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Not the way

I wholeheartedly agree with Jill Stevenson and John McSweeny (Letters, February 14). Your SNP correspondents seem to have occupied an inordinate proportion of the letters page recently, expressing their views in repetitive and tedious detail, and carefully avoiding any facts which might damage their fantasy of the sunny uplands which they believe will follow independence.

Referendums are totally unsuitable for deciding complex constitutional questions, as the Brexit disaster has shown. Firstly, because there are numerous interacting factors so the final outcome cannot be known.

Secondly, because referendums should not be used for situations which cannot easily be reversed – and this would likely be the case with independence, even if the consequences were found to be unacceptable. People change their minds all the time.

Helen Hughes, Edinburgh

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Boris Johnson labelled a 'walking advert for Scottish independence' by SNP ahead...

Norway ahead

Jill Stephenson should get her facts right when defending the UK’s pathetic state pension provision (Letters, February 14). The full minimum pension level in Norway comes to NOK 204,690 for single pensioners, £17,000 a year, which is more than double the UK minimum of £137.60 a week. The Irish state pension is low by Danish or Norwegian standards, but it is still higher than the UK, at £213 a week. Since Brexit, the Irish Government has rolled over its reciprocal agreement with the UK, to protect the rights of people who spend part of their working life in each country. It means there is no risk of having to pay into two systems within the Common Travel Zone.

No one will be forced to become a Scottish citizen after independence and how do UK apologists justify denying any liability for British citizens, including some of whom may have recently moved to Scotland, if they have contributed to UK National Insurance all their working life?

Ms Stephenson’s claims that Scotland receives £12 billion extra each year from the UK Treasury has no correlation with how things would be in an independent Scotland as GERS is merely an estimate of Scotland’s position as part of the UK where all the major political, taxation and economic decisions are made at Westminster.

This has resulted in the UK having a national debt of £2,223bn, added to by Brexit and the UK government’s disastrous handling of Covid, while Boris Johnson’s latest wheeze to end self-isolation for Covid-positive people will certainly reduce the number of pensioners in England.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Pensions question

How interesting that diehard SNP supporter, Mary Thomas (Letters, February 12) evinces implicit trust in the opinion of former Tory minister, Baroness Altmann! The good Baroness opines that those entitled to UK pensions will be paid regardless of where they live – including in an independent Scotland. Let's hope so. The question is, who will pay?

Ms Thomas must have missed the most recent pronouncements of Nicola Sturgeon, who effectively refuted Ian Blackford's erroneous claim that Scottish pensions would be paid from a UK “pot”. Ms Sturgeon accepts – or seems to – that there is no such pot and that the Scottish Government would be responsible for the payment of Scottish pensions. But, she implies, they would be funded by the UK government because of “historic liabilities and assets”. This is contradictory. She accepts that there is no “historic asset” in the form of a pot. Indeed, in 2014 she claimed that: "We would guarantee all the accrued pension rights for people in Scotland. We currently pay for state pensions. There is no money fairy that sits in Westminster and provides all these things for nothing. Our taxes and National Insurance pay already for these things. We just cut out the middle man. We would not send all the money to London first, it would come to us.” That seems pretty clear to me.

Nationalists can't have it both ways. In the event of independence the Scottish taxpayer would continue to fund pensions, just as Ms Sturgeon claims they do now. Or her claim is false and currently the Scottish taxpayer makes no contribution to the payment of pensions, which are being funded entirely as a result of the largesse of taxpayers in the rest of the UK.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Settled will?

By using an age-old sales technique, known as the alternative close, our sovereign has effectively closed down any debate there might be on the future of the hereditary monarchy in the UK. The question now is: “should the country acquiesce to The Queen’s earnest wish and be content that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, be the future Queen” rather than “should the UK continue to have an unelected, hereditary Head of State?”.

In the meantime, while we ponder the situation in Ukraine and the future of pension payments in Scotland, the spin doctors have been working away telling us that we now accept that Camilla is more than suitable for the role and the country has forgiven and forgotten past indiscretions.

Job done then by the hereditary monarchists?

Benedict Bate, Edinburgh

Role models?

In his latest column (Perspective, 12 February) Brian Wilson lambasts the current SNP administration over the Ferguson Shipyard/Ferries debacle, not without good reason. He contrasts its “spendthrift use of public money” with the years of quiet and judicious support of the yard by previous administrations. Whether this sort of cosy arrangement out of the public eye is entirely desirable – or even possible now in this age of greater transparency – one may doubt.However, the important issue this matter raises is the larger question of how the state can protect and encourage the growth of industry, as it seems if we rely solely on the current market economy we can expect continued inexorable decline. Remedies tried over recent decades by UK governments don’t offer much help. The wide-ranging policy of nationalisation by the immediate post-war government probably accelerated decline. Harold Wilson’s policy of enticing companies to set up enterprises in depressed areas ended in the Winter of Discontent.Do foreign governments afford any pointers? The Soviet Union, after the disasters of the post-revolution period, achieved rapid success in some areas but its harsh methods could hardly be duplicated here and it collapsed through public discontent. China has produced an industrial revolution by creating a vast pool of cheap labour and giving entrepreneurs some space – but it’s early days. Since reunification in 1990 Germany, a democracy, has been trying to raise the economy of the east to the level of the western provinces; the process is still far from complete and has cost people in the west trillions, at which there is much grumbling, which may be affecting voting patterns.What the answer is to the economic woes of Scotland I do not know, but if the state is to build up industry it will need capital. However, Mr Wilson feels that most of the money spent on the ferries should have gone on benefits and public services. I remember a picture from the Harold Wilson era showing Tony Benn turning a large wheel to start the North Sea oil coming on stream – and the black gold flowed into theInternational oil companies, the coffers of the City, and the funding of the Welfare State, which one might think a rather poor decision.

S Beck, Edinburgh

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