Readers' Letters: Nobody’s a winner in this vision of class war

In her adulatory review of Darren McGarvey’s new book on the nature of poverty in modern Scotland – The Social Distance Between Us: How Remote Politics Wrecked Britain – Susan Dalgety painted a false picture of divisions between the social classes (Scotsman, 18 June).

She took a simplistic sideswipe at the people she thinks may have been the beneficiaries of the range of universal benefits introduced since the inception of the Scottish Parliament, particularly by the SNP governments of the last 15 years.

These benefits have helped protect incomes across the social divide at a time when private and public sector salaries and wages have been strictly controlled.

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It is just wrong to suggest that a well-heeled middle class has profited at the expense of another less affluent group. To maintain stability, incomes need to be protected over the social spectrum. Free prescriptions, abolition of university undergraduate tuition fees, concessionary travel, free personal care, are all part of that.

Darren McGarvey's new book was described as an 'essential read' by columnist Susan Dalgety

Ms Dalgety may be on stronger ground in supporting Mr McGarvey's central point. It is difficult to tackle poverty when a range of people with comfortable salaries and lifestyles are the main ones trying to explain it.

If “poverty safari” means anything it means simply dipping your toe into deprivation without really trying to understand the circumstances and feelings of people in the communities involved.

Mr McGarvey knows that education, real meaningful jobs and more direct action from public and private groups is part of the way out. But I think he also knows that aspiration and determination from individuals is a route out of hopelessness and squalor. Public and private agencies have a role to play in trying to promote that encouragement. They will not be helped by generalisations that suggest an unthinking middle class prospers while deprived communities wane.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Hadrian’s Wall

I met a Scot at the weekend, domiciled in Switzerland with Swiss as well as British nationality. Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, but it is part of the Schengen Area. She takes it for granted that she can cross borders unchecked into surrounding countries and is able to buy goods there which may be cheaper. She knows several people who cross the border into Switzerland for work on a daily basis. Nearly 350,000 frontaliers or grenzgänger, cross-border workers, were employed in 2020.

She is astonished that Westminster is intent on making life so hard for British travellers and businesses. With their insular mentality, the UK Government cannot even negotiate a trade agreement that suits Northern Ireland, rUK and the EU. To her, this is stupidity. No one could accuse the Swiss of a devil-may-care attitude to life, but they are prepared to risk a common travel area.

This makes the scaremongering that surrounds the UK Government’s policy on borders with Scotland after independence seem a little misplaced. It should not be hard to find a mutually beneficial solution to the problem of a 60-mile border without rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh

Hard border

I agree with Martin Redfern's comments regarding the issue of a hard border cutting mainland Britain in half should Scotland leave the UK (Letters, 18 June).

As of now shopping trips, family visits, getting to work or a night out between, for example, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders mean nothing but driving along the road from A to B, a normality enjoyed by generations. With separation this would become international travel crossing a full-on international border. To many of us this will sound like a crazy idea.

Moreover, making national borders obsolete is one of the main objectives of the EU with Freedom of Movement being one of its more recent achievements – something people in Britain, whether in Scotland or England, have enjoyed for generations. Undoing this could actually be seen as an un-European, anachronistic concept at odds with the same European values Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP purport to hold so dear.

Regina Erich, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Life of Brian

Brian Monteith (Scotsman, June 20) derides the idea that Scotland could be a successful European nation like its Nordic neighbours and asks why comparable data for Scotland doesn’t exist. That’s because, Brian, Scotland isn’t independent but a region of the UK, made dependent on Westminster since it doesn’t have the powers of a normal nation.

He laughably claims Scotland benefits from UK financial support. The UK Government gives back just a portion of the money Scotland sends south in the form of the block grant, from which we must fund our public services. Then adding insult to injury, because that’s what being a neglected UK region means, London “charges” Scotland for expenditure “on its behalf” that includes billions to service a UK debt it didn’t create, nuclear weapons it doesn’t want, and in 2022 alone, HS2, the Thames Tideway, Hinkley Point and the Stonehenge Tunnel, all in England.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, speaking on GB News sounding more like an English Tory than a Scot, explains why England is so terrified: “If Scotland leaves the UK, we lose roughly a third of the land mass of Great Britain, probably about half of our territorial waters. We lose the magnificent resource that is Scottish fishing waters, we lose the opportunities from North Sea oil and gas. We lose the potential for renewable energy from Scotland’s coasts in the North Sea and the Atlantic, we lose access to barrier-free trade for Scotch whisky and Scotch salmon, all these fantastic exports.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

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Census refuseniks

I think there are two answers to John Lloyd's ruminations on the failure of the Census in Scotland (Letters, 20 June).

The first is that a large element of the three per cent difference between the res of the UK and Scottish return rates is probably down to there being a large rise in people who do not participate in, or consider themselves part of Scottish society compared to ten years ago or their counterparts in other areas of the UK.

This is now measurable, very concerning and should be the subject of a proper inquiry.

The second is several hundred thousand people like me did not imagine some earnest Civil Service statistician reading our responses but Messrs Sturgeon, Blackford and Robertson’s peep show looking for opportunities to spin the answers to their intrusive, leading questions on sexuality, “Scots” language (whatever that is) and nationality in order to bolster political, policy propaganda on these maufactured issues.

We either complete and return the form under protest, or we complied only because we are law-abiding.

Mind you, if the roughly 60,000 non-compliers are fined and pay £1,000 that would raise £60m towards hiring some nurses or train drivers.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Missing form

John V Lloyd goes into overdrive with calls for people to be prosecuted, fined and given a criminal record for not completing the Census.

In my own case, I'm still awaiting my requested postal delivery of the paper version of the Census form. When I receive it, I'll complete and return it.

Until then, I'll vigorously defend myself against any attempt to prosecute, fine and give me a criminal record.

Jim Stewart, Musselburgh, East Lothian

Support Scotland

When my local supermarket ran out of the large eggs I normally buy, and the supermarket down the road did not, I wondered why. Not far to go for the answer!

The local British one only stocks English eggs covered in Union flags and the other stocks local Scottish eggs.

This train strike, if nothing else, should show every Scot the benefits of buying and encouraging local produce until we become as self-sufficient as possible. If it takes a European supermarket chain to show us that locally sourced food is cheaper and more reliable than dependence on imports from south of the Border, many of us must have our heads in the sand.

However if this time we get the message that running our own country, being able to source local staple foods easily and cheaply as well as others from Europe and the UK is the best way forward then this train strike has not been in vain.

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

Christian values

Clearly, there are opposing views on Christianity, but maybe Andrew Gray, Steuart Campbell and Tim Flinn (Scotsman Letters) could at least agree that our modern liberal and social democratic nations, developed by secular Enlightenment thinkers and certain Church adherents, are ironically far more genuinely Christian in attitude and practice, not least in applying the Golden Rule “Do unto others…”, than those brutal, so-called Christian and God-fearing societies of past centuries when the Church wielded near-total religious and secular power.

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Queen and country

In the many comments about Nicola Sturgeon's plans for another Scottish independence referendum in 2023 no mention has been made of their insensitivity and disrespect to the Queen.

Scottish separation would hardly be a just reward for her dedicated duty and loyal service to the United Kingdom for more than 70 years.

Tim Jackson, Gullane, East Lothian

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