Readers Letters: Solo Scotland would not be an EU/UK  ‘bridge’

I hope the students at St Andrews University treat the views of their new lecturer Stephen Gethins with some scepticism (“Independent Scotland would act as a ‘bridge’ between EU and UK, says former SNP MP”, 15 June.)

Stephen Gethins, pictured with his onetime SNP boss Nicola Sturgeon, in 20177 (Picture: Andy Buchanan/FP via Getty Images)
Stephen Gethins, pictured with his onetime SNP boss Nicola Sturgeon, in 20177 (Picture: Andy Buchanan/FP via Getty Images)

Brexit is not driving a desire for independence. It is driven by SNP politicians elected on a minority of the vote who use the offices available to them to campaign on this to the exclusion of everything else. They were doing that long before Brexit. Despite five years of relentless campaigning, Brexit has barely increased the Indy vote, and it is a very small minority of people who say that this is the priority at the moment. Brexit did not re- ignite the debate either. On 19 September 2014, ten hours after the result, Alex Salmond said: “The campaign will go on, and the dream will never die...”. If Brexit had not happened, some other grievance would have been cultivated.

Mr Gethins says the UK is no longer a union of independent states, but it never has been. The UK is properly defined as a nation of unions (England and Wales, England/ Wales and Scotland Britain & Ireland). There is enough ambiguity to allow us to talk about the UK or Scotland as a country or nation, and that allows us to rub along together and work well together. If we are going to talk about history, we have at least to describe what actually happened.

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Scotland does not have a foreign policy. That is undertaken at a UK level. Scotland has produced good foreign secretaries such as Robin Cook and Sir Malcolm Rifkind in the last 30 years or so, so we do have our say. Talking about policies that are outwith your agreed area of operations is a waste of time and money. Our time and our money.

The south of Ireland does not have more soft power than the UK. There has been a meeting of G7 leaders in Cornwall this week, led by the UK Prime Minister. These were the most influential political leaders in the world, bar Russia and China. Ireland was not there. They can only dream of being there. When the crisis in the Euro zone emerged ten years ago, it was the UK that bailed out Ireland, not the other way around.

Finally, despite him being the SNP EU spokesperson in 2019, Stephen Gethins was the only SNP MP to lose his seat, suggesting that the electorate of NE Fife was not persuaded by his arguments, and did not want him to represent their views. A failed politician is not the best choice for giving our young people some proper perspective on the big issues that are happening in the world.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Polls suggest

Conor Gilmore’s letter having a go at Susan Dalgety is a shocker (14 June). Taking percentages on polling from any newspaper and turning it into “almost 40 per cent of Scots” is truly disingenuous. I for one wasn't aware of any polling in this matter and I'm equally sure that there are a massive number of women in Scotland, including myself, who feel strongly that self determination is in no way acceptable. There is far too much at stake here to simply make statements, as Mr Gilmore has done, resulting from limited polling on a matter of such importance to women's rights.

Patricia Lamb, Aberdeen

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Media managed

The substance of the comments made by Donald Lewis (Letters, 15 June) relate to a "communications structure" which exists between Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Government and councils. He tries to make something sinister out of a system which is actually commonplace in PR departments, business and governments throughout the UK and gives alerts to level of potential media interest. Indeed, the Scottish Office, with minimal levels of responsibility in the country, spend just under £1 million on media management.Mr Lewis says that the SNP government are treated with “kid gloves" by the media in Scotland, but where did he hear about this dreadful conspiracy? As his own letter says, in the Scottish media via a FOI request. Mr Lewis also clearly buys and reads the Scotsman and yet seems blissfully unaware that this paper is assiduous in its responsibility to hold the government to account for any perceived failings.

Maybe there is indeed a parallel universe where the Scottish media are unfailingly kind to the Scottish government, but it doesn't exist where I live.

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

Just cuckoo

Clark Cross will have to accept that there will be no referendum offered to Scots to match the democracy given to the Swiss (Letters, 15 June). The SNP have already indicated that the initial tranche of the £150 billion Green Revolution spend is a £33bn project “to revolutionise heating in homes and buildings [that] will be implemented before 2030”. However, as “the debt cannot be met from the public purse”, Scottish homeowners must fund the cost of around £11,000 plus loan charges. For teachers and nurses on the average annual wage of £26,500, that will result in a major hit to their standard of living, especially as Holyrood has still to outline how the remaining £117bn will be obtained. Little wonder that Swiss voters refused to accept such a policy at the referendum,

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

A land in chains

Common sense should tell Robert Scott (Letters, 15 June) that a self-governing Scotland has a better chance of emulating our Scandinavian neighbours’ standard of living than one remaining subjected to the decisions of Westminster governments that prioritise economic growth in London and the South east of England. As Andrew Wilson pointed out on BBC Debate Night, Scotland would be the richest newly independent country in history if it voted Yes and Scotland’s taxation, that it raises itself, is enough to pay for all of the Scottish Government’s policy responsibilities, plus all of social security and all of pensions in a normal year.

Scotland’s views were ignored on Brexit, and Westminster is now taking powers and monies from Holyrood, while our government and agricultural sector were not consulted over the disastrous UK/Australian trade deal.

With the borrowing powers and border controls of a normal country, there is every chance Scotland would have dealt with the Covid pandemic much better than Boris Johnson who ignored scientific advice, failed to close borders and impose lockdown last March, thus allowing the virus to escalate and devastate the economy. He didn’t learn any lessons and was three weeks late in stopping flights from India which threatens a third major disruption to the economy and jobs. With all our vast natural resources, and one of the most highly educated populations in Europe, there is no logical reason why Scotland can’t do much better than remaining within little Britain’s myopic straitjacket.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

T-cell time

I fear Professor Eleanor Riley (Perspective, 15 June) may be overoptimistic about vaccine induced T-cell responses preventing illness because, “almost any piece of virus protein can be a flag for a T-cell”. That is certainly true if we are infected with Sars-Cov-2 and respond to the virus replicating in our cells, but it is only the spike protein-coding RNA that is included in the vaccines so far being used for mass vaccination, so only the spike protein that our T-cells will be sensitised to by vaccination.

We will clearly need new generations of vaccines to keep our immunity up to date and to continue protection as new variants arise. Who knows what the epsilon variant will bring, let alone psi or omega. I would defer to Professor Riley’s special knowledge in anti-virus immunology, but if we need whole virus T-cell sensitisation we will have to design the vaccines to induce it.

(Dr) Anthony Birch, Dunblane, Stirling

Inquiry needed

After weeks spent attempting to agree a "Four Nations approach” to hotel quarantine arrangements for international travellers arriving in the UK, the Scottish Government decided to go it alone in making hotel quarantine mandatory for all arrivals at Scottish airports from 15 February. If the UK government had done the same for all arrivals at English airports, it is possible that the importation of the Delta (formerly “Indian”) variant could have been kept to minimal levels and we would not now be talking about a third wave of Covid-19.

When Pakistan and Bangladesh were added to the Red List on 9 April, India was not added in spite of the infection rate there already being out of control and deaths approaching 1,000 per day. Apparently, according to UK Government spokespersons, the fact that Boris Johnson was scheduled to fly to India to discuss a new trade agreement did not influence the decision. A further two weeks later (23 April), after the estimated arrival of more than 20,000 people on flights from India, the Delta variant was quickly spreading across the UK.

From the start of this pandemic Boris Johnson and the UK government have been slow to act. Not only did he initially insist on not wearing a mask himself but nearly all restrictions have belatedly followed those imposed by the devolved governments, including the wearing of face masks. While the Scottish Government adhered to the tried-and-tested approach of local\manual contact tracing, the UK government committed to a “world-beating” app that turned out to be a complete flop. When scientific advisers proposed a temporary lockdown in England last September, to avoid a second wave” of infections, that advice was ignored and the Alpha (formerly Kent) variant spread so rapidly that even more lives were lost across the UK than during the first wave.

We should not wait until 1922 before preparations for a comprehensive Four Nations public inquiry begin if we wish to avoid the devastating effects (health and economic) of perhaps vaccine-resistant fourth and fifth waves.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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