Salmond wrong-footed on childcare
It appears to me that First Minister Alex Salmond has allowed himself, uncharacteristically, to be wrong-footed on the matter.
It is, of course, valid to aspire to Scandinivian levels of nursery provision, training for carers and allowances for working mothers.
But, firstly, he ought to have indicated that the policy would be a continuation after 2016 of existing policies.
Labour opposition leaders Johann Lamont and Iain Gray may be simplistic in urging that the proposals be implemented now. But finance secretary John Swinney would be wise to take up some of their points in his Budget next February.
He operates with limited resources. He can nevertheless signal that, under the devolved settlement, the Scottish Government does give female participation in the labour force and improved childcare provision a very high priority.
Secondly, the First Minister has to be questioned seriously about his aim to finance the policy from savings due to the withdrawal of Trident.
It will be difficult to determine how long this would take, particularly if there is resistance from Nato, and if the SNP has no overall majority after independence.
He needs to take the whole thing back to the drawing board. An anxiety to sway more women voters to his cause has to be balanced by a respect for their intelligence.
He ought not to let his reputation for competence in government be wrecked by lack of foresight on a key issue.
The SNP government is well known for its admiration of all things Nordic. It is clear that its new childcare proposals for an independent Scotland are being influenced by what happens in Scandinavia.
In Sweden mothers are expected, Soviet-style, to abandon their children to daily care by the state as soon as their children reach their first birthday.
Universal state childcare may have economic benefits for the nation, but what effect does it have on the children? One Swedish expert reports that psychosomatic disorders and mild psychological problems are escalating among Swedish youth at a faster rate than in any of 11 comparable European countries.
Such disorders have tripled among girls over the past 25 years. Education outcomes in Swedish schools have fallen from the top position 30 years ago, to merely average amongst OECD nations today.
Behaviour problems in Swedish classrooms are among the worst in Europe. Much of this is being attributed to the fact that, by being encouraged back into the labour market, parents don’t have sufficient time, energy and opportunity to build close and healthy relationships with their children.
Rather than extending state-sponsored childcare, an independent Scotland should give tax breaks to parents who make the sacrificial choice to be at home to care for their own children during the vital pre-school years.
And of course this would have the added benefit of freeing up jobs for our young people who are finding it so difficult at present to get on to the employment ladder.
William W Baird
St Clement Avenue
It might have been better if the SNP had started its white paper with “Dear Santa…” Too much of it depends on the generosity of others.
While improved child care and support for the elderly are commendable and affordable, especially if they avoid Westminster’s imperial-sized defence budget, in other areas the paper is weak.
The defence section is laughable, looking more like it was derived from the Airfix plastic kit catalogue. Defence is about threat analysis and resolution, not about picking up a few shiny toys from Westminster on eBay.
Areas like unmanned aerial vehicles and close air support are not mentioned. Nowhere is there any analysis of threats.
The choice of Lossiemouth (in the defence spokesman’s constituency) is flawed; the main threats are further south.
Faslane is on the wrong side of the country for a maritime base which serves the threat area of the North Sea, and Rosyth is better placed with better surface ship facilities.
Nato was a Cold War idea now more than 20 years out of date. Modern threats are non-state terrorism and cyber attack. Belonging to Nato is expensive in unsuitable equipment and membership costs.
The Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, both of whom avoided the 20th century conflicts, manage without it.
Bruce D Skivington
Gairloch, Wester Ross
The white paper is totally unrealistic in terms of research funding and bodes ill for Scottish universities and their current world standing. EU membership is unlikely to attract “hundreds of millions of pounds”.
EU projects are mainly focused in very different areas from those currently funded by the UK Research Councils, require multinational collaboration and bureaucracy and have long lead times.
What about PhD students, the seed corn for our future leadership in research and innovation in science, medicine and engineering?
Currently many are funded directly by the UK Research Councils, funding that will be lost in an independent Scotland. In summary, the conclusions are fine ham a’ haddie but it’ll no fry in our pan!
(Prof) Ian Sutherland
According to the independence white paper, despite my wish to remain British regardless of the outcome in September 2014, if Scotland votes Yes my nationality will be changed by the new regime.
Hopefully the EU and the UK government will have something to say about this blatant attack on human rights. Coming from a Polish Jewish background I am very sensitive to regimes that attempt to change people’s nationality.
The fact that the Scottish Government and the SNP leadership have scant regard for international rules is shown, sadly, in the fact that an independent Scotland would start its EU membership defying a clear-cut rule.
Every student from any EU country bar the UK will receive free tuition but despite a clear rule that foreign students must receive equal treatment to home students, the white paper clearly states that UK students will be discriminated against despite being clearly foreign after independence. How will my government protect me in the event of a Yes vote? I really do have a right to know.
(Dr) Roger I Cartwright
We live yards over the Border in England, in the shadow of historic Wark Castle by the mighty River Tweed.
My Scots, Edinburgh-born wife Susan, along with 800,000 expat Scots, will be excluded from voting in the forthcoming referendum.
A Yes vote could have significant implications for her and other exiled Scots and for me.
The United Kingdom has not signed up to the Schengen open borders agreement that the Yes campaign intends to sign an independent Scotland in. Any delay in an independent Scotland gaining EU membership could mean that my wife, together with her fellow expats, might be repatriated over the Border as illegal aliens.
I think my wife deserves a vote; her recent knee replacement would make it hard swimming the Tweed and climbing border defences to visit me.
(Canon) Alan Hughes Cornhill on Tweed Northumberland