Scotsman Letters: UK support helped Scotland in a tough year

I noticed in Tuesday’s televised leadership debate a scornful reference by Nicola Sturgeon to “no more Tory austerity”.

Clockwise from left: Douglas Ross, Patrick Harvie, presenter Glenn Campbell, Nicola Sturgeon, Anas Sarwar and Willie Rennie in this week's final leaders' debate (Picture: Getty)

We are now all benefiting from the UK government’s commitment and foresight in providing a vaccine for everyone and implementing the whole programme so swiftly. In Italy, the public have to pay for their vaccination. In Canada they must arrange their own appointments. In UK this is all done for us.

In tough times we are thankful for the broad shoulders of the UK to support us. I say a big “thank you” to the UK government for their liberality over the past year. We would not have got through without it.

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Arthur Steven, Cedarwood Avenue, Newton Mearns, Glasgow

Plain sailing?

The final leaders' debate was astonishing. Glenn Campbell devoted precious minutes to the topic of a new yacht! At no time in more than an hour was there a single mention of the SNP's record in government! Is it not mandatory in an election campaign to expect a sitting government to be questioned about its performance over the previous five years?

Nicola Sturgeon has not been shy in switching attention away from Indyref2, knowing a huge majority of voters do not want it any time soon, and preening herself on her handling of the pandemic. It remains to be seen even how well she has done in that context, given that mistakes have been made and acknowledged. But what about her "experienced leadership" over the whole term. Was this not a topic for debate under any circumstances, but especially since she explicitly asked to be judged on her record in education in 2016?

Labour’s Anas Sarwar did well in previous debates in highlighting failures in the health service, and under questioning from Douglas Ross, Ms Sturgeon had no option but to admit to taking her eye off the ball in relation to drug deaths. Mr Campbell omitted such topics.

And why were there no questions on the handling of the economy?The catastrophic failures in relation to BiFab, Ferguson Marine and Prestwick airport, for example, confirm that Scottish taxpayers' money has been woefully managed by the SNP.

That anyone would vote for the SNP because of their supposed competence defies comprehension. But certainly the lady who told Mr Campbell she intends to vote for Nicola Sturgeon but will be disappointed if she pushes for another referendum is going to be, well, disappointed. The First Minister’s claims that this election is not about independence have become increasingly shrill – and increasingly disingenuous.

Colin Hamilton, Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Proud record

Nicola Sturgeon’s “laser-like focus on the pandemic” (James Quinn and William Ballantine, Letters, 15 May) has resulted in fewer excess care home deaths and fewer Covid deaths per 100,000 population than in England or Wales.

The decision to place Covid cases in care homes was taken by hospital medics in consultation with care home managers, always in the best interests of the patient, and this includes many dementia patents who were totally disorientated in hospital settings.

The Scottish Government’s decision to prioritise vaccinating care home residents and staff has saved hundreds of lives when compared to England, where, since January the number of care home Covid fatalities has been running at least double per head of population.

Official figures also show that the percentage of population who have received the first jag in Scotland (51.9 per cent) is higher than in England (51.6 per cent) and 24.7 per cent in Scotland have received the second dose compared to 23.2 per cent in England.

Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

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EU optimism

One of the abiding rules of presenting an argument has always been the necessity to keep it, however tenuously, in touch with reality. This George Rennie fails to do when he says it would take 20 years for Scotland to join the EU (Letters, 5 May). Mr Rennie's assertion posits a situation whereby the accession process of an applicant country, with the possible exception of Turkey with its myriad human rights issues, would be the longest in the history of the EU. It takes no account of the fact that, as a constituent part of the UK, Scotland has complied with the requirements of the EU “acquis” for 40 years.The main flaws which undermine Mr Rennie's argument are that he sets arbitrary timescales based on personal conjecture with no empirical evidence to substantiate them and sees a world where all the stages of the process have to be carried out in a tortuous sequential process. The most fragile part of Mr Rennie's argument and the longest part of his self-selected timescale of ten years, comes when he says that membership cannot happen until Scotland has a functioning market economy and its own currency.

In the first place, Scotland has a market economy and secondly, Mr Rennie appears unaware that the UK kept the pound during the entire time of its membership. The history of the EU shows that some joining members retained their own currency and others adopted the euro. For example, following the separation of Czechoslovakia, a previous Eastern European state, the Czech Republic retained the korunna while Slovakia transitioned to the euro. Both joined the EU. There's no logical reason things should be any different or more time-consuming for Scotland.

Gill Turner, Derby Street, Edinburgh

Power shift

Both the Liberal Democrats and the SNP want to rejoin the EU. Why? They appear to be oblivious to the EU and UK’s trading history. The UK’s trade with the EU has been in decline for decades, having fallen from 60 per cent of exports to about 40 per cent in 2020, and is generally in deficit, which amounted to £80 billion in 2016. In contrast, our trade with non-EU countries has been increasing for some considerable time, giving a large revenue surplus most of the time (about £100bn in 2018). When the UK was a member of the EU it generally did more trade with non-EC countries than with the EU, probably a reflection of its historical global trade interests.

The EU’s trade with non-EC countries continues to decline and is now about 15 per cent compared to 38 per cent in 1973. Consequently, it is becoming an inward-looking economy and perhaps protectionist in outlook. Rather oddly, the EU estimates that between now and 2050, 90 per cent of global economic power will lie outside the EU. Others appear to agree, as 13 Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand have formed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, believed to be the world’s largest free trade pact, covering a third of the global economy. This highlights the growing shift in economic power from the West to the East, which the UK will be attracted to. Post-Brexit, 85 per cent of global commerce is outside the EU. As the UK has always been a global trading nation, even when in the EU, this should bode well for us.

Which trading direction would the reader recommend? Yes, it is rather obvious!

(Dr) Gordon Cochrane, Dargai Terrace, Dunblane

Vote denied

Scots resident in Scotland vote today to elect Members to the Scottish Parliament. Scots in Berwick-upon-Tweed, however, and those living and working further, afield cannot. Approximately 800.000 are sadly being denied a vote in the future of their birth nation, including my wife, disenfranchised for ministering south of the border, unlike Canadian, Dutch and other expatriate citizens, who retain their vote wherever they live. Tribes have chosen their leaders since the dawn of time. Democracy, the right for a people to choose who they are governed by, has been enshrined in the constitutions of successful societies throughout recorded history. Those who have denied citizens democracy have invariably become failed states. We ought to cherish our privileged democracy and participate fully in its processes, for democracy is only effective if every eligible citizen exercises their vote.

These all resonate with me, the latter striking a strong chord as I look with sadness on divisions on the local and national political scene. My regular prayer is that people vote, and wisely, and that politicians work together for the common good.

(Canon) Alan Hughes, Governor's Gardens, Berwick-upon-Tweed

Direction of travel

Scotland had two years of divisive, often vitriolic debate on Independence before a “once in a generation” vote in 2014 – and then it started all over. For many this is quite tedious, particularly when we are barking up the wrong tree.The UK comprises four countries, three have their own Parliaments and one doesn’t. The obvious direction of travel is devolution for England. An English parliament would result in home rule for Scotland and the other home nations. That would maintain open borders, no trade barriers, retention of currency, the British Armed Forces untouched and Scotland in charge of its own affairs. What’s not to like?A second referendum will divide the nation and it will stay divided regardless of the outcome. We should speak to our UK neighbours and help instigate a UK-wide campaign for a federal Britain similar to the United States, Germany, etc. There will be many south of the Border who would be attracted to such an idea.Does any political party have the courage to disengage from the current endless arguments about Independence and take a different path? If not, a new party is required to fill this void.

Carl Beck, Clyde Street, Invergordon

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