Sticking with UK is best for Scotland – Letters

Unity will help country recover from Covid, says business body

What message should Nicola Sturgeon take from this weeek's GERS figures? (Photo by Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images)

Once again the Scottish Government’s own Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures show beyond reasonable doubt that in any normal year the extent to which our public services are sustained at current levels requires the pooling and sharing of resources within the UK.

This is anything but a normal year, however, requiring £6.5 billion in additional Treasury funding since March to keep Scottish businesses and public services afloat, saving thousands of jobs.

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The Scottish Government’s recent blueprint for economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis contains some worthy aims but precious few concrete solutions.

For some that’s fine because recent polling suggests to them that current plans can be ripped up soon in favour of something far more radical – if only Scotland votes to leave the UK.

It is time for a dose of reality. There is no coherent economic plan for separation on currency, the deficit, EU membership and so much else. The economic case that Scotland rejected in 2014 only became worse after energy prices crashed in 2015 and was broken beyond repair by the effects of the coronavirus.

This is not a cause for despair. Our economy faces the deepest challenge of our working lives but our belief is that Scotland can recover – and recover well – if the economy is allowed to fire on all cylinders.

That means recognising that the continued pooling and sharing of resources within the UK is by far the best platform upon which to build, not least because of the borrowing capacity and currency stability provided by that respected UK institution, the Bank of England. The UK is our largest market by far and genuine collaboration within it is key. We must rebuild 
business confidence by supporting one another along the way.

Another divisive referendum on breaking up the UK would be nothing but a distraction from the vital task of recovery and we urge the First Minister to change course.

Signed by the following members of the SBUK Advisory Council.

Robert D Kilgour, (Founder & Chairman, SBUK); Struan Stevenson (CEO, SBUK); Hugh Andrew; Belinda Dickson OBE; Colin Clark; Ghill Donald; Gwyneth Fleming; Kevin Hague; Amanda Harvie; Sheila Low; (Prof) Ronald MacDonald OBE; Elaine MacKenzie; (Dr) Richard J Marsh; Sir Iain McMillan CBE FRSE; Baroness Nosheena Mobarik CBE; Jack Perry CBE; Guy Stenhouse Allan Sutherland; Ivor Tiefenbrun MBE; (Prof) Adam Tomkins MSP; (Cllr) Derek Wann

Scottish Business UK, Station Road, Eskmills, Musselburgh

We must go solo

The GERS figures illustrate how being part of the Union doesn’t work for Scotland when compared to other similar sized independent nations as Scotland’s GDP is estimated at £177 billion, Finland £209bn, Denmark £264bn, Ireland £291bn and Norway £322bn. Despite devolution, Westminster controls 40 per cent of Scotland’s spending and 70 per cent of our taxation as well as the main economic levers but can’t transform Scotland’s economy.

Although Scotland is the best performing area of the UK outside London and the South East, the vast inequalities in regional performance in the UK are the greatest in Europe and raise questions about the suitability of the current economic and political models.

Almost 30 per cent of the total Gers deficit (£4.5bn) is interest levied for the UK’s national debt, which, under international law Scotland is not liable for post-independence. In addition, £3.4bn is removed from Scotland’s accounts for UK defence (Ireland spends under £1bn), plus £2.75bn for other UK services home and abroad, all of which a Scottish Government with different priorities could reduce.

Many small European countries have matched the UK’s Covid financial response and last year Norway’s government raised almost £22bn from oil and gas revenues compared to the £650m attributed to Scotland, which is a lasting testament to Westminster’s mismanagement and over generous tax allowances.

Unless we take the opportunity to change things with self-government, Scotland’s fiscal position will only get worse after Brexit as the UK, despite consistently failing to balance its books, faces a decade of austerity.

Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

Show working out

The annual furore over the GERS figures is now in predictable full swing. No one has ever seriously uttered the populer secessionist grievance mantra of “too poor, too small” with regards to Scotland.

But this isn’t 2014 anymore. Oil prices have plummeted. Covid-19 is still playing out, in ways that can’t be predicted. The global economy is reeling and climate instability is increasing. How much would an independent Scotland borrow, how would the deficit be dealt with (and it would need to be dealt with)?; increased taxes or a reduction in services, or both? Or neither? How would Scotland be a competitive place for business?

The SNP need to start tackling the “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” of Scottish independence with a rigorous, hard ,factual honesty they have yet to muster, lest we vote for a 21st-century version of the Darien Scheme at some point in the future.

Surely the people of Scotland deserve better than the “Nah, it’ll be fine” attitude that the SNP have been pedalling for six years now with regards to Scottish secession.

David Bone, Hamilton Street, Girvan, South Ayrshire

We’re resourceful

It is sad to say that some who would refer to themselves as Scots appear proud of the fact that under the current constitutional arrangements Scotland seems, at least on a superficial level, to be subsidised by the rest of the UK. Of course not only is this assessment distorted because Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England are apparently more heavily “dependent” on the largesse of “Londoners” but because only tax revenues directly attributable to Scotland are included in Scottish revenues raised, while non-directly attributable “expenditures”, such as defence, are pro-rated by Westminster.

Of course the deliberately conjured smoke and mirrors hide the slanted workings of the UK economy, which leverages resources from outside of the south east of England to maximise the financial growth of London. Scotland was effectively in surplus for most of the last four decades but not only was no “oil wealth fund” created for the benefit of future generations, Scotland did not even obtain close to a population proportion of the massive infrastructure spending in and around London, an economically debilitating relative predicament which is set to continue for the foreseeable future (eg HS2).

The people of Scotland are just as capable as those of our southern neighbours but we can only prosper in accordance with our collective talents when we can invest all our resources in our own country.

Stan Grodynski, Gosford Road, Longniddry

Liable to win?

What Martin O’Gorman (Letters, 27 August) and others who are trying to run down Scotland seem to forget is that if we take our share of the UK’s liabilities, we also take our share of its assets, which may turn out to exceed them.

Hamish McKenzie, Grange Loan, Edinburgh

Classroom clarity

It would be a pleasure to enlighten Gill Turner (Letters, 26 August) as to where the “pejorative term” for Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) she refers to may be heard: just spend a few weeks in most Scottish schools and you are likely to hear it. I can only assume Ms Turner is part of a school management team, as rank-and-file teachers often conceal their opinions of this curriculum from superiors.

The introduction of this so-called curriculum coincided with a decline in standards and a widening of the attainment gap, not to mention an on-going crisis in excessive workload for we education professionals.

Tests such as PISA which expose the failure of CfE are derided by supporters of John Swinney, as Gill Turner does by quoting an anti-PISA article in the Times Educational Supplement. Since this august publication is widely known to be infallible, she may surely rest her case in triumph.

F Scott, Morningside Drive, Edinburgh

Terminally sad

I feel profoundly sad. A headline in today’s Scotsman (26 August) reads “Abortion rate second highest ever” and the article goes on to inform us there were 13,583 terminations carried out in 2019.

We are saddened when we read of one death or many following tragic accidents or, just now, due to Covid-19 . But this figure is of 13,583 dead babies last year. On the very next page is the headline “IVF screening hit by pandemic”, referring to many couples desperate to “create” babies having to wait longer than usual.

At the same time, in hospitals throughout the country, there are Intensive Neonatal Nurseries where, with terrific professional expertise, staff are striving to save premature or very ill babies every day.

Every life is God given and very precious. Is anybody listening ?

Dreena White, Coupar Angus Road, Blairgowrie

Plan world party

After Mike Scott of the Waterboys, in his curmudgeonly old Scot guise of “Big George”, responded on Twitter to Van Morrison’s claims about Covid-19 being pseudoscience, could we please have him write and perform the next BBC Hogmanay comedy show instead of the usual chancers recycling Denis Law and Frank McAvennie jokes for the 30th year in a row?

He’s become so irascible in his old age, it’s a delight. Nothing more bitter than a disillusioned aged neo-hippy!

Mark Boyle, Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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