The Scotsman readers' letters: If Ireland can make an impact, so can Scotland

Although not much reported this week in our GB media, US president Joe Biden, in a speech on Thursday, said: “Ireland is a global force in culture and in the arts”, and referred to “leaders on the world stage, members of the United Nations Security Council and a country with a future that’s going to shape the world”.
US President Joe Biden at the annual St Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill this week (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP)US President Joe Biden at the annual St Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill this week (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP)
US President Joe Biden at the annual St Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill this week (Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

He also praised Ireland’s willingness to take in Ukrainian war refugees, adding: “What Ireland is doing now, taking in Ukrainian refugees, speaks so loudly about your principles”.

This is an extraordinary endorsement of Ireland’s place in the world’s community of progressive nations and it probably comes as a surprise to most Brits that little Ireland, our “poor relation” next door is actually a member of the UN Security Council and a big hitter on the world stage, with deep, enduring connections in Washington, Brussels and elsewhere around the globe.

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The contrast with isolated and impotent Scotland is stark. Ireland has a smaller land mass, population and natural resource wealth base than Scotland and yet the GB media is full on a daily basis of assertions that an independent Scotland would fail – including from our own Scottish unionists (Tory, Labour, Lib Dem). One only has to glance at youthful, vigorous, prosperous, confident, connected Ireland, now getting into its stride 100 years after its own independence, to see that these north British unionist assertions are absurd.

Given that Scotland’s natural wealth exceeds that of Ireland’s, it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that either Scots are (a) idiots, or (b) unaware that they are being continually lied to and exploited by the UK and its government, media and career politicians. Which is it folks?

D Jamieson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Out of touch

Nicola Sturgeon would have us believe that she is in tune with what “the people of Scotland” want. Clearly not.

Time after time, surveys show that on top of the majority not wanting separation from the rest of the UK, a clear majority do not want the government to be wasting time, money and effort on preparing for a referendum. How many civil servants are tied up preparing the latest fictional release called a White Paper? Could they not be put to better use getting accommodation and support in place for our homeless and those in poverty, as well as helping with the Ukrainian work?

Not on the First Minister’s watch. All she wants is the headlines and the photo opportunity of helping Ukrainian refugees and to keep dangling the carrot of a referendum just over the next hill. The Ukrainians deserve all the help they can get from the many countries around the world offering support. Our own most vulnerable deserve help too.

Theresa May said it was not the time a few years ago, pre-Covid and pre-Ukraine. What will it take for Ms Sturgeon to get the message that she is focusing on the wrong issues?

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Moray

Rotten edifice

P&O’s sacking of 800 workers was only possible because the UK left the EU and the EU’s employment protections. Presumably, ministers knew this as they expressed their faux outrage. French and Dutch P&O workers didn’t suffer the same fate.

On the same day, the Bank of England raised interest rates again, which won’t cool an inflation that's fuelled not by an overheated economy but by Brexit and oil and gas prices. The impact will be to push more families into debt and poverty and allow hedge funds and banks to fatten their profit margins.

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There’s a common theme here. The UK Government doesn’t care about the welfare of its citizens. If it did, it wouldn’t have left the Single Market, sold off our public assets, bungled the pandemic, starved the NHS and shredded the social safety net. They have done these things because it makes them and their corporate donors richer. That’s what they care about. And Labour’s silence speaks volumes.

Scotland has known this since 1955, the last time it voted for a Conservative Government. We need to escape this rotten edifice before it comes crashing down.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Who nose?

Despite being someone who has chaired a UK Public Inquiry and so is biased in favouring the efficacy of such an investigation, I advise Mary Thomas (Letters, 18 March) to wait for the outcomes of the Covid ones before making sweeping statements about the efficacy of face masks, and national differences during the pandemic. The science is complex; omicron BA.2 (which grows particularly well in the nose) is currently causing more cases per head of population in Scotland than other parts of the UK despite more stringent face mask rules north of the Border.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

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Tartan tack

With the best will in the world, it is impossible to see anything other than a determination on the part of the First Minister to be different and, somehow, Scottish, in what she does. What is best for health and welfare does not seem to come into her decision-making. In her keeping the regulations on face masks for weeks after the other UK countries have given it up, she has gone out on a limb.

How else could her continuing ban be explained when those following policies set in the rest of the UK have a lower incidence of Covid infection?

Has her rampant nationalism really reached the knee-jerk stage where everything the rest of the UK does is immediately dismissed as being non-Scottish and therefore wrong?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Whole truth?

Another day and yet another instance revealing the culture of secrecy at the heart of this SNP government appears in the Scotsman (18 March). In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request relating to the £50 million the SNP has dished out to consultancy companies in the last ten years one of the documents they released was totally redacted. Having conceded they redacted too much, they sent a fresh copy which was only heavily redacted! This was due to “concerns around commercial confidentiality”.

Full marks to Scotland's Auditor General in his dealings with the SNP. A FOI request from the Times newspaper reveals that SNP ministers attempted to cut out criticism from his report on the SNP's record on closing the attainment gap. They wanted him to replace “limited” in describing any improvement with “significant” and to change his finding that the gap remained “wide”. He refused.

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The SNP similarly sought changes in the OECD report on education succeeding, for example, in forcing a change from a “decline in Maths and science” to “stable in Maths and Science”. They are still resisting demands from the Scottish Information Commissioner to release a copy of the original OECD report along with their “suggestions” as to how it could be made less critical of them. Perhaps this latter is one of the four current cases where suppression of information has forced the Scottish Information Commissioner to take rarely used measures in an attempt to elicit information – so far, to no avail. What we do know about the SNP's record in government reveals a litany of failures especially in the supposed “priority” in the 2016 election. Their unashamed attempts to suppress the whole truth suggest that things could even be a whole lot worse.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Expose lies

The largest problem about war on Ukraine is that it could happen again. Putin’s ludicrous demand for demilitarisation of Ukraine reflects a real need: demilitarisation of Russian state media and their straitjacket of lies. Most Russian people believe a fantasy world of Russia confronted by enemies waiting to strike.Russians do not need conquests. They need freedom to hear the truth. They would never elect a criminal like Putin again.The keys to the future are a working democracy and freedom of expression in Russia. Russia would be on its way to integration in Europe, to the immense benefit of Russians.

Tim Cox, Bern 6, Switzerland

Size matters

E Campbell (Letters, 17 March) is, I take it, a unilateralist – an ideal stance, but the converse of realism. In the history of technological development swords have always preceded ploughshares and the only guarantee of safety from attack is the convincing claim that “Mine's bigger than yours”.

This has been well demonstrated over the past decade. If Ukraine had not unilaterally given up its nuclear arsenal to Russia, would it have lost Crimea?

If Europe, and Germany in particular, had not so obviously neglected its Nato obligations and made so little protest over that event, would the current situation have arisen?

Returning to nuclear matters at home we can be sure that any attack on Faslane/Coulport has been well considered and precautionary steps taken – and we can be just as sure that any potential attacker is also well versed in this so would not waste resources on such a venture.

Nicola Sturgeon is on record as saying that a no-fly zone over Ukraine should be considered. It has been, and been repeatedly and wisely rejected by Nato – an example, I hope of the real power of nuclear deterrence?

(Dr) A McCormick, Terregles, Dumfries & Galloway

Stay still

There is a simple solution to the problem (your report, 17 March) of younger drivers not wearing seat belts.

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My car, an MG, will not move either forward or in reverse until the driver’s seat belt is engaged. Surely legislation could be brought in to make this compulsory on all new vehicles.

Bill Greenock, Netherlee, East Renfrewshire

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