If there were any further indications required that Nicola Sturgeon was losing her iron grip on her colleagues within the SNP, it was provided by Kenny MacAskill’s article in The Scotsman’s Perspective section yesterday.
Ms Sturgeon has continually asked the Scottish people to believe that her actions at this very difficult time are not borne out of her ideology for Scottish independence but only to do the best and right things for the Scottish people to get through this crisis.
Mr MacAskill’s article blows a huge hole in her pleas declaring: “The road to independence is open.” The saving grace for Ms Sturgeon is that his arguments within the article are at best weak and at worst ridiculous. While she has advised that the time for independence arguments are not now (ignored by one of her most senior MPs and indeed others), his article cannot be ignored. The simple fact is that the economic argument for independence is over.
How ironic that should the desire for independence have been successful in 2014, the financial support for Scotland required and provided at this time would still have come from the Exchequer and the Bank of England and which the nationalists wanted to retain as “lender of last resort”.
Therefore this financial support for Scotland, supposedly as an ‘independent’ country, would have come from a foreign country. I will not even ‘enter’ the oil price and loss of revenues since 2014 into the argument but will say that the proportion of the enormous deficit (currently estimated to be over £400 billion) that will be attributed to Scotland as the ‘share’ of the deficit after this crisis will be eye-watering.
Positives can always be drawn even after the darkest of times, and it is now clear to most sensible people that the UK is immensely stronger together in a national crisis whether there are some minimal differences in dealing with it or not.
Braehead Loan, Edinburgh
In his Perspective column Kenny McAskill claimed: “Scotland and England are clearly diverging and the coronavirus crisis has highlighted that.”
His words were published on the day that we learned of Scottish golfers driving south to play on courses from Berwick upon Tweed to Carlisle and that Scottish anglers were eager to cross the River Tweed to cast rods from its English banks.
Thank goodness sportsmen and women see the benefits of our continuing union and open border; may their message spread.
As the great Quaker Rufus Jones said: “I believe in small circles gradually transforming the whole.”
May we continue to be peoples of two nations living in harmony and unity along a common open border, also enjoyed by Scots who cross daily to buy cheaper alcohol and much more.
(Canon) Alan Hughes
Berwick upon Tweed
It is interesting that those who seem impatient to end the current lockdown in Scotland, either out of genuine frustration or out of a compulsion to impose their own political agendas on events, seek to portray the First Minister as being out of step, not the Prime Minister who is acting differently from all three leaders of the devolved governments.
According to Bill Jamieson (Column, 14 May) “searching questions are being asked as to why First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted on a separate regime”. Such a comment not only infers that he has spent too much time listening to Jackson Carlaw and/or his ‘mates’ but that he has not been looking at the charts presented at the UK Government’s coronavirus briefing.
Even a cursory examination would reveal that while London has clearly past a significant peak of people in hospital with Covid-19, there have not been comparable peaks in admissions in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Certainly any objective analysis would not conclude that recent slightly downward national trends in the associated statistics provide confidence for changing lockdown rules in step with London and England.
At the start of the pandemic a key objective of the UK government, as echoed repeatedly by Matt Hancock, was to “flatten the curve”. The fact that the First Ministers of the devolved nations have had more success in achieving this than the ‘First Minister of England’ should not be used as an ‘excuse’’ to bring their demonstrably justifiable decisions into question.
Gosford Road, Longniddry
The Letters page of 14 May shows conflicting opinion on the the values of having devolved governments in the UK. I personally agree that there are currently a lot of decisions (or in the case of Nicola Sturgeon lack of decisions) being made for the sake of being different from what is said in Westminster.
The Scottish Government can pretend that they need to stick with the UK government’s original message of ‘stay at home’ because of a higher R number here, but where exactly is ‘here’?
Taking Scotland as a whole, the R number is skewed due to a few areas and the scandalous lack of protection of care homes. There are large areas of Scotland which have barely been touched by the virus, which could have had far fewer restrictions from the start with the application of caution and are suffering economic and social consequences for weeks more, due to what is happening miles away.
A proper government for Scotland would recognise and act on regional differences. Unfortunately the centralisation enacted by the SNP and their need to promote Scotland as a uniform entity different from the rest of the UK for their independence cause prevents this happening.
Easter Road, Edinburgh
I would ask where is the legitimacy in the First Minister’s statement about maintaining patient confidentiality as her reason for not advising the public about the outbreak of Covid-19 in Edinburgh at the Nike convention.
In Scotland, the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 was amended with effect from 22 February, 2020 to make coronavirus a notifiable disease.
Furthermore, disclosures in the public interest are a tenet of the procedures given to doctors by the General Medical Council in the case of communicable (notifiable) diseases without patient consent.
David Lawson, in his Local Government Lawyer publication of 7 February 2020, comments that it is also possible that area quarantining (local lockdown) could have been carried out under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. This applies to the whole of the UK.
In conclusion, I would aver that the scientific advice to the Scottish Government was that there had been an outbreak in Edinburgh in February as the BBC Disclosure programme aired last Monday revealed, but this information was not shared with the ‘People of Scotland’ nor rigorous preventative action taken to quarantine the local area.
Gill Turner attacks my account of the 51 Highland Division’s fate in France in 1940 as a ‘travesty’, but fails to explain why (14 May). They were not ‘left behind’ as they were not part of the British and French forces evacuated at Dunkirk, but were based elsewhere.
She does not dispute that the Royal Navy did attempt to rescue them, as I said, but were unable to do so. She asserts that they were sacrificed for “the political expediency of keeping the French in the war”, as if that was a bad thing. I find that hard to comprehend when we were in a very confused situation which Churchill had inherited barely one month before, yet she says that we should not “whitewash Churchill’s less than glorious part in their capture”.
Yes, Britain wanted France to fight on and to defeat the Germans. I cannot see anything disreputable in British soldiers who were already under French command continuing to do what their orders from the French demanded of them while attempting a fighting escape from capture.
That they failed is hardly Churchill’s fault and to suggest it is is to fail to understand the utter mayhem that the Allied forces were facing following the German Blitzkrieg attack.
Andrew HN Gray
Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh
Andrew Wilson is right to say that university education needs fundamental reform (The Scotsman, 13 May). We have to accept that Covid-19, compounded by Brexit, is going to make us very much poorer for the foreseeable future.
Mass university education is beginning to look like an indulgence. Outside the STEM subjects it is debatable whether a large proportion of the students, or the country, gain anything from it.
And there is a double cost, to the public purse of fees and the loss of three or four years of students’ productive working lives.
A palliative might be to offer two-year degrees provided by distance learning. Recent US experience has shown this to be as effective as the traditional form of learning. This would produce large and necessary savings. And given on-line dating, the function of universities as marriage markets is surely no longer needed?
Glanville Place, Edinburgh
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