Letters: Minorities’ rights crucial to democracy

Have your say

IN HIS commentary, Andrew Wilson refers to the institution of monarchy as “an anachronism” (Insight, 13 September).

Whilst both he and I are supporters of democracy, we clearly do not have the same definition of “democracy” in mind. The Oxford English Dictionary defines democracy as “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives”. This does not help us, as we would both agree.

The problem lies, I believe, in the US media’s popularity, and hence the popularity of the Gettysburg address definition “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. I personally believe in the British definition “rule by the majority with due respect to the rights of minorities”. These two definitions can only be distinguished if taken to the limit. The second definition, however, requires at least one non-elected institution to prevent the majority over-ruling the rights of a, possibly despised, minority.

There have been many examples in the 20th century of a political party that slowly builds up popular support, finally wins an election, and puts in place its quickest acting policies, which are very popular. As they progress the party becomes more and more popular, with the opposition growing weaker, a development encouraged by the now dominant ruling party. At this point disliked minorities are increasingly abused, with their rights whittled away on the basis that this is the democratic will of the “People”. What I have described is the ultra-extreme case of the Third Reich, which I am sure no Scot would call a democracy, but did fit “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Clearly the Third Reich does not fit the second definition, which requires the protection of the rights of minorities.

We do not need to go to this extreme to see the problems of the Gettysburg definition. In the US it took the unelected Supreme Court to act as a monarchical institution and to overrule the democratically elected politicians to allow native Americans to vote (finally enacted by all states in 1962), to allow mixed race marriages (finally enacted by all states in 2000), and to trigger the whole Civil Rights movement.

I submit that non-elected institutions, who can overrule elected politicians, are necessary for a working democracy: eg do you believe that the Scandinavian monarchies are less democratic than the South American republics or not?

David R Carruthers, Perth

Currency issue hyper-inflated

IN THE multifarious successful quests for independence that have seen the United Nations expand from the 51 nations represented at its first General Assembly in London on 10 January, 1946, to the current number of 193, postulating individual currencies has hardly figured. Why is this raised as some kind of ogre ready to squash Scotland’s quest for independence? It doesn’t make sense except inasmuch as Scotland likely has more currency options than many of the countries have had in their inception as independent states. Since when has a plethora of options been a problem?

There was an unseemly enthusiasm in the pro-Union camp in the first head-to-head indyref TV debate when one Mr Darling (the “Mr” title has been superseded I suspect with recent House of Lords credentials) repeatedly but­tonholed Mr Salmond about Plans A and B regarding ­Scotland’s independence currency. The same enthusiasm more than wafts today whenever the topic of another indy­ref surfaces.

But a little look at the successful independence quests of other countries should confer some perspective, because anyone checking this out will soon realise that choosing a currency has been a minor matter in the expansion of independent members of the UN General Assembly since its first meeting 69 years ago.

Ian Johnstone, Peterhead

High hopes for Corbyn as leader

NEW Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has secured an amazing near 60 per cent vote from Labour supporters rallying round him as a welcome and honest breath of fresh air to the party, bringing it back to basic Labour principles.

This will give new hope to Labour supporters and bring back many disillusioned ­Labour voters, especially in Scotland, in excellent timing for the May 2016 Scottish ­elections.

With new talk from the SNP of the threat of another independence referendum, this will be seen by many voters as a breach of promise by the SNP and they will vote accordingly.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen

JEREMY Corbyn is a man of principles, there is no doubt.

However, I strongly believe his position now as Opposition Leader of Her Majesty’s Government is going to have to see him slowly but surely lessen his strong stance on issues a little – he should have joined in the singing of the National Anthem.

Personally for me, his shirt and tie not being done up, was – given the significance of the occasion – a tad disrespectful too. He can be as casual as he likes for 90 per cent of the time, but there are occasions when we all need to show a certain degree of reverence.

Judi Martin, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire

Dairy milk as bad as formula

DANIS Tanovic relates how difficult it was and how much time it took to get his documentary film Tigers, about formula milk, made and says that people “were shocked that people would feed babies this kind of thing” (Spectrum, 13 September). Even if dirty water was not an issue, formula milk is still not suitable for babies anyway.

Much the same thing could be said in this country, only here dirty water is not an issue, simply the fact that so many babies are given dairy milk, something that more people would also be shocked about if they were made aware of the many serious health dangers caused by dairy in the human diet.

Sandra Busell, Edinburgh