Probable cause

Have your say

I WISH that supporters of the Union would stop going on about “once in a generation” referendums as though this was an SNP promise or a statement of intent.

If they care to check, the origin of the phrase was during a television interview when Alex Salmond said: “In my opinion, this is probably a once in a generation opportunity to win independence.”

He did not commit the SNP to any future action. It was simply an opinion. 

The raison d’etre of the SNP is independence, and it is naive to expect the Nationalists to abandon their principles, unlike some other parties. 

James Duncan

Rattray Grove, Edinburgh

It’s hard to suppress a wry smile when listening to SNP ministers banging on repeatedly about Scotland being the victims of dastardly Tory ­austerity measures, as they were again doing at the SNP conference last week.

Perhaps the Mother of the Nation and her loyal flock have forgotten how much in debt to them the ruling Tory Party is for its election victory last year.

It was the SNP’s loudly avowed intention to “lock Cameron out of Downing Street”, bringing with it the spectre of coalition with a feeble minority Labour government shored up by and dependent upon a political party which had just tried to break up the UK, that undoubtedly boosted the Tory vote in England and gifted them a majority in Westminster.

Such naive and hubristic politicking, hallmarks of the SNP campaigning style which, ironically, puts party before nation, is rearing its head again to take us towards what looks like becoming a regular Groundhog Day.

Ian McElroy

Heathfield Road, Thurso

Your leader (14 March) comments on two points, perhaps without noticing that the two are connected – the biggest SNP election drive yet, and why they are not addressing the economic problems they face over independence.

The two are connected, ie, to their credit they have built up a great support, really keyed up and willing to go for a second independence referendum.

However, the leadership knows that their case on this at the moment is weak, and that a second defeat on this issue could be catastrophic. 

So, how to channel this ­energy – divert it into campaigning for the forthcoming election. Simple. 

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness, West Lothian

GERS win-win

Many of your recent correspondents have been greatly alarmed by the deficit brought out by the recent GERS figures and how this would have meant expenditure cuts and/or tax increases in an independent Scotland, had that come about. But there is good news for them. 

Chancellor George Osborne is planning continuing cuts to government expenditure for the foreseeable future. He is also going to increase the tax take by clamping down on tax avoidance – even that practised by his own government (your report, 14 March).

He may have cut income tax, especially for the better-off, but some experts calculate that increases in other taxes have more than made up for this and, of course, the Labour opposition, both north and south of the Border, is committed to increasing taxes.

As Scotland remains part of the UK, it will share in these cuts and increases, leading to a reduced GERS deficit, which will ease Unionist ­anxieties.

Presumably, it will also create a more benign climate for those favouring independence, so we have a win-win situation and everything is for the best in the best of all ­possible worlds. 

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Much of the response from SNP supporters to the release of the latest GERS figures is to fall back on the old argument their opponents are claiming Scotland is “uniquely incapable of self-governance”.

This has been the Nationalists’ strawman of choice for decades and embodied in John Swinney’s ludicrous catchphrase “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.

The question is not whether Scotland would be capable of independence, but whether Scotland would be better off through independence. The GERS figures comprehensively and conclusively demonstrate that we would not be.

The drop in revenues, 2.3 per cent in real terms is accompanied by a 1.5 per cent increase in spending – because of our continuing pooling and sharing with the rest of the UK.

There is no bad news for Scotland in these figures. A key industry in Scotland is ­suffering a real crisis, the public revenues have taken a big hit as a result but our spending, providing vital public services and supporting people in their time of need, has gone up and continues to be provided at £1400 a head more than the rest of the UK. Where’s the bad news?

This is precisely what the Union is for: when one part of the UK is having a hard time, the rest steps up to smooth out the pain. Don’t let the Nationalists fool you. There’s no bad news for Scotland in the GERS report, only bad news for Scottish Nationalism.

Fraser Whyte

Barclay Park, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire

Barn burner

I think it was once said in the hilarious hit comedy film ­Primary Colors that the fictional Presidential candidate Jack Stanton played so well by John Travolta remarks: “I will not go negative. Any jackass can burn down a barn.” 

Well the jackasses have burnt down the barn this time. Donald Trump is not the main issue in the American presidential campaign; he is the only issue.

No serious political arguments are taking place in the US now and no solutions are being advanced to the great American people for their problems.

As someone who has grown up in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall, I know history tells us the answers are not to be found in the simplistic solutions advanced by Mr Trump.

Writing from New York City I see a great city all around me, a beautiful city just at the beginning of spring. But I see a city with an awful lot of empty shops for rent. The contrast between rich and poor is ever wider. You see it when you cross over from Brooklyn into New York City itself.

When things go wrong, good friends should say so. I genuinely fear for the future of democracy in the US. I fear for what is a wonderful country, which should be so full of hope or promise for all its people and the wider world.

Nigel F Boddy

Fife Road, Darlington

Leaving message

The results of Sunday’s German regional elections are the latest sign that the times are changing in Europe. While the vote share of Angela Merkel’s CDU plummeted, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany entered the three contested regional parliaments, gaining 24 per cent of the vote in Sachsen Anhalt.

The success of three-year-old Alternative for Germany can be traced back to last summer’s reckless decision by Mrs Merkel to throw Germany, and indeed the European Union, open to mass immigration from the Middle East. 

Before that decision, Alternative, which was founded on opposition to the euro, had only limited appeal to German voters. After all, while the euro has been calamitous for Southern Europe and catastrophic for Greece, it has benefited German exporters by keeping their products price-competitive.

No doubt Mrs Merkel and the Brussels bureaucrats will be unmoved by these results.However, national governments eventually have to answer to their electorates; this is why so many of them across the EU are throwing up fences and new border controls in complete contradiction to the Schengen agreement.

This dysfunctional and anti-democratic arrogance in the face of popular concerns about mass immigration from the Middle East is yet another reason why the EU is doomed. We should not wait for the final act of this tragedy but vote in June to leave.

Otto Inglis

Inveralmond Grove, Edinburgh

A major problem as we approach the vitally important referendum in June on our membership of the European Union is that the public knows very little about the issues involved.

Everything about the workings of the EU is complicated and largely unfamiliar to most people. The fact that EU elections change nothing helps to confirm the public perception that the EU is not relevant to them.

The main political parties say little other than in general terms, because to do so would mean admitting they now have much reduced power and influence.

The BBC which should have been exposing the numerous failings of the EU over the years has not done so as it is strongly pro-EU. Instead of presenting a balanced picture of the facts on which people could make up their minds the government machine is instead promoting the absurdly one-sided “project fear” in the hope that this and ignorance will win the referendum for David Cameron and George Osborne.

It is to be hoped that real debate will take place over the next three months since the future of the UK as an independent democracy is in the balance.

John Hunt

York Road, North Berwick, East Lothian

Pity the grafters

Glasgow City Council has authorised the budget for 2016-17 which will see it cut employee numbers by 1,500. (Your report, 11 March). It says there will be no compulsory redundancy.

This is part of the plan to save £130 million over the next two years.

Councils all over Scotland are having to make cuts. It is significant that there seem never to be any cuts in the numerous tiers of top management whose salaries would save lower paid and far more important front-line jobs.

These higher paid “executives” never offer to reduce their salaries to help the workers at the sharp end. A reduction in salary for those earning more than £50,000 is long overdue to balance budgets.

Then there are the flocks of councillors and their salaries and expenses and extra payments for committee work.

Why do we need so many “political” councillors all over Scotland? The public sector gravy train rolls on favouring councillors and executives while the ordinary workers can only look on with envy.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian