AS we begin what will no doubt be another challenging year, the battle between your pro- and anti-independence correspondents and columnists rages on. To my way of thinking however, the choice is quite straightforward. On the one hand you have the arguments that Scotland is a well-educated, industrious, enterprising and creative country, rich in natural resources that enjoys a global reputation and a lot of international goodwill. In addition, there are many examples of countries of a similar or smaller size who function very well as independent states.
These are hard facts, as is the evidence that while inevitably the Scottish Government has made mistakes during its time in office, the SNP has demonstrated sufficient competence to be re-elected by the Scottish voting public. Furthermore, the SNP has never suffered the sort of by-election trouncing that we have seen for the Tories in Chesham and North Shropshire.
On the other hand, you have yet more of Project Fear with very little in the way of substantive argument to justify the claim that we are indeed “Better Together” – because demonstrably we are not. The years of Tory austerity have hammered our public services and hit the poorest hardest. Indeed, large chunks of the English public service have been privatised with the inevitable flowing of cash into the pockets of directors and shareholders. I think that you would struggle to identify an example of English public service that is in better shape than it was in 2010.
It is truly shocking that we are now seeing poverty on such a scale as would have shamed our Victorian ancestors into some sort of action. Thousands are struggling to heat their homes and have to depend on the charity of food banks. Meanwhile the wealthy supporters of the Tory Party can run rings round our lax tax laws and park their fortunes in offshore trusts and bank accounts. London, the money-laundering capital of the world, is now the home of overseas oligarchs and crooks.
Whereas I think that we can look with admiration at the manner in which our First Minister has led Scotland through this awful pandemic with intelligence, compassion, courage and honesty, can anything positive be said about the present UK Government? Westminster is characterised by inexperience, incompetence, sleaze, cronyism, arrogance and corruption. We have a Prime Minister utterly unsuited for the job whose moral compass is drawn constantly to his own self-interest. Having turned our backs on the EU, the largest trading bloc in the world, the UK now cuts a pretty isolated and friendless figure on the international stage.
So my choice is for facts not fear.
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.
INDEPENDENCE WOULD BE MUCH WORSE
IT is time to draw a line under the ongoing argument between the respective virtues of social democracy and nationalism. However, before doing so I would like to advise your readers to test Alasdair Galloway’s assertion that “indy Scotland could not possibly fare any worse” (Letters, December 29).
The simplest way to do this is to take a realistic look at Scotland and its undoubted problems and challenges – and then ask if these would be cured or exacerbated by the application of public expenditure cuts of the order that would be necessary without fiscal transfers from England. These are roughly equal to the entire cost of the Scottish NHS. Likewise, they could examine the outcomes of Brexit and ask themselves how and why Scotland leaving the Union would be any better – there is no evidence whatsoever to inform us that it would or could be.
In both cases, there is no nationalist solution, and my interlocuters are betting on fantasies rather than believing the best available information. Personally, I will stick with the social democratic ideal, which as Lesjek Kolakowski tells us, “requires, in addition to commitment to a number of basic values, hard knowledge and rational calculation”. These are precisely what is lacking from the nationalist agenda.
And in the meantime, there is much that is wrong with Scotland and the rest of the UK, but no-one should believe for a second that it could not be much worse to be independent: I am sure that if Scotland’s literary community were not so deeply in thrall to the SNP, someone could imagine a very realistic dystopian vision of that bitter future.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow.
WHISKY A SOURCE OF SHAME
ALASDAIR Galloway lists whisky among Scotland’s assets and John Jamieson claims that Scottish people are “moral” (Letters, December 29).
However ethyl alcohol, including vat whisky, is a highly addictive drug with a substantial mortality and morbidity in Scotland, indeed is Scotland’s most dangerous drug. That Scotland is a reliable source of a highly addictive and profitable drug is a source of shame now and a toxic legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Of course whisky is produced in Scotland, sold in Scotland and exported by commercial organisations exploiting the brand; not by Scottish people other than as employees of the commercial organisations. Thus SNP and supporters can find someone else to blame, as is their wont in this and many other matters. Nevertheless the source is in Scotland; and the responsibility of the Scottish people cannot be shelved completely, in the style of Pontius Pilate.
William Durward, Bearsden.
PROBLEMS WITH PALLIATIVE CARE
THE subject of assisted dying is a complicated issue and has been discussed at length on these pages and in detail by Dr Shaun Peter Qureshi (“Why, as a physician, I oppose assisted dying”, The Herald, December 28). The good doctor states: “I wish to work towards the alleviation of suffering.” I commend him on his intentions.
The difficulty lies in the interpretation of what is already on the statute books. When palliative care is interpreted by staff as assisting death and the patient denied any comfort for fear of breaching guidelines then the statistics that “11 Scots a week die badly in spite of [palliative] care” or “99% of dying people do not die badly”, are of little comfort to the patient or those in attendance. It will not assuage the grief, prevent the guilt or the occurrence of PTSD often suffered by those left behind; to have witnessed one “bad death” is one too many.
Dr Kathryn Mannix’s suggestion that “dying will probably not be as bad as you think” may not offer the desired reassurance. Death happens only once in a human being’s life. It should be an indication of a compassionate society that it be conducted as humanely as possible.
This, I accept, is the aim of palliative care; however, this brings us back to the interpretation of law which is why legislation should be examined scrupulously to prevent any misinterpretation. There should be no room for doubt as to the legality or otherwise of “making the patient comfortable”.
Maureen McGarry-O’Hanlon, Balloch.
* I WAS extremely impressed by the Agenda article by Dr Shaun Peter Qureshi. With his knowledge and experience, he explained things in such a clear way I now know where I stand on the matter.
Thank you, Dr Qureshi.
Mary Duncan, East Kilbride.
LIBRARIES HOLD KEY TO SUCCESS
I STARTED my working life as a library assistant in Glasgow Corporation Libraries, so I agree strongly with Frances Scott’s defence of libraries (Letters, December 30).
Sensible parents all over the world know that the key to success is education, and the library is the way in. The Government tells us that we must be computer-literate; the library comes after the school on this journey. Short-term thinking does not pay.
Margaret Forbes, Kilmacolm.
THE EIGHT-YEAR ASHES SEQUEL
AGONISED inquests have been taking place over the humiliation of England’s cricketers Down Under (“Anderson bats away concerns over divide”, Herald Sport, December 28). Once again England’s batters have been tormented by fast bowlers: Gregory and McDonald in 1921, Lindwall and Miller in 1948, Lillee and Thomson in 1974-75, and Starc and Boland now.
Test matches between England and Australia began in the 1870s and there has been fierce rivalry all the way. Each side has suffered crushing defeats and inflicted huge victories against the other. It is a remarkable statistic that England’s biggest win was followed in the next match by Australia’s biggest. At the Oval in 1938, England made 903 for seven declared, and won by an innings and 579 runs. The Second World War then intervened. Action was resumed at Brisbane in 1946, when Australia scored 645 and won by an innings and 332 runs. There have been long periods of Australian supremacy, which have ended with England regaining the Ashes, notably in the Coronation year of 1953 and in 2005.
Their supporters will be hoping that England can devise the means to break the stranglehold once again.
Christopher Reekie, Edinburgh.
THE PING-PONG BALL FAIRY
IT was useful, in our house in wartime Lancashire at Christmas time, to have a member of the local Auxiliary Fire Service (the AFS) on the premises. My dear Dad, as well as being a bookbinder, was an AFS member. Mostly fighting fires down in Liverpool.
Up went the small artificial tree and paper-chains, on Christmas Eve when I was in bed, so I came down to a magic place on Christmas morning, before we all went to chapel. The tree lights were real small candles in clipped-on holders and were kept alight for short periods. Dad hovered around with the fire blanket. My wee auntie would say “ee, it’s reet magic”.
There was a fairy on the tree made from a coiled piece of cardboard, a lacy doily and a celluloid table-tennis ball for a head, with an inked-on face. She had wings too. I loved her and she lasted for years. The glass baubles, which had probably fallen off the back of a lorry on the Liverpool docks, are still in use on my son’s tree 80 years later.
It has been such a treat to read of other experiences of Christmas long ago (Letters, December 28, 29 & 30). I sat in the glow of my wee stove on Christmas night and thought about being that child again. I got out my ancient edition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge becomes a decent and kind man and Tiny Tim does not die. Over Hogmanay I will read Dicken’s The Cricket on the Hearth, which is a “fairy tale of home”, wrote Dickens, and has “three chirps” (chapters) to read. Lovely.
A Happy New Year to all the journalists and readers of The Herald, hopefully with better days ahead.
Thelma Edwards, Kelso.