PETER A Russell (Letters, December 28) poses a question to GR Weir (Letters, December 27), and the rest of the independence movement: “How would that deficit be avoided – through higher tax or lower spending on services or both?”. It is a question which excludes other considerations.
Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s entire offshore wind power resources, 25% of its tidal energy resources and 10% of its wave energy potential. In 2018 Scotland accounted for 24% of the UK’s renewable energy generation. As well as this there is also tourism, whisky, video game expertise. If, given Scotland’s advantages, GERS sets out the result, is it not possible that Scotland making its own decisions for itself could not be any worse?
However, even his use of GERS is problematic. There are at least four difficulties with using a report about Scotland as a region of the UK to make the claims he does.
First, multiple UK-wide costs are applied to Scotland that Scotland has no control over. Given the differences in opinion between England and Scotland, expressed in the form of MPs elected, at the very least this means that such expenditure is not reflective of Scottish opinion and so possibly changed on independence.
Secondly, these costs are applied to Scotland on a population basis, irrespective of where the money is spent and with no consideration to the economic benefit of this. As George Rosie pointed out 30 years ago, this is a major boost to London and the south-east.
Thirdly, UK debt is also attributed to Scotland on a population basis. Yet, even if we accept GERS as accurate, it is arguable that since 1980, given the contribution of oil to the UK Exchequer, Scotland’s contribution to UK debt is probably, at worst, neutral.
Fourthly, many important taxes are under the control of Westminster without reference to the situation in Scotland. For instance, Westminster has chosen to cut oil taxation when oil remains an important part of the Scottish economy, and by cutting tax contributed to a rising Scottish GERS deficit.
And of course, oil, reverting to my first point, demonstrates the utterly inadequate management of Scotland and its resources over the years. Norway generated £17.684 billion from oil and gas in 2015 but the UK Government only generated £222 million in 2016/2017. With its sovereign wealth fund the Norwegian government proposes to pay half of its citizens’ energy bills above a price floor in the coming months. Instead Scotland gets Brexit.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.
I AM PREPARED TO TAKE THE RISK
I APPRECIATE Peter A Russell’s response to my letter of December 27, however, I think he perhaps gives the UK Labour Party too much credit for the various social improvements in post-war Britain. The UK has seldom led in legislation and support for working families; for example, the world’s first widely-recognised national health service was introduced in Germany in 1883, and the other elements of a civilised society he describes exist in other countries and often these days at a higher and more sophisticated level than here in the UK.
Mr Russell and other unionists certainly enjoy emphasising the world “nationalist” as a pejorative, but a far as I’m concerned it just happens to be derived from a word in the name of the party I currently (emphasis on currently) vote for; for national party read independence party as far as I’m concerned.
Mr Russell also includes in his letter the catch-all claim that “the nationalists have failed to show us how their alternative would be better”. Let me answer like this: until the unionists can show me how things are not going to get worse in what is rapidly becoming a benighted UK then I am prepared to take the risk on Scotland’s obvious physical and geographical advantages, as well as the well-demonstrated moral and intellectual capacities of its people.
John Jamieson, Ayr.
SO NOW WE’RE A PRINCIPALITY?
I SEE Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (or should that be Sir Bufton Tufton) believes that on Covid the “principalities” are out step with England (“Scotland ‘out of step’ as no new England restrictions before 2022”, The Herald, December 28).
Scotland a principality! Jings, crivvens!
I’ve conducted extensive research and found we do not have a crown prince; that being so may I offer myself for the job. I’ve often fancied myself cutting a dash in doublet and hose.
John Boyle, Ardrossan.
WE ARE REPELLING INVESTORS
THE Mayor of Teesside, Ben Houchen, says three major foreign investments in their new Freeport should have gone to Scotland. It seems investors may have balked at the SNP/Greens’ less attractive Greenports and the uncertainty of their anti-Brexit and pro-independence policies.
In 2021 almost £6 billion of manufacturing investment went into the Midlands and north-east England, through companies such as Aston Martin, Hitachi, Nissan, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Kraft/Heinz and Siemens for green automotive and renewables projects such as the £2.4bn British Volt giga factory in Northumberland. Only £31 million came here, for a new assembly hall for Babcock Rosyth.
Scotland once had a slick inward investment operation that attracted almost every major computer company here. England’s “red wall” is seen as something to be “levelled up”. Scotland’s “Yellow/Green” wall seems designed to repel investors from fast-disintegrating Caledonian North Korea.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.
THE BASIS OF CIVILISED DEBATE
I FEAR I am unable to understand the logic behind Malcolm Parkin’s objection to prioritising the NHS (Letters, December 27).
Surely, with Covid case numbers spiralling, if the NHS is not protected as much as possible, many more of the people he would prefer prioritised will simply suffer and die at home, without care or help, when there are too few staff to match the need. After all, we already know that hospital staff themselves are being drastically affected by this variant. Prioritising NHS capacity will see more of those in the general population getting the attention they need.
Could this complaint perhaps indicate an element of antipathy to the SNP Government, as seems inherent also in Bob Scott’s letter of the same date? There is normally a constant stream of complaints that the SNP Government is neglecting to push the independence cause, because of its focus on the pandemic.
Strangely, though, the likes of Mr Scott and Mr Parkin never object to the Tory Government at Westminster working on the subject of independence, having used our taxes to do secret polling on attitudes to independence, the results of which they refuse to tell us, even after a court of law has instructed them to publish them.
Long may The Herald, however, continue to print a wide range of opinions, thereby allowing readers to learn how others think. That is surely the basis of enlightened, civilised debate.
P Davidson, Falkirk.
UNDERHAND WAY OF GATHERING DATA
I WAS asked the ethnicity and identity questions like Mark Smith (“The question I didn’t expect on jag day: Are you British?”, The Herald, December 27). My brain was in jab mode and I just unthinkingly answered the questions. I regret that.
This is not just a survey, producing anonymous statistics. It appears to be an underhand way of adding data on personal characteristics permanently to our individual health records. The Government sees it as “a good opportunity to improve its data”. That was not made clear to me, to Mr Smith, nor, I expect, to almost everyone being asked.
The way it is being collected contravenes the basic principles of data protection. I was not informed that it would be retained permanently on my personal record, why it was being collected, what uses it would be put to, whom it would be shared with, or who the data controller would be (for queries and complaints).
I worked for many years in the NHS as an analyst and analytics team head. I also chaired a local research ethics committee for some years. I know from the inside the temptation to try to improve data and the great temptation to use it in ways not intended or thought of when it was collected. The more questionable uses were typically driven by people working in policy who saw only the benefits and not the downsides of personal data collection and use. Lacking a grounding in data ethics, they dreamt of interlinked databases that could assemble all the public sector data about every individual in the country, often with limited consent.
Is the Information Commissioner aware of this data collection and content with its unethical failure to obtain informed consent?
Dave Gordon, Scone.
* MARK Smith’s discomfort on being asked for his nationality, on presenting himself for the simple but vital procedure of a Covid vaccination, is palpable. He should be warned to exercise extreme caution, and keep the smelling salts to hand, should he be reporting results from a lateral flow device.
Unless he has taken the test for a specific purpose, for example for his job, he will find himself directed to the UK Government website, where he will – eek! – be asked the same question. It couldn’t be, could it, that both governments are singing from the same hymn sheet?
Ian Hutcheson, Glasgow.