Letters: Why Norway can never be a comparator for Scotland

THE Norwegian experience of oil extraction and the setting up of a reserve fund of approximately $1.15 trillion must be of interest to Scotland, as several of your correspondents have pointed out, but may not provide any lesson or cause for grief over a missed opportunity. The respective national circumstances are not comparable.

Norway’s achievement was only made possible in a world order to which Norway has contributed very little and the maintenance of which has been borne disproportionately by Britain and the United States. That world order provided Norway with the operational shipping routes, international transport infrastructure, a world financial order, reliable trading treaties and effective import/export rules and military superiority over international malign forces. These factors enabled the exploitation of Norwegian oil and the accumulation of the oil reserve fund.

Norway, on the other hand, has pursued a long-standing policy of military neutrality and exclusion of nuclear weapons and Nato infrastructure from its soil. If all of the nations of the free world had followed similar policies there would most likely be no free world and no place for a capitalistic economy such as Norway to thrive or even survive. This is now more than ever the case since Norway is reported now to derive more of its income from oil fund investment returns than it does from profits from its oil industry and is therefore more dependent upon a free capitalist world order than ever before.

This is not to grudge the good fortune of Norway which has, after all, to contend with a frontier with the Russian federation and has, in any case, contributed generously to the promotion of international, peaceful, not military, objectives. It is not, however, a legitimate comparator for Scotland.

Michael Sheridan, Strachur, Argyll.


THE most significant point in replies to my letter of February 3 by R Murray and Peter Russell (Letters, February 4) concerns whether a future Scottish independence referendum should be settled by 50 per cent +1 of the vote.

Of course, as R Murray points out, General Elections come along every five years, but the fact is that of the 13 referenda organised by several Prime Ministers, not just David Cameron, 50%+1 has been the criterion for success, with a single notable exception. The Cunningham Amendment to the 1978 Scotland Act required 40% of the Scottish electorate to vote in favour of a Scottish Assembly, as well as 50%+1 of those voting. Therefore, of all the referenda, UK-wide or in a single UK nation (for example, Scotland) or part of a UK nation (for example, 1998 in Greater London), the only exception to this rule has concerned Scotland, which the unionist camp now seeks to extend to another independence referendum. Therefore, while 50%+1 has become tradition through “custom and practice”, in Scotland it’s just not adequate.

Mr Russell is even more transparent as it is clear that his problem with 50%+1 is when he doesn’t agree with a proposition, such as Brexit. Actually we agree about the folly of leaving the EU, but is it really democracy to call for greater obstacles for a proposition that you don’t agree with? Or is it a symptom of realising that you are losing a debate?

In that regard, his claim that I see “no need for the nationalists to give us a detailed prospectus” is both wrong and quite telling. My often-expressed view is that both propositions – independence and the Union – should be critically tested. Mr Russell, though, considers the Union case requires none.

However, that aside, perhaps scrutiny is the answer, since if both propositions have been properly and thoroughly scrutinised in a public debate, devoid of baseless scare stories, and with equal access to the media, then, in principle, do we require an outcome above 50%+1? Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people: majority rule”. Majority, not majority + whatever percentage it is this week. If that majority has been achieved in open and fair debate, should it not be respected? Or do we look for inspiration to the late George Cunningham?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

* THE UK is formed by one nation with a substantial population, and three other minority nationalities. With no written constitution, it should be incumbent on the largest population to respect the rights of minorities, allowing them the same rules, prerogatives and obligations they enjoy themselves. The UK had an EU referendum in 2016, then a UK government (Theresa May) offered to hold a second EU referendum in 2019, with neither a majority in Parliament nor electoral approval (mandate) for it.

Messrs Murray and Russell think that Scotland should not be allowed a second independence referendum, but if one were to occur, then a simple pro-independence majority vote would not count. This is a dangerous nonsense, allowing no legitimate, democratic route to Scottish independence. Meanwhile, the Labour Party (whose nationalism it seems, is indeed, “British”) has stated it would stay neutral on a Northern Ireland border poll, whose constitutional “right to self-determination” is written into the UK constitution. Does Mr Russell agree with his party on this, and what size “super majority” does he advocate for that poll?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

* I NOTE the debate in your Letters Pages regarding the merits of various election voting systems in the UK.

Suffice to say that the British Establishment always picks a voting system to get the result they want. PR was introduced in Scotland to stop the possibility of the SNP sweeping the boards, both at Holyrood and in local councils, as demonstrated in the SNP waves of 1968 and 1974. In Northern Ireland, from 1921, a property vote and boundary gerrymandering kept Unionists in local council power. The current Northern Ireland system ensures a nationalist/unionist balance at Stormont. In multi-racial London, a unique 5% rule was added to PR to keep racist groups from gaining a major platform.

True to form, British supporters in Scotland want to change the Westminster system because it no longer produces the result they want.

Tom Johnston, Cumbernauld.


REBECCA McQuillan (“The real threat to independence that could save the Union”, The Herald, February 4) effectively counters the unrelenting nationalist opposition to giving the electorate a third option in a future referendum. She points out that two polls this month “show a dead heat between Yes and No”, the inference being that “Scottish politics sometimes seems to be condemned to attrition, but that’s only true if the third way option continues to be ignored”.

In this context I refer to the work of Our Scottish Future and its Commissions on Economic Growth (chaired by Professor Ronald MacDonald of Glasgow University), Health (Professor David Kerr, Oxford University), Environment (Robin Harper, former Green MSP) and Poverty. Each commission “aims to show how cooperative working by governments within the United Kingdom can deliver the change we all seek”.

Furthermore, in the first of a series of podcasts Gordon Brown discusses with the mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region “the nature of the UK, and on how their cities can work more closely with cities and towns in Scotland”.

This is work of real substance which should be welcomed by citizens of all party allegiances and none as a valuable and ongoing contribution to the constitutional debate.

John Milne, Uddingston.


AFGHANISTAN, not Ukraine, is the crisis the world should be acting on now. Not only are millions starving and many dying of lack of basic medicines, partly due to western sanctions, but many desperate parents are selling their children as the only way to avoid them starving to death.

The posturing by Russia and Nato governments over Ukraine is mostly an attempt by both sides to distract from domestic political issues. Even the Ukrainian President has said that the main effect of hyping up the prospects of a Russian invasion is to damage his country’s economy by worrying investors.

The US Government has told banks to allow money transfers to Afghanistan for aid, but banks may also need guarantees they won’t be prosecuted if some transfers aren’t for what they claim to be for. The Taliban certainly share the blame, but more needs to be done by everyone in power.

Ukraine has 200,000 troops, 400,000 veterans, thousands of tanks and artillery pieces, plus anti-tank and anti-air arms and training and the threat of sanctions on Russia from Nato countries to help it defend itself. Afghan children and their parents have no one defending them.

The media needs to focus first on saving lives, not on promoting the agendas of governments, nor even Boris Johnson’s farcical Partygate saga.

The suffering of the people of Afghanistan and the need to donate to the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC), plus the need to get governments to act to loosen sanctions and provide aid themselves, should be in the headlines constantly until they do what’s needed.

Some, limited sanctions are required to stop the Taliban getting arms and money for them, but the whole population of Afghanistan must not be made to suffer any more.

Duncan McFarlane, Carluke.

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