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Letter: Border issue

ACCORDING to Neal Ascherson, nationalism has been a powerful force in Scotland for more than 20 years ("English politicians travelling north will not soothe Scottish discontent", 3 December). But what about the referendum of 1979 when the Scots failed to vote for an assembly? And the findings of the latest opinion poll in Scotland, which shows that a devolved parliament comes way down the wish-list of voters - behind employment issues and better provision for health and education?

For the best part of 300 years, the Scots have been content to be part of the unified parliamentary state of the UK, in which they are over- represented. I submit that what has made them deeply dissatisfied more recently is not some timeless, divinely ordered nationalism, but 16 unrelenting years of Tory rule which has driven through a neo-liberal economic revolution on a minority of votes drawn primarily from southern England, used the Scots as guinea pigs for the infamous poll tax and abolished their regional councils.

I suggest that Scots' commitment to the British Union will be rekindled neither by establishing a separate and costly parliament nor by the visit of the odd minister, but by a Westminster which has the confidence to restore the powers of Scottish local authorities, and which is committed to creating a UK social market which offers new employment and fair pay and taxes, and properly funded public services. But can new Labour stop running scared of Nationalists?

Simon Partridge

London N2