Letters: Civility of the Scottish debate is cause for pride

These letters appear in the 12 September issue of The Independent

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An important feature of the Scottish referendum is how relatively civilised debate has been. Nearly all the struggles to change the integrity of a nation state throughout history and up to the present day have been horribly violent, marked by terrorism, repression, guerilla or civil warfare. Regardless of Yes versus No, I suggest that nearly all involved can feel proud of the current debate.

Still, complacency would be unwise. Whatever happens on Thursday, difficult times are ahead. It is to be hoped that people and institutions will refrain from panic or reprisals (economic, for example),  for we know from world history that stress can easily lead to violence and violence can easily escalate.

The times require a  spirit of cooperation.

Alan Cottey

Norwich, Norfolk


What has left me astonished by this campaign has been the dog-in-the-manger attitude so frequently expressed south of the border, including in your correspondence columns.

Better Together has repeatedly warned about the dangers of separation in ways that sound like threats.

What a contrast with the SNP’s repeated statement that in the event of independence it would look to England as its best and closest friend.

Why could not Better Together muster the same grace, to promise that whatever the outcome, the remainder of the UK would work with Scotland to ensure future success for all four countries?

David McDowall

London TW10


Protect the NHS from the privateers

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Staten (10 September), whose letter I read sitting in Meyrick ward of the Whittington hospital, north London. The reason I was sitting there was that on Monday my husband collapsed. The ambulance arrived with seven minutes: his condition was stabilised by the paramedics before a drive to A&E at a speed and with a skill that a racing driver would have envied.

They had radioed ahead and the resuscitation team was waiting. My husband then had a further cardiac arrest. One of the paramedics took me into a side room, gave me tea and tissues and all the necessary information. That team worked on him for most of the night and today he is out of intensive care and being coaxed to recovery. And he is 92 years old.

The NHS is something to be proud of – perhaps the only thing in our greedy and meretricious society. We allow it to be sold off to money-grubbing privateers at our peril.

Betty Cairns

London N22


Dr Staten tells of how he has seen NHS morale fall in the six years since he qualified. Having qualified in 1971, I have seen much greater change.

Patients today have much greater expectations than of yore. You can’t blame them – more treatments are available and they are bound to want the best for themselves and their families. But ours is a society in which people know their rights. Some waste time and money by not turning up for appointments; some are abusive, disruptive, or even physically threatening.

Politicians make great promises. But we have reached the point where all our resources could be poured into healthcare if we chose, leaving nothing for education, defence, policing etc. There is a pretence that by meddling with management structures the NHS can be enabled to continue to improve on a shoe-string. It can’t. Obviously choices have to be made about what can be funded. Our leaders should be honest, and say so.

We all, as potential patients, should remember that with rights go responsibilities. It is our duty to be moderate in our demands, to live healthily and contribute to the avoidance of waste.

And politicians should tell the truth. Either we pay higher taxes for better services, or lower our expectations.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell,  South Gloucestershire


It is a shame the inflammatory front page question (“Ashya King makes it to Prague – but will the pioneering treatment he receives ever make it to Britain?”, 9 September) was unanswered until the final paragraphs of page 11. Proton therapy centres at UCLH in London and the Christie in Manchester are due in 2018 and will replace the existing overseas referral programme.

Gregory Smyth

London SM5


A rose by any other name?

Peter Jones (10 September) points out that “billions of people have expanded their cultural horizons despite not studying Latin”. While the botanical taxonomy system created by Linnaeus provides an accurate way of naming plants for horticulturalists, it means little to many others. In a public-spirited exercise the RHS website gives the taxonomic name and usually one common name which is helpful to the ordinary gardener.

As a garden tour guide at a National Trust property, I have for many years attempted, without success, to get the Trust to change its policy of taxonomic names only and have replacement labels made with the RHS common name added as secondary information. Including such a label on all plants in public gardens could enhance the educational value of a visit for many garden enthusiasts.

While admiring the brilliant red autumn foliage of a shrub labelled Euonymus alatus, the addition of “Winged spindle” would surely make the experience more memorable.

Peter Erridge

East Grinstead, East Sussex


British railways are a success story

I write in response to James Moore’s claim that “rail privatisation has been a disaster” (10 September).British railways have been transformed over the past 15 years into the safest and fastest-growing in Europe, boosting national productivity by £10bn a year and generating £3.9bn a year in tax, offsetting nearly all of the £4bn government funding.

East Coast is not the only operator to make net payments to government. Train companies have increased the money paid to government to reinvest into more and better services from £390m in 1997-98 to £1.96bn in 2012-13. At the same time, average operator profits have fallen in real terms to £250m.

A recent report by IPPR concurred: “With more rail passengers than at any time since the 1920s, operators paying a net premium to government and... subsidy decreasing... GB rail is on balance a policy success.”

Michael Roberts

Director General,  Rail Delivery Group, London EC1