Letters: Democracy is not fit for purpose

These letters appear in the September 17 edition of The Independent

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Scotland’s voters go to the polls tomorrow to decide the fate of the whole of the United Kingdom. They represent just 8 per cent of the total population of the UK. Yet all that is needed under our present democratic system is that just over 4 per cent can determine the fate of the remaining 95.5 per cent.

Since democracy implies that the will of the many prevails, there is something very wrong with the democratic process we have if such a small number of people have the potential  to break up a union, which has endured for more than 300 years, and put back the economic recovery of the nation – there is already a run of investors withdrawing funds from the UK. Whatever the outcome of this poll, we must take a serious look at whether our democratic process is fit for purpose.

Anne MacCallum
Milton Keynes


I am against Scottish independence and the SNP for the same reason I dislike Ukip and its agenda: they are both separatists. In both cases, the primary motivation is their belief that “their” country is best, and is being damaged by “foreign” governance. In their minds there is no inclination to work together, to foster understanding and agreement, to try to build bridges. They would rather blow them up. The lesson from history is that, if peace and prosperity is what you want, unity beats division.

Richard Walker
London W7


It is disappointing to see the tired arguments being repeated about English taxpayers subsidising Scotland through the Barnett formula (Letters, 10 September). The formula does not take into account non-identifiable expenditure in each part of the UK, or the tax raised by each of the home nations. It was a quick fix created by the Treasury in the 1970s in preparation for devolution, and allocated tax spending on size of population and not a nation’s actual needs. All Westminster parties have let Barnett linger on rather than upset the status quo. Maybe independence will allow Scotland to tax its population intelligently and distribute the revenue according to need.

Ian McKenzie


The Scottish anti- Westminster rot started when Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a “guinea pig” for her controversial poll tax. It’s all gone downhill since and unfortunately I feel too many Scots are looking for an excuse to kick the “auld enemy”. I honestly do not believe that the full implications have been appreciated. I believe that we are all sleep walking into a disaster.

Richard Topping
East Sussex


The companies warning that they will relocate in the event of a Yes vote in tomorrow’s Scottish referendum doubtless have legitimate concerns about their costs and commercial viability in an independent Scotland.

However, there is a more fundamental and worrying (for democrats) point which is being overlooked, namely the enormous power now wielded by big business. It seems that in any poll now, be it a referendum or general election, people can vote for whatever or whoever they want but, ultimately, corporations and the City will decide whether the people’s will is acceptable or not. If people make the ‘‘wrong’’ choice, the business community will wreak havoc.  

Imagine the outcry from the Tories and their media friends if the trade unions warned that their members would withdraw their labour en masse in the event of a Conservative government being democratically elected! The power of big business and the banks now seems to be so great that capitalism and democracy have become incompatible.

Pete Dorey


We can see where the real interests of the No campaign lie from the jostling mob of bankers and big businessmen trying to intimidate and subvert the democratic process by predicting economic ruin if Scotland dares to break free from its bondage to Westminster and the City of London. If for no other reason, a Yes vote is necessary to send an unequivocal message to the plutocrats that it is the people, and not the markets, who rule in a true democracy. 

 The Union was made in the interests of England, it has operated for 300 years in the interests of England, and it is the English political and financial establishments that are desperately struggling to preserve it in their own interests.

Adrian Marlowe 
The Hague, Netherlands


I was amused to read your report that The Great American Patriot (for such was his overpowering love for that country that he could only consummate it by becoming a citizen) Rupert Murdoch, is supporting both Scottish independence and Ukip.  It cannot be perverse to wonder how a US citizen – someone prepared to renounce the enormous privilege of being Australian  – can presume to play a major role in influencing British politics. Can Murdoch be someone with whom any decent British public figure would consider it seemly to be associated? There was Hillsborough. His papers hack into the phones of murdered children. Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage should pause to consider whether they are demeaned by a connection with a man whose influence on British public life has been cheapening and foul. In the meantime voters should pause to contemplate what their association with this unpleasant man tells of each.

Michael Rosenthal
Professor Emeritus
University of Warwick


While the debate has rightly concentrated on the hard issues such as economics, it seems likely that emotional factors will play a large part. Unfortunate then that the emotional offensive has been limited to the Yes campaign. Many Scots are presumably unaware of the warm affection felt south of the border for their nation and for the Union, and of the simple sadness which a separation would cause here. Perhaps they should be told?

Kevin McBride


Baffling u-turn on tumour treatment

In December 2012, High Court judge Mr Justice Body ruled that Neon Roberts, a child with medulloblastoma, be given standard postoperative craniospinal irradiation despite his mother’s wishes to the contrary.

The judgement stated that ‘‘alternative treatments were not in Neon’s best interests and not a viable option at the centre of excellence at which he was being treated’’.

Justice Body also went on to advise that ‘‘Britain and France were two of the leading authorities in cancer treatment and that if people shopped elsewhere for opinion they were doing their child a disservice’’. In contrast, in the recent case of Aysha King (another child with medulloblastoma), family court judge Mr Justice Baker ruled that he be allowed to travel to Prague for proton beam therapy, rather than have the standard and well proven conventional radiotherapy recommended by his medical advisers  (and indeed enforced on Neon Roberts by the judgement in December 2012).

The inconsistency in judicial opinion underlines the difficulty faced in managing such situations.

Proton therapy is not routinely used for medulloblastoma in the NHS, because it has few (if any) proven advantages over conventional radiotherapy techniques in this particular situation. It is also not presently available in the UK and necessitates complex logistics for transporting and maintaining a critically sick child overseas. This in itself can cause delays sufficient to negate any possible benefit of the treatment.

After the case of Ayesha King, it seems as if a degree of ‘‘shopping around’’ has now been officially sanctioned.

The NHS necessarily promotes proven therapies and pragmatic solutions. It will be unable to support this degree of implied parental choice.

This desperate state of affairs is likely to promote huge anxieties in families of other children diagnosed with brain tumours. And to critically undermine their relationships with their treating physicians.

Michael Carter
Consultant paediatric neurosurgeon, Bristol


Solar panels – not in my backyard

I write with regard to the piece about the rural Hertfordshire solar farm and the objections to it.

There are hundreds of acres of suitable sites for solar farms, aside from farmland. I refer to all the huge industrial warehouses and distribution centres. They are entirely suitable, if only the tax breaks were appropriate and equable. If building regulations for such developments included hot water or photovoltaic panels as standard, there would be no complaints over cost disadvantages. Surely the scale involved would reduce unit cost? Is this not better than individual householders irritating their neighbours or farmland being used for panels – even if it the land is regarded as poor quality?

Michael Snaith