Letters: Divided UK would be a tragedy for Europe

These letters appear in the 8 September issue of The Independent

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Whenever I hear about the imminent dissolution of the UK, my mood sinks. I was born in a country that split in two when I was six. The divorce of Czechs and Slovaks did not immediately hurt me as much as it did my parents (and especially my grandparents) who were born in a proud country but, more importantly, a relatively strong country, with a certain vision and a great potential.

What remained after the separation was a strange emptiness: two weak sister nations without any meaningful aspirations or ambitions and with extremely limited power to determine their fates, but with almost twice as many politicians and bureaucrats getting more power and opportunities for themselves.

When I was growing up, it was the period of Cool Britannia, inspiring the young generation all over the world. It gave rise to what is today one of the most valuable brands in the world. Surprisingly, there has never been any need for a special campaign. The advert has been displayed by millions of volunteers on their badges, T-shirts, handbags, socks, umbrellas or even underwear for free.

The Union Jack is arguably the most popular flag in the world, not only because of its likeable design, but more importantly for what it represents.

The secession of Scotland would not only constitute an unwelcome disturbance to the audience that follows the story of the country they like, but more importantly, it would harm a fragile balance of power in Europe. The UK, as a power that has helped to prevent the rise of any potential hegemony on the Continent at several critical moments of modern history, would be largely neutralised.

If we lose the UK in its current form, the dominance of France and especially Germany in the EU is going to increase beyond a healthy level.

I may never see Czechoslovakia on the map of the world again. However, if the Scottish voters decide to secede, this cannot be the final outcome of the Union’s story. To us, it would only be the start of a quest for a reunion – the only possible happy ending for the inhabitants of the British Isles and of Europe.

Petr Witz, Domazlice, Czech Republic

The Scots will vote yes. And the rest of us will owe them a debt of gratitude. Their vote will send symbolically, in the only effective way our current democratic system permits, these messages to all our politicians:

We want not a change of government, but a change of politics. You lack the competence to run the country, and the vision to lead it. You lied to us and deceived us into an illegal war. You cheated and stole from us. A privileged, privately educated 7 per cent permanently holds up to 73 per cent of positions of power. Our representative democracy entrenches a profoundly unrepresentative power structure. The privileged power elite are not held accountable or punished for their venality, incompetence or mistakes.

We are justly proud of our NHS and the inspirational ideals that underpin it. We want those principles preserved, not undermined by subversive privatisation.

Good luck, Scotland. We respect your courage and admire your confidence.

Keith Farman, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Over 100 years ago one of Scotland’s most principled sons, Keir Hardie, became MP for Merthyr Tydfil, a Welsh constituency at the heart of the South Wales mining community. He was not Welsh and did not speak Welsh but he did share a socialist dream that did not stop or begin at national borders. He went on to change the face of British politics, but he also taught us that there is more that unites us than what can ever divide us.

Soon Scotland will have the choice of remaining within the UK or going it alone. What it decides will have a profound effect on the working-class people of the rest of Britain. Without the red army of Scottish Labour MPs, the chances of any future progressive government being elected at Westminster would be much reduced.

As a proud Brit and Welshman, I urge you to keep sending more Scottish working-class heroes, like Hardie, to our British Parliament. Please don’t leave us now. Together we can achieve more than we can being alone.

Rob Curtis, Labour Councillor, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Barry, South Wales

NHS has a case of chronic myopia

It would be reassuring to think that the sad case of Ashya King and the myopic attitude of the NHS to proton therapy was a rare event, but it illustrates the flawed process through which some treatment programmes are supported and others rejected.

When I developed severe angina almost 10 years ago, I discovered that some doctors in the US routinely reverse the condition, that their patients do not need stents or bypasses and take minimum medication, and that their methods had been published in medical journals.

I followed their treatment plan, reversed my heart disease and resumed a normal life in less than six months. Needless to say, the method is not part of the NHS programme.

My neighbour and her son had both been diagnosed as type-one diabetics and had been injecting themselves with insulin for 15 years. Using methods published in medical literature, but again not currently part of the NHS programme, they were able to give up insulin and bring their blood sugar levels into a normal range through lifestyle changes alone.

Why is it so difficult to get the NHS to open its mind to treatments that can benefit patients and save money but are not part of its current practice?

Why do patients need to look to other countries to find more enlightened solutions to their health problems?

Peter Lewis, Cardiff

Nato’s rapid – and dangerous – reaction

Your cartoonist Ben Jennings is off the mark in lampooning Nato’s rapid reaction force as a tortoise with a couple of rockets attached. Neither militarily nor politically is this correct. Britain is taking the lead, with 1,000 troops and UK officers in charge.

This is combined with another semi-permanent deployment of Nato forces on training exercises in eastern Europe, including another 3,500 from Britain, as well as an open invitation to all countries on Russia’s borders to join Nato. If I were Putin, I’d feel obliged to increase force levels and look for further support to strengthen my borders.

Politically, this has been an extremely rapid reaction, with David Cameron consulting neither Parliament nor the wider public. All this amounts to a dangerous, British-led provocation and escalation, when what is needed is empathy and careful diplomacy.

Quentin Deakin, Tywyn, Gwynedd

The only obstacle to Putin’s dream of recreating a Russian Empire is Nato.

His scheming is all based on provoking some sort of reaction by a Nato country to his military activity, albeit by alleged separatists.

So far, he has got away with invading part of a country whose independence was guaranteed by Russia, shooting down a civilian airliner with more than 200 dead, and all the death and destruction in Ukraine.

Nato will be declared an enemy of Russia after some minor response, whereupon he will claim justification for cutting off gas supplies to western Europe. At which point, he hopes, Germany, France et al will think twice about the merits of belonging to Nato, compared with frozen homes, industries and economies.

Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire

No benefit payout unless you pay in

Yet another think tank favours a radical change in how the NHS and healthcare should be funded. The answer in all such “radical” debates, however, seems to be increasing the tax burden on the working public.

Why doesn’t government address the basic problem – that is, getting more people contributing to the tax system?

People who have never contributed to the system draw on state benefits. Get these people out of the benefits system and into employment, and tax those who will benefit; ie, if you haven’t paid in, then there’s no paying out.

Ron Connelly, Dalgety Bay, Fife

Two comedians and double standards

Alice Jones’s piece on Joan Rivers in the 6 September edition, the same one in which you had an article on the “anti-Semitic French comedian’ Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (“Comedian may face prosecution over sketch about Isis executions”), suggested double standards at work.

For Rivers, everything was “game for a gag”, including dead Palestinians. I struggle to find humour in the statements of either “comedian”. But M’Bala M’Bala is always labelled anti-Semitic. Why, then, is Rivers not denounced for what was by any standards a vile racist rant? Instead, we are told that it was an attempted gag in which she “stumbled badly”.

Is it not time we called a vile racist rant what it is, and denounce whoever makes it for racism?

Keith Jacobsen, New Barnet