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- Arts + Ents
Monday 16 January 2012
Letters: England's anthem angers Scotland
Scottish nationalism would not be the force it is today without the perverse decision by the (England) Rugby Football Union to use the British national anthem for the England team (letters, 11, 12, 13, 14 January).
In the 1960s, to be a Scottish Nationalist was the equivalent of declaring your religion as Jedi Knight. No one took them seriously. Scots would be desperate for their team to thrash England at Murrayfield, but at the end of the match they were still as British as the men in white.
Several decades of rugby as a televised spectator sport have changed all that. How can a young Scot who grows up seeing the British national anthem being used to represent the "enemy" team feel fully British? You could not devise a better way to alienate an entire people. It screams, "You are second-class citizens".
Why on earth did the RFU allow this damaging and illegitimate use of the British anthem? A simple phone call to the effect that HM did not approve of her British anthem being appropriated by just one of the four UK constituents would have settled the matter and we'd all be singing "Jerusalem" instead.
A whole generation of Scots has grown up to think of "Britain" as no more than a vehicle for English arrogance. It didn't have to be like that.
I studied and worked in Edinburgh for some years and return regularly to visit Scots friends. I admire the distinctiveness of Scottish culture and the open friendliness of its people. I am well aware of the roots of many of the Scottish hangups about the relationship of the two nations, and I accept that the English sometimes unthinkingly encourage the perception of arrogance.
But many of us have Scottish colleagues and friends we admire, and if some English people are indifferent through ignorance to the distinctive world across the border, the English in general are well-disposed towards both Scotland and Scots.
To imply that the Scots have an affection for England and the English which has never been reciprocated is frankly bizarre. Any English person who has lived in Scotland has to get used to a constant drip, drip of tribal anti-English sentiment, often low-level, sometimes seemingly jocular, but also occasionally quite virulent feelings that the English simply do not feel in return.
In Scotland, for the sake of a quiet life, one just gets used to agreeing that everything (the religion, the law, the education, the sense of humour, the food, the alcohol, Burns rather than Shakespeare, etc) is better north of the border. The truth is that some things are better in one country and some in the other, but most are just different, and we should cherish the difference.
I seem to recall that it was Alex Salmond himself, some years ago, who said one good reason for independence was so that the "Scots could stop greet'* about the English".
Mr Miliband needs better researchers. At last Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, he referred to the BBC as an example of shared values of Scotland and England. Does he not know the BBC is often referred to here as the Biased Broadcasting Company?
We had blanket coverage of the Tory, Lib Dem and Labour party conferences and next to nothing of the SNP in Inverness. Why can a pro-Unionist such as Andrew Neil have a politics show discussing the Scottish question, as he did last week from Edinburgh, with only two pro-Unionist journalists and another two (Lord Faulkes and Sir Ian Blair) in the studio in London? Is this balanced reporting?
We pay our licence fee as well but are not being fairly represented by the (mainly English-controlled) print media or the broadcasting system. Shared values? We Scots are more inclusive and supportive of our fellow human beings than any of the American-type values we hear spouted from all parties at Westminster.
Gove's charter for school bullies
Mr Gove's proposed fast-track firing of teachers provides a bully's charter (report, 13 January). The sort of headteacher characterised by Chris Keates (NASUWT general secretary) as from the Apprentice school of management will use these powers to harass staff they regard as a threat to their own power.
It already happens and this will simply make it worse. I am aware of one such who recently informed staff that "this is a business", to the dismay of the many who thought they were there for educational purposes.
No one in education disagrees with the need to be able to remove incompetent teachers. But these ill-thought-out proposals will destroy staff morale in schools all across the country.
Philip de Jonge
Michael Gove, in his recent media interviews, is suggesting that he is happy with teachers who maintain control and improve pupils' performance (14 January).
There are many bad teachers who just teach to the test, keep order in the classroom and get good results. There are also many teachers who educate beyond the test and instil real understanding and also keep good order and equally get good results.
Exams are so formulaic that the bad teachers are never found out. Mr Gove should go after poor-performing examiners first, before taking on poor-performing teachers.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Tut-tutting from stage left
Like Tiffany Jenkins, I am tired of "political" theatre ("Political theatre's final curtain", 28 December). It plays to a virtually 100 per cent middle-class audience of the liberal-left persuasion, and does nothing to challenge its beliefs or ideas. So the chattering classes sit smugly and tut-tut in their upholstered seats.
Last year, our local theatre put on John Lillo's The London Merchant; a fascinating piece of 18th-century right-wing agit-prop, in which an apprentice goes to the bad, and ends up on the gallows. Apparently merchants paid for their apprentices to go and watch it. This provoked a lot more interesting discussion than your average political whinge. It would be nice to see it done in London.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Considered debate on immigration
The conflicting messages on whether immigration is linked to short-term job losses in Britain serve only to confuse the public and an already politically charged immigration debate ("Government admits EU migrants do not hurt British jobs market", 11 January)
The impact of immigration on jobs, services and GDP must be measured accurately. But, as Professor Metcalf, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, himself noted, "assessing the effects of migration was not a simple matter". We must base policy decisions on the result of careful research and considered debate. Without this, we run the risk of rushing into ill-informed policy decisions that may adversely affect the UK.
Keith Vaz MP
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, House of Commons
Europe's response to banking crisis
Ben Chu ("If we want to get tough on banks, Europe should set a better example", 4 January) argues that European banking regulation is more indulgent that Britain would wish.
Mr Chu's article contains unsubstantiated political assertions but is short on facts. The European Commission's proposals on bank capital requirements follow internationally agreed standards and allow individual countries to go even further when necessary. There has been a major recapitalisation of European banks masterminded by the European Banking Authority.
The evidence, clear for all who wish to see it, is that an international banking crisis caused by poor management, weak regulation and inadequate supervision in key financial centres requires an international response. The idea that countries can go it alone is thoroughly discredited.
Director General, Internal Market and Services,
Just a second – time is too fast
In your article "Seconds out: bid to alter the world's time" (10 January), you perpetuate the misleading idea that positive leap seconds have been used since 1972 because the rotation of the Earth is slowing. It is true that it is expected to slow but it is now spinning faster than in the 1970s
The main reason why it has been necessary to insert positive leap seconds since 1972 is that the length of the second, as defined in the International System of Units and used by atomic clocks, has been too short for 86,400 seconds to fill up a whole Mean Solar Day. A leap second "holds back the hands" of an atomic clock for one second so that it is more closely synchronised with astronomical time.
Former Director, Hong Kong Royal Observatory, Frome, Somerset
Liverpool is alive and booming
John Bradshaw (letters, 2 January) offers "observations" of Liverpool as a declining city. I offer evidence to prove the opposite. Tourism figures for 2010 show that there was an increase of 8 per cent in staying visitors in Liverpool and 4 per cent in day visitors over 2009 (comparable national figures showed a decline of 5 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively). The £920m Liverpool One shopping development has helped to make the city one of the top five most popular retail destinations in the UK. Peel Holdings have announced a £10bn investment in Liverpool and Birkenhead docks.
Terence Blacker has misquoted me. I have not referred to Jeremy Clarkson as a "leading cultural export" ("Spare us 'cultural exports' like Clarkson", 13 January). What I actually said before a select committee last month is that Top Gear, the programme, not Jeremy Clarkson as an individual, is probably one of the leading "cultural" exports from this country. That is merely a statement of fact. Top Gear is one of BBC Worldwide's top global brands: it is shown in 198 territories worldwide, there have been five local editions and there are 30 international editions.
Chairman, BBC Trust, London W1
Chris Bryant (A political life, 31 December) claims that the Labour Party has to moderate its policies to appeal to the middle and upper classes, or face losing the next general election. "In our moral indignation at the impact of the Government's policies on the poor and on the public sector, we could all too easily box ourselves into being just the party of waifs and strays." Since when were the poor and government employees viewed as "waifs and strays"? Labour should aim to be the party of the workers, including the poor.
What good news it was that David Cameron intends to legislate to give shareholders a veto on top executives' salaries in the private sector. I am sure that in the interest of fair play he will have independent shareholders (taxpayers) appointed to remuneration committees in the public sector. Maybe we shouldn't hold our breath.
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