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Saturday 10 May 2008
Letters: Independent Scotland
A financially independent Scotland would easily balance its books
Sir: I enjoyed the article on Scottish independence (The Big Question, 9 May). It was unusual for a London-based media outlet to give such a fair and balanced view, but there are a few small points I would like to raise.
In the unlikely event that Scotland kept the monarchy, William will in fact be William III. I guess you forgot about the great Scottish 12th-century monarch William the Lion.
You talked about oil revenue, but didn't mention that malt whisky is an enormous tax generator, and that we also have fish, coal, and a most modern of commodities, water. Articles on the Scottish budget always overlook the national expenditure on projects such as the London Olympics and the Channel Tunnel, which take money out of a national pot but don't offer a real benefit to outlying parts of the UK. Whatever happened to our direct Glasgow-Paris train? I feel comfortable that the Scottish budget will balance its books, if for no other reason than that we wouldn't waste money on pointless wars.
Last, the polling on Scottish independence is complex. For about a decade, the independence option has garnered about 35 to 40 per cent support, but this is usually against a backdrop of three options and it is usually very close between maintaining the status quo and independence. There is still a small minority who favour the abolition of the Scottish Parliament.
The most important poll figure, however, is that 80 per cent of Scots want the constitutional question settled by a referendum. I believe that the SNP, having won the right to control the Scottish Parliament, also have the right to control the timetable and set the agenda.
Sir: The debate on Scottish independence raises an interesting question. As every citizen should know, the current Union Flag has the St Andrew and the St Patrick saltires "counterchanged", and only half the St Patrick cross is present. If we are to lose St Andrew's cross and all that blue, will St Patrick be represented by his full cross? If so, it will end all those arguments about the flag being upside down.
The critics of the critics of Israel
Sir: I doubt that your attempt to balance Johann Hari's comments on the loathsome smear campaigns launched against him for his exposure of Israel's wrongdoings (8 May) with Dominic Lawson's paean to Israel's "kindnesses" to the Palestinians will mollify Israel's fervent backers in the West (Opinion, 9 May).
As the US is the Jewish state's most significant guardian angel, the defence of project Israel takes on an even more feverish pitch here. There is not a single established politician who dares criticise Israel for its unremitting oppression of the Palestinians or risks expressing the slightest sympathy for Palestinian aspirations to freedom with justice without facing an onslaught. It bears all the hallmarks of the red scare of McCarthyism, with the labels "Holocaust-denier", "Islamic-terrorist supporter" and "Jew-hater" substituted for "godless communist".
Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have all been trying to best one another in heaping the greater praise on Israel as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. And not one of them will risk mentioning the concomitant Palestinian misery.
New Britain, CONNECTICUT, USa
Sir: It would appear that, in Johann Hari's little world, I do not exist. I am among many others in a majority that is unfashionable at present: a Zionist who is not uncritical of Israel.
I was concerned to read Mr Hari's earlier piece on raw sewage in the Palestinian territories. However, he has totally destroyed his own argument in his latest petulant piece of anti-Zionist white noise . I could point out his intellectual arrogance of assuming, as do Jews for Peace for Palestine, and Independent Jewish Voices, that any British Zionist Jew takes his instructions from a McCarthyite central Zionist cabal, but one thing stands out. If, as Mr Hari claims, attempts to say anything anti-Zionist in this country are stifled, why is such comment so ubiquitous in the media?
A journalist with as many awards as Mr Hari ought to understand that people are entitled, independently, to their opinions, however much he may disagree with them. To use his weekly democratic platform to attack anyone who dares to disagree with him (for that is how it reads) lacks . . . what is the word? Decency.
Sir: Thank goodness for Johann Hari's sense and courage. He is absolutely right that the smearing he identifies is bad for Palestinians, Israelis and indeed Jews everywhere. We must be able to discuss freely the plight of Palestinians in order to push governments here and especially in the US to force Israel to abandon its current counterproductive policies.
As Hari says, some of us can't even mention well-attested facts about Palestinian suffering without having the epithet "self-hating Jew" flung at us. Those of us who are not religious can still recognise the best of the old Jewish ethics: you can easily reframe them within a humanist perspective, and it's those values that are most threatened by the hack peddlers of obloquy.
Dr Brian Robinson
Who poisoned Litvinenko?
Sir: I wish to correct several misstatements and omissions in Mary Dejevsky's article on the Litvinenko case (2 May) , which included a long interview with me.
When Ms Dejevsky says that Boris Berezovsky's charity supports me, she leaves out the fact that his support is but a tiny fraction of my income, which is mostly derived from proceeds from my book, and from the film rights. My lawyers and publicists work pro bono. My publishers pay for my travel and book promotion. Contrary to the impression that the article creates, I am not Mr Berezovsky's tool, nor financially dependent on him or anyone else, and I am completely free in what I say or do.
Mr Berezovsky never owned the building at 25 Grosvenor Street, nor had any connection to the Erinys security company, where polonium was found. The article uses this misrepresentation to establish a link between Mr Berezovsky and the shady world "of former British intelligence agents" and MI6 – something that the Kremlin propaganda has been peddling all along.
Ms Dejevsky innocently repeats the conclusion by an American journalist – courtesy of an "exclusive" Russian leak – that the British case against Mr Lugovoi "is extremely thin". Had Ms Dejevsky consulted any lawyer, she would have learned that the extradition process does not require any evidence at all – just the summary of charges on the assumption that the suspect would get a fair trial. No one suspects that Mr Lugovoi would be tortured or put on a show trial in Britain, which Russia routinely does to its opponents. So the Russian protestation of the lack of evidence in the extradition request is not legally sound and is but a trick to shield the accused murderer.
When Ms Dejevsky sat down with me for an interview she should have asked for my reaction to her apparently favourite theory that my husband killed himself accidentally while smuggling polonium. I would have told her that this assertion – which also first originated in Moscow – does not stand up to elementary logic. If my husband had known it was polonium 210 that was poisoning him, he would have informed the doctors – not least because he was in the most unbearable agony. And he would not have allowed me to care for him, putting me and our son at risk. He was a man who loved life and loved his family. If he could have saved his life, he would. The truth is that he died without knowing what killed him.
One thing that I agree on with Ms Dejevsky is that a public inquest is needed to establish once and for all whether my husband was murdered by a barbarian regime using a radioactive weapon, or was killed accidentally while smuggling polonium as your article seems to suggest.
Sir: Mary Dejevsky suggests that Alexander Litvinenko was not poisoned on 1 November 2006 by envoys of the Russian secret service, as British authorities contend, but was involved in some sort of nuclear smuggling operation that went wrong. According to her scenario, Litvinenko was the source of the plutonium that killed him and contaminated his Russian colleagues, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, who met with him in London the day he received his fatal dose.
But Dejevsky fails to mention that Kovtun, who flew from Moscow on 28 October to visit his ex-wife and children in Hamburg before joining Lugovoi in London to meet Litvinenko, left such significant traces of plutonium in his ex-wife's home and elsewhere in Hamburg that he was charged by German police with illegal possession of radioactive materials.
Vitriolic campaign against Livingstone
Sir: Thanks to Andrew Gilligan for giving me such a laugh on the way to work on Monday ("It was not the Standard wot won it for Boris", 5 May). Perhaps I have been reading a different Evening Standard from the one he refers to. I cannot recall a more vitriolic campaign against one person from a newspaper in all my years, and this from a paper that is supposedly representative of London.
The one thing the Evening Standard hates more than Ken Livingstone is the glorious city of London itself, a city that welcomes everyone, no matter their religion, sexuality or race. A mayor who celebrated diversity was never going to gain their approval.
The least we could have expected from the only London paid-for newspaper was transparency and independence.
MPs must defend our abortion rights
Sir: The next target for anti-abortion campaigners may well be a 13-week limit ("Abortion: the battle lines are drawn", 9 May) , but let us be clear: their ultimate goal is to render all abortion illegal, contrary to the wishes of the 83 per cent of British people who support a woman's right to choose, and to return to the dire days for women before the 1967 Abortion Act.
In the coming weeks, MPs must not be duped by mendacious misrepresentations of scientific fact and siren voices calling for a whittling away of a woman's right to choose. They should vote to defend the gains of the 1967 Act and the 24-week limit.
Sir: I am so sad to think that someone who is a doctor and an MP would continually vote for the destruction of life. Doesn't Evan Harris find himself moved by these pictures of unborn children?
But the big fear is: if they allow this to happen to children, how far away are we from committing the same genocide against those who are old and mentally incapacitated? If this happens, it shows how far we have digressed as people with morals and ethics, willingly taking the policies of 1930s Germany and adopting them as our own.
Fr John McCallion
Coalisland, Co Tyrone
Tackle alcohol abuse rather than cannabis
Sir: While I agree with your criticisms of Gordon Brown's tabloid-inspired reaction regarding the reclassification of cannabis to Class B ("Reefer madness", 7 May), there is still a large pachyderm lurking somewhere in the corner of the lounge. I refer to alcohol, the real issue when considering harm to young people and damage to society.
Whereas evidence of harm caused by cannabis is tenuous, the damage caused by alcohol, abused far more widely and excessively, to both society and the human organism, is well documented; from crimes of violence against people and property to physical disease, which puts incalculable strain on the NHS.
Gordon Brown should tackle the real, not imagined, problems affecting the quality of life in Britain today.
P J McNeill
Sir: New Labour officials are once again demonstrating that they are woefully ignorant of conditions on the ground – in this case in youth and drug culture. In reclassifying cannabis, they have sent out a dangerous message, that taking Class B drugs including amphetamines and psychostimulants is only as dangerous as "smoking weed".
Sir: The US-led Coalition invaded Iraq to help its people. Why don't they invade Burma, where they could genuinely help the Burmese people? Is it because they couldn't get their hands on some oil?
Cameron the killer
Sir: I note David Cameron considers himself and his Tories "progressive" (Opinion, 9 May). However, there are millions of people in the UK who care deeply about animal welfare who may disagree with that label to describe anyone in favour of living creatures being ripped apart in hunting activities, even if David likes to refer to this as "country pursuits"!
Animals CountLondon EC4
Betrayed by New Labour
Sir: It's very telling that the (presumably) middle-class correspondents (Letters, 7 and 9 May) who continually refer to me and mine as "white working class" use inverted commas to describe us. For their information, we do actually exist and we don't all vote BNP (in fact, many of us have spent years fighting against it), but many of us do feel betrayed by Labour and are fed up with all the main parties' incessant wooing of the middle classes. Class war, anyone?
Sir: At least we know for which side Andrew Flintoff would not have been selected if there were still Gentlemen vs Players matches ("Fast Freddie stumps speeding charge", 7 May). He could have gained so much more esteem by admitting guilt, but then cricket is fast catching up with football in its lack of sportsmanship.
Off the vino
Sir: Fish and chips with wine (letter, 7 May)? Non! This British classic was traditionally eaten either as a plated meal, pot of tea and bread and butter y compris, or á la franquette (that is, after five pints of best and straight from the paper).
John E Orton
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