After the visit of the Bank of England Governor no voter in the Scottish independence referendum can claim to be unaware of the serious currency problems involved in this leap in the dark. While the Canadian Mark Carney refused to be drawn into the politics, he left little doubt that Scotland can either be fully independent or stay with sterling, but not both.
The First Minister used to claim that joining the euro was a vote-winner, but even he now accepts “there is no prospect of an independent Scotland being a member of the euro”. Of course he could start his own currency using, say, the Bank of Airdrie as a central bank and track the pound as South American banana republics track the US dollar. But a tiny nation’s currency is at the mercy of markets unimpressed by Alex Salmond’s wishful thinking, leaving us exposed to hyper-inflation and other economic ills.
So it will not even require profligate Scottish bankers to create a situation similar to that which followed the failure of the Darien venture in 1700, with a bankrupt “Skintland” once again begging England to take it in.
Dr John Cameron, St Andrews
Mr Salmond, you want to use the pound if your Scotland becomes an independent country. You cannot have full sovereignty with a currency union, because if you are lax with your taxation and spending you could become like Greece in the eurozone.
The Bank of England is “lender of last resort” to banks in trouble, but it is itself indemnified by the Treasury in Westminster. Scotland behaving badly financially could not rely on such support.
Ronald Rankin, Dalkeith
I am increasingly perplexed by the apparent absence of serious and regular debate on the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP reflects the threat posed by petty nationalism both in Europe and elsewhere.
The snake-oil panaceas of historical myth and anachronistic grievance are peddled by xenophobic politicians seeking to manufacture fiefdoms from the fragmentation of broader national entities, Yugoslavia being the obvious example.
Why the somnolent, almost fearful response of our own government to the opportunistic vagaries of Alex Salmond and the SNP? It is nonsense to say this is a matter solely for the Scots. It is about Great Britain as a whole. Our nation is a messy, at times incoherent but always wonderful confusion of race, religion and history, but it is a nation, robust, argumentative, self-critical.
The narrow parameters of the referendum, the gerrymandering of the voting age to 16, and the economic illiteracy and Hollywood historicism of the SNP need to be countered at a far more informative, widespread and effective level.
Christopher Dawes, London W11
Given the possibility of an independent Scotland, should we in England be withdrawing our support of Scottish banks, businesses and charities?
Anabel Curry, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
Bring london down to size
It should come as no surprise to anyone that London exerts a massive draining force on talent and wealth in the UK (“Capital idea”, 28 January).
London is the political, financial, business, media, creative and cultural capital of the UK. The main national institutions of each of these sectors, their largest businesses and most high-profile figures are based in London. In the past the UK had strong industrial and manufacturing bases in the regions. Those bases are long gone.
Other countries have developed more geographically balanced economies. While Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany, the political capital is Berlin. The USA has its political, financial, creative and technological centres split between Washington, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The BBC’s move to Salford was a step in the right direction, but more radical steps are required. One such step involves Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster requires a £1.5bn renovation. MPs and peers have often complained about the inadequate conditions. A new home for the UK Parliament could be built in a city other than London for substantially less money. It would help to revitalise a UK city, not just in the construction, but also through the businesses that would follow Parliament out of London.
Barry Richards, Cardiff
Energy market reforms under way
I am writing in response to your article “Ofgem told to control the ‘big six’ energy giants or face being cut off” (30 January).
We are taking radical action to shake up the energy market, hold companies to account and increase transparency. We take tough action where companies fail consumers, and since 2010 we have imposed over £75m in fines or redress on energy companies.
Our radical reforms to the energy market are under way to make the energy market simpler, clearer and fairer. Consumers are already seeing simpler choices as a result of our reforms, and these are helping people switch more easily. November and December showed the highest switching rates ever, and these consumers will have found it far easier to find and switch to a better deal.
We are already delivering significant reforms to encourage more new entrants into the market to increase competitive pressure on prices.
Ofgem is committed to changing the energy market for the benefit for consumers. We have no political or financial agenda.
Andrew Wright, Chief Executive, Ofgem, London SW1
It has been a reasonably mild, if rather wet, winter so far, which may adversely affect the profits of the energy companies. Therefore, we should be prepared for them to use milder temperatures as an excuse for hiking their tariffs in the near future to balance their books.
Consumers are damned if it’s warm and damned if it’s freezing, but it’s a win-win situation for the energy companies.
Dave Keeley, Hornchurch, Essex
Living with difficult old relations
Martin London (letter, 27 January) paints an agreeable, idealised picture of “living in supportive three-generation family groups”.
Early in the National Health Service I worked in a psychiatric hospital and observed the steadily increasing numbers of aged patients being admitted, as the general public became aware that full-time residential care might be available for their troublesome relatives. A somewhat cynical view was taken of this.
A few years later I worked in the community as a county mental welfare officer and saw the other side of the picture. I saw families torn apart and destroyed by the highly emotive problems and perceived injustices relating to much-loved parents and grandparents becoming confused, aggressive, unpredictable and unmanageable.
It seems to me that Martin London`s solution to the problems he foresees would simply take us back to the unsatisfactory state of affairs which existed before the NHS.
Judith Woodford, Bozeat, Northamptonshire
Capaldi doesn’t make it as a mod
I think Stephen Bayley has his youth subcultures mixed up in his article “Mod man with a box” (29 January). In the picture Peter Capaldi is dressed more like a teddy boy than a mod: velvet-collared mid-thigh coat, drainpipe trouser and thick-soled shoes (Doc Martens more than brothel creepers, admittedly).
While some mods might have worn Crombies, the iconic outerwear for mods was the ex-US army issue parka, much better on a scooter. Crombies were worn by skinheads and then to the knee, not mid-thigh, together with 18-hole Doc Martens and bleached-out jeans stopping at the top of the boot.
All this is very trivial in a troubled world, but as any mod would say, the devil is in the detail.
Keith Simmonds, London N12
Gender bias cuts both ways
Chris Blackhurst’s piece “While men are in charge, gender quotas are the only way to increase the number of women in boardrooms” (29 January) raises interesting questions.
Why does nobody in industry, media, or government seem at all concerned with the lack of men in equally key professions?
There is frequent hand-wringing over the lack of women in engineering and science, but there seems to be a blithe ignorance of the impact on society of a teaching cohort of 60-70 per cent women, or how increasingly female-dominated the medical profession is becoming. Both impact on the life chances of men and boys.
John Moore, Northampton