Throughout the Scottish independence debate, the Better Together campaign has been too much based on threats and negativity, letting itself down as a result. Now, however, I’m surprised by how the pro-independence side has been let down by the SNP’s leader, through lack of dignity and answers.
In the latest TV clash between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, Darling seemed to handle himself well enough, but Salmond never seemed to have any real facts, figures or answers to key questions, turning instead to a personal and nasty attack on the person in front of him.
He was incredibly rude, continuing to talk over and interrupt his opponent – something which must be embarrassing for many Yes voters.
Whatever the result of Scotland’s referendum, it will likely now lead to even greater enmity and division that will not be easily overcome.
As an English outsider doggedly sitting through the TV debate on Scottish independence, my overwhelming feeling was that neither protagonist presented an attractive option for the rest of the UK.
Mr Salmond concentrated on cobbling together a ludicrous (certainly for Scotland) currency union and a costly (at least to the rest of the UK) defence policy, while Mr Darling painted a picture of Scotland dependent on potential financial bailouts from the rest of the UK.
Not a great future, whichever side prevails.
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Gordon Brown says that the NHS is safer in the UK than in an independent Scotland. This is either the height of arrogance or a belief that the public have no memory.
The idea of funding hospital building using PFI (private finance initiative) was introduced at the end of the Thatcher period and picked up by Brown, who drove the plan very hard, so that it became the norm in England.
The private companies would finance and build new hospitals and lease them back to the NHS. It was claimed that this funding method passed the financial risk from the Government on to the private sector – which was rubbish.
To get the banks and private companies to lend the money, the Treasury had to agree to underwrite the risks of the projects. PFI is thus a risk-free bonanza for the private sector.
Contracts were for 30-60 years at rates varying from 5.3 to 7.9 per cent per annum. PFI repayments increased by nearly £200m from £459m in 2009/10 to £628.7m in 2011/12. In one PFI contract, by 2011 the taxpayer owed £121.4bn to pay for an infrastructure valued at £52.9bn.
At the end of the lease, the building becomes the property of the private company, with the NHS owning nothing.
Chief executives of PFI-funded facilities had to show how the annual debt charges would be met from the operating budgets, ie the budget that normally pays for staff and supplies. Since rental had to be paid out of NHS funds, this reduced the funds available for treating patients. The Blair/Brown Government therefore produced a cut in NHS funding.
Alistair Darling was part of the Blair/Brown Cabinet and succeeded Gordon Brown as Chancellor. Can we trust either Brown or Darling with financial matters?
Dr E L Lloyd
In the second debate between Salmond and Darling, Salmond emphasised that Scots at home would be well looked after in their old age. Has he taken into consideration the cost of care and pensions for the many thousands of expat Scots who will wish to return home on retirement?
Will his five million fellow countrymen be prepared to pay for their care single-handed? It could be very expensive for the Scottish taxpayer.
Little Baddow, Essex
The best question of the night came from the audience: “If we are better together, why are we not better just now?”
Isis illustrates futility of trident
I unequivocally condemn the brutal murders of Lee Rigby and James Foley, but I dare welcome the birth of Islamic State (Isis) – only to emphasise the folly of the claim that we need the Trident nuclear weapons system as the ultimate guarantee of our security.
Armed only with its twisted interpretation of the Koran and conventional weapons, Isis has sent shockwaves through the nuclear-armed and Nato-allied British Government.
Supported by Labour, Theresa May has announced that she is to introduce an “anti-social behaviour order” that will strip extremists with dual nationality of their citizenship. Boris Johnson wants anyone returning from an unauthorised trip to Syria or Iraq to be presumed guilty of terrorism.
David Davis has gone further and called for anyone suspected of terrorism activities to be stripped of their citizenship.
None of these drastic measures will protect Britain from violence by home-grown or home-based Islamist fundamentalists. On the contrary, they are likely to go underground to launch a devastating attack, as they did on 7/7.
As someone who spent two years working with Ealing borough police as a volunteer stop-and-search adviser, I can say that the British people are hopelessly exposed to an existential threat from home-grown terrorism thanks to the savage cuts in public spending, which have seen a massive reduction in police numbers.
Police officers who have remained in post are demoralised because their overtime allowances have also been reduced or cut. These cuts are taking place while we are planning to replace Trident at an estimated cost of £100bn.
Unless we are planning to nuke these home-grown terrorists on our streets, or in Iraq and Syria, the Government and all the main parties must seriously consider whether to go ahead with the plan to replace Trident, or spend that money recruiting, training and equipping more police and intelligence personnel.
Given that Isis, Hezbollah and Hamas are one in their openly avowed intent to eradicate the Little Satan (Israel) followed by the Great Satan (the US/the West), one can appreciate that “robust and concerted action by the Western allies” is urged by your editorial (22 August). Furthermore, “there must be no bargaining with fanatics”, simply “eradication”.
Yet, The Independent has condemned Israel for its “disproportionate” reaction to rocket attacks. If Isis reaches the shores of the Mediterranean, one wonders how “proportionate” the West’s reaction will be? Not very, if your editorial is anything to go by.
Woodingdean, East Sussex
The United Nations must be the obvious route to tackling Isis. It can’t be right that the West, the UK, the US or Nato takes the lead, as the problem has largely been created by the West, and can only be made worse by further meddling.
We must call for the UN to convene a session of the Security Council to create a consensus, with the help of Russia and China, and especially involving the key regional players, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
GM’s opponents propagate myths
I read Peter Popham’s article on Vandana Shiva with interest (“GM food and the heir to Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy”, 21 August). I was pleased to note that it pointed out that Ms Shiva’s “demonising” of technologies such as GM “is doing her impoverished compatriots no favours”.
As the article notes, such technologies “could potentially improve the lives of millions”. But they are being prevented from doing so by dogmatic promotion of museum agriculture and calculated myths around the safety of agricultural technologies. The reference to so-called “terminator technology”, rendering a seed sterile, is one such myth promoted by anti-GM activists. The agricultural industry has never developed seeds or crop varieties with such a trait, nor is there any intention of doing so.
I look forward to the continued evidence-based approach your paper provides on this much-maligned technology.
Dr Julian Little
Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council
A ‘no experience necessary’ job?
The ongoing tussle over the appointment of the clerk of the Commons (“Parliamentary clerk ‘doesn’t need experience’”, 25 August) is difficult to comprehend. More difficult to understand, however – now that John Bercow is arguing that no previous parliamentary experience is necessary – is why the position commands a salary of £200,000.