Letters: Scotland alone cannot decide its future

These letters appear in the October 18 edition of The Independent

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I am outraged that Nicola Sturgeon, who is aged 44, has the effrontery to say that she expects to see Scotland leave the UK in her lifetime.

Scotland has spoken: it wishes to stay in the United Kingdom and, as Alex Salmond has commented, this is a once-in-a-generation debate.

She should not act as a spoilt child because she did not get her own way. And next time, if there is one, can we please take into consideration important facts which were overlooked in the recent referendum. Scotland merged with England and Wales in 1603. No one dissented, so it became in law one single country, and remains so. This fact is evidenced by our having one British Parliament at Westminster.

Thus if Scotland now wishes to break away, the decision should be taken by all the people of the UK or, at any rate, by all the people of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

If it were otherwise, the people of Kent could declare their intention of seeking independence and demand a referendum to be decided solely by the inhabitants of Kent.

This is not as far-fetched as it sounds; Kent has a lot in common with Scotland on this issue. Whereas the greater part of England was settled by the Angles and Saxons in the 5th century onwards, Kent was settled by the Jutes who came from a different part of northern Europe. Kent was an independent Jutish kingdom from the 5th to nearly the 9th century, during which time there were some 20 kings of Kent.

Furthermore, Kent had a separate law of inheritance called gavelkind which was not abolished until 1925.

But a current claim for Kentish independence would be put to Parliament or, less likely, put to a general referendum involving the whole country.

Why the latter? Because the people of Kent have historically acquiesced in living in the one political entity which we now call the United Kingdom. Ditto Scotland.

David Ashton
Shipbourne, Kent


I can foresee a battle royal developing between the SNP and Westminster, whereby the spurious expectations of the SNP to get everything they ask for will not be granted by Westminster, and the howls of discontent from the SNP will fire up the independence issue yet again. There are many in Scotland who think that we need to get on with life, and there are many matters of government that have been ignored while we were strangled in a very divisive referendum over the past two years.

The independence issue is done and dusted, so let’s get on with building a better Scotland for all.

Dennis Forbes Grattan
Bucksburn, Aberdeen


Alan Johnson is labour’s only hope

I was surprised that there was little response to the suggestion that Alan Johnson should step forward to take the reins of the Labour Party.

I am not a member or a supporter of Labour or any of the current crop of UK political parties. Alan Johnson is, however, my local MP in Hull West and Hessle and represents his constituency very well. Are Labour Party members so deluded as to not be able to see that Ed Miliband is leading them to defeat in May 2015?

Ed may be a perfectly nice guy with a fine set of policies – but, crucially, he is an inept leader and, even more crucially, is not viewed by the British electorate as a future leader of this country. With him at the helm the Labour Party will suffer another “Kinnock moment”.

So step forward, Alan Johnson… even if you just call yourself a caretaker leader. This would be a bad election for Labour to lose; with the economy on the up and a possible fight against Boris in 2020, Labour could find itself on the back foot and out of power for years.

Martin Newman


Freud has at least started a debate

Lord Freud made a foolish blunder when he suggested that the disabled should be paid below the minimum wage, but those who rush to judgement should recall that another Government multi-millionaire minister, Jeremy Hunt, did some similar thinking out loud a year ago, when he suggested that the British had a tendency to neglect their elderly relatives, unlike the Chinese.

He seemed particularly taken with Beijing’s law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged which placed a legal obligation on children to make regular parental visits.

Mr Hunt’s ostensible concern for the elderly was, in truth, a ploy to persuade us all to take on duties which governments like his would prefer to avoid, since a minimal-intervention state has better things to do with its money than spend it on old people. According to the doctrine favoured by the present administration, families should look after their own.

The Health Minister’s not-so-coded message was that individuals in the UK should take the pressure off public spending by stumping up for the care of their ailing parents.

Lord Freud has at least opened the issue up. We are told that employment is on the rise, which sounds like good news. On the other hand, we are also told that more than a third of the newly self-employed don’t earn enough to pay tax.

While it would clearly be an outrage to expect anyone to work for as little as £2 per hour, even if they did happen to be less productive than their workmates, it would also not be beyond the wit even of this Government to devise a scheme similar to one which operated around 40 years ago when small businesses received a premium from the state if they employed a person registered as disabled.

Instead of heaping abuse on Lord Freud, perhaps his colleagues could ask him to look into it.

David J Black


As your editorial (17 October) says, Freud must go. He has not only been thoroughly offensive, but he has spearheaded what disabled people have come to see as our persecution.

But your paper and most commentators, including Nick Clegg (“Freud raised important issue, says Clegg”, also 17 October), have all been sucked into believing that only work gives a person any value whatsoever. This ethos is unlikely to be shared by many other cultures, but in saying: “We are human beings, not economic units”, I feel completely out of step.

Of course, it isn’t new; mothers and those caring for relatives at home have long struggled to make society aware of their massive value. But this new drum beat, of forcing absolutely everyone into some sort of paid job, however poor the pay or demeaning the work, is a frightening manifestation of capitalism at its worst.

Merry Cross
Earley, Reading


Chimpanzees’ rights would be good for us

Congratulations on your editorial asking for fundamental rights to be granted to chimpanzees (9 October). As a superior species, human beings have treated the animals who share this planet with us with appalling cruelty and indifference.

By granting animals some fundamental rights and by focusing on compassion in all our dealings with animals, we will take a huge leap forward in our civilisation. Over thousands of years we as a species have corrected many wrongs that we committed on ourselves. Our cruelty towards animals in hunting, live exports, factory farming and countless other ways is a blot on our species which we need to address urgently.

Nitin Mehta


How extravagance redistributes wealth

Commenting on the extravagant wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (13 October) says spending £8m “is not good – not for them, not for anyone”.

Surely the opposite is true. It does no one any good for wealthy people to stash their cash and live like paupers. Only by spending lavishly do they redistribute their wealth to the rest of us. George and Amal’s wedding, spread over four days in Venice, must have provided employment for countless people, and no doubt contributed to keeping the city afloat.

Julie Hynds


Richard III was hardly the worst of kings

Given Dr Sean Lang’s hackneyed condemnation of Richard III (letter, 16 October), I am thankful that I am not one of his students.

With nothing to gain and everything to lose under the new Tudor regime, so far from regarding their late king as a tyrant or murderer, the city of York publicly mourned “our good King Richard piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city”.

And when it came to wholesale political murder, Henrys VII and VIII made Richard III look like a fumbling amateur.

Richard Humble


Double Take

In The Independent (17 October) on the same page: the price of chocolate pudding in Israel – two full columns; 13-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank – half a column. Say no more...

Bill Dale