Anthony Hilton (15 February) claims there is no way of preventing an independent Scotland from keeping the pound as its currency, and to some extent he is right. If an independent Scotland shadowed the pound sterling, there is no reason why they should not do so and no reason why the UK would want to prevent it, even if that was possible.
But that is not what Alex Salmond wants, which is to continue using the pound sterling and to have a large say in the management of the currency.
His current line is to blackmail the UK into ceding control of the pound by threatening to refuse to take a fair share of the national debt. If push comes to shove the UK will retain the ultimate sanction: a veto on Scotland’s membership of the EU. That in itself is worth staying in the EU for.
Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire
Salmond wants a divorce, but he’s just going to live next door, so he’ll keep the key to the back door, so he can pop in for a cup of sugar when he needs it.
Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire
For a nation to be fully sovereign it must have its own currency and manage its own economy. It was because we British were not ready to accept the idea of merging our sovereignty to this degree that we did not join the euro.
The Eurozone struggled during the recent financial crisis because a single currency was shared by several economies not all of which were sufficiently in step and it was the smaller, weaker economies that suffered most, though the danger threatened all.
We British have a sentimental and traditional attachment to sterling, and, now, so do the Scots, it seems, especially in the wake of the recent financial upheavals. So the Scottish Nationalists have reassured their people that they can retain sterling.
But they have failed to acknowledge the extent to which this would surrender their supposed sovereignty. Having won the appearance of independence they would be surrendering the reality of sovereignty, and even if they think it reasonable from their point of view to enter into a currency union with Britain (and a shared economic policy) there is no reason to expect that, in the light of the Eurozone’s experiences, we would be of the same opinion.
Donald MacCallum, Milton Keynes
Steve Richards (18 February) is right to say that English politicians should be careful not to upset Scottish voters.
The debate, and the reporting of it, are entirely different north and south of the border. While Scots may be divided on the question of independence, they are united in their reluctance to be dictated to or patronised by English politicians.
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Young men back from a foreign civil war
The current concerns over Britons returning from the Syrian conflict are eerily reminiscent of the concerns of the 1930s. Then it was about those volunteers returning from the Spanish civil war who had fought against fascism.
Then, as now, western governments were fearful that their citizens would be radicalised by a foreign ideology. Then it was communism: now it is radical Islam. In 1938 returning volunteers were investigated, sometimes imprisoned, and in some countries, such as the USA, remained under suspicion for years.
Is it not at least possible that among the young men going out to Syria there might be a Laurie Lee or a George Orwell, and that in 75 years’ time our fears will look as unfounded as the fears of 1938?
But then, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And in Mr Gove’s new world this sort of history will not even be taught.
Worthing, West Sussex
Challenges of the big Sellafield clean-up
In his “Westminster Outlook” column (14 February), Mark Leftly finds it hard to accept the costs of cleaning up the nuclear legacy at Sellafield, on the basis that it is “after all, only a 6 sq km site”.
This statement reveals a failure to understand the unprecedented engineering challenges at Europe’s most complex nuclear facility, exacerbated by the congested and interconnected aspects of the site.
Sellafield is home to the largest inventory of nuclear waste and other materials in the world, safely managed via a combination of site services and more than 1,000 buildings compressed into this small area. Sellafield has to host its early research reactor, the Calder Hall Magnox station, two reprocessing plants, and many other large and complex facilities. The only site with similar challenges is Hanford, in the US, which is spread over 1,500 sq km.
The congested nature of Sellafield increases the challenge of highly complex, bespoke engineering projects, in some cases immediately adjacent to some of the most hazardous nuclear waste facilities in the world. Meticulous planning and faultless execution are required to get the job done safely.
This does not provide an excuse when performance in the decommissioning programme at Sellafield falls short of our expectations, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has spelt out in very clear terms the areas in which we require improvement from our contractor Nuclear Management Partners. However, it is important in order accurately to judge the progress being made to first accurately lay out the challenges and limitations to working on this site.
Communications Director, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, London SW1
Johansson’s deal with SodaStream
SodaStream syphons are manufactured in Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement built for Israelis only on Palestinian land. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law: Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids the occupying power from exporting its own population into occupied territory.
SodaStream pays no taxes to the Palestinian Authority, and, as settlements expand, so Palestinian houses are demolished and land confiscated. Deprived of their land and their homes, Palestinians are forced to seek employment where they can. What price coloured fizzy water? Scarlett Johansson will have done herself no favours, except of course financially.
Yes, let’s celebrate the Jewish film makers of Hollywood (Perry Dror, letter, 15 February). Let us also support the boycott of settlement goods called for not only by Oxfam but also by Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and many more.
Patricia Cockrell, Lewes, Sussex
Violence in Venezuela
The violence witnessed in Venezuela in recent days follows the launching of a campaign by extremist elements of Venezuela’s opposition for the “ousting” of the democratically elected government. It is notable that other sections of the opposition, including its recent Presidential candidate, have distanced themselves from this (“A Venezuelan Spring?”, 14 February).
The tragic killing of three Venezuelans, including supporters and opponents of the government, has worrying echoes of what has occurred before in Venezuela, notably the coup d’etat of 2002. Then hidden snipers fired on crowds of people in order to create social conflict and the conditions to justify a military coup. President Maduro’s announcement that the same pistol was used in the first two of the recent killings is thus deeply worrying.
Alvaro Sanchez, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Venezuela, London SW7
This is football, not wrestling
There is a simple solution to the problem of footballers restraining opponents (letter, 18 February): a one-match ban for all offenders caught on screen but not seen by the referee. Such a blitz would soon eliminate the practice, as no hand or arm hold can be deemed unintentional.
Peter Lack. London N10
How sad to read in the same day of Sir Tom Finney’s death and exemplary career and Wayne Rooney’s £300,000 per week. When, where and how did we let it go so wrong?
Stephen Westacott, Great Witley, Worcestershire
Error of an ignoramus
Guy Keleny, commenting on the word “ignoramus”, is unjust to today’s lexicographers (Errors & Omissions, 15 February). I have looked at a range of recent dictionaries from Concise size upwards (Oxford, Collins, Chambers, and others), and they all include information about the origin of the word in legal Latin. Some of them also suggest a possible derivation of the modern sense from a character called Ignoramus in a play of the same name (1615) by George Ruggle, which ridiculed the supposed ignorance of lawyers.
Robert Allen, Edinburgh