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Friday 19 October 2012
Letters: Scotland under foreign rule
You believe that Scotland's interests remain with the Union (leading article, 16 October). Your arguments are far from persuasive.
When the oil resources of an independent Scotland are diverted to Edinburgh from London not only will that alone be sufficient to keep us in our accustomed style for a very long time but may well impact on a triple-A rating in the rump of the former UK.
If as you suggest Scotland is at the mercy of London's fiscal and monetary decisions then the reality will be no change. That regrettable circumstance has prevailed for some time.
And you may have to review your stance on the relationship with Europe. It is the UK that is the member of the EU. Following dissolution of that union it may be that neither or both of the new states will have to reapply.
The one bit you get sort of right is the shared history. But do you really imagine that the "ties that bind" will dissolve like the Union?
Then there is the bit you ignore. I refer to the political differences between Scotland and the rest of the current UK. That is one of the key drivers for independence. We don't have a breeding pair of Tory MPs in Scotland but they dominate Westminster. The North-South divide that the UK cannot bridge is a left-right divide.
Mr Cameron's 2014 plan to celebrate the British Empire going to war will strongly underscore the social and political differences and probably boost the Yes vote.
The plans for voting in this referendum seem quite barmy.
As I understand it a Scot living in England (such as my son-in-law) will be disenfranchised, yet an English or Welsh person living in Scotland and registered to vote in a Scottish constituency can take part. Even more bizarre, citizens of the Irish Republic resident in Scotland seem to be entitled to register to vote in UK national elections and will be able to vote in a referendum which has nothing to do with them as non-UK nationals!
D J Walker
Scottish social attitudes surveys find that views on independence depend enormously on its perceived economic impact, and conditions clearly do not favour "Scotland alone".
EU nations such as Spain have their own separatist nightmares and will veto the entry of Scotland just as they have done Kosovo, fearful of their own Catalans and Basques.
David Cameron traded the unimportant timing, wording and teenage vote to block the critical third choice of staying in the UK with greater featherbedding and special deals.
Finally, Alex Salmond is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to currency, with the EU unlikely to allow yet another dodgy statelet into its embattled eurozone. Starting a new currency is out of the question, so that leaves only sterling and a Bank of England strait-jacket, which makes "independence" hardly worth the effort.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
If Scotland secedes, she will have to rejoin the EU as Scotland. And shan't we too have to rejoin – but calling ourselves what?
What shall this rest of us – and the world at large – call us? The "United Kingdom" wouldn't do any longer: that is just what we would no longer be. Nor would "Britain" do – that includes Scotland. Nor "England", unless Wales goes off as well. Does Mr Cameron have anything in mind? "Blighty" perhaps?
What do the Scottish regiments do when "we" send in the troops to force the Scots to stay in the Union (letter, 17 October)? And what do they do if "we" don't?
Would Savile get away with it today?
The tragedy of the Jimmy Savile affair is that those who wanted to expose his activities were unable to do so without fear of being victimised. They did not feel powerful enough to take on this BBC celebrity.
The 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act was passed in order to enable those who wished to blow the whistle to do so, without fear of being dismissed or subject to a detriment. The Act itself was already very weak and the judges have driven a coach and horses through its provisions.
The recent case of Fecitt allows an employee whose wrongdoing has been exposed to victimise the whistleblower while the employer turns a blind eye. It is now extremely difficult for someone to win a case.
Dame Janet Smith, who now sits in the Court of Appeal, proposed in the Shipman Report that the good faith test be dropped for most cases of whistleblowing. However this recommendation has been ignored. People are therefore afraid of exposing wrongdoing because it is they who are effectively on trial with their own motives being subject to scrutiny even though it is completely irrelevant why someone might have wanted to expose Savile.
If the nurses at Stoke Mandeville had been able to report their concerns to the press and outside bodies, then it is possible that Jimmy Savile would have been arrested and exposed and his "good works" held up to ridicule.
Instead it will become much more difficult next year to bring the Jimmy Saviles of this world to book. The Liberal Democrats, in the name of "light-touch regulation", have agreed that fees for going to employment tribunals should be a whopping £1,200.
Perhaps Vince Cable, whose responsibility it is, can explain why people should be forced to pay extortionate sums of money in order to expose child abuse and other wrongdoings?
The BBC's attitude to young women in the 1980s could be summed up by a sketch on their own Not the Nine O'Clock News comedy programme in which young women are seen walking into the Top of the Pops studio, and outside is a sign saying, "Girls wanted. Must be over 16 and under 17 with big knockers."
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Made-up words in reading tests
I read with considerable concern Mary Dejevsky's claim that teachers were "complicit in the introduction of non-words" (10 October). It really does signal a new low in teacher-bashing, which now seems to have become a national sport.
At the school where I am a governor, the headteacher and the class teachers signalled their concerns that the brightest children would be those most adversely affected by the inclusion in reading tests of made-up words, as did teachers at many other schools. Their reservations were communicated to those above, who, as is customary, ignored them. These misgivings were subsequently proved to be correct.
What else would you have had teachers do? Boycott the tests? How would that have been received when this was the first series of synthetic phonics tests? Militant teachers defying the law would provide excellent ammunition for more teacher-bashing from Michaels Gove and Wilshaw.
Those teachers responsible for early-years education simply want the best for their charges and recognise that a range of approaches to reading is the best way forward, not an externally-imposed "magic formula". Your article fails to acknowledge this.
Drugs on a level playing field
With the news that many of the world's top cyclists have been winning with the help of drugs, and with a number of other high-profile sports under suspicion in recent years, isn't it time to look again at the question of decriminalising performance-enhancing drugs?
After all, several commonly accepted sporting practices, such as coaching and training at altitude, could be said to confer "unfair advantage". Should all the competitors in a golf tournament be required to use exactly the same make and specification of equipment?
Rather than having great sports thrown into disrepute and talented, dedicated athletes branded as cheats, why not allow registered athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs approved and regulated by their governing body? If it were a level playing field with regard to access to drugs, maybe we really would see which sportsman or woman was best.
Unfair treaty on US extraditions
While the introduction of a forum bar, allowing judges to decide whether cases such as that of Gary McKinnon should be tried in Britain, is welcome, ultimately decisions on extradition must be made by ministers, not judges.
Having exercised her discretion in the case of Mr McKinnon, the Home Secretary should now do so in the similar case of Richard O'Dwyer. The treaty will remain unfair and unbalanced until the extradition test is amended and an evidence test brought in.
Keith Vaz MP
Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee, House of Commons
Green policy in bad times
Oliver Wright reports on the Energy Bill and George Osborne's ridiculous description of climate change campaigners as "environmental Taliban" (18 October).
A Tory MP is quoted as saying: "It was fine to be talking about spending money on climate change in the good times, but when energy bills are going up it doesn't seem like good politics". What bizarre logic. Surely, when energy costs are rapidly rising, it makes every sense to be looking at ways of reducing consumption and thus lowering bills. That objective very much correlates with tackling climate change.
Emily Jupp's piece on alternative funerals (16 October) might have included something on green natural burials. The most environmentally sound way to go is in a biodegradable coffin, with burial in a greenfield site. No memorial stones, just a tree planted over the grave.
The only problem is that there are still too few green burial sites. When my wife died six years ago we had to take the cardboard coffin about 20 miles across Leicestershire. Not green!
Market Harborough, Leicestershire
I couldn't agree more with S Lawton's view that the Tories consider the Lib Dems merely as an extension of the public school fagging system. The evidence was there as far back as 2008 when David Cameron stated that one of his favourite songs was "Eton Rifles" by The Jam. The first line is: "Sup up your beer and collect your fags." We had been warned.
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