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Friday 30 December 2011
Letters: The risks of Scottish independence
A Scottish vote for independence from England could be made easier, according to Mary Dejevsky (Comment, 23 December), because of the option for Scotland to join the eurozone. But this would result in the Scots escaping the hegemony of a London-based parliament, in which they have disproportionately great elected representation, only for it to be replaced by the hegemony of unelected Brussels bureaucrats.
The smaller members of the eurozone are finally waking up to the loss of sovereignty they are likely to suffer in the coming years. For Scotland, this would represent a leap from a smallish frying-pan into a massive fire.
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Your article "Bye-bye England?" (5 December) was another example of the SNP's media strategists indulging in seemingly endless misrepresentation over the issue of the separation of Scotland from the UK. Plans for relations between Scotland and parts of Scandinavia are pie in the sky.
The SNP approach is based on assuming what it is trying to prove, that separation is some kind of reality here in Scotland. It isn't. Overwhelming poll evidence before and since the Holyrood elections in May shows that one-third or less of the electorate wants a separate state.
We in Scotland have been threatened by the SNP with a referendum, pencilled in for the first Thursday in May 2014, but with the date as yet unconfirmed. The delay in confirming the date is causing concern and damage across Scotland and beyond.
To be constitutional and therefore valid, any referendum on the question of separation would require to be called by Parliament and not a devolved administration. As I write, the Scottish Affairs Committee of the House of Commons is considering submissions of evidence before it on exactly this question.
As the constitutional position of all three devolved nations is a matter for the UK as a whole, we badly need a lead from government and Parliament.
Bishopbriggs East Dunbartonshire
Beginning of the end for free NHS
Not content with turning the economic clock back by three decades, the Conservatives are once again meddling with the NHS to recreate a pre-war health system of haves and have-nots.
The idea of allowing NHS Foundation Trusts to assign half of their beds to private patients (report, 27 December) spells the beginning of the end for a free and public-service oriented NHS. The 1980s illustrated that "trickle-down" economics don't work; the idea that privatising almost half of hospital provision will benefit NHS patients is bunk.
Even those (such as myself) who could see some merit in aspects of the Health and Social Care Bill must now see that it is the biggest threat to public-health provision since the market-driven Thatcher-Clarke reforms of the late 1980s.
Under the present Bill, the NHS is heading down the same dark tunnel of the Tory rail privatisation of the 1990s. Shinier trains with lots of colourful logos came at an unacceptable cost to safety and punctuality, with fares heading ever skyward every year since the sell-off.
The Health and Social Care Bill isn't working. What at first appeared a drive to allow more patient "choice" and cut bureaucracy is actually a Trojan Horse for privatisation and, ultimately, patient charging for all medical services.
It is time for this very sick Health and Social Care Bill, along with a totally discredited Health Secretary for England, to be struck off, unless the Conservatives wish to see themselves certified politically dead at the next general election.
'Race' nicknames in Latin America
This is neither to defend nor support Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez, for I know not what he allegedly said. But, as a Spanish-speaker who spent many years in Latin America, including as The Independent's correspondent, I should point out that South Americans give themselves nicknames often based on the variations of the mix of their origins, essentially, Spanish or Portuguese, indigenous (Mayan etc.) and "black" (of African slave origin). Most South Americans are a blend thereof.
Negrito (little negro) is a highly common nickname in South America, used between friends and most often a term of endearment. El Negro is also extremely prevalent, rarely used with malice, merely based on the fact that someone is of a darker skin than average.
At the other end of the spectrum, Guero (blondie) is often used to describe men who are not necessarily blond but have a bigger proportion of European features. Moreno (Brownie) is another common nickname for someone with darker-than-average skin. El Chino (The Chinaman) is widely used as a nickname for someone with vaguely Asian features. It was, for example, given to former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, although he was, in fact, very Peruvian, albeit of Japanese (not Chinese) ancestry. He accepted the nickname and joked about it whenever I interviewed him for this newspaper.
I do hope those judging Luis Suarez have done their research and did not fall into the morass of political correctness mixed with arrogant ignorance of other cultures.
Richmond upon Thames, Surrey
Why children don't like sport
Is it surprising that the number of young people taking up sport is falling? (Report, 9 December.)
At my son's comprehensive, two 55-minute lessons are timetabled for sport each week. Deduct from this time spent in the changing rooms and getting to the court or pitch, and the net result is about 30 minutes' playing time.
Few kids make much effort in these lessons. Why? There is no time to take a shower so you arrive at your next lesson hot and sweaty and often wet and muddy to boot. Astonishingly, this is a school with "specialist school for sport" status for which it receives additional funding. How can they justify so little time spent playing sport?
If you stay behind for after-school clubs, you can choose from a vast array of sports, but of course these tend to attract those who are already talented and/or keen, leaving the less able child too embarrassed to turn up.
My son puts it very succinctly: "PE at school is stressful, not fun!"
The end of the age of growth
"Growth is a natural condition," says Hamish McRae (22 December). I assume he wrote this with economic growth in mind, but if one takes the word "natural" to mean the universe and all that is within it, his statement is only part of the story. What is also natural is decay; growth and decay go together, the one cannot exist without the other.
Rapid economic growth is a modern phenomenon, predicated on the growth of human numbers and our ability to harness natural resources. The signs suggest this is coming to an end and the sooner we recognise it, the better.
From now on, the aim must be economic stability at a sustainable level. The future of life on this planet, human or otherwise, requires no less.
Wit excuses an armchair general
I like Matthew Norman. But his repeated jabs at David Aaronovitch's "armchair general" jaw (latest, 19 December) begin to bear the tedious gloveprint of the self-righteous wing of the liberal-left. Wit wears off with repetition.
Christopher Hitchens's much more vocal and impenitent advocacy of war is completely overlooked – or forgiven - by Matthew Norman, who cannot but "adore" him. Why? Apparently because Hitch was also impenitently bibulous and could encase this in (take note, Matthew!) one-off witty outbursts. More evidence for my enduring suspicion that the political is personal.
The price of eternal truths
Unfortunately for Terry Wright (letter, 29 December), religions cannot be placed in the same category as works of art and interpretations of history. Not even the most overweening egos in the humanities would regard themselves as being in possession of eternal truths that dictate the way mankind should organise its life, but these are precisely the claims that religions make. For this reason, religions would require even stronger proofs, if of a different kind, than those required by scientists for their temporary truths.
Terry Wright says that "most 'evidence' in the humanities involves phenomena of human consciousness, which are necessarily subjective". If that is the case, I would like to understand how it is possible to differentiate between such subjective "evidence" and simple mental delusion. The more I learn about religious beliefs, the harder I find it to understand how any reasonable person can hold them.
Apparition from the distant past
I woke in the small hours, bleary-eyed from a deep sleep, and watched the early morning news.
Vast crowds of people wailing and throwing themselves to the ground, lines of soldiers marching and singing funereal songs. I recoiled in amazement. "Has Thatcher died?" I thought to myself. "Is this her state funeral, with tens of thousands of Tories on the streets of London saying goodbye to her, as the Argentines did to Evita Peron?"
Then Kim Jong-Un was shown and I thought, "No that isn't Dave: similar, but not him," and went back to sleep.
Newhaven, east Sussex
Your correspondent Peter Moyes (letter, 28 December) describes accurately the situation of British industry at the time when Mrs Thatcher came to power, at least as I recall it – abysmally managed for the most part and in thrall to short-sighted unions, factors which were probably related.
While I do not wish to defend everything that she did, those who regret her period in power might like to remember what went before: income tax going up to 83 per cent on earned income and to 98 per cent on investment income; a limit of £75 on foreign currency for holidays abroad; pensions that were not transferable and were frequently forfeited on changing jobs; and the miners regularly holding the country to ransom.
D W Budworth
First man to fly Concorde
I do not know the exact question asked of Simon Calder regarding the first Concorde test pilot ("Calder soars to victory on Mastermind", 28 December). In fact, the first Concorde to fly was the French-built prototype, flown on 2 March 1969 by André Turcat, followed by the British-built prototype flown on 9 April 1969 by Brian Trubshaw.
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