JK Rowling (12 June) offers a reasoned case for supporting Better Together in the Scottish referendum. The reasons for voting Yes are far stronger.
There are “cybernasties” on both sides but the really vitriolic attacks on the political leaders of the referendum debate sadly have come from the Better Together campaign leaders against the Yes campaign, something the mainstream media appears to have neglected.
Going it alone, which is not about narrow nationalism, is not the worry, but the risks of staying in an unhealthy, unjust, avaricious, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe and bellicose UK are an enormous worry. As indeed are the cuts in the UK science budget which Scotland can avoid in the future.
JK Rowling writes about the 14 professors in Scotland who expressed concerns about threats to Scottish medical research if Scotland becomes independent. It is only fair to mention that over 100 academics in Scotland also wrote a letter recently that fully supported independence.
I should add that I am English but live and work in Scotland. I am not a member of any political party but I am involved in public health research. I will be voting Yes in the referendum.
Professor Andrew Watterson
I haven’t actually read JK Rowling’s books, but I am sure she thoroughly deserves her success. Now, having read her article on Scottish independence, I can only applaud her writing (and you for publishing it).
Thoughtful, lucid, balanced, self-deprecating, generous to her adopted homeland, it sets out an argument which gently but remorselessly destroys the case for independence.
The only omission I can spot is any reference to the one group who would benefit with absolute certainty from an independence victory – the lawyers who would be entitled to argue expensively for decades over who owns what.
East Molesey, Surrey
John Rentoul, in his otherwise admirable article in defence of JK Rowling (12 June), maintains that only the residents of Scotland should have a say in whether the UK breaks up.
At present there is a proposal that our country should be split into two entities: Scotland and another area that (for want of a name so far) could be called the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (KEWNI).
As a current citizen of the UK and a possible citizen of KEWNI if the split occurs, I would like my views on the subject to be sought. However, no one seems to have any plans for doing so. The fate of a country with 64 million people is being left in the hands of just 5 million. Is it too late to give us all a say?
Extra burdens on GP services
Rosie Millard (10 June) encapsulates a large part of the problems of access to GPs. She asks what should someone do if the GP surgery is closed, if their child has meningitis, if they have toothache, or if they have run out of the contraceptive pill.
A child with meningitis definitely needs to be in hospital, not seeing a GP; someone with toothache needs a dentist; and someone taking the oral contraceptive pill will generally know to the day, six months in advance, when they are due to run out, so there really is no need for this to be an emergency. The idea that all these conditions need urgent GP attention is one reason for the pressure on appointments.
A significant percentage of GP workload is now made up of seeing patients who 10 or 15 years ago would have been dealt with in hospital. They are now managed in general practice, and there has been no comparable expansion of GP numbers.
I am a GP. My surgery opens every day all day. We don’t close for lunch, and we don’t close in the afternoon other than once every couple of months for approved training.
Long Whatton, Leicestershire
Rosie Millard’s criticism of her GP service is understandable, but I wonder why she does not register with a different surgery which might meet her needs better.
The practice I attend is open regularly five days a week from 8am to 6.30pm, and in addition on two days it opens earlier, and on two days it stays open until 8pm. Making an appointment is never difficult.
There is so much criticism of the NHS, but there are substantial bits of it (for which I am enormously grateful) that remain outstanding.
Angela Crum Ewing
I notice a pattern in your correspondence on patient care in the NHS. People with personal experience are very positive, whereas negative letters are strangely abstract, based on generalisations.
I spent three months in the hands of the NHS and social workers in the past year and occasionally I try to think of something negative to say, no matter how trivial, just as an exercise. So far, I have come up with nothing at all.
Tax system favours owners over workers
Richard Horton (letter, 10 June), in arguing against a progressive property tax on expensive homes, makes the surprising assertion that those that live in them are not wealthy. The often-quoted example is of a person who bought the property when its value was very low and is now sitting on a large tax-free capital gain, but has low income.
The essence of his argument is that earned income should be taxed and wealth arising merely from holding assets should not. There is no moral justification for taxing the worker far more than the owner of capital, yet that is what we do.
If there is to be more fairness in taxation, the taxing of wealth would be a good place to start, beginning with a property tax, which, by its nature, cannot be avoided. And who knows, it could lead to more efficient use of housing, just like the bedroom tax, and not the use of housing as the best way to provide tax-free capital gains.
A nation ruled by posh boys
One crucial “British value” that Matthew Norman neglects (11 June) is respect for one’s betters. A willingness to be ruled by rich posh boys educated in single-sex schools where they wear weird costumes and are isolated from the rest of the community is absolutely central to what makes us British.
And, of course, it is vital to have the state education system run by people who weren’t educated by it, a principle that all major parties have embraced.
After Iraq, stop trying to save the world
The long war in Iraq has been a waste of time. More importantly, it has been a colossal waste of money. Critically, it has been an enormous waste of life.
I feel for all those families who have lost young men and women – for what? To say that we have kept terrorism at bay and made our country safe is obviously unsupportable.
What is just as worrying is that what we are seeing in Iraq will undoubtedly occur in Afghanistan too, once the troops are all gone.
We should put our energies into making our own back yard safe and forget trying to save the rest of the world, which doesn’t appear to want to be saved.
Islamic fundamentalists are blazing a swathe of destruction across Iraq, as they have in Syria. In Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of innocent girls to sell into slavery. And once again the western world wrings its hands and declares that “something must be done”, while ignoring the massive elephant in the room.
All of these fundamentalist groups derive patronage and funding from the extremist wahhabi ideologues in Saudi Arabia. Yet when was the last time you heard a government minister say a single word of condemnation of the Saudi regime? Where are the sanctions against the Saudi rulers?
It would seem that in UK plc, oil and arms deals mean more to our rulers than human rights or combating the hydra of Islamic fundamentalism.
With the unfolding prospect of jihadists seizing Baghdad and the fragmentation of Iraq into sectarian provinces, perhaps Tony Blair can be questioned under oath as to why he led Britain into a fruitless and costly war based on deceit and without UN approval, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of UK soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.
Iraq’s imminent future offers catastrophe for its hapless people and the West. Blair should be hauled before the court in The Hague for war crimes, instead of earning millions on the lecture circuit.
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