Letters: Why Scotland must break free of Westminster

These letters appear in the Saturday 8th February edition of the Independent

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Owen Jones (6 February) suggests a third way for Scotland – a federation within the Union offering more autonomy – and I suspect the Westminster government will suggest something similar if the independence campaign continues to gain momentum and the country looks like voting “yes” on 18 September. For many north of the border this will never be sufficient.

Independence for me will mean control of our own destiny: no more danger of being dragged into illegal wars at the behest of the Americans in the mistaken belief that the UK is still a world power; no more spending billions on dangerous, obsolete nuclear weapons while public services are cut; and no more squandering oil revenues on right-wing policies, when they could be invested in the future.

Full powers, rather than just more powers, will mean a seat for Scotland at the top table in the EU – and it will be in the EU, despite the scare stories. Independence will also mean Scotland won’t have to leave the EU against its will because of votes elsewhere in the UK.

Oh, and an independent Scotland won’t have that expensive, unelected and undemocratic abomination, the second chamber.

Most important of all: the devolved powers proposed by Owen Jones would mean a sitting Westminster government retaining the right to grant or remove powers at whim, while Scotland continues to depend on the political and economic benevolence of a government it probably didn’t elect and whose ideologies it seldom supports.

Pauline Taylor, Elgin, Moray


Owen Jones says: “The debate about Scotland’s future is one, of course, that the Scottish people alone have to determine.”

As a Scot, born and educated in Dundee, I will have no vote. I am now resident in England. I lived for 20 years in Australia, three years in Argentina and two in Germany. We Scots travel! 

It is not the Scottish people who will have the vote, it is the people resident in Scotland, and it would be interesting to know how many of those are actually Scottish.

Dian Elvin, Witney, Oxfordshire


Price of building on flood plains

Dave Bearman (letter, 6 February) makes many good points, but in his defence of the use of flood plains for agriculture, he stops short of attributing blame to the seriously guilty parties who allowed, and still allow, building on flood plains: local councillors.

Along with many others I fruitlessly campaigned a quarter of a century ago against housing and industrial developments on water meadows around the River Linnet where it flows through Bury St Edmunds. Even at that time it was obvious that to reduce the area available for temporary storage of winter rains was bordering on the criminal. But business and commercial short-term interests won, and still win.

Today the Bury Free Press reports:  “Steve Mableson, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s station commander at Bury, said: ‘The River Linnet has broken its banks and flooded the local area involving some 14 houses surrounded by water, some may also be flooded.’ ”

Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


It is all very well for Dave Bearman to say that we are all in this together. As far as the Somerset Levels are concerned, of course the farmers should live there; they always have and the old houses were built high to avoid flooding.

The problem lies not with them but with the non-agricultural community, commuting to the surrounding towns, who live in modern houses on the fringes of the islands, where flooding is more likely. They have no need to be there.

Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset


How can HS2  go ahead now?

In the light of the devastating storm damage to the essential rail link to the south-west of the country, surely paying £46bn to save 20 minutes journey time getting from Birmingham to London must be utter lunacy against the dire need for a new and improved rail bypass for Dawlish. It can only be vested political interests to think or act otherwise.

Peter Gerdes, Crowborough, East Sussex


I am pleased that Roger Padfield found the scenery from the train via Okehampton to his liking (letter, 6 February). I’m sure the residents of Cornwall and south Devon would agree, were it not for the present dire situation which denies them the vital rail link via Dawlish which is so essential to their livelihood. An alternative rail link to the peninsular is a matter for urgent consideration and this should be addressed without delay.

However, to cite this situation as an excuse for scrapping HS2 is short-sighted. HS2 represents an opportunity to construct an urgently needed rail link to, hopefully, prevent similar disruption to our transport network, this time before it becomes an emergency.

John Wess, Malvern, Worcestershire


Small firms have big advantages

Your editorial “Big is beautiful” (28 January) is built on the assertion that “there is no moral or economic advantage in having a job created by a small or medium-sized business over one that grows out of a big company”. This is complete nonsense.

A moral case for small businesses can easily be built around the greater opportunity for individual fulfilment that small firms offer. Lots of small firms mean many more entrepreneurial jobs in the economy. Lots of individuals with greater responsibility for their own jobs and futures provide the foundations for a richer, more informed and more mature democracy.

The economic case for creating jobs in small firms rather than large is more Darwinian, but also extremely strong. Large populations of small and medium-sized firms allow market processes to operate more quickly: firms are born and die quickly – they can double in size or vanish overnight, and they lack the political lobbying power to delay inevitable change. An economy made up of small firms is more flexible in a challenging and competitive world than a similarly-sized economy of large firms.

I write from personal experience, having spent half my career in global corporations, and more than a decade running an SME. You only need to look at sectors like energy and banking in the UK to see the economic and moral case for smaller firms writ very large indeed.

Matthew Rhodes, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


The changing Catholic Church

As another former altar server of the early 1960s and now a priest for over 30 years, I can say that John Walsh’s article “The Francis factor” (4 February) does have some vague echoes of the truth in it for me, though like much media portrayal of the Catholic Church, it is more caricature than reality. I believe the Catholic Church he recalls had begun to change long before Pope Francis came along.

“Catholics love being told what to do,” John Walsh says. Well that may be true for some strict conservatives or older Catholics, but a clergy-conducted tour of life is not what most Catholics want, in my experience.

They know that I do not have the answers to all their questions, and they do not expect me to provide them; moreover, they appreciate my honesty when I tell them that. They may see me as a leader, but they also see me as a companion in the journey of faith, as much in search of what is good and true as they are.

Simple dirigiste answers to complex moral issues are neither what they want nor what they get, from me or most of my colleagues, but rather advice and guidance as best we can give it in the light of the Gospel.

I hope Pope Francis continues to foster the many changes which the Catholic Church is undergoing for the better, but it would be as wrong to credit him with too much, as it would be to have too great an expectation of what he might achieve.

Canon Terence Carr, Prestatyn, Denbighshire


Multi-tasking  at the wheel

Recent letters remind me that in 1955, while driving my first car (an ancient Austin 7) along a straight road, I steered with my knees while rubbing a flake of tobacco and filling a pipe; neither of these two operations can be performed in an agitated fashion, so you will understand that the road was deserted and the car was travelling at its cruising speed of 25mph. The lighting of the pipe also needed, briefly, two hands.

What a mad, happy world it was in those carefree, traffic-free days.

Ted Clark, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


At last, a banker we don’t hate

I would like to praise the chief executive of Barclays Bank, Antony Jenkins, who turned down a massive bonus. He is truly a man of honour, which in banking is a very rare breed. I think it is only right to let him know that the general public does take notice and remember the actions of  such people, just as they never forget the actions of grabbers who take unjustified bonuses.

Dave Croucher, Doncaster