Letters: Why will only Scots get a vote?

 

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I had hoped that good sense would prevail and that a referendum on Scottish secession from the Union would never be held, as it will be divisive for Scotland as well as the UK. However we are where we are and we now need to pick up the pieces.

Although only people resident north of the rather arbitrary border (ask a Northumbrian who founded Edinburgh) can vote on the question of secession, there is a huge question about the views of the rest of the UK.

In the event of a "yes' vote on secession the consequent negotiations on a settlement should be followed by a referendum across the whole of the UK on the terms of that settlement; after all, citizens of the Irish Republic got a vote on the Ulster power-sharing settlement on the grounds that they were giving up a claim to sovereignty in Northern Ireland.

Jon Sutcliffe

Enfield, Middlesex

Christopher Anton seems to expect that the rest of the UK should have a referendum on Scottish independence (letter, 13 October). Leaving aside the moral right to self-determination for the people of Scotland, what would be the point of a UK-wide referendum?

If the Scots vote for independence and the rest of us vote against, do we send in the troops to force them to stay in the Union, in the grand old colonial tradition? If the Scots vote against independence but we vote in favour, do we eject them from the Union by force? Neither option seems remotely plausible or desirable.

The only way in which our votes could or should be reflected in the final outcome is if we agree with the Scots, in which case why waste time and money staging a referendum outside Scotland at all?

Chris Webster

Abergavenny

If Scotland stays with the British pound or changes to the euro it will in effect be joining a monetary union. It will have no ability to change exchange rates and it will have no central bank. It would have to resort to "internal deflation" to correct imbalances, with all pain that that brings.

Given Mr Salmond's stated demands for a independent borrowing facility, even within the UK, we can see where this is heading. We have many examples of over-borrowed countries (such as Greece) that are within a monetary union wishing they weren't.

An truly independent Scotland with it's own currency is the only way. Good luck with that one!

Steve Hall

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Alex Salmond has told Scots that they will still be able to receive EastEnders and Top Gear. Whose side is he on?

Jeremy Axten

Addlestone, Surrey

Starbucks is right to pay no tax in UK

It is probably reasonable that Starbucks makes no profit, and therefore pays no tax, in the UK ("Starbucks has paid no tax in Britain since 2009", 16 October).

Running a coffee shop makes little or no profit, after you have paid for stock and equipment, rent and rates, staff and management. Starbucks' profit comes from its global nature; the bulk buying, the brand, the homogeneity that allows people from around the world to walk into a Starbucks and know what to expect. All the things, indeed, that many of us hate about it.

That global image, the profitable part of the business, was not made in the UK and so it would be unreasonable for us to tax it.

Richard Teather

Senior Lecturer in Tax, Bournemouth University

So Starbucks have made losses in successive years of £52m, £14m and £33m and paid no tax in these years. I'm going to stop buying from them to save them from further financial distress.

Hugh Burchard

Bristol

Schools free of state control

Richard Gardner's report about Sir Peter Lampl's "open access" scheme ("Private schools should be open to all", 8 October) raises more questions than it answers. Sir Peter Lampl has garnered the support of 80 independent schools to participate in his scheme. Many are not selective as the report suggests – but why should a scheme of this nature not be open to all state-school pupils regardless of ability? Independent schools not only make bright children brighter, but also make mediocre children more confident and successful academics.

What Sir Peter seems to be suggesting is nothing less than a school-voucher scheme, in which the Government provides the funding that would normally support a child's education at a state school. This usually falls beneath average independent day fees. However, a combination of a means-tested parental contribution and bursary funding will ensure that the funding gap is plugged; 200,000 pupils are now being educated under such a scheme in the US.

The danger for the Government is not just that many bright children will leave the state sector, but that more children of all abilities will move into the more nimble and expandible independent sector. The economic benefits of putting the funding burden more the way of parents and independent schools will provide an opportunity to reduce the contribution by the state while lifting the life chances of many thousands of pupils.

Academies, comprehensives and free schools are still controlled by the state either centrally or locally. However, state control of education remains the key hindrance to our aspiration of global educational pre-eminence. A voucher or "open access" scheme has every chance of taking us back to where we belong in international league tables, while helping to balance the books.

Dr John H Newton

Headmaster, Taunton School

No need for a badger cull

The Government's proposals to pilot "controlled shooting" of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset have rightly stirred up a great deal of public concern. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the hardship bovine TB causes the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control it.

In the long term it is clear that a vaccine for cattle could play a part in the solution. EU regulations currently prevent one from being deployed in this country, but the vaccine is available and being tested abroad.

While the blockages to the cattle vaccine are resolved, there are immediate solutions available that do not involve culling. Improved biosecurity and cattle controls can reduce the risk of infection and transmission. A badger vaccine is available now and the Wildlife Trusts are leading the way on its deployment.

We urge the Prime Minister to withdraw the controlled shooting licences, help farmers with improved biosecurity, commit to a badger-vaccination strategy and push for changes to allow the cattle vaccine. Only then will we be able to get on top of this disease.

Simon King

President, The Wildlife Trusts

Newark, Nottinghamshire

Politicians can't make you happy

At the end of this year's party conference season, there has been a great deal of comment and debate about the relative merits of the party leaders' speeches and about the quality, or otherwise, of the political discourse. In particular, much has been said about the lack of policy content.

Perhaps our politicians are realising that not every problem is capable of being fixed by Government. Anthony Pick's (letter, 12 October) list of 12 strategic problems makes a good starting point. Only one of the 12, the deficit, may be resolvable by Government. In all of the others its powers are limited.

When I was a civil servant, I was taught that Government only has three tools in its locker – money (either taxation or expenditure), legislation and exhortation. The first is of limited use in a time of austerity, we know the limits of the second, and the third can only work if politicians have credibility with their audience.

For too long politicians, often aided and abetted by civil servants and the media, have tried to make us believe that they can deliver security, prosperity and (more recently) happiness too.

Perhaps it is time for all of us, including the politicians, to realise that governments should try to do a lot less, but to do the less much better.

John Lambert

Baslow, Derbyshire

War to end all wars?

It will soon be 100 years since inept politics, misguided patriotism and widespread ignorance combined to send millions to their deaths in the First World War. When the Prime Minister pledges £50m for events that will be given "the status they deserve", has he the vision to look beyond the jingoism that helped start the war?

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union, for showing Europeans how to live without fighting each other for the last 60 years.

David Cameron's "world-class board" to oversee the 2014 centenary programme seems to be exclusively British. Are its members going to collaborate with opposite numbers in Germany, France, Russia and others, to commemorate alike the fallen of all nations?

And will we manage to achieve a dignified salute to those who lost their lives, combined with an acknowledgement that war is neither glorious nor heroic, but a crime against humanity?

So many of those who perished hoped that this war would end all wars. It is not too late to honour them by renouncing war as a legitimate means of resolving conflicts.

Sue Gilmurray

Ely, Cambridgeshire

I find it ludicrous that we should celebrate the start of the First World War.

One off my grandfathers died as a result of being gassed, the other was an "Old Contemptible" serving as a dispatch rider from the beginning to the end, in a job whose survival rate was counted in hours rather than days. Both, I am sure, would join me in saying that 11am on 11 November 2018 would be the obvious date for a commemoration.

Peter Stewart

Sheffield

Interesting idea

Jay Merrick's complaint that "one of the least interesting buildings on the short list" won the Stirling Prize (15 October), invites Mies Van Der Rohe's comment: "I don't want to be interesting; I want to be good."

Stephen Mullin

London EC1

Tory book

So David Cameron is "voicing over" a chapter from Moby Dick? Whatever next? Hard Times? Little Lord Fauntleroy? Surely not Flashman?

Martin Wallis

Shipdham, Norfolk

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