Can anyone explain to me why we Scots are apparently inferior to New Zealanders (except on the rugby field, sadly)?
I have been trying to compare relevant facts to answer this conundrum.
At 4.45 million New Zealand's population is slightly less than Scotland's 5.2m. But it is a fully independent nation with a seat at the United Nations, it has its own government (a House of Representatives with no second chamber), its own currency, its own taxation and fiscal systems, and all the other powers and status of an independent nation. New Zealand is within the British Commonwealth and has the Queen as Head of State, but makes all its own economic and political decisions – for instance it has a nuclear-free policy which forbids any nuclear weapons on its soil or within its territorial waters.
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New Zealand's economy is based largely on agriculture, forestry, mining and tourism, and 31% of its energy comes from renewables, mainly hydro and geothermal. Unlike Scotland, it has little or no offshore oil resources. Following a long period of economic growth it suffered a deep recession in the 1970s and 1980s, partly caused by a massive fall in exports after the UK joined the EEC, but by moving to a free trade economy it has recovered to become one of the most prosperous small nations in the world.
Apart from some small island groups, New Zealand's nearest neighbour is Australia, 1500 kilometres away, yet it has seven international airports. Scotland has just two, plus the shamefully neglected Prestwick, yet we are within two or three hours' flying time of every major European country (unless we have to change planes at Heathrow) and even closer to our near friends and neighbours in England.
Scotland has all the same natural assets as New Zealand, but with much greater potential because of the proximity of large markets for trade and visitors. We also have massive oil resources, not just for the next 40 years in the North Sea, but in the North Atlantic when these sites become economically viable. And we have unrivalled potential in renewable energy sources, which could make us world leaders for the next century in such developments.
So we must ask ourselves the question – as an independent nation in charge of our own affairs and destiny, why should Scotland not be at least as successful as New Zealand, and many other countries of similar size?
Can the Better Together campaigners answer this question, please?
Iain AD Mann,
7 Kelvin Court,
The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) report on Scotland's finances points out what we all know ("Swinney and Darling fight over oil revenue warning", The Herald, November 19 and Letters, November 20).
Oil is a wildly variable source of revenue; by the early 2020s it will be in sharp decline projected to be 20% of current yield; Scotland with oil still runs a primary budget deficit (though not as bad as the UK and without oil a far worse one); and Scotland will have to address as an independent nation without oil the relatively higher spend per head of population it currently enjoys.
So far, so good. On radio on Monday, Finance Secretary John Swinney noted that oil revenue is projected to yield £50 billion by 2016/7. He noted too that a geographical share of the North Sea would allocate 85% of this to Scotland.
What he seemed more reticent about noting was that, on the basis of a referendum at the end of 2014, and assuming a victory for the SNP, even the fastest of timescales for independence would not see this as taking place in under a couple of years.
In other words this bonanza over the next few years would be enjoyed, even under an SNP scenario, by the Union state.
After that, of course, an independent Scotland would have the scenario of collapsing oil revenue and spend per head 10% higher than the UK average. When pressed as to what would then happen, Mr Swinney informed us that the oil revenue would be invested in a sovereign wealth fund.
When he was asked how you could spend and save the money at the same time while running a fiscal deficit, Mr Swinney commented that pursuing policies opposite to that of the Westminster Coalition (fiscal tightening) would have resulted in a nirvana of economic growth.
In other words, in order to deal with a substantially higher structural deficit than the rest of the UK, Mr Swinney's proposals were to spend the oil money, save it, and spend yet more on unspecified other aims.
When asked if he agreed with the IFS report he was enthusiastic – though, as he admitted, only with the numbers he concurred with.
The interview revealed amply and forensically why the SNP should not be trusted with running a small whelk stall in an out-of-the-way location let alone the Government of this country.
West Newington House,
10 Newington Road, Edinburgh.
What will happen when there is no more oil revenue? Given that independence would be permanent, the 50-odd years left of North Sea oil are barely relevant.
Revenues from oil and gas will run out in a few decades, which is more than can be said for the carbon emissions these fossil fuels leave behind; even the most optimistic data shows the damage will last for centuries.
First Minister Alex Salmond's trip to France may increase his green credentials as a wind farmer and world leader with 100% renewable electrical energy. It will, however, do more to satisfy his ego than the country's eco status.
It has been calculated that the annual saving of CO2 emissions from Scotland's wind farms in replacing fossil fuels is a mere 1.9m tonnes while the CO2 emissions from the 2.3m barrels of oil and gas a day from Scotland's fields area huge 256m tonnes – more than 130 times the amount saved by these wind farms.
Politicians will continue to harvest North Sea fuel until it is all gone, even though it makes a farce of their aim to be leaders in saving our planet from global warming.
55 Halbeath Road, Dunfermline.
I keep getting flashbacks to my youth, to a time when Scotland housed the UK's nuclear arsenal and it was no use getting excited about Scotland's oil because there were only about 15 years' worth of it in the North Sea.
Fast forward 40 years and I'm an old granny, Scotland is still host to the UK's nuclear arsenal and I am still being told not to get excited about Scotland's oil.
No wonder I have a sense of deja vu, or as they say in these parts, of being conned rotten.
99 Grampian Road,
Allan Grogan refers to Scotland having a national ideology which differs from that of England ("New Labour group is committed to Scotland", The Herald, November 19).
This is a watered-down version of the belief that English people are all Tory toffs and all Scots are manual workers with socialism in their bones. Both stereotypes are absurd, and prove that nationalism often leads to the reduction of serious politics to caricatures based on birth, ethnicity and origins.
Mr Grogan reports that a spell teaching in Korea was formative in his "journey" to nationalism. Maybe he should have gone to England instead, where he would have learned that English people are very similar to Scottish people.
This includes their politics and voting habits, the main difference being that many of the kinds of people who would vote for the Tories in England (such as those in rural areas) vote SNP in Scotland.
And like their Scottish counterparts, English voters sometimes do not get the Government they wish – but is this not part and parcel of citizenship in a democracy?
Peter A Russell,
87 Munro Road, Glasgow.