GORDON Taylor (Letters, March 10) asks who will be responsible for our armed forces if we become independent and could we afford to be so.

As in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and so on the Scottish Government will be responsible for the armed forces. These armed forces will act with partners as the UK does at present. The interception of Russian aircraft heading towards the north-west of Scotland earlier this week was effected by quick-reaction alert crews from Norway and France as well as the UK. Dutch marines have trained in Scotland for years and I understand that there are joint Scandinavian exercises in defending North Sea installations. Why should these alliances cease? I would expect the Scottish armed forces to concentrate on defence rather than attempt to reinforce some long-gone imperial image around the world.

Others will respond to Mr Taylor’s Trident question, but I would suggest that the majority view is that these American-controlled weapons should be removed.

Regarding affordability, Scotland has huge resources: more than 60 per cent of the UK’s maritime area and one of the biggest sea areas in Europe, estimated as 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal energy resource with 10 per cent of its wave power, much potential as yet untapped. Scotland also has over more than 90 per cent of the UK’s oil resource and 60 per cent of gas and timber. All whisky and 70 per cent of the UK’s gin is produced in Scotland and we have huge food exports, especially salmon and other seafood. All of this raises significant tax revenue, or should do.

We should have moved on from the question of whether we can afford to be independent.

Just to be clear, I’m not a member of any political party but view the creation of a small, more nimble, independent country as a matter of ongoing community development.

John C Hutchison, Fort William.

GORDON Taylor invites us to explain how an independent Scotland would defend itself without Trident. Perhaps he should direct his question to the many other small independent European nations who seem to be coping well enough in the same circumstances.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

MAY I reply to Gordon Taylor by pointing out that the NHS in Scotland compares well to that in England; our A&E services are the best performing in the UK, Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK, and our patient safety record is one of the best in the world.

With regard to education, a record number of students enrolled at university in 2018/19, with record numbers from Scotland's most deprived areas, and the Education Maintenance Allowance (scrapped south of the Border) has been expanded in Scotland, while full-time college students here benefit from the highest bursary of anywhere in the UK.

Regarding Trident, Scotland is a sitting duck precisely because we have Trident, and the £205 billion to replace it would be better spent on better things.

I note that Mr Taylor makes no mention of my point about Scotland's non-existent oil fund; Norway's oil fund is very much in existence and now tops more than 10 trillion kroner. Scotland is a country rich in natural resources, our tourist industry is booming, our food and drink industry is worth around £14bn per year, and I would suggest that it is not a matter of "just how can we afford independence?" but that we cannot afford not to be independent. If other European countries of similar size to Scotland can thrive and prosper as successful independent nations, so too can Scotland.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

DAVID Bone (Letters, March 9) seeks 60 to 70 per cent support in opinion polls for a second Scottish referendum, before it might be considered by the Westminster establishment, knowing in himself this is pretty unrealistic and may never come about. Can I suggest a simpler, more democratic way? When the Scottish electorate elect a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster from Scottish seats, such as in 2015, 2017 and 2019, then that is the mandate for Scottish independence. No need then for a divisive referendum, or a broken egg on a white shirt.

Alec Oattes, Ayr.

IT is one thing for people to disagree with a view, but quite another for them to misrepresent what someone has said. GR Weir (Letters, March 9) claims that I "want to know why Scots don’t want to go back to direct rule". My question was, rather, what benefits has devolved rule brought to Scotland?’ Mr Weir does not answer that but instead proceeds to tell us how awful "direct rule" would be, citing examples in health and education. He appears unaware that these are areas that were under direct Scottish control for long before devolution.

On the same subject, your correspondent Ruth Marr says we should examine "what benefit the Westminster Parliament brings to Scots and ask, under the auspices of which parliament would we be charged £9 per item for our medical prescriptions and up to £27,000 for our university education". The answers are easy. For a start, here is someone else who is unaware that health and education were the responsibility of the Scottish Office in Edinburgh before devolution. Second, the Westminster Parliament has chosen to pay Scots almost £2,000 each more than the UK average in public spending every year which enables the Scottish government to offer certain benefits without charge. It is worth adding, thirdly, that, in England, 89 per cent of prescriptions are dispensed free of charge, while in Scotland thousands of well-qualified applicants are turned away every year from Scottish universities because of the tight cap on Scottish student numbers imposed as a result of ‘free’ tuition.

It would be helpful if your correspondents acquainted themselves with facts before rushing to criticise someone who proposed opening up discussion of an important issue.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.

ONE thing is for sure and that is the coronavirus is unfortunately going global and according to Bloomberg Economics it could bring the world economy to a standstill and cost the global economy $2.7 trillion, causing huge strain on even the strongest economies.

In the meantime the SNP’s Alex Neil (amongst others) still clamour for another referendum and correspondents in this newspaper have suggested all sorts of shenanigans to find a way to justify another vote. One shudders to think of Boris Johnson having agreed and Yes winning – without an established currency (no central bank), outside the UK and EU markets, oil prices trashed (so much for the nonsensical McCrone report) and with our unsustainable fiscal deficit we would have been a failed state before the dancing in the streets had stopped. You couldn’t make this nonsense up if you tried.

As I have said on many occasions, economics and realism are not SNP strong points.

Ian Lakin, Aberdeen AB13.

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