THERE is a very funny scene in the film Robin Hood,Men In Tights (1993) in which evil King John begs the Sheriff of Nottingham to tell him “bad news but only in a good way”. President Joe Biden’s comment that he “only wanted to discuss happy events on the 4th of July” as he was pressed by the media about the treacherous US evacuation from Bagram airbase in Afghanistan was strangely reminiscent of that scene. The Americans had not told the Afghan commander they were evacuating, as they put out the lights at 3am leaving food, small weapons and military vehicles.

When Prime Minister Tony Blair declared war on the Taliban after the terror attacks in New York in 2001, he said the UK would not walk away from the Afghan people. Most of our troops left in 2014 with the remaining 750 leaving now. Four hundred and fifty-seven troops were killed and hundreds maimed by improvised explosive devices in Helmand province, but for what? Pakistan (the greatest recipient today of UK overseas aid, despite being a nuclear power), played a significant role in our defeat in Helmand.

Mr Blair’s avowed aims were to eradicate the opium industry and to ensure schooling for girls and so mission creep began. The then US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted us out but Mr Blair’s view, that we would make it a better place for women, prevailed with President George W Bush.

The Taliban claim they have taken back more than 80 per cent of the country. While we have got the interpreters out, these Jihadists target teachers, doctors, nurses, the Afghan police and judiciary, contractors and security firms. They particularly single out educated women and Christian charity workers.The SAS are guarding the British and other western embassies.

On The Andrew Marr Show, General Sir Nick Carter, Chief Of The General Staff, said three things could happen: 1) Afghan forces could win the war (yet a quarter of their forces have fled to Tajikistan; 2) The country could break up into its ethnic regions (Iran and Pakistan would not welcome that: 58% of Afghans are not Pashtun; 3) There could be a political compromise (former leader Hamid Karzai claims extremism has flourished). Sir Nick claimed the Taliban of today (the self-styled the Islamic Emirate), have a different attitude to girls’ schooling without citing evidence. Meanwhile, the opium trade is flourishing and the Taliban remain intent on the spread of Sharia Law.

There are 5,000 Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in the Parwan detention centre. How long till some of them are on our streets? Islamic State rescued inmates from the prison in Jalalabad just last August. While appropriate that Nato countries each take some refugees, they will have to be thoroughly assessed, given that Islamic State has sleeper cells in every Afghan city.

At the time of the US presidential election, Joe Biden made great play of the United States standing by its friends and allies. However, he does not consult with allies any more than President Trump did and his priorities are overwhelmingly domestic. Those words must sound rather hollow in Afghanistan today.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.


IAIN Macwhirter (July 11) writes: “Watch out Nicola, it’s clear that England can do civic nationalism too” . I’m pretty sure that every Scot who supports self-government for Scotland will be delighted with this rise in “Englishness”.

We already know that a majority of English Tories simply don’t care if Scotland and Northern Ireland secede, and would indeed prefer it. The easiest way to do this would be a “Velvet Divorce” where both sides declared mutually-agreed independence, and left without the rancour, animosity or the airing of ancient grievances that a referendum might bring.

So if a motion of secession is raised at the Tory conference, I’m certain Boris Johnson’s ego would be relieved that his reputation would escape the censure of history that a lost referendum would bring.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


IAIN Macwhirter’s laughably inaccurate claim that I cannot conceive of English nationalism as progressive suggests he did not properly read our book Englishness before discussing it in your paper.

As the text makes clear, the English electorate is considerably annoyed by a constitutional status quo that denies them a voice and a UK Government that cannot raise its head above constitutional design by serial ad hoc-ery. They have every right to be annoyed. He also appears to have missed the section critiquing the lazy but oft-repeated caricature of Englishness as racist, insular and backward-looking, a caricature to which he appears to have fallen victim.

I have not spoken to Mr Macwhirter ever about our research. He has never contacted me, nor has he evidently listened to any presentation I have made on the subject in the 10 years that I have been co-directing the Future of England Survey. It shows.

Professor Ailsa Henderson, University of Edinburgh.


MARTIN Redfern (Letters, July 11) should perhaps reflect that Covid might well have been all but eradicated in Scotland last year if Scotland had control of its borders; and that it wasn’t because we don’t. It wasn’t Nicola Sturgeon who allowed planes to fly in from Covid hotspot countries last year, and it wasn’t Ms Sturgeon who allowed planes in from Covid-wracked India this year, thus sparking off another wave of the virus.

Mr Redfern laments Scotland’s education system, but all the parents I know seem happy with the way in which their sons and daughters are being educated and nobody is out protesting in the playgrounds; indeed, a record number of Scots have secured university places.

I’m surprised that Mr Redfern should criticise the First Minister for not delivering Indyref2. Ms Sturgeon has stated many times that her first priority must be the health pandemic; but when that crisis is over, Mr Redfern can rest assured that Scotland will have the choice to either let someone else decide our future, or to decide our future for ourselves. Just like most other nations in the world.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


SINCE the liberal/left has lost its self-confidence I suggest that the “woke warriors” are necessary to fill the gap in the “culture war” being waged.

However, the right has demonised both terms, using them to denigrate those who fight injustice, the result being that, generally speaking, the liberal/left has taken fright and has capitulated before the “anti-woke” forces.

In this context I refer to Iain Macwhirter’s column in which he describes the Guardian columnist Owen Jones as being “ultra-woke”. I suspected Mr Macwhirter was belittling him for being a courageously outspoken leftie but it is conceivable I misunderstood his intention.

Similarly, I was initially disappointed that Neil Mackay in his Big Read article of that same issue (“Life at Scotland’s National Museum amid polarising culture wars”, July 11) referred to “the culture war toxifying almost every debate” until I realised it was unlikely he was criticising the woke for standing up for their beliefs.

On reflection I assumed that both would surely prefer me, in the words of WB Yeats, to be “full of passionate intensity” in defence of the UK’s postwar pre-Thatcherite values on which I was brought up rather than have me “lack all conviction” in opposing those of Boris Johnson.

John Milne, Uddingston.


AS England’s vaunted day of freedom beckons, when it will be up to the individual and companies to decide which restrictions to abide by, there has to be an opportunity for enterprising academics to set up a sociological study to see whether there is a strong correlation between Brexiters and anti-maskers or a positive relationship between Remainers and pro-maskers, anti-maskers being shorthand for those who are desperate to throw off all restrictions and pro-maskers being the diametric opposite.

Westminster Government circles are ushering citizens south of the Border towards a libertarian approach in their desperation to open up the economy, relying on the argument that they must learn to live with Covid, the implication being that people must tolerate levels of infection and of deaths arising from the relaxation of restrictions, which sounds suspiciously like a herd immunity programme by another name.

The community there seems to be dividing into two separate camps, the one we could characterise as the cavalier group favoured by the PM and the other, the Cromwellian party espoused by the opposition.

The battle is now on between the UK economy and the health of the nation, the Westminster Health Secretary masking his cavalier outlook under the guise of protecting the mental health of the nation when it is clear that he is on the side of restriction reduction to pump profit back into the economy. Cautious optimism demands that the brakes should be gradually removed rather than people being thrown under the bus to satisfy the balance sheet of the UK. We have witnessed this over-optimistic approach from the PM too often not to worry that he will have to slam the brakes on hard and revert to reverse.

If that happens, confidence in his leadership, which is beginning to look threadbare, will lose whatever shred of credibility it has clung on to and leave him exposed for the charlatan he is.

Dennis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


I HAVE to respond to the view from some quarters that football fans should support their neighbouring country (“Anyone but England? Why resorting to our tribal instincts isn’t Anglophobic”, July 11). I’ve worked around the world and can exclusively reveal that every country’s fans want their rival team to lose. In fact for the tiny minority who cheer on their rivals it means one of two things:

1), They can’t be trusted, or

2), They need to see a psychiatrist.

Danny Gallacher, Glasgow.