IAN McConnell’s recent article about Brexit ("Two years on, Brexit ebullience is gone and many have woken up to grim reality", The Herald, December 30) lists so many downsides of Brexit from economic downturns, the collapsing pound, travel restrictions, and reduced taxable income that it is difficult to comprehend that this is now happening.

All of this, however, was predicted before the referendum, but most of the UK population seemed to be more affected by the side of a bus than economic statements from many experts.

Scottish fishermen, for example, seemed to think that being able to fish from all of the UK’s waters without European competition would be wonderful. They forgot, however, that they would need to sell to someone and that someone were the Spanish and French who would soon put a stop to UK boats being allowed into their ports. Others were convinced that instead of “our” taxes funding inefficient French farmers and the Common Agricultural Policy we could keep it to ourselves for our own benefit.

It seems that we are not good at listening to experts when it comes to economic predictions which conflict with our gut feelings. Other examples involve the results of Liz Truss’s actions when she became Prime Minister. She was warned, prior to the vote, by Rishi Sunak and others that her intended actions would wreck the UK economy but she and the majority of the Tory MPs did not listen. So, we had the UK economy falling off a cliff, the pound crashing, and the Bank of England having to take emergency action to support pension funds when she carried out her plans.

There is unfortunately another potential action that is being driven by emotion although experts have told us will result in economic catastrophe. This is the proposal for Scottish independence. We are told of many things that will be better after independence. Scotland will be the “Saudi Arabia of green energy”, and our oil and gas profits will stay in Scotland and fund our own decisions rather than being diverted to London where the UK Parliament does not act in Scotland’s interests. There are plenty numpties in Westminster (as there are in Holyrood) but will gut feelings overcome the proposed reality of experts?

Will the economic arguments against Scottish independence (even one where we are in the EU but out of the UK) when our biggest market is at present across a seamless border be any more effective than the ones which involve feelings of the heart listed above? Or will we be seduced by the sunlit uplands of independence shown metaphorically on the side of another bus?
Colin Gunn, Glasgow

Here's what we could have won

FIFTY years ago this week, the UK and Ireland joined the EEC. Back in 1973, Ireland’s economy was weak and it relied for the bulk of its trade on the wealthy UK. How times have changed. Through its membership of the EU, and its long-established transatlantic connections, small (Scotland-sized) independent Ireland has blossomed to become the world’s 27th-largest economy, with exports to the EU and US now accounting for 60% of the country’s $20 billion total.

Ireland has also become a key actor on the world stage; it was a member of the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term and it sends more troops on UN peacekeeping missions than the UK. Since 1973, Ireland’s trade with the UK has fallen to less than 20% and this reduction continues thanks to Brexit.

At the start of 2023, the economic position of the two countries could not be more different; according to World Bank data, Ireland has one the world’s highest GDP per capita ($100,000), compared to the UK’s lowly $46,500, and unlike the ‘zero-growth’ UK, this confident, connected and lucky country is looking forward to economic growth in 2023 of a healthy 3.2%. In short (and despite having fewer natural resources than Scotland), Ireland has successfully decoupled its economy from the UK’s and has a bright future ahead of it.

See it Scotland, and weep.
D Jamieson, Dunbar

Red wall voters drive our councils

THE call for elected mayors by the Gordon Brown-supporting Reform Scotland ("Call for councils to get directly-elected mayors who ‘meet with FM regularly’", The Herald, December 29) is merely an entirely predictable unionist strategy to undermine Scotland’s national political progress.

The Scottish Parliament is viewed by the public as our prime political institution. The task of unionist Reform Scotland is to weaken that institution by cutting its power.

“Scotland is unusual internationally in the weakness of its local authorities,” states Reform Scotland. It carefully omits to mention that, unlike all other countries, the Scottish national parliament is not kept busy with economic, defence and taxation policies, these being run from outwith Scotland.

Cosla is the body which speaks on behalf of our local authorities and liaises constantly with Holyrood.

The real farce in Scottish local democracy is that Labour HQ in London has ordered that Labour groups on Scottish local authorities are expressly forbidden from forming coalitions with SNP groups. This is because perceived links with the SNP in Scotland might estrange Red Wall voters in England from Labour. (Remember the Tory election posters down in England showing Alex Salmond with a tiny Ed Miliband keeking out of his breast pocket ?)

The perceived sensitivities of voters in Lancashire and Yorkshire dictate whom Labour councillors work with in Scottish local councils, where Labour-Tory coalitions are now common.
Councillor Tom Johnston (SNP), Cumbernauld

Holyrood is not fit for purpose

I DOUBT that it is contentious to say that the condition of the NHS is one of the crises, if not the pre-eminent crisis, afflicting Scotland and causing great popular concern. Yet there seems to be no urgency on the part of the SNP administration to debate it at Holyrood. Instead, MSPs spent the last two days (and evenings) at Holyrood before Christmas having the non-urgent Gender Recognition Reform Bill pushed through with unseemly haste. That served neither the NHS nor those debating the merits of self-ID well.

In addition, the ruling party has planned to have, as its first debate in the New Year, the subject of Scottish secession. Why? What is urgent about this? We all know what the SNP thinks about it, even if it can’t produce a convincing prospectus.

It is clear that Holyrood is not fit for purpose, entrusted only with the candyfloss issues of interest to minorities, while the major business of health, education, housing, transport languishes in ministries that do little and achieve less. Is this how democracy is meant to work?
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Be bold on the living wage

YOUR report on Labour’s analysis of the Annual Population Survey of Scottish workers (“Workers losing out on £1.9bn in unpaid overtime”, The Herald, January 2) included two interesting figures – “average earnings for private sector employees in April 2022 were £13.49 per hour, while public sector workers received an average of £17.71”.

In other words, public sector workers were on average paid 30% more than those in the private sector. They also benefited from good pension schemes, which are essentially wages paid after retirement, and from job security.

In the current cost of living crisis, my sympathies are with those who work in the private sector for the minimum wage or less – there are unscrupulous employers who don’t even pay the legal minimum. Of course many of those on low wages have their income topped up with benefits: the taxpayer subsidises employers who don’t pay a wage people can survive on.

The National Living Wage is due to increase in April from £9.50 per hour to £10.42. It’s less for those under the age of 23, currently only £6.83 for those aged 18 to 20. A figure of £12.50 per hour for all would go some way to alleviate the worst of in-work poverty; it would reward employees with a fairer rate for the job and reduce their dependency on benefits.

Sir Keir Starmer goes on and on about “working people”; he used the phrase 24 times in one speech to the TUC. It would be great to see some boldness from him and I’d urge him to pledge that Labour, if returned to power at Westminster, would increase the Living Wage to a realistic sum, with £12.50 per hour as a bare minimum. That really would be standing up for working people.
Doug Maughan, Dunblane


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