Prem Sikka provides a timely and very informative article in which he compares the severe welfare reform, as it applies to so many people in need, with the unreformed corporate welfare ("The vast sums spent on corporate welfare are very rarely discussed", Herald Business, March 10).

The financial sector, which has seen so much fraud and corruption but which has also seen enormous amounts provided in support, has seen no-one prosecuted or imprisoned. Compare that with the severe punishment meted out to so-called benefit scroungers who may have been reduced to penury by welfare reform.

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is a cause for despair. This was a Conservative idea (a prime example was the Skye Bridge affair) that was at first condemned by Gordon Brown and Labour. When in government Mr Brown suddenly found that it was a useful method by which government debt could appear smaller while it could boast of the various public works being provided by his government. As Mr Sikka says, PFI contracts with a capital value of £54.7bn will cost £301bn. That debt is not included in this Government's overall figures for the national debt.

He goes on to give many other examples of corporate welfare in the form of unneeded subsidies.

His most telling conclusion is this: "Its (corporate welfare) major function is now to guarantee profits for corporations and operate a kind of reverse socialism where wealth travels upwards."

The UK's finances are in a hole that is getting deeper. Because Westminster is trapped by big business and vested interests it is unable to reduce this corporate welfare. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have collectively allowed this to happen. There is no sign that any of them will change anything in the foreseeable future.

If the Scots say No in September they should be aware that, in this regard at least, nothing will improve. On the other hand, an independent Scotland could start afresh and make such corruption more difficult to fester and grow.

John Scott Roy,

42 Galloway Avenue,


In a recent talk in Pittenweem extolling the virtues of the Union, Sir Menzies Campbell pointed to the benefits which Scotland enjoys through the agency of the 180 embassies and consulates which the UK Government maintains in foreign countries. He implied that we should be especially grateful for the fact that there is one whole person in the Washington embassy who is entirely devoted to furthering Scotland's interests.

For me this raised a number of interesting points. First, how many people in the Irish embassy in Washington are devoted to furthering Ireland's interests? At a rough guess I would say all of them. Are we being short-changed?

Secondly. I wondered if Scotland really needed representation in 180 countries when all the other successful small northern European nations seem to make do with around 60. Why should Scotland pay for embassies in such places as Tajikistan and Ecuador when Norway doesn't seem to find it necessary?

This set me to thinking about the true benefits of the Union to Scotland and my research revealed some interesting facts.

The UK Government raises taxes annually from Scotland of between £63.7bn and £64.8bn. The UK Government grants the Scottish Government around £37.3bn and retains the remainder (£27bn approximately) which it claims it spends for our benefit on our behalf. Of this £27bn, £18.8bn is spent in Scotland on social security benefits and state pensions. This leaves £8.2bn of Scottish taxes which is spent outside Scotland on things which the UK Government claims benefit us and are good value. These include £3bn for defence. This is at least £1bn more than should be spent if our small north European neighbours such as Finland are anything to go by. It includes the salaries of thousands of civil servants (including all of the highest grades) based in London in the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Department of Work and Pensions and the MoD. It also includes the costs of the pointless foreign military adventures so beloved of the unionist parties. So of £8.6bn extorted from Scotland, at least £1bn is wasted and the remainder is spent in London, in foreign embassies and pointless military posturing. Independence would let us keep this £8.6bn in Scotland and bring all those high-quality government jobs home.

An additional bonus of independence is that at least 60 countries would immediately establish embassies in Scotland with an obvious boost to our economy (estimated as at least £2bn). International companies wishing to trade with our oil-rich nation would also have to establish offices here (as distinct from London) giving yet another boost to our economy.

Thank you Sir Ming, you certainly made me think.

Alastair Macpherson,

26 East Green, Anstruther.

I HAVE just received an invitation from the British Chamber of Commerce to attend a presentation by the Westminster Secretary of State for Scotland. I quote: "Secretary Carmichael will make the case for why it is in Scotland's interests to remain in the UK and how the UK delivers for Scotland at an international level."

At last, I foolishly thought, we are to get a reasoned debate on the benefits or disadvantages of independence. Not so. Where is Alistair Carmichael spreading his words of wisdom? Obviously somewhere where there are people who are entitled to vote in the referendum; in Edinburgh? In Glasgow? In Aberdeen? No, it is in Copenhagen. You really could not make it up.

David Stubley,

22 Templeton Crescent,


YOUR report on Gordon Brown ("Brown spells out how politicians can save the nation", The Herald, March 10) was eye-catching. Even more so was the comment therein by a Yes campaign spokesman: "We agree with Gordon Brown that the purpose of constitutional change must be to empower the people ..." Yes and No camps in harmony? Music to the ears of an ever-increasing number of undecided voters. Then, predictably, the Yes man realises the error of his optimistic blurt by adding: "We have heard such promises before ... and they came to nothing."

The flickering candle of kindred spirits is snuffed by suspicion and doubt. Regrettably, this reluctance of both camps to be more receptive to each other may well be the ultimate force in deciding this ever-developing contest of attrition on our nation's future.

Allan C Steele,

22 Forres Avenue, Giffnock.

David Torrance is one of the more open-minded and thoughtful critics of Scottish independence; his biography of Alex Salmond was both immensely readable and fair to his subject. It is therefore disappointing to note that in his critique of the Yes movement ("A gap between 'progressive' words and Salmond's ideas", The Herald, March 10), he seems to imply that the cause of Scottish independence is only about the First Minister. He must be fully aware that Yes Scotland is about more than the SNP and its leader, but he seems to fall in line with the nay-sayers who maintain that independence is the whim of one man.

I joined the SNP a few years ago after being a Labour supporter for most of my life. I did so because it was clear to me that the cause of social justice would never prosper in the UK under any government because of the right-wing mindset of so many voters south of the Border.

I was full of hope when Tony Blair swept to power, comprehensively routing the Tories after all those baleful years of Thatcherism, but I very quickly came to realise that Tweedledee had been replaced with Tweedledum.

I soon became convinced that only with independence could Scotland become a better, fairer country and of the various parties supporting independence, the SNP seemed to me to be the most likely to deliver. I therefore joined up. Although I admire and trust Alex Salmond, it was the party and the cause I joined, not a fan club devoted to one man.

It is my hope and my belief that the other nations in the UK will benefit from the example Scotland will set and that ultimately these islands will be totally rid of the long-standing notion that only the rich and powerful deserve the good things of life.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale, Loanhead.

David Torrance bemoans the vagueness of the term "progressive" when used by the Left in Scotland, but he has not mentioned that its meaning had already been confused by the Conservatives. For many years, when standing in local elections, it was they who disguised themselves under the name of "Progressives". But that was before Mr Torrance's time.

Kenneth Fraser,

24 Winram Place, St Andrews,

I EXPECT to vote Better Together in September's referendum and I have friends who are likely to vote Yes for independence ("Independence debate should be free of abuse", Herald Leader, March 10.) We can discuss the issues with goodwill and restraint, and why shouldn't we? This is an adult debate and there are pros and cons on both sides.

I cannot predict the result but I know that we will still be friends at the end of it.

R Russell Smith,

96 Milton Road, Kilbirnie.