REPORTS frequently say the UK’s deficit is around £50 billion while Scotland’s “black hole” is £15bn, suggesting about 30 per cent of the UK deficit is generated by Scotland's 8.5 per cent of the population. Puzzlingly, it is also reported that Scotland’s fiscal indicators are broadly similar to the rest of the UK – excluding London and the south east (L&SE) – suggesting Scotland is a successful part of one of the wealthiest countries in the world. How can these conflicting pictures be reconciled?

A possible explanation is Scotland’s reported deficit is not unique within the UK, with most of the UK outside L&SE recording a deficit and L&SE alone in surplus. It is also possible bookkeeping in the UK allocates large surpluses to L&SE through some accounting artifice and thus distorts the picture across the UK.

Whatever the explanation, Scotland's reported fiscal position as part of the UK compares unfavourably with other similarly-sized, independent, northern European countries – ranging from Norway and Sweden through to Denmark, Ireland and Iceland.

Consequently, what is there to encourage Scotland to remain within a UK now stumbling towards a damaging Brexit largely focused on preserving the position of L&SE?

Bruce Crichton,

6 Birchfield Road, Hamilton.

YOU refer to my questioning of the term "UK Single Market" while chairing a discussion on Brexit at the Festival of Politics in Edinburgh ("Nationalist MP claims UK single market is all a 'bit of a nonsense'", The Herald, October 20. This is ticketed, non-party political Question Time style debate run during recess and not part of parliamentary process.

The role of the chair is to stimulate lively discussion – which is exactly what I was doing. Your report states that I "appeared to think devolution meant the UK had already lost its frictionless economy". Obviously this is not my view. The point is that free trade and a "frictionless economy" operate across the UK now despite very different approaches taken by the UK and Scottish Governments.

We in Scotland now control income tax, have always set property taxes and local business rates and control a wide swathe of other areas such as health, education, local government, economic development, infrastructure investment. On top of all that we have had our own legal system for centuries.

The term "UK Single Market" has come in to usage recently and is often deployed by Conservative politicians in particular to attack any distinctive policies in Scotland. It has been used in particular to justify the stalled EU Withdrawal Bill which the Welsh and Scottish First Minster jointly described as a naked power-grab, and an attack on the founding principles of devolution.

If Scotland and Wales can operate a frictionless economy at the moment with the devolved powers they have, there is no reason why that should not continue as powers over environment, fisheries and agriculture come back to Edinburgh – as we have been promised by David Mundell and others.

Indeed, it should continue even if we accrued the additional powers we need to protect people here from Tory policies – such as employment law and the living wage. Not that I, or the majority of Scots who voted to remain in the EU wish that to proceed. The real threat to a frictionless economy is the barriers the misguided British nationalists of the Tory Party are intent on placing between us and our biggest trading partner, the European Single Market.

Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP,

The Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, Edinburgh.

I READ Martin Redfern’s letter (October 20) with mild amusement before the indignation kicked in.

He commented: “Theresa May has made clear again that all EU citizens will be able to remain in the UK after we leave the EU. She added that the process will be hassle free and the cost as low as possible”.

Contrast that with the news on your Page 3 (“Psychiatrist facing a Kafkaesque procedure to become UK citizen”, The Herald, October 20 The lady concerned, mother of three children and married to a Scot, has lived and worked in Scotland for 25 years. She is employed as a child and adolescent psychiatrist for NHS Fife.

Her application for citizenship has been “dogged with months of uncertainty and frustration, curt correspondence, confusing demands for paperwork which had already been sent and tests which she says bordered on being laughable”.

A BMA Scotland spokesman said it had called for uncertainty over EU nationals to be resolved.

Theresa May was Home Secretary before she became Prime Minister, and she made the rules now coming under fire.

How does that square with Mr Redfern's remarks?

Jim Lynch,

42 Corstrophine Hill Crescent, Edinburgh.

PHASE one of Brexit talks appear to be inching forward, now that Theresa May has followed advice (from Nicola Sturgeon, among many others) to drop linkage on EU citizens. She has also admitted the final settlement bill will be much higher than the Cabinet has publically stated. But there are many hurdles to go before trade talks start—the EU court, the border between N Ireland/EU. She has reportedly had to beg the EU leaders for “something” to take back to the UK.

This is only the first phase, and as Angela Merkel has said, phase two will be much tougher to resolve, with the clock running down (“Merkel talks of encouraging signs on start of trade deal negotiations”, The Herald, October 20).

Meanwhile, the Scottish rail budget has been reduced to Barnett equivalent funding (same as roads), even though Scotland has one-third of the UK landmass. Farmers/fishers and others should sit up and take notice.

Barnett is now the way Westminster will cut back Scotland’s share of UK state spending---though we can bet the farm it won’t apply to defence spending or defence procurement, or anywhere else Scotland does not have a per capita share.

GR Weir,

17 Mill Street,


THERE seems to be a general assumption that a second referendum would result in a rejection of Brexit (Letters, October 18 & 19).

No one seems to consider what would happen, or what they would do, if it turned out to reinforce Brexit.

GJC Reid,

20 St Anthony's Road,