It will always be the economy ... and we are not stupid

Iain Macwhirter insults the intelligence of the Scottish electorate by suggesting we will not be influenced by economic arguments in the continuing debates over independence (Herald on Sunday, January 5).

While Nicola Sturgeon has asserted that “the case for self-government transcends Brexit, oil and national wealth”, the populace has a deeper instinctive understanding of these matters.

We know that social welfare fundamentally depends upon economic success through the creation of private wealth and strong public finances. We also know that social welfare transcends the emotional appeal of independence.

To its credit, the Sustainable Growth Commission established by the Scottish Government is taking a rational approach to these vital economic issues, filtering out emotional optimism and pragmatically evaluating Scotland's realistic prospects under various future economic and political scenarios.

These, and similar sober analyses from reputable independent economic research bodies on these complex but vital issues, are the sensible voices that will be listened to by the people of Scotland and will ultimately determine our constitutional preferences.

It will always be the economy, and we are not stupid.

David Henderson


While I agree with much of what he writes about the "non-economic" debate about independence, Iain Macwhirter’s view of GERS is generous to a fault.

First, he suggests Scotland has a “nominal deficit of several billions of pounds which could cause immediate fiscal belt-tightening if the Barnett taps were turned off”. Such certainty is highly contentious as there is insufficient clarity about how much tax is raised as a result of economic activity in Scotland, and even less about how much tax would be raised as a result of economic activity in an independent Scotland. Even Kevin Hague has accepted that point!

How a specific deficit can be claimed when much of the revenue side is a matter of estimation, is doubtful to say the least, though this does not stop opponents of independence announcing in their best sonorous and ex cathedra manner that an independent Scotland would have to deal with a deficit of whatever GERS says it is this year.

To be fair, Macwhirter does add at the end of that paragraph that the deficit is nominal as Hague’s figures are a matter of “much controversy”, but that isn’t actually true either, for as a non-sovereign entity Scotland does not, could not, have a real deficit.

However, Macwhirter then goes on to suggest that Hague enjoyed a victory when “the Scottish Government largely accepted, in the Sustainable Growth Commission, his arguments about Scotland’s fiscal position, based as they are on the GERS calculations of Government spending and revenues”, which, like his comment about Hague’s figures being controversial, is a masterpiece of misrepresentation.

What Andrew Wilson actually wrote is that GERS “provides a helpful starting point for our analysis” by making available information that “would otherwise be missing”. However, he then goes on to point out that GERS uses central government accounting conventions rather than Eurostat or UN accounting conventions which would allocate revenues and spending to where they actually arise, concluding that GERS can only give us “an estimate of Scotland’s position under the current constitutional situation”.

Therefore, perhaps as much as can be said about GERS is that, while it might be the best we have, that to a substantial degree is because we don’t have anything else. It’s the best there is because it’s all there is.

Conceivably, given GERS’ many and increasingly widely agreed flaws, Iain Macwhirter might want to ask why we continue to base the economic debate about independence round a publication which, while civil servants will have laboured long and hard to the best of their ability, remains flawed and, as GERS itself points out, is prepared only “under the current constitutional arrangements”.

Certainly, there is a need for an informed view of how an independent Scotland might fare economically. However, the only reason to start from GERS is that there is nothing else.

Alasdair Galloway


Harry and Meghan: A hasty decision?

I can see no problem with Harry and Meghan deciding to leave their positions as senior royals. The move will see them lose any income from the Sovereign Grant so naturally Harry stated that they will require to look for another income stream, or to put it in normal parlance, a job.

The only grey area is with UK-funded security – how far down the royal lineage should this go, as we do however supply security to some former ministers of state and others? Perhaps Harry shouldn't have acted in haste and discussed this with at least Prince Charles first.

George Dale


What will be cost to the Sussexes of seeking to escape the suffocating straitjacket pinioning the royals?

There are two radically different dimensions operating here.

On Meghan's side, there is the American Republican tradition which holds out the American Dream as the aspiration for every individual regardless of social status.

For Harry, there are the constraints of a rarefied culture where the niche tribe of royals is imprisoned in a world combining privilege and duty.

That is the clash of cultures which bedevils this situation, but which one will triumph?

We could be seeing the playing out of a tragedy, analogous to that of Romeo and Juliet, where both lose out on their joint dream of freedom and happiness through the inability of either to compromise on their respective positions in the eyes of society.

Let us hope that there is a satisfactory resolution to this unhappy dilemma and Harry can cope as a private citizen and a life devoid of the privileges which come with his background.

Denis Bruce


It's time for 'smart' unionism

If Labour leader hopefuls such as Clive Lewis and Rebecca Long-Bailey, or indeed senior members of Scottish Labour, think supporting a second Scottish independence referendum will win back SNP voters to their party or strengthen their position vis a vis the Tories, they are beyond naive.

How we vote in 2021 will depend on whether you support or oppose independence. If you support it, you vote for the real thing – the SNP, not Labour. And if either of these leadership candidates is successful or Scottish Labour back the notion of indyref2, it seems then that if you oppose nationalism, you'll surely vote Tory.

As someone who voted for the admirable Edinburgh South Labour MP, Ian Murray, last month, this in some ways is a cause of regret. But maybe, just as the SNP has long benefited from being the only significant nationalist game in town, might Scottish pro-UK voters have more impact at the polls if there was only one really viable option to back?

Martin Redfern


A leader whose attention is elsewhere

We Scots really should appreciate our leaders more. We have a First Minister who pontificates on TV as if she is an expert on the intractable problems of the Middle East, which have plagued world leaders for many decades. She is also, apparently, an economic and geopolitical genius and can forecast exactly what other countries can or cannot do in the event of Scotland being broken off from the rest of the UK.

Notably, however, she rarely or never comments on running a devolved NHS competently; on financing and paying for ferries; on Education; on dealing with unnecessary and preventable drug deaths in Scotland; on balancing the country’s books, or, especially, on a broken-off Scotland’s currency. Over all of these matters her administration has total control.

Her expertise appears to lie elsewhere, in places where she has no jurisdiction or power to do anything.

Alexander McKay


A flag demeaned

I was interested in your article "Flying the flag for individuality" (Herald on Sunday, January 5).

Perhaps the politicising of the Saltire, which has been “stolen” by the SNP and is now the emblem of nationalism, has something to do with the increasing number of communities choosing to create their own emblems and look beyond the Saltire.

Many of these communities are involved in the tourist industry and no doubt a significant number of these tourists will be from south of the Border, therefore flying the Saltire with its nationalist connotation may seem unwelcoming.

A great pity that our national flag has been demeaned in this way!

Alexander Irving


Trouble with trees

I’ve just read the letters in this week’s Herald on Sunday (January 5) and would like to make a small comment on the one referring to the treatment of woodland on Inchtavannach Island.

I agree completely with Roy Turnbull’s understanding of woodland not being treated as if it is a park.

When I read the article to which he refers, however, I felt sad that the poisoned beech trees couldn’t be left to rot as they would if they had not been poisoned. Perhaps only the poisoned trees are being removed – so the poison doesn’t spread?

If this is not the case and the poison has been neutralised then I do fully agree with Roy Turnbull’s sentiments.

Priscilla Douglas