SHOOGLY wheels and the hiss of a puncture are the metaphors deployed by Struan Stevenson in support of his thesis that the case for Scottish independence is in decline (“Are the wheels coming off the independence bandwagon?”, The Herald, September 12) .

His supporting evidence is, inevitably, economic, but his calculations are more shoogly than the wheels on his metaphorical bandwagon.

After an obligatory trawl through the GERS figures, which are accepted by serious economists as intrinsically flawed and no benchmark of Scottish economic prospects, Stevenson tackles international economic comparisons. His exemplars of Ireland and Denmark are worth a closer look, as is a comparison with the UK’s current economic status.

I have no idea where Stevenson derived his statistics but the World Bank puts Ireland’s debt at 62 per cent of GDP or $46,000 per capita, while Denmark’s figures are 33 per cent of GDP and $19,800 per capita.

In June 2020 the UK’s national debt was $2.6 trillion or 102 per cent of GDP equating to a per capita debt of $44,200. These data indicate that our small European neighbours are at least economically equivalent, if not superior to the UK, and, unlike Scotland, they get to make their own choices on fiscal policy.

Yes, the Danes pay more tax, but you will not find Scottish levels of child poverty or urban deprivation in Denmark.

I hoped Struan Stevenson might make a positive case for continuing with the Union, which he believes has left us in such penury and apparently dependent on an umbilical infusion of funds from Westminster. Instead, there was nothing but continuing economic bleakness and no prospect of betterment. Take your handouts, be grateful and keep quiet, seems to be his advice.

Where are the sunlit uplands of Stevenson’s unionism? I searched in vain for an analysis of how Brexit would boost the Scottish economy or perhaps an explanation of the benefits of December’s looming No Deal for Scotland’s food and drink exports to Europe. Not even a mention of the advantages of being part of a country proposing to break international law or leave the European Court of Human Rights.

It’s time for Struan Stevenson to read the runes rather than hide behind a cringing mantra of “too poor”. The polls show a sustained majority for independence but their demographic skew is telling, with all age groups up to 56 years committed to Scotland leaving the UK, making its own choices and forging our own place in Europe and the world.

Iain Gunn, Sheriffmill, Elgin.

STRUAN Stevenson’s article scored at least one spectacular own goal. He holds up Ireland and Denmark as negative examples of what independence could mean for Scotland. I cannot comment on Ireland, but I have been visiting Denmark regularly for over 25 years, have worked there, and currently hold a supernumerary position at Copenhagen University.

Despite what Mr Stevenson clearly hopes will be alarming facts about the Danish economy and tax regime, the reality is that Danes have consistently enjoyed a higher standard of living than UK citizens throughout the time I have been visiting; taxation supports a good and valued level of public services, and Denmark has several times won the title of being the happiest country in the world (I’m not quite sure what these titles mean or how they are arrived at, but in this case it certainly reflects something like the lived reality of daily life).

Of course, not everything is perfect in Denmark. Like many of my Danish friends, I lament widespread negative attitudes to immigrants and, especially, to Muslims, often even more hostile than those encountered in Britain.

But when it comes to everyday life, there is much to envy. As one influential national figure said, “Denmark is a country where few are too rich, and even fewer too poor”.

In Britain today, alas, the opposite is closer to the truth: many are too rich and even more are too poor. If the Danish example is meant to frighten Scots away from independence, Mr Stevenson couldn’t have made a worse choice.

Whether it is cause or effect, the high level of mutual trust in Danish society not only makes for social cohesion and general contentment. It also enables government to act decisively when it needs to. Denmark has suffered only 629 Covid deaths and, as I experienced on a visit just a fortnight ago, much of daily life is back to normal.

Meanwhile Scotland continues to be dragged along behind Britain’s blustering and incompetent Prime Minister.

George Pattison,

St Monan’s,


STRUAN Stevenson states that 63 per cent of Scotland’s trade is with England. This, of course, means that Scotland is England’s fourth or fifth biggest trading partner, which England cannot afford to lose.

In the early 1950s 91 per cent of exports from the Republic of Ireland went to the UK. Today that figure is just 11 per cent, and falling.

Mr Stevenson is very highly selective with his statistics. He is anxious to paint a bleak picture of Ireland with its current National Debt (which is nothing compared to the $23.2 trillion USA national debt). However, he conveniently ignores other key indicators of Irish progress.

Since 1995, Irish income per capita (using the Irish Central Statistics Office’s preferred new measure, GNI) almost tripled, from 13,934€ to 40,655€ in 2018. In contrast, UK income per capita rose from £21,716 in 1995 to £30,594 in 2018 – an improvement in living standards of less than half.

Also ignored by Mr Stevenson was Eurostat’s report last February that, at 20.3 per cent, the percentage of gross disposable income of Irish Republic households that went to pay taxes on income and indirect taxes in 2015 was one of the lowest in the EU, with only Cyprus and the Czech Republic below Ireland.

The Irish Tax Institute reported in 2019 that an Irish worker earning 18,000 Euros paid 480 Euros in income taxes. The corresponding UK figure was 1,895 Euros.

Tom Johnston,


STRUAN Stevenson has been most selective in the figures given in his missive. He omits to tell us so much of importance that it is inevitable that an independent Scotland would appear to face crippling poverty, in comparison to today’s Denmark.

When I visited Denmark some 60 years ago the exchange rate gave us 20 Danish kroner for every pound sterling. Today you’ll be lucky to get eight Danish kroner to the pound.

Doubtless a part of that huge devaluation of the pound is the fact that the UK debt currently exceeds £1.5 trillion.

Take a look at the UK’s expenditure in the last few years.

A couple of items stand out; the beautiful, new aircraft carrier with its all new supersonic aircraft, and London’s state-of-the-art Underground system. But don’t forget HS2. I could understand that if it reached Scotland, but it won’t. There is still one factor Mr Stevenson doesn’t include. Probably the most expensive of all? The cost of one Boris.

Rodney Lang,


South Lanarkshire.

AN excellent piece by Struan Stevenson, which concisely provides ample reasoning why Scotland should remain part of the Union which has served us so well for centuries. This should be mandatory reading for separatists but sadly no matter what the economic reality is of breaking up the United Kingdom, they refuse to believe, depending rather on fiction and emotion as the basis of a separate country. Fiction and emotion will not pay the bills.

As Mr Stevenson states, Scotland could be like Ireland or Denmark as oft’ trumpeted by nationalists, “but at what cost?”. These countries have massive debt with income tax rates in Denmark at 41% and 55%. To establish an independent Scotland will cost hundreds of billions, result in substantial tax increases with unacceptable unemployment and a reduction in public services- to achieve what, some sort of misguided freedom?

At least Alex Neil is man enough to question Nicola Sturgeon’s motives for an independent Scotland to try to join the EU – a weird concept of independence. Those who would put the future of an independent Scotland at economic risk care nothing for their fellow country folk so long as they have the satisfaction of showing two fingers to Westminster, Britain, United Kingdom and the Union Flag with a poster at a border - “England out of Scotland”.

Emotion, hate and xenophobia - that’s all you have.

Douglas Cowe,



STRUAN Stevenson conveniently omitted to compare Scotland to Norway, which became independent from Sweden in 1905. Norway has a population almost exactly the same as Scotland, but crucially has been able to harness, due to North Sea oil, a Trillion Dollar sovereign Wealth Fund, with no national debt. Compare that with the United Kingdom, which now has a Two Trillion National Debt, with no prospect of paying that back anytime soon and which will be exacerbated by Brexit, deal or no deal.

Alec Oattes,


MR Stevenson made a good number of telling points,warning Scots of the potential risks of going it alone in the event that a second independence referendum goes the way of the Yes side.

But he conveniently forgets that Britain is about to take a huge step in the direction of lasting change when, against the wishes of a huge minority of voters, it is seceding from the EU.

The Prime Minister’s careless, bullish brinksmanship with the EU negotiators is masking the fact that we have yet to sign many trade deals, apart from the one that has been agreed in principle with Japan. Time is now running out.

Independence might be massively costly for Scotland, as Mr Stevenson points out, but is he as sanguine when it comes to the UK’s own long-term economic prospects?

L. Montague,