Readers' Letters: Don’t Knows matter in Indyref polls

Polls are not “consistently showing that a majority of Scots are in favour of a future as an independent country” (your report, December 11). Of the last 15 polls cited, five have shown a majority of Scots supporting independence.

Independence remains a polarising issue in Scotland
Independence remains a polarising issue in Scotland

The average polling figures for the 15 polls is Yes: 49 per cent; No: 42 per cent; Don’t Know: 9 per cent. It is certainly the case that support for independence is consistently higher, about 7 per cent on average, than that against. But though five polls do show a majority for independence, many do not. There is no sustained majority shown for Scottish independence to date. Is "independence the settled will of the Scottish people”? The polls say, not yet.

It would be accurate to state that on average a majority, 54 per cent, of those who have expressed a view Yes or No do support independence. This does not equate to a majority of Scottish voters, but only to a majority of the Yes and No voter subset.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Poll results should be read, and presented, with caution. Using a Yes and No only data subset produces binary Yes and No percentages that are higher than full poll percentages, and which do not represent the same percentage of Scottish voters.

Don’t Knows do matter. Full opinion poll results, including Don’t Knows, should always be reported by polling companies, press and media for both accuracy and clarity. This would contribute to a more balanced, informed and hopefully more tolerant debate, and in doing so strengthen our democratic society.

John Garrity, Stein Road, Chichester

Reality check

Joyce McMillan (Perspective, December 18) is correct in pointing out how the SNP has defied the laws of political gravity; they should be in trouble by now, yet here they are, sailing away with big leads. However, reality must click in at some point – they are not omnipotent, and what goes up must eventually fall down. For this reason, they must push for another referendum quickly, for them to win. W e are more or less being bounced into another plebiscite – anything to reach their Utopian goal!

William Ballantine, Dean Road, Bo'ness

Expect errors

The argument against independence based on SNP incompetence, often presented by correspondents such as Jim Houston (Letters, December 16), is that a) the SNP Holyrood Government is incompetent b) the SNP will run an independent Scotland, therefore c) Independence will be a disaster. Professors Anthony King and Ivor Crewe took the title of their 2013 study, The Blunders of Our Governments, from a phrase used in 1787 by US statesman James Madison. Blunders are not new or unique to Scotland. The King and Crewe study covered Westminster from 1979 to 2010 and found “far too many of them” and of a scale far in excess of the list oft-repeated by unionists about Holyrood. To be fair, the limited powers of Holyrood might limit the scale of blunders. But, if it is a fact all governments get things wrong, that hardly makes the case against Scottish independence.

Even if we then accept that the SNP are particularly incompetent compared to other governments (a strange thought, with Boris Johnson as PM) there is no reason to believe they will forever govern an independent Scotland. Their main goal achieved, it is unlikely that the broad coalition of the SNP will hold together (my guess would be a split over EU-membership.) This leaves the great, unspoken element to this argument, which is that Scots are generally incompetent and incapable of governing themselves. Will any of your pro-Union correspondents own up to this belief? If not, might they concede that Scots – just like Danes and Belgians and Swedes – will be capable of governing their own country?

Robert Farquharson, Lee Crescent, Edinburgh

Hope for future

There is hope yet for Scottish education if the advice of the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) is taken (your report, December 18). Examinations are important but ICEA rightly points out that the future careers of young people should not depend entirely on an examination taken on a single day when their performance may be affected by so many things – family problems and feeling off colour for all sorts of reasons, not to mention nerves.

There is another thing that corrupts the present system – it favours the pupil who does not work hard throughout the year but who gets over the line by intensive cramming in the last few weeks (often supported by extra tutoring paid for by parents). Surely this is not an attitude we want to encourage. What is required is a combined score derived from continuous assessment by teachers and the final exam. However, those who use the qualifications (pupils, universities and employers) must have confidence in teacher assessment. The SQA already invests a lot of money in trying to ensure that the exams are reliable. To inspire confidence in continuous assessment, it must also get into schools to monitor the assessments and not simply accept the raw scores, as happened last year, and looks like happening in 2021.

We want pupils who can think for themselves, not simply regurgitate facts they have mugged up on for the exam, only to forget them forever.

Henry L Philip, Grange Loan, Edinburgh

Protect students

We, the students of the Centre for South Asian Studies, strongly condemn the racist attack on the 17-year-old East Asian student on the university campus (Scotsman Online, December 15).

An attack of this nature is not the first of its kind and, sadly, the end to them does not seem very near. The University of Edinburgh, where many international students arrive every year, must actively call out perpetrators of racist and other forms of discriminatory crimes. Such crimes are structural in nature and the response to them must be nothing less than a structural shift in the ways universities perceive and treat its BAME staff and students. It should not take a violent incident like this one to remind the authorities of the greater changes that must be made to, not just aim, but to create safe, equal and free university spaces for all.

The immediate action expected from the university after this brutal reminder is to have a 24/7 helpline number specifically meant for crimes of a racist nature, ensuring quick medical and psychological help to the victim even before any formal complaint is made. Placing the responsibility of reaching out on the victim adds to their trauma and so the university must be proactive in its efforts to aid the victims of such crimes. Several staff and students have been working towards creating spaces at the institutional level for dialogues and changes around the issues of race. However, much needs to be done from the side of the university in ensuring zero tolerance for discriminatory and racist crimes on campus.

An increased surveillance is not what is required, rather an increased sensibility towards issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, region, caste, class, disability is.

We wholeheartedly support the ongoing protests organised by Racism Unmasked Edinburgh, strongly condemn this incident and expect greater changes from the university.

Centre for South Asian Studies Students, University of Edinburgh

No use utilities

Our utilities are a disgrace. Despite all the trappings of what is alleged to be private enterprise the truth is that the average customer now finds it almost impossible actually to speak to any human being. Instead they are confronted with impenetrable layers of what is claimed to be advanced technology which seldom produces any result but always occasions endless delay.My latest encounter with this quagmire was an attempt to speak to Scottish Water. After ringing for more than quarter of an hour and then selecting the appropriate option there was another lengthy delay before a voice suddenly announced that the line was very busy and I should “try again later”!In the meantime my wife, attempting to speak to Scottish Gas, was in the middle of a robotic interrogation when a voice intervened to inform her the office was now closed and then the line went dead.It is high time that these organisations were called to account for their treatment of us, the public, in this despicable manner.

Michael S R Bruce, Wester Coates Terrace, Edinburgh

Bearing up

Your report, "New version of global temperature dataset shows greater global warming”, is interesting (December 16). I am sure others will point out that the world has been both much warmer and much colder in the past. I wish to take issue with the photo of the lone polar bear standing on a sheet of ice with the open sea all around. This gives the impression that not just this polar bear, but all polar bears, will soon be extinct. This was the aim of Al Gore's 2005 film An Inconvenient Truth.

However, a UK High Court judge said that there were nine misleading climate change statements in the film, one of which showed a polar bear on an ice floe and said that polar bears were endangered by climate change and shrinking Arctic sea ice. The judge said that before the film was shown to impressionable children they should be told of these misleading claims. One can be certain that teachers would have been told to ignore this. The good news is that polar bear expert Dr Susan Crockford has shown that, contrary to the repetitive and strident doomsday predictions polar bear populations are thriving and are now at 40,000.

Clark Cross, Springfield Road Linlithgow

Boom boom!

The Government should introduce a greater degree of flexibility in pub opening times over the festive period which would allow more people to come and go in a staggered way.

Andy Davey, St Andrews Road, Peebles

Write to The Scotsman

We welcome your thoughts. Write to [email protected] including name, address and phone number. Keep letters under 300 words, with no attachments, and avoid Letters to the Editor in your subject line.

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.