Readers Letters: Scotland must grab these opportunities

Gordon Brown’s warning of the UK being consigned to the history books (your report, November 18) may or may not prove to be correct.

Does forestry offer a great opportunity for Scotland?
Does forestry offer a great opportunity for Scotland?

What worries me is that politicians seem totally obsessed with the constitution as a solution to the current day problems. I am more worried about how Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland each find a new economic role in the world, whether together or separately. In Scotland’s case, there are six global events that provide opportunities over the next five decades for increased health and wealth.

The new economic region and trading route caused by the Arctic Ice melting; a chance to reforest from 18 to 60 per cent of our land – 5 billion extra trees; the opportunity to become Europe’s leading exporter of renewable energy; a chance to triple research and development for the marine, medical and Fintech sectors.

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We have a coastline longer than China’s and perfect wind! Perhaps politicians of all parties could focus more on those economic opportunities and less on how to organise themselves to govern us effectively.

Ian Godden, Rothiemurchus, Aviemore, Inverness-shire

Raise taxes

The Scottish Finance Secretary has followed the Chancellor in suggesting this is not the time to raise taxes but I would suggest that this is a good time as, with the restrictions on the travel and hospitality sectors in particular, the many still in employment are likely to have increased amounts of disposable income.Increases in Income Tax need not be excessive. For instance, it has been calculated that an increase of 1 per cent in the basic rate would bring in £5.7 billion a year. Those on higher incomes could surely stand a bit more.

Other ways of increasing tax revenue significantly have been mooted, including changes to Capital Gains Tax and a new Wealth Tax. Both raise questions of equity and would require complex regulations to be worked out. Meantime I would suggest a levy on those with higher earnings – not just captains of industry with stratospheric incomes or even TV presenters, footballers and so on, but also the great swathes of people making well above the norm. This could be readily done by levying a percentage (graduated) on the Income Tax charged for the latest settled tax year. Raising taxes is never popular but it is generally agreed it will be necessary to tackle the current level of the National Debt and doing so is essential for the UK’s economy as well as its finances. Why not make a start now?

S Beck, Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

BBC bending

I noted the following in relation to Nicola Sturgeon's Covid Briefing (your report, November 20). “The BBC declined to comment whether the briefings would be broadcast ahead of Scottish Parliament elections in May of next year.”

It would seem likely from this statement that Ms Sturgeon is going to be given free access to broadcast daily, with complete freedom, her party's propaganda, during the election campaign period. Truly we are in a political dictatorship not a democracy.

John B Gorrie, Craigmount Gardens, Edinburgh

Death rates

According to Tim Jackson (Letters, November 20) the growing number of people living in Scotland who support independence are labouring under the "mistaken belief that it would be better if Scotland were independent from the rest of the UK".

This is how the 74 per cent of the people questioned who believe Nicola Sturgeon is performing better, compared to the 19 per cent who backed Boris Johnson, have gone wrong. He points out that Scotland's death rate from Covid is higher than those of Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and Norway. He doesn't explore whether these countries include deaths where Covid is mentioned but not confirmed in death certificates in their data. He repeats the spurious comparison of Scotland's geography and population density, but seems unaware that the vast majority of the deaths in Scotland have occurred in the densely populated areas.

He says sick people were sent to care homes, implying that this had a significant effect on death rates, but chooses to ignore the Public Health Scotland report which found no tangible link between hospital transfers and infection rates.

The difference between Scotland and the countries he mentions is that they are all independent countries and entirely free to make their own decisions, unfettered by the unworkable four nations approach which constrained Scotland, particularly in the early months of the pandemic.

Gill Turner, Derby Street, Edinburgh

Blame Boris

Common sense should tell Tim Jackson that if you live next to the country with the worst Covid record in Europe it is difficult to stop the escalation of the pandemic without having the ability to close all your borders or lock down earlier without the borrowing powers of a normal country. Ireland locked down two weeks before the UK and as a result has seen half the number of Covid deaths as Scotland.

Boris Johnson’s failure to heed scientific advice in the early days of the pandemic has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths and caused numerous business failures, with years of pain for taxpayers to come.This is the price we are paying as part of the UK compared to independent nations like Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and Norway.

Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

The long view

If you are undecided about Scottish Independence, give this a thought. Boris Johnston will be prime minister for a short time, then we will have a change of leader or party. An independent Scotland is for ever!

Sheila Hogan, Raleigh Court, Falkirk

Taken for a ride

I'd like to think that if Joyce McMillan watched BBC Question Time on Thursday she might come to two conclusions after James Cleverley and Fraser Nelson turned the "disastrous" controversy into Ian Blackford's second hosing down of the day. (The first was when the Prime Minister confirmed the Black Watch would not be disbanded, accusing him, in typically florid Johnsonian tones, of being a "veritable geyser of confected indignation")

The first conclusion should be that the other side of the argument is more convincing and true: in 20 years, especially the last 13, we have failed to use devolution to improve Scotland, and the resulting "disasters" have been many, especially as regards education and poverty.

The second is, if even half of this stuff got on primetime BBC Scotland and STV and even half of our local pro-UK politicians took a "how to do it" induction course from Cleverly and Nelson, a lot more people in Scotland would understand just how much of a ride we have been taken on.

Allan Sutherland, Willow Row, Stonehaven

Up the spout

My Sussex grandmother, presumably to inculcate a notion of the full potential of the English language, taught me at a very early age Disraeli's memorable putdown of Gladstone in the House of Commons. “Do you mean to say...' it went as I recall, 'that you will allow yourself to be coerced by the remarks of a sophistical rhetorician who is inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity.”

What a contrast to the constrained legalese of so many of today's politicians or the near Anglo-Saxon grunting of the Twitterati.

So, while conscious of the Scotsman's sound editorial stance of respect for opponents, it was nevertheless gratifying to read yesterday of Boris Johnson channelling his one nation predecessor and characterising Ian Blackford as “a veritable geyser of confected indignation”.

John Wood, The Croft, St Boswells

Joy is for all

A Twitter user suggests that people with dementia don't know it's Christmas. Everyone is an individual, including those with dementia. While some will not be able to understand in the "normal” way, many people with dementia have a strong sense of occasion and really enjoy a celebration. Some may well understand more than we realise. Memories from the past often mean they remember carols and know what to do with a present. Decorations, festive food and maybe Santa coming in, all help to make it an occasion, even though the person with dementia may not be able to articulate what is taking place. It is a joy to assist someone to have a change to daily routine – we all need that, now more than ever.

Catriona Blackwood, Cambridge Gardens, Edinburgh

Know your mind

The Covid experience has allowed governments at Westminster and Holyrood to expand their social engineering plans beyond their own wildest imaginations. Today I heard a radio journalist say that she would “see what the regulations at Christmas were” before planning any family gatherings.

For goodness sake, what difference do regulations make to infection risk? Have we been so stripped of common sense that we can’t make our own decisions about such a basic human instinct as self-preservation? The saying “Nanny State” has surely now taken on an altogether more sinister meaning for the future.

Malcolm Parkin, Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Bill’s best bits

I will greatly miss Bill Jamieson. He was the journalist whose articles I most looked forward to reading. As a lasting tribute to his skills, I wonder if The Scotsman would consider publishing a book of his best articles over the many years of his journalistic life. There would be plenty of excellent ones to choose from.

Gordon Shirreff, Fernielaw Avenue, Colinton, Edinburgh

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