There’s a sense of destiny as border is closed - Readers' letters

It was striking to note the restrictions between Scotland and England over the festive season, and to highlight that it was almost 70 years ago to the day that the border between the two nations was closed for the first time in 400 years.

The Stone of Destiny is removed from Abroath Abbey,  after being handed to the Custodian of the Abbey James Wiseheart by Scottish Nationalists
The Stone of Destiny is removed from Abroath Abbey, after being handed to the Custodian of the Abbey James Wiseheart by Scottish Nationalists

That of course was due to the return of the Stone of Destiny to Scotland, when four student nationalists removed the ancient artefact from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in 1950.

The incident happened nearly seven centuries after the stone was taken from Scone by King Edward I during the Scottish Wars of Independence and placed under the monarch’s chair in the abbey.

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When news of the stone’s removal broke, the authorities closed the border between Scotland and England. It was ultimately recovered from Arbroath Abbey, where Scottish nationhood had been asserted with the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, 700 years ago this year. It was returned to Westminster Abbey in 1952.

This action also coincided with attacks on postboxes in Scotland in a dispute over the title of the new British monarch, Elizabeth II, there being no Elizabeth I of Scotland.

Interestingly, it has recently been revealed that James Stuart, Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland recommended in 1953 that the stone be returned to Scotland, but Churchill’s government vetoed this, seeing it as rewarding a small minority of hardline nationalists.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road, Edinburgh

Stamp duty

Breaking with what seemed to have been its tradition of alternating with broader secular designs, the Royal Mail has now, for the second year in a row, featured Christian imagery on its seasonal stamps. Of course you can still buy non-religious stamps but is there a bigger issue here about Christian entitlement at this time of year

In 2020 both the Church of England and the Catholic Church were severely criticised for their reaction to the abuse of children in their care. Some of the many survivors might react painfully to such images.

Responses to lockdown have been indignant amongst religious leaders who repeatedly argued for their exceptionalism when it came to closing down churches in line with all other unsafe congregational spaces.

Despite falling numbers of believers, especially amongst the young, Christians still enjoy privileged exemptions from many taxes and equality laws, hold unelected positions of political power and continue to promote their unscientific and reactionary ideas in state-funded faith schools.

The winter solstice festivals are celebrated by people of many religions and none and have been for thousands of years. The nativity story adds colour, but it is only the “real meaning” of Christmas for Christians. Happily, other stamps are available.

Neil Barber

Edinburgh Secular Society, Saughtonhall Drive

Browned off

Gordon Brown was a wonderful chancellor. His ambition to be prime minister, however, overwhelmed him and unfortunately, like so many others before him, he was not up to that job when eventually he got it.

Now, it appears he is advising the present Labour leader on Scottish affairs (Scotsman, 21 December). His idea of some kind of enhanced devolution solving the party’s problems in Scotland is frankly preposterous. We want less devolution, not more. Those in Labour who are half-nationalist anyway should have the courage to make the switch to the SNP. Then what is left of Labour in Scotland would have clarity and a clear and unambiguous pro-UK stance. Keir Starmer should consult instead with Jackie Baillie rather than Gordon Brown.

I would strongly advise Gordon Brown and Keir Starmer to sit down and read Tam Dalyell’s forecasts of what would happen with devolution and how eerily accurate they proved to be. If they still advocate more devolution then I am afraid Labour are finished in Scotland.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Selfish people

As the new variant Covid-19 sweeps rapidly across Britain and neighbouring countries are restricting travel from the UK, the blame game has begun in the media.

While political leaders like Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, who have made mistakes but are struggling to cope with an unprecedented situation, are in the sights of many commentators, surely most of the blame must lie with the selfish, stupid or arrogant members of the public who have refused to social distance and wear masks and give up their daily pleasures for a relatively short period of time.

These non-conforming individuals cannot escape responsibility for the predicament we are in, necessitating ever more restrictive lockdown measures which seem to be the only answer to combating the disease. They don't seem to realise that they are destroying businesses and jobs and if they infect their loved ones through their inappropriate behaviour, they will have to live with the consequences for a lifetime of Christmases and not just miss one day in 2020.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the variant strain of virus might be resistant to the much vaunted and needed vaccine and the light at the end of the tunnel could be extinguished

Bob MacDougall

Oxhill, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Bobby on the ball

Jack Davidson’s obituary (21 December) of Bobby WIshart was spot on, particularly his description of Bobby as a genial, perfect gentleman.

I only knew Bobby in later life when he was a regular attender at the Edinburgh Sports Club, often with his good friend, the late Alan Gilzean who often visited Bobby and Jean from his home in Somerset, another fine gentleman but a man of few words in stark contrast to Bobby’s genial effervescence.

Gentleman though Bobby was, his Mr Hyde side came out when he attended his grandsons’ school football matches, transforming him into a raging bull when a referee’s decision sent him into apoplectic fury.

Bobby always enjoyed relating the story of one match when his abuse of the referee became particularly virulent, prompting the official to stop the match, march over to the touchline and ban Bobby from all future matches with the parting shot: “The trouble with you grandparents is that you know f*** all about football”. I often wondered if the ref ever found out that he had addressed a famous footballer with a glittering career spanning 12 years in first class football.

David Hollingdale

Southbank, Easter Park Drive, Edinburgh