Letter in Herald – heavily cut.

This is what the Herald published:

I NOTE the letter from your correspondent Keith McLeod (August 28); he is wrong on several counts. Not only does he believe that St Pancras Station serves the west of England (in fact it is the international gateway station for the Eurostar), but he repeats the full roster of misapprehensions about infrastructure projects purportedly paid for by Scots.

It might be tedious to deal with them all, so I will stick with just one: Mr McLeod claims Scots are contributing to the new London sewerage system – which is not public expenditure at all, and is being paid for in its entirety by Thames Water customers. I have no doubt there are other correspondents who will blow the rest of his examples out of the water. Mr McLeod also has no idea of how the Barnett Formula works. To take the case of HS2, we contribute two per cent of the spend – based on the economic benefit to Scotland assigned by the Scottish Government – but receive in return Barnett consequentials based on 100 per cent of the cost. So we get far more back than we put in.

These widespread mistaken beliefs are another example of the crisis of information which we face in the internet age. People believe things they want to, because someone told them it on Twitter or Facebook – the tavern and street corner de nos jours.

Peter A. Russell

This is what I sent them (major deletions in italics): 

We can all be very grateful for the letter from your correspondent Keith McLeod for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, he demonstrates the sheer ignorance of the case of many Scottish Nationalists. Not only does he believe that St Pancras Station serves the west of England (in fact it is the international gateway station for the Eurostar), but he repeats the full roster of misapprehensions about infrastructure projects purportedly paid for by Scots.
It might be tedious to deal with them all, so I will stick with just one: Mr McLeod claims Scots are contributing to the new London sewerage system – which is not public expenditure at all, and is being paid for in its entirety by Thames Water customers.I have no doubt there are other correspondents who will blow the rest of his examples out of the water. Mr McLeod  and his fellow Nationalist dupes also have no idea of how the Barnett Formula works. To take the case of HS2, we contribute 2% of the spend – based on the economic benefit to Scotland assigned by the Scottish Government – but receive in return Barnett consequentials based on 100% of the cost. So we get far more back than we put in.
Above all, these widespread mistaken beliefs are another example of the crisis of information which we face in the internet age. People believe things they want to, because someone told them it on Twitter or Facebook – the tavern and street corner de nos jours. Perhaps one day, when Scotland’s education system is restored to its former excellence, we will teach our children not to be like Mr Mcleod, but how to identify and avoid misinformation. When we do so, Scottish Nationalist propaganda will provide some very pertinent examples for the classroom.
Yours
Peter A. Russell
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Letter in the Herald: the information crisis.

YOUR correspondent Alan M Morris (Letters, August 2) is of course correct to point out the dangers of the Fake News phenomenon. However, in doing so, he presents an incomplete picture, in that in 2014 the Yes campaign made a number of assertions which have proven to be at best optimistic and at worst untruths. For example, the SNP told Scots that an independent Scotland could have a currency union with rUK when this was not the case. Likewise, the Scottish Government White Paper made assertions about the future of Scottish retirement pensions at the same time as John Swinney was telling his colleagues in private that they could not be afforded.

These various claims and counter-claims have been argued to death, as has the validity of the Scottish Government’s GERS figures (although it remains a mystery why the SNP would continue to publish figures which are detrimental to its own case). What is more important is to acknowledge that we now live in post-Gutenburg information climate, in which our information is gleaned not from authoritative academic and journalistic sources, but from the internet and social media such as Twitter and Facebook– the digital equivalents of the tavern and the street corner. The result was again seen in the Scottish referendum, where people chose to believe what they wanted to believe (for example, the laughable Business For Scotland) over that which they did not wish to (for example, the CBI or the Institute for Fiscal Studies). There are certainly other good examples in the Brexit debate.

There are two conclusions that may be drawn from this situation.

The first is that people are not so stupid as to be taken in by Fake News and propaganda, and voted according to their views based on a critical appraisal of the information that is available. The second is that people are indeed stupid, and were taken in and their view should not be trusted. I prefer the first of these, as much as I regret the Brexit result. Others, including Mr Morris appear to favour the second conclusion – although the implication is that if people are gullible fools and will be “hoodwinked”, they should never be allowed a vote ever again.

Peter A Russell

Poem for 4th July: America First

America First is life and liberty

America First is Mohammed Ali and Billie Jean King

And Kate Millett and Malcolm X

America First is Arthur Miller and Harper Lee

And Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman

America First is Maya Angelou and Allen Ginsburg

America First is Sharon Olds and Patti Smith

 

America First is the pursuit of happiness

America First is Johnny Cash and Elvis

And Muddy, the Wolf and John Lee

America First is Tamla, Stax, Philly and Funkadelic

And Hank Williams and Ella Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington

America First is the Velvet Underground, the Doors, the Stooges

America First is Bruce and Dylan and Woody

 

America First starts with We The People

America First is Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins

America First is FDR and Martin Luther King

America First is the Village, the Haight and the Castro

America First is Woodstock and Wounded Knee

America First is Selma and the Battle of Chicago

America First sings we shall overcome.

Herald letter: civility, reasonableness and compromise.

ALAN Roden is quite right to make his plea for civility in politics, and every reasonable person would wish him well (“End the toxicity in politics and agree top disagree well”, The Herald, July 2).

However, it is easy to recall that, after the 2014 referendum, the UK Government and the parties that had succeeded in convincing a majority that we are better together, made a massive compromise and reasonably negotiated extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. However, rather than accept the Smith Commission compromise, the SNP has continued in its fundamentalist pursuit of the goal of independence, rejected by two million Scots.

Likewise, the outcome of the Brexit referendum was a close win for Leave. The reasonable position here is that the UK should leave the EU but on terms that are the closest possible to membership. Like the SNP, however, the fundamentalist Brexiters tell us daily that any compromise European Economic Area/European Free Trade Agreement-plus type arrangement would not be acceptable.

The insistence of the SNP and its Brexiter counterparts on the strident and uncompromising pursuit of their dogmatic objectives is at the root of the incivility from which Mr Roden distances himself. It is a feature of the age of referendums in which we live that civility, reasonableness and compromise will always be in short supply. We are all much poorer for that sad fact.

Peter A. Russell

Herald letter: Small Countries & Comparisons.

WE should be grateful for Professor Iain Docherty for seeking to defend the Growth Commission report to which he has bound himself (“Concentrate on the real problem of our economy, Agenda, The Herald, June 12). However, there is one statement which stands out above all others which needs to be challenged: “There is nothing intrinsically different about Scotland that points to why it lags behind on a range of indicators…”

In fact, for comparisons with other small countries to be valid, these would need to be more similar to Scotland in having to deal with the legacy of a major post-industrial complex in their midst. Examples might be to imagine Austria with its own Wraclau or Finland with its own Kaliningrad. The former dominance of a heavy industrial economy would have similar far-reaching and enduring effects on the performance of those countries to that which Glasgow and much of the central belt has on Scotland, in terms of every feature of the economy from business birthrate to skills and employability.

Another element which is missing from Prof Docherty’s defence is the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK: it is surely not comparing like with like to compare economies which have developed independently with one which has been integrated into a larger (in imperial days much larger) whole for the whole of the several centuries that capitalism has existed.

Nationalists like Professor Docherty start from the dogma that integration within the UK economy must be a disadvantage, and work back from that conclusion. More objective and pragmatic people might see it differently, and consider the benefits of being part of the larger source of markets, skills, capital and materials, plus advantages of scale in issues such as national security and defence.

Add in the protection against economic shocks (including Brexit) of being part of a larger and more varied economy, and fiscal transfers of more than £10 billion per annum, and the case against any disadvantages becomes overwhelming.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: Immigration and Devolution.

THE management of immigration is a classic issue where devolution needs to be based on practicality, and it is disappointing that in his article Iain Macwhirter (“It is time immigration powers were devolved to Scotland”, The Herald, June 6) does not deal with exactly how a devolved immigration policy would be administered.

The problem is that Scotland shares an open land border with England. If people are admitted to Scotland, there is nothing to stop them immediately moving south – where there are more established Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (Bame) communities with social, economic and religious infrastructures and networks, as well as more and better paid jobs and (usually) better weather.

There are three possible solutions to this: a controlled border, tagging of individuals and differential visas and work permits. The first two are unacceptable in political and human rights terms respectively and the third is bureaucratic and expensive. In the latter case, it would also beg the question whether offenders would be deported from England to their place of origin or to Scotland, with the added complication that they might become Nationalist causes celebres if they happened to be SNP supporters (like the Brain family from Australia).

It remains the case that Scotland needs more people and there are ways in which we can attract them to study and work here. The biggest potential source of such people is the rest of the UK, and the Scottish Government might be more successful in attracting them if they stopped wanting to divorce us from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A good start would be to extend to students from the rest of the UK the free tuition which is made available to those from all other EU countries.

The other point to be made is that with free movement from the rest of the EU, if people had wanted to come to Scotland in vast numbers, they would have done so already.

In the end, moreover, the best way to attract people will be to create more and better jobs, which will remain a very difficult task while uncertainty about Brexit is doubled and squared by the Scottish Government’s insistence on adding the uncertainty of the prospect of another independence referendum. As with so many other things, it would be much better if it concentrated on what its current powers can achieve, rather than the fantasy of independence.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: Ballots and UDI.

YOUR correspondent Alistair Galloway (Letters, May 11) suggests that the SNP should seek a mandate for UDI in future manifestos. Your readers might like to consider the following example of what happens when you take people’s votes away, as he suggests.

When the National Union of Mineworkers was set up following the post-war Labour Government’s nationalisation of the coal industry, it was decided that never again would the miners go into national strike divided. To prevent this, it was decided that there would be popular vote in form of a mandatory pithead ballot on any proposal for a national coal strike. This process resulted in the successful strikes of the early 1970s under Joe Gormley.

However, when Mr Gormley’s successor Arthur Scargill proposed national strikes to the membership, he was defeated. His response was to change the NUM constitution so that a national strike could be called by a delegate conference, and in due course he secured the strike that he wanted through such a conference. As a result, the union was divided, the miners’ strike of 1984-85 did not hold and was defeated, pit closures accelerated and deep mining is now extinct as a major industry. Possibly worst of all, many mining communities were bitterly divided and remain so in the memories of all concerned.

Scotland has been bitterly divided too, by the 2014 referendum and its continuing aftermath, in which the First Minister and her Government perversely fail to represent the two million Scots who voted to stay in the UK. It is not hard to imagine the outcome if those two million were to be betrayed and led into UDI, having cast their ballots in good faith that their vote in 2014 was decisive and would settle the issue of independence for a generation.

Mr Galloway has made it clear on many occasions that he supports independence at any price. For most people, however, I hope that it is more important to put Scotland back together again in honouring the outcome of 2014 than in promoting further – and potentially catastrophic – division and bitterness.

Peter A Russell