Herald letter: TV Brexit debate.

WE hear today (November 29) that we are going to be treated to the pointless spectacle of a televised debate on Brexit, and that it will not on this occasion be moderated by Andrew Neil. This is a shame, but hardly surprising as neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn would relish being taken apart by Mr Neil’s forensic analytical skills.

In his absence, I have another suggestion: Mr Jack Dee, currently to be found chairing another major programme, broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It is of course called I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, which would qualify the two politicians in question admirably on this occasion. (They could even include Nicola Sturgeon on the same principle.)

Peter A Russell

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Herald letter: angry again…

I SUPPOSE it is flattering that such lengthy responses (Letters, October 30) have been generated by my quite reasonable observation (Letters, October 27) that if people are unhappy with the effects of government policy – in this case regarding families and poverty – they should blame the Tory Government at Westminster for the reserved issues and the SNP at Holyrood for the devolved ones.

However, there a few observations which I would like to make about the responses of Messrs GR Weir and Alasdair Galloway.

Mr Weir takes the opportunity to lay the blame for all of the problems of Ayrshire and (it seems) the entire industrial decline of the area on the Labour Party. If this was indeed the case, it would be expected that the voters of Ayrshire would have punished Labour much earlier than actually happened: the miners’ strike was in 1984-85, but according to Mr Weir, the voters waited 30 years (until 2015) to notice. And when they did so, they elected as their MSP Jeane Freeman – who had been at the heart of Labour policy making before turning her coat. (For what it is worth, I blame the decline of Labour in Scotland on a catastrophic failure in its politics surrounding the 2014 independence referendum, rather than its local and UK polices.)

Mr Galloway is even more fanciful: he suggests that the Yes vote in the 2014 referendum would have banished poverty from Scotland forever.

Here is some news to him from the real world. A Yes vote would have meant Scotland leaving the EU as well as the UK in March 2016 (evidence: the letter from Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission to the Scottish Parliament of March 2014); there would have been no currency union with the remainder UK (evidence: repeated statements of UK Government); Scotland’s revenues would not have benefited from oil at the fictional price of $113 per barrel (evidence: today’s price $76); and Scottish public services would be worse off by an annual sum of more than £10 billion redistributed from the rest of the UK (evidence: the SNP Scottish Government’s GERS publications). All of these factors would have had a disastrous effect on the economy, and made poverty in Scotland both much more acute and much more widespread.

In contrast, Mr Galloway (and Mr Weir and the rest of the SNP and its dupes) offer the fairy dust of independence, underpinned by wishful thinking and best-case scenarios. We have had to put up with too much magical thinking from the the Nationalists, and it is time that they were brought to account for their failings at Holyrood as much as the Tories at Westminster.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter. In Some Anger.

YOUR front page article on starving Scots families raiding bins for food (“Starving families raid skips at night for food”, The Herald, October 26) will shock every decent-thinking person, and will make them long for the days of the Labour governments, when millions of children were taken out of poverty by policies that included the introduction of Working Families Tax Credits and the National Minimum Wage.

Now, however, we have a Tory UK Government which appears determined to make the poor, including families, suffer for its own incompetence and prejudices. At the same time, we have an SNP Scottish Government which has extensive powers under Part 3 of the Scotland Act 2016 to top- up existing welfare benefits, and to create new ones, but which fails to do so.

That the SNP refuses to act stands in contrast to the way in which, before 1996, Labour-run regional councils did all that they could to counter the effects of the then Tory governments. We can only imagine what they would have done with the current powers of Holyrood, but they would certainly not have sat on their hands. The Tories are literally driving the poor to eating out of bins, and the SNP are sitting by idly, sometimes complaining, but watching it happen all the same. A plague on both their cold-hearted houses.

Peter A Russell

Couple of letters I had in the Herald…

5th October:

ALLISTER Mackie (Letters, October 3) is entirely correct to point out the likely catastrophic results of a hard Brexit. I am sure that he would agree that the Brexit mess could have been avoided if more people had voted for Ed Miliband to be prime minster in 2015 rather than for other parties, thus avoiding David Cameron’s EU referendum altogether. That, of course, is water under the bridge.

We need to look to how the catastrophe can be avoided while adhering to the voters’ choice to leave the EU. It seems clear that the only option that would do so would be a European Economic Area (EEA) arrangement, most easily through membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta).

This is the only solution that meets Labour’s six tests and there is evidence that many on the Tory benches would support this solution. Add the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland parties and it becomes possible that this is the only option to command a parliamentary majority.

The time has come for the Opposition to lead the call for Efta/EEA and for the minor parties to follow that call. As a gesture of goodwill, it would also make matters much easier if Nicola Sturgeon used her party’s forthcoming conference to withdraw her empty threat of a second independence referendum in Scotland. We voted in the Brexit referendum as a single electorate, and we need to face its challenges as one.

Peter A. Russell

Today (Less elegant than usual, I am afraid.)

IT is always nice to see readers such as Alasdair Galloway (Letters, October 9) noticing my correspondence. However, he is sometimes a little mistaken about what I have actually written.

First, I do not claim (Letters, October 5) that the Labour Party advocates membership of the EEA and of EFTA: I said that in my view the only Brexit solution that could meet Labour’s Six Tests would be such an outcome. I too am disappointed that my party has not been clear in its policy and hope that it is the very clever Sir Keir Starmer who is in charge, rather than the perhaps slightly less clever Mr Corbyn. Time will tell, but a bit of leadership in a clear direction would not go amiss.

Secondly, my statement about people voting in 2015 other than to elect Ed Miliband as Prime Minister was a reference to the whole UK in a national General Election. The prospect of the SNP influencing a Labour-led Government was understandably anathema to many voters in England, but more LibDems voting Labour and indeed pro-Europe Tories across the UK voting Labour to avoid a referendum would have done the trick, and a Brexit referendum would have been avoided.

In contrast, Mr Galloway appears to think and judge events only in terms of the narrow spectrum of Scotland and Scottish Nationalism. And as his comments show, when people do that, they can very easily come to entirely the wrong conclusion.

Peter A Russell,

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

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.