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