Herald letter: how Greens can (and should) avoid betraying their manifesto.

THE SNP believes it has a manifesto mandate to pursue to a further referendum on independence, even if the more rational amongst us doubt whether that supersedes the commitment made in the Edinburgh Agreement that the outcome of the first one would be “decisive” and “respected by all sides”. Likewise, the party of “once in generation” and “once in a lifetime” but which declared “the campaign continues” while the ink was still wet on the results in 2014 is one which is not to be trusted in any way.

However, the Scottish Green Party is in a different position. Its 2016 manifesto is clear that it would support independence in the event of a further referendum. However, it also states that “citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process: on presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters, citizens should be able to trigger a vote on important issues of devolved responsibility. … this is the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on Independence. If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage.”

This is not the casual promise of given in haste by an office-hungry politician on the stump, but a solemn and considered statement of principle in a manifesto.

The simple fact is that there is no such petition. Indeed, the only evidence of the “will of the people” is the parliamentary petition against a new referendum which has gained over 100,000 signatures in single day. Moreover, there is not a single opinion poll which favours a re-run of 2014 as proposed by the First Minister. If the Greens cannot comply with their own freely given pledge, every other promise they make is dust and ashes.

But there are two ways in which the Scottish Green Party can avoid the fate of the SNP which has lost all credibility for plain dealing and honesty with the public. These are that Greens MSPs either vote against the proposal for indyref2 next week, or abstain.

In fact, the only option which is a betrayal of their own manifesto is to vote for a referendum which does not enjoy the demonstrable and unambiguous support of the people of Scotland.

Peter A Russell


Herald letter: Brexit was priced into the independence referendum.

YOUR correspondent Archie Burleigh (Letters, March 7) reminds Ruth Marr (Letters, March 4) and others that the Government was carrying out its 2015 manifesto commitment in calling the Brexit referendum.

It is also worth pointing out that the Brexit referendum was well signalled before and priced in to the 2104 Independence referendum.

In fact, the Scottish Government’s [then] Minister for International Affairs, the SNP’s Humza Yousaf himself told us that “the only threat to Scotland’s place in Europe comes from Westminster’s Ukip agenda and David Cameron’s proposed in-out referendum”.

It is possible that Mr Yousaf has such a negligible impact on politics that no-one notices or cares what he says. However, it is absurd for anyone – least of all Scottish Nationalists – to pretend that they did not know that when Scotland voted against independence, this included accepting the possibility that the UK might leave the EU.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: “Goodbye Lenin” and the Scottish Six.

THE prospect of a new Scottish BBC TV channel and its associated new jobs is great news. We can all look forward to fresh talent and a broad range of new programme making. And it is certain to be better than the dire Scotland 2014/15/16.

The complaint that some are making regarding the lack of a Scottish Six on BBC1 is also misplaced: most people have a recording or streaming device which will allow them to watch the new Scottish Nine at any time, without missing their favourite drama which is broadcast at the same time (or vice- versa.)

I am also reminded of the film Goodbye Lenin, where former East German citizens create “news” videotapes to hoodwink a sick person over the fall of the Berlin Wall. If people are so keen to have a Scottish Six, they could record the Scottish Nine O’Clock news, and play it at 6pm the next day. (Just a suggestion …)

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: EU Migration (features Alf Garnett)

YOUR correspondent Douglas Mayer (Letters, February 21) in quoting the Lincolnshire town of Boston unfortunately parades many of the misapprehensions which bedevil any discussion on immigration.

Above all, he claims that unlimited EU immigration has led to disadvantages for local people in access to jobs, lowered wages, and in the public services they receive. As Alf Garnett would have put it: “Comin’ over ‘ere, pinchin’ our jobs and ‘ospital beds and school places.” Indeed, what is possibly most depressing about such views is that they have not moved on from the 1960s.

Surely it is better to see the benefits that immigration has delivered both nationally and locally.

In the case of Boston (where I have relatives) the business plan for many local agricultural employers is based on growth which is only possible because of the expanded labour supply provided by EU migration.

Likewise, public services which require minimum population densities and levels of demand continue to serve the town only because of EU migrants. The most obvious example is a local hospital maternity unit, which would have closed had it not been for a revival in the number of births, due to EU migrants. In time the babies will become schoolchildren, who will require schools, which will be kept open instead of suffering closure because of falling rolls.

“So,” shout Alf and his latter day successors, “‘oo is going to pay for it all?” The answer is of course that part of the working population who pay more in through taxation than they take out in services and benefits – which includes the EU migrants.

Peter A Russell

Herald Letter: Labour’s Record.

THE causes behind the collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland are so various and complex that they will keep academics in business for many years to come: indeed, it is the combination of factors, both external and of the Party’s own making, into such a perfect storm that has made that collapse so complete.

However, views such as those expressed by Ian Thomson illustrate one of Labour’s own most obvious political failures: “the egregious failure, when placed with a large majority, to rebuild the country’s schools, welfare services, and health provision”. If Mr Thomson truly believes this, he is mistaken, and Labour itself should have better informed him.

In fact, Labour rebuilt hundreds of schools, for example the whole secondary estate in Glasgow, and committed resources to deprived areas for this purpose throughout England. It also created the welfare provision which is now so viciously under attack from the Tories (with no relief offered by the SNP, despite the new powers of the Scottish Parliament). And it invested in the NHS so that satisfaction levels were at an all-time high.

Like every government, the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were not perfect. However, Labour might have done rather better if subsequent leaders were more inclined to make known its many positive achievements, from devolution to lifting hundreds of thousands of children and pensioners from poverty.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter:referendum outcomes

DAVE Biggart Letters, February 9) makes a simple but fatal error in his equation of the No vote in 2014 referendum and the Scottish Remain vote in 2013. He fails to see that the first was a vote in Scotland only and the second was a vote of the whole UK.

It is simple and elementary democracy to respect both of these on their own terms – that is, according to the votes cast for or against each proposition by the respective electorates.

We knew all along that in the case of the EU referendum every Scottish vote was equal to every vote elsewhere in the UK. Therefore the border between Scotland and England means in this case as little as that between East and West Sussex – where the respective votes cast were also equal.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: Answers we know re independence – and those we don’t.

MAGGIE Chetty (Letters, January 30) seeks some answers before a new independence referendum.

Luckily for her, many of these have already been answered. For example, the basis of the calculation of Scottish exports is fully explained in the Scottish Government’s Export Scotland Statistics document, and likewise the nationalist myth of a whisky tax is knocked firmly on the head – again by the Scottish Government – in a specific answer attached to the GERS publication. Both can be found online with a simple search, by the way.

Similarly, the security of a ballot has been well proven by the Electoral Commission following the excellent conduct of the 2014 vote by local authority returning officers, although it is now more likely that any further referendum will stop either side from having the unfair advantage of Yes, which has to be an improvement.

It is also to be welcomed that Ms Chetty requires clarification on the issues of the Scottish currency, security of pensions, and the Scottish economy – don’t we all? The proposition in 2014 would have been ruinous in all of these areas, and so far no progress has been made in any new proposal. Indeed, with the fall in the oil price, the added risks of Brexit, and the continuing crisis in the Eurozone, things look even worse.

Finally, according the current polls, support for a second independence referendum stands at 27 per cent and falling. Who knows, when we know the answers to these questions, more people might even want a second referendum.

Peter A Russell