Herald letter: “Count The Spoons”

(The section in italics was cut by the Herald and did not appear in the paper.)

Sir,

I HAVE recently received an election communication through the post from the SNP. I am told that it has been mailed directly to many others across Scotland.

As a matter of public service, I would like to point out to any others of your readers who may receive it that it contains a number of untruths in claiming achievements for the SNP.

The most obvious of these are free elderly care, free university tuition for Scottish students and free bus travel for pensioners. It is of course a matter of public record that all of these were introduced by the earlier Labour-Liberal Democrat coalitions. Those less generous than myself might also notice that the Borders Railway (another “SNP” achievement) was signed up by the Lab/LibDem administration before it left power in 2007.

Such untruths only go to reinforce the sense that if you are unfortunate enough to have Nicola Sturgeon or your local SNP candidate come round for tea, you should be careful to count the spoons before they leave.

Your readers may also like to ask themselves how these services are paid for. The answer is of course that they are only possible because of the many billions of pounds that Scotland receives under the pooling and sharing arrangements of the United Kingdom. Yes, the same United Kingdom that the SNP wishes to kiss goodbye to – along with all of the funding that comes with it.

That is not on the direct mail shot either.

Peter A Russell

 

Monologue Of An Emigrant – Mascha Kaleko

Inspired by our recent visit to Berlin: my translation of a work by a poet who grew up and lived there as a young woman before fleeing to the USA in 1938. After World War 2 she lived in Israel, and died in 1975 in Zurich, on the return journey from her last visit to Berlin.

Monologue of an Emigrant.
Mascha Kaleko

Once I had a lovely homeland
So sang the refugee Heine
His stood on the banks of the Rhine
Mine on The Mark’s home sand

To have a (see above!) was once the norm
It was eaten by plague, ground to dust in the storm.
O, rose of the moor and of the heath,
Strength Through Joy put you to death

The nightingales were struck dumb
Looked around for a safer home
And only the cry of vultures was heard
High over the ranks of those interred

It will never again be as it was
Even if the outcome was changed
Even if the sweet fairy bell chimed
Even if the sword no longer clanged

To me it sometimes seems as if
My heart will break and more.
Now and then I suffer homesickness:
But I do not know what for…

Herald letter: Labour And IndyRef2

YOUR correspondent William Thomson (Letters, April 22) questions the Labour Party’s continuing opposition to a further referendum on Scottish independence. In fact, the reason for this is really very simple.

The back of every Labour Party membership card bears the following statement: “by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more then we achieve alone.” This is simply the application of our philosophy that humankind is most successful when we work in unions. This applies to our personal lives, in the world of work, in our communities and in the relationships between regions within countries and between nations.

There is no evidence that Scotland is so special as to be the exception to this rule. Indeed, the history of the United Kingdom shows that all of the progress from which we benefit today has been made through collective achievements at all levels.

In contrast, nationalism has achieved nothing whatsoever, and indeed has proven to be a destructive and divisive influence. Can anyone really truthfully say that Scotland is a better and happier place than it was 10 years ago before the SNP took power at Holyrood?

Or indeed that another independence referendum is what we need to heal the divisions and enduring harm of the last one?

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: GERS and the follies of GERS Deniers.

HAVING lost the 2014 referendum on the economic facts, it is now clear that Scottish Nationalists wish to muddy the water by discrediting the Scottish Government’s own GERS figures and creating a fact-free zone for any future repeat.

I would refer your readers to the excellent Fraser of Allander Institute blog on the derivation and status of GERS by Graeme Roy, and to the approval of the UK Statistics Authority, which is the “kitemark” for such data. They can then make their own minds up.

In the meantime, we can also consider two implications of the claims of the unreliability or inaccuracy of GERS.

The first is that margins of error work both ways. If the GERS deniers believe that the gap between our revenues and expenditures is, for example, a mere £10 billion rather than the eye-watering £15bn identified, they assume a margin of error of £5bn. By that same token, it could also be inaccurate by the same sum in the other direction: anyone fancy starting a country with a £20 billion per annum deficit? (No, me neither.)

The second point is to imagine that the GERS deniers are correct and that the figures are completely useless. Then we must consider just how completely crazy the proposition would be to embark on independence with no idea whatsoever about our revenues and expenditure, nor about the balance between the two. (Count me out of that one, too.)

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: “Call off drive for indyref2 to save the Scottish economy.”

THE Scottish Government’s latest figures show our economy to be stumbling towards a recession, while that of the rest of the UK shows modest growth. No-one should doubt the seriousness of the situation. The main difference between the Scottish economy and those of other UK regions is that only Scotland faces the uncertainty of the threat of a further referendum on secession.

The danger of this threat has been apparent since the 2014 referendum, when the SNP failed to grasp the opportunity to create stability by abandoning its policy of independence in line with the wishes of the Scottish people. It has become even more so since Nicola Sturgeon chose to add yet greater uncertainty to that of Brexit by unilaterally declaring her intention for another referendum.

It is well documented in Canada how businesses have shunned Quebec and turned increasingly to cities like Toronto as they make investment and expansion decisions – again because of the threat of secession. Scotland faces the same fate unless independence is put to bed indefinitely.

There is still a course of action which the First Minister can take which will offer hope for businesses in Scotland: she can put country above party and call off her dogmatic and blinkered pursuit of independence. To do so would take enormous courage and real qualities of leadership, and would cost her the support of the most fanatical of her supporters. However, it would gain her the admiration of even her most sceptical of critics, and – above all – would save the jobs and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Scots, now and in decades to come.

Peter A Russell

Stay Shockable – And Fight Back!

This is my translation from the German of a poem by Peter Rühmkorf (1929-2008) The title and refrain were a bit tricky: the word I have translated as “shockable” is “erschütterbar” and is literally correct, but also has undertones of ‘shakeable’ and therefore ‘vulnerable,’ as well as ‘capable of being outraged’.

In any event, the warning is not to let our acquaintance with brutality and duplicity make us so jaded that we no longer react, and no longer bother to resist.

So I have also taken a liberty in adding a third “Stay shockable” at the end of the final stanza. This came about when I recently read the poem aloud to politically committed friends: it seemed right to redouble the exhortation (in these times…)

Stay Shockable – and Fight Back.

Peter Rühmkopf

So today: first, second and last shout
To all that’s been chased round and wrung out
Which I, though lowly, saw sway and crack
What’s empty tomorrow but yesterday was full:
Before your head is frozen to death, a bare skull:
Stay shockable – but fight back.
 
Those who fuck up our earth, water and air
(Forward march! Trust in god and the motor car)
Before they talk you round the houses and into a sack
To be stitched up, bought and sold
While you wait for the transmutation of puke into gold
Stay shockable – and fight back.
 
So sweet, how mortals stir themselves and start
Targeting coshes to the kidneys and the heart
So soon failed courage betrays love behind its back…
If you stand head bowed, others bowed will follow
(And then you won’t need to seek your sorrows
Everything you fear, now it all comes true -)
Stay shockable
Stay shockable – and fight back.
 
Fight back, all of you! Unpractised in victory;
Between Scylla here and there Charybdis
Is the swinging exchange rate of the Odyssey…
Darkness flows out after the rich and sweet
But when you and your comrades – go out and find them! –
Share the gloom, the danger will easily
And soon crack…
Stay shockable …
Stay shockable…
Stay shockable – but fight back.