Your picture of the Week

Bewliehill Bridge over the Ale Water by Lilliesfleaf.
Bewliehill Bridge over the Ale Water by Lilliesfleaf.

Curtis Welsh saw these snowdrops beside the recently-rebuilt Bewliehill Bridge over the Ale Water, near Lilliesleaf.

The datestone indicates that the structure was first built in 1880. Please email photographic contributions, with a brief caption, to southern-letters@jpress.co.uk

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

UNPACKING THE UNIONIST CASE

The anger and hypocrisy expressed in the pro-Union, anti-independence letters in last week’s issue of the Southern beggars belief, and demonstrates a severe irony bypass on the part of the correspondents.

It is difficult to know where to begin, but I’ll quote just a few of the many examples:

“Nicola Sturgeon does not have a mandate for a second referendum.”

This from a supporter of a government at Westminster with one Scottish Tory MP. Also, there is just one Scottish Labour MP, one Lib Dem MP and a Prime Minister no one has voted for.

Nicola Sturgeon, by contrast, leads a government and a record number of SNP MPs at Westminster, all elected by the majority of Scottish voters.

“The Union which keeps Scotland afloat – paid for by the English taxpayer.”

Research conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (the director general happens to be English) states that real control of our own affairs could bring increases in GDP per capita worth more than £2,000 for every person in Scotland.

“The deficit – worse than Greece.”

This is clearly the result of complete, incompetent mismanagement of the economy over many, many years, before Scotland even had any government at Holyrood, and the squandering, by successive UK Governments, of Scottish assets (including oil) which have disappeared south to Westminster.

Looking at 193 independent states world-wide, the Institute of Economic Affairs goes on to state that an independent Scotland would be in the top third for GDP size. Indeed, we should be asking why, under the “broad shoulders of the UK”, what has gone wrong when New Zealand, Denmark, Slovenia, Ireland and Finland, among others, have significantly healthier economies, with similar-sized populations?

“The freebies for which the SNP claims credit.”

Do I then assume all Unionist supporters in Scotland pay for their bus passes, prescriptions, further education, etc?

“The motivation of the SNP is treacherous.”

Wanting to give the people of Scotland a choice making their own decisions regarding welfare , immigration, employment policy etc. in order to grow our own economy, and improve the lot of all who live and work here, can hardly be described as “treachery”.

“Nicola Sturgeon is now in a rapidly-declining position with Scottish voters.”

Can we have facts to support this statement please?

“The Little Scotlander Approach.”

This from an apparent Little Englander who seems to believe that we in Scotland must accept any decision from Westminster without question, and thole the consequences – e.g. Scotland voted by a large majority (62%) to remain in the EU, but faces being dragged out against our wishes.

“Poor management of our finances by the SNP for us to have a black hole of £14.8bn in our economy, and depend on the Barnett formula to balance our books.”

The writer fails to mention that UK Governments, with an even larger deficit over many, many years, have failed to provide a stable economy which benefits everyone.

To sum up, the people of Scotland deserve to be independent, making our own decisions, like most small-tomedium sized countries world-wide – most of whom are doing very well.

Finally, the elephant remains in the room. The question asked recently by Richard Walthew still remains unanswered: If Scotland is such a burden and a drain on the UK, why are Unionists so determined and desperate to maintain control over us?

J. Fairgrieve

Gordon

NOT IN FULL CONTROL OF OUR FINANCES

Graham Holford (letters, March 23) has a point about education in Scotland, as it does seem to have been losing some of its lustre to countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The big difference between these countries and Scotland is that they are in full control of all their finances, whereas the Scottish Government has to work within the constraints of the block grant from Westminster.

As someone who acquaints himself about current affairs, Mr Holford will know that the monies Westminster sends north have been cut year-on-year since 2010, placing ever-greater strictures on the Scottish Government’s expenditure.

As Margaret Thatcher used to say, we have to budget within the funds available, there is no alternative.

Richard Walthew

Duns

TRADING TIES AND NICOLA STURGEON

Nicola Sturgeon pledges to boost trade with Bavaria and intends to stengthen economic co-operation via a joint declaration.

Beyond her domestic remit, but fair enough maybe.

This is just as Ms Sturgeon intends to write to Theresa May to seek Westminster’s permission, via a section 30 order, to attempt to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK and ultimately erect a trade barrier between us.

The nationalist leader enthuses that “Scotland and Bavaria have much in common”.

That would be more than Scotland has in common with the rest of the UK then, Ms Sturgeon?

Martin Redfern

Edinburgh

IGNORING THE MAJORITY

SNP and Green MSPs knew in advance how they would vote in Tuesday’s debate in Holyrood, as they simply ignored the majority of us who do not want another referendum and set out to impose one anyway.

Brexit is their excuse, though they prefer not to wait to see the full effect of an eventual deal.

Meanwhile, the closest of possible ties across every aspect of our lives bind together the four nations of the UK.

Are these to be set aside to be a part of the ever-closer Europe project or primarily in pursuit of a differentiated place in the world? Lately the SNP seem far from sure themselves, and the Greens simply follow the SNP’s lead, wherever it might take us.

Keith Howell

West Linton

TAKING US BACK TO A YEAR ZERO

Following hot on the heels of news that the UK Government’s post-Brexit plan is christened “Empire 2.0”, we learn of a leaked Treasury document that reveals the government’s proposal to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs if no European Union trade deal is reached will cause “major economic shock” to the UK.

It took the EU 60 years to create an economic zone of free trade to lift expensive tariffs and cut bureaucracy for business, along with many trade deals with hundreds of millions of people outside the EU.

Its single market has a population of 460m – eight times bigger than the rest of the UK to Scotland; a customs union population of 530m which is nine times bigger; agreements for freer trade outside the EU are about to be finalised covering a population over 670m – 11 times bigger; there are agreements are in place with other states with a population over 1bn –17 times bigger; and there are ongoing negotiations with an area of 4.3bn people – 74 times bigger than the rest of the UK to Scotland.

Yet the UK Government is prepared to take business back 60 years to a year zero in trade that means all deals would have to be renegotiated from scratch. In the blink of an eye international competitors will be gifted a massive competitive advantage over Scottish businesses.

It won’t just affect exporting enterprises, but domestic business as well since they rely on exporting ones and their employees’ incomes – less trade means fewer contracts and fewer employees, which means less money going into local businesses. Even many people who voted Leave did not vote for such a situation since the Leave campaign promised business that a free trade zone from Iceland to Turkey “will not end” just because there was a Leave vote.

But now the UK Government is planning to do exactly that.

The Scottish Government offered a compromise instead of another referendum – that we stay in the single market. But the mood music from Theresa May has been no different than that towards the 27 other EU states – belligerence and haughtiness.

Hardly the best attitude to take when you are going into negotiations with them and they are ones who keep all the free trade agreements with countries populated by 100s of millions of people.

It feels like Mrs May is more concerned with keeping her UKIP-like backbenchers happy – and the problems that will arise from falling out of 60 years’ worth of trade agreements is a price worth paying for Tory party unity.

Any votes the Conservatives get in May at the local elections will be claimed by them as an endorsement for this strategy.

Scottish businesses can send them a message that they prefer considered compromise rather than falling off a cliff while dreaming of past empires.

James MacDonald

Oban

SAYING ONE THING – DOING THE OPPOSITE

It’s instructive that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has said: “I’ve never been caught out”.

It displays the arrogance of someone who thinks they are untouchable and believes they can get away with any contradictory comment or broken promise. Because she has a record of someone who says one thing and then does a U-turn, or has previously done the complete opposite of what she claims.

An indication of how she thinks she can get away with doublespeak is when she told BBC Newsnight on October 24, 2011, she had “lived and worked my entire life in Scotland, never been anywhere else, never wished to be. I’m Scottish to my bones”.

So how come she applied to be the Tory candidate in the English seat of Bromsgrove in 2010?

This is the politician who promised before the 2014 independence referendum that “ voting ‘No’ means we stay in the EU”. But now she is backing a Prime Minister who could not only take us out the EU, but the entire single market.

How does she reconcile her promise to voters to keep Scotland in the EU with her unconditional support for a PM who could impose hard Brexit?

Also before the 2014 referendum she signed pledge that a ‘No’ vote would mean “power lies with the Scottish people” and said Scotland was an “equal partner” in the UK.

Yet now she allows a Prime Minister that the UK hasn’t voted for from a party Scotland doesn’t vote for to signal she will ignore the majority of representatives elected by those Scottish people. A Tory party that still has less support than the low point for Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

But it is on the Brexit elephant in the room where she now thinks she can get away with letting Theresa May impose hard Brexit on Scotland. She now calls it an “opportunity”, but before the EU referendum was singing a different tune.

She said that “there will be a large economic cost of Brexit”; that it was based on “lies” and “fantasy economics” and families “couldn’t afford” it; that thousands of Scottish jobs are “reliant” on exports to the EU.

If that was the case before June 23, 2016, surely she believes it is still the case now? If not, why not?

It’s a mark of Ruth Davidson as a politician that she thinks she can tell the public anything and get away with it. Maybe the public can take the opportunity in the local elections this May to send her the message that they won’t be taken as fools by an arrogant Tory party which thinks it can do what it likes to Scotland and people will just take it.

Andrew Stuart

Glasgow

A SINGLE DERANGED INDIVIDUAL

The country needs to man up.

The Westminster atrocity was clearly perpetrated by a single deranged individual of limited intelligence.

Each day accidents on our roads create a greater toll of carnage.

The next time we face an organised competent group of Islamist terrorists, the slaughter will be very considerably worse, and we will still need to go about our daily business despite them and their vile ideology.

Otto Inglis

Edinburgh

CHARITY BANKING ON PEDAL POWER

I am calling on your readers to join the fight against heart disease by signing up to the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) 54-mile London to Brighton Bike Ride on Sunday, June 18.

For the first time in the event’s history, the use of electronic bikes will be permitted this year. I hope this will encourage more riders of all cycling abilities to get in the saddle.

In Scotland, 15,500 people die each year from heart and circulatory disease.

The event has been running for more than 40 years and in that time 814,000 cyclists have raised over £65million.

You can sign up for the ride by visiting bhf.org.uk/L2B

Shonali Rodrigues

(head of events,

British Heart Foundation)