10 September 2014 Caroline

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around go to get my feet done at Carolines. Mary comes for a drive but can’t manage the stairs

Mary’s back not much better today, rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there.


David Wynne – obituary

David Wynne was a figurative sculptor who proved popular with his royal patrons and members of the public but was sometimes vilified by the art establishment

David Wynne at home in 1993

David Wynne at home in 1993 Photo: REX FEATURES

6:56PM BST 09 Sep 2014


David Wynne, who has died aged 88, was at the forefront of British sculpture, though he never went to art school; this was an omission which freed him from a preoccupation with movements and trends, though it never won him any favours with the art establishment.

In London alone, Wynne was responsible for a huge number of important public commissions. He carved one of the capital’s best-loved animal figures, Guy the Gorilla, in Crystal Palace Park. He sculpted Boy with a Dolphin at the Chelsea end of Albert Bridge, and Girl with a Dolphin outside Tower Bridge.

Boy with a Dolphin’ sculpture by David Wynne, 1975, on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea (REX FEATURES)

He created adornments for the Playboy empire and for the Cadogan Estate. He sculpted the massive Teamwork, featuring four men pulling a rope, for the headquarters of the builders Taylor Woodrow, and the Embracing Lovers at the Guildhall.

Elsewhere he sculpted the Tyne God fountain in Newcastle upon Tyne; Christ and Mary Magdalene at Ely Cathedral; and a Risen Christ for the front of Wells Cathedral, one of his most famous commissions.

His portraits included the Queen and the Prince of Wales, Sir John Gielgud, Lord Attenborough, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Thomas Beecham (who said the piece reminded him of all the mistakes his orchestra had made in the previous 10 years), the four Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (whom he introduced to the group), and the Derby-winning racehorse Shergar.

In 1973 he designed the linked hands on the 50p pieces that marked Britain’s entry into the European Community. Some of Wynne’s most striking pieces were designed for garden settings. He created works for the Abbey Gardens at Tresco, including Gaia, a sculpture made from South African marble, which has a South African planting around it. The Prince of Wales was so taken by the figure he commissioned a similar piece, called Goddess of the Woods, for his gardens at Highgrove.

But Wynne was not a sculptor whose work was ever likely to feature at the Tate. His devotion to the figurative genre made him popular with patrons and the general public, but not with the art establishment — a fact which Wynne attributed to a deep-seated resentment at the success of a sculptor who never went to art school.

Whether this accounted for the venom directed at him over his most controversial work — the centrepiece of the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner, commissioned by Prince Michael of Kent in 1990 to commemorate his aunt’s 90th birthday — is not easy to say. Featuring a colourful and stylised lion and unicorn prancing around a tree filled with birds and animals, the design (and the gates by Giuseppe Lund) provoked strong and mostly negative reactions among the nation’s art critics. “All I can say about the Queen Elizabeth Gate is ‘Good grief’,” wrote The Daily Telegraph’s critic Richard Dorment. Wynne’s centrepiece, he proclaimed, was “just plain naff” and the Lund gates were “a total failure, a mess, an eyesore”.

The torrent of criticism did not seem to bother Wynne, who felt secure in the confidence that the Queen Mother loved the gates and that they were a true reflection of her personality — “essentially feminine, and with the popular touch”. Besides, as he observed, quoting Alexander Pope: “Nobody has yet erected a statue to a critic and I doubt anybody ever will.”

The son of a naval officer, David Wynne was born in the New Forest on May 25 1926. A weak child, he was bullied at Stowe and successful neither at work nor at sport until he joined the Royal Navy in 1944. He realised that in order to combat a natural tendency to laziness he must become emotionally involved in work and that he wanted to sculpt.

After the war he started reading Zoology at Trinity College, Cambridge — somewhat half-heartedly. The story goes that when the dons saw some undergraduates’ heads he had made, they waived his exams and encouraged him to study fine art, which he did under the guidance of the classical scholar Andrew Gow.

Jacob Epstein was an early mentor and patrons such as GM Trevelyan and Alistair McAlpine gave Wynne a helping hand in his early years. On Epstein’s advice, Wynne’s father spent the last of his capital buying a studio for his son, and in 1955 David held his first one-man show, at the Leicester Galleries. Commissions steadily increased.

David Wynne with his sculpture of The Beatles, May 19 1964 (HULTON ARCHIVE)

It was Guy the Gorilla which really established his career. Around 1960 the LCC asked him to make a sculpture for a high plinth at the Crystal Palace that would have railings around to keep out children. Wynne, who adored children, reacted by trying to think up something that children could play on and that was strong enough to stand up to them. He lighted on the idea of Guy the Gorilla, a great favourite of younger visitors to London Zoo.

When asked by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs whether he ever worked from photographs, Wynne replied that he never did. When preparing for a piece, he would live for weeks with his subject, studying its characteristic behaviour and movements.

While working on Boy with a Dolphin, he spent hours under water watching the animals’ movements. When Pepsi Cola gave him carte blanche for a large piece, he spent three weeks in the Rocky Mountains and came out with a grizzly bear fashioned from a 36-ton block of marble.

Large, curly-haired and brisk, Wynne had a diverse collection of friends, from members of the Royal family to the Beatles. He worked in Wimbledon and then Fulham, where he converted a former women’s prison into a studio. In his later years he moved to South Devon.

He was appointed OBE in 1994.

David Wynne married, in 1959, Gill Bennett (née Grant). Their long and happy marriage ended with her death in 1990. He is survived by their son and by a stepson and stepdaughter; another son predeceased him.

David Wynne, born May 25 1926, died September 4 2014


NHS protest against privatisation The People’s March For The NHS arrived in London on Saturday after a 300-mile journey. Photograph: Melpressmen/ melpressmen/Demotix/Corbis

Polly Toynbee paints a terrifying, but accurate, picture of the NHS (Labour can only save the NHS by biting the tax bullet, 9 September). But her conclusion is not correct. There is another, better way.

There is a hidden assumption in her argument, which all the three main parties seem to share, that carrying on with Osborne-type cuts to 2019-20 to clear the budget deficit is somehow necessary and inevitable. It isn’t. Continued spending cuts, particularly in the NHS, in the sixth year of austerity with unemployment still over 2 million, is plain crackers, given the feedback effects that contract both incomes and government tax revenues. It isn’t even cutting the deficit. Alistair Darling’s two stimulatory budgets in 2009-10 brought the deficit down sharply from £157bn in 2009 to £118bn in 2011 – a reduction of nearly £40bn in just two years. Osborne’s austerity budgets have slowed the reduction to a trickle, down to £108bn now – a reduction of £10bn in three years. So which is more effective – public investment or spending cuts? It’s a no-brainer.

It’s not as though Osborne’s “recovery” offers an alternative either. Hardly anything has recovered except financial services. Wage levels, business investment, productivity, private debt and the trade gap are all strongly negative. The need for public investment now to kickstart the economy, when private investment is still flat on its back, is overwhelming. A £30bn investment package that could be funded for £150m at current interest rates would generate a million jobs within two years, increase incomes and cut the deficit far faster than the current prolonged austerity. It could even be funded without any increase in public borrowing at all, either by mandating the publicly owned banks RBS and Lloyds to prioritise lending for British industry, or by electronic printing of money (QE) targeted directly on industrial investment, or by a super-tax on the 1% ultra-rich.

The whole economy would at last revive, not just the froth at the top, and the straitjacket of Osbornomics and endless cuts would be removed. The financial pressures on the NHS wouldn’t melt away, but they would be enormously eased.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

• Your 8 September edition highlighted the dangers to the NHS caused by the government’s top-down reorganisation (Cancer services weakened by NHS revamp, says report) and the secret negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which locks in privatisation (Unions say planned trade deal poses threat to NHS). What a pity, then, that while you were able to use your whole centrefold for images of the Great North Run, with multiple logos of the sponsor, Bupa, prominently displayed, you could find no space for photos, or indeed any coverage, of the banners carried by the Darlington Mums, who had completed their 300-mile march from Jarrow in defence of the NHS on the previous day, nor of the thousands who turned out to meet them in Trafalgar Square. Consequently, you did not report Andy Burnham’s pledges at the rally to restore the secretary of state’s responsibility for service provision, make the NHS the preferred provider, repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and exempt the NHS from TTIP. The fight for an NHS that puts people above profit continues, and your paper needs to be at the forefront of those not only reporting that fight but ensuring that politicians’ promises are widely publicised so that they can be held to account for delivering on them.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

• As one of the dozen or so people who gave up three weeks of my life to march the 300 miles from Jarrow to Westminster on the People’s March for the NHS, I was underwhelmed by the national media’s grasp of the predicament of UK taxpayers and disappointed at the poor reporting of the main issue.

Even your own online report (NHS ‘People’s March’ campaigners arrive in London after 300-mile march, 6 September) failed to place things in context when referring to the fact that only 6% of the NHS budget is spent on private healthcare. As an experienced health commissioner I can explain the workings of the clinical commissioning groups. We will begin to see radical changes to where the NHS budget is spent only once CCGs have rewritten the documentation for invitations to tender. The first wave of contracts will be let next April; then I expect the volume to increase in subsequent years. Therefore Oliver Letwin is perfectly correct, if he indeed said that the NHS will no longer exist in five years.

Few people we met on our long march wanted to pay the additional funds that will be necessary to maintain a more expensive health system where shareholder dividends are prioritised over the needs of patients. The new system will mirror the one in the US, and our wellbeing will suffer significantly.
Fiona Dent
Holyport, Berkshire

Grumpy Cat gets her photo taken with a fan as she arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards Not enough room to swing a cat? Not this sort of cat, anyway … a fan takes a selfie with internet celebrity Grumpy Cat as she arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

Your report (Lammy joins London mayor race, 5 September) cites several other possible candidates for the 2016 mayoral election, none of whom have declared, while ignoring the fact that I have been campaigning for two years to obtain the Labour nomination. There seems indeed to be some discomfort in the Westminster village about a political outsider challenging entrenched interests. Moreover, the contest is definitely to be held as a primary, as set out in the Collins review, which is precisely why I was encouraged to stand.
Christian Wolmar

• Doctor Who may be diverse in terms of gender, colour and sexual orientation (Who is diverse?, Letters, 4 September) but the programme is sadly speciesist when it comes to our own planet. While the Doctor cherishes all manner of species, robots, gases and rocks included, he shows no respect for any animal on the Earth other than humans. Indeed, he eats them. No, writers of Doctor Who, the Doctor would be vegan.
Richard Ross

• How can you have thought it was appropriate to illustrate a story about cramped flats (Report, 6 September) with a graphic showing a cat being swung by the tail? Perhaps you would like to refer back to one of your your own stories (Man filmed repeatedly swinging cat hands himself in, 11 November 2011).
Estella Baker

• Can I suggest a guided tour of HMS Victory in Portsmouth, to see “the cat” of nine tails (used to inflict punishment) and then understand expressions such as “enough room to swing a cat” and “the cat’s out of the bag”. The guides are both informative and cheerful; however, like me, some will be pro-feline.
Michael Reekie

• Re Spike Milligan’s gravestone (Yogic flying, 6 September), the stuffy, censorious C of E wouldn’t allow his “I told you I was ill” dictum in English. The proudly Irish and atheist Spike would have appreciated the irony of it only being allowed written in the Irish language. Thus it says: Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.
Jeanne Rathbone (aka Sheela-na-Gig)

Passing Out Ceremony at the Metropolitan Police Peel Centre, Hendon, London, Britain - Mar 2009 Partners in crime: cuts to funding means that police have to rely on volunteers. Photograph: Rex

All those who work in policing will be surprised that you can publish an article about the way the police handle reports of crime (Police tell victims to solve crimes themselves, 4 September) without mentioning the biggest issue in policing: the ongoing reductions in funding.

The police service has already been reduced by over 30,000 staff and, as the home secretary made clear last week, these cuts will continue into the future. Faced with this, police forces have to constantly review every part of their operation to see where efficiencies can be gained, but this inevitably involves hard decisions on dealing with more reports over the telephone and trying to get more public involvement in reducing crime and disorder through the use of volunteers.

The principles of UK policing as laid down by its founder, Sir Robert Peel, has always been this concept of cooperation between police and public, and history and experience show it produces far better outcomes.

There is another issue here, however: recent reports on child sexual exploitation and domestic violence have shown that the police need to give far greater priority and effort to protecting vulnerable people. Given declining budgets, this will have to involve a shift from the priority given to some aspects of property crime, often the legacy of previous performance target regimes now thankfully abandoned by the home secretary and most police and crime commissioners.
Peter Fahy
Chief constable, Greater Manchester police

• I cannot count the number of times the public has been warned of the dangers of “taking the law into their own hands”. Now suddenly it’s what we’re supposed to do. The problem is, as it ever has been, that self-help investigation leads by a short route to self-help punishment, invariably violent. So the police get involved again. Not very clever. A government that reduces police funding so far below safe levels does not deserve the title.
Colin Yarnley
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

long term unemployed Jobhunter: Politicians should put the interests of the country and of jobseekers first. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

You report that the coalition partners are looking to make changes in the Work Programme in their manifestos (Lib Dems widen attack after bedroom tax victory, 8 September). We agree improvements can be made. Much has been learned about about how to support the long-term unemployed over the last few years, particularly during a time of recession.  However, it is important that all politicians remain committed to helping the long-term unemployed back into sustainable employment.

Since 2011, the Work Programme has helped more than half a million people into work. Of these, more than 300,000 are already in long-term employment. This is a win-win for taxpayer, employers and, crucially, jobseekers themselves.

As employers we believe that the commitment of politicians to employment support – whether the Work Programme or a different scheme – must continue. We are asking for all politicians to put aside their difference and to put the long-term interests of the country and jobseekers first.
Paula McCarthy Domus Healthcare,

Simon Wilson Intelling

Adrian Swain MAS Landscapes

Andrew Grant Major Energy

Andrew Levesley Building and Property Maintenance

Anita Adams MTL Group

Ash Sawney Ocado

hong kong letter Hong Kong: the city’s political structure ‘needs to improve by steady progress’. Photograph: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Your editorial on the selection of the chief executive of the Hong Kong special administrative region by universal suffrage (A foolish decision, 3 September) is a groundless attack on China’s Hong Kong policy and lacks basic historical knowledge.

According to the decision adopted by the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress, starting from 2017, the selection of the Hong Kong chief executive may be implemented by universal suffrage. It means that if implemented smoothly, only 20 years after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, 5 million eligible voters of its 7 million population will be able to directly elect the chief executive through one-person-one-vote for the first time in history. It shows the rapid progress in Hong Kong’s democratic development and the broad base of consensus it enjoys. Such a major step forward could only be dreamed of during the 150 years of British rule.

The Sino-British joint declaration of 1984 made no mention of universal suffrage. It is the Chinese government who first proposed selection of the Hong Kong chief executive by universal suffrage, which was then clearly written into the 1990 Hong Kong Basic Law. It is thus incomprehensible how the editorial can argue “reasonably” that “China has broken the promises it made”.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the Chinese government is firmly dedicated to the development of various causes in Hong Kong, democratic politics included. At the same time, Hong Kong’s political structure needs to improve by gradual and steady progress. The pressing task now is to make that first step forward and reasonably conclude the political debate that has hung over Hong Kong society for 20 years. Only thus can Hong Kong concentrate on its development and keep its competitive edge.
Miao Deyu
Chinese embassy, London

Dogs Asbo (L), wearing a union flag and Joined forces: the English take too much pride in a tradition that can hold us back. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps Westminster politicians should have spent more time creating a more equal and fair UK to help keep the union together rather than trying to act as policemen to the world with an overblown self-image, attitude and organisational way of operating across the UK that is a leftover from the UK as a colonial power, with Westminster reluctant to let go (Shock new poll says Scots set to vote yes to independence, 7 September). A more fair society can’t have all the power in one place. This is not just unfair, it is ridiculous.

Regardless of the outcome of the Scottish independence vote, more independence from Westminster will, I am sure, now be on the agenda for English regions, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of more power to raise revenue and decide how it will be spent.

However, it might take a little while for Westminster politicians to catch up with this trend that started way back in faraway colonies that did eventually get their independence: God bless America! It can take a while for some things to sink in: the English take a tad too much pride in a tradition that can hold us back while holding us together.
Vaughan Thomas

• Discussions of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence have been obscured by a fog of political mendacity and confidently presented spurious economics. There are two important points that have been ignored by many commentators. The first is that the Bank of England, despite its misleading name, is the central bank of the United Kingdom so that Scotland should have a part to play in the management of its assets, liabilities and operations.

The second is that the United Kingdom was formed by the union of two nations, England and Scotland, and the subsequent formalised unions with Wales and Ireland were with this United Kingdom, not with England. In the event of the primary union being dissolved, there would be no UK left because the political entity that Wales and Northern Ireland joined would have ceased to exist.

Portraying the UK as a confederation of four equivalent components is probably incorrect, even if politically convenient.
Peter Dryburgh

• Deborah Orr is sad that an option for major reform of the union is not on the ballot in the Scottish referendum (Debate has intoxicated Scotland, 5 September), but it may be that that question really needs broader involvement of the people of these islands. The truth is that we don’t really know what will happen if the Scots vote to break up the status quo. Anything is possible, as Osborne’s comic rush to get reforms in place following single opinion poll putting the yes vote ahead: after years of being ignored in Westminster, the Scots can now shift policy overnight through an opinion poll. Who knows, if the yes vote in the next poll increases again we might find that it is possible to negotiate on Trident after all.

We don’t know what will happen after a yes vote, partly because many in the no camp refused to contemplate any form of constructive engagement. The details of the future relationship between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom will take time to sort out: doing so will be the responsibility of the government elected next May. A yes victory will make those May elections far more interesting than any these countries have seen in living memory, making critical decisions about the structure of our society and letting us south of the border share the intoxication now gripping Scotland.
Martin Juckes

• Simon Jenkins again calls for a non-monetary vision of the future of the UK to inspire a no vote and loyalty from its constituent parts (A yes vote will produce a leaner, meaner Scotland, 5 September), and on the same day Jeffrey Henderson (Letters) calls for a governmental federal structure to be established. I should like to put the two together and say that a federal structure would call for a federal capital and that its creation could be the basis for a new vision.

In December 2011, the centenary of the announcement of moving the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi, the Architectural Review published an article of mine arguing that a similar move should be considered for this country.

The reasons were both economic and political: the urgent need to spread prosperity and the pressure for development away from the south-east, and the political need for a structure where the capital of the UK was not also the capital of England.

A hundred years ago, wealth was fairly evenly distributed, with thriving industry in the north and west and commerce and government in the south-east. But with industry no longer thriving, everything – both government and commerce – is now concentrated in the south-east.

Commerce we cannot move, but government we can. The government whose duty is to serve the whole country equally should be located in the place where it can best do so.
James Dunnett

• Mark Tran (Ministers try the Quebec ploy, 7 September) might have mentioned that the Parti Québecois supports “sovereignty partnership” with the rest of Canada, which, among other things, would mean that a sovereign Quebec would retain the Canadian dollar and the Canadian military. Nor should it be forgotten that the Cree people are demanding that Québec reverts to its pre-1912 boundaries, whereby the Cree would achieve a form of confederated “culture-land” within the Canadian nation state.

The picture across Canada is complex, especially in Alberta and British Columbia in relation to the so-called Northern Gateway and the actual and potential destruction of the ecology and community lives of First Nation people and their neighbours. Canada today is far from being a country at ease with itself, and not just in Quebec.
Bruce Ross-Smith

• I think Jonathan Freedland misunderstands what is happening in Scotland (If Britain loses Scotland, it will feel like an amputation, 5 September). The case being made for Scottish “separation” (sic) is notable in part precisely because, by proposing a currency union along with various measures of “social union”, it implicitly acknowledges that in today’s world total independence is impossible. The argument is: vote yes for a fresh start, on the basis of which we can then (through discussion and negotiation) develop areas of cooperation where it’s sensible; a new sort of union, then. The point about the fresh start is that it offers a way of jolting our sclerotic body politic off its deathbed. But a yes vote wouldn’t end interdependence, nor destroy the geo-cultural entity that is Britain.
Richard Middleton
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Referendum Campaigners call for a yes in the Scottish independence referendum, Edinburgh, 9 September 2014. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

People like me, psychologists who are aware of the power of the unconscious, are astonished by the lack of understanding shown by politicians, when, as with the coming referendum, policy and planning must be of concern to all the people. The word “yes” comes across as positive, full of energy and enthusiasm; “no” is felt as negative, passive, uncooperative.

For those concerned to keep the union, the slogan should have been: “Say yes to staying in the union, say no to not staying in the union.” Psychologists would have added a third slogan, “Yes to devo max”, in order to get past the crude polarity, and so increasing the chance of securing the yes. How clumsy the government has been to allow Alex Salmond to frame the choice (which concerns us all) in ways that suit him. Too late now – but what an opportunity lost.
Kate Springford
Lewes, East Sussex

• Whatever happens in Scotland’s referendum, can a new polity in both nations ensure that, in future, multi-option problems are resolved by multi-option ballots (Whatever Scots decide, the old order is dead and buried, 8 September)?

After all, a binary vote cannot measure consensus: with so many for and so many against, it calculates the very opposite, the degree of dissent.

Democratic decision-making should identify the collective will of those voting. Thus in multi-option preferential voting, people vote only in favour, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and the count identifies that option which enjoys the highest level of overall support.
Peter Emerson
Director, the de Borda Institute

• With the sudden awareness of the importance of the Scottish referendum vote (Last stand to keep the union, 8 September), perhaps David Cameron should start apologising. Would any rational person agree to a major constitutional change resting on a simple majority of one? A single Scottish voter could be tired or a bit tipsy, maybe ticks the wrong box or accidentally spoils the ballot paper, and as result, Scotland becomes independent. Is that really a sensible way of deciding such an important question?

And, as we know, there is “the morning after” effect, after some rash behaviour the evening before. Would not rationality have suggested that there should at least be a follow-up “confirmation” vote, one way or the other?
Peter Cave

• It seems increasingly likely that the Scottish referendum could be decided on a very small majority. In the case of a no vote this might seem a fair outcome, to preserve the status quo. In the case of a yes vote, the question should perhaps arise as to how large a majority should be decisive. The apparently uncertain results of Scotland becoming independent surely require a significant majority in favour, or else half the population is in effect kidnapping the other half on a journey into unknown and possibly dangerous territory.

Furthermore, if residence is the only qualification for voting, what is the value of the opinions of native Scots people who may, even quite temporarily, be living “abroad”? Conversely, what is the value of votes cast by non-Scottish natives who happen to be living, however temporarily, in Scotland?

In the case of a very close result, such considerations as these latter could raise serious disputation as to the validity of either outcome.
Ian King
Westbury on Severn, Gloucestershire

• Can it really be right, sensible and acceptable that this vote, which is going to be too close to call, could be decided on perhaps one vote?

Can it be right that such seismic change, such massive ramifications for not just Scotland but England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well, can be put in train when the Scottish people are so palpably of two minds? Surely we should demand a majority of at least 10%.

This generation of politicians, whom we thought had reached a nadir over the expenses scandal, has shown itself to be utterly incompetent and incapable – presiding, it seems, over the break-up of the nation they were elected to serve. They have been incapable of even conducting a debate of the issues, of explaining and clarifying; incapable of establishing proper criteria for the outcomes either way.

From snooty, arrogant sneering down south, to bombastic name-calling and lack of substance in Holyrood, the political class has conducted this issue like a playground squabble. It is to their eternal shame.

It is now so obviously time for massive and wholescale reform of the political system and the governmental structures in this country. If Scotland goes, so should the whole system.
Nigel Cubbage
Merstham, Surrey

• If the recent polls are to be believed, it seems that the Scottish independence referendum is effectively going to be a tie. We thus have a situation where the 8% or 9% of the population to whom the potential break-up of the United Kingdom has been delegated cannot agree among themselves. Consequently, a majority in favour of Scottish independence of half a dozen (or less) would determine the future of the 91% or so of us who are left in the rump of what was the United Kingdom. An impartial observer from the planet Mars would surely conclude that this was a curious way to run a democracy.

There is another issue that does not seem to have been addressed, namely, who is paying for this referendum? Is it the Scottish taxpayer or the British taxpayer? I have a nasty suspicion that I know the answer. And on an allied subject, I am rather resigned to paying for the knock-on costs of the split if Scotland votes yes, but has a wise government considered what these will actually be, and what effect they will have on the British economy (or what is left of it)?
Stephen Thair
Old Basing, Hampshire

Gordon Brown, Loanhead Miners Welfare Gordon Brown campaigns on the Scottish independence referendum at Loanhead Miners Welfare. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

It was intriguing to note George Osborne claim that there will be supposed “new” powers announced for the Scottish parliament over the next few days (Last stand to keep the union, 8 September).

These are not “new” powers and what will simply be outlined is a timetable on how the paltry powers already outlined by the unionist parties will be implemented in the event of a no vote. As an aside, it is intriguing to note that these same people refused to put this option on the ballot paper when given the opportunity to do so.

Over the next 10 days those wanting to retain the current union will throw everything bar the kitchen sink at the campaign to keep Scotland. Those voting no or who are undecided should ask themselves one simple question: “Why?”
Alex Orr

• Arguing that Scotland could not go it alone is rather pointless, when one just has to look at the experience of Ireland (The clock ticks, the polls narrow, 8 September). If the Westminster parties are desperate enough in their desire to save the union, there are two things they could do. The first is to give an undertaking to remove all nuclear weapons from Scotland after a no vote. Since this will have to be done anyway after a yes vote, one might as well face up to it. Having the union and Faslane both is probably no longer a realistic expectation. Secondly, there needs to be a guarantee that after a no vote, under no circumstances will Scotland be dragged out of the EU. If this means giving an undertaking not to hold any in/out referendum, so be it; better no referendum than no UK.

These two measures would spike two of the yes campaign’s most powerful guns. They might be drastic, but if the union is to be preserved, drastic measures are now needed.
Roger Musson

• Proposing greater powers for the Scottish parliament after a no vote is illogical. A no vote will be a vote for sweeping away all the time-wasting farrago of a “Scottish parliament” and “first minister”, and replacing them with two or three city regions, with councils and mayors.

It would be sensible if this were accompanied by a system of regional councils in England, but since there is currently no popular English enthusiasm for additional layers of local government, this should be deferred for further discussion.

Encouraging Gordon Brown to forget that he is no longer prime minister just emphasises how much the United Kingdom has suffered from Scottish Labour politicians’ obsession with sentimental nationalism rather than good government.
John Hall

War illustration ‘The arms industry prospers with the world in chaos’. Photograph: Gillian Blease

On western intervention

“We look at banning a party that won an election in Egypt, and back a repressive general who mounts a coup; we back Israel regardless of its lethally disproportionate response to rocket attacks; and we arm a feudal regime in Saudi Arabia that exported religious extremism around the globe with devastating consequences” (The west can’t solve the crisis in Iraq, 29 August). What a perfect summary of the policies of the people who claim to occupy the moral high ground! It is not surprising that many young men, disaffected with their countries of origin, have decided to flee to join a movement that in their eyes looks more honest.
Lucila Makin
Cambridge, UK

• Your letter writers (Reply, 29 August) commenting on Timothy Garton Ash’s article in the 8 August edition, and many others of us, would agree bedlam is left behind wherever western nations interfere in the affairs of other states – with or without good intentions. The arms industry prospers with the world in chaos.

Is it not ironic that these same nations that first went into Iraq to liberate it from its demonic leader are now returning to save its people from each other?
Rosemary Kornfeld
Mittagong, NSW, Australia

Scottish independence

There’s a certain fascination for a non-Scot in watching the debate about independence. It’s not the profound questions such as how long the oil will last or what currency would an independent Scotland use that draw the attention (29 August) so much as the anticipation of the chaos that would inevitably result from a yes vote. Being British, I am certain that there will have been no advance planning on either side as to the practicalities resulting from a breakaway Scotland.

For example, has the UK passport office prepared a list of Scottish holders of UK passports so that cancellation of their passports can be efficiently undertaken? Has the list been provided to the NHS to facilitate deregistration from GP surgeries of Scots living in the UK? Are there plans and draft contracts for the construction of the border crossing posts?

And on the Scottish side, have the necessary ceremonies been planned to allow members of the Scottish armed forces to unswear allegiance to the British monarch? Has the new Scottish monarch been decided? King Alex I of the House of Salmond, perhaps?

And finally, how will Scotland compensate for the kudos lost as a result of the British Open no longer being played on Scottish golf courses?
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

• As a Welshman I want Scotland to stay … true to their dreams. I believe in a better Scotland for future generations, where society really does look out for one another from cradle to grave. Some say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – with a million in poverty and one in five Scots children affected by poverty – it’s broken.

Surely nobody doubts a Scotland that has a huge amount of Europe’s oil and gas couldn’t manage? And importantly, for the first time, a written constitution. A truly democratic, equal, free-of-Trident and prosperous Scotland is just the start of creating a new, better, fairer relationship between all the nations of these islands. Go for it, Scotland!
Chris Davies
Denbugh, UK

How much power is enough?

How much power is needed to move four people about with reasonable levels of speed and comfort? Any Ford Focus owner will testify that 100kW (134 horsepower) is perfectly adequate, and yet European auto manufacturers are allowed – indeed encouraged – to produce luxury cars and SUVs with four times this power.

On the other hand, if a common citizen employs a mere 2kW for the task of cleaning their house they will be pounced upon by Eurocrats for wasting energy (29 August). What better example could there be of how the luxuries of the rich and powerful are treated differently from the necessities of the rest of us?
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US

• You seem to have printed a right-wing tabloid article. I don’t regard the unfiltered opinions of Which? magazine as international news. Why haven’t you made contact with the elected representatives and officials responsible for the legislation on energy efficiency, as well as their critics, and written a properly researched, informative news piece? Why are you presenting EU minimum standards as “restricting choice”?
Anne Whyte
Oud-Heverlee, Belgium

Trouble in Tasmania

Your story Tasmania to tear up forestry peace deal (29 August) may have looked like a routine triumph of commercial over environmental concerns, but it is more bizarre than that. The logging industry that the state’s new Liberal government is vowing to resuscitate had, only a decade ago, the highest proportional rate of native forest destruction in the OECD.

This was achieved by virtually gifting most of the enormous public forest harvest to private woodchip operators. Over half the industry jobs disappeared en route to the peak of the automated chipping frenzy a decade ago.

The new Liberal government, threatened by growing global concerns about climate change and sustainability, is considering ducking them through sales to China, burning trees for power generation and creating draconian laws against protests in the public forest “workplace”.

The scrapping of the peace deal, and the general hostility to conservation, may be best understood by analogy to the reactionary perversity that inspired the Afghan Taliban to dynamite the Bamiyan Buddhist sculptures.
John Hayward
Weegena, Tasmania, Australia

Importance of the siesta

Perhaps Stuart Heritage is unaware that in the majority of countries of the world a siesta is perfectly normal (29 August). A short sleep gives more energy for work in the second half of the day and this sensible habit is not restricted to hotter climates. In some cases it is even regarded as a right.

When we went to teach in China in the 80s we were at first taken aback to see that so many people appeared to be homeless and obliged to squat in their workplace. It was only later that we realised that the camp beds at the back of the room that you could see when you went into a store or a bank were there so that the workers could have their siesta.

The most blatant example of this was when I went to Lhasa and was told that the splendid hotel where I was lodged had recently been taken over by a private international company, but kept its local management. It seemed surprising that, although the hotel would often claim to be fully booked, if someone tried to make a reservation, a whole line of rooms on the top floor were never let.

Further investigation showed that they were regularly used by the staff for their siesta. And why not?
Pat Stapleton
Beaumont-du-Ventoux, France

Book superlatives

What a terrifically fascinating article by Nathan Filer (29 August), filled with inventive wit, jokes and many surprises. It is a piece of writing that is destined to move hundreds and thousands of book loving readers to tears. I ate up every single paragraph of this touching, funny and brilliant read and was left hungry for more. Filer is an author who is simply not from this world.

OK, so maybe I overdid this endorsement a little.

While reading the first few lines of Filer’s article on the superlatives in book blurbs, I was tempted to shout: “Well obviously!” Had I ever bought a book because of somebody’s quote on the cover? The answer is no.

There are also many varied works that I have been lured into reading by the simple phrase, “You must read this.” But sometimes I don’t even finish these.

So, yes, on the one hand never judge a book by those silly superlatives. But on the other hand don’t judge a book by however many people say it is an essential read.
Alexandra Wilbraham
Jena, Germany


• Alison Flood’s Shortcuts column (15 August) described a children’s book, My Parents Open Carry, which the authors wrote because they had “looked for pro-gun children’s books and couldn’t find any”. Doubtless the pro-gun lobby loves it, and it probably won’t be long before the NRA nominates it for an award – perhaps a Bullitzer prize?
Ken Burns
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

• Three of the sources quoted in your story on the British harvest, From berries to barley (29 August), are fine examples of nominative determinism. They should form a company to market natural foods. Their message would be admirably clear and moderate: Garner Wildish Oates.
Michael Appleby
Edinburgh, UK


As an NHS doctor I have been greatly upset by the events surrounding the removal of Ashya King from Southampton general hospital, and the automatic and general assumption made by the media and the public in the early stages of the story that his parents were probably right to rescue their little boy from the clutches of an inadequate and uncaring NHS.

I qualified as a doctor in 2008 and worked for two years in the NHS before spending the next three years serving in the army. When I returned to the NHS last year I was astonished to find how low staff morale had sunk in my few years away.

Over the course of the past few months, my own morale has dipped to match that of my colleagues as I have more keenly felt the relentless onslaught of criticism that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals suffer from the media, politicians and medical-litigation industry.

The current exodus from general practice is a direct result of this: at a time when the government is trying to increase the number of GPs, one in three is retiring early, one in seven is leaving the country, and recruitment into general practice this year has fallen 15 per cent where previously it was rising.

The NHS is an easy target for the media and politicians, and those looking to criticise it can find any number of outlets. But trying to defend it feels like screaming into a vacuum. I cannot pretend that the NHS is a perfect system but there are good news stories out there that get very little, if any, coverage. For example, just this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the NHS as the best healthcare system in the world when compared to 10 other Western countries including the US, Canada and a handful of Scandinavian and northern European countries. This was widely reported in the US, which came last in the rankings, but did not seem to warrant a mention here in the UK.

I passionately believe that universal healthcare, free at the point of delivery, sets us above so many other countries and we should  be proud of this system rather than constantly denigrating it.

The NHS always has, and always will, rely on the goodwill of the people who work within it, the goodwill to go the extra mile, to work the extra hours and to work outside the exact terms of a job description, but I worry that the goodwill is running out as morale slumps.

The occasional pat on the back would go a long way towards remedying this and preventing the widespread apathy and dejection that could lead to the inexorable decline of the NHS.

Dr Adam Staten

New Malden, Surrey

I have much to thank Southampton hospital trust for, particularly the dedication they showed to our grandson, two weeks old at the time, and desperately ill. We didn’t see any arrogant doctors there – just a team of professionals dedicated to getting him better, which they did. But of course the media don’t seem interested in good-news stories when it comes to the NHS.

Mike Willson

Southwick, East Sussex


Two nations with different visions

When Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says she would like the British “nation” to stay as one (8 September) she surely means she would like the “state” to stay as one. A state is a politically organised area over which a central authority has jurisdiction. A nation is a group of people who think of themselves as being held together by a shared culture and common values.

The UK state contains at least three nations. Such a situation would not normally threaten the cohesion of the state. The danger arises when the values of any particular national group differ markedly from those of the state. This appears to be what is happening in the UK now, with the Scottish nation having a vision of a just society that is increasingly divergent from what Alibhai-Brown refers to as the “manic and ruthless Anglo-Saxon model”. In such a situation, centrifugal forces gather strength and the danger of political fragmentation arises.

That is what the Scottish referendum is all about; a nation with a set of ideals and values that have become radically different from those of the centralised state.

Clive Wilkinson

Morpeth, Northumberland

Your editorial (8 September) says that the No campaign has traded in fear. Not me. I have been debating in public with nationalists since November 2012, launched the Aberdeen Better Together campaign, introduced Gordon Brown when he spoke to a packed house in Aberdeen at the end of June, and opposed Elaine C Smith on BBC Any Questions? in Melrose at the end of August.

My line has been to accentuate the positive, an easy one to deliver from personal experience as a medical scientist and a regular TV and radio interviewee, because the British science system is far more successful than any other (except the US which spends far more), because the BBC is by far the best broadcasting system in the world, and most important of all, because Scottish involvement in both, from their foundation to today, has been, and is, integral to their success.

Hugh Pennington


I’m not sure that all of those who will be voting Yes are confident of “a glorious future” as your editorial,  has it. However it will  be our mess, and not an Eton mess.

Joan Hoggan


The main argument of the No campaign is that people should vote out of economic self-interest. Their slogan might well have been “Better-off together”.

But, even if Scots could be persuaded that they might be “better off” staying in the UK, for many this would still not determine their vote.

Some people choose self-employment, with its attendant financial risks, rather that work for a boss or a company they don’t like. People take early retirement, go part-time, move to lesser paid jobs etc – all to improve their quality of life, knowing they will not be better off financially. The No campaign seems  to regard the voters as wholly materialistic. But many are not.

John Boaler

Calne, Wiltshire

It seems odd that the Yes campaign do not want to be governed by Whitehall but are happy to be governed from Brussels.

T Sayer


Scotland has long since ceased to be remotely Tory and the Conservatives in power might well see it as more of a liability to them than as an asset to the nation. David Cameron is perhaps not as dumb as he looks. The Conservatives would surely prefer to remain in power at the helm of a smaller union than to lose everything for a decade or more next year.

Alex Salmond may have the reputation for being sly, but it could be Cameron who’s pulling the fast one.

Paul Dunwell


There has been a feverish scramble by Westminster to ensure that Scotland remains in the union, but I have had no contact from my MP asking for my views.

I could, however, give him many clear answers: my son, as an English student, will leave university with around £30,000-worth of debt; I have a chronically ill relative who relies on repeat prescriptions at an extortionate regular cost; and we have an elderly relative who has now sadly used up most of her life savings to enjoy a decent level of care in the community. In Scotland all of these aspects are free and are funded by UK revenue, largely down to the taxes paid by the English who represent well over 93 per cent of the UK population.

I welcome Scottish independence because it will mean that I no longer have to subsidise Scotland through the outdated Barnett formula. The Government is bending over backwards to please Scotland… but not on my behalf. Who speaks up for the honest, law-abiding English taxpayer?

Trevor Freeman

Lowestoft, Suffolk


It now seems possible that Scotland will become independent and that the country I was born in and which has always been my home will cease to exist.

That this is even possible should be a source of consuming shame to politicians in both major Westminster parties: the Tories because they have driven Scotland to this by running Britain for the exclusive benefit of a small number of extremely rich people; and the Labour Party for failing to offer even a faint hope of anything better.

John Harries



Perfect baby coverage

I’ve read The Independent since it was first published in 1986, and if ever I needed a reason to continue reading it (which I don’t), that reason can be found on page 16 of the paper of 9 September. Four lines of type under the headline “Monarchy; second royal baby expected”. Perfect.  A news report without any of the gushing, fawning, or sycophantic drivel that we can expect from the other papers on a daily basis,  ad infinitum.

And judging by the Letters page of the same edition, I’m not the only person who feels like this.

Peter Henderson

Worthing, West Sussex


The Scottish referendum debate has split the country in two. Is it time for the Queen to intervene?

Sir, When the American colonies were lost in 1782 (leading article, Sept 8), George III stubbornly refused to accept his prime minister’s resignation. Lord North had to submit it several times, wailing that he could not remain after having brought about “the ruin of my King and country”. The monarch eventually acquiesced. Should Scotland be lost next week, it is unlikely that David Cameron would encounter similar royal resistance if a sense of honour should lead him to conclude that, as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, he ought not to remain in office. George Osborne, the strategic mastermind, ought to consider his position too.

Lord Lexden

London SW1

Sir, As Head of State in the United Kingdom, the Queen should address the nation. This is the one time in her reign when she must take this initiative, overriding her ministers if necessary. She has a unique insight into the affairs of her realm that spans more than 60 years.
If she is convinced of the benefits of the union, she must speak out to ask the Scottish people to stay in the United Kingdom.

Andrew Y Finlay

Llandaff, Cardiff

Sir, The opinion polls put the Yes/No vote neck and neck. This means that the future of the United Kingdom has been potentially placed in the hands of a few thousand 16-year-old Scottish schoolchildren, given that they have unwisely been offered voting rights in the referendum (or, alternatively, a few thousand EU migrants who happen to be living temporarily in Scotland).

DC Martin

Nailsea, Somerset

Sir, Whether Scotland remains in the union or becomes independent is for the Scottish people to decide. However, if the Scots vote to remain in the union and achieve “devo max” as promised by the three leading UK political parties yesterday, then the West Lothian question has to be resolved. The English people cannot be expected to endure indefinitely Scottish involvement in our government when English representatives have no similar standing north of the border.

We need a level playing field or the union will become more threatened by English than Scottish opinion. In the meantime the conspiracy of silence among the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties on the matter is not encouraging. Another issue for Ukip to exploit?

J Stratford

Brassey Green, Cheshire

Sir, As part of the 2012 Edinburgh agreement, the two governments agreed that the referendum should “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”. If the outcome of the referendum is a narrow win for the “Yes” campaign, how could it be said that the referendum had delivered a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland?

Peter Knowles

Bradwell, Devon Sir, We have had an avalanche of articles saying what a disaster Scottish independence would be, but not one pointing out the potential economic benefits for the rest of the UK, especially cities in the north of England, where many businesses would relocate from Scotland — unless the SNP watered down its socialist policies.

David Hutchison

Ewhurst Green, E Sussex

Sir, Scotland might get its freedom — paid for mainly by its oil and gas. So why wouldn’t the Shetland islanders then make a bid for independence from Scotland? They are a people who have as much in common with Edinburgh as most Scots do with London. Independence and ownership of the natural resources surrounding the Shetlands could give a huge boost to the islanders’ community wealth.

M Stanley

Malvern, Worcs

Sir, As a descendant of Sir Walter Scott I empathise with the romance and idealism behind the “Yes” campaign, the vision of a fairer society, etc — but all this is already in the hands of the Scottish government. If the “Yes” vote is partly to register disenchantment with the government at Westminster, people should look at the government in Edinburgh and ask whether its record is any better.

With the latest commitments to devolve further powers given a “No” vote, I hope voters will think long and hard about their decision.

Daphne Brotherton

London W8

Sir, Until earlier this week I was a firm voter for “No”. However, I am strongly opposed to any further powers being devolved to Holyrood and still more opposed to the federal UK that will almost necessarily follow — without any mandate from the other members of the union. Pity there is no “devo min” option. Do I now abstain or even vote “Yes”?

Dr Michael Tait

Campbeltown, Argyll

Sir, Advocates of “Better Together” should stop talking of “independence”, an emotionally powerful and positive word, and speak instead of “separation”, which is altogether more neutral and diagnostic. We Scots are already independent in the same way as are all other citizens of the UK. The lines of battle are between unionists and separatists, not between those seeking freedom and those who, by inference, subjugate them.

Archie Currie


Sir, I find it very strange that such a momentous decision can be decided on a tiny majority, possibly as low as one. Surely it should be at least two thirds.

Richard Maude

Bosham, W Sussex

Sir, Last month, at Tiree airport in the Inner Hebrides, I unveiled a memorial to 16 Second World War Coastal Command aircrew who lost their lives in a mid-air collision over the then RAF Tiree. My father was the captain of one of the two Handley Page Halifax aircraft in the collision.

It upsets me to think that the United Kingdom for which my father gave his life may shortly cease to exist.

Ken Organ


Countrywide, predators such as magpies and sparrowhawks ‘have no negative impact whatsoever on native songbird species’

Sir, Clive Aslet (Sept 9) claims that “the jury is out” on the impact of predators on songbird populations. No it isn’t. The jury, in the form of numerous scientific papers, delivered its unanimous verdict long ago by showing conclusively that, countrywide, predators such as magpies and sparrowhawks have no negative impact whatsoever on native songbird species. Paradoxically, the presence of predators can have a beneficial effect on songbirds, by causing the latter to be lighter in weight and thus fitter and more agile in escaping possible predation.

Dr Sir Christopher Lever, Bt

Winkfield, Berks

Without solicitors, parents are being driven to the courts and to representing themselves

Sir, Making court rules simpler to help families to navigate the justice system is helpful but masks the real problem: families being in court in the first place. Solicitors steer families away from the courts and towards alternatives such as mediation. When mediation does not work, they encourage clients towards appropriate settlement of cases rather than fully contested hearings. Without solicitors, parents are being driven to the courts and to representing themselves (report, Sept 8, and letter, Sept 9).

The government’s cuts to legal aid, which came into force in April 2013, could easily cost more than the intended savings. Removing solicitors from the process is a false economy. It is the families fighting in court and their children who will suffer most.

Andrew Caplen

President, the Law Society

Man has rated these wonderful fish for centuries, but flying salmon? Leave that to the airlines

Sir, The “Salmon Cannon” (Sept 8) might make upstream migration less arduous and less traumatic but what about the returning fish (kelts) wanting to get back to the sea to recover from spawning or the young salmon (smolts) journeying to the sea to feed grow and mature? A device that sucks thousands of live fish through a tube at 22mph could not possibly cater for them — and certainly not for the Atlantic salmon in British rivers.

Pity the poor salmon. Man has rated these wonderful creatures for centuries, but flying salmon? Please leave that to the airlines.

Stephen M Fielding

Kirkbrae, Galashiels

Neonicotinoids ‘affect all insects as well as birds and other wildlife that encounter them in sufficient amounts’

Sir, Rob Yorke says that neonicotinoid insecticides “target specific pests” (Nature Notebook, Aug 16). This is misleading — they are broad spectrum toxins that affect all insects as well as birds and other wildlife that encounter them in sufficient amounts.

It is also unhelpful to give the impression that these chemicals do not target “bees and hoverflies”. While neonicotinoid use is intended to reduce populations of certain pests, there is significant collateral damage; 500 dead queen bumblebees were recently found containing high levels of neonicotinoids next to a field of oil seed rape at Havering, east London.

Dozens of scientific papers have now shown that the levels of neonicotinoids found in arable fields reduce the foraging and breeding success of bees. A partial ban is in place and for the sake of our bees and our food supply this ban should be broadened and extended.

Matt Shardlow

Chief executive, Buglife


SIR – A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary some years ago found Britain’s current set-up of 43 police forces unsuited to the 21st century.

Many small forces remain ill-equipped to tackle cross-border crime and the high cost of senior officers’ salaries is an obvious duplication. The expensive appointment of Police and Crime Commissioners has compounded an already inefficient system.

I am no fan of Alex Salmond, but, as a retired senior police officer, I think that what he has done for the police in Scotland – reducing it to a single force, apparently without resistance or difficulty – is a model for England and Wales. Reducing the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to nine, as well as scrapping PCCs, would free up enough money to give this country the police structure it so desperately needs.

Peter Power
Lyndhurst, Hampshire

Boarding as care

SIR – The potential of a boarding school education to transform the lives and prospects of vulnerable children is something that Buttle UK can well attest to.

For years our charity has placed young people, many of whom would otherwise have ended up in care, at independent and state boarding schools.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of the children we fund get five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C each year, compared with just 15 per cent of pupils in the care of social services nationally.

Evidence suggests boarding can also increase employability and reduce the chances of offending and homelessness.

Gerri McAndrew

Chief Executive, Buttle UK
London SW1E

Heavenly umpire

SIR – As author of The Reluctant Umpire and a member of the Jewish faith, may I offer my services for the upcoming Vatican versus Church of England cricket match?

I am sure that my intense neutrality in the outcome of the match will suit both sides and their true Umpire-in-Heaven.

Robbie Book
London N20

Business and the EU

SIR – As economists and economic commentators we are writing to add our voices to the growing demands for a new relationship between Britain and the European Union and to express our support for an in-out referendum.

For too long the debate over Britain’s EU membership has been characterised by half-truths and outright fabrications. The misleading claim that millions of jobs would be lost if Britain were to leave the EU has been comprehensively disproved.

Research shows that British business wants a substantial change in Britain’s relationship with the EU. If negotiations by the Government fail to secure better terms, there is nothing to fear from Britain leaving.

Britain’s prosperity increasingly depends on its ability to trade with the whole world, not just its European neighbours. In 1980 the EU accounted for more than 30 per cent of world GDP; today that figure is less than 19 per cent. The share of British exports to the rest of the EU has fallen by 10 per cent in the past 10 years alone.

We need to move beyond a 20th-century economic mindset and be free to develop our links with the rising economies outside Europe.

Dr Ruth Lea
Chairman, Economists for Britain

Roger Bootle
Managing Director, Capital Economics

Bryan Gould
Former Labour shadow cabinet member

John Greenwood
Chief Economist, Invesco Ltd

Professor Philip Booth
Editorial and Programme Director, IEA
Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, Cass Business School

Ryan Bourne
Head of Public Policy, Institute of Economic Affairs

Keith Boyfield
Executive Director, Keith Boyfield Associates

Dr Eamonn Butler
Director, Adam Smith Institute

Mike Denham
Research Fellow, The TaxPayers’ Alliance

Dr David Green
Chief Executive, CIVITAS

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Executive Director, The New Zealand Initiative

David Lascelles
Senior fellow and joint founder of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation

Neil MacKinnon
Global Macro Strategist, VTB Capital

Professor Kent Matthews
Associate Dean for Engagement and Professor of Money and Banking, Cardiff University

John Mills
Chairman and Founder of JML

Iain Murray
Vice President for Strategy, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington DC

David Myddleton
Professor D R Myddelton, Emeritus Professor of Finance and Accounting, Cranfield School of Management

Brian Reading
Former economics adviser to Edward Heath

Professor Colin Robinson
Advisory Council Institute of Economic Affairs and Emeritus Professor, Surrey University

David B Smith
Beacon Economic Forecasting

Professor Phil Whyman
Professor of Economics, Business, Economics and International Business, University of Central Lancashire

Damon de Laszlo
Chairman, Economic Research Council

Saving your skin

SIR – When you have written on your banana skin, and then eaten the banana within, don’t forget its final use: as the best fertiliser for a rose bush. Simply wrap the skin round the base of the rose.

Julia Evans
Beganne, Morbihan, France

Fancy that

SIR – My wife and I have been married for more than 30 years and have only just realised that our respective parents were married on the same day, September 9 1939 – 75 years ago today.

David Bishop
London SW16

Britain is not to blame for migrants in Calais

SIR – Nathalie Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, not only blames Britain for the immigrants on her doorstep, but also seems to expect us to take responsibility for them. Surely the fact that France is a signatory of the Schengen agreement is what has allowed the immigrants to get there in the first place.

Nigel Godfrey
Caerphilly, Glamorgan

SIR – I was dismayed to read that the Italian authorities have been waving illegal immigrants through without taking any personal details or fingerprints.

Immigrants are supposed to apply for asylum in the first free country they arrive in, so France should be sending them back to Italy to be processed properly, not trying to close Calais down.

Carola Magill
London SW18

SIR – It is a legal requirement in France to carry some form of identification at all times, so why are the French not arresting these migrants, who have no papers or passports and are apparently trying to get into Britain? How did they manage to get so far across France without needing to show their papers?

Perhaps Britain should introduce ID cards and deport anyone without a card or passport back to the Continent.

Zigi Davenport
Eardisland, Herefordshire

Brewing ambition: a barista prepares a syphon coffee on National Coffee Day in Colombia Photo: AFP/Getty

6:59AM BST 09 Sep 2014


SIR – Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, argues that a coffee barista is not a high-quality job with prospects.

We at Costa Coffee could not disagree more. The hospitality sector employs 10 per cent of Britain’s workforce, which accounts for more than 2.7 million jobs. We must not dismiss the contribution the sector makes to the wider economy or underestimate the opportunities for progression available to those working in these jobs. We provide development opportunities and have had many success stories, with 65 per cent of team members on our internal development programmes achieving promotion into more senior roles.

Our own master of coffee, Gennaro Pelliccia, who is responsible for the quality of all Costa coffee, started as a barista in the 1990s. The sky is the limit.

Jason Cotta
Managing Director, Costa Retail UK
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has decided to implement some of the findings of the recent McLoughlin report on reducing costs in health insurance (“Varadkar seeks price freeze deal with health insurers”, Front Page, September 8th).

In a report that deserved wider attention, Pat McLoughlin concluded that private patients are poorly served by our current insurance model of care, with its lack of an integrated and comprehensive approach in both primary and secondary care.

The insurance industry says it has to raise its premiums to keep up with changes in medical practice. It seems wedded to this reactive approach even as it loses members.

The introduction of competition has meant our insurers are more concerned with vying with each other for a declining market than they are with becoming players in the healthcare system.

Instead of developing healthcare incentives that can leverage change in our health system, they market complex plans that confuse subscribers. I heard one company recently proclaim that they now had 100 plans available for “customers to choose from”.

All over the developed world everyone agrees that secondary care is too expensive, often inappropriate and cannot be delivered effectively without a vibrant primary care sector. The management of patients with common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obstructive airways disease are good examples of illnesses that needs more and considerably less expensive GP input.

All the international evidence points to general practice as the single biggest moderator of costs in healthcare. Countries with well-functioning general practice spend less of their gross national product on health than those, like ours, with less well-resourced general practice.

If our health insurers want to become involved in delivering appropriate and affordable care to a growing number of patients, this will involve structuring a payments system that rewards integrated and comprehensive medicine.

This cannot be done in an insurance culture that has little or no expertise in general practice. The answers to these questions matter because our health insurers are letting the modern world of healthcare development pass them by. Government needs to facilitate the industry to become players in healthcare with modernised legislation, giving them a place in policy development in return for a commitment to best international practice.

We now know the Minister has read the McLoughlin report and our health insurers would be wise to read it again and act on it in order to serve patients better. – Yours, etc,


Professor of General


School of Medicine,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir,– Fintan O’Toole is to be commended for his article questioning the value of the veneration of recently deceased political leaders (“Turning our dead taoisigh into ‘great leaders’”, Opinion & Analysis, September 9th).

Living in London, I was shocked by the glorification of Margaret Thatcher at the time of her death, and it was certainly interesting to see a similarly beatific portrayal of Albert Reynolds in the national media upon his passing.

While it is easier to write a laudatory piece of prose upon the death of a former leader, Fintan O’Toole should be praised for embracing the ambiguity and conflicting viewpoints that most often surround a life in politics. – Yours, etc,


Southwark Park Road,



Sir, – Prescription drugs can cost from from four to seven times more in the Republic of Ireland compared to Northern Ireland. Sick people are being cheated and this is wrong.

Leo Varadkar has been told he is powerless to change this situation (“Minister told by department officials he has no power to set drug prices”, September 6th).

There is something the minister could do – he could permit Irish people to fill their prescriptions by mail order from Northern Ireland. It is already legal to use an Irish prescription in a Northern pharmacy; however, regulations issued by Micheál Martin in 2003 forbid patients from ordering their medicines online. Like other European countries, the UK has a functioning system of regulating and permitting pharmacies to fill prescriptions by mail order, posting the goods to the address on the prescription.

Who are we protecting with this rule? Northern Irish pharmacists may post prescription drugs to their Northern customers, yet their attempts to ship to the South are intercepted at the border. Annually we hear the Irish Medicines Board issuing dire warnings about the threat from drugs ordered on the internet, as if Boots were some kind of drug smuggling outfit.

If Mr Varadkar wishes to give Irish people fair drug prices, he merely needs to wave his ministerial pen and cancel this harmful regulation. – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Place,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Like Mary Feely (“School uniforms not fit for purpose”, Opinion & Analysis, September 3rd), I never cared for wearing a school uniform during the “best days of my life”. While I do “get” a lot of her points, her prescription for comfort of the child’s PE outfit of tracksuit, polo shirt and trainers leaves a lot to be desired.

God help us if this is what has come to be deemed acceptable for mainstream daywear in 2014. Yet, of course, she is right and it is deemed acceptable. We can see that all around. Neatness of dress is rapidly becoming anachronistic. However, the purpose of a “tracksuit” is explained in its title. Why must everything be dumbed down under the justification of “comfort” and “convenience”?

Sure, the A-line skirt or V-neck sweater might be tweaked for something less “horribly scratchy” but not at the expense of steering children towards of some degree of professional attire, and while Ms Feely (and many others) may find men’s neckties passé, some, albeit a minority, of men still appreciate how a nice, elegant tie sets off a neat suit.

There is a difference to be drawn between comfortably casual and sloppy. Tracksuits in the classroom would be in the latter category and a poor example to instil in children for their future. – Yours, etc,



Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In two weeks, the Taoiseach will travel to the United Nations in New York, to join other world leaders in a review of the global strategy to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.

That strategy was agreed in the year 2000, and is based on eight goals that the global community is set to achieve next year.

Now, with less than 500 days to go until the deadline, the verdict is that the recipe agreed 14 years ago is working, but that rich countries have not kept their side of the bargain.

While enormous progress has been made on the seven “Millennium Development Goals” for which developing countries are responsible, progress on the eighth target, which is the responsibility of the West, has been patchy.

Rich countries have by and large resisted the much-needed reform of the unfair trade rules that keep people locked in poverty, and have failed to deliver the increases in overseas aid that they committed to.

But it is not too late. Ireland has gained great global influence on the basis of our undeniable commitment to a fairer, more stable world and our willingness to invest in the policies and structures the United Nations are promoting. We do that, because we know that as a small, open economy, Ireland depends on its global reputation as a reliable partner and as a people that keeps its promises.

The Taoiseach now has the chance to announce to the world that Ireland intends to honour its commitments to the Millennium Development Goals and that we will reverse six years of cuts to the aid budget.

Such a decision would not just get our aid programme back on track, it will also help bring about the stable and fairer world that Ireland needs for its own prosperity. – Yours, etc,



1-2 Baggot Court,

Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – What joy to read of Inis Mór’s “energy independence” initiatives in Lorna Siggins’s report (“Sun, seaweed, rubbish: the theme of the newest Aran Islands tour”, September 6th). The people of the island got together and decided to use the island’s own resources to begin to create a situation where the island will be “energy independent” by 2022. Insulating houses, harnessing the power of sun and wind, together with recycling, are combining to ensure goals of energy self-sufficiency will be met.

Among the backers of this initiative is the EU project Remote (Renewable Energy Training & Demonstration Network for Remote Communities).

Why can this not be done across the whole country? Jobs would be created and education and training services protected. There would be reductions in energy imports, energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Reductions in energy costs means more money in people’s pockets, which could result in more local spending, hence more local employment. More employment means more money in the government’s coffers, and less spending on unemployment services.

High stress levels and illnesses exacerbated by living in cold, damp environments caused by poor housing design and exorbitant energy costs would be reduced, resulting in savings in health services.

Another bonus would be a surge in the creative mind-set where citizens can use their energy, skills and imagination positively. This cannot happen when people are burdened with constant worry about increasing energy costs and health consequences. This increase in creative thinking would result in more jobs.

I know we have enormous levels of national debt. I also know that money can be found when the will is there.

All of the above would be a massive investment in our people and our own resources – a massive investment with an immense return.

Why can this not be done? – Yours, etc,




Co Galway.

Sir, – Una Mullally makes some very sweeping generalisations and accusations about supposed “intentional, sexist bias” on Irish radio (“Women need to raise the volume on radio exclusion”, Opinion & Analysis, September 8th).

In particular, she makes reference to “gender imbalance” on Today FM. As Ireland’s most popular entertainment-based radio station, Today FM has always provided equal opportunities to new and experienced broadcasters, on the basis of merit and ability. Over the course of 17 years, the station has encouraged and developed new broadcasting talent, right across the spectrum of skills required for a national commercial station, regardless of gender.

The most recent programming recruits in Today FM have been primarily female. This is alongside frontline female presenters who have been here for many years and a full female line-up of news anchors. Furthermore, women are the primary producers across all of our main shows on weekdays and at weekends and have a major influence on our output.

Regarding our supposed gender imbalance, Ms Mullaly correctly points out that the majority of our primetime presenters are male. Contrary to her view, this is not “sexist bias” at play. It is a function of broadcasters, regardless of gender, winning and holding the support of audiences every day, through the connection that they have established with listeners. This is what has made Today FM the most popular radio station in the country, particularly amongst women under 45.

Ms Mullally would do well to look at her own newspaper before commenting erroneously on the radio sector. A simple analysis of 65 bylined articles in Monday’s edition of your newspaper shows that just 13 were by women. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Today FM,

Digges Lane, Dublin 1.

Sir, – Frank McNally in his Irishman’s Diary of September 4th and his commentator PN Corish are probably too young to remember correctly the Dublin paper boys’ cries.

In my youth, the date of which I will not disclose, the cry started with “Hairdle a Mayell”. It then broadened to include an upstart to become “Hairdle a Mayell Evenan Pressss”.

With the passage of time it became “Hairdle a Mayell a Press”. After the unlamented death of the “Mayell” it was shortened to “Hairdle a Press” later “Hairapress”, not “Herpes”. This is how false legends are born. For shame! – Yours, etc,


Upper Glenageary Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir,– In the early 1960s a paperboy called a veritable litany outside St Augustine’s church on Sunday mornings: “Press, Independent, People, Express, Review, Times — paypur!” – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Not a street cry but a Saturday night pub call – “Press, Indo, Tribune, Wordild!” – Yours, etc,


Grattan Lodge,

Hole in the Wall Road,

Dublin 13

Sir, – As someone who grew up living above my father’s barber shop in Dublin’s Mary Street, we were all very familiar with the cries from the family of newspaper sellers who for three generations sold evening newspapers outside our front door. Now, unfortunately, the cries of the independent newspaper sellers have been replaced with the cry of the illegal cigarette and tobacco sellers – “Bacco!” – Yours, etc,


Goatstown Road,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – My 23-year-old brother has rented an apartment in Dublin over the past two years. His contract was due to be renewed when the landlord informed him that the rent was going to be increased by €250 per month “in line with changes in the market”. Have we learned nothing about controlling a volatile property sector?

In France and other EU countries there are strict limits on increases in rent for existing tenants precisely to prevent this market taking on a mind of its own.

Our precariously perched economy can only take so many hits and it doesn’t help that regulatory bodies have once again seemingly excused themselves from responsibility. – Yours, etc,


McDara Road,



Sir, – Padraig J O’Connor (September 8th) is right to be irritated by the number of broken biscuits in a packet these days. But equally annoying is the design of these packets. Most are impossible to open without taking a knife to them and those that can be easily unwrapped have their perforations almost a third of the way down. Hence, when opened, the required one biscuit does not appear, but four or more tumble out onto the table or the floor, and break! It drives me crackers. – Yours, etc,


Redford Park,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – You report that, according to Department of Transport research, speed cameras saved 71 lives in the past three years (September 6th).

Can you inform us whether or not the Department of Transport has notified those fortunate individuals, and congratulated them on their survival? They might wish to show their appreciation; perhaps by sponsoring the speed camera involved for a period of five years or so. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 16.

Sir, – The obituary of Rita Moynihan (August 23rd) errs in its reference to the “Aghabullogue team that won the first All-Ireland in 1884”. Aghabullogue took the title in 1890, three years after Thurles became the first winning team. – Yours, etc,


Model Farm Road,


Irish Independent:

It has been implied in certain quarters that the economic boom and bust of the past ten years is related to the fact that the Dail is 85pc male.

It’s worth pointing out that in 2010 in Britain the Labour Party government had 98 female members out of a total of 355 MPs, ie was 27pc female.

This was in keeping with party policy, which since 1997, has been deliberately aimed at greatly increasing the percentage of its MPs who are female. Nevertheless, the UK has had similar economic ups and downs to our own during the same ten-year period (2004 to the present). This does not suggest that the mere fact of having considerably more female members of parliament results in a better quality of public representative or a better quality of decision-making on public policy.

As for the way in which Dail candidates are selected, we can be sure that, quotas or otherwise, the criteria for the selection of female candidates will be the same as for their male counterparts, ie having the right connections, having the right views and being willing to toe the party line when required. This is not a recipe for having a better quality of public representative.

Surely the answer to having a better quality of public representative (and, by extension, better decision-making at national level) is to have a political system that encourages people of the right calibre, regardless of gender, etc, to put themselves forward for selection in the reasonable expectation that they will be selected, and not to be obsessed with extraneous matters such as ‘balance’, whether in relation to gender or otherwise, which have no bearing on the quality of individual candidates?

Hugh Gibney, Castletown, Athboy, Co Meath

Hate poisons Israeli situation

Is Ted O’Keeffe (‘Israel should look to itself’, September) suggesting that the Israeli ambassador to Ireland “promptly takes himself off to Palestine and help promote [democratic values] … particularly among that particular groups of his fellow men who are clearly not familiar with such notions as applying to their neighbours” among the Arab population? If he is then perhaps he should recall that on September 12, 2005, Israel withdrew Gaza, leaving industrial buildings, factories, and greenhouses intact to provide a basis for its economic development. Within days these were destroyed by those whose blind hatred of anything Israeli overrode any benefit they might have had from it.

This is by no means an isolated incident but, on the contrary, typical of its knee-jerk reactions to anything Israel may do or say, as is clear from the rioting and destruction after the murder of an Arab youth by a mentally-deranged Jew last July. That the culprit was apprehended by the Israeli police within days did nothing to calm the situation, which continues to flair up. Somehow I fear that ambassador Boaz will have little influence on these people and I suggest Mr O’Keeffe investigate other avenues to make them familiar with “respect for democracy, for dialogue and hospitality”.

Martin D Stern, Salford, England

President’s visit an irrelevancy

Wasn’t there something incongruous about a visit by President Michael D Higgins to homeless families in Dublin?

Here is a man on a salary of €250,000 a year, living in a mansion with servants and drivers, sent to console those who have nothing and who have been abandoned by the state he represents.

What was achieved by the visit? Apart from highlighting the great divide between those who are cushioned by the state and those on the margins looking in? As a nation we have lost our sense of outrage.

John Leahy, Wilton Road, Cork

Beware the other risen people

I notice that history is never mentioned in debate re the coming Scottish Independence referendum. The Scots are Celts; the English are Anglo-Saxons.

This may seem totally irrelevant and even in bad taste in this enlightened day and age, but blood is thicker than water. The English were never invited in. I suspect Burns’ gut feeling of righteous resentment still runs deep in many Scottish hearts, and will surface and prove a telling factor on polling-day.

Sean McElgunn, Belcoo, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

The fight against suicide

Recently, the Samaritans introduced a new freephone number (116123). Many people with mobile devices use Skype or other web-based phone facilities. These can not contact the new Samaritans number. Would it be simple to set up a Skype contact for access over the web? This is a more modern method for making calls, especially for younger people. Ease of making such a contact must be vital in combating the terrible affliction of suicide.

Brendan Chapman, Booterstown, Co Dublin

Hanafin incriminates herself

Mary Hanafin is correct to conclude the electorate are “absolutely not ready” to put Fianna Fail back in Government (September 8). But perhaps she should apply the same logic to her own ambitions and explain why they should be prepared to put her back in the Dail after her role in the destruction and misery caused by the governments of which she was a member?

Why does she think that the electorate should reject her party, but elect her? It’s a bit rich of Ms Hanafin to accuse her colleagues of “looking after their own seats” when she comes out with this kind of self-serving waffle.

Barry Walsh, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Islam and Irish schools

I totally agree with Ian O’Doherty’s article on Mr Selim’s “suggestions” for concessions to accommodate Muslim students in our schools. Mr O’Doherty is voicing the concerns of many people in Ireland – and kudos to him for having the courage to express them!

We have to address these issues more openly and realised that the term “racist” is very often used by the intolerant themselves to stifle any reasonable debate.

Our too-liberal government would do well to read this article, too.

G Byrne, Co Wicklow

Coveney must tackle Coillte

Shane Phelan reports that Coillte, a commercial State company operating under the auspices of the Minister for Agriculture has refused to disclose the remuneration of the acting chief executive, even to the Government.

Surely this an instance of the board of Coillte not seeing the wood for the trees. There is an overriding obligation on all State bodies to act transparently as public entities. The guidelines for State bodies states explicitly and unequivocally that there is a requirement for the chairman and boards of all State bodies to implement government pay policy in relation to the total remuneration of the chief executive, or equivalent. How can this be demonstrated to the public, in this instance, from a posture of contrived clandestine secrecy?

The acting chief executive of Coillte has been an employee since 1992 and held this acting role since March 2013. The audit and risk committee of Coillte includes a board member appointed by the Minister in 2010 after his retirement as Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.

Does public trust not demand that Minister Simon Coveney elicit this information and see that it is placed in the public domain as a demonstration of coherent, consistent and transparent corporate governance?

Myles Duffy, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Irish Independent


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