12 September 2014 Meg and Lynn
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. Meg and Lynn come to visit.
Mary’s back not much better today, no breakfast wt down corn for tea and her back pain is still there.
Graham Joyce – obituary
Graham Joyce was an acclaimed fantasy novelist whose fiction reinvented the fairy tale, mixing the eerie with the everyday
Graham Joyce Photo: BETH GWINN/WRITER PICTURES
5:21PM BST 11 Sep 2014
Graham Joyce, who has died aged 59, was a multi-award-winning author of what was usually described as “dark fantasy” – his long suit was atmosphere and the ability to marry the magical with the quotidian; and his books occupied narrative territory similar to contemporary reinventors of the fairy tale such as Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll.
The titles of several of Joyce’s books — such as Dreamside, The Tooth Fairy, House of Lost Dreams, The Limits of Enchantment and Some Kind of Fairy Tale — made no secret of this tendency. His ready incorporation of the eerie or mystical with the matter-of-fact led to comparisons with the magical realism of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, but he regarded it as being in a much more English tradition, often citing Arthur Machen as a formative influence.
Covers of two Graham Joyce novels
Graham William Joyce was born on October 22 1954 and grew up at Keresley, a mining village near Coventry in the industrial West Midlands. He described the women in his family as prone to dreams and visions which they regarded as part and parcel of everyday life: “They just accepted this mystery and then they cooked the dinner.”
His first piece of writing was an attempt to provide an account of his junior school’s success in the football shield in the dialect of his teacher, who had a broad Yorkshire accent. Football remained an enthusiasm; he was the regular goalkeeper for the England Writers team. At 16, he started his first novel – “a really bad spy story” – and got a job mixing cement in a builder’s yard.
Joyce continued to write, without any commercial success, and trained as a teacher at Bishop Lonsdale College in Derby, where he lived in a bedsit, for which he paid £2.50 a week. After gaining his BEd in 1977 he went on to Leicester University, where he studied English Literature and met his wife, Sue.
Upon graduating, he took a part-time job with the National Association of Youth Clubs, reasoning that it would give him time to write. But he enjoyed little success, while his work became full-time.
Joyce claimed that he felt miserable during this period – he was strongly opposed to Margaret Thatcher’s government – and after eight years he quit his job to have one last stab at making a career as a writer. His wife also left her job as a solicitor, and the two drove to Greece, choosing at random to settle on Lesbos.
After a year the manuscript of Dreamside, which dealt with college students experimenting with lucid dreaming, was accepted by Pan Macmillan, and Joyce and his wife used the advance to explore the Middle East before returning to Leicester. By the time it was published in 1991, he had written two others.
One did not find favour with his agent, but the other, Dark Sister, a tale of occult herbalism in Leicester, won the British Fantasy Award for 1993. His fourth novel, Requiem, and his fifth, The Tooth Fairy, took the same prize in 1996 and 1997, as did 1999’s Indigo. The Facts of Life (2002) won the World Fantasy Award.
What made this steady output and success the more remarkable was the range of subjects and settings Joyce was prepared to explore. Apart from the elements of the fantastic, the books had little in common. Requiem was set in Jerusalem and used religious divisions to mirror personal distances; The Tooth Fairy was a coming of age tale of loss and maturity; and Indigo drew on art and cultural clashes to examine ways of seeing.
In all Joyce produced more than a dozen novels, as well as collections of short stories, and the non-fiction football memoir Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular (2009), which was shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year. From 1996, he also taught Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, which awarded him a PhD (for published fiction; his Master’s thesis had focused on Thomas Pynchon).
Smoking Poppy (2001) was set amid Thai hill tribes, while Memoirs of a Master Forger (2008), purportedly by an alcoholic bibliophile who can see demons, was actually published under the name of the central character, William Heaney. Some Kind of Fairy Tale (2012) described the return of a missing girl, unchanged after 20 years.
Graham Joyce was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma last year. He documented his experience of chemotherapy, and the way in which the disease made him look differently at the world, on his blog, which brought him many messages of support from readers. His last novel was The Year of the Ladybird, a ghost story set in the long hot summer of 1976, and his most recent publication a collection of short stories, 25 Years in the Mines, with a cover designed by his 18-year-old daughter, Ella.
He is survived by his wife, their daughter and son, Joe.
Graham Joyce, born October 22 1954, died September 9 2014
Abraham Lincoln circa 1863. Photograph: Library Of Congress/Sanna Dullaway
I am surprised that in all the hubbub about Scottish secession from the United Kingdom, so little reference has been made to the 19th-century American experience. For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s first presidential inaugural address (4 March 1861), a passionate plea to avoid civil war, demonstrates the immense relevance of that experience to our difficulties. He said to the Southern states, and seems to be saying to Scotland:
“Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends?”
The implications of this, for us are plain. What is at stake is not just the Act of Union but the future of all the people of the island of Britain, who cannot but remain face to face (as Lincoln puts it). If the Scottish Nationalists are serious about reform, they should demand that the whole British people come together to exercise their constitutional right of amending their government. All other courses, including secession and “devo max”, threaten all of us with years of disorder, and no satisfactory outcome, perhaps, at the end.
I hope that the Scots, whose nationalist leaders seem so indifferent to anything except their own immediate interests, will vote no on referendum day; and then that all of us Britons can elect a constitutional assembly to address the problems so dismally threatening our future together – a future which, I repeat, is, as Lincoln helps us to see, inescapable.
Research professor of history, University of Essex
• My great-grandfather Keir Hardie, one of the founder members of the Independent Labour party, believed passionately in the concept of home rule but also in a socialist party built on solidarity and unity. Salmond and co are cynical with their half-truths about creating a state where social mobility and welfare for the poor will flourish. North Sea oil, which is beginning to sound as large as the North Sea itself, will need investment to maintain and will eventually dry out. Businesses may well come on low corporation tax but will they stay if their profits are capped? And if they do, will they reinvest their profits in the economy or do as they are doing elsewhere in the world keep them in-house or move them elsewhere to some safe tax haven?
Nationalism fosters insularity and hostility. However, we have a grumpy neighbour. I have spent 50 years in education and counselling and know that one difficult kid can bring the class down. Eventually you have to open the door and tell them to go. The rest of the class thrive in their absence, as the UK will do. We are an intelligent, determined nation and have survived far worse than this.
• I recall that the Guardian initiated a letter-writing campaign to US voters prior to the 2004 presidential election (Report, 22 October 2004). I wish to respond to voters in the British Isles and suggest that Scottish citizens vote in favour of independence. This is a historic moment. This is your chance to utterly and totally transform the British Isles. You are the change that you’ve been waiting for. Since 2008 the citizens of the United States have had so much hope and change that it wouldn’t be right to keep it all on this side of the Atlantic. Next weekend I urge all eligible voters in Scotland to break the chains that bind you to the English and Welsh. Assert yourselves and go forward.
Depending on the outcome, Welsh citizens might consider a referendum of their own.
Martha Furman Kojro
Rolla, Missouri, USA
• The campaign has been brilliant to observe and seemingly galvanising for all those who can vote. We should thank those who made the referendum possible. And as the vote draws near, one central issue has been thrown into stark relief – simply, as the no campaign demonstrates, across all its arguments, that the rUK currently subsidises Scotland and in exchange Scotland sends 40 or so Labour MPs to Westminster – is this the sustainable deal all the citizens of the UK freely buy into? Are the unemployed, the strained social services, the poor housing, the old and infirm, the health services, the universities in the rUK better serviced by the subsidies and disproportionate allocation of public funds to Scotland than a new partnership with an independent Scotland?
As Madeleine Bunting points out (Comment, 10 September) there is a huge opportunity for reinvention of politics, of identity, of new alliances; let us hope that Scotland will seize the opportunity and help propel the whole of the UK into a new age of enlightened politics.
Nowhere in the discussion of garden cities (Rogers attacks ‘ridiculous’ plan for garden cities in green belt, 9 September) is there any mention of manorial rights. It has only recently been made known by the Land Registry that these feudal rights still exist, affecting 100,000 freehold properties nationwide, allowing hunting, shooting, fishing and mining for minerals over those properties. Councils that own freeholds and lease out properties to tenants are also affected by this. Nobody mentioned the existence of manorial rights when Welwyn Garden City was set up or disposed of by Margaret Thatcher, and nothing was ever mentioned during searches or conveyancing for property sales. A national campaign to abolish manorial rights, the Peasants’ Revolt, has been initiated in Welwyn Garden City. Manorial rights have already been abolished in Scotland. We wrote to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband about this issue, but have received no replies.
Richard and Janet Woodward
Welwyn Garden City
• One of the central strategies of Ebenezer Howard’s “town-country garden city” was to spatially separate dwelling from workplace. This separation has become a widely accepted central plank of urban planning and associated governance systems, an unexpected consequence of which has been to drive home-based work underground.
With structural unemployment, a globalising economy and enabling new technologies, the home-based workforce is now growing rapidly. This popular, family-friendly working practice has the potential to benefit the city, the economy and the environment.
Many home-based workers operate covertly, fearing they are, or actually are, breaking some regulation or other. It is crucial, as we think about the housing crisis, that we do not repeat past mistakes. Today’s dwellings are often also workplaces. They, and their neighbourhoods, need to be designed and governed differently. The garden city is not the answer.
Dr Frances Holliss
London Metropolitan University
As your otherwise excellent article states, poutine is a dish prepared with curd cheese, fried potato and the cooking juices from a roast (The posh chips and gravy taking over the world, G2, 8 September). If you deem such a food to be “posh” I shudder to think what might qualify as “proletarian”. Moreover, as a Canadian, I take exception to this imposition of your society’s obsession with class on to one of the most democratic foods the world has ever known. Poutine, in its original and natural state, is an honest food. It does not pretend to refinement or sophistication, and yet (as any consumer of a truly great poutine will tell you) its simple constituent parts combine to form a complex and uniquely satisfying food. It wants to be enjoyed by all – be they lords or labourers.
Zachary A Palmer Laporte
• No doubt the Vatican cricket team’s maiden tour of England (Report, 10 September) will find its way into Wisden, which is, after all, the Bible of cricket. And presumably any return fixtures can be played on the square at St Peter’s, which is more than a match for the square at Lord’s.
• Patrick Wintour writes (Cameron could secure his place in history – as PM who lost Scotland, 10 September) that (in 1982) “Lord Carrington was the last cabinet minister to resign … as a matter of honour”. But did not Robin Cook do so in 2003, when he resigned as leader of the House of Commons because of the Iraq war?
• How marvellous to see Annie Freud, at 66, included in the list of next generation poets (Double recognition for genre-busting poet, 11 September). As a 48-year-old working on my first collection, this news has markedly improved my morning.
• With respect, talking of “the world’s first artwork” dating back to 77,000 years before present (Letters, 8 September) underestimates H sapiens. Evidence indicates that human art had its origins 110,000 years ago at various near east sites and probably earlier.
Dr John Jennings
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
While I agree with Dr Jane Darke about honouring those who fell in the second world war (Letters, 6 September), it is high time for national recognition of the part Poland played in the allied victory. It was the fourth largest allied armed force and played vital roles in most of the main theatres of war – North Africa, Monte Casino, Arnhem and many more, plus had a crucial role in cracking the Enigma code.
In 1940, before the US and USSR entered the war on the allied side, Poland played a vital role in the Battle of Britain. There were times when one out of five or six pilots was Polish. The entirely Polish 303 squadron scored the highest number of “kills” in the battle. After the war, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, head of Fighter Command, wrote that without the Polish contribution “I hesitate to say that the outcome of the battle would have been the same”. It really was down to the wire.
Poland lost more people pro rata than any other nation including USSR. How did we acknowledge this? The Polish land forces were excluded from the victory parade on 8 June 1946 for fear of upsetting Stalin. It is time to acknowledge with gratitude what we owe to the Poles.
• Soon the brave men and women who endured the trials of a world war will all be gone. That is why every year I take a group of children to Arnhem in Holland to hear, first hand, the stories of a bitter battle told by those who fought it.
Last year, at a ceremony in the main cemetery, we witnessed a young soldier fainting while on duty. The first to his side was no medic or first aider. It was an elderly figure, wearing beret and medals, who had leapt from his chair and run all of 40 metres to help – it was 92-year-old Arnhem veteran Johnny Peters. We stood witnessing an extraordinary act of selflessness and camaraderie, instinctive and undimmed after all these years.
This month is the 70th anniversary of the battle at Arnhem. The last survivors will make one final pilgrimage. Peters will not be present. He passed away last month. But the qualities of that extraordinary generation, embodied in men like Peters, will live on. Their legacy will endure. It is a lesson not found in any school curriculum.
Titus Mills Headmaster, Walhampton school, Lymington
Today, negotiators meet in Brussels to finalise an EU-Canada “free trade” deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta). Like the EU-US deal being discussed, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Ceta contains a controversial clause to allow large companies to sue governments over decisions they believe could harm their profits. This “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system circumvents existing court systems and could be a barrier to democratic policymaking.
In Britain, Ceta could threaten the NHS, public education and other public services, as well as our ability to regulate a host of industries from fracking to finance. Despite widespread public concern over ISDS, trade negotiators have seen fit to keep it in Ceta. If the British government doesn’t challenge it this week, neither European or British parliaments have the ability to amend a deal whose text still remains formally secret. Today is business secretary Vince Cable’s last chance to use the UK’s veto to remove ISDS from Ceta, to protect our democracy from the corporate power-grab proposed by this deal. We urge him to do so.
Nick Dearden Director, World Development Movement, John Hilary Executive director, War on Want, Sally Hunt General secretary, University and College Union, Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers, Helen Drewery General secretary, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Ruth Bergan Coordinator, Trade Justice Movement
• The GMB revealed at a TUC fringe meeting on Sunday that as well as TTIP (Report, 8 September) it is fighting TiSA (the global Trade in Services Agreement) and the “Trojan horse” EU-Canada Ceta. These are the final pieces in the neoliberal jigsaw, handing over control of our rights and services to the multinationals.
• Despite forever banging on about the repatriation of “powers” from Europe, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party and Ukip appears content to surrender vast swaths of UK sovereignty to multinational agribusiness, pharmaceutical and energy companies. Hypocrisy – or self-interest?
• Amid the furore about hacking of celebrity images, your writers (on 6 September) identify very real wider dangers in the communications revolution already spinning beyond control. Zoe Williams uses “citizen porn” examples to show how phones are now data terminals; Ian Sample explains how inequalities in wealth impact on health and our genetic futures; Charles Arthur shows how increasingly rapid and easy connection has dark downsides.
Last week I joined European doctors discussing the information sharing being pressed on them in the name of patient access but also cost efficiencies. There is no doubt that the rapidly expanding global use of so-called e-health, m-health, the cloud and all the new gadgets we may soon all have to carry to monitor our vital signs, have massive potential benefits.
But private research priorities based on profit have not necessarily addressed equitable human needs.For business knowledge is power. I refuse to allow increasingly privatised health services to access my personal data when I cannot know the purposes for which it may be used or abused. If I had secrets, for example concerning abortion or sexual health, I could be even more vulnerable to exploitation, threat, blackmail or persecution as those who had hoped their playtime images were inviolable. But I would not have access to Hollywood lawyers, and little protection for my rights.
Multinational corporations are driving this revolution, irrespective of predictable and unforeseen consequences. There is urgent need for global oversight backed by local and EU powers and rights to ensure new communications tools are harnessed for good.
Wow, what a stunning Turner painting (Peace – Burial at Sea, 1842, illustrating Jonathan Jones’s review of Late Turner at Tate Britain, 9 September). Not a picture-postcard sailing ship but a proper industrial dirty-black-smoke sail/steam ship. It was painted at a time of great turbulence and poverty, which Turner’s patron George Wyndham and his associates did much to alleviate. What a shame their morality has not been handed down to present-day industrialists.
My namesake, Elizabeth Iliffe, Wyndham’s mistress and later wife, worked with Turner at Petworth House – a painter, she built a lab, made pigments, won a medal for designing a type of lever, and did horticultural experiments. Quite a good example of a scientist who remained anonymous because of her gender.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (front left), Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, announce their backing for more powers for Scotland. ‘English people should not support any further (expensive) devolution should Scots choose to stay.’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
On Tuesday, Westminster politicians woke up to the fact that Scotland is very close to voting for independence. They are scrambling to throw together a plan promising new powers to the Scots to convince them to stay in the union (Brown to the rescue? No camp sends for ex-PM to save union, 9 September. Never mind that many of us have already cast our ballots in the post. And never mind that any plan so hurriedly thrown together will not fill many voters with confidence.
But supporters of the yes campaign would do well to acknowledge that the change they promise will not simply be delivered by a successful referendum. Any real change to how Scotland is governed will only be hard won, after difficult compromise and painful sacrifice. In this intense atmosphere, we might remember Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, when he offered “Change you can believe in” to a country that desperately wanted it. Hindsight, however, has not been kind to this promise. Today, the approval ratings of the president are at dismal 41% – the lowest of any US president since the 1950s. The American political system is more ideologically divided than ever.
Yet we continue to imagine that someone else can make changes for us, while we carry on comfortably as always. Whatever the result of the referendum, once all of the emotional turmoil has settled, may all of us who long for real change across Scotland and the rest of the UK finally commit to getting down to work and trying to make that change happen.
• The issue of a timetable for further powers to the Scottish parliament is secondary. The primary concern is: “what powers?” There needs to be clarity on that before the referendum date. Otherwise the Scots are being offered the same pig in the same poke as in 1979. By 19 September, the three Westminster parties, whose recent record for probity is not to be relied on, will have no need to offer any more than the lowest common denominator at best. As a Scottish voter, why should I place any faith in their offering?
• The polls suggest that the result of next Thursday’s referendum will leave approximately half of the population of Scotland profoundly unhappy. The polls also show that many people are still not clear about the relative merits of devo max and independence. In this context it doesn’t make any sense to have a single yes/no decision-making process. What is required is an opportunity to try one of the solutions, and then choose the other if the first proves to be unsatisfactory. Coupling a timetable for extensive devolution with an undertaking to hold a further referendum in (say) 10 years would offer this option.
• The coalition government failed to agree to bring in proportional representation for UK voters. Had it done so, Scots anywhere in the union could have voted SNP, indeed any UK voters could have voted SNP. This would have the effect of strengthening the influence at Westminster of Scotland and Scottish ideas about social and fiscal policy. That opportunity was lost but still could still offer a compromise, post-vote, that would enfranchise the Scottish diaspora and leaven the monotony of the first-past-the-post system. The current democratic deficit lies at the root of the Scottish yearning for a more equitable voting system, and explains the lamentable turnout at elections of the nation at large.
Hastings, East Sussex
• How long has Westminster known about the Scottish referendum? How long has the Labour leadership been aware of the disastrous effect on the party that a yes vote will bring? How long has it taken for Ed Miliband to show himself in Scotland? We are now seeing the no strategy panic set in. I received an email yesterday from Labour asking for donations, or for volunteers to phone Scottish party members to ask them not to vote. Talk about too little, too late. Add to this Gordon Brown being asked to play Santa Claus to tempt the voters (with the very things they were asking for prior to any talk of a referendum), plus Ed Miliband’s apparent endorsement of guards strung along the Scottish border (nice one, Ed), and you have the perfect yes-voting storm.
As an expat Scot, I don’t relish the break up of the union, but if the country of my birth wants to beat a retreat from Westminster and from the Labour party’s apparent loss of memory regarding Scotland’s unswerving support of the Labour movement since its inception, then I can live with it.
• Gordon Brown acknowledges (Report, 8 September) that it is proving “difficult” to win over Scots to stay in the UK because of anger at coalition policies on austerity and privatisation. Yet in the Better Together campaign Labour is in coalition with the coalition, giving credence to the very parties that are implementing austerity.
Even worse, should Labour win the general election in 2015 it too has committed to austerity policies to eliminate the budget deficit in the lifetime of one parliament, so twice as many cuts will take place in five years compared to the past five years. If the Scots don’t want to vote for austerity, why should any Briton vote for Labour and austerity in 2015?
• There is one thing Gordon Brown could do to show his support for devo max. He could pledge to stand for the Scottish parliament and offer himself as leader of Scottish Labour and possible first minister. That might just be too much of a two-edged sword.
• A wonderfully insightful and splendidly unforgiving piece from Owen Jones (Whatever Scots decide the old order is dead and buried, 8 September). The simple truth is that there are only 5.3 million people living in Scotland and over 56 million living in England. Scotland has 59 MPs and England 533. Even allowing for Wales’s 40 and Northern Ireland’s 18, English interests outweigh the rest – as they have done for centuries. Domination may not be as savagely exercised as it once was, but it’s ever present.
So however much Cameron, Clegg, Darling et al prattle about a better together union of equals, population and parliamentary numbers indicate that if they triumph, Scotland will revert to being an afterthought. A yes vote make sense, as the imperative of shared interests will ensure independence brings a more effective alliance between the two nations than what is presently imposed by whoever is in power in Westminster. So other than those who can’t bear to let go of what they have long held, relentlessly exploited and taken for granted, we will all be winners.
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
• I hope the Scots vote yes, because I fear the consequences for northern England should Scotland choose to stay in the union. Scotland already receives more public subsidy per head than its prosperity deserves. Promises (bribes) now being made by all major party leaders will have to be paid for. Is it likely that grandiose spending and capital schemes in the south-east, the nation’s so-called powerhouse, will be curtailed? No, the north, which contains many of the poorest areas in Britain, will pay the price.
I wish an independent Scotland every success in creating a fairer society, should it choose to go, but English people should not support any further (expensive) devolution should Scots choose to stay.
• If bribery in the form of the belated offer of greater “devo max” doesn’t work let’s try blackmail. Shares set to slump on independence (Report, 8 September), homeowners at risk of a price crash, crisis worse than eurozone if Scotland votes yes. Some extracts from recent press. I hope my fellow Scots won’t let these shoddy tactics dissuade them from voting yes.
• Please do not separate Scotland from England. For us, Scotland and England are one. Both Scotland and England will suffer economically. When nations in Europe are banding together to make a bigger market, separation will reduce both economically and politically. Logistically there will be problems. It is a bit late don’t you think after 300 years? If you want to protect certain things you can negotiate for autonomy in certain areas. Don’t say yes to independence.
Dr S Sudarshan
Many, like Sir John Major, are describing the union as “long-standing and successful”, with this is as one reason to maintain it. I am sure it is right to take a long view. That way, looking at Europe’s geopolitical map over centuries, a historian can see how much units of government have changed, as regions have come together and sometimes divided. The picture’s complex. I can’t think of a modern European state in which its “union” hasn’t involved issues regarding the “centre” and the “parts”. Is it surprising that in our time these issues are resurfacing? Should we not see the Scotland/UK agenda as a particular case of this?
There seems no reason for the United Kingdom to stay the same just because we may say it’s been successful, something founded, I think, largely on the shared opportunities and gains from empire through much of the time. But a larger view may also say that the way forward isn’t to break the multiple bonds established over time (I write as an English person who, like so many, is part Scot). It is to recognise on the one hand that there is a real and urgent need to change relationships within the UK, not just regarding Scotland; on the other hand that separation is not now a good way to go about it.
After a yes vote for independence, the issues of relationship will still be there – especially in the economic sphere. What our times need is recognition of interdependence, surely, and more mature exploration of how that is brought together with regard for the identity of peoples, places and interests within the larger frame. Don’t we need this larger view from our politicians? It’s about an endeavour based not on argument from the past but a positive view for people and states in changing times.
Rev Dr Brian Curnew
• As a new Scottish Enlightenment brings the mythology surrounding Britain and its empire crashing down around the feet of the Tories, let us remember that the local name for the despised British in colonial north America was Tory. If we add the words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the opening paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, there is every reason to believe the same act of self-determination will liberate the real potential of Scotland: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station.”
• People living in Scotland (of whom almost 10% were born in England) have followed the debates and discussions for months now and know that no concept of rejecting Britishness has ever entered into their thoughts. However, for people to be able to elect their own government and prosper as their Scandinavian neighbours do with a fairer distribution of wealth does involve rejection of an outdated British political model. People in Newcastle and Manchester know this but sadly they don’t have Scotland’s opportunities – as yet.
Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway
• I am a naturalised Briton who has travelled widely and frequently in Scotland. I have always regarded Scotland as a separate nation and am surprised that its independence was not confirmed decades ago. So far as I can see, the principal argument employed by the no camp in England is that a yes vote would bring adverse results for England and the English. This is an argument which Scots can be excused for finding less than compelling. I have often been told by friends that I may be British but (they are relieved to say) I can never be English. I rather look forward to proving them wrong.
• I have lived in England for years, but was brought up and educated in Scotland, support the Scottish national football team and still have a Scottish accent. I consider myself to be Scottish.
However, unlike unlike many expat Scots who presumably could, if they wished, claim Scottish nationality based on birth, I was born in England. I still have family in Scotland: my English-born parents have lived there since they first moved north in 1963 with a very young family, and could presumably claim nationality through residency. I have a sibling who will be able to claim Scottish nationality by birth. I know my circumstances don’t apply to many people but those of us who are affected will effectively be stripped of what we believed to be our nationality if Scotland votes yes. I like being Scottish and British. After next Thursday I may well loose the former.
• A BBC report stated there are some 750.000 Scottish-born people living south of the border. This is more than the population of Edinburgh or Glasgow. We hear about numerous surveys being conducted. Has anybody bothered to ask these Scots their opinions concerning the upcoming vote on independence? What about their heritage?
• It’s absurd to suggest that people living outside Scotland should have a vote in the referendum. If you had once lived in, say, Macclesfield, and later moved to, say, Mitcham, would you feel entitled to vote in Macclesfield elections?
Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
• I was born in England but, during the war, I served in a Scottish regiiment for over four years. If Scotland gains independence, will I be able to claim dual nationality. What would be the advantages? And the cost?
• With the momentum now swinging in favour of the yes campaign, there must be a duty on the prime minster and his colleagues to seek agreement on the make-up of the new union flag as the saltire is removed on independence. This is not a flippant comment. Many Commonwealth countries and dependences have the present union flag as part of their own. Surely there is a duty also to discuss with them the future design of the new union flag?
• Just to reassure Charlie Brooker (G2, 9 September) and anybody else who is worried about it: the union flag will remain the same even if Scotland chooses independence. It dates from the reign of James VI of Scotland/James I of England, over a century before the 1707 parliamentary union, and ingeniously represents separate countries sharing the same monarch. The flag will only have to be changed if Scotland makes the mistake of becoming a republic, in which case they will also have to elect dreary bourgeois presidents instead of enjoying our glamorous royal family.
Rosie Millard is rightly concerned about the electoral implications of the proposed “mansion tax” in London and the South-east (8 September). It would create an arbitrary threshold at which yet another tax, just like that on inheritances, is suddenly imposed at a high rate.
Instead, we need a complete revamp of the existing system of council tax, under which the owner of a £100m mansion in London currently pays only twice as much as the tenant of a flat in Middlesbrough.
Rather than clumsy “bands”, why not follow Sweden, which has a flat-rate annual tax of around 0.7% of each property’s value? Soaring property prices work against tenants and favour owners. This suggests that council tax should be paid by landlords.
It is contradictory for homes to be subjected to council tax by local authorities, while central government exempts principal private residences from unlimited amounts of capital gains tax. Why does the government use such reliefs to encourage people to put their money into ever-more lavish homes when they would surely be much better encouraged to invest in initiatives which create jobs and enhance the environment?
I find it difficult to believe that the taxpayers of London are quite as selfish as Rosie Millard asserts. Surely those who, through no effort or skill of their own, have accumulated property worth 10 times the average UK house price would have no objection to making more contribution to the exchequer than the current absurdly generous council tax allows? In a time when homelessness is widespread, surely exceptionally fortunate Londoners are more public-spirited than that?
The real case against the so-called mansion tax is that any change in the taxation of private houses should be to update the council tax.
At present council tax is levied on houses being placed in one of a number of bands but the highest is £350,000 and over. The bands were calculated in 1991. This is equivalent to about £850,000 today. So the owner of a house valued at £900,000 pays the same tax as a Russian billionaire owning a mega-mansion costing £60m or more.
Not even the most bare-faced plutocrat can claim this is fair. What is obviously needed is to introduce more bands above the present top one. The popular myth that this will automatically lead to higher council tax for everybody needs to be exploded.
Because governments of all parties tend to put a cap on local authorities’ spending, they would not be able to increase it. The income would however be differently raised. A larger share would come from more put into the new band (which would need only a revaluation of those now in band H – less than 3.5 per cent of the country’s 28m houses).
In fact everybody now in bands A to G would enjoy a reduction in their council-tax bill – surely an attraction to the politicians?
Scots vote may be a boon for democracy
This referendum has been the greatest driver for many years in getting citizens actively involved in the political process and enabling them to express what kind of values they want politics to represent. It has also revealed the strength of feeling of many in England, too, that their interests are disregarded in Westminster.
When the dust settles, there may well be a greater debate about how we can make Westminster more accountable to, and representative of, the wider population. For the first time in many years the political establishment may be sufficiently shaken out of its self-serving torpor to actually look beyond the Westminster bubble and listen to the voices they’ve been able to ignore for so long. We may all gain yet, regardless of what happens on 18 September.
By the time the consequences of destroying one of the oldest and most successful political unions become clear I suspect Alex Salmond will be long gone to the lucrative lecture circuit.
Having bet the future of the UK on the voting whims of some thrawn Celts, David Cameron will also be gone, as will Ed Miliband for losing control of Scottish Labour supporters. Their successors, put in place by a now furious English electorate, will be in no mood to do us any favours and we are likely to end up in the enervating embrace of the IMF.
Too late we will realise we have voted for an impoverished statelet facing public-service cuts, endemic unemployment, raised taxes and the flight of both youth and capital.
Dr John Cameron
Yes, the Scots will go, and beyond doubt, the major responsibility lies with the governing elite. The Scots are inclined to be socialist in attitude, closer to the egalitarian and republican outlook characteristic of Europe than to the hideously class-riven society that exists south of the border.
Like the rest of us, they have suffered from the unrestrained capitalism of the past 30 years which has left ordinary people paying ever-increasing bills to private companies for the ordinary services of life.
By voting Yes they will free themselves of the cabal of public-school spivs that governs these islands. God help the rest of us.
It now looks as though neither side can win a convincing victory in the Scottish independence referendum. What this illustrates is the gross inadequacy of our form of democracy. It is quite understandable that the Scottish electorate feels unrepresented by the “Coalition” – in fact essentially Tory – Government, because so do millions of the rest of us. It is surely time to end the system by which a party with a third of the popular vote feels empowered to inflict its nutty agenda on the rest of us, for example in education, the NHS and the bedroom tax.
The Scots are in a unique position to deliver bloody noses to these vain, strutting peacocks. There can be little doubt that the loss of Scotland to the UK would be remembered as the only lasting legacy of the “Coalition”.
Gavin P Vinson
We need each other within the UK and are stronger for it – on defence, trade and multinational organisations. Divided we would lose our voice on the UN Security Council – perhaps to India, Brazil or South Africa – and Nato could no longer rely upon a common UK foreign-policy position.
Meanwhile, across Europe independence movements and Russian geopolitical strategists take heart at the success of the Yes campaign. As Russia sows the seeds of division and chaos by encouraging separatist groups, it knows Britain will be weaker if divided from within.
The idea of a divorce between countries with a shared history of culture, language and religion sends shivers down the spines of those who champion harmony across Europe. Alarm bells are ringing at the prospect of Scottish independence heralding the atomisation of Europe.
The future is uncertain and potentially dangerous so the question of whether we face it together or apart extends beyond the shores of Britain to a Europe whose security has been built upon unity.
Geraint Davies MP (Swansea West) & Member of the Council for Europe
The sight of all three Westminster party leaders arriving in Scotland in a blind panic is reminiscent of a group of leaders from a totalitarian state attempting to stop one of its outlying regions from breaking away.
Surely if the Scottish economy were such a liability they would be happy to see it go? Why, then, do they constantly talk it down and suggest that an independent Scotland would be bound to fail?
Dr Dominic Horne
University of Worcester
If the Yes vote wins, will it be written, correctly, that Scotland was lost on the playing fields of Eton.
Anglesey, North Wales
University educated, but unemployable
The OECD’s report on numeracy and literacy levels in the UK reveals a worrying gap between skills and qualifications (report, 10 September). To counteract this, school-leavers need to think carefully about whether the degrees they are about to start will enable them to get the skills businesses actually need.
Employers tell us that apprentices are often better placed to meet the needs of business than those with other qualifications. Young people who enter into apprenticeship programmes benefit by gaining technical qualifications while learning the skills necessary to succeed at work. However, they are often unaware that these options exist.
Recent YouGov research reveals that nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds have not had advice at secondary school or college on paid apprenticeships.
Jackie Bedford, Chief Executive, Step Ahead
I was interested to see your article (10 September) headed “University education boom fails to improve numeracy and literacy”. This would seem to be borne out by your health briefing, two pages earlier: “2bn: number of Britons who will suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050”.
The Scottish referendum debate hinges on economics — or at least, it should
Sir, The discussion in Scotland in many ways mirrors the the UK debate about membership of the EU. In both cases there is a desire for political independence and the removal of central interference, but also support for economic unity in trade and industry to promote growth and prosperity. Total independence creates one but damages the other.
The voice of the business community in Scotland has been largely silent. Business organisations have been forced to take a strictly neutral stance, but for any business that trades across the border (ours has 98 per cent of its customers in the rest of the UK) the choice is clear. Economic separation would create barriers, physical, emotional and financial, that would seriously damage business relationships with our customers. The uncertainty of independence would last for many years. This uncertainty would lead to capital withdrawal, reduced investment, higher costs and in some cases relocation of businesses to England.
Alex Salmond is an astute politician and he knows this. He is desperate to keep the pound and intriguingly wants to remain in the EU, where his desire for economic unity overcomes his aversion to political interference, probably because Brussels is more remote than Westminster.
The debate should not be a Scotland-England rugby match, with rival supporters jeering and singing songs. We deserve better, and that is political freedom with economic unity. This is devolution and Scots will get more of it by voting “no”.
Philip G Blake
Munro Sawmills, Dingwall, Highland
Sir, Like Alan Templeton (letter, Sept 11) I am also one who was born in Scotland and left over 30 years ago to work in England. Mr Templeton regrets Scotland’s move to the left but believes that its resultant alienation from Westminster provides adequate reason for Scotland to vote “yes”. If he truly despairs of what has happened since he left Scotland, he should not advocate separation as that would only further the alienation that he decries. If Scotland is to move towards a more centrist attitude then it will only do so under the friendly companionship and influence of the English, Irish and Welsh within a United Kingdom.
Sir, Perhaps English politicians should remind Scottish voters of the Darién Disaster of the 1690s, when the Kingdom of Scotland, in an attempt to break free of what it perceived as English hegemony, bankrupted itself in an attempt to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called “Caledonia” on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién.
Scotland’s nobles were almost bankrupted by the Darién fiasco. Fortunately for Scotland, the newly formed Bank of England was able to bail Scotland out, effectively acting as lender of last resort.
Sir, Bravo for an excellent leader (“Cliff Edge”, Sept 10). For Scotland faces waking up on September 19 without any feasible currency if the “yes” vote wins. The confidence vacuum created by this kind of ruinous uncertainty will almost certainly mean a run on bank deposits, a flight of capital from investors in Scottish business, and further pledges by businesses to relocate out of Scotland. Because of a lack of viable currency options, an independent Scotland would quickly become a great deal poorer.
The argument for an independent Scotland is lost already on the currency issue alone.
Elizabeth Oakley Dursley, Glos
Sir, Predictions about the nature of an independent Scotland overlook the dynamics of negotiations that would follow a “yes” vote.
England would be desperate to agree a secure new treaty to help to restore its international reputation, and would undermine its own moral authority and influence if it failed to help the new nation to establish itself successfully.
Sir, Comments have been made about Trident and the RAF in Scotland, but what will happen to the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and its affiliated battalions such as the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, to name just two? I was privileged to serve with the Black Watch in Korea as part of the Commonwealth Division, and I cannot imagine it not being part of the British Army.
Lt-Col David Lloyd
Middleton-on-Sea, W Sussex
Sir, Surely the best way to let the Scots know that we want them to stay is not to pontificate further but to conduct opinion polls throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and publish the results.
Sir, Liechtenstein has been in a customs and monetary union with Switzerland since the 1920s, and the Swiss Franc has been used as Liechtenstein’s currency since then. Liechtenstein is even permitted, on a limited basis, to mint commemorative Swiss Franc denominated coins with a Liechtenstein inscription.
It all seems to work quite well.
Sir, Many years ago, I asked my 84-year-old great aunt, an ardent Scot, if she supported the Scottish National Party and Winnie Ewing. The canny Scot in her came to the fore and she replied: “Oh no! I will go down for my pension and there will be nothing in the kitty.”
Sir, When David Cameron began his speech in Scotland he said that his eight-year-old son had come into the bathroom to ask whether he could have a day off from school because his father was not attending parliament and would not be present at Question Time.
I wonder, on his return to London, whether his son asked him what the words “effing Tories” meant. Perhaps the prime minister is trying to reassure Scottish voters that the spirit of Rab C Nesbitt lives on south of the border.
Why do planning departments persist in demanding that a house is built of brick to ‘fit in with the neighbours’?
Sir, You highlight (Business, Sept 11) the current shortage of bricklayers. As an architect I have often advised clients that their new house or extension could be designed to avoid the extra costs of labour and materials that are in short supply, and generally they have been keen to accept this idea. Unfortunately many planning departments are oblivious of the pressures on the building industry and insist that a house is built of brick to “fit in with the neighbours”.
This attitude is no longer fit for purpose and I am increasingly taking the view that local planning departments are the greatest obstacle to increasing the supply of housing.
John T Pounder
Sir, Clive Aslet (Sept 9) implies that the decline of hedgehogs has been caused by badgers. In fact hedgehogs are disappearing mainly because of man. Modern landscaping and concreting over gardens, slug pellets, pesticides, solid fences, bonfires, modern farming methods and road kill are to blame. Unless we start taking responsibility for this, our hedgehogs could be heading for extinction.
Sir, Further to Dr Sir Christopher Lever’s letter (Sept 10), baby birds in the nest and immature fledglings are no match for magpies and sparrowhawks. These are their main supply of food, not the speedier, lighter parent birds.
Sir, You highlight (Business, Sept 11) the current shortage of bricklayers. As an architect I have often advised clients that their new house or extension could be designed to avoid the extra costs of labour and materials that are in short supply, and generally they have been keen to accept this idea. Unfortunately many planning departments are oblivious of the pressures on the building industry and insist that a house is built of brick to “fit in with the neighbours”.
This attitude is no longer fit for purpose and I am increasingly taking the view that local planning departments are the greatest obstacle to increasing the supply of housing.
John T Pounder
Sir, Janice Turner (Sept 11) is right about the labelling at the Imperial War Museum. My son, aged 12, is a history fanatic and badgered me for months to go there. To find that we had to skulk around to find out what everything was, in a very crowded museum, was very frustrating.
To now learn that the exhibits “speak to each other” makes me wonder what language they were speaking in. Has the written word gone the same way as the typewriter ?
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Sir, I do not doubt that overweight people feel discriminated against (Sept 11). I would never make a hurtful comment to somebody about their size but find it odd that people seem to think it is acceptable to comment to my face on my very slim build by calling me “skinny” or “anorexic”.
Slim Jims also have feelings.
Sir, Nothing could illustrate more clearly the paucity of news from the front during one of the largest battles in human history — the Battle of the Marne — than the extract on needle-work from the Times Archive (Sept 9). And yet only days before, in the Amiens Dispatch (Aug 29), Times readers had learnt of the “broken bits of many regiments” reeling back in the retreat.
There was no William Howard Russell of the First World War.
SIR – John Taylor (Letters, September 9) is absolutely correct. I am English and British, in whichever order you like, and the reason I live in Scotland is that it now appears that I have spent more than 30 years helping to extract “Scotland’s oil” from the North Sea. The fact that I am allowed to vote in the referendum is not of my choosing, but I am happy to put my “No” on the ballot form.
Alex Salmond says that a Yes vote in the referendum will make me Scottish; this I totally deny. As far as I am concerned, any attempt to do so will breach my human rights and will be fought tooth and nail.
Capt Gerry Harcombe
SIR – As one who was based in Scotland during the unceasing efforts to counter the Soviet threat in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans during the Cold War, any prospect of the northern defences of this island coming under the direction of pacifist Scottish Nationalist policy-makers fills me with dread. This is especially so now that the Russian bear is again unsheathing its claws.
Sqn Ldr Seamus Hamill-Keays RAF (retd)
SIR – The SNP has said that an independent Scotland would open 100 embassies. This is more than Ireland at the top of the boom years.
Can Mr Salmond tell us the cost of this diplomatic network, and that of establishing a Scottish foreign office? Can we have an assurance that the embassies will not be rewards for party support, as in America?
SIR – When Scottish Nationalists divorce, do they retain their joint bank accounts?
Dr Andy Ashworth
Bo’ness, West Lothian
SIR – It’s said that Italy is refusing to deal with migrants, merely waving them through towards Britain (Letters, September 9). If Scotland separates, can we pass them on to Mr Salmond, who promises even more generous welfare?
SIR – What will Nigel Farage call his party if there is no United Kingdom?
Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire
SIR – What a racist debasement of the struggle for the liberation of black people in South Africa for Alex Salmond to cite it in support of a Yes vote. There is no apartheid in Scotland.
My wife and I were political prisoners in South Africa (1964-67). Where are Scotland’s political prisoners, or its banned people (such as we both were), or its pass laws, its residential segregation, its separate public facilities, its death penalty, its exclusion of the majority from the vote?
Would you buy a used car from this snake-oil salesman?
SIR – If the vote is Yes, there will follow a 16‑month period during which negotiations will take place between the Scots and Westminster to agree the fine print.
If, as we are being warned, the general election in 2015 results in a Labour victory, there will be the Gilbertian situation of a Labour prime minister, possibly Ed Miliband, negotiating the demise of the Labour Party as an electable party for any foreseeable future government of the less-United Kingdom.
South Godstone, Surrey
SIR – David Cameron should resign for allowing this to happen. Flying the Saltire over Downing Street was an utter disgrace – a surrender of belief in the Union flag and all that it stands for at a crucial time for deciding the whole country’s future.
Johan Van Dijk
SIR – The definition of a referendum is “a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision”.
Given the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election, albeit on a 50 per cent turnout, a referendum on independence became a democratic inevitability, and Mr Cameron was right to insist on a straightforward Yes or No question.
The outcome was always likely to be close either way, decided, as so often in plebiscites, by gut instinct and emotional appeal, not by economic considerations or statistical certainties. As Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Those now queueing up to criticise Mr Cameron for taking the risk of becoming “the prime minister who lost Scotland” are largely the same people who have campaigned for years for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – which, if it takes place, will be similarly divisive and unpredictable in outcome.
SIR – I agree with your leading article (September 10): “Let the whole country have a say on… the way the UK is structured”, in respect of Scotland.
As I said in the House of Commons on June 3 1997: “Referendums should not be confined to Scotland and Wales; they should encompass the United Kingdom as a whole…The electors of my constituency and all those of the United Kingdom, including those of England and Northern Ireland, are involved.”
Professors Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart noted in 2003 that the “largest rebellion” of Conservative backbenchers in the 1997-2001 Parliament was on my amendment that day to the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill.
This sought to have the referendum “encompass the whole of the United Kingdom rather than merely those resident in Scotland”. Eighty-two Conservative backbenchers, a full half of the parliamentary party, backed my amendment, against the Whip.
Sir William Cash MP (Con)
SIR – The Scots have a UK independence referendum before negotiations. The British are offered an EU independence referendum after negotiations. Both from Mr Cameron. Why?
Little Somerford, Wiltshire
SIR – It is not for economic, defence or political reasons that most of us pray for a No vote; it is because we do not see Scotland as separate or alien, we see it and the proud people who live north of the border as part of us.
The majority of Britons, like my family, have ancestors from all over these islands, and we feel proud of the whole, as well as of our part.
Maybe we have not been as clear and as vocal as the Yes campaign, feeling we should not intrude in what has been seen as Scotland’s concern. Perhaps there are those, like me, who feel not a little slighted by what has seemed in Scotland a real dislike of the rest of the United Kingdom, and particularly of all things English.
The rest of us need to shout loud and passionately that we value our brothers and sisters in Scotland, and put to rest the Salmond spin and promises of greener grass beyond an independence vote.
All this said, United Kingdom politicians should not be making promises of almost complete “home rule”, which, after the vote, can only breed discontent with what the UK does within Scotland at national and international level.
Heighington, Co Durham
SIR – For 300 years the United Kingdom punched above its weight economically, diplomatically and militarily, leading to the greatest empire the world has ever known. Even now, we retain an influence remarkable for a relatively small country.
The Scots would be foolish indeed to throw all that away.
Landford Wood, Wiltshire
SIR – Boris Johnson wrote that he is appalled by the complacency and apathy of his non-political friends.
He should instead be appalled by the complacency of his political friends, who have allowed this decision to be made with no advance precision on the terms of the divorce. We read yesterday that in 2012, David Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that clarity over independence was needed. Instead, we are now paying the price for the uncertainty over what separation actually means.
Langley Burrell, Wiltshire
SIR – This weekend the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must demonstrate our high regard for our fellow citizens in Scotland, or they will leave our country. I suggest we all meet in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, and in the city centres of Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester and Newcastle.
In the meantime let us email, text or write to those who have a vote, asking them to stay with us. The politicians have failed to win the argument, so it’s time for us all to tell Scots we are better together.
SIR – If I were a Scot, a visit from three no-hoper English politicians such as Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband would drive me into the Yes camp immediately.
Dr Terry Langford
SIR – The arrogance of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to say, with no vote taken, that the choice is now between independence and “devo-max” is breathtaking.
Given that many people have already cast their postal vote on the simple Yes/No question, they have undemocratically ridden roughshod over years of debate when they specifically refused to allow the devo-max option to be on the ballot paper.
SIR – Some years ago I purchased my pension through an insurance company in Scotland. If the result is Yes, will I be paid in Monopoly money?
SIR – As an English citizen, I may not have a vote on Scottish independence or indeed on whether we should share the pound with a foreign country, but I can make my opinion known. I have today transferred my pension and share investments into the hands of a company based in England.
Sir, – A Yes vote in Scotland would be a disaster for England and Wales. It would condemn them to permanent Tory rule. Does Alex Salmond want that? – Yours, etc,
Rowan Hamilton Court,
Sir, – With independence for Scotland becoming a very real possibility, would it be an appropriate time to suggest a radical new proposal for the governance of the western flank of these islands? It is a proposal that, if endorsed by the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, might finally bring about the true reconciliation of the political, religious, cultural and industrial traditions of our 12 million people. The proposal for the setting up a confederation (or even a more formal federation) of the three political entities is not rooted in some misty-eyed dream of a “Celtic” counterbalance to the political dominance of England within what was, in former times, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but is a practical suggestion on how best to secure long-term peace and prosperity on the northwestern fringe of the European Union in a post-independence scenario.
Such a confederation would have a quarter of the population of these islands and would make up some half of its land mass.
From an economic standpoint, a union of three states with a combined population of some 12 million people would have considerable clout. The current situation where the three governments compete with each other for foreign investment is, self-evidently, in no one country’s best interests. Furthermore, the recent travails Ireland has endured demonstrate all too clearly the fragility of the economic independence of small nations (albeit badly managed ones) where they find themselves at the mercy of troikas that are far more concerned with the stability of the big economic powerhouses in Europe and further afield than with effecting a swift recovery in the countries they are charged to “help”.
Working together, a union of the three states could, in time, become an economic powerhouse in its own right. This is not fanciful. The region has vast natural resources in oil, wind and wave power and it has highly fertile lands and seas that have already spawned a world-class food-based economy.
All three existing states have also been highly successful in attracting some of the world’s leading companies in information technology and pharmaceuticals, in particular – and given that our populations are already among the best educated in the world, the potential for future success is boundless.
Equally, if not more, compelling in making the case for a future union is the quest for a resolution to our political arrangements. The current arrangement on the island of Ireland, while it has produced a very welcome period of comparative peace, continues to leave all traditions on the island with something less than an ideal outcome. Nationalists and republicans still cling to the ideal of a future union of north and south, while unionists of all hues find themselves uneasy about the future of the existing British union in a state where the demographics are against them and the greatest threat to that union comes not from the nationalists within but from those a short distance away across the north channel. That those who now most threaten the union are, for the most part, their own kith and kin can only add to the sense of unease. The confederation of three states proposed would provide “the best of all worlds” for all the traditions in both Ireland and Scotland. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am amazed that the people in Scotland do not realise how fortunate they are. We in Ireland achieved independence at a very high price – the wasteful and tragic shedding of blood. On referendum day every Scot can win independence at the stroke of a pen. – Yours, etc,
J ANTHONY GAUGHAN,
Sir, – Your editorial “Scotland’s moment” was invigorating (September 9th). You state correctly that “independence can indeed be good for Scotland”. The referendum campaign has reawakened an interest in real politics and democracy in Scotland, and London has been caught sadly napping.
The Act of Union of 1707 has failed, as has been evident since the Depression in the 1930s in which Scotland, so dependent upon the great industries of the 19th century, suffered severely. It was only a matter of time before the Scots acquired a huge desire for independence and separateness from the English. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As in so many similar instances, the most preferred option of the Scottish people (“devo-max”) is not on the ballot paper. It is now being offered by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties in a frantic attempt to arrest the drift towards a Yes result.
The referendum and its underlying logic of the majority vote are well past their sell-by date as a means to establish the will of the people. As a method of national self-determination it is deeply flawed and even dangerous.
If, as now seems inevitable, Scotland “decides” by a slender margin, how can this be seen as a democratic mandate for either change or status quo when so many are clearly of another opinion?
All that is confirmed is that the debate is complex, multifaceted and unresolved. At worst it is a mechanism for conflict generation and ensures no collective agreement.
Complex questions abound and they deserve to be addressed and, if possible, resolved through methods that allow for such complexity, include minority perspectives, and that do not silence dissent.
The referendum is a crude, capricious cudgel incapable of reflecting the complexities of modern life and politics. There are other options. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Differences in drug prices between here and Northern Ireland are as nothing when compared with those in the US. Last February, while I was swimming in Florida, a jackdaw stole my little bottle of glyceryl nitrate from my beach towel, first flinging aside the cap I had used to keep it out of the sun. It’s an over the counter medicine for “acute heart embarrassment”; here it costs around €16. In the UK, £6. In America, the identical little bottle is $196, “but only $160 if you have insurance, sir”! I nearly had a heart attack, but I waited to replace the bottle until we came back to this land of “socialised” medicine. – Yours, etc,
Birr, Co Offaly.
Sir, – The General Instruction of the Roman Missal was issued by Rome in 2002 in Latin, and published in English by the conference of Irish Catholic Bishops in 2005. It would appear to be yet another of the Catholic Church’s well-kept secrets. In the nine years since it was published, I have heard only one person mention it in the context of a talk on the liturgy and that person was not a priest.
Paragraph 382 reads: “At the funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind”.
The dictionary definition of eulogy is “A speech or writing in praise of a person”. There is a time and place for a member of the family of the deceased to saw “a few words” either before the start of the requiem Mass or immediately after the end of Mass and before the Rite of Final Commendation or farewell.
In his memoirs, Pope Benedict wrote: “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extend, due to the disintegration of the liturgy”. It is hardly surprising that when the Archbishop of Dublin visits his parishes, he brings his own master of ceremonies with him.
When proper protocol in the sanctuary goes, belief in the supernatural goes. – Yours, etc,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The discovery of the wreck of one of the two ships belonging to the ill-fated Franklin expedition, lost in the Arctic in 1846, is great news (“Canadians find wreckage from 1845 Arctic expedition”, September 9th).
It is especially pleasing to John Murray, of Crossing the Line Films, and myself, who were the Irish members of the Irish/Canadian search expedition which spent the summers of 2002 and 2003 in the same area searching for the two lost ships, Terror and Erebus.
Dave Woodman, our expedition leader, had identified the most likely search area. In the early summer, before the ice had melted, we painstakingly criss-crossed the area on a sled with a magnetometer attached. Our search was not successful but it was gratifying to see similar technology was employed by the Canadians on their search and that the ship was found only a short distance west of our search area.
Our expedition was poorly resourced compared to that of the Canadian navy, which mounted six major searches since 2008, leading to the solving of part of one of the great mysteries of exploration. I hope this discovery will help lead to the finding of the sister vessel and shed some further light on the fate of the crew. – Yours, etc,
Foxrock, Dublin 18.
Sir, – Well done, Mary Feely (Prospect of water charges leaving me high and dry”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th). I feel good when somebody puts forward my case.
We wait for our water bill and the next election with unequal fervour. An average bill has been suggested. Is there a maximum bill? A burst pipe while you are away for the weekend might leave you with soggy carpets but I’m sure Irish Water will be very sympathetic That’s what scares me. Roll on election time. – Yours, etc,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – The chief executive of Today FM Tom McPartlin (September 10th) takes Una Mullally to task over her article “Women need to raise the volume on radio exclusion”, Opinion & Analysis, September 8th). In doing so he also took a swipe at the dominance of males in the bylined articles in your newspaper. This lack of balance is a problem that print media, radio and television need to address.
However surveys conducted in 2010, 2012 and 2013 show that the Last Word (Today FM) scored lowest when compared with similar programmes on other stations, scoring 14 per cent, 16 per cent and 19 per cent for female participation across the three surveys.
Long may Una continue to write about the lack of female voices on air. – Yours, etc,
Ratoath, Co Meath.
Sir, – I fully agree with Alan Fairbrother (September 6th) on the question of our dropping the Irish “mam” or “ma” in favour of first the Anglo “mum” and now the American “mom”.
I suppose it has to do with our obsession with sounding posh, and fear of, God forbid, sounding Irish ! – Yours, etc,
Grange Park Avenue,
First published: Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 01:08
Sir, – I heard the Minister for Education asking Junior Cert students to “celebrate responsibly”. It is unfortunate that we are not able to speak plainly in Ireland when it comes to alcohol and this indicates our failure to tackle the problem of excessive drinking.
It would be much better if the Minister had advised the students not to take alcohol as part of the celebrations.
Furthermore I presume that almost all Junior Cert students are under 18, which is the legal age the purchase of intoxicating liquor.
The defeatist attitude that says “they will get the drink anyway” represents a culture of neglect which the employment of more social workers will not address. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – There has been a recent spate of letters to your paper complaining about “unelected representatives” making decisions that affect urban and rural centres, most notably the Poolbeg incinerator. I, for one, am thankful that important decisions are taken out of the hands of part-time politicians with unproven qualifications in whichever respective arena they are commenting on, playing party politics with important decisions that will affect citizens now and in the future. – Is mise,
GARETH T CLIFFORD,
Sir, – Far be it from me to defend a Fianna Fáil minister but my good friend Cllr Victor Boyhan (September 11th) is really blaming the wrong man. It was Martin Cullen who transferred responsibility for waste policy to county managers not Noel Dempsey. While Mr Cullen and Phil Hogan would be close contestants in a “worst minister for the environment and local government ever competition”, Mr Dempsey, along with Brendan Howlin and John Gormley, actually tried to bring in real reforms. The only common denominators were the permanent senior officials in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
I hope the new Minister will be the first in a long time to stand up and remind them that they are there to serve the people and not perpetuate the power of the Irish “Sir Humphreys”. – Yours, etc,
Cllr DERMOT LACEY,
Beech Hill Drive,
Sir, – When Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled his team of commissioners on Wednesday, he did so on a set which had as its backdrop the words “The Juncker Commission” obtrusively displayed. Shouldn’t that have read “The European Commission”? – Yours, etc,
Bóthar an Chillín,
An Cheathrú Rua,
Co na Gaillimhe.
Sir, – Minister for Communication Alex White “vows to bring fast broadband to rural areas” (September 10th). And then he’ll drain the Shannon. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is very ironic to hear Mr Kenny getting annoyed with Leo Varadkar’s comments on the upcoming budget.
After all, this Government has been like a sieve when it comes to pre-budget leaks and comments.
Sadly, one of the only reasons Mr Kenny’s Government will be remembered will be for the ongoing stream of speculative pre budget comments and leaks, most of which were untrue, and which irritated the general public during very difficult times.
A new way of doing politics indeed. – Yours, etc,
Pine Valley Avenue,
Sir, – “Cogito ergo sum”, wrote René Descartes back in 1644. Well, this autumn sees Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour engaging in their annual version of that celebrated proposition in order to justify their political existence. I think-in, therefore I am! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – What has the humble hyphen done to be treated with such indifference? In your edition of September 6th, we saw “cohost”, “coanchor”, “copresenter” and “coworker”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Not a street cry, but a memory of the Dublin wit of the newspaper sellers of the 1950s. I asked for a Daily Mail and the reply I received was “I’m here every day. Will I do?” – Yours, etc,
St Helen’s Road,
According to reports in the media in recent weeks, the Government is examining the income tax rates and the Universal Social Charge (USC) in advance of Budget 2015. However, it appears that the hinted changes (if any) will be too modest and uncourageous to make any difference to Ireland’s economy or to economic confidence.
The effective marginal rate of income tax in Ireland (including 7pc for USC and 4pc for employee PRSI) is 52pc for individuals; it is 55pc (thanks to an additional 3pc USC “levy”) if one has the audacity to be self-employed as a result of setting up your own business. These are rates of taxation that are unquestionably anti-enterprise and confiscatory. We should contrast these Irish rates with the 45pc top rate of income tax currently in place in Britain.
What needs to happen is that Ireland must get a Budget this October that supports growth. Everything in the Budget must support indigenous enterprise. To this end, the marginal rates of taxation must be reduced. Cutting the top rates of tax (not merely changing the point at which people enter tax bands, but actually reducing the top rates) will encourage enterprise and employment because it will allow businesses to retain more of the money that they earn. This means that people can invest in their businesses by hiring more staff and purchasing new equipment, or create new businesses.
It would also, crucially, help greatly to encourage talented people to remain in Ireland, instead of emigrating. Merely fiddling with the tax bands – which is a political cop-out, devoid of courage – would do little to change the true perception in Ireland today, that we are living in a very high-tax country which is a cold house for indigenous enterprise.
For the national finances to be balanced, Ireland needs a combination of public-spending control and real economic growth. It is now time to work on the growth by cutting the marginal rates of tax.
John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin
Keeping the seasons Irish
On the RTE 1 ‘Nine O’Clock News’ on Monday, September 1, Mr Gerry Murphy, Met Office forecaster, announced that, “In Ireland, autumn is September, October and November”. As bald as that.
The Irish Met Office has a web page entitled ‘Fun Facts for Young Primary Students’, which starts, “Spring begins on the first of March and continues until the end of May”.
This is all bureaucratic propaganda, because it is not true. In Ireland, as Patrick Dinneen says in his dictionary, “Earrach, the spring, begins on La Fheile Bhride, February 1, and ends on the day before La Bealtaine, May 1”. The months of autumn are August, September (or Mean Fomhair, the middle of autumn) and October (or Deireadh Fomhair, the end of autumn).
This is a beautiful division of the year, with ceremonies attached to the opening days of each season, and each season balanced perfectly around a significant centre: spring equinox, mid-summer, autumn equinox and mid-winter.
We should not try to change an essential part of our culture, a part that connects us in the Ireland of today, through an unbroken folk tradition, with our Gaelic, pre-Norman past. If the Met Office needs to talk to the British Met Office in official terms, ones that require the meteorological year to be different from Ireland’s traditional calendar, let them do that, but leave us our spiritual and historical cultural division.
Michael Brennan, Address with Editor
Scottish poll and Burns’s ghost
I am amazed that the people in Scotland do not realise how fortunate they are. We in Ireland achieved independence at a very high price: the wasteful and tragic shedding of blood.
On referendum day, every Scot can win independence at the stroke of a pen.
J Anthony Gaughan, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Despite all the talking leading up to the Scottish Referendum, I hear a deafening silence. Is the past taboo, no longer relevant for Scotland’s future? Am I out of line for even mentioning it? Do Wallace, Bruce and Burns not stir any Scottish hearts any more?
Sean McElgunn, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh
GAA replay bonanza
With the expected bonanza from the replay of the hurling final, perhaps the GAA should now sing the song ‘Not Counting You’, by Garth Brooks to the Croke Park protesters?
Mick Hannon, Clones, Co Monaghan
Goodwill gesture from Ryanair
Given that Ryanair is regularly the target of widespread criticism on various issues, I consider it worthwhile to publicly record my recent experience in dealing with the company. Some months ago, I booked a return flight to Spain for my husband and myself costing €320. Subsequently, my husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, and we had to abandon our holiday plans.
I advised Ryanair of our situation and when I furnished it with medical confirmation of our story, I received a very sympathetic message and assurance that our money would be reimbursed in full. It was promptly lodged to our account. In times of stress, such goodwill gestures provide a necessary and much-needed morale boost.
Mary Aherne Ryan, Cappamore, Co Limerick
Junior Cert results night
Surely, it’s time to switch the day that teenagers receive their Junior Certificate results? Instead of students receiving them on Wednesday, results should be given out on a Friday.
Thus, students could go out on Friday night and not miss any school the following day. Thousands of students will have missed school after venturing out. It doesn’t make any sense, and neither pupils nor parents nor teachers benefit.
Chris Callaghan, Ramelton, Co Donegal
We’re not all farmers
We now have a Farming Commissioner, a Farming Minister, and a Taoiseach leading the Party of the Big Farmer in Government. What about the rest of us? That is to say, the people who pay for it?
Harry Mulhern, Millbrook Road, Dublin
Hospital hygiene: name names
As a member of the public and a HSE employee, I am fed up hearing about reports in the newspapers and other media outlets from state bodies such as the HIQA about non-compliance by some members of staff in hospitals regarding hand hygiene.
Why do these auditors not confront the individual regarding their poor hand hygiene practice when the non-compliance is observed and note the particular staff member’s name, profession and department within the hospital?
It is very easy to submit a report about these alleged non-compliances without names – start naming the individuals and the department in which they are employed in the audit reports using a separate appendix attached to the report, which would be exempt from FOI/public information, and submit this list to the relevant hospital manager.
Following this, the individuals should then be required to successfully complete hand-hygiene training within a tight time constraint, ie 48 hours, and submit a certification for hygiene training to the HIQA or the audit team.
On a second or subsequent non-compliance by the same person, they should be disciplined.
Dermot Duke, Drogheda, Co Louth