18 September 2014 Ben

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. Ben comes and does some books.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt up lamb for tea and her back pain is still there.


Rosalind Buckland – obituary

Rosalind Buckland was a cousin of Laurie Lee, and is commemorated in the title of his most celebrated work, the memoir Cider With Rosie

Rosalind Buckland, said to be the inspiration for 'Rosie' in Laurie Lee's 'Cider With Rosie', and her daughter Sandra

Rosalind Buckland, said to be the inspiration for ‘Rosie’ in Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’, and her daughter Sandra

6:15PM BST 17 Sep 2014


Rosalind Buckland, who has died a few days short of her 100th birthday, was a cousin by marriage of the author Laurie Lee and inspired the title of his best-known work, Cider with Rosie.

Published in 1959, the book was a memoir of Lee’s bucolic childhood in the Cotswold village of Slad, near Stroud, in the period just after the First World War. Evoking a long-lost rural England that was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the modern age, it became a bestseller and has sold more than six million copies.

A pivotal moment in the story is the young Laurie’s encounter with cider-drinking Rosie “Green” under a haywain, an adolescent awakening he recalled as “Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again.”

‘Cider With Rosie’, the novel which made Laurie Lee’s name

It has always been known that Laurie Lee took a relaxed view of accuracy in Cider With Rosie, and in later life Rosalind Buckland, the respectable wife of a police inspector when the book came out, admitted that she had been “shattered” when she realised that she must the person in the title — there having been no other Rosies in Slad at the time described.

Apart from anything else, she pointed out, she would have been about nine during the period depicted in the book — too young to knock back scrumpy with an amorous Laurie Lee. “We were not sweethearts or anything,” she insisted. “Things were different then. I suppose all novels exaggerate. Laurie was a marvellous author and I had great times with him. We used to go haymaking, and I remember there was cider which the farmers made and took with them in stone jars. I can’t remember drinking any, although it is possible I had a sip out of curiosity.”

After she recovered from her initial shock, she took a more relaxed view: “I feel very proud that Laurie wrote me into his book. It’s a lovely book. He did a very good job of it,” she said.

Laurie Lee, author of ‘Cider With Rosie’ (REX)

Born Rosalind Gleed on September 17 1914, she grew up at Slad with her two brothers in a house built by her father, a local builder.

She married Thomas Buckland, a police officer, with whom she had a daughter. She left Slad after her marriage and helped her husband to run police stations at the Gloucestershire villages of Minchinhampton and Coleford, before moving to Leckhampton.

The identity of Laurie Lee’s “Rosie” remained a secret for many years. The author, who died in 1997, had always been elusive about the real Rosie, who is thought to have been a fictional composite of several people.

After her husband’s death Rosalind Buckland retired to Cheltenham, where she was interviewed in 2004 after receiving a 90th birthday greeting from the Queen.

Rosalind Buckland, said to be the inspiration for ‘Rosie’ (TREVOR GLIDDON/SWNS)

“I feel quite young really,” she said. “I don’t do badly for a 90 year-old. I’m active and I keep pretty good health. I like gardening and walking. I walk down Bath Road every day, and I like to keep my lawn looking like a bowling green.”

She had been looking forward to another greeting from the Queen to mark her 100th birthday.

She is survived by three grandchildren.

Rosalind Buckland, born September 17 1914, died September 13 2014


Palace of Westminster. The palace of Westminster: A shadow of its former self after further devolution? Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Thursday’s vote is a historic moment, not just for Scotland but for England and Wales. Whatever the outcome, the Local Government Association Independent Group is supporting the call for a stronger voice for local people in England so they can have a say in decisions that affect their everyday lives. On issues such as taxes, housing, schools and housing benefits, England needs the same powers as people in Scotland will be voting on (Serious debate will still be needed even if Scotland votes no, Editorial, 17 September). Genuine devolution for England, Scotland and Wales will give us the freedom and flexibility to be able to tackle these big issues and only constitutional and financial independence for local government will deliver this.

Locally elected councils need greater control over council tax and business rates, making us financial independent, underpinned by a fairer funding system for the whole of the UK. This will allow councils to drive local economies so we can create jobs, bring empty homes back into use and support local businesses to grow.

Many feel disconnected from the three largest Westminster party leaders and local government is more trusted to make decisions that affect local areas. We support the call for government to set out a timetable for devolution across England, with a pledge for immediate new powers for those areas that are ready for them now. Only then can we ensure England gets a stronger voice and the fair deal it deserves.
Councillor Marianne Overton
Leader of the Local Government Association Independent Group
Maggie Sullivan
Head of the Independent Group Office,
Local Government Association

• Whatever the result of Thursday’s Scottish referendum, it will compound the agony if it triggers a new rash of “localism” in England (Beware this dash for devo. Localism is no panacea, Opinion, 16 September). If, either way, yet more powers are to be devolved to Scotland, the role of Scottish MPs at Westminster will become highly questionable, particularly if they can continue to vote on tax and funding issues that no longer affect Scotland. De facto we shall be half way to an English parliament with a mere rump of foreign policy issues applying to the whole union, if such a union still exists.

If tax-raising and spending powers are then further devolved to Wales, Northern Ireland and the English cities or “regions”, however they may designate themselves, we might as well kiss goodbye to Westminster as our governing body and recognise that, at best, it has become no more than a federal coordinator of defence, and at worst a talking shop with no purpose at all.

Surely that is not the way the United Kingdom should be going? In this global age in which the globe itself is threatened by the damage we do to it, small is far from being the most beautiful way of running our affairs, helping the worldwide poor or, most important, saving our planet from destruction. If we are to deal effectively with almost any major issue, we need the structures of union and cooperation, not just between all parts of the United Kingdom but with our European and other international partners.

Given the appalling threats the world faces in almost every direction this cannot be the time to put the clock back to 18th century localism and parochialism.
Adrian Slade

• Tomorrow when, as I fervently hope, the Scots decide to stay in the union, should we not put constitutional reform at the top of our joint agenda? If they, the Welsh and the Northern Irish are to enjoy devolution, ought this not to be standardised and offered to newly created provinces of England as well? The creation of six English provinces – say the north-east, the north-west, the Midlands, the east, the south-east and the south-west plus Greater London would result in a total 10 provincial entities. These would have an average population of about 6 million – the same as that of Switzerland – ranging from 2 million in Northern Ireland to 8 million in Great London and would occupy average area of about 24,000 square kilometres ranging from 1.6 thousand in Greater London to 78,000 in Scotland.

Each province would elect its own assembly to administer education, health, local taxation etc. Parliamentary constituencies would continue to send representatives to a British parliament in London, which would administer foreign policy, defence etc. Provinces would send elected representatives to a second house or senate which would replace the House of Lords. Provinces would also become constituencies for the purposes of European elections.
Devolution for all.
David Robson
Hove, East Sussex

• People from every region of the UK have a catalysing opportunity to break loose from the deadening hand of a politics long colonised by corporate interests and staffed by mediocrities who, on being confronted by a people whose franchise they otherwise seek to regulate, have been looking increasingly sobered by the energy of the constitutional debate north of the border. This is not how the electorate are meant to behave.

That part of the Scottish left who resisted the snake oil of nationalist and geographic solutions to a global order that recognises no borders, and who seek to stand shoulder to shoulder with folk from Cardiff to Manchester can, once the dust has settled, now look to harnessing a level of engagement unprecedented in our lifetimes.

A Rubicon has been crossed. The referendum has acted as a proxy for previously suppressed discontents and the democratic genie is out of the bottle. It is up to the UK Labour party to channel and articulate the grassroots demands for social justice which were to the fore of the campaign, or Miliband will quickly find himself on the wrong side of history. Plans for home rule and a federal UK with the explicit aim of banishing poverty and seizing autonomy back from the multinationals would be a start.
Mike Cowley
Scottish Labour Campaign for Socialism

• Though I hope we will remain united, Billy Bragg is right that England urgently needs regional assemblies (Voting nationalist in Scotland isn’t an act of class betrayal, 17 September). As a disillusioned Liberal Democrat who since I joined the Liberals in 1981 has never found the Labour party credible, nevertheless I have immense respect for his tireless campaigning for electoral reform.

Whatever the result England is the only sizeable democracy without regional government, and it needs more than the haphazard ad hoc addition of a “mezzanine level” around major conurbations as a bridge between Westminster and unrepresentative local government: Scotland and Northern Ireland already use the single transferable vote for local elections.

Since 1986 France has elected powerful regional assemblies. Without this counter-balance to the Scottish parliament, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, Westminster has no coherent counterweight in the form of elected English regional government – which would allow for the indirect election of an upper chamber as in Germany.

Rather than bring us stability, a socially divisive first-past-the-post system has exacerbated local and national tensions within Britain to the point that devo max will only increase feelings of alienation and resentment within England. Without single constituency monopolies of parliamentary representation, using STV, even Scotland would have around six Conservative MPs and the English shires the prospect of an authentic Labour voice.
David Nowell 
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• None of the major parties have a mandate to give much greater autonomy to Scotland. Not in my name, nor any other English voters.
Peter West

• As the campaign for Scottish independence gathers momentum, we must brace ourselves for a period of claim and counter-claim, neither of which can be proved beyond doubt. In the end, it will be down to the will of the people of Scotland to decide, and rightly so. Personally I envy them for they have the chance to start a new and exciting adventure which would see the full potential of the Scottish people being realised at last.

But as we sit on the sidelines, there is one thought that occurs to me. Of all the independent countries of the world, and of all the newly independent countries in the European Union, is there one of them – just one of them – that would prefer to return to their pre-independence condition?
Is that a deafening silence I hear?
Dafydd Iwan
Caernarfon, Gwynedd

• The late Derek Taylor (the PR chap for the Beatles) wrote: “Being born in Scotland carries with it certain responsibilities.” It appeared in print on the cover of the 1969 Plastic Ono Band Live in Toronto album – and now seems strangely prescient.
Tim Feest
Godalming, Surrey

An earthmover, digger on the site of a social housing scheme in Stockport A digger on the site of a social housing scheme in Stockport. ‘Local authorities need to be freed to deliver a new generation of council housing.’ Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

London’s housing crisis is deepening by the day (Report, 17 September). Average house prices now stand at £500,000. Private rents are double the national average. Council housing is being depleted as a third of all right-to-buy sales are in London. Yet last year house building in the capital fell to its lowest level in a decade. Ed Miliband’s pledge that the next Labour government will build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 has been welcomed across the country, and especially in London. But in order to achieve it we need local authorities to be freed to deliver a new generation of council housing. Labour councils across London are building new council homes for the first time in decades. But they could do so much more if the arbitrary cap on borrowing to build was lifted. This would allow them to invest in housing – borrowing prudentially, as they can already do for other purposes. Borrowing to build homes pays for itself in the long term via rents. Indeed, no other EU country counts public borrowing for housing towards national debt.

In 1979 councils were building a third of all the new homes being built annually. When the Thatcher government choked off council house building, the private sector never filled the gap. History tells us that the private sector alone cannot deliver the homes we need to solve our housing crisis. Michael Lyons will shortly publish his independent review of housing policy as part of Labour’s policy review. We hope that he will recommend lifting the remaining cap on council borrowing for housing and that the Labour leadership includes a commitment to lift this cap in the next manifesto.
Tom Copley (London assembly member, Labour), Nicky Gavron AM (London assembly, Labour, Planning), Cllr James Murray (London borough of Islington), Cllr Jasbir Anand (LB Ealing), Cllr Damien Egan (LB Lewisham), Cllr Julian Fulbrook (LB Camden), Cllr Phil Glanville (LB Hackney), Cllr Ahmet Oykener (LB Enfield), Cllr Alan Strickland (LB Haringay)

• Soaring London rents and the unregulated rental sector are blighting the prospects of a generation. A friend’s daughter may be unable to take up her place to study at UCL this year as she has yet to find accommodation she can afford. My own daughter and her partner have just paid £150 to renew the lease on their flat for a year because the agreement had to be rewritten for the rent to go up. Both in graduate-level jobs, their incomes are devoured by rent and commuting costs. Saving for a deposit for a mortgage is a distant dream. Politicians seem to be ignoring the problems facing the younger generation because fewer of them vote. They should remember that their angry parents come from the generation which does.
Joanna Cave
Faringdon, Oxfordshire

Does this look familiar iPhone users? Photograph: Vincent Besnault/Getty Images

The Apple iPhone is indeed a thing of surpassing beauty packed with wondrous applications, as Stephen Fry suggests (Apple haters look away, 17 September). Unfortunately, it fails at its primary objective of being a clearly audible mobile phone. Users will be surprised to hear that when you use other mobiles, your interlocutor is not constantly begging your pardon and asking you to repeat yourself. On behalf of non-iPhone users everywhere, could I plead with Apple to ensure their next iPhone has a microphone that works?
Paul Sawbridge

• Try as I might, I couldn’t spot the header “Advertisement feature” above Stephen Fry’s fawn-fest to the latest iPhone.
Paul Tothill

Hospital staff wears a proud of the NHS badge A member of staff at a hospital wears a Proud of the NHS badge. But the NHS is facing a ‘crisis almost set in stone’. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

With the financial position deteriorating fast and some key areas of quality reducing, the makings of a crisis in the NHS are almost set in stone (Report, 16 September). However, such a crisis is entirely avoidable. More money is needed, but money alone is not enough. We need to change significantly how the NHS delivers services and is able to improve care to make it more efficient. At the moment, the NHS does not have the skills or capability to make these changes happen in a sustainable way, particularly in management and quality improvement. We have this week launched a report, More Than Money: closing the NHS quality gap, which outlines options for the future of the NHS. This is based on an evidence scan reviewing how six countries responded to austerity, plus intelligence gleaned from a workshop held with the Foundation Trust Network including senior representatives of 25 providers, which explored the likely effects of the financial gap on the quality of care they provide.

The report argues that there are three ingredients to secure the future of the NHS in England. First, systematic improvement support for providers, which is currently lacking. This might include building skills in basic management, change management, improvement of skills and analysis. Second, two types of funding are needed: a “transformation fund” to resource improvements and allow new services to be introduced, as well as ongoing additional funding. Third, we believe openness and support for change from politicians is essential. These ingredients are not in place four years into austerity – they should be.
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Chief executive, Health Foundation

• Patrick Wintour’s article (Labour considers staking all on saving the NHS, 17 September) is a welcome sign the main political parties are facing up to the huge challenge of NHS finances, as called for in the 2015 Challenge Manifesto published last week. A swath of health bodies have published work recently demonstrating that the gulf between the resources available to the NHS and the rising demand for services requires a transformation in the way services are provided. Your article suggests one option Labour is considering is that the integration of health and social care and abolition of competition will release sufficient funds to deliver it.

We fully believe integration is vital to provide better care, but there is little evidence it releases the sort of sums required, and considerable evidence such transformation needs extra funding to enable change. To suggest that the tens of billions of pounds needed to bridge the gap in health and care funding can be realised by integration would be a dangerous basis for health policy by any party after the election.
Rob Webster Chief executive, NHS Confederation, Nigel Edwards Chief executive, Nuffield Trust

• By the end of the next parliament the annual NHS deficit will be around £30bn. That’s impossible to fill with new revenue alone. But in covering half the deficit Labour can help forge a new NHS settlement mark II which meets the health needs of the 21st century, not the 19th century. The polls you quote show taxpayers in favour of a tax increase to help fill this gap. Greater support would be shown if voters were asked whether they would support an earmarked increase in NI contributions to help finance the NHS. Voters don’t see NI contributions as a tax, especially when it is earmarked specifically for their NHS.

The last time Labour put a penny on NI, almost half the money was spent on other projects, not on the NHS. I propose establishing a new national mutual, which would receive all these funds and have responsibility for using them to reshape a health and social care service to meet our changing health needs. This health and social care service would be literally owned by all of us; it would be one, I would hope, for which Aneurin Bevan would now be pushing.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead

Invictus Games Closing Ceremony Prince Harry: number one on the birthday chart. Photograph: Samir Hussein/WireImage

I read Colin Callender’s letter in defence of BBC drama (13 September) and could not but agree in theory. However, why do they not show it on British TV? As a recent arrival from Australia, I had such high hopes of British TV. We received many wonderful programmes in Oz from the BBC. Since being here for three months, I wonder where they have gone. Endless repeats, rubbish house programmes and idiotic antique shows. To be reduced to watching Alas Smith and Jones on some other network is pathetic. What’s happened to British TV?
Doug Carey
Penistone, South Yorkshire

• Sadly Emilie Lamplough (Letters, 16 September) missed the point of the research about sitting down at work, as did the original article in the BMJ. What is bad is persistent stillness. We have evolved from foragers whose lifestyle involved keeping moving. After about 45 minutes of not being used, our muscles start storing energy, increasing the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The solution is not to stand still for long periods, but to stand and stretch every hour, as our best teachers always used to advise.
Michael Peel

• Martin Rowson’s excellent cartoon marking the passing of Ian Paisley (13 September) put me in mind of a sign that used to hang outside a local Methodist church and was singularly apt for the Reverend Doctor in his roaring heyday. It read: “The closer we are to God, the less we have to shout.”
Peter Lewis

• £25 to hear Russell Brand’s political views seems a bit steep (Advert, 12 September). I lecture in politics and I wouldn’t charge as much for my stand-up routine.
Michael Cunningham

• So Prince Harry heads the birthdays (15 September), while the others are listed alphabetically. Why, Guardian?
Mike Gordon
Scarborough, North Yorkshire


There is more to this independence referendum than the trivial arguments of “here today gone tomorrow” politicians and their policies that can be, and are, changed on a regular basis.  It is about our United Kingdom and the people who have lived together, worked together, fought and died together, for over three centuries.

At stake is our United Kingdom, a country that we have built together. We have achieved so much more together than we ever could have achieved as separate nations, why throw all that away on the basis of a White Paper that raises more questions than it answers? As people from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland we urge our friends in Scotland not to let the arguments of separatism and division win the day.  We can have a bright future together as a United Kingdom.

Richard Hyslop Berkshire
Vincent Acheson Bury St Edmunds, Pam Allan
Cumbria and 143 other people from the rest of the UK

Am I the only person who is fed up with the wall-to-wall coverage of the Scottish referendum? What possible relevance is all this for the 50 million people in the UK who have no say in the matter? If the Scots are gullible enough to vote for independence then they deserve all that is coming: another small country to be pushed around by the big powers, the multinationals and global finance. I hope they are not taken in by the SNP and those on the left who think independence will herald a bright new dawn for Scotland.  Scotland is not Cuba and Salmond is no Castro.

Fawzi Ibrahim
North London

As the Scots, who already enjoy free university education and prescriptions, are wringing so many more concessions out of the Government with their independence campaign, can we in England, once the hoo-ha is all over north of the border, also threaten to break away from the Union?

Charles Garth

Perhaps my childhood left me overly suspicious, but those citizens comfortably domiciled in England who seem to be enthusiastically encouraging the Scots to go for it and vote to leave the Union somehow remind me of those kids who used to hang about on the far side of streams or below the branches of trees and were always ready with the words of encouragement, “Go ahead, jump!”

Julian Self
Milton Keynes

Your interesting article (15 September) entitled ‘‘Scotland decides: the hot topics’’ encompasses the issues uppermost in voters’ minds but, I believe, does not mention the criterion by which posterity will view an independent Scotland. It will be seen as part of a wider move towards narrow, insular nationalism in Europe and the Middle East, which has followed the post-war liberal desire and achievement to unite people and look for the common good between national, ethnic and cultural identities.

The effects of this, particularly when accompanied by radicalism, are already clear to see in many current conflicts and it should never be forgotten that precisely the same issues were the root cause of the two world  wars. It is fanciful to suggest that England would ever again be at war with Scotland but economic, social and political conflict there will be, the extent of which only history will tell. The possible short-term political and social gains for Scotland will pale into insignificance compared with the long-term divisive effects of breaking up the UK.

Dr Hugh Savill


An extraordinary fact about the Scottish referendum is that the Scottish National Party is assuring the electorate of all manner of things that will be achieved with a Yes decision but fails to mention that it, too, has an election around the corner. The SNP majority is wafer thin; they have 65 seats out of a total of 128. The possibility that they will lose is real. If this happens, all Alex Salmond’s promises go out the window and then the people of Scotland will have no idea what it is they have voted for.

Peter Rutherford

Army chiefs say “Yes vote is irresponsible” but are they just another part of Cameron’s background lackeys, spreading doubt? The government has slashed the size of the army, putting P45 heroes on the scrapheap while, at the same time, advertising for people to make a career in the services. They are trying to persuade legions of working people to become part-time soldiers, so that they can be sent abroad in the event of war. The Government pretends that smaller means better. They propose to spend many billions on Trident, the most expensive of the nuclear weapon options. We are the only country that exclusively sites its nuclear weapons in submarines.

Nuclear is useless in many wars.  They are pointless with regard to Ukraine, Isis, or Gaza. They were not appropriate in Afghanistan or Iraq.

If Scotland says Yes, why not save an awful lot of money and base our nuclear weapons on land. How about silos in Surrey? If any defence policy is irresponsible, it is the cutback on conventional forces. About two years ago, the Navy had to rent a conventional submarine from the Germans, because we did not have one available.  A few months ago the Queen launched an aircraft carrier that has to wait years to be fitted out, and even longer to get planes. Irresponsible?

Alistair Miller

Alex Salmond declares that if denied currency union and forced to use sterling unofficially as Panama uses the US dollar, then he will refuse to take Scotland’s share of the national debt. While not technically a default, it will be interpreted as such so that Scotland will not be allowed to borrow money for 10 years and will be plunged into unprecedented austerity. In addition, the EU could not possibly admit a country which had walked away from its debts as it would create a precedent for Catalonia to say nothing of Greece and Italy. Scotland’s retention of sterling would become a source of speculation, which would quickly result in failure, with the statelet forced to introduce its  own currency within months.

Dr John Cameron
St Andrews


Don’t push putin too far – he’ll fight back

he big bad wolf Putin is now in a much stronger position to negotiate on his terms. The pro-war, hawkish government, the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, are at odds with the more dove-ish governments – the Germans, the French and Spanish who want to maintain the trade relationship with Russia.

There is little doubt that the United States and Russia have contributed to the destabilisation of Ukraine. The root cause of the conflict was precipitated by the overthrow of an elected pro-Russian president and our ill-advised messianic zeal to align Ukraine with Europe and Nato. What makes the situation even worse is government steps being taken to dismantle the pillars of democracy with arbitrary arrests, censorship and banning the Communist Party. If Russia is pushed too far, it may respond with short-range tactical nuclear weapons, which will draw the US and Europe into another world war.

Tejinder Uberoi
Los Altos, California


Modern hymns and few ladies in hats

I’ve just read Rosie Millard’s rant on Songs of Praise. I wonder when she last watched it?

Although I only see it occasionally, I am aware that there are lots of modern, thought-provoking hymns and songs and very few ladies in hats. The programme is well-loved and Millard doesn’t have to watch it. A schedule made up of what she likes would not suit many of us!

Bob Davies
Mossley, Manchester

Military assistance is not the answer

For the US or the UK to intervene with military force of any sort is symptomatic treatment. It is as if we pulled a series of drowning men out of a river instead of going upstream to stop who was pushing them in. Worse, it forces us to take sides in the conflict and heaps fuel on a fire.

This is a world crisis and we need to urge both Saudi Arabia and her supporting countries and Iran and her supporting countries to meet and talk. We must not send military assistance of any sort to either side, but to offer humanitarian aid to both sides and urge them to negotiate wholeheartedly.

Too often Western powers have rushed into involvement on one side or the other with disastrous results. Let us spend all our efforts encouraging dialogue and giving aid.

John Atkins
Swainby, North Yorkshire

Small charities must be scrutinised

Paul Vallely’s article of 10 September on charities doesn’t mention fraud.

Small charities may be “the lifeblood” of the sector, as the chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, says. But only charities with an income of over £25,000 are required to file accounts. Without accounts, the public cannot examine the money flows in and around a charity.

Vallely briefly touches on whether there are too many charities. The number of military charities, for instance, is confusing for the public and those who serve. Yet this isn’t only about duplication and inefficiencies. This over-supply and the fact that military charities have become one of the most popular causes – consider Help for Heroes – also mean fraudsters are active in this charity sector.

Dr Alex May


Sir, You quote Harry Cayton as saying that the efficacy of homeopathy is “a matter of opinion” (report, Sept 16). While Mr Cayton is clearly wrong, I believe that his error does go to the heart of the problem, which is in the conflict between belief and evidence as a means for establishing objective fact. There is no reason to suppose homeopathy should work, no way it can work, and no proof it does work. And the public is increasingly aware of this. Objections to accreditation by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA), then, were not primarily based on the scientific indefensibility of homoeopathy itself, but on an irreconcilable conflict between the society’s primary role of advocacy for homeopathy as a legitimate form of treatment, and the function of a regulator, which must be to advocate for the protection of patients from people with no medical training — and decidedly eccentric beliefs — practising as if they were health professionals. Holding homeopaths to the letter of what is scientifically defensible would rob them of any scope of practice and probably deprive them of a living. So no, it is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of the inherent conflict of interest between advocating for quackery and policing the quacks themselves.
Guy Chapman
Emmer Green, Reading, Berks

Sir, How silly of Jeremy Hunt to recant on homoeopathy. When I was 21 our GP acknowledged that both he and a consultant were concerned about my health. A friend suggested a homoeopathic consultant and the doctor agreed. After some months of help my condition improved and both doctors respected each other. I have had a very satisfying life, am three years off 90 and thankful for his provision of homoeopathy.
Daphne Hughes
Bexhill, E Sussex

Sir, I have to disagree with Stephen Pollard (Thunderer, Sept 17). The decision by the PSA should provide great comfort for the lay public. From now on they will be able to consult a register to check if their homeopathic doctor is a fully trained quack or simply someone masquerading as
a quack.
Professor Michael Baum
Professor emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities, University College London

Sir, I was not surprised to read that woodpeckers and thrushes in Warwick Faville’s nature reserve fall victims to the resident sparrowhawk (letter, Sept 16). Recently a sparrowhawk swooped on a woodpigeon in our garden, and expertly denuded it of feathers before carrying it away. Songbirds are now a rarity thanks to magpies, jays, crows and the ever present sparrowhawk.
Angela Walker
Farnham, Surrey

Sir, Mr Hedgcock’s contention (letters, Sept 16) regarding the erroneous Yorkshire claim to have more cricket clubs than all Australia might itself be inaccurate. One can only presume that the figures were arrived at using the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Ian Carman
Newport Pagnell, Bucks

Sir, Like Giles Coren (Magazine, Sept 13) I was mortified to find I had gout. Giles might like to know that he can possibly avoid attacks by eating cherries. Six a day is enough and I have mine in cherry yogurt.
Jennifer Hall
Torquay, Devon

Sir, Richard Russell (letters, Sept 17) is absolutely right. Dogged determination to pursue and correct the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and incompetences of the examination system is the only way to ensure that pupils get the grades they deserve. In my previous post, in a London independent school, we got our corrected 2013 GCSE history grades in July 2014, 13 months after the pupils sat the exam. Ten per cent of the pupils had been upgraded. Not all schools have the time or resources to follow these appeals through. Why should their pupils be disadvantaged?
Louise Simpson
Head, St Paul’s, The British School, São Paulo, Brazil

Sir, Moves towards online marking and standardisation have not produced significant improvements. There are no quick fixes. Marking is a complex business. There is no substitute for high quality face-to-face training of markers and supervisors. The pool of good markers needs to be increased by competitive pay. In the meantime candidates should not have to bear the costs in terms of inflated re-mark fees, lost university places and the risk of grades going down.
Yvonne Williams
Ryde, Isle of Wight

Sir, The issue is simply one of supply and demand. Examiners are not paid enough and so top candidates cannot be attracted or retained. Unfortunately any increase in pay would have to be funded by higher entry fees. Something has to give.
Richard Corthine
Head of economics, Stowe School


Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Hong Kong Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

6:58AM BST 17 Sep 2014


SIR – Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, obviously has little idea of what democracy and freedom really mean (Comment, September 15).

Democracy means voting for anyone you want without being restricted to those approved by the central government. Freedom means being able to stand for election without requiring such approval.

Because of China’s embrace of capitalism, we often forget that it is still a communist dictatorship.

Andrew J Rixon

Longer school days

SIR – The Department for Education has recommended extending the school day at the same time as Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, says she is keen to discuss reducing teachers’ workloads.

While we agree that a longer school day could have great benefits for pupils, the department has failed to consider the impact that this may have on teachers. Staff are already working up to 60 hours a week, sacrificing their evenings and much of their weekends to catch up on marking and lesson-planning. Extending the school day will only eat into teachers’ personal and family time.

What we need is a change of culture so that schools and teachers themselves begin to consider their own health and wellbeing on a par with the needs of their students.The Government cannot expect more and more from the profession without considering its staff and the resources available to schools.

Julian Stanley
Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network
London N5

Surplus supplements

SIR – I am sorry that Max Pemberton has been wasting his time consuming “good” bacteria. I am even sorrier for the thousands of people duped into taking unnecessary vitamins, trace elements and amino acids in the belief that they enhance health.

All of these substances are present in a normal varied diet, and most are broken down into their component molecules by the process of digestion. The money saved by avoiding supplements could usefully be spent on a bicycle or treadmill. There is far more science on the benefits of exercise.

David Nunn FRCS
London SE3

Worth its weight

SIR – After reading that the best form of exercise is a daily walk, I saw elsewhere that it is also essential to maintain muscle strength, for example by lifting weights.

I was therefore grateful that I could combine both forms of exercise on Saturday, with a brisk walk to the newsagent’s followed by a return trip with a copy of the Telegraph – weighing an impressive 2.15kg, or nearly 5lb.

David Miller
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Book of death

SIR – Last Tuesday I started reading Sir Roger Moore’s new autobiography, Last Man Standing. By Friday, two of the people mentioned in it, Richard Kiel and Sir Donald Sinden had died. I’m not even halfway through the book but, given its title, I am reluctant to read on.

Jamie Adams
London SW13

A supporter of the Better Together campaign joins crowds in Trafalgar Square on Monday  Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

7:00AM BST 17 Sep 2014


SIR – On May 28 1929, Edinburgh celebrated the 600th anniversary of the granting of a charter by King Robert the Bruce. On that day the principal event was the unveiling of the statues of Robert Bruce and William Wallace outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle by the Duke of York (later to become King George VI).

In the speech he gave before the unveiling, he mentioned that both he and the Duchess of York could claim descent from Bruce, and continued: “Six hundred years have passed away, and these two countries, who were then the bitterest of foes, have become sister nations linked together by the closest bonds of blood and affection, bonds which have been cemented by the most enduring tie of all – comradeship in war.”

Scotland and England need each other.

Dr F G Anderson

SIR – In a world ravaged with conflict driven by differences of religion, politics, greed and ambition, we can surely look to our Union as a paragon.

For countries such as Scotland and England to have sustained a mostly harmonious and mutually beneficial partnership for more than 300 years as parts of a United Kingdom is a tremendous achievement. Why destroy this shining example, precisely when the world craves more unity?

Dewi W Hughes
Woolhampton, Berkshire

SIR – Regardless of which way the vote goes tomorrow, it will not be the end of the United Kingdom. The Yes campaign has made it clear that an independent Scotland would keep the Queen as head of state. We would then return to the state of affairs that prevailed between 1603 and 1707, when England and Scotland had a union of Crowns but separate parliaments.

While I passionately hope for a No victory, as a fervent monarchist I take considerable consolation from the fact that our sovereign will remain Queen of Scots regardless. Such a constitutional arrangement would put even more emphasis on the institution of the monarchy and its capacity to unite and bind together those of different nations.

Rev Dr Ian Bradley
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – Whoever wins the Scottish referendum, one certain loser will be David Cameron. If the Scots vote No, Mr Cameron’s attempts to keep them onside will result in an English backlash that will make him unelectable. If the Scots vote Yes, he will surely be forced to step down.

Ironically, the absence of Scottish MPs on the Labour benches will ensure that the Tories, without Mr Cameron, will remain in power for the foreseeable future.

Michael Stanford
London SE23

SIR – The fluctuating polling results for the Scottish referendum must call into question the wisdom of allowing so many electors to have a postal vote.

As the campaign produces new arguments from both sides, some of those who voted by post will inevitably come to regret their decision.

Before the general election, we should restrict postal votes to the housebound and those with genuine reasons for being away on election day.

Ron Forrest
Wells, Somerset

SIR – A strategic error was made by our Government in negotiating the original terms of the Scottish referendum. Why did we agree to this crucial issue being decided by a simple majority?

The true enormity of the repercussions is only now becoming apparent. A vote of two thirds or even three quarters – as is commonly adopted world-wide to authorise many grave or momentous democratic decisions – would have been far more logical.

Now we are faced with the reality of a closely fought and ill-tempered campaign that will leave nearly half the population of Scotland embittered and dissatisfied.

If the No vote narrowly prevails, how long will it be before we encounter the militant wing of the Scottish nationalists, modelled on the IRA?

Gordon Davies
Tiverton, Devon

SIR – A lot of us are extremely angry about the frivolous way in which this wretched affair has been set up.

The best we can hope for now is a No vote which, although it wouldn’t get rid of the issue, would at least allow for a rematch on a better-prepared pitch.

Conrad Natzio
Woodbridge, Suffolk

SIR – Given the fact that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish have not been given a vote as to whether the United Kingdom should be broken up, reluctantly I conclude that we should let the Scots go their own way. Scotland’s influence in Westminster over affairs that do not affect it is already cause for resentment, which will only get worse if Scotland remains.

Philippa Madgwick
Glastonbury, Somerset

SIR – In the 18th and 19th centuries Cornwall was a wealthy county producing tin, copper and other ores. At one stage 50,000 miners were working in Cornwall. Two thirds of the entire copper production of the world came from Cornwall. Then the bottom fell out of the market, the ores were discovered in other countries, where they were more cheaply mined, and Cornwall declined to where it is now – one of the lowest-income areas in Great Britain.

Oil and gas are finite resources that produce expensive power. I am sure many people are working on alternative sources of energy that will be more reliable than wind or solar power.

Learn from our history, Scotland, and don’t think your present source of wealth will last forever.

Anita Bowden
Harrowbarrow, Cornwall

SIR – Whatever the result, Scotland will see its equivalent of the miners’ strike, setting family members and friends against each other. However, this conflict will affect the whole population and be infinitely more damaging.

Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire

SIR – I heard one euphoric male Yes campaigner say: “My life has been stuck for years, and I see this as a way to change all that.”

This is not a responsible way to use a vote on the dismemberment of the UK, which will affect 60 million people, as well as future generations, who have no say in the matter.

Jean Harper
Bournemouth, Hampshire

SIR – The reasons Sarah Barts (Letters, September 16) offers for voting Yes in the coming referendum are flawed.

The banks that failed were Scottish, as were the prime ministers and chancellors at the time, who encouraged a light touch by regulators and took us to war in Iraq.

Were Scottish MPs without sin during the expenses scandal?

Perhaps she should vote No.

Stuart O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – The discovery that Alex Salmond is a dismal tipster is encouraging for those of us who hear his constant refrain of “when” the SNP wins the referendum vote.

Andrew H N Gray

SIR – Alex Salmond and the Yes camp seem to be dwelling on their discontent at being ruled by an out-of-touch government in London.

They may be surprised to find that this feeling is replicated all over the United Kingdom. My calling for an independent Leicestershire, however, is not the solution. We are far stronger if we stick together.

W H Statt
Snarestone, Leicestershire

SIR – If Scotland becomes independent, how will Alex Salmond’s government respond to acts of terrorism, such as the beheading of a Scottish citizen by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant?

Tim Nixon
Braunton, Devon

SIR – Considering the rancorous tone of this debate in the final days, I wonder how many English people, given the chance, would now happily vote for separation from Scotland.

Peter Harrison
Altrincham, Cheshire

SIR – Yesterday I sent Christmas cards to all my friends and relatives in Scotland to avoid the possibility of paying overseas postage.

Moira Brodie
Swindon, Wiltshire

Irish Times

Sir, – The impending referendum in Scotland is one of the most short-sighted and self-interested exercises given the likely negative effect it will have on the value of sterling. “King” Salmond appears to seek the status, without any of the wisdom, of King Solomon, by seeking to slice the baby in two, and hang the consequences. – Yours, etc,


Lower Glenageary Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a Dubliner, long time a resident in Scotland, may I, on the eve of the vote, commend The Irish Times for its coverage of the referendum on Scottish independence. I have found Mark Hennessy’s comprehensive and informative coverage, complemented by analytical editorials, a welcome alternative to the often party-political selectivity in much of the Scottish press. – Yours, etc,


Royal Circus,


Sir, – The future of Alex Salmond and the SNP could become precarious in an independent Scotland. Independence could result in serious economic decline and isolation, for which the Scottish people would blame the SNP for having misled them in the referendum debate. The SNP would suffer accordingly at election time. On the other hand, if the majority votes in favour of retaining the union with the UK, then the SNP has a much more assured future – the future and the hope of “keeping the dream alive”. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – By an irony of history, in Roman times the Emperor Hadrian tried to keep the Scots “out” of England by building a wall, and today Mr Cameron is trying to keep the Scots “in” by the carrot of more devolutionary powers. Whatever transpires, I wish the people of Scotland well with this historic referendum. They are, after all, our nearest “cousins”. – Yours, etc,


Beggars Bush Court,

Ballsbridge,Dublin 4.

Sir, – The Home Rule Act was suspended on September 18th, 1914. It will be an irony of history if the people of Scotland dismantle the union by voting Yes today. Alba gu bràth. – Yours, etc,



Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Paul Delaney (September 16th) suggests that the Scots would be “stupid” for not wanting to remain part of the “union”. The opposite is true, for Scotland has a rare opportunity to secure its national sovereignty through the ballot box, without the requirement for bloodshed. For most of history, a vassal nation wishing to restore its sovereignty would have to fight a bloody (and militarily successful) war of independence. The experience of the United States, and of Ireland, comes to mind in this regard. The ability of a nation to secure its independence through a legally binding plebiscite is a thoroughly modern phenomenon, and it is a credit to the Scottish first minister, and leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, that his skills have made such a phenomenon possible for Scotland. To achieve a sovereign and free country, which would remain united in political geographic terms (there would be no “northern Scotland” and “republic of Scotland” divide, unlike in Ireland) after a Yes vote, is the prize that the Scots would be mad not to take. – Yours, etc,


Knapton Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – One factor that has not been highlighted to date in the upcoming referendum in Scotland is the Ulster connection. There was two aspects to this: the Scottish Presbyterians that came over with the plantation of Ulster; and the emigration of Catholic Irish, many from Donegal, to Scotland after the Famine and right up to the 1960s. So both groups are going to have a big influence in relation to the outcome of the referendum. Ulster has more in common with Scotland than to the rest of the UK so if Scotland does vote Yes then Northern Ireland should look to join up with the new state and sever its ties with Westminster. – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

A chara, – It is interesting that the establishment in the UK are frantically trying to suppress a previously unanticipated Scottish Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum on independence, yet hope to flex a different type of nationalism in the proposed referendum on EU membership in 2017. Irrespective of the result on Thursday, Scottish independence or increased sovereignty will have a defining implication on the union of its peoples, regardless of any territorial change. Inadvertently, the die has been cast. The future UK government’s hand in any potential EU membership renegotiation will be diminished. – Is mise,


Cherrymount Park,

Phisborough, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Now that Scotland is having its say, is it not time that we declare independence from Geldof and Bono? – Yours, etc,




Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I think correspondent Frank Greaney (September 17th) has got his results mixed up. I think it should be East Fife four, Forfar five. Perhaps he is a misguided East Fife supporter! – Yours, etc,


The Village,


Raheny, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Perhaps the British could avoid what will doubtless be embittered and acrimonious fallout from the “Scottish Question”, whichever side should win by a minuscule majority, and take a lesson from history by offering Alex Salmond the position of British prime minister, in much the same way that 400 years ago James VI of Scotland was invited to become James I of the United Kingdom. – Yours, etc,


Abbey Hill,

Naul, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Recent letters have highlighted complications to our forthcoming postcode system.

What about the code itself?

I fear that we are going to have an alphanumeric code. Alphanumeric codes cause more confusion than simply numeric codes as they are often hard to read. How to tell an “0” from an “O”? Is that a “1” or an “I”. Are you looking at a “V” or a “U”?

Countries much larger than Ireland manage very well with all-numeric postcodes. – Yours, etc,


Rathdown Park,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Pat McArdle (September 17th) is correct in stating that “at least we are catching up with the rest of the developed world and getting a national postcode system”. The problem with catching up is that we are implementing a 1960s-era postcode that requires an expensive database to work. This database must be paid for by users and must be maintained at great expense by taxpayers.

Rather than catching up with the rest of the developed world, Ireland should be overtaking it with a 21st-century solution of embedded geo-data that allows on-device navigation and routing and doesn’t need expensive database maintenance.

If Ireland is in any way serious about a knowledge-based economy, its citizens, businesses and visitors deserve better than Eircodes, which the Freight Transport Association of Ireland has already described as “not fit for purpose”.

A bad postcode system will be a disaster and as bad a waste of money as the e-voting machines. – Yours, etc,


Greenogue Business Park,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I read with interest the article on the Eircode system (Karlin Lillington, “Postcodes at last but random numbers don’t address efficiency”, September 4th) and I thought it raised some interesting questions in relation to the future use of the code in Ireland. I would make the following observations based on my experience as the director of Deutsche Post who led the introduction of the new postcode in Germany following reunification in the 1990s and who subsequently supported a number of projects in the postal logistics sector in Ireland and elsewhere.

First, a postcode is a technical system that is primarily to support access or deliveries to households or businesses and as such there is no specific perfect solution which is right for all countries at all times. The code has to be based on specific ambitions and objectives of the owner, in this case the Government. In Ireland, while there is the standard ambition to create a system to support access to households, there is also the specific challenge of creating a system that helps to resolve the economic and social inefficiencies of a high proportion of non-unique addresses, while working within the complexities and rigours of Irish privacy laws. While I would agree that the structure of the code does have some of the functional limitations outlined by other commentators, it does, however, meet many of its initial objectives.

Second, there are issues around the format of the code. There are two core issues – is it in a format which is likely to intuitively support take-up and is it emotionally accepted by the population? In relation to adoption, there is supporting experience that short codes have been adopted and that they are more intuitively remembered than longer codes based purely on numeric geo-locators.

In relation to perception, experience in all countries shows that emotional reaction to the code impacts both the acceptance and its uptake. Consequently in establishing a postcode, its sponsors have to be very thorough in explaining the rationale and design of the code and stressing that postcodes are not value-classifying criteria, ie A55 isn’t any better or worse than D3D but a technical classifier which will improve the economic efficiency of infrastructure in a country. Individual likes and dislikes based on historic identification with a given area are not a useful design element.

Finally a lot of work has been done for Eircode, with the core design being agreed over the last years. The three phases remaining are development of the code, implementation and dissemination and application and usage. Each phase has its own implementation challenges for stakeholder and decisionmakers. At the end the well-justified expectations and requirements of the user groups must be met – mailers and senders, receivers and inhabitants and all kind of service providers. The challenges are to ensure the compatibility of all their interests, and that the support infrastructure and pricing models are in place to enable government, business and individuals to incorporate the code into everyday life and generate the latent potential of moving toward a 21st-century postcode. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s statement that he will not be asking Jean Claude Trichet, former governor of the European Central Bank, to attend the banking inquiry is very disappointing. Mr Trichet had a key role in advising his board on the adequacy of the national regulatory regimes to monitor and manage the introduction of the euro. He was also responsible for the way in which the banking crisis in Ireland was handled by the ECB, especially the decision not to burn the bondholders. He has many questions to answer and should be compelled to attend, if necessary. – Yours, etc,



Ennis, Co Clare.

Sir, – The decision of the Bishop of Killaloe to delay the introduction of the male-only permanent diaconate may prove to be a pyrrhic victory for the women of Killaloe, who were opposed as they “felt hurt and disappointed” at the proposal, “as they do the majority of work in the parishes” (“Bishop delays male-only diaconate”, September 16th).

I would welcome anyone of either gender following their call to ministry, but this is not likely to happen in the near future. But what is a reality already is the shortage of priests and deacons to administer the sacraments. Enlightened parish priests have the authority to facilitate all parishioners – male or female – to take a leadership role within their parishes, with or without a male deacon as part of that parish team. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I refer to the opinion piece by Mary Feely “Once a culchie, never a Dub” (September 17th). As a native of the Liberties of Dublin, it was generally accepted in Francis Street that the definition of a Dublin person was anyone who lived there and didn’t talk about going home for their holidays. – Yours, etc,


Merton Road,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – What makes Mary Feely think that a culchie would want to be a Dub or a Dub a culchie? Most of the 72 per cent of indigenous Irish people born outside the metropolis are happy with their background and the other 28 per cent are pleased to be Dubs.

When James Joyce was asked would he ever return to Dublin, he replied, “I never left”. As the Greek poet, Cavafy, said: “In those streets and fields where you grew up, there you will live and there you will die”. – Yours, etc,





Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The statement by director John Michael McDonagh (“Director of The Guard says Irish films are not ‘intelligent’”, September 15th) that the film Calgary “is not an Irish film, it’s just set in Ireland with lots of Irish characters” brings to mind the words of the American writer James Whitcomb Riley – if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck then I call that bird a duck. – Yours, etc,


Knockmaroon Hill,


Dublin 20.

Sir, – Your coverage of the death of Ian Paisley was a fine example of what the best journalism can achieve – multiple viewpoints, coherence, depth and insight.

As Maurice Hayes, who was quoted in one of the pieces, said: “I have often thought there are about six Paisleys. Two of them are very nice people, two quite awful and the other two could go either way.” You captured a good proportion of them all. – Yours, etc,


Im Walder,

Zollikon, Switzerland.

Sir, – If all elder statesmen, politicians, hierarchs, cultural icons and other ageing celebrities would now agree with their families that their final exequies should follow the good example set by the Rev Ian Paisley, we might truly say, as Malcolm said of Cawdor, that nothing in their life became them like the leaving of it. Homilists and eulogists might be out of a job, but some Catholic bishops would whisper a quiet word of gratitude to a former Free Presbyterian founder’s sense of moderation. – Yours, etc,


Wightman Road,


Sir, – Fianna Fáil has stated it will not go into government with Sinn Féin or Fine Gael, and Labour has stated that it will not do so with Fianna Fáil.

Can I suggest that the parties sign a binding agreement to pay €1 million to a nominated charity in the event of them breaching these statements after the next general election? – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

A chara, – My sister nursed at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital some 35 years ago.

One of her favourite stories was of the newspaper boy who, in an attempt to broaden his market, would visit the public wards to ply his trade.

One afternoon, having marched up and down a particular ward twice, to the tune of “Pressa-Herrald, Herralda-Press”, he failed to make a sale. Eventually an elderly lady motioned him to her bedside and purchased an Evening Herald.

“Thank Jaysus”, said our intrepid vendor. “For a minute there I thought I was in the Eye and Ear”. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar Road,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Canadian visitor Stan Bartlett (September 16th) laments the state of the toilets in Busáras. Might I respectfully suggest that such shoddiness – common to most of our bus and railway stations – tells us what our rulers, and our trade unions, really think of the masses who use public transport. After all, only the little people can’t afford a car. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Gardens,


Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

“Still round the corner there may wait / a new road or a secret gate, / And though we pass them by today / Tomorrow we may come this way / And take the hidden paths that run / Towards the Moon or to the Sun.”

These captivating words of the great JRR Tolkien, from his timeless ‘Lord of the Rings’, led me to think about Scotland’s opportunity today. The “new road” or “secret gate” to be travelled upon, or through, struck me as being applicable to post-independence Scotland.

Tolkien believed that for any individual to find himself and eventually fulfil his potential, he must leave his comfort zone and venture out into the world which will put him to the test. Staying put, clinging to what is perceived as a safe harbour, without ever spreading your wings, means that your true purpose in life will forever be obscured.

Tolkien’s view of what it takes for an individual to fulfil his potential, and grow in strength and virtue, can be extrapolated upon to encompass a country. The restoration of independence is the new road that must be ventured on if Scotland is to come out of her shell, to find herself again and fulfil her potential.

I have been a long-time supporter of Scottish independence, as I do not believe that Scotland comes close to fulfilling her potential, either socially or economically, whilst being treated as a child of the British state. It is my great hope that Scotland votes Yes to independence today.

John B Reid

Monkstown, Co Dublin


Independence referendum

It was reported at the time of the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins, on behalf of the new Irish Free State government, that the Lord Lieutenant, Edmund FitzAlan, said: “You are seven minutes late Mr Collins.”

He received the reply: “We’ve been waiting over 700 years, you can have the extra seven minutes.”

Could it be that Collins then added, sotto voce, “Don’t worry, we’re not too pushed about this independence thing, we only want it for about 90 years”, perhaps foreseeing a situation where the State, when trying to re-negotiate a deal on debt, would have to obtain the approval of 27 other states.

In the light of this precedent, maybe when they go to the polls today, the Scottish people can take solace in the fact that, even if they vote for independence, they will probably have the opportunity to change their minds somewhere down the line.

Paul Harrington

Navan, Co Meath

I always understood that Scotland belonged by right to the Scots. They lost their country and their language, but they could no more lose their right to their own country than their accent. This is their first real chance – in more than 300 years – to take back what always belonged to them, their own native land. The vote will show who is a Scot, and who is not.

Sean McElgunn

Belcoo, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Now that Scotland is having its say, is it not time that we declare independence from Geldof and Bono?

K Nolan

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim

Perhaps the Brits could avoid what will doubtless be embittered and acrimonious fall-out from the ‘Scottish Question’.

Whichever side should win by a minuscule majority could take a lesson from history by offering Alex Salmond the position of UK Prime Minister, in much the same way that 400 years ago James VI of Scotland was invited to become James I of the United Kingdom?

And should you doubt that any referendum between two evenly-matched and extremely passionate sides can be anything but acrimonious, just wait until the next referendum on abortion is held in Ireland.

Roger A Blackburn

Naul, Co Dublin


Ireland can show EU the way

I am an Italian teacher who, with three other colleagues of mine – Mrs Gaggiano, Mr Di Fiore and Mrs Occhionero – is in Ireland with 42 young students who want to improve their English following some lessons in an institute of your wonderful capital.

I followed, some days ago, a debate about Europe at the Italian Institute of Culture in Dublin (in the presence of the Ambassador Giovanni Adorni Braccesi and the journalist C. La Malfa) about how to overcome the crisis and build a new Europe made up of ideals, freedom and economic development.

I think there are two essential guidelines through whom the whole training process of this new Europe passes: the young people and the culture. And this is what happens in our experience in Dublin, where students and educators, both Italian and Irish, are sharing their history, tradition and culture in a peaceful and constructive way.

In my opinion using the tourist route to recognise and discover own identity, through cultural ideals and traditions that unite and not divide, is the better way.

This wonderful Joycean land, that collects all European feelings, should make us better appreciate the beauty and the culture of the world-unifying emotions, ways of feeling and seeing. The young people who would like to build the tomorrow Europe, the future Europe and the advanced Europe could do it with us.

Matteo Coco

San Marco in Lamis, Foggia, Italy


Positive side of Irish history

Mr John Bellew wrote (Letters, September 1): “By the time of the Famines, Ireland had been deforested and timber was at a premium. The only boat available to the inhabitants was the Curragh…”

I will respond to this generalisation with specific facts. In Kilmore, Co Wexford, men fished in conventional boats before, during and after the Famine. Their great problem was the tiny harbour there and there was a prolonged campaign involving landlords, Catholic and Protestant clergy, Catholic gentry, farmers and fishermen, to obtain funds from the Board of Works to build a better harbour. The Board had given money for harbours elsewhere.

In 1849, on the basis of funds from the Board of Works, work commenced on a new harbour in Kilmore; this later proved inadequate. All the eminent people involved believed that there was a cornucopia of wealth – the fish – off Kilmore coast. A large number of boats plied conventional trades off the south Wexford coast.

There was a forest of 1,500 statute acres at Killoughram, Co Wexford. It was leased to the Purdon brothers in 1862 – trees included! – at £160 a year; a rent later deemed excessive by a court. The Purdons made farm lands of it. The contemporary newspapers carried notices of regular timber auctions.

Research of the micro-details confounds the irredeemably gothic and apocalyptic scenarios of modern Irish history.

There is, indeed, trauma in Irish history but there is, conversely, a more positive aspect.

Tom McDonald

Enniscorthy, Co Wexford


The centre cannot hold FG

I was amused and baffled by Pascal Donohue’s assertion that Fine Gael is a party “of the centre”, unless he means that – on the political spectrum – Fine Gael lies in the centre between the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US.

In that case Fine Gael would indeed be “right” in the middle.

Simon O’Connor

Crumlin, Dublin 12

Irish Independent


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