September 26, 2014

26 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 busy day. Off to the chemist but no medicine for Mary, Ben comes and does some books.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Werner Franz – obituary

Werner Franz was a cabin boy who survived the Hindenburg disaster by jumping through a service hatch as the airship crashed

Werner Franz, survivor of the Hindenburg disaster

Werner Franz, survivor of the Hindenburg disaster Photo: AP

6:03PM BST 25 Sep 2014


WERNER FRANZ, who has died aged 92, was thought to be the last surviving crew member of the Hindenburg, the huge German airship that exploded and crashed in the first major disaster in American aviation history.

As a 14-year-old cabin boy, Werner Franz was the youngest member of the Hindenburg’s 60-strong crew when the hydrogen-filled Zeppelin caught fire and crashed at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6 1937. Of the 97 people on board, 36 passengers and crew and one person on the ground were killed when the airship crashed in an enormous fireball.

The Hindenburg disaster was captured by waiting photographers, film crews and a radio commentator on the ground, making it one of history’s most vividly reported air accidents.

Hindenburg bursting into flames on May 6 1937

Named after the German president who appointed Hitler chancellor in 1933, the Hindenburg airship was a spectacular — and expensive — form of transport that could cross the Atlantic westbound in less than three days, at a time when even the swiftest ocean liners could take up to a week or more. As such it was also a powerful propaganda tool of the Nazi regime.

Having made its maiden voyage more than a year earlier, the Hindenburg had made 62 safe flights before its destruction. Werner had made four round-trip transatlantic crossings, to both North and South America, and had become familiar with the airship’s internal network of narrow wooden passageways that connected bow to stern, a distance of more than 800ft — almost the length of the Titanic.

He had been clearing the dinner dishes in the officer’s mess when, at 7.25pm, he heard a thud and felt the airship shake. The Hindenburg lurched, and its nose began tilting upwards. “Directly overhead there were flames,” Werner Franz remembered.

One memorable photograph of the disaster shows the airship buckling as a fireball rises from its back. Near the nose of the ship, what looks like a spray of water escaping was actually a torrent from the Hindenburg’s ruptured water tanks. Werner Franz believed that getting drenched when they burst protected him from the flames and heat and may have saved his life.

“At first I was shocked, but the water brought me back,” he recalled at a commemoration ceremony in 2004. Gripping both sides of a picture window as the airship sank towards the ground, he kicked open a service hatch used to load provisions, swung his feet out and jumped. He can be seen in newsreel footage of the disaster, leaping the few feet to the ground, and running for his life. “I was doing it instinctively. I didn’t think,” he said.

His timing could hardly have been better. The airship was just low enough to allow Franz to land on a canvas ballast bag, which cushioned his fall, but high enough for him to dash beneath the port side of the airship before it collapsed on the ground in a burning mass. Having jumped clear of the Hindenburg, Franz ran for his life away from the blazing wreckage, as the flames were driven in his direction by the wind. As a result he escaped with singed eyebrows and soaking wet clothes; otherwise he had barely a scratch.

The young Werner Franz with one of his fellow survivors, Heinrich Kubis, who was serving as chief steward on the flight

Werner Franz was born in Frankfurt on May 22 1922. As a 14 year-old he landed his job on the Hindenburg quite by chance. His brother worked in a hotel where the passengers gathered before boarding the airship, and when the Zeppelin Company asked the hotel for a boy to serve the officers, Werner was chosen. The experience was an eye-opener for a boy from a humble background. His job was to make beds, set tables, wash dishes and clean uniforms, but for a brief few months he saw the world in a way usually enjoyed only by the airship’s affluent passengers. As well as huge picture windows affording breathtaking views, the Hindenburg offered passengers gourmet German and French cuisine to the musical accompaniment of an aluminium baby grand piano.

Although Werner worked a 14-hour day serving the officers’ meals and attending to their cabins, he was allowed to take breaks during which he could enjoy the spectacular panorama below. He would often visit the mechanics who manned the engines or the riggers who worked at the top of the airship. On the day of the disaster, he climbed up to his favourite small window for a bird’s-eye view of New York City, gazing over Manhattan’s “ocean of buildings far and wide” as the Hindenburg circled overhead, waiting for local thunderstorms to abate at Lakehurst.

But as the fireball exploded, Franz was busy on the mess deck and not at his preferred observation point further forward, where other crewmen waiting to prepare the ship for landing were incinerated by flames bursting through the nose.

The day after the disaster, as a US Navy search team picked through the smoking wreckage, Werner Franz asked them to look for his pocket-watch, a present from his grandfather. It was found amid the debris, a mangled scrap of blackened metal but still ticking.

Although sabotage was initially suspected, no convincing evidence of a plot to destroy the airship was ever found. A build-up of static electricity that ignited a hydrogen leak is now believed to be a possible explanation for the disaster.

During the Second World War, Franz served as a radio operator and instructor in the Luftwaffe. After the war he worked as a precision engineer for the German postal service and was also a skating coach.

Werner Franz, who considered his few months’ service aboard the Hindenburg as the happiest time of his life, is survived by his wife, Annerose, and several children. At least one other survivor of the disaster, Werner Doehner, then eight years old and who was thrown out of the stricken airship by his mother, is thought to be still living.

Werner Franz, born May 22 1922, died August 13 2014


Houses of Parliament, London Home for a devolved English parliament? The Houses of Parliament at sunrise. Photograph: Alamy

There is already an English standing committee of the House of Commons (If home rule is good enough for Scotland, it should be good enough for England too, 20 September). If you want English votes for English laws then do it in the committee stage. Have the English committee meet in the House of Commons one or two days a week. We can do this now and need no constitutional change to bring this about. We do not need a separate English parliament to bring this about or a separate English executive.
Nigel Boddy

• As Gordon Reece rightly says (Letters, 22 September) the logic of preventing Scots MPs from voting on English matters is that only women should vote on women’s issues etc. But there’s surely a wider constitutional issue. We’ve spent months successfully persuading the people of Scotland that we’re better together. Yet we now plan to tell their representatives that they can only contribute to debate on matters affecting some parts of our supposedly “United” Kingdom. They’d be right to suspect that “together” didn’t quite mean what we led them to believe.
David Robertson
West Malvern, Worcestershire

• We used to have devolved government in England (Cameron faces pressure over home rule deal, 22 September). It was called local government and it had powers to levy taxes dependent on local need – rates. The Tories eviscerated it in the 1980s because councils did not agree with central government. We don’t need regional parliaments. We need local government with real powers.
Gary Hogben
Moreton, Wirral

• The problem at Westminster is not that Scottish MPs can vote on English matters whereas English MPs cannot vote on purely Scottish matters. Scottish MPs cannot vote on purely Scottish matters either, because there is a more appropriate forum where those matters are decided. There is no such forum for English matters. Voters in Scotland elect councillors to decide purely local matters, MSPs to decide regional matters and MPs to decide national matters. To dismiss the notion of having an English parliament (or regional assemblies) as simply adding another layer of politicians is to miss the whole point of devolution: to move power nearer to the people affected by political decisions.
Robin Gardner
West Bridgford, Nottingham

• How can David Cameron, having seen turnout of 85%+ in Scotland, think that the “English question” can be settled by a few Westminster politicians in a matter of months? We need a debate over years, not months, not about the intricacies of the West Lothian question, or Ukip’s sour complaint about English taxpayers’ subsidy, but about a radical devolution of power to local areas, to reflect England’s scale and diversity. Within living memory the city of Carlisle ran both its electricity supply and its pubs – an indication of how far local authority powers have shrunk.

A debate about which powers, and what is local, would wake up England. “Localistas” like me would argue that Manchester and Margate require locally led labour-market and skills policies, and local control over minimum wages. “Centralisers” would worry about small-town corruption and postcode lotteries. Localistas would counter with a gradual transfer of powers as local capacity builds up. And so forth. But it needs all the Westminster parties to abide by whatever consultation or referendum results comes out.

We really are at a turning point. This is an opportunity to get the English voting again. Let’s hope politicians rise to the challenge.
Carolyn Hayman

• The way to spike the neoliberal guns is not so very difficult (Beware the hijacking of reform, 22 September): whatever powers are devolved to Scotland should also be devolved to English local authorities. Too simple? Too obvious? Why?

Health and education are what most voters care most about, as well as being the departments being given away (to privatising forces). You just have to change who you are giving the power to – namely, back to the people, whether of Scotland, Manchester, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Lansley and his lot have already prepared the NHS for a carve-up, and Gove’s work in education was so bad that no recent work done in that area would constitute a loss.

Working out how to have a fair legal system for England will take more time, but giving control of health and education to local governance seems a great start to devolving power to the millions of English, Welsh and Northern Irish people who want to feel relevant again in democratic political processes.
Peter Cawley

• I suggest that there be just one class of UK MPs with dual roles: they would sit in Westminster (alternating with the other capitals) as the House of Commons for two to three days a fortnight dealing with supranational UK matters, and in their home parliaments for the rest of the time, focusing onEnglish/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish devolved powers and their constituents.

This system allows English home rule and requires each national parliament to help run the greater UK, so taking their proper share of responsibility for the UK as a whole. An added advantage is the money saved through losing the current non-English Westminster MPs. The hardest problem would be choosing the prime minister, who would be more presidential than now: they would run the macro-economy, foreign affairs and defence, with pretty much everything else devolved to the national governments.The easiest solution is for MPs to elect one of their number.

And, given the much diminished role of the House of Commons, would this system really need the House of Lords revising chamber? The Northern Irish and Welsh parliaments seem to get along fine without a second chamber, as does the Scottish one, and it makes its own laws. The vacated House of Lords would make an ideal, readymade home for the English parliament.
Jonathan Bard

• We shouldn’t get too misty-eyed about devolution as the panacea to our political ills (A big moment that demands a big response; 20 September). A bigger challenge has to be tackled first: the need to root out “old corruption”. In the 18th century, financial, commercial and political elites meshed together to feed parasitically off the growing wealth of the state. It went beyond Westminster, capturing the professions and a whole host of apparently non-political areas of life. Contemporaries felt that the “rapacious economic spirit” of the age pervaded all aspects of society: economics, politics and morality. Sound familiar?

Its disappearance around the middle of the 19th century was down to reforming governments that reconstructed the state to protect the public interest and laid the foundation for regulatory and collective state provision.

A decade ago David Marquand highlighted the return of old corruption in his book The Decline of the Public. It was driven by “the cronyism and clientelism spawned by the privatisation” of the previous 25 years.

It has continued apace: accountancy companies that write tax legislation for government simultaneously provide advice to clients about how to avoid the tax regulations they have drafted; outsourcing giants, Serco and G4S, at the centre of serious fraud inquiries granted new government work; the revolving door between Westminster, Whitehall and the private sector spins faster; profitable public assets sold for a song; companies involved in the privatisation of education and the NHS (to name but two areas of the shrinking public domain) reflects a similar meshing of political and financial interests that would have been familiar to those adept at drawing off largesse from the 18th-century state.

If these issues are not tackled, old corruption will extend its lease on our faltering political institutions: devolved or not.
Councillor Alan Waters (Labour)
Deputy leader, Norwich city council

• Scottish MPs are to be banned from voting on “English issues”. What about unelected Scottish peers in the House of Lords? Presumably Tom Strathclyde (Scottish hereditary baron) and David Steel (former Scottish MP) will be banned, but what about the Countess of Mar, a Scottish hereditary peerage held by a cheese-maker from Worcestershire? Rather than tinkering with an illogical system, we need to embark on fundamental constitutional reform to federalism.
Andrea Woelke

• Surely it would be timely to rename the Bank of England as Bank UK. The assets contained in the Bank of England are proportionately the property of the people of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as England.

Come on, Dave. Betray your tribe.
Thomas Jenkin
Penzance, Cornwall

• Symmetrical devolution across the UK is superficially attractive. The problem is that the idea of “English votes for English laws” is not symmetrical if it involves simply giving additional powers to English MPs elected to the existing Westminster parliament.

The Scottish (and Welsh and Northern Irish) assemblies are elected by voters explicitly voting for representatives who are collectively responsible for delivering defined devolved powers within their geographical areas. Those assemblies are also elected by a form of proportional representation.

By contrast, English MPs at Westminster are elected by the first-past-the-post system. And giving English MPs at Westminster the exclusive right to enact English legislation would be to provide them with two distinct roles: enacting English laws and controlling the creation of the UK-wide government.

What would electors in England be voting for? An MP whose function would be to enact English laws, to appoint and oversee a future UK government, or both? How would voters distinguish between those distinct functions when deciding how to cast their votes in an election? Is it self-evident that an elector would want to vote for a representative of the same political persuasion for both functions?

There is an arguable case for English devolution, but if it happens it should be on the same model as for the three other nations: a separate national assembly elected by proportional representation. It should not be by creating a second and ambiguous role for English MPs in Westminster.
Richard Williams
Kingston, Surrey

• I would like to offer up the following two-part solution to the West Lothian question and the broader UK constitutional fallout from last week’s Scottish referendum. The first part of the solution would be to turn the House of Commons into an English parliament, composed solely of English MPs, to vote solely on English domestic law. In the political hierarchy, this English parliament (still called the House of Commons if needs be) would sit alongside the existing Scottish parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.

The second part of the solution would be to turn the House of Lords into a wholly elected upper chamber of members elected from across the UK. This reformed version of the House of Lords would hold sway on non-devolved matters (such as wars, defence and foreign policy), debate UK-wide issues, refer issues for debate by the regional assemblies, have the ability to issue non-binding “think-agains” to the regional parliaments and would adjudicate in instances of dispute regarding whether an issue is devolved or not. Members of this reformed House of Lords would carry the title Lord, but only for the duration of their office.
Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire

Irvine Welsh (20 September) is right when he says that “imposing an unwanted parliament in Norwich on East Anglian folks would be as undemocratic as taking away the Scots one in Edinburgh”. The solution that is starting to emerge is different: city-regions. Drastically strengthened local government in places such as the Norwich and Cambridge city-areas could well be popular here.

The key point is that we need real decentralisation from Westminster – which Cameron’s proposals or an English parliament alike are designed not to deliver. It should be up to a citizens’ deliberative constitutional convention to sort out exactly what model of decentralisation to implement. And what is encouraging is that Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and Caroline Lucas have all come out in favour of creating such a convention.

Will the Lib Dems join this remarkable coalition, or will they back Cameron’s shabby elite-centred short-term fix?
Dr Rupert Read
School of politics, philosophy and languages, University of East Anglia

• It took David Cameron a little less than an hour to set out his new agenda after the results were declared, overriding the debate and all of the promises of the past four weeks. Cameron’s argument for English devolution is now being taken up by several lobbyists, for instance ResPublica, which will be lobbying all three party conferences. ResPublica is peddling a decentralisation/devolution agenda. It wants a devolution of powers not just in local and regional government but also in the public services, notably the health service. This is likely to result in fragmentation: allowing each region to take control, at short notice, while tightening still further their central government funding, with the result that the large corporate providers will step in to bridge any gaps in provision. In other words, it may easily turn out to be a new strategy for continued privatisation of the health and other public services.

I hope the Labour party will show a little less timidity and face up to this opportunistic gambit (Owen Jones, 22 September) with a structured proposal for federalism within the UK that is long-lasting and not just tactical.
David Edgeworth
Woodford Green, Essex

• Martin Rowson’s cartoon with its English Laws for Global Corporations flag and Nigel Farage leading the parade was the only part of the Guardian that really grasped who were the real beneficiaries of the Scottish referendum (20 September). This devolution frenzy now gripping politicians and your paper appears to mistakenly imagine that the country’s ills can be dealt with simply by devolving rights and powers within the UK. Yet it is just a delusional rearranging of the deckchairs on a Titanic sailing through a sea of free-market icebergs, all steered by Steve Bell’s fat cats. These are what dictate the limits of our economic freedom, not how we organise ourselves internally.

Farage will be the major beneficiary from this devolution obsession since it will add one more trump card to the two strong hands he already has to play in the runup to the election – immigration and austerity. Other than Ukip, all national parties, including the Greens, support open EU borders. Farage supports austerity, but can say “so do all big political parties”, albeit with policies ranging from austerity-lite to austerity-cruel. There seems to be no sign of a national political party rejecting both appeasement to the market and open EU borders. Until they do, it’ll be politics as usual.
Colin Hines
Author of Progressive Protectionism (published autumn 2014)

• It would appear that some of the same politicians who were bewailing the potential break-up of the UK if Scotland had voted for independence seem more than happy to advocate the break-up of England into separate regions.

No doubt these politicians are aware of several opinion polls over the past few years showing over 60% support for an English parliament (eg an ICM poll in November 2006 showing 68% support and a BBC poll in January 2007 showing 61%). On the other hand, the referendum for a north-east regional assembly in 2004 resulted in an overwhelming 78% rejection.

There really is only one way to settle this debate. It is time the people of England were offered a fair referendum on whether we want an English parliament, regional assemblies, both or neither.
Simon Cowley

• Both the 1964 and 1974 elections (which we are told are the only ones where the results would have been different) ended periods of Conservative rule. After both elections Harold Wilson was able to call a snap election at an opportune time and secure a larger majority. It is doubtful that he would have been in power at all without Scottish MPs. We could have had almost five decades of uninterrupted Conservative rule. Be careful what is agreed about Scottish MPs.
Will Douglas-Mann
Petrockstowe, Devon

Floods in Kashmir Cars submerged on a road in a flooded area in Srinagar. ‘Thousands are homeless and people are dying,’ writes Liz Turner. Photograph: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images

For the past few weeks, since the floods, a Kashmiri friend of mine in Srinagar has been living with his wife, son, mother and grandmother on the floor of his local mosque – his house was destroyed by a wall of water he said was like a tsunami. Thousands are homeless and people are dying; the NGOs in the area are doing what they can to help, but the Indian government has done nothing – at the same time as it’s managed to find £45m to send a spaceship to Mars (Report, 25 September).
Liz Turner

• If India can spend £45m on such a project, why are we continuing to include them in our aid programme?
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Red Cross health workers, Ebola centre, Guinea Red Cross health workers wearing protective suits at an Ebola treatment centre in Guinea, September 2014. Photograph: Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images

Simon Jenkins is absolutely right to underline the fundamental difference between humanitarian and political or military intervention (Finally, the west is acting on Ebola. What took us so long?, 19 September). It is also true that humanitarian relief work currently faces unprecedented challenges, often as a result of being seen as linked to one side or another in conflict and other disasters. But it does not follow from this that the humanitarian ethic of the Red Cross has diminished, nor that the impartiality of our founders has been “swamped in the rush to war”. Whether in Syria or Sierra Leone, the Red Cross Red Crescent movement can and does deliver vital assistance every day without political, military or religious influence.

We have been responding to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since its very beginning and now have 2,500 volunteers working to prevent its spread across the three countries. They are part of a worldwide movement which delivers aid on the basis of greatest need. This often involves considerable danger, manifested tragically in Syria (where we are among the few humanitarian agencies able to work across frontlines) in the deaths of 37 Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers while carrying out their work.

The biggest threat to our humanitarian mission is being perceived as anything less than neutral, independent and impartial, which can lead to being unable to safely access those in need. This is why in conflict situations we make repeated calls for all parties to ensure quick and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid workers. The decision to provide humanitarian assistance must be driven by need only and regardless of “national security”. For this reason, it is imperative that the concept of humanitarianism is understood correctly.
Mike Adamson
Acting chief executive, British Red Cross

• I’ve seen plenty of coverage of the faltering attempts to combat the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa recently. We’ve all read about the budget cuts at the World Health Organisation that are hampering the response, and the urgent need, articulated by Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, for “an army of experts and health workers to combat an outbreak overtaking some of the world’s poorest countries”. Once again, Cuba has stepped forward with 62 volunteer doctors and 103 nurses, all with post-catastrophe experience. Over the past 50 years Cuba has sent more than 300,000 health workers to 158 countries, even offering humanitarian aid to the US – which has tried to bring Cuba to its knees over the past 55 years by its illegal trade blockade – when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Simon Jenkins, to his credit, made a passing reference to Cuba’s initiative in his column, but, apart from that, Cuba’s medical volunteers seem to be totally invisible to our media. Isn’t it time we gave them the credit they so definitely deserve?
Ed Glasson
Bracknell, Berkshire

It is not just those being prosecuted in court who suffer from not paying television licences (Why are we bringing people to court over TV licences, G2, 25 September). I know those on benefits who, having been warned they could be taken to court, then make regular weekly or fortnightly payments. The trouble is that they then have to cut down on other expenditure, such as food. I understand that our wealthy MPs in the House of Commons can watch free television as well as eat their subsidised food.
Bob Holman

• Had I to pay a licence fee, which I don’t, to watch BBC television, I would be really cross that Capita was getting paid £560m out of my contributions to the BBC to claw far less than that back. There must be another way.
Brian Smith
Berlin, Germany

• Is there a way that we over-75s can give our TV licence money to someone who can’t afford one?
Michael Harrison

Shop closing down A shop closing down. ‘Land can so much more profitably be switched to use for speculative housing from industrial, office and retail use,’ writes Michael Edwards. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

In addition to the alternatives your correspondents propose of moving jobs away from London and the south and redirecting infrastructure spending (Letters, 24 September), there is a third pressing problem: jobs and affordable housing within London are getting further apart. Low- and middle-income people are being forced out of central and inner London by a mixture of housing costs and eviction from social housing estates, while employment in many outer-London areas is declining because land can so much more profitably be switched to use for speculative housing from industrial, office and retail use. These switches are the result of the government’s ideological commitment to “deregulation” through removing planning controls and creating “permitted development rights”, together with continuing failure by London boroughs and mayors of London to use the planning system adequately to protect employment.

These are issues on which a wide spectrum of businesses and community groups in the London Forum and Just Space networks have made strong representations to successive mayoral plans without having any impact at all. A tougher approach to protecting suburban employment would shorten trips for workers in all income groups and reduce London’s insatiable demands for infrastructure. While we wait for a new mayor, we all need to tell the department for communities and local government to reverse its proposed expansion of permitted development rights for London and the south-east before its consultation closes at the end of October.
Michael Edwards
UCL Bartlett School of Planning

• I agree with Richard Mountford with mixed feelings. I am grateful that so many people are prepared to live in the overcrowded London and the south-east because it leaves the rest of the country to be enjoyed by us sensible ones! Mr Mountford should add London universities to his list of institutions to be moved. The University of London has over 170,000 students, plus staff and facilities management. Moving it to a more suitable place would increase the availability of rented accommodation and enable youngsters to realise life exists outside London. Given that Oxford, Cambridge, York and Durham are examples of prestigious universities outside London, there can be no excuse for having such a large university in the centre of London, adding to its transport and housing problems.
Brian Keegan

Shakespearean sex worker Mistress Quickly Shakespearean sex worker Mistress Quickly ( Judi Dench) in Merry Wives The Musical at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, 2006. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

If some Luton police officers did not wish to appear in Channel 4’s reality TV show because they were paying child maintenance and did not want their former partners to know they had been promoted (Report, 23 September), we – and the Child Maintenance Service – must hope that their ex-partners are not claiming extra benefits.
Jill Adams

• Jeff Lewis (Letters, 24 September) is right to speculate that parish authorities clamping down on “inconstancies”, as sex outside marriage was known, led to their epithet of “bawdy courts”. However, if Germaine Greer is to believed, the unintended consequences were that many young women fled the ignominy of public punishment to seek new lives in the bawdy houses of London, where they became the models for Shakespeare’s sex workers such as Doll Tearsheet and Mistress Quickly.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Cancer is diagnosed late (22 September): “Urgent improvements … would save the NHS millions of pounds a year through reduced chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, as well as enhancing many cancer sufferers’ chances of survival”. Love the order of priority here.
Deb Tanner (cancer patient)

• Why is your obituary of a woman who looked after a big house larger than that of a man who helped to save thousands of lives (The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; Ronald Grainger, both 25 September)?
Peter Brooker
West Wickham, Kent

• May I congratulate you on your splendid Orwellian slogan: Labour must invest in health prevention (Letters, 23 September).
Gerry Abbott

• I assume that the migrating wildebeest in your picture (Eyewitness, 24 September) are seeking gnu pastures.
David Evans

Jeremy Isaacs outlined what Michael Kustow did to make Channel 4 distinctive. I worked as a very junior assistant to Michael when he was commissioning editor for arts there. He was ahead of every curve. He had a bright yellow Sony Walkman, with matching headphones, long before anyone else. What was he listening to, I asked, as he jogged past me in a onesie tracksuit in Charlotte Street, near C4 HQ. “Japanese minimalism,” he said, as if I should know. I didn’t know then, and I don’t now. One day he asked me to accompany him to an ITV South Bank Show lecture to be given by George Steiner. “You’ll meet my friend, the artist Tom Phillips,” he told me. They, with Michael Billington, had been at Oxford together, often performing in Oxford University Drama Society productions. Next day at work I told Michael that Tom had invited me to “see his etchings”. “Oh, you want to be careful,” warned Michael. I married Tom anyway.

Falinge estate, Rochdale: the most deprived in the UK Financial thinking plays a big part in local authority decisions about putting young people in care. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Samantha Morton (‘Nobody would have believed me. I thought they were the coolest, nicest people’, Weekend, 13 September) questions the place of private finance in the care of children. Government data shows that there is the same range of quality no matter who runs children’s homes.

The provision of care for young people with the highest levels of needs, as in children’s homes, is now complex. Samantha Morton is right, there is a social duty of care but it seems to be happening less and less.

Financial thinking is now integral to decision-making by local authorities about a placement. Costs can outweigh care in their reasoning by a ratio of 80%:20%. The costs of independent providers are scrutinised closely. One regional group has a proposal to pay less than it costs to staff a home.

In England 78% of homes are in the independent sector. This is a sector of solo and small providers: 45% own just one home; a further 19% own two, usually started because they saw an unmet need or because they saw how they can “do things better”. The ‘“big money”, which may be the group Samantha Morton is commenting on, own less than one fifth, an amount that looks like it will not rise further, not reaching the density that we see in adult care or in independent fostering.

The reality of residential childcare today is that if you didn’t do it out of commitment, you wouldn’t at all; there’s more money elsewhere in other jobs, and returns from investing in other forms of children’s care.

The reality of residential childcare is of a sector that is, despite underfunding, putting its house in order. Providers have completed their reforms as directed. However, six months after regulation was in place and now some six weeks after further guidance, many other agencies, including local authorities, are still to complete their associated safeguarding reforms designed to be supportive of children’s homes.

No doubt a large cause of the delays come from the reforms, costing money that local authorities do not have. The reforms have cost children’s homes providers thousands of pounds.

The children’s homes sector is without hope that whatever it does or says will be recognised as positive. We have tried; we have had the almost unanimous views of those doing the job dismissed, excluded. We are holding on, waiting for better times but with a deep dread that they will not be coming – knowing there are yet more reforms to be proposed, probably imposed, soon.
Jonathan Stanley
Chief executive, Independent Children’s Homes Association


Do we learn nothing from history?  When Hitler attempted to bomb the UK into capitulation, the effect was quite the reverse of what was intended. Indeed, history would seem to show that particular episode was not an isolated case.

I remember the US trying to bomb North Vietnam and Cambodia into submission, and that seemed to lead to success for the Vietcong and the rise to power of Pol Pot, and in the latter case the subsequent massacres were truly appalling.

Again, we bombed Iraq in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein – which we did, but the consequences of removing him has led directly to the situation we have today.

Nor is it just the Western powers who fail to appreciate that the use of bombing has a detrimental effect to international relations. Israel and the Palestinian forces seem to be bound together in an endless cycle of violence.

As Tony Benn said: ‘‘War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy’’. What we need to do is to try to reach hearts and minds and have dialogue with others. That, after all, was what has allowed peace in Northern Ireland to flourish. This will only come about through education, understanding and a wish to enjoy ‘‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’’.

John Broughton


Military action in Iraq or Syria is counter-productive. It undoubtedly results in innocent people being maimed and killed. This, in turn, attracts more people to join the extremist cause.  We need to remember that it is our horrendous legacy of intervention in this area which helped increase this anti-West extremism in the first place.

Furthermore, it is double standards to single out extremist groups yet happily allow Israel to continue its illegal occupation of Palestine.

Mark Richards


David Cameron called the Islamic State (Isis) fighters “vicious terrorists”.  Geoffrey Robertson says that it is “legal” for the UK to use the military to go after Isis because they are “criminals”. (As a matter of law, we do not need the United Nations’ permission to attack these criminals, 25 September).  But in 2011, international lawyer Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell stated quite clearly, in Congress and later at Chatham House, London, that “terrorist acts are criminal offences, and therefore properly dealt with by law enforcement agencies”.  To reinforce her point, she added that armies should not be used when dealing with terrorism.

But then, the Ministry of Defence has no remit to do law enforcement.

Lesley Docksey


Isis didn’t exist and couldn’t have existed under Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. The West spent more than 10 years attempting to establish a stable, pro-Western government in Iraq and training the Iraqi army to withstand insurgency from extremist Islamic groups.

Yet this army appears to be incapable of defeating Isis without the support of the Kurdish Peshmerga and Western air strikes.  What makes Western governments think they can achieve in a few years what they failed to achieve in 10 years in Iraq, or nearly 14 years in Afghanistan, especially without putting more ‘‘boots on the ground’’.

Julius Marstrand


Robert Fisk (22 September) claims that defeating Isis must involve “an alliance” with Iran and Hezbollah.  Has he forgotten that even if Hezbollah doesn’t kill or mutilate women, Iran does, and if it doesn’t sell girls as sex slaves, it allows them to be married, even if they are under 13; not to mention imprisoning, torturing and executing political dissidents of both sexes?

 A better way to defeat Isis is to starve them by buying oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada, or better still – as Anthony Hilton recommended in Wednesday’s Standard and as the Rockefeller Foundation is now doing – to stop investing in fossil fuels and change to alternative forms of energy.

Carolyn Beckingham

East Sussex

To describe the new Middle East war as messy is a masterly understatement.  As your leading article (24 September) states, this is a proxy war between two strands of Islam, Sunni and Shia. It is not a civil war but a religious war.

The two sects have been at bitter loggerheads for 1,300 years (the battle of Karbala AD 680) and the end of their conflict is nowhere in sight. The West, which is nominally a Christian demesne, should have absolutely no participation in this war or any other religious upheaval in the Middle East.

At last the Sunni kingdoms have woken up to the fact that the so-called Islamic State, a Sunni organisation, is trying to impose a cruel and barbaric theocratic regime on their own doorsteps. Let them assume the burden of quelling this monster. They have the financial clout to do so (it will make a change from buying football clubs or running horse-racing stables in Europe).

As for our Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, saying that he hopes Parliament has “the mental strength to take on the challenge” of Isis, has he seriously taken leave of his senses? Has he learnt nothing from our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan?

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

Camden school is right to ban niqab

Camden School for Girls is absolutely right to ban the Muslim student from taking her A-levels until she removes her niqab (24 September). The young girl involved may indeed be just trying to express her individuality as teenagers do, but she is being either badly advised or cynically manipulated. Dressed like this her job prospects are zero. Not only is the niqab a health and safety issue and an impediment to the face- to-face contact that good teaching requires, it sends out a provocative signal that rejects everything that this liberal school and British society hold dear.

We should not tolerate intolerance. And once one student is allowed to wear the niqab, others will surely follow. Far from being Islamophobia, this is Islamophilia – embracing Muslims who wish to integrate and flourish in a  pluralistic country.

Stan Labovitch


It isn’t perfect, but thank God for the NHS

In response to T Sayer’s ill-informed letter of 25 September about the “NHS and Labour not fit for purpose,’’ I say – from recent personal experience  – you have got it wrong.

There may be a number of highly paid middle- managers that fit your description of “too many overpaid employees” but when I recently suffered a stroke at the age of 48, I was treated from start to finish at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading by caring, kind, professional and brilliant staff –motivated not by profit but by compassion. Thanks to their efforts I can now walk, talk, and write this letter. I am incensed by such lazy criticism of an institution which we should all fiercely protect. Nothing is entirely perfect – but in my mind the NHS comes close; I thank God it was there for me when I needed it.

Sarah Walsh


T Sayer’s letter is just a series of assertions about the NHS and no evidence to support them. Since its inception my grandparents, my parents, myself, my wife, my siblings, my children and my grandchildren have all had cause to be thankful for its existence at one time or another. I don’t think my family is unique. If T Sayer wants to class me as one of the ‘‘ignorant’’, it is a badge I shall wear with pride.

Dr Les May



She wasn’t purring but snoring…

David Cameron claims the Queen was ‘‘purring’’ over the Scottish referendum result. I suspect he is mistaken. If she was having to listen to him, is it not more likely that Her Majesty was gently snoring?

Pete Dorey

Bath, Somerset

Hacking payouts should go to charity

While the press should be brought to justice for hacking if it is a criminal offence, there is absolutely no justification for payouts to celebrities who have suffered no damage to their careers or person. These people crave publicity and while their privacy should be protected the perpetrators should be fined and the money paid to the state or charities. These people, who tend to be well off, get more publicity while victims of violence or fraud are usually left without compensation. Damages should be paid only when justified.

Peter Fieldman

By email


Pedantic message? Not if you speak Latin

Will Dean’s TV review (25 September) uses the phrase ‘‘high jinx’’. This should be high jinks – a jinx is a different thing altogether. Also, I can’t believe Geoffrey Robertson QC wrote ‘‘hostis humanis generis’’. I’m sure he’d have put ‘‘hostis humani generis’’.

Humani is genitive singular to agree with generis. I find that well- produced books make errors over place-names and foreign quotations. Maybe the spell-check can’t deal with anything out of the ordinary.

Alan Langley

Market Harborough

I have just read Matthew Norman’s brilliant and devastating critique of Cameron’s distasteful and cynical volte face.

As Norman succinctly says – instead of using the opportunity to celebrate the “Union”, he reverts once again to his narrow, cowardly and personal and party self-interest. His smug betrayal of the Queen’s “purring” to David Cameron is typical of  the arrogance and shallowness of the man.

But it was ever thus. It amazes me that he has got away with his underlying nastiness for as long as he has. As a Scot exiled in England, I had no vote and I was in Corsica for the two weeks spanning the referendum. Needless to say the Corsicans all supported  the Yes side but they and many other nationalities we met seemed remarkably interested and well informed on the debate.

Contrast this with the ex-Conservative Ukip- voting taxi driver who took me home from the airport – spouting ill-informed  drivel about Latvian murderers, Brussels, aka the EU, telling our courts what to do, and Nigel Farage being the only politician who identifies with the working man – “well he always has a pint and a fag in his hand don’t he”?

My first few minutes back in the UK and I thought, Oh, Scotland, what have you done to remain saddled to this ignorant nation. Matthew Norman’s article restores a little of the  faith that not all Englanders are little.

Tom Simpson


David Cameron appears incapable of talking to, or about, women without demeaning them – even if the woman concerned is almost twice his age and the monarch.

He was caught on camera gossiping laddishly to foreign politicians about domestic matters of state and patronising the Queen. A few days earlier, at the Nato summit, he astonished a beekeeper by asking if a jar of honey would “make me better in bed?”

Is he losing the plot?

Jean Calder



Your paper appears to regard as something of a joke David Cameron’s remark about the Queen “purring” over the phone when he informed her of the outcome of the Scottish referendum vote (report, 24 September). On the contrary, it strikes me as a very serious matter.

This is not the first time that the Prime Minister has been caught speaking out of turn on subjects on which he ought to keep quiet. He has compromised the Queen’s integrity, and in a less lax – or tolerant – age this would probably have been a resigning matter.

I sincerely hope that the Queen gives him a very sharp rebuke at his next meeting with her.

Nick Chadwick


Mr Cameron’s breach of confidentiality about the Queen’s ‘‘purring’’ satisfaction at the Scottish referendum result is as nothing to his revelation in the next breath that  the whole thing was a  charade that nearly got  out of hand.

Sara Clarke



NHS and Labour not fit for purpose

The Labour Party as per usual wants to appeal to those who think the NHS is marvellous, when it clearly is not. No amount of money

will improve it. It’s past its sell-buy date. Over- bloated, too many over- paid employees in many instances, it’s not fit for purpose. Yet Labour thinks by offering a bribe to

the fickle electorate and the ignorant it hopes to win the next election. This would be a disaster for the UK under Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

T Sayer



Artificial trees for greenhouse gases

Some 70 years ago, the world was in crisis. A key solution was technical, and so President Roosevelt gathered together the free world’s greatest scientists and engineers to form the Manhattan Project. Today, the world is in crisis, and a key solution is technical – the development of ‘‘artificial trees’’ to extract greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere.

President Obama’s greatest legacy would be to gather together the free world’s greatest scientists and engineers to work out how this can be done at scale, and for a reasonable cost.

Dennis Sherwood


The lesser of two evils

To quote the last word in Robert Fisk’s article (24 September), I don’t know whether to laugh or cry; to laugh at his visceral anti-Americanism, or to cry at his apparent lack of concern for the victims of Isis. This is a movement which has ridden roughshod over large tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq, establishing a caliphate and, in the process, ruthlessly persecuting those who won’t convert to its brand of Islam.

Sixty thousand Yazidis were driven from their homes and into starvation on Sinjar mountain until rescued by American humanitarian aid. Now we hear that thousands of women have been sold into sex slavery. Space prohibits the listing of the hundreds of other atrocities committed by this evil movement.

There must be concern in Washington, even in obtaining the tacit acceptance of Assad, as the bombing raids spread to Syria, but history is littered with examples of having to choose the lesser of two evils and the reluctant warrior Obama is no George W Bush.

I’m sure Mr Fisk is aware of Isis’s atrocities but he should try and put himself in the position of these helpless, beleaguered victims whose only hope is that the West will rescue them, and understand the joy they must feel hearing the American bombers overhead.

Stuart Russell


Should we airbrush out the druids too?

I was a little surprised that Ben Lynfield seems sympathetic to the idea that Aramean Christians should be denied recognition of their identity.

That their religion and presence pre-dates Islam seems to be lost on him and Arab Knesset member Mohammad Barakeh. I guess he would also suggest that other minority religions should be  airbrushed out of history. Should we do the same for, say, Druids here?

As a small aside you will find Aramaic included in Jewish prayers and it is also the language traditionally used in the Jewish marriage document, known as a Ketubah.

Stewart Cass



We need to learn from our mistakes

It seems that our Government does not learn from history, and often repeats its own mistakes.

Tomorrow, David Cameron is planning on recalling Parliament, and pushing for a vote to authorise Britain’s military involvement in Syria and Iraq. In doing so, it will join the United States, which is already at it.

Many of those militants in the so-called Islamic State were trained by our armed forces last year, to overthrow the Syrian leader Assad. Much of the weaponry in this now- destabilised region was supplied by British and American companies. And if you go back a bit further, those two countries’ forces killed around a million Iraqis following the 2003 illegal invasion.

If we want to avoid any further bloodshed in the Middle East, caused by this country’s military, then we need to demand that this Government votes against another military attack overseas.

Colin Crilly

South London


Indecent assault not school-boy prank

I was surprised at Dave Lee Travis’s conviction apparently for ‘‘fondling’’ somebody’s breasts. My feelings at his actions are that he was behaving in a boorish, unacceptable (to me) manner, but for this to be criminal seems ridiculous. However, this type of behaviour has been treated lightly in the past, although I was always  disgusted by it. It always seemed to be the type of behaviour of someone famous or powerful against a young woman whose complaints would be ignored or brushed off.

A case in point was of Chris Tarrant lifting up the bikini top of Sophie Rhys-Jones – before she was linked to royalty. I was disgusted by his action, which was apparently photographed, but the outrage when this came to light was not about Tarrant’s boorish behaviour, but the fact that someone wanted to publish the photograph.

 To publish the photograph was, of course, offensive, but nobody commented on Tarrant’s offensive action.  I just looked it up on the internet, and this is an excerpt from an article in The Express:

“First, an old photograph – taken before Sophie’s marriage to Edward – had come to light in which the radio presenter Chris Tarrant was seen pulling up her bikini. She was the innocent victim of a schoolboy prank but it hardly helped Sophie’s desire to be taken seriously.”

 “An innocent schoolboy prank.” Need I say more? How times have changed.

John Upright

Pontyclun, Cardiff


Sir, The hook on which our Conservative-led government hung all its subsequent severe cuts to our armed forces — leaving us with the bare rump of a navy with no strike carriers, and an air force with an ever-diminishing inventory of fighting aircraft — was the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. When that review looked at the threats facing this country, did it list the coming threat from Isis, the threat to Crimea, eastern Ukraine and the Baltic states, to Nigeria and Libya? And if not, why not?

Or was that review just a cost-cutting exercise designed to provide a fig leaf to the coming cuts? And when the defence experts foresaw the unexpected as being the greatest threat, did the Treasury tell them that budgeting for the unexpected was a no-go area?
Rear Admiral Conrad Jenkin
West Meon, Hants

Sir, In the discussion about the campaign of air strikes against Isil guerrillas in northern Iraq three key issues have not been fully addressed:

First, Turkey, the one Muslim state that is a member of Nato, must be helped to cope with the massive flow of refugees from Iraq and Syria, not only financially, but if the Turkish government agrees, also, by volunteers with experience in the work of caring for them.

Second, the rules of engagement for forces involved in air strikes should make it clear that civilians must be protected as far as possible. More air strikes against people already terrorised by Isil, such as the Kurds in northern Iraq, will alienate those whose support is crucial.

Third, the US, the UK and France, along with Turkey and Jordan, must raise through diplomatic channels the need for Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to cease support for the jihadis, whether through supplying arms or through madrasses training boys and young men to become recruits.
Shirley Williams

House of Lords, London

Sir, Ed Miliband says Britain should seek UN sanction for air strikes on Isil in Syria. However, if the UN refuses to allow such military action surely this will place the US, which is already carrying out such air strikes, in the position of taking military action in defiance of the UN. Does Mr Miliband really wish us to embarrass our American ally?
Robert Strachan
Edgware, Middlesex

Sir, Without a UN mandate or an explicit invitation from the Syrian government, action against Isis in Syria is illegal under international law. If the government’s view is that due process at the UN is a waste of time, we should “do the right thing” and withdraw our membership. If not, we should demand that the Security Council decides on action. Short of that, we will be falling into the trap that Isis has set for us.
Simon Prentis

Sir, David Cameron now speaks the same rhetoric I heard from Tony Blair prior to our invasion of Iraq in 2003. We were wrong to get involved in America’s crusade then, and we are wrong now. Far from being uniquely evil, the Islamic State is simply one actor in a Sunni uprising. They are not a threat to Britain. They are extreme but rational players who are successful only through the support of a large portion of the local population.
Bilal Patel
London E1

Sir, Can everyone stop referring to Isis and call it EAIS — Enemies against Islamic States — instead? It does not in any way represent any Islamic state.
Ben May
London N1

Sir, Dictators and fundamentalist “religious” leaders all employ hypnotherapeutic principles to get ideas past a person’s critical faculty. If they succeed, then that part of the mind controlling behaviour treats that concept as true: in short, it becomes a belief. It doesn’t matter what the idea is — the reprogrammed mind can happily destroy innocents in the belief of a reward. Isis is clever. It focuses on the mind while we appear to focus on drones, bombs and hardware.
Fraser White
Bunbury, Cheshire

Sir, Is this a good time for the UK to tow our aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean?
Martin Bean
Ryde, Isle of Wight

Sir, Tim Montgomerie’s opinion piece (“Ed wouldn’t say the D-Word. The Tories must”, Sept 25) was excellent. For too long all parties have argued on how “to up the cake” rather than concentrating on how to make it bigger. We all realise that there is a need to improve standards in many sectors, but also people must be encouraged to work harder and take more responsibility for their own needs. We have massive, and growing, imbalances on both the internal account and on our external payments. It might be politically difficult but this is the message that parties need to be honest about, rather than giving easy sound bites.
Roy Harrison
Prestbury, Cheshire

Sir, Tim Montgomerie calls me a “contrarian”. I’m not one.
Peter Hitchens
Derry Street, London W8

Sir, My family business produced large volumes of apples but in 1999 we took out our orchards in order to focus on other crops (“Battle to keep apple crumble British”, Sept 24). The decline in British apple production has several reasons but one trend has been the relationship between family incomes and the cost of food since the war. In 1949 a box of Kentish apples paid for a man’s wages for a whole week; when we removed our orchards 50 years later, the equivalent value did not cover half an hour.

Since we stopped producing apples, a number of growers have been creating a renaissance with new systems and higher yielding varieties, all at their own cost. During this same period, the environment department now headed by Liz Truss has removed funding for research in support of the crop for which she expresses so much enthusiasm. One can only hope that she will match her words with deeds and put British apples back at the top of the tree.
Peter Vinson
Faversham, Kent

Sir, My late father, who loved his Russets and Cox’s English Pippins, considered French Golden Delicious to be a contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act.
Gillian Wilson

Sir, One million British workers are exposed to levels of noise that puts hearing at risk, and noise-induced hearing loss is a serious, permanent and debilitating condition (“Insurers cry ‘foul’ over rising claims of industrial deafness”, Business, Sept 22). This is entirely preventable, and employers who take note of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 should have risk assessments on file.

An ENT specialist can also diagnose whether deafness is likely to have been caused by long-term exposure to loud noise. Industrial deafness is not a grey area in the context of insurance fraud.
Steve Perkins
Chief executive officer, British Occupational Hygiene Society

Sir, I think I can better Matthew Parris’s tale about two left shoes (“I’m a Tory, I simply could not have two left feet”, Sept 28). My father’s friend would walk across fields to catch the 8.30am train in wellington boots. At the station he would change into his well-polished black shoes, handing the boots to the porter for safekeeping. One morning, arriving late, he leapt on to the train and tossed the boots out of the window to the porter. He then sat down and opened his briefcase . . . no shoes!
Neil MacFadyen


Jihadi groups in Syria fear they may be targeted by American air strikes  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 25 Sep 2014


SIR – Proposals for air strikes against Islamist fighters in Iraq and Syria ignore the likely outcome: that bombing campaigns will fail and soldiers will be needed on the ground, and that the inevitable civilian casualties will act as a recruiting tool for extremists.

Here in Britain we have lost control of our borders, significantly reduced our police forces, and are faced with a growing internal threat of home-grown terrorism which is stretching our security services to breaking point. We don’t need another failed military campaign; let’s put our own house in order first.

Ian Hurrell
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – It is now some years since Tony Blair mistakenly joined America in the invasion of Iraq to “free” that country from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have since been killed. We are now honour-bound to help that country with military assistance if need be.

Don Roberts
Prenton, Wirral

Cameron’s royal gaffe

SIR – If David Cameron is guilty of such a breach of protocol as to pass on a private conversation with the Queen, one can only wonder how many other unreported gaffes he makes at international conferences.

Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire

SIR – When David Cameron is kicked out by the Conservatives, I will positively purr.

Robert Hall
Skipton, North Yorkshire

In search of Lee’s Rosie

SIR – I always thought that Mrs Rose Bayliss, a garage owner in Cheltenham, was the original Rosie in Cider with Rosie, rather than Rosalind Buckland, who would, as your obituary said, have been only nine during the period depicted in the book.

Rose Bayliss didn’t actually embrace her would-be fame, and said she thought Laurie Lee was “a bit wet”.

Lynn Davis
Finglesham, Kent

Free range

SIR – Last week we enjoyed a trip to Legoland with our daughter, son-in-law, and two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter.

There I was struck by how many children were in buggies, even children well over four. Apparently it is easier for the parents to have the child contained, as a loose toddler is a liability.

Children are consuming huge amounts of calories and expending very few, contributing to our rising obesity problem. It is important that they run about in order to experience different surfaces, tone their bodies and learn control – as well as the meaning of such words as “no” and “stop”.

Jane Ludlow
Canterbury, Kent

Forbidden fruit

SIR – What those who complained about remarks in The Great British Bake Off fail to realise is that you have to have a dirty mind to recognise smut. To the pure of thought, a pear is a pear and a cherry a cherry.

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

Last laugh for Germans

SIR – In 1959, I went to live in Hanover – a city that had been destroyed by the RAF just 14 years earlier – and I was offered only friendship and kindness by the locals. I share the bewilderment of Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, at the attitude of some of my fellow countrymen to modern Germany.

Who are these people still fighting the Second World War in their minds? Certainly not those who actually fought in the war, many of whom gladly attend reunions as guests of their former enemies.

Nor are they likely to be people who have been to Germany and witnessed first-hand how much our countries have in common.

These monoglot Britons delight in saying that the Germans have no sense of humour, but when Germans visit Britain and observe their cars on our streets and appliances in our homes, they do, indeed, laugh – all the way to the bank.

Peter le Feuvre
Funtington, West Sussex

A private lesson

SIR – The difference in teaching hours between the independent and state sectors (Letters, September 23) is not the point.

Independent-sector teachers can use their skill and initiative within a tried-and-tested curriculum. Those in the state sector spend most of their time under pressure from government requirements, drowning in paperwork and teaching to exams.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, Sussex

Every statement helps?

SIR – Regarding Tesco’s £250 million black hole, its chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent, explained: Things are always unnoticed until they have been noticed. Is this the most unhelpful statement ever made?

Peter Birch
Cuffley, Hertfordshire

Colour-coded children

SIR – Emma Watson spoke this week about gender equality.

Why did Jeremy Silverton (whose family had not had a baby girl for a century) feel the need to repaint the nursery pink for his daughter and not keep it blue? This attitude perpetuates inequality through the generations.

David Bowman
Andover, Hampshire

How best to resolve the problem of devolution

SIR – In the debate over devolution for England, there are three things to consider.

First, given the overwhelming rejection of regional government in the North East in a referendum in 2004, the poor electoral response to the concepts of elected mayors and police commissioners, and the lack of any political demand for devolution in England hitherto, it seems unwise to get over-enthusiastic about the subject.

Secondly, any proposed large-scale constitutional revision would have to be put to the electorate in a referendum.

Thirdly, a new written constitution might well end up abolishing the House of Lords, introducing proportional representation (PR) and giving extra powers to the kind of judges who today rule on human rights.

The easiest thing for Conservatives to do would be to suggest that the Speaker, on the advice of the Commons, should compile a list of topics on which Scottish MPs could not vote. Labour should agree to a minimum list and threaten to introduce PR in general elections if the Conservatives were too radical. In this way, the Prime Minister’s complacency and later panic over Scotland could do the least damage to the constitution.

Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics, London WC2

SIR – I can quite see David Cameron’s difficulties in fulfilling the promises all three parties made regarding devolution.

However, there is only a problem because, while we may have union, we have never had a union of equals. The South and, in particular, the London establishment, have always exercised undue influence over UK policy.

The solution? Transform Westminster into the English parliament, abolish the House of Lords, and build a new UK parliament in the north of England to which the constituent parts of the UK elect representatives to deal with those issues not devolved to the federated countries.

Esther Read
Carnoustie, Angus

Lest we forget: an installation of ceramic poppies surrounds the Tower of London Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 25 Sep 2014


SIR – We visited the Tower of London last week and marvelled at the wonderful ceramic poppy cascade within the moat.

Fired with enthusiasm, we grabbed our wallets in order to make a purchase. How sad to then be told that this could only be achieved online, rather than on-site. We couldn’t even make the online purchase in the information centre at the Tower.

Unlike our brave forebears, we were forced to retreat and, much chastened, we left for home feeling sadly deflated – a lost opportunity.

How many other visitors leave feeling similarly disenchanted and never actually follow up with an online purchase?

What a shame and what a loss to the charities involved.

Nigel Embry
Byfleet, Surrey

Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference in Manchester Photo: Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph

7:00AM BST 25 Sep 2014


SIR – In proposing to reform the House of Lords in his conference speech on Tuesday, the Labour leader Ed Miliband seems to have conveniently overlooked the fact that he, and a majority of Labour MPs, let it be known that they would vote against the timetable being proposed for the House of Lords Reform Bill in July 2012, and thus the Bill was dropped.

As far as his promises on the NHS are concerned, it appears that even Andy Burnham, his shadow health secretary who made a complete hash of the job when in office, had no clue as to where the money would come from to meet such promises.

Bharat Jashanmal
Fairford, Gloucestershire

SIR – I am deeply concerned about the health of the NHS under a future Labour government.

If Ed Miliband imposes a mansion tax to prop up the NHS, many of the people who currently manage to pay for private health insurance out of taxed income will be forced to give this up, adding to the burden on public health services.

Caroline Barr
Much Wenlock, Shropshire

SIR – It is fanciful to suggest that a mansion tax will make a major contribution to funding the NHS. A tax on mansions will cause their value to drop.

The total raised from collection of stamp duty and from this proposed tax will be less as a result.

Mansion owners will be hit three ways. First, they will suffer the drop in value. Secondly, they will bear the tax itself and they must find the money to pay it, probably by selling investments or taking out equity release mortgages at high compound interest rates. And finally, when they die, their estates will yield a lot less in inheritance tax. Far from saving the NHS, this tax would cost the Exchequer dearly.

Mark Homan
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Where exactly does Ed Miliband think that he can find an extra 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 home-care workers and 3,000 midwives?

Ken Culley
Marlborough, Wiltshire

SIR – Was Ed Miliband applying to be our prime minister or just auditioning for his local amateur theatre?

It is revealing that he was more focused on how to say his lines (unscripted) rather than on what to say, resulting in the omissions in his speech of vital issues such as the deficit and the state of the economy.

Richard Searby
London N3

SIR – That Mr Miliband “forgot” to mention the economy is hardly surprising.

After all, he and his colleagues forgot about the economy for the 13 years Labour was in power.

Dominic Regan
Little Coxwell, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – A “democratic revolution”, a “new kind of politics”, whichever populist idiom they used, Fine Gael and Labour promised an end to the kind of stroke politics that blighted Irish politics in the past.

However, the appointment of John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) shows that this Government is mired in the sort of cronyism and “strokes” that have caused so many problems for this country in the past.

Fine Gael Ministers have claimed that Mr McNulty would bring valuable business experience to the board of Imma, yet now he has resigned. So how much experience is he going to bring to the Seanad from that short time?

That explanation simply does not stack up, and quite frankly those Ministers that have trotted out that line have damaged their own credibility.– Is mise,


Lismore Road,

Crumlin, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Desmond FitzGerald (September 25th) takes issue with John McNulty’s candidacy for a Seanad Éireann vacancy.

Mr FitzGerald should understand that the vacancy arises on the Seanad’s “Cultural and Educational Panel”. Mr McNulty is a longstanding volunteer manager of under-age and adult football teams in Kilcar and Donegal.

He thus represents the thousands of people who are the State’s most important cultural leaders and youth educators, week in and week out.

Perhaps Mr FitzGerald thinks that the vacancy arises on the “High Cultural Panel”. The GAA is our nation’s most important socio-cultural movement.

We need more people like John McNulty in our national parliament. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon.

Sir, – I visit galleries and exhibitions; I go to the theatre; I read books; I have attended numerous art classes. Apparently it is also important that I am a woman and live in north Clare. I don’t understand why I haven’t been called to join the board of Imma. But I haven’t run for any political party. That must be it. – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.

Sir, – I’m wondering if John McNulty’s appointment to the Imma board and nomination to the Seanad are actually part of an installation piece.

If so, I applaud Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys for her bold creativity and let’s not forget her patron, Enda Kenny .

It certainly is a challenging piece to understand and unfortunately may be used by those afraid of modern art as an example of a total waste of taxpayers’ money. But I say bravo to all involved. – Yours, etc,


Allin Street,

Culver City,

Los Angeles.

Sir, – Your editorial “Bombing Syria” (September 24th) assumes that the UN doctrine of “responsibility to protect”, or R2P, would entitle the US and its allies to take military action against Islamic State targets in Syria without UN Security Council backing.

The 2005 world summit at which the heads of state approved the terms of R2P, later agreed in UN Security Council resolution 1674, explicitly stated that member states are “prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the charter . . . on a case-by-case basis”.

In international law, R2P sets out a responsibility – to be exercised through the UN Security Council – and not a right. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The Irish Times, for the first time as far as I am aware, raises the question of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) in relation to Syria – “then there’s the UN doctrine of ‘responsibility to protect’, certainly arguable in relation to the genocidal threat to Kurds fleeing IS advances inside Syria near the border town of Kobani”.

However do crimes by the Assad regime not also warrant mention of R2P? Roughly half the population of Syria has already been forced to flee their homes since the Syrian peaceful protests in Spring 2011 were crushed by the regime. Thousands have been killed, imprisoned and brutalised in Syrian “gulags”. Yet the regime, undeterred, continues its daily aerial bombardment, killing scores of civilians, including children.

There is “massive evidence of … war crimes and crimes against humanity” indicating “responsibility at the highest level of government including the head of state”, according to Navi Pillay, former UNHCHR director last December.

In a strongly worded presentation at Dublin’s Institute of Europe on July 11th (the anniversary of Srebrenica), Dr Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, moved by two particular images of Syria – one of the devastation in Homs, the other of a child who had frozen to death – stated that “there could hardly be a more damning indictment of the international community’s abject failure to uphold its responsibility to protect the people of Syria than those two images”.

It is “certainly arguable” that this failure and the failure to adequately support early on the moderate armed opposition forces were significant factors in the rise of Islamic State.

According to Dr Jonaj Schullofer-Wohl of the University of Virginia, “Higher levels of western military and financial support – if provided expeditiously – could have prevented radical Islamist groups from occupying a dominant position within the opposition”.

Your editorial seems more preoccupied, however, with the “somewhat dubious legality” of the anti-IS coalition entering Syria without Assad’s permission rather than the protection of those still left at the mercy of his brutal regime. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – I must confess that I had never heard of rule 68 of the “Rules for National Schools” until it was reported by Joe Humphreys (“Change in ‘archaic’ rule on religious teaching sought”, September 24th) but, now that you mention it, I quite like it. I checked the rule book and number 68 says that the teacher should “constantly inculcate the practice of charity, justice, truth, purity, patience, temperance, obedience to lawful authority, and all the other moral virtues”.

Actually I think I’d like to live in that sort of country. – Yours, etc,


Clarinda Park North,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In recent years it has been widely acknowledged that our public education system fails to respect the basic rights of those citizens, particularly non-Catholics, who may have little choice but to attend denominational schools. This raises questions concerning not only the divestment of schools from denominational control, but also concerning how, in the interim, citizens in this position should be accommodated within the school environment.

For the most part, this is now dealt with on an ad hoc basis by schools themselves. It is in this light that the Minister for Education has proposed to amend the controversial provision of the “Rules for National Schools”, from 1968, which states that a religious spirit should “inform and vivify” the whole work of the school.

Certainly, this acknowledges a fundamental problem in the status quo – that the integration of a denominational ethos across the whole school environment may make it impossible, in practice, for non-coreligionists to exercise their right not to participate in religious exercises. However, the rules are not enforceable legal protections but merely a set of flexible ministerial guidelines. What is needed is legislation – and particularly, amendments to the Education Act and the Equal Status Act – that clearly defines how schools are to accommodate parents’ and children’s constitutional rights. Adjusting the rules seems like impotent gesture politics by comparison.

Moreover, it seems wrong to address issues of fundamental concern through a form of ministerial rule-making that bypasses parliamentary scrutiny and control. Only through comprehensive legislative reform can the State exercise its responsibility as a protector of rights. – Yours, etc,


School of Law,

NUI Galway.

Sir, – It seems that the debate on the housing crisis has slipped back into the usual format – a zero-sum tug-of-war between competing lobby groups and vested interests that prefer writing press releases and issuing grandiose statements to rolling up their sleeves to work out an ambitious yet feasible plan.

Since the approval by An Bord Pleanála of “fast-track planning” for what was referred to as high-rise housing for the Dublin Docklands in May, there has been precious little attention given to the actual low-density schemes from those who claim to want affordable housing for all.

Meanwhile, media outlets concentrate on a queue outside one particular development or on dizzying price rises in the more fashionable locations.

I had hoped that the lamentably low density of the proposed development and the timidity of the plans for Dublin’s dreary skyline might provoke a call to arms by those concerned by unaffordable housing, but not so far.

Ireland is frequently compared unfavourably to the Scandinavian countries by the trendy youth and those on the left, yet the type of medium-density city housing I witnessed a recent visit to Copenhagen inspires neither planners nor housing advocates.

Are the minutiae of housing density, design and provision not sexy enough for the media and lobby groups or do they simply have short attention spans? – Yours, etc,


Griffeen Glen Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – In an interview shortly after being appointed as Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar said an awful lot of money had been taken out of general practice. Yesterday, after the GP protest, he stated that fees had gone up for GPs since this Government came to power. Both of these statements cannot be true at the same time.

The fact is that in 2002 the government paid €282 million for 1,168,745 medical card holders. It now pays €469 million for 1,853,877 medical card holders; and if it adds children under six, it will pay €503 million for 2,253,000 medical cards.

If it had maintained the payments in line with inflation since 2002, the Primary Care Reimbursement Service would now need to pay €700 million per year, an effective cut in resources of €200 million.

I would believe Dr Varadkar if he said that the Government could not afford to do this, which he was invited to do at the rally.

It does him no credit in the face of the crisis actually happening right now to the provision of medical services in Ireland to resort to this type of spin. It would be even worse if he actually believed what he was saying were true. – Yours, etc,





Sir, – I concur with Eamonn McCann with regard to his observations on the Ryder Cup (“US golfer’s bad hair day pushes talk of Irish split down agenda”, Opinion & Analysis). During the last week or so, listening to the radio, I have heard on an almost hourly basis such words as “vision, leadership, strategy, wisdom, mentor, motivation, secret plans, captain”, and so on.

It is bizarre that otherwise rational adults and media organisations devote so much time and seriousness to such an utterly pointless activity. – Yours, etc,


Newtown Road,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Like Neil O’Brien (September 24th), I will be avoiding the Ryder Cup this weekend but, I think, for slightly different reasons. Professional golf is, I believe, unique in one particular respect. It is the only sport in which spectators watch primarily to see the best in the world play a game that many of us play to varying degrees of mediocrity. We want to see how it is done properly. One result of this is that it is possible, even while having one’s favourites, to cheer every example of good play, and hope that, at the end of the day, the best player, no matter who, wins the day. Sportsmanship is exhibited, for the most part, by players and spectators alike.

The Ryder Cup is changing all that. Fuelled by television companies looking to increase revenues, we are now seeing bad shots (by the other team) cheered, opposition players intimidated, and partisan chanting by “barmy army”-type supporters. Players talk about “getting the crowd going” in the hope that this, rather than superior play, will bring victory. If anyone thinks that the sort of behaviour that will be seen by the likes of Ian Poulter over the next few days is improving the image of the game, then I think they should move to another sport.

I will be looking forward to the Solheim Cup which, for the present at least, seems to be maintaining the standards that make golf great. – Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,

Booterstown, Co Dublin.

A chara, – In relation to the views expressed by Neil O’Brien regarding the “pressures of golf” in the Ryder Cup, one would have to agree wholeheartedly. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of column inches and airtime devoted to a sport where millionaires essentially and ponderously club a little ball around a scenic area for four hours.

Give me a hot-blooded hurling match, for instance, where players play with skills, instinct and vitality. In comparison the game of golf appears anaemic, sterile, overanalysed and overindulged. – Is mise,


Sandyford View,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – Having read your Comment & Letters page (September 24th), I remain somewhat confused. Did Malachy Clerkin (“Is there no end to Denis O’Brien’s intervention in Irish sport?”, September 18th) upset James Morrissey, media adviser to Denis O’Brien, or Denis O’Brien, media “advisee” of James Morrissey?

If the latter, then why didn’t he write his own letter? – Yours, etc,


Laurel Court,


Co Cork.

Sir, – I was disappointed to read Darragh Ó Sé’s comments about Kerry’s All-Ireland win last Sunday, and in particular what he said about the nature of winning (“The middle third”, September 24th, 2014).

Having freely admitted that the final “was a terrible game” and that both teams were responsible for that, he then said, “But this is about winning. Get the medal in the drawer and let people sing laments for the game all through the winter”.

I couldn’t disagree more. Of all the counties in the Gaelic football tradition, Kerry have always embraced the philosophy of winning in style, whilst remaining true to the fundamental skills of the game.

This, of course, can’t always be done and I accept that they were short of key players this year and had a relatively modest team on paper. In light of that, their achievement is a magnificent one. However, the tripe served up to us on Sunday does not necessarily bode well for the future of the game and the Ulster-initiated blanket defence system should be rejected out of hand, rather than emulated.

Furthermore, the unwritten commandment of “win at all costs”, so often faithfully followed in professional sports, has no place in our amateur games. With those same games comes a certain tradition. A departure from that tradition is, in my view, a betrayal. – Is mise,


Larchfield Road,

Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Further to Declan Service’s letter on paying €6.85 for a pint of Carlsberg (September 25th), at the risk of stating the obvious, Mr Service should do as I have done for many years and avoid Temple Bar and its rip-off pint prices. The message will eventually be heard. – Yours, etc,


Devenish Road,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – I see from the Irish Water application form that I will not get an allowance for my dog Harry. – Yours, etc,


Cromwellsfort Road,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole writes (“Things that haven’t changed since the crash”, Opinion & Analysis, September 23rd) that we are emerging from a disastrous recession. Are we not emerging from the after-effects of a disastrous boom? – Yours, etc,


Woodbine Road,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Do you think that it might be possible that motorcycle and moped manufacturers might invent a self-cancelling indicator? – Yours, etc ,


St John’s Road,

Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

As a Dubliner who has lived on the continent for many years, I wonder why we don’t stand up against the rising rent prices.

Rents are going through the roof. Housing is unaffordable. For every flat available, there are 20 couples queuing. There is absolutely no humanity in any of this. The Government is asleep. I pay €1,200 rent for a 1-bed, 45-metre-square place – not even in Dublin city but in Co Dublin.

Try raising the rent in France, and see what happens. Within 24 hours, you’ll have 100,000 people protesting on the streets of Paris. Landlords are not even allowed to remove their tenants when they haven’t paid their rent for half a year.

Why does our joke of a Government not protect the middle class and cap the rents? Is it because it has bought half of all the property through NAMA? Why do we just let this happen and suffer in silence? Is it in our blood after 800 years of foreign rule? We must break with our sad past and stand up like dignified citizens.

All I am asking is for us to demand that those who represent us actually represent us. Cap the rents – don’t let us struggle while the rich get richer.

Ciaran O’Brien

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Birds and bees at the Ploughing

In beautiful autumn weather, the 2014 National Ploughing Championships took off at Ratheniska, Co Laois. The great open-air festival, believed to be the biggest in Europe, is attracted massive crowds from north, south, east and west. Past records for numbers were far exceeded on the first day increased as the event went on.

The National Ploughing Championships is where two worlds collide and city dwellers mix with the best of rural Ireland – some realising for the first time the true origin of their bread and butter, cheese, milk, burgers and omelettes.

There is something for all ages and all tastes in the 1,400 exhibits: hobbies, education, religion, sport, media, prize livestock, birds and bees. The huge modern agricultural machinery, dairy technology and the Ploughing Championships themselves naturally dominate the scene. It is where the farmers mix business with pleasure, meet new acquaintances and really enjoy the few days’ break from the homestead.

Eamon Tracey, who was just back from France after being crowned World Champion Ploughman, was the big attraction in the ploughing area.

Sprightly President Michael D Higgins, with his wife Sabina, officially launched the event and said that farming was the cornerstone of Ireland’s society, economy and identity, supporting 300,000 jobs in the agri-food sector. The President also urged that the fruits of agricultural development be shared around and not just divided among the richer and biggest.

The 700-acre site with 1,400 exhibits had a temporary staff of over 400 stewards, judges and managers. Catering outlets were geared up to serve 60,000 teas and coffees and provide 30,000 breakfasts daily, with the necessary carbohydrates from 14 acres of potatoes.

To crown off this day of days, you couldn’t leave without hearing Richie Kavanagh’s latest song, ‘Water Meters’!

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary

Obama: champ or chump?

US President Barack Obama is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.

With the exception of Jordan, none are our friends.

None are countries in the traditional understanding of the term. They are all family-owned businesses.

None of the royals has a modicum of interest in human rights. The royal families live lavishly off the oil wealth they neither discovered nor developed.

These tribal kings have contributed nothing to the world. Now, as Isil is running rampant over Iraq and Syria, they know they are in the cross-hairs of the jihadist terrorists they have so often supported.

We now have the United States of America fighting to save the Islamic kings who have fleeced us for decades.

Is Obama the champ, or the chump, of the Middle East?

Len Bennett

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

It’s all about tactics, not the score

Fred Molloy’s letter (Irish Independent, September 23) in which he laments the “dull” All-Ireland football final, represents an attitude common among the public, but one that I don’t understand.

When people describe a game as “boring” they really mean “low-scoring”. (If you disagree with that, I challenge you to name the last evenly matched high-scoring game that was dull).

Some have suggested handicapping defences by allowing only two hand-passes before kicking, or some similar nonsense.

Why not go further and only allow one-eyed full-backs or mandate that the half-backs be over the age of 45? This would definitely make for high scoring and would liven up every game for the viewing masses.

I would urge Mr Molloy, and those who share his sentiments, to learn to appreciate the defensive art and the tactical battle that is the modern game.

John O’Donnell

Quin, Co Clare

Reverse sexism

Europcar Ireland, the car rental company, is airing a radio advertisement, which has a woman saying, “My mother said you were useless” to her husband.

I think there is mistake in there somewhere, and it is meant to be the man saying this to the woman. Or would that not be acceptable, or even viewed as verbal abuse, which could see him end up in court?

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

I’m a celebrity . . . solicitor

Pray tell, what is a celebrity solicitor? Is it unique to the legal profession, indeed can one get a celebrity plumber, for instance? Maybe some reader will get on the case and have the answer on tap?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont Dublin 9

Isil’s rampage must be stopped

Edward Horgan (Letters, Irish Independent, September 25) criticised Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan for his condemnation of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine on one hand while supporting the US-led air strikes against Islamic State (Isil) in Syria on the other.

Mr Horgan says: “The minister failed to mention that these air strikes contravene international law, because they do not have UN Security Council approval.”

It is difficult to get approval when some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council continually vote against reasonable resolutions. However, even Russia has given tacit support to US air strikes in Syria.

Surely, Mr Horgan knows that Isil is an organisation that operates outside all international laws and human decency and that its rampage through Iraq and Syria is almost universally condemned?

Perhaps he should prioritise his concerns towards the plight of those fleeing in terror from Isil and the humanitarian disaster that is taking place on Turkey’s borders, instead of focusing on what he perceives as breaches of international law.

John Bellew

Dunleer, Co Louth

Irish Independent

Mercedes and Meg

September 25, 2014

25 September 2014 Mercedes and Meg

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Mercedes and perhaps the last we will see of Meg.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – obituary

The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was the devoted chatelaine of Chatsworth and the last of the Mitford sisters

The Duchess at Chatsworth in 2005

The Duchess at Chatsworth in 2005 Photo: REX

3:32PM BST 24 Sep 2014


The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, who has died aged 94, was the youngest and last of the celebrated Mitford sisters, and the chatelaine of Chatsworth, the “Palace of the Peak” in Derbyshire, which from the 1950s onwards she made into both a glorious public spectacle and, really for the first time, a consummately stylish private home.

She was born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford on March 31 1920, the sixth daughter of the eccentric 2nd Lord Redesdale, well-known to readers of Nancy Mitford’s novels as “Uncle Matthew”. “Debo” (as she was always known) was repeatedly assured throughout her childhood by her eldest sister Nancy that “everybody cried when you were born” on account of her being yet another girl.

The Mitford family in 1933 with Debo on bottom right

Debo took refuge in quaintly odd pursuits. Another sister, Jessica (“Decca”) Mitford, described her spending “silent hours in the chicken house learning to do an exact imitation of the look of pained concentration that comes over a hen’s face when it is laying an egg, and each morning she methodically checked over and listed in a notebook the stillbirths reported in the vital statistics columns of The Times”.

As the youngest in a family of seven, Debo was constantly and mercilessly teased, despite the bellowing championship of her father. She was passionately fond of the country and country pursuits, and did not suffer from the brilliant, restless boredom so well-documented by her sisters. None of the girls was sent to school, as their father thought education for girls unnecessary; a succession of governesses was employed, one of whom, Miss Pratt, had her charges playing Racing Demon daily from 9am until lunchtime.

Debo on her way to Ascot in 1938 (TOPHAM PICTUREPOINT)

As a girl Debo was a fine skater, and was invited to join the British junior team; but the idea was vetoed by her mother. As an adolescent she witnessed several scandals surrounding her sisters — Diana’s divorce and remarriage, Jessica’s elopement, Unity’s involvement with Hitler — as well as the disintegration of her parents’ marriage.

She was famous for having chanted as a child, in moments of distress: “One day he’ll come along, the Duke I love.” When she married Lord Andrew Cavendish in 1941, however, he was a mere second son. Debo wrote to her sister, Diana Mosley, then in Holloway prison: “I expect we shall be terrificly [sic] poor but think how nice to have as many dear dogs and things as one likes without anyone to say they must get off the furniture.”

Debo remained surrounded by dogs for the rest of her life. In The House: A Portrait of Chatsworth (1982), the delightful and bestselling book she wrote, in between doing a lot of sums to illustrate that 365 ordinary-sized residences could fit into The House, with its 7,873 panes of glass and 53 lavatories, the Duchess took care to inform the reader: “It’s a terrible place to house-train a puppy.”

The Duke and Duchess on their wedding day in 1941 (RAYMONDS)

In 1944 Andrew’s elder brother was killed in action, and in 1950 the 10th Duke unexpectedly died. The Devonshires were left with 80 per cent death duties which took 17 years to settle. In 1959 they moved to Chatsworth, uninhabited since before the war.

When she had first seen the house after the war she had thought it “sad, dark, cold and dirty. It wasn’t like a house at all, but more like a barracks.” It had not been redecorated for decades, and during the war had been home to a girls’ boarding school.

But Debo embraced her role of chatelaine gaily, as she set about redecorating the house. “Debo has become the sort of English duchess who doesn’t feel the cold,” reported Nancy, disconsolately.

The Duchess was both beautiful and deceptively literate, although exceptionally modest. Lucian Freud painted her when she was 34, and Debo used to delight in the story of how an old woman was heard remarking, as she stood before the painting: “That’s the Dowager Duchess. It was taken the year before she died.” When the painting was completed, Freud allowed the Duke and Duchess to see it at his studio. “Someone else was already there,” she later recalled. “Andrew looked long at the picture until the other man asked, ‘Who is that?’ ‘It’s my wife.’ ‘Well, thank God it’s not mine’.”

She also sat for Annigoni, to whom she found herself apologising for her face: “I know it’s not the sort you like.” The artist replied, not very graciously: “Oh well, it doesn’t matter, it’s not your fault.”

The Duchess kept aloof from her family’s literary and political pursuits. She visited her Fascist sister Diana in prison, and her Communist sister Decca in California, keeping a light touch with both.

After visiting Decca and doing the rounds of her Communist friends, Debo sent Decca a photograph of herself and her husband, dressed in their ducal robes for a coronation, garlanded with orders, chains and jewels, staring stonily ahead. Beneath the photo she wrote: “Andrew and me being active.”

Nancy used to address letters to her sister “Nine, Duchess of Devonshire”, her contention being that Debo never developed beyond the mental age of nine. Certainly the Duchess always maintained that she never read books and that her favourite reading matter was the British goatkeepers’ monthly journal, Fancy Fowl magazine and Beatrix Potter.

The epigraph in her book The House is taken from Hobbes, who was tutor to the 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Devonshire: “Reading is a pernicious habit. It destroys all originality of sentiment.”

The Duchess at Chatsworth in 2003 (CAMERA PRESS)

Chatsworth, however, was always filled with literati, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, a great friend, was determined that Debo was a closet reader, who sneaked books the way alcoholics sneak whisky. As a writer, she was a natural storyteller with a knack for the telling phrase and a delight in human eccentricities.

Certainly The House is a wonderfully rich and beautifully written work. It is organised around a Handbook of Chatsworth written in 1844 in the form of a letter from the “Bachelor Duke” (the 6th) to his sister and is full of very funny accounts of the foibles of earlier dukes and duchesses. Among other stories, it chronicles the war waged against woodworm by the wife of the 9th Duke (the former Lady Evelyn Fitzmaurice). Believing concussion to be the answer, the formidable beldame kept a little hammer in her bag to bang the furniture where they lurked.

The Duchess showed acute commercial flair in raising money for the Chatsworth estate, making a nonsense of her sister Nancy’s generalisation in Noblesse Oblige that aristocrats are no good at making money. She presided over the bread, cake, jam and chutney industries which grew up to feed the farm shop, which was described by the late Hugh Massingberd in The Daily Telegraph as “every greedy child’s idea of what a shop should be”.

Although the house had been open to the public ever since it was built, it was not until 1947 that the revenue from visitors went towards its upkeep. In 1973 the Duchess set up the Farmyard at Chatsworth, “to explain to the children that food is produced by farmers who also look after the land and that the two functions are inextricably mixed”. A little boy from Sheffield watched the milking, then told the Duchess: “It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll never drink milk again.”

Visitors to Chatsworth are able to buy items such as souvenirs, books, porcelain, knitwear, while the Farm Shop sells estate produce. A mail order business was established, along with cafés, restaurants and a commercial catering business.

Chatsworth Carpenters was an especially successful venture. The Duchess, in her gardener’s apron, was for many years a familiar sight at the Chelsea Flower Show, where she was to be seen busily selling furniture fit for a stately home to the owners of small town gardens.

The 11th Duke once observed: “My wife is far more important to Chatsworth than I am.” He added: “She is on the bossy side, of course; but I’ve always liked that in a woman.” She dealt heroically with her husband’s philandering nature and his weakness for alcohol, and the marriage was a happy one.

Despite living in a house overflowing with masterpieces by such artists as Rembrandt, Veronese, Murillo, Poussin and Reynolds, the Duchess always maintained that Beatrix Potter was her favourite artist, and Miss Potter’s enchanted world may indeed be the key to appreciating the genius loci of Chatsworth.

The Duchess with a herd of British Limousin cows on the Chatsworth estate (ANDREW CROWLEY)

The Duchess was an ardent conservationist of vernacular architecture and was president of the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust. She also chaired the Tarmac Construction Group and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Her devotion to making Chatsworth a viable financial concern was well rewarded in 1981 when a charitable trust, capitalised by the sale of certain treasures, was established to preserve The House for posterity.

In 2001 the Duchess published Counting My Chickens… and other home thoughts, a collection of sharply observed musings on Chatsworth, gardening, poultry, dry stone walling, bottled water, the United States, Ireland, the Today programme, the Turner Prize and other topics. On the modern fashion for hiring business consultants, she wryly observed: “He arrives from London, first class on the train… Most probably he has never been this far north, so the geography and the ways of the locals have to be explained, all taking his valuable time. After a suitable pause of a few weeks (he is very busy being consulted) a beautiful book arrives, telling you what you spent the day telling him.”

After her husband’s death in 2004 she published a poignant tribute in Memories of Andrew Devonshire (2007). Other publications included In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor (2008); Home to Roost … and Other Peckings (2009), a collection of occasional writings; and Wait for Me!… Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister (2010). She was also a contributor to The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. Her last book, All in One Basket, which brought together two earlier volumes of occasional writings, was published in 2011.

The Duchess claimed to buy most of her clothes at agricultural shows, adding: “After agricultural shows, Marks & Spencer is the place to go shopping, and then Paris. Nothing in between seems to be much good.”

Her dislikes included magpies; women who want to join men’s clubs; hotel coat-hangers; and drivers who slow down to go over cattle grids. She regretted the passing of brogues, the custom of mourning, telegrams, the 1662 Prayer Book, pinafores for little boys and Elvis Presley (“the greatest entertainer ever to walk on a stage”).

In 2003 she published The Chatsworth Cookery Book, introducing it with the words: “I haven’t cooked since the war.”

Debo Devonshire was appointed DCVO in 1999.

She is survived by her son Stoker, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, and by two daughters.

Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, born March 31 1920, died September 24 2014


Ed Miliband, leader of Britain's opposition Party leader Ed Miliband at Labour’s conference in Manchester. ‘As Ian Martin says: “Labour’s message to the electorate is clear – austerity is the new reality.'” writes Dave Nellist. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

It was heartening to hear Ed Miliband say in his speech that tackling climate change is a passion of his and that solving it could be a massive job-generating opportunity (Report, 24 September). The inevitable question of how to pay for this can be tackled by writing to Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. He is on record as saying that if the government requested it, then the next round of QE could be used to buy assets other than government debt. Miliband said that the Green Investment Bank would be used to fund green economic activity and so Labour should allow it to issue bonds that could then be bought by the Bank using “Green QE”. Similarly, local authorities could issue bonds to build new energy-efficient public homes funded by “Housing QE”.

The Bank has already pumped £375bn of QE into the economy, but with little tangible benefit to the majority. Imagine the galvanising effect on the real economy of every city and town if a £50bn programme of infrastructural QE became the next government’s priority. This could make every building in the UK energy-tight and build enough highly insulated new homes to tackle the housing crisis. It would provide a secure career structure for those involved for the next 10 years and beyond, massive numbers of adequately paid apprenticeships and jobs for the self employed, a market for local small businesses, and reduced energy bills for all. Such a nationwide programme would generate tax revenue to help tackle the deficit, but in an economically and socially constructive way. Best of all it would not be categorised as increased public funding, since QE spending has not and would not be counted as government expenditure.
Colin Hines
Convener, Green New Deal Group

• Ian Martin (I can’t remember a more spineless opposition, 24 September) sums up the feeling of millions of working-class people. Millions are desperate to get rid of the current government, yet at the same time depressed because they don’t believe a Labour government would mark a real change. As Ian says: “Labour’s message to the electorate is clear – austerity is the new reality.”

To get rid of the Tories many, like Ian is clearly considering doing, will vote Labour in the general election next year. Others will abstain from the elections in disgust, or even vote for the rightwing stockbrokers of Ukip to express their anger. One clear result from Scotland is proof that it is not “apathy”, but disillusionment with the diet of pro-big-business, pro-austerity parties on offer, that is responsible for falling election turnouts. But trade unionists and socialists cannot continue to accept a choice between parties whose policies are so similar you can barely get a fag-paper between them. That only leaves the road open to Ukip and its ilk. That is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC – to which Ian refers) was co-founded by the late Bob Crow to begin to build an electoral voice for working-class people.  In May 2014, TUSC fielded 560 local election candidates in nearly 90 towns and cities, in the widest socialist challenge to Labour for 60 years. In May 2015 – for both the general and the local elections – we are going to up our game, aiming to stand even more widely, to ensure austerity is not unchallenged at the ballot box.
Dave Nellist
Chair, TUSC

• Ian Martin highlights the dramatic change that followed the coalition legislating the five-year parliament. By removing the opportunity to force a general election at any time following a government defeat, for example when the government lost the vote on alterations to the “bedroom tax”, this government has removed the incentive for persuasive, adversarial discussion in the house as the government can rely on the “five-year rule” to override the opposition. There is no longer the tense, adversarial atmosphere that used to exist and so we get the impression that the opposition is “spineless”.
David Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

• Ian Martin’s “spineless opposition” has a good deal more to offer to my constituents in a hard-pressed ward in Newcastle’s West End than he allows. From the scrapping of the bedroom tax to rescuing the NHS, new social and council house building to dealing with the problems of the private rented sector, better training and job creation, and above all fairer funding for local council services slashed by the Tory/Lib Dem government, a Labour government will make a huge difference. The author of The Thick of It may not recognise it; the people who live in the thick of it will if Labour wins next May.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords

• Smoking costs the NHS between £2.7bn and £5.2bn a year, and Mr Miliband wants to add a windfall tax to the £9.5bn annual excise revenue to help fund the NHS. Obesity cost the NHS £16bn in 2007, but I hear no calls from him to tax the supermarkets that sell us the processed food that makes us fat, or calls for taxes (or at least reduced subsidies) on the sugar that goes into them. The link between sugar and obesity is now as clear as the link between tobacco and cancer. The time to act on obesity is now, and taxing those who cause us harm would be a popular and sensible policy.
Richard Cooper
Chichester, West Sussex

• Owen Jones (Memo to Miliband: Britain’s social order is bankrupt, 22 September) rightly points out that, since the start of the recession, the richest 1,000 people in the country have doubled their wealth to £519bn, as much as the annual earnings of two-thirds of the British workforce, but it is even worse than that. We now have more billionaires per capita than any other country and London has more billionaires than any other world city. We have more million-earning bankers than the rest of Europe combined. FTSE 100 chief executives are being paid an average of £4.7m a year, almost £13,000 a day, and get 170 times as much as the average worker. And the richest five families in the country have as much wealth as the poorest 20% of the population.

Yet, since the start of the recession, average incomes have fallen by 10% after inflation is taken into account, the number of adults in poverty has risen to 8.7 million and the number of children in poverty has risen to 4.1 million. A third of households are living below the breadline and a million people are forced to use food banks every year. And, according to the OECD, our poorest fifth of households are among the most economically deprived in western Europe and have levels of deprivation which are more on a par with a number of eastern European countries. These attacks on working people and those unable to work must be resisted, and a mass turnout for the “Britain needs a pay rise” demonstration, which the TUC is organising in London on 18 October, is now more important than ever.
Richard Lynch

• I’m a retired Tory party activist but also a long-time reader of the Guardian, a paper that strives for accuracy and intelligently challenges my prejudices. So I’ve little time for Ed Miliband, but John Crace’s offensive and ill-directed mockery of his alleged pronunciation (Sketch, 24 September) leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Miliband speaks an ordinary and clearly pronounced educated English. Crace’s diatribe appears facing a headline “Playground insults from the right”. How apt.
Eugene Byrne

Film still from The Riot Club, loosely based on the Bullingdon boys Film still from The Riot Club, loosely based on the Bullingdon boys. Val Harding writes: ‘We should concentrate on the sexual, physical and emotional abuse perpetrated in private schools.’ Photograph: Nicola Dove

Rather than debating the peripheral issues of elite education such as what you should call a toilet (Too posh to push off, G2, 22 September) we should concentrate on the real issues such as the sexual, physical and emotional abuse perpetrated in private schools, in particular at boarding schools. Recently Alex Renton (Observer, 4 May) highlighted the fact that there are 130 private schools that have been or are now subject to allegations. In the public sector there would be an outcry. In the private sector the truth only comes to light gradually.

Stuart Jeffries is right in saying the posh will always be with us, degrading our lives, unless we abolish private schools. We should try to achieve this sooner rather than later by highlighting what is really degrading and abusive rather than wasting space on how toffs speak.
Val Harding

• It was crass and stupid of Stuart Jeffries to cite Edward St Aubyn’s Melrose novels alongside Made in Chelsea, and to dismiss them as commodities which “reduce us to voyeurs of a pimped-up grotesquerie of toffs behaving badly”. I realise that, like many of your contributors, Jeffries probably does not care about literature, only social justice; so to point out that the novels are wonderful would have little effect. Given the circumstances in which they were written, though, Jeffries’s comment shows the sort of moral fecklessness he likes to find in his class enemies. Might he not want to avoid that?
Benjamin Slingo
St John’s College, Cambridge

• Although I watch neither programme, others have told me that my 11-year-old granddaughter’s definition of posh was spot-on. After a few days at her new secondary school last year, she reported that her new classmates were much posher than those at her prior school. When I asked for an example, her response was: “These girls watch The Great British Bake Off, but in my old school they watched The X Factor.”
Joe Locker

• You write (Toff speak, G2, 22 September) that “hoi polloi” is Greek for “the plebs”. This is incorrect – it is Greek for “the many”.
Jennifer Coates
Emeritus professor of English language and linguistics, University of Roehampton

Woman in doctor's surgery ‘Obstacles to primary care can only exacerbate cancer related inequalities’. Photograph: Burger/Phanie Agency/Rex Features

Late diagnosis may well be due to poor judgment by doctors and late presentation by patients themselves in some cases (Cancer is diagnosed late in almost half of patients, 22 September). However, in all too many parts of our inner cities, the problem is as likely to be getting to see a GP at all.

Our recent survey of GP capacity in Haringey showed shocking results. The borough is 116,000 GP appointments per year short of the NHS England requirement, most of this deficit being in disadvantaged Tottenham, with patients continuing to report extreme difficulty in obtaining an appointment, and GPs under great pressure.

Such obstacles to access to primary care can only exacerbate the inequalities in mortality and morbidity already apparent in the area, many of which are cancer-related.

Prompt access to quality primary care for all must be a first step in tackling these grim statistics on cancer survival rates. And when seeing such headlines, we should always ask which half are most likely to be diagnosed late and why.
Sharon Grant
Chair, Healthwatch Haringey

A woman holds a banner that reads ‘Enough! Now is our turn’ during a protest in 2012 against austerity measures in Portugal. However, ‘in no other European country was there such an overwhelming consensus on austerity,’ writes Pedro Estêvão. Photograph: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty

Taken out of context, João Magueijo’s book is indeed a collection of unpleasant – if not outright offensive – stereotypes about Britain and the British. Resentful comments by Guardian readers are understandable. Yet I think your article (Who said Britons were drunk, dirty and deplorable?, 20 September) misses the point of the book and fails to capture the context of its success in Portugal.

I think Magueijo’s book is not so much a cheap xenophobic picture of the British but rather a satire on ever-present and deeply ingrained self-images of Portugal in Portuguese public discourse. Magueijo himself pointed in the interview to Lord Byron’s disdainful accounts of Portugal in the early years of the 19th century, which are typical of the socio- and ethnocentric travel writing of the time. But I doubt the way in which the Portuguese cultural elites took these images to heart is so typical. The most talented Portuguese writer of the late 19th century, Eça de Queiroz, often referred in his novels to idealised accounts of Britain as either an Oxonian paradise or a futuristic benign utopia, as rhetorical counterpart to a hopelessly decadent Portuguese society. That, say, the mass of the population in British urban centres were mired in squalor at that time was a fact never worth mentioning in his works.

This idealisation of Britain remains a constant trope in Portuguese literature and arts to this day. In fact it is not just Britain that is held at such absurd lofty heights by Portuguese artists. Take the example of João Canijo, an excellent contemporary Portuguese cinema director. In an interview given in 2010, he could be heard deploring the unrepentant “ignorance” of the Portuguese when compared to what happened in France, where, he claimed, even young delinquents were fully knowledgable about the works of Jean Racine.

In time, this discourse seeped into political discourse. Politicians and pundits alike rush to point how the Portuguese should be in awe of the media-darling country of the day – say, Singapore and Ireland, if you are a right-winger campaigning for labour and financial deregulation, Finland if you are a left-winger emphasising the role of education on economic and social development – and how Portugal’s problems would vanish at once if we just had the courage turn the country upside down to copy them.

These types of comparisons are of lesser importance – role-model countries come and go at great pace these days – and not exclusive to Portugal. But they can have far more sinister overtones. And none more so than in the current context of deep economic crisis. Indeed, they paved the way for a very convenient narrative in which recession was not caused by the shockwaves of the bursting of a colossal global financial bubble, but was the result of perennial flaws of the Portuguese national character finally catching up with us. In this framework, the Portuguese were allegedly lazy, risk-averse losers tanning in the sun who were living beyond their means and thus totally dependent on an inefficient welfare state and on the goodwill of honest bankers – and were duly punished by market forces after 2010.

What is more astonishing is how this bordering-on-racist narrative was taken as self-evident and reproduced by the Portuguese media and by the current Portuguese government. This despite every bit of hard data pointing to its falseness. The fact that Portuguese work significantly more hours and for significantly lower wages than the OECD average, and that most of the growth in Portuguese families’ indebtedness in the past 20 years is explained by the acquisition of housing in a deregulated housing market, is overlooked. So too are the tremendous achievements of the Portuguese welfare state in health and, more recently, in education and the fight against poverty, despite having far less resources than most of its European counterparts. Yet I would venture that in no other European country was there such an overwhelming consensus on austerity – and the idealisation of other countries as opposed to the alleged rottenness of Portugal played a key role in legitimising that.

This is why I think Magueijo’s book struck a chord in Portugal. He is simply turning a deep-seated rhetorical trope on its head. What if, for once, instead of the age-old practice of comparing the worst there is in Portugal to the best that can be found abroad, we switched roles? For him, Britain just happened to be the perfect subject for this exercise: a country with which he is familiar and which is revered by Portugal’s political, economic and artistic elites. It is the latter that the joke is on, not on the British.
Pedro Estêvão
Lisbon, Portugal

Agatha Christie ‘In 1982, of 350 plays in UK theatres, only 30 were by women and 25 of those were by Agatha Christie’ (pictured). Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

I read your article (23 August) regarding the gender imbalance in our theatres with a mounting sense of deja vu. In 1982 I was involved in an event called Women Live. Statistics that year showed that, of 350 plays in UK theatres, only 30 were by women and 25 of those were by, you guessed it, Agatha Christie. That year my play Watching Foxes was produced in the studio at the Bristol Old Vic. In 1987 my play Self Portrait was produced in the studio at Theatr Clwyd, and subsequently on the main stage at Derby Playhouse, then later at the Orange Tree Richmond, all directed by the great Annie Castledine. All played to packed houses. Nevertheless Variations, published in Methuen Plays by Women 9 in 1991, has had 10 student productions both in England and abroad, but has never been produced professionally.

My work consistently places women centre stage. My women are proactive: they are not tragic victims, dutiful wives, maids or whores. After 35 years working as a professional playwright, I am still writing. But most of my recent and planned work is now for radio. I am by no means a cynic. Indeed I would consider myself an idealist and an eternal optimist. I wish every success to the Advance Symposium, and passionately hope I may at last see positive change in my lifetime.
Sheila Yeger
Almondsbury, Gloucestershire

Scottish independence referendum The Queen and the Conservatives … a purr-fect match? Photograph: Chris Jackson/PA

The problem with buskers in Bath is not just an abbey problem – amplified music is destroying the ambience of much of the city’s historic centre (Report, 24 September). During a walk earlier in the year we were driven out of the centre by the amplification of what we might well have stopped to listen to, had it not been so loud. Buskers have been around since Roman times, as of course has Bath. In 462BC the Law of the Twelve Tables made it a crime to sing about or make parodies of the government or its officials in public places and the penalty was death. Let’s hope Bath council can sort this matter out in a more civilised way.
Judith Hunt
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

• England 10, Montenegro nil. Aggregate score in qualifiying for the World Cup 52-1 (Scotland face play-off but England finish with 10-0 win, 18 September). If this were the men’s team, this remarkable result would be front-page news in the main paper. But it’s the women, so it’s tucked away in a single column in the middle of the Sport section. So much for the Guardian’s feminist credentials!
Margaret Jacobi

• Ofsted says it does not routinely collect comprehensive data on those flawed inspections and to provide it would be too expensive (Ofsted tight-lipped about ‘flawed’ inspections, 23 September). I wonder if they would accept this kind of excuse from a school?
Ann Burgess

• It has never been made so clear that the followers of Margaret Thatcher cannot distinguish between fact and fiction (In defence of Hilary Mantel and fiction, G2, 23 September).
Fred Cairns

• Some weeks ago I used these pages to advance my thesis that dogs vote Labour, cats vote Conservative (Letters, 4 August).Bafflingly, there were some objections to this. On Tuesday we heard that the Queen purred down the line at Cameron (Report, 24 September). I rest my case.
Jonathan Myerson



Sir, I object to your use of the term “ritual” slaughter when writing about how religious communities dispatch animals for food (report, Sept 23) . There is no “ritual” involved in the act of shechita, the Jewish humane method of slaughtering animals, any more than in the conventional industrialised methods of slaughter.
Henry Grunwald, QC
Chairman of Shechita UK

Sir, Draining blood from an animal without stunning might have been necessary to prevent disease in the past, but modern farming and science highlight how this is unnecessary. I can’t imagine a Creator who would want any animal to suffer.
Justin Richards
Hitchin, Herts

Sir, You are suggesting the deployment of ground troops to drive out the terrorists from the zone of conflict in Iraq and Syria (“Action, At Last”, leading article, Sept 24). However, one must consider the repercussions which are likely to ensue if British Army boots are on Iraqi soil. The root of the problem goes back to the US-UK invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam from power without any structural plan towards postwar stabilisation. This resulted in an inept and weak government unable to bridge the chasm between sectarian factions.

As a direct consequence, we witnessed the emergence of indigenous terrorism in this country. It is counterfactual to argue but the present problem with Isis could have been averted if the US had taken direct action when President Assad’s armed forces were committing genocide of their own people.

Instead of direct military intervention, the West should assist and encourage the Arab nations to take concerted military action against Isis for the sake of their own security.
Sam Banik

London N10

Sir, On April 27, 1916, Gertrude Bell — the great British Arabist still held in affection by many Arabs — summed up the chaotic results of contemporary British Middle Eastern policy thus: “Muddle through! Why yes so we do — wading through blood and tears that need never have been shed.” Very little has changed in 100 years. When the vote is taken in Westminster, I hope and pray that our MPs will not “muddle through” into the lobbies, but will consider the alternative of not making war, not joining in and continuing to seek for reconciliation — which is after all our only enduring objective.
Mark Dunn
Wildham Stoughton, W Sussex

Sir, Is it not droll that Tony Blair, the Middle Eastern peace envoy, having made no positive contribution to anything, now wants British troops on the ground in Iraq again? What a crazy state of affairs. Will he send his children?
Frank Elliott
Johnston, Pembrokeshire

Sir, Rather than protecting British citizens abroad from jihadists, the MoD plans (“Britain may deploy armed drones to Iraq”, Sept 24) will undoubtedly have the opposite effect, as well as increasing the threat of terrorism here in the UK. Kurt Volker, former US permanent representative to Nato, argues that drone strikes “allow our opponents to cast us as a distant, high-tech, amoral purveyor of death”.
Chris Cole
Drone Wars UK, Oxford

Sir, I have some reservations about Israel’s policy towards Gaza. But, given that the so-called Islamic State has not (yet) attacked the UK, our government’s willingness to join in bombing raids in Syria and Iraq does illustrate its two-faced attitude in respect of its criticism of Israel’s defence against rockets from Hamas terrorists.
Ivor Davies
London N12

Sir, Mr Cameron may like to consider that Isis is more of a threat to the UK from its presence within the UK than its presence in Syria and Iraq. However, this reality might not appeal to his hubris.
Brian Edmonds
Farnham, Surrey

Sir, You report (“Real tweet might be vital clue”, Sept 24) that analysts are using background sounds from an Isis video to work out where it might have been filmed. Have we
forgotten the lessons of the Second World War on the importance of secrecy?
Thomas Morris
London N1

Sir, We would be better off attacking those Arab countries that supply Isis with arms. Then we should go after those countries stupidly supplying these Arab countries passing weaponry to Isis, namely Britain and the US. I believe this is known as reductio ad absurdum.
David Lee
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey

Sir, I write regarding your leader on Anglo/German cultural traditions (“Grand Alliance”, Sept 23). Germany has been a colossus as a purveyor of classical music. As a member of the London Symphony Chorus, I joined the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Proms. We were placed so as to have a member of the German chorus on each side as we sang the words of brotherhood and hope for the future.

Yes, it is time to repay the compliment to German culture.
Ian Fletcher
London EC2

Sir, The Germans have to be given credit for creating the Beatles’ look, and for giving Kraftwerk to the world. I am, however, struggling to forgive them for 99 Red Balloons.
Neale James Potts
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs

Sir, We have lived in our London “mansion” (a modest suburban terraced house) for 35 years and we are a Labour tax target simply because of house price inflation (“Labour will levy £2m mansion tax to fund NHS”, Sept 23). What may drive us out of the family home is cheap Labour politics of envy. Our alternative could involve buying half a dozen small buy-to-lets outside the southeast. So, an expensive, larger but less socially valid house comes on to the market and six houses needed for first-time buyers are taken off it. How can this be good policy?
Andrew Botterill
London NW11

Sir, The alternative to a mansion tax is to increase the number of council tax bands, which would be much less emotive. Where I live, the top band starts with houses of £1.2 million yet owners of genuine mansions valued at up to £10 million pay the same as those in £1.2 million houses. Changing tax bands would be regarded as fairer than both the existing system or an abitrary new mansion tax.
Peter Butlin
Weybridge, Surrey

Sir, As a lower-rate income tax payer and an octogenarian house-owner, I am concerned as to how I shall pay the mansion tax on our house, which we bought 40 years ago for £70,500.
Susan Morgan
London W6

Sir, “Gordon Brown raised national insurance by 1 per cent in 2002” (front page report, Sept 23). He raised it from 10 per cent to 11 per cent. That was a 10 per cent increase and nobody noticed; very clever.
Rodney Preece
East Meon, Hants

Sir, Political short-termism used to be an acceptable expedient but in the hands of people whose only horizon is the next day’s headlines it is plain, destructive stupidity.
Richard Bellman
Sutton Scotney, Hants

Sir, Mansion tax? The more urgent policy is to build more homes.
Stuart Law
CEO, Assetz, Stockport, Cheshire​

Sir, Jan Zajac (letters, Sept 23) reminds us of Bob Dylan’s wit. At
a press conference at London’s South Bank to announce the film Hearts Of Fire (1987), an earnest journalist inquired whether Dylan might be bored by filming on location, Dylan looked down on the journalist and after brief consideration, mumbled: “I don’t know, will you be there?”
John Millar
Perceton, Ayrshire

Sir, I am reminded of the great US singer-songwriter, Don McLean. When questioned about his 1971 hit, “just what does American Pie mean?” McLean replied: “It means I never have to work again.” Fortunately for many of us, he continued to do so.
Graham Tritt
Ware, Herts

Sir, I write regarding your leader on Anglo/German cultural traditions (“Grand Alliance”, Sept 23). Germany has been a colossus as a purveyor of classical music. As a member of the London Symphony Chorus, I joined the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Chorus in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Proms. We were placed so as to have a member of the German chorus on each side as we sang the words of brotherhood and hope for the future.

Yes, it is time to repay the compliment to German culture.
Ian Fletcher
London EC2

Sir, The Germans have to be given credit for creating the Beatles’ look, and for giving Kraftwerk to the world. I am, however, struggling to forgive them for 99 Red Balloons.
Neale James Potts
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs


Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 24 Sep 2014


SIR – Figures reported by researchers from University College London show that almost half of children are not ready for school at the age of five. This raises many questions about what is happening during those early years.

A study I carried out in 2005 with the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology indicated that 48 per cent of children in the sample were not ready for school in terms of physical development and there was a correlation between motor skills and educational performance.

We must improve our understanding and assessment of how the child’s physical development is nurtured within the context of early interaction with the environment and social engagement. There must also be improved communication between the domains of medicine and education.

Sally Goddard Blythe

SIR – As a police sergeant in Croydon, Surrey, I worked closely with many head teachers. One excellent head of a well-run school once explained to me that his school didn’t receive the recognition it deserved through SAT results because its first priority was to bring pupils up to the level of education expected for their age; many had little or no knowledge of literacy or numeracy and most were unable to identify colours.

Most alarming was the lack of social skills and inability to interact harmoniously with fellow pupils or accept direction from teachers. Time was spent addressing these issues before tackling the curriculum.

I do not believe it was coincidence that many of these pupils came to my attention in later years following their involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

The fight against Isil

SIR – It beggars belief that Tony Blair is advising we send troops to Iraq. The Isil problem needs to be resolved by Muslim countries, perhaps with air support and logistical assistance.

Sending troops in would simply open a new can of worms, and we haven’t yet closed the ones Blair himself left open.

Alan Kibblewhite
Blandford Forum, Dorset

SIR – The prospect of yet another bombing campaign shows how out of touch our leaders are. Economic sanctions against Isil will have far more effect, but East and West need to speak with one voice.

David Ross
Tiverton, Devon

They were the Few

SIR – It is perhaps a pity that Miranda Prynne, writing of the Few, failed to mention specifically the role played by the New Zealanders, Poles and Czechoslovaks.

The Battle of Britain’s highest scorer was the Czech Josef Frantisek. He flew in the battle’s top scoring unit, the Polish 303 Squadron. New Zealanders provided the highest number of pilots from Britain’s Dominions.

In numbers of non-British airmen in the battle they were only exceeded by the Poles.

Michael Olizar
London SW15

Footballers’ school days

SIR – Although Lord Grade (Letters, September 19) may be right about the lack of public school boys at Chelsea, Manchester United and Everton, Frank Lampard (ex-Chelsea, now Manchester City) did go to Brentwood School.

The apocryphal tale goes that when told by the headmaster that he had been offered a place at Cambridge, the young Lampard declined, saying he had already been offered a place at West Ham.

Stephen Beaumont
Leiston, Suffolk

The bottom line

SIR – Those who buy “white boys’ shirts” (Letters, September 22) might like to know that once upon a time Marks & Spencer sold “casual bottoms”.

I think they were referring to trousers.

Mel Smith
Tamworth, Staffordshire

GPs’ use of antibiotics

SIR – It is sad to see the popular myth that antibiotics are used as a way of ending a consultation being repeated. Over many years as a local prescribing adviser I never found substantive evidence for this.

It is, however, important to consider an individual doctor’s attitude towards taking risks in diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, when a patient presents with the early stages of a respiratory disease, there is no way of predicting from the history and examination alone whether it is likely to become serious.

The NHS needs to prioritise the development of simple tests that could be carried out in a GP surgery and give a swift indication as to whether an infection is likely to require antibiotics. This would solve the problem far more effectively than naming and shaming frequent prescribers.

Dr Robert Walker
Workington, Cumbria

Window into France

SIR – For a taster of the glorious stained glass windows in the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, you need go no further than South Kensington.

The Medieval and Renaissance galleries of the Victoria & Albert museum have one of the original windows on display there.

Mary Moore
Croydon, Surrey

Reading rekindled

SIR – Clive Pilley (Letters, September 22) is fortunate to be able to read a paperback bought by his father in 1959.

Thanks to my Kindle and its ability to change the font size I too am able to continue reading.

Lesley Scott
Swindon, Wiltshire

Saving your bacon

SIR – Alan Self need not worry about the expiry date of his bacon (Letters, September 22). After opening I press the top of the packet back down to keep out most of the air, and then put the packet in a suitably shaped plastic container.

It keeps for two weeks this way.

Margaret Bentley

SIR – No, Mr Self, don’t give up eating bacon: give up reading bacon packets.

G P Diss
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled: a dog enjoys a misty autumn walk in Exeter Photo: Benjamin Rutherford / Alamy

6:58AM BST 24 Sep 2014


SIR – On Sunday the Met Office told us to get out the spare blankets and prepare to wrap up warm as temperatures would be dropping below freezing in the coming week.

The next day headlines reported that the warm weather was to last beyond mid-October, with no sign of a cool-down.

What am I supposed to believe – or should I just look out of the window and check for frost or sun?

Jean Birch
Rayleigh, Essex

SIR – Has anyone noticed the rampant spread of bracken along hedgerows, killing off blackberry, hawthorn and sloe bushes – valuable autumn food for birds?

Beth Wilson
Wirksworth, Derbyshire

SIR – Soon, with winter coming, I won’t have music imposed on me from neighbours’ gardens. Peace at last.

Carol Thompson
Shepperton, Middlesex

Devolution: does England need its own parliament? Photo: ALAMY

7:00AM BST 24 Sep 2014


SIR – The precipitate drive towards regional devolution will revive the opportunities for extreme political groups to hijack the democratic process to serve their own ends. Derek Hatton’s Liverpool in the Eighties exemplified such dangers.

What is more, once regions are given greater power over finance we will see another layer of expensive bureaucracy established to burden the taxpayer. Does anyone imagine that central government will reduce its expenditure to compensate?

Bob Dennell
Banstead, Surrey

SIR – Next year sees the 750th anniversary of the de Montfort Parliament, the first gathering in England that can be truly called a parliament.

That year would therefore seem to be an auspicious one for the inauguration of a “New English Parliament”.

As Simon de Montfort is linked with Leicester, a site in the Midlands would seem appropriate for this parliament. It might also provide an added argument in favour of HS2.

Richard R Long

SIR – The Prime Minister’s appointment of William Hague to mastermind English devolution is just about the last straw for many Conservatives who are fed up with David Cameron’s inability to deliver on his constitutional obligations.

Mr Hague made a hash of the Foreign Office, despite being highly intelligent and a superb orator. Anyone who has studied Mr Hague’s political career knows that no progress on constitutional reform will be made under his supervision.

Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Over the past 35 years, Scots have been given three referendums to approve changes to the British constitution.

Yet it seems that the English are to be told what changes will be made to address the West Lothian Question with no referendum at all.

John L D Booth
Letchworth, Hertfordshire

SIR – There would be little need for more devolution of powers, regional governments and so on if our MPs spent more time paying attention to their constituents and less time playing politics in their Westminster retreat.

Simon Aston
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – If the political parties are serious about constitutional reform, they need to prioritise.

An argument put forward against MPs being excluded from some votes in the Commons was that the division lobbies could not cope. First priority would therefore be to build a modern chamber with electronic voting. MPs’ voting buttons could be disabled when they were not allowed to vote on (say) a Scottish or Welsh matter.

The existing Houses of Parliament could then be saved from subsidence and given over to tourism and offices for MPs.

Simon Meares
Forest Row, East Sussex

SIR – As your fashion correspondent points out (September 20), Vivienne Westwood has had a great deal of success with her fashion line “Anglomania”.

Since she has now declared that she hates the English, can we look forward to the imminent launch of her new line “Anglophobia”?

Helen George
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Having won more medals than most countries at the 2012 Olympic Games, and now restored to its rightful place as county cricket champions, for one region of the UK, devolution’s time has surely come.

Home rule for Yorkshire!

Mike Davison
Holywell, Huntingdonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Let me see if I understand this correctly.

Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune wins a seat in the European Parliament and according to what is considered normal in the la- la land of Irish politics, her seat “must” be filled by someone from Fine Gael, and for whatever reason Fine Gael has decided that person will be John McNulty. The vacancy he is filling is on the cultural panel, and to qualify Mr McNulty must be a part of the cultural panel quangohood so he can be “elected” by his peers, and to allow him to join the quangohood it just so happens by a happy stroke of luck there’s a vacancy on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma).

What are the chances?

Then Minister for the Arts Heather Humphreys has the brass neck to say that none of it had anything to do with her.

The new Minister immediately reverts to the typical blanket defence of her department (so much for change) and justifies her actions by claiming she had no involvement in picking the Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad, which may be true. But she is the Minister who signed off on the appointment of a Fine Gael Seanad candidate to a vacancy at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, which in turns allows that Fine Gael candidate to be “elected” to the Seanad.

It is beyond contemptible to try to argue that it was a coincidence that the department chose to offer the appointment to Mr McNulty, who didn’t even apply for it, and that there was no interference from Fine Gael in the appointment process.

If there was ever any doubt about whether Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fáil, Ms Humphreys has removed all doubt. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – A selectively elected and somewhat personally appointed body, the Seanad, objects to the selective appointment of an individual to the board of Imma. Now that’s “art”. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – You report (“Minister looks at religion rule in schools”, September 24th) that a Government advisory group recommended in 2012 that rule 68 regarding religious teaching in national schools should be deleted “as soon as possible”. I read that Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, some two years later, has asked her officials “to consider how best to progress the particular recommendation relating to rule 68 in the context of the ongoing implementation of the forum report recommendations” – a dead cert for a “Yes Minister” gong, I’d wager! Could Ms O’Sullivan or Ruairí Quinn, her predecessor, not find that elusive “delete” key? – Yours, etc,


Front Street East,

Toronto, Ontario.

Sir, – Regarding the role of religion in Irish schools, I am delighted to see that the Minister for Education is considering amending the archaic rule 68, which grants religion a primary role in Irish education. Even better would be to remove the rule entirely. In a pluralistic, democratic society, the law should protect all citizens from the “tyranny of the majority”. There is no justification for any one religion to dominate the public school system and permeate the entire curriculum, especially when so few options are available to parents of different religions or no religion.

If parents want their child to receive instruction in their particular religion, this can be carried out at home or in Sunday schools or other forums outside of the public education system, as in other countries. This simple solution does not discriminate against anyone or infringe on anyone’s rights to religious belief – on the contrary, it offers protection to all religions, and to non-believers, by not promoting any one. Public schools should be places of education, not indoctrination. – Yours, etc,


Elner Court,

Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Let us invent the game of Centenary Monopoly. Go straight to 2017, don’t pass GPO, and don’t collect misty-eyed accounts of exalted rebellion. John Bruton can roll the first dice. – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Tim O’Halloran (September 24th) refers twice to “Sinn Féin’s defeat of conscription” and describes it as “perhaps that party’s greatest gift to the people of Ireland”. Does Mr O’Halloran have any evidence for his contention that it was Sinn Féin alone that prevented the introduction of conscription? He ignores the fact that the Irish Party and Mr Redmond opposed conscription in Ireland throughout the war and were instrumental in defeating each attempt to introduce it through legislation at Westminster.

In November 1915, when it first arose as a serious prospect, John Redmond wrote to Herbert Asquith, the British prime minister, to say that “the enforcement of conscription in Ireland is an impossibility . . . [and] if a Conscription Bill be introduced, the Irish Party will be forced to oppose it as vigorously as possible at every stage”.

John Dillon, his deputy leader, on the floor of the House of Commons went so far as to describe compulsory military service as “Prussianism” and the selling out of the very principles of democratic freedom which Britain was fighting the war to protect. Through their parliamentary efforts in December of that year they secured a personal pledge from Asquith that conscription would not be extended to Ireland.

Throughout 1916 Edward Carson, an ardent supporter of Irish conscription, gained increasing influence over a divided British cabinet, threatening to put the issue back on the agenda. This prompted further manoeuvring by Redmond, culminating in a motion of censure against the government which he proposed in October. His Commons speech on the motion included a sustained and detailed attack on the conduct of the War Office and was credited with once again forestalling any attempt to extend conscription. And again in May 1917, the new prime minster David Lloyd George baulked at attempting to force conscription on Ireland because he feared defeat in the Commons at the hands of a combination of the Irish Party, the Conservatives, Labour, and many in his own Liberal party.

As the latter incident shows, Redmond’s parliamentary successes on this issue were made possible by the Irish Party’s assiduous courting of Liberal and Labour support throughout England over the previous decade in the name of home rule, which gave them leverage over the government which extended far beyond their own ranks.

So I suppose the question is, who is more likely to have prevented the introduction of conscription in Ireland? Was it the Irish Party, which had 73 MPs at Westminster, the ear of the British government, and a network of supportive English and Scottish MPs from other parties when the issue arose in the House of Commons? Or was it Sinn Féin, which throughout this period was a small isolationist party with no elected representation?

While Sinn Féin was very successful at fomenting public opposition to conscription at home in Ireland, it is fanciful in the extreme to suggest that this had anything but a residual impact on those in London who were attempting to introduce the policy.

As if denying all of this wasn’t enough, Mr O’Halloran seems to go further by implying that Redmond’s support for voluntary recruitment meant that, by extension, he actually supported conscription. In fact, as all of the available evidence shows, he saw continued voluntary recruitment in Ireland as a vital means of staving off conscription, since the dramatic fall-off in volunteers from late 1915 onwards was being used by Carson and others as a justification for its introduction. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – I continue to be amazed at the President’s forays into policy matters. He recently made reference to debates that took place in Dáil Éireann on the subject of Nama and housing while he was a TD. Now he is taking sideswipes at “those who advocate acquiescent fortitude” as we take the “road to recovery” and goes on to to meddle in pre-budget submissions (“Irish society should draw up ‘new ethical principles’, says President”, September 22nd).

I am inclined to think that he is making a veiled (or maybe not so veiled) reference to the Government of the day and this is surely beyond his remit. Our media outlets appear reluctant to make any criticism of him, and we should surely know what happens when we put any person or institution on a pedestal. – Yours, etc,




Co Tipperary.

Sir, – The attention given by The Irish Times to the shocking state of provision of speech and language therapy in recent days is welcome (“Child speech therapy services ‘a lottery’, says report”, September 22nd).

However, the problem is, unfortunately, the tip of a very large iceberg. My GP recently told me that there is no psychologist in our area to assess children with learning or behavioural difficulties. Not a long waiting list, not pressure on resources, simply no-one in post. Many parents will make huge sacrifices to pay for the assessment and treatment their children need.

But many other parents will not be able to access the large amounts of money that such assessments cost – mostly low-income families, thus putting at-risk children potentially at further lifetime risk.

There is a clear correlation between undiagnosed (and therefore untreated) learning disabilities and poor mental health, with all that implies for individuals, families and society at large.

It really is time that we took action and pledged to ensure that all children get the supports that they need. – Yours, etc,


Caragh Road,

Dublin 7.

A chara, – Further to Eamonn McCann’s column “Sinn Féin version of Troubles should not go unchallenged” (Opinion & Analysis, September 18th), in my interview with the BBC I said that the IRA, like many before them in Ireland and internationally who sought to bring about political change, broke the law. That is self-evident.

Mr McCann bases his entire column on his false claim that I had in fact stated the opposite, ie that the IRA had been “law abiding”.

In the BBC interview I also pointed out that what is important now is that we are living in different times, not least because of the political changes that republicans were central to bringing about. These include a new policing and justice dispensation in the North.

Finally, I stand over my remarks that republicans across this island, including the hundreds of thousands of citizens who vote for Sinn Féin are, and have always been, law-abiding people. – Is mise,


Teach Laighean,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Sir, – The letter by representatives of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners’ Association (September 24th) asks us to “take, for example, last St Patrick’s Day, when a slab of beer – 24 cans – was available for €24” in a supermarket.

Just as we’ve started to discuss the national addiction in a mature way, vested interest groups (whose usual mantra is “please consume alcohol responsibly” or some variation on same) ask readers to take the example of a slab of 24 cans of beer on St Patrick’s Day for the purposes of their argument.

The popularity of boozing in the local pub seems to be on the decline, but there are plenty of opportunities for Irish pubs that move with the times. If pubs cannot compete with the supermarkets on the price of alcohol, then maybe it’s time they considered doing what other businesses do and diversify.

Irish pubs have an abundance of wonderful ingredients and food products on their doorsteps. Decent pub lunches or dinners are not products a supermarket offers.

Many pubs that offer these are thriving, while providing jobs, making Ireland more attractive to tourists and changing our focus when it comes to socialising for the better in the process.

Let’s not take St Patrick’s Day and a slab of 24 cans of beer as an example. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The Rev Patrick G Burke (September 23rd), commenting on Donald Clarke’s article (September 20th) on the place of science in general culture, asked whether The Irish Times had made “a sly nod towards the notion that for some science has taken the place of faith?” His doubt was prompted by the Clarke article being published under the heading “Religion and Belief”.

Science has been taking the place of faith for many people for thousands of years from Cicero to Galileo, Kant, Darwin and Einstein. Science is now for many people the best source of reliable knowledge about the natural world. This knowledge about our beautiful world and cosmos, however puzzling and incomplete, provides them with a more secure basis for understanding life in this world, the only life we know, than the “myths and dogmas of traditional religions”. Science, especially after Darwin, has been one of the main sources of confidence and inspiration for humanists, who believe that we have derived good ethical principles “guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience” without any reliance on supernatural advice.

About 100,000 people will attend weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies led by humanist celebrants in 2014. A humanist participated in the inauguration ceremony of President Michael D Higgins, at his invitation. In a few years more weddings will be celebrated outside than inside a church, synagogue or mosque. More than a quarter of a million people reported that they were agnostic, atheist or had no religion in the 2011 census, a fourfold increase on 1991.

Rev Burke and some of your readers might like to find out more about humanism by attending the 21st anniversary conference of the Humanist Association of Ireland in Galway from October 11th to 12th. – Yours, etc,


Honorary President,

Humanist Association

of Ireland,

Grove Lawn,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Further to Padraig S Doyle’s letter (September 24th), while Vincent de Paul himself may not have handled the logistics of the UCD conference that President Michael D Higgins used to launch a new phase in his ethics initiative aimed at civic society, I would be loath to scoff at the notion that the saint’s spirit of compassion might not have contributed to the event.

The President’s address emphasised the legacy of the man in the quiet work of the St Vincent de Paul Society, of which Mr Higgins said, “Day after day, you seek out the forgotten; you listen to the voices of the voiceless; you support those who have to cope with unemployment, indebtedness, a relationship breakdown, a disability, or loneliness, and sometimes several of these plights at once”.

Whatever about our deserved scepticism about institutional religion and even the notion of an afterlife, this is one “spirit” that we should all want to keep alive. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,

Baldoyle, Dublin 13.

Sir, – I hope this is just one of many letters you receive congratulating Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow on their outstanding research and its recent recognition (“Irish students win global science competition”, September 23rd). They have offered a magnificent example of humanitarian-inspired research at its best and one that many researchers, in a variety of fields, can aspire to follow. – Yours, etc,


Copeland Avenue,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – I note with astonishment that An Taisce’s policy director (September 23rd) seems unaware of the difference between the fats found in a pizza and the healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats found in oily fish such as farmed salmon. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland clearly recommends that people eat at least one portion of such fish per week. – Yours, etc,


Director of Aquaculture


Bord Iascaigh Mhara,

Crofton Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I recently paid €6.85 for a pint of Carlsberg in Temple Bar on a Monday evening at 7pm. Now that’s a warm welcome to Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Foxrock Wood,

Dublin 18.

Irish Independent:

I have to say that Donegal’s minor and senior football teams deserve the utmost respect for the performance in Pairc an Crocaigh on Sunday last.

Sometimes things do not go according to plan and it’s not anyone’s fault, it doesn’t matter how much time is spent on the drawing board, and for us, Sunday was one of those unfortunate days when the target seemed to be a little further away than normal. Playing Kerry was never going to be a walk in the park, and fair dues to them, they’ve collected the title 37 times since 1903.

To get to Croke Park in the first place is an achievement not to be sniffed at. For anyone who complains about how our players performed or underperformed, one has to remember that there are 30 other counties that would have loved to have had the opportunity to play in an All Ireland final, some will in the future while others may only ever get to dream about it.

Thanks to all the players for taking us on a great journey – the flags and posters lifted everyone’s spirits for months.

Go raibh mile maith ag na lads alig ar an dha foireann.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall

Media played its part in the crash

In her letter Mary Sullivan (Irish Independent, September 24)highlights the importance of media in a democracy. What she says reminds us all that media is more than just another vested interest. The power of media in opinion forming and holding the great and the good to account cannot be overstated.

She refers to the Watergate case in the US, the 40th anniversary of which happened recently, which caused a president to resign. She also points out that here in Ireland the media exposed wrongdoings by church and State and is “an important watchdog in protecting our democracy”.

What Ms Sullivan does not mention, however, is that media, like all human institutions, has its own failings. One of the reasons this country became bankrupt is that the members of governments, bank boards, etc were not sufficiently held to account by the Irish media during the boom.

At the moment, far too much of media coverage of current affairs is little more than gossip and personalised abuse, missing the main issues. As a result, it is repeating the mistakes of the boom period, when the single biggest calamity to hit this country – the bankrupting of the State – came on with little or no media warning.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13


Welcome to quangohood

Let me see if I understand this correctly?

Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune wins a seat in the European Parliament and according to what is considered normal in the la la land of Irish politics, her Seanad seat ‘must’ be filled by someone from Fine Gael, and for whatever reason Fine Gael has decided that person will be Mr John McNulty.

The vacancy he is filling is on the Cultural Panel, and to qualify Mr McNulty must be a part of the Cultural Panel so he can be ‘elected’ by his peers. And, to allow him to join the quangohood, it just so happens by a happy stroke of luck there’s a vacancy on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

What are the chances? The new Arts Minister, Heather Humphreys, immediately used the typical blanket defence of her department (so much for change) and justified her actions by claiming she had no involvement in picking the Fine Gael candidate for the Seanad, which may be true. But she is the minister who signed off on the appointment of a Fine Gael Seanad candidate to a vacancy at the IMMA, that in turn assists that Fine Gael candidate’s ‘election’ to the Seanad.

Someone in Fine Gael put Mr McNulty’s name forward for the IMMA appointment. It is a tall order to try and argue that it was a coincidence that the department chose to offer the appointment to Mr McNulty, who didn’t even apply for it, and that there was no interference from Fine Gael in the appointment process. If there was ever any doubt about whether Fine Gael is the new Fianna Fail, Ms Humphreys has removed all doubt.

Desmond FitzGerald, Commercial Road, London E14, UK

Of course we sell newspapers

When my late uncle opened an early version of a supermarket on a new housing estate in Drogheda in the mid-1950s, he lost out to the shop next door in the winning of the sole licence to sell newspapers in that catchment area.

Arising from this serious competitive disadvantage, I, as a lad, had the daily task of flying down on my bike to the different newsagents (Schwer’s, Madame Le Worthy’s, Bateson’s, et al) in the centre of the town and buying up evening papers in ones, twos or sometimes threes to minimise suspicious looks. Then, with my booty tied firmly to my bike’s carrier, I hightailed it back to my uncle’s and stuffed each copy into the display board at the entrance to his premises.

Of course Mr Grogan sold newspapers!

Oliver McGrane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Dinner at 11am

David McWilliams rightly recognises the substantial contribution agriculture makes to the Irish economy (Irish Independent September 24). However his implied reference to farmers being “people who have their dinner in the middle of the day” is clearly from the mouth of a white-collar man.

With all respect Mr McWilliams, it may be the middle of your day. Indeed, I know many a farmer who would be aghast if dinner were any later than 11am, given the productivity achieved before many others turn on their computers.

Happy ploughing!

Deirdre Lusby, Galway


Flanagan’s double standards

On September 1, 2014, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said “the invasion of Ukraine is against international law and must stop” (RTE News). He made no reference to the role of NATO as one of the root causes of the Ukraine conflict.

On September 22, the United States and its allies launched air strikes in Syria using warplanes, armed drones and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

On September 23, Mr Flanagan stated on RTE News regarding the bombing in Syria that, “people will not be surprised. With regard to the air attacks, targets need to be particularly precise, and of course innocent civilians need to be spared.”

In contrast with his statement on Ukraine, the minister failed to mention that these air strikes contravene international law, because they do not have UN Security Council approval. His statement that “the air attacks targets need to be particularly precise” suggests that the Irish Government approves of such air strikes as long as they are “particularly precise”, regardless of breaches of international laws.

Edward Horgan, Casteltroy, Limerick

Repeating past mistakes

It seems that governments do not learn from history, and often repeat mistakes. This Friday, David Cameron is planning on recalling the UK parliament, and pushing for a vote to authorise Britain‘s military involvement in Syria and Iraq. In doing so, it will join the US who are already at it.

Many of those militants in the so-called Islamic State were trained by UK armed forces last year, to overthrow the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Much of the weaponry in this now destabilised region was supplied by British and American companies. And if you go back a bit further, those two countries’ forces killed around a million Iraqis following the 2003 illegal invasion.

Name and address with editor

Irish Independent


September 24, 2014

24 September 2014 Cleaning

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Co op, and post office Cleaned the car for Mercedes tomorrow

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


John Moat – obituary

John Moat was a Devon-based poet who, with John Fairfax, established the Arvon Foundation nearly 50 years ago

John Moat, poet, novelist, painter and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation pictured at Endsleigh

John Moat, poet, novelist, painter and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation pictured at Endsleigh

5:29PM BST 23 Sep 2014


John Moat, who has died aged 78, was a poet, novelist and painter who also taught and inspired countless other writers through the Arvon Foundation, which he founded nearly 50 years ago with his friend John Fairfax.

The two men – Fairfax was also a poet – thought up Arvon over a few beers in a Devon pub. The principle was that people of all ages would be helped to liberate their imaginations and learn to write by sharing the company of professional writers.

Moat and Fairfax led the first Arvon residential course at Beaford arts centre in central Devon in 1968. Sixteen children, who had hardly encountered poetry in their schools, were put through an experience that was somewhere between that of an artistic boot camp and a retreat in a Trappist monastery. They were sustained by John Moat’s concoction of scrag-end of lamb and cider that he called “Devonshire Poet’s Stew”. As Moat put it: “This was in case they should be served any fancy ideas about life as a poet.”

The Arvon Foundation has thrived for almost half a century. In that time, several thousand budding writers have attended Arvon courses at four rural centres, tutored by more than 1,500 practising poets, playwrights and authors. Moat’s wife Antoinette provided the first residential centre, Totleigh Barton, a pre-Domesday thatched farmhouse that seemed to have emerged by the force of nature out of the red soil of central Devon’s hills. Moat was heard asking: “The poets, where are you going to put the poets?” Antoinette replied: “The pigsties is the best place for them. It should be quiet.” “What about the visiting writers?” “There’s only one place for them – the goose house.”

John Moat and his wife Antoinette at Totleigh Barton

Roger John Moat was born in India on September 11 1936. His father, a soldier, was killed in Malaya in 1942 when Moat was five — by coincidence, the age at which Antoinette also lost her father to the war. John’s education, which he would later describe as “undistinguished”, was at Radley and Exeter College, Oxford. During the gap year between the two, he underwent his formative learning experience. Uncertain whether to be a painter or a writer, he went to study with the artist Edmond Kapp in France. He came to Kapp as a prospective painter, and emerged, with Kapp’s endorsement, as a writer.

Moat produced both poetry and novels, and in all his writing there is a powerful sense of place, that place being almost exclusively the valley where he and Antoinette lived for the half-century of their lives together at Welcombe, a remote corner of north Devon, near the Cornish border on the wild Atlantic “wreckers” coast.

Their house, Crenham Mill, sits between converging streams, sheltered in oak woods, enfolded by hills and within muffled earshot of the breakers on the rocky shore. The Moats kept bees, and when the bee-smoking apparatus set fire to the house, destroying half of it, John and Antoinette contemplated the ashes of their house with characteristic equanimity. Moat cited the example of an American Indian tribe who destroy the contents of their homes each year, and the homes themselves every seven years.

Moat’s six novels have an underlying mythological spirit but concern believable people and places. Ted Hughes remarked: “One’s eye never lifts from what seems to be an actuality: very present and very urgent. Surely that’s what good writing is.”

The title of Moat’s first novel, Heorot (1968), refers to a rickety old house, reminiscent of Crenham Mill. Bartonwood (1978), a children’s book, is set on a wild and stormy wreckers’ coast, redolent of the Welcombe valley. The final novel, Blanche, published shortly before his death, features the scarcely disguised Devon estate of Endsleigh; Blanche herself is a will-o’-the-wisp figure who might have escaped from a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In all his writing, Moat’s vivid description of landscape is in the foreground and an essential part of the action.

His 11 published books of poetry reveal a romantic sensibility, as in “Welcombe Overtures” (1987): “At sundown, after the last man has gone / From the shore, the sea moves in without a thought / And smooths the beach. / And now the builder has gone / And the patient sea is on the move again. / It smooths the pebbles into place, and the thought / Falls into place. And I, the last thought standing alone, / Am drawn to the peace that will follow when I too have gone.”

John Moat’s painting ‘Red Amaryllis’

Moat’s work was enlightened by his practice of daily meditation, his wide reading of both Eastern and Western sacred writing and Jungian philosophy. His interest in mysticism and the occult is seen in the collection Firewater and the Miraculous Mandarin, in which the poet is characterised as an alchemist. He also wrote a humorous column, “Didymus”, in Resurgence magazine.

Moat regarded painting as more of a hobby; he was relaxed in technique and liberal with materials. Among his best-loved works are paintings of flowers in his house and garden, such as amaryllis, lilies and primulas. His store of antique handmade papers, bequeathed by Edmond Kapp, lasted his lifetime. On a piece of 350-year-old Tibetan paper, which could be crumpled up and would return to shape, he slapped on layers of watercolour, wax and assorted varnishes with margins of gold leaf burnished onto gobs of dried Araldite.

He lived simply at Crenham Mill, writing in a hut in the woods. He and Antoinette, who had a wide circle of friends, channelled their resources into causes in which they believed, sometimes leaving themselves short in the process. As well as Arvon, they created the Yarner Trust – to promote self-sufficiency in farming – and Tandem, to encourage creativity in teachers. Recordings of Moat’s well-modulated voice can be heard on the poetry archive website.

John Moat is survived by Antoinette and by their son and daughter.

John Moat, born September 11 1936, died September 16 2014


David Cameron at the 2014 climate summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Photograph: Xinhua News Agency/REX

The New Climate Economy report from Nicholas Stern et al at the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (Cutting emissions can boost growth, say economists, 16 September) says “Good economic actions can take us most of the way to a 2C path”.

This is from the economist who had the grace to admit he got it so wrong before. However, the emissions context in which this new claim is made is a little heroic. It is based on climate modelling in the IPCC fifth assessment report, which, as Nicholas Stern himself observed from the IMF last May, omitted significant feedback effects.

We seem now to be entering an era of carefully scripted half-truths, where the glass half full is a quite different glass from the one that is half empty.

The half-truths that nudge this “New Climate Economy” still do not observe the limits that make it a wholly owned subsidiary of the global environment.

Sadly, one is inclined to take these half-truths with the salt in the seawater that’s coming our way.
Aubrey Meyer (@aubreygci)
Global Commons Institute

• Angela Gurría and Nicholas Stern remind us that “The prize [of building a strong global economy that can avoid dangerous global warming] is huge but time is running out” (Commentary, 16 September) but make no mention of the potential for pan-European energy cooperation and renewable energy sharing. This would certainly seem to make sense: we have plenty of wind, wave and tide in the north and there is plenty of sun in the south. The proposed European super-grid, including inputs from north African concentrated solar power (CSP) and Icelandic geothermal energy, should surely be pursued with the utmost sense of urgency.

I only hope the fact that the UK is so lamentably far behind most other European countries in the development of renewable energy (Sweden produces 49% of its energy requirements from renewables; the UK, which is third to bottom in the table, produces barely 10% and seems unlikely to achieve its target of 20% by 2020) will not prove to be an impediment.
Dr Peter Wemyss-Gorman
Lindfield, West Sussex

• We call on the prime minister, deputy prime minister and opposition leaders to seize on the opportunity for British onshore wind. British voters are clear about what they want: cheap and secure energy. As parties come together at annual conferences they must put country before party, ensure energy is central to every manifesto and seize the opportunity to get policy back on track.

We call on all politicians to listen, to step forward and to act on what voters are telling them. We must harness the full potential of our abundant, clean and home-grown resources and reduce our exposure to global risks, price peaks and supply shocks.

Supported by 70% of voters (according to official government figures), more than nuclear or fracking, British onshore wind greatly reduces our exposure to global price fluctuations and foreign crises – unlike fossil fuels – and the potential for faults that have led to the current shutdown of a quarter of Britain’s nuclear capacity.

The costs to consumers of British onshore wind are falling. Already – and set to remain – the cheapest large-scale renewable, it is also cheaper than new nuclear and new coal plants. And yet the industry does not have the certainty it needs. EY last week concluded that the attractiveness of the UK market for investment in renewable energy has reached a five-year low.

Politicians of all parties must listen to the people and pledge loud and clear that British onshore wind has a role to play beyond 2020 in securing Britain’s energy supply. Its contribution to our economic competitiveness must not be artificially constrained by discriminatory policy.
Richard Mardon CEO, Airvolution, Richard Dunkley Group finance director, The Banks Group, Gareth Swales Director, Fred. Olsen Renewables, Juliet Davenport CEO, Good Energy, Eric Machiels CEO, Infinis, Esbjorn Wilmar CEO, Infinergy, Andrew Whalley CEO, REG, Gordon MacDougall Managing director, RES Western Europe (all signatories’ companies are members of British Wind)

• The UN’s plans for full-scale carbon emission negotiations in 2015 (Report, 23 September) are doomed to failure, for the following simple reason. We need to regulate carbon dioxide production, and it would be sensible, and a lot easier, to regulate the amount of coal and petroleum dug out of the ground. Therefore regulating production is a glaringly obvious way to control carbon dioxide emissions.

Obviously the regulation would need to be international, so the UN is a good starting point, but it is missing a trick by not putting the coal and oil company representatives in the hot seat – in fact, not even inviting them.

Of course reduction in availabilty of oil and coal would cause market chaos; on the other hand the UN’s and Obama’s financial schemes and let-outs will also cause market chaos, but without any guaranteed reduction in carbon dioxide. In fact, if nobody approaches the coal and oil companies it is obvious that, with or without the UN, we will have a guaranteed increase in carbon dioxide.
Dr Chris Harrison
Teddington, Middlesex

• “Fuel poverty” is a serious issue for millions in the UK (A winter’s grail, The big energy debate, 11 September). Yet that phrase obscures the breadth of the problem and implicitly pits it against renewable energy. It is primarily an issue of energy efficiency, insulation and austerity, but “fuel poverty” just implies that gas prices are too high – the phrase makes it nearly impossible to talk about sustainable energy in its context, because wind, waves and solar aren’t fuel, even though they can already deliver three times the amount of energy per unit cost of investment. Let’s help those in need by changing the phrase. “Warmth poverty” will do – keeping the focus on the need rather than the implied solution.
Julian Skidmore

“Texas proposes rewriting school text books to deny manmade climate change” runs the indignant headline on your online report. Just as shocking would have been “Texas rewrites text books to confirm climate change”. The job of education should be to induct young people into controversial issues and encourage them to make their own judgment on the basis of evidence. Why do we suddenly bend the knee to science the way the Guardian suggests? Whether you are a global warmer or sceptic, you should look at the evidence for and against, much of which is perfectly readable. It is far from true that 97% of scientists agree on manmade (anthropogenic) warming (whatever “scientist” means) and there are plenty of authoritative climate “sceptic” texts – not least of which is PJ Michael’s Shattered Consensus, which includes authors of IPCC report chapters themselves questioning the narrative. Respectable climate scientists (David Demeritt, Mike Hume, Anthony Watts and others) add useful counterfactual material – not to mention the shibboleths of the climate warmers, Mountford, Lomborg, McIntyre & McKitrick and Laframboise, all of whom are disciplined, evidence-based and respected writers. I have formed my own view, and it is not based on taking the word of scientists of whatever persuasion. I have spent a great deal of time reading the evidence. My conclusion? There is a justified, democratic debate to be had based on mutual respect and tolerance for dissent and supporting people to make up their own minds. Hang on – isn’t that the Guardian’s mission?
Professor Saville Kushner (@SavilleNZ)
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Photo of BAY CITY ROLLERS The Bay City Rollers: 1970s fashion trailblazers. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

In the 17th century, the church courts dealt with a range of personal behaviour, including fornication and adultery, and I think it was for that reason, rather than instances of fornication actually in church (Obituary, Chris Brooks, 23 September), that they were known as “bawdy courts”. Christopher Hill’s Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England has a chapter on the subject.
Jeff Lewis

So, in reply to reader Rob’s complaint about a paucity of men’s fashion coverage, Hadley Freeman says men are essentially tediously conservative and tells Rob to be a trailblazer and wear fun menswear (G2, 23 September). Turn two pages and there’s a picture of … the Bay City Rollers.
Colin Barr
Ulverston, Cumbria

Your article (Report recommends ‘mass academisation’, 23 September) would have more sense if we were told that the report’s authors, Policy Exchange, are David Cameron’s favourite thinktank, and contains a plethora of right wing commentators amongst its board of trustees. It’s not that I object to Policy Exchange having a view on any topic they wish, but wealthy rightwing thinktanks have an agenda, which should also be reported.
John Buckley

“If only women MPs should be allowed to vote on subjects affecting women’s rights, and so on” (Letters, 22 September), surely the same applies to MPs whose children attend state schools and who use the NHS. This leads to the democratic logic that most Tory MPs should be excluded from voting on such matters.
Nick Jeffrey

Guardian house style is to call Islamic State “Isis” (G2, 22 September), when MPs, the BBC and even the Evening Standard refer to it as IS. Get with it. Apart from appearing lazy and ignorant, you are trampling on the sensitivities of those who know something of the great Egyptian mother goddess, Isis, whose attributes are diametrically opposed to those of Islamic State.
Jean Williams

Margaret Thatcher Object of fantasy: Margaret Thatcher Photograph: David Montgomery/Getty Images

I wonder how many others have memories similar to Hilary Mantel’s (Mantel recalls day she saw Maggie, 20 September)? My own sighting occurred as I approached the traffic lights at the foot of Edinburgh’s Mound in summer 1989. Coming up the hill was a cavalcade of shiny black motors and, from the back seat of one, Margaret Thatcher stared straight ahead, face set in that familiar, domineering expression. It was a warm day, my car window was open and, like Mantel’s, my hand instinctively formed that playground “bang bang you’re dead” gun shape. I’m not proud of such a violent response, but her policies destroyed all hope in so many of the young people with whom I was working at the time. And of course the hated poll tax had just been imposed on us in Scotland. Any other fantasy assassins out there?
Jenny Secker
Chelmsford, Essex

Tesco trolleys What happened at Tesco shows a systemic problem with big international businesses. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Your report (Shares slide as Tesco admits hole in profits, 23 September) quotes Tesco’s chairman saying: “Things are always unnoticed until they are noticed.” As Americans put it: “I think he said a mouthful.” Let’s look back at a few episodes in the recent history of global capitalism which went unnoticed until they were noticed: the collapse of BCCI, Barings bank, Enron, the fraudulent rigging of Libor and of payment protection plans, and the virtual collapse of the banking system caused by banks woefully failing to fulfil their first duty, to build adequate capital reserves and manage risk. This caused the worst crisis for capitalist democracies since the 1920s and we will be suffering from its effects for another decade. Meanwhile the poorest and weakest are paying the highest price.

There is a systemic problem. The men (and they are usually men) who run great international enterprises like Barclays, RBS and Tesco receive huge salaries and even bigger bonuses which are dependent on maximising short-term profit. No one seems to be paid much to check the accuracy of accounting and, if they are, they are not very good at it. It took a whistleblower to bring Tesco’s financial mismanagement to light. Governments only found out that banks were at the point of collapse in 2008 when bank executives confessed that unless governments gave them billions of pounds immediately, their cash machines would stop working. Since then, despite all that has been said and done, what has happened at Tesco shows that this systemic problem remains. Until it is addressed, future financial crises will make the events of 2007-08 seem like a blip.
Patrick Renshaw

• The Tesco farce again highlights what a waste of space the entire auditing world is. On this occasion, one of the “big six”, PwC, seems to have failed miserably but, as usual in this alternative universe, another – Deloitte – is called in to make “an independent judgment”. Auditors are emperors with no clothes. Yet the public and private sector continues to pay these bean counters an absolute fortune for nothing.
John McCartney
Goole, East Yorkshire

• Will Tesco’s Chris Bush and co be sanctioned and lose their benefits – sorry, enormous salary and bonuses – while they are being investigated? Or does it only work like that for benefit claimants?
Di Oliver
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

A US warplane Super Hornet lands on the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush after taking part in strike missions against Islamic State targets in Syria A US warplane lands on the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush after taking part in strike missions against Islamic State group targets in Syria. Photograph: MC3 Brian Stephens/US Navy/AP

Along with most British people, we opposed an attack on Iraq in 2003. The brutal reality of the invasion and occupation confirmed our worst fears. At least half a million died and the country was devastated. Now, less than three years after US troops were pulled out, the US is bombing again. The British government is considering joining military action, not just in Iraq but in Syria too. All the experience of the varied military action taken by the west in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya shows that such interventions kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and fragment societies, and in the process spread bitterness and violence. While we all reject the politics and methods of Isis, we have to recognise that it is in part a product of the last disastrous intervention, which helped foster sectarianism and regional division. It has also been funded and aided by some of the west’s allies, especially Saudi Arabia. More bombing, let alone boots on the ground, will only exacerbate the situation. We urge the government to rule out any further military action in Iraq or Syria.
Caryl Churchill playwright
Brian Eno musician
Tariq Ali writer and broadcaster
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Lindsey German convenor of the Stop the War Coalition
Diane Abbott MP
Mark Rylance actor
Ken Loach film director
Michael Rosen author and broadcaster
Kate Hudson general secretary of CND
John McDonnell MP
Sami Ramadani Iraqi writer and campaigner
Len McCluskey general secretary of Unite
Amir Amarani film director
Mohammed Kozbar vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain
Dr Anas Altikriti
Walter Wolfgang Labour CND
Andrew Murray chief of staff Unite

Packed rail platform in London Packed rail platform in London Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

The real problem is not a lack of transport infrastructure in London, but an absurd concentration of jobs in our capital city (Looming London transport crisis ‘risks sparking riots’, 22 September). This has led to shockingly high house prices and to priced-out workers then having to travel long distances to work. If we provide more and cheaper transport links, we allow yet more jobs to be based there and we subsidise employers who wish to be based in an expensive city but still pay low wages. Surely the best solution is for public sector jobs to move out of London and into areas of high unemployment, where there is much less pressure on transport and other services. In particular, parliament could move to somewhere cheaper and more central. Many private sector jobs would follow.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent

• Just days into the English devolution debate sparked by the Scottish referendum result, Peter Hendy’s crass warning of riots by the capital’s low-paid workers unless more major infrastructure projects like Crossrail 2 are built is a timely reminder of just how hard it is going to be to shift the interests that continue to concentrate almost all national major infrastructure investment in the capital, without any democratic debate involving the rest of the country. Meanwhile, in the regions served by Northern Rail, the Department for Transport imposes record fare increases on rail commuters packed into obsolete trains, which may, if we are lucky, be replaced by refurbished District line rolling stock, (Report, 7 September).
Michael White

• Transport for London proposes to spend billions to ensure that lower-paid workers must live further away from their place of work, thus adding to their already long working day and increasing their travelling costs. Surely the answer is more housing for low-paid workers, not making London inhabitable by only the rich. This is not just a London problem. The imbalance between London and the rest of the country is unsustainable. That must be a part of the debate the entire country should be having following the Scottish referendum.
David Pugh
Newtown, Powys

Proud of the NHS badge  ‘Labour must undo the damage done to the NHS by the Health and Social Care Act.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

If Ed Miliband wants to put the NHS at the heart of his election campaign (Report, 23 September), he and the Labour party need to take a much stronger stance.

Labour must reverse NHS cuts and privatisation, and re-establish a comprehensive public health service providing for all on the basis of need – not a logo above a marketplace of profit-making companies.

We welcome Labour’s pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and associated “competition regulations”, and to restore the ministerial duty to provide national health services. We welcome Andy Burnham’s commitment to protect the NHS from international “free trade” agreements.

But we need to go further, to undo the damage done by the act, and by years of policies shifting the NHS towards a market system, like the “internal market”, widespread privatisation and outsourcing, and fragmentation into competing units. We want a fight to bring contracts already in private hands back into the NHS. We want an end to the private finance initiative and liberation from crushing PFI debts. We want an end to cash-driven closures, a reversal of cuts, and adequate funding to rebuild the NHS as a genuine public service.

We support a living wage for health workers and a mandatory minimum staffing ratio of one nurse to every four patients. We want integration of health and social care to mean that social care becomes a public service. We want a reversal of attacks on migrants’ access to the NHS.
Joanna Adams People’s March for the NHS, Wendy Savage President, Keep Our NHS Public, John Lipetz Co-Chair, KONP, Dr Louise Irvine Chair, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, Colin Standfield Ealing Hospital SOS, Sacha Ismail NHS Liaison Network, Kate Osamor NHS worker and Labour party national executive committee-elect, Christine Shawcroft Labour party national executive committee, Owen Jones and 135 others Full list at

monopoly board illo Illustration by Gary Kempston

The merry-go-round of debt

In his article “Europe’s economic nightmare approaches” (12 September), Paul Mason bases his analysis on the theory that over-indebtedness leads to deflation. However, the very term “over-indebtedness” makes no sense in 2014 where, as finally made explicit by the Bank of England in the article “Money creation in the modern economy” (in their 2014 Q1 Quarterly Bulletin), the vast majority of all money is created as debt by commercial banks making loans. In short, if the economy grows, that means more debt has been created. Reduce the amount of debt, and by definition there’s less money in the economy. Pay off all debt, and the economy will be left with no money in it. In this scenario, how much debt is too much debt?

So, a growing economy means more money, which is created by increasing the amount of debt. And, as Mason says, more indebtedness means people spend more money repaying the debt – and stop spending. No wonder ordinary people in the modern world feel like they are sprinting just to stand still.

We have to move away from this crazy system where money is, by government fiat, created as debt by commercial banks. (And where the bankers collect the interest on that debt into their own pockets.) Our money must be created democratically by the people who use it, not by private bankers for their own profit. Where Mason is right, though, is that making this change will give us something that doesn’t look like capitalism as we know it. Would that be such a bad thing?
Steve Cassidy
Tábua, Portugal

Politics and funding

Re: Warwick Smith’s comment piece (19 September), when will the voting public of Australia realise the debilitating effect that political donations have on Australian democracy, such as it is. It is not difficult to speculate on what is expected when the “donors” come knocking on the doors of government looking for some return on investment. Are political donations therefore tantamount to an inducement of malfeasance?

Why is it necessary for political parties to source external funds for campaigns when they already receive funding from government coffers for election purposes? A rejection of funding from predominantly business sources would reduce the quantity of inane and incessant advertising during the election phase and provide a level playing field for all legitimate election candidates.
Clive Parrett
Melbourne, Australia

Israel, war and antisemitism

The Israeli government could have levied a 10% surtax on all incomes above the median to pay for the recent Gaza war (Israel faces sharp budget cuts to meet cost of conflict, 5 September). Its refusal to raise taxes, to cut education funding instead, is symbolic of the neoliberal economy above allstyle politics pursued by too many democracies around the world. Future generations will pay the price; my sincere apologies to them.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

• Definitely, antisemitism is a pest that must be totally and utterly separated from the criticism of the Israeli state (Owen Jones, 15 August). However, for some it seems convenient to maintain the confusion: I was recently labelled “antisemitic” by Jews for my criticism of the behaviour of Israel. I contacted my Jewish friends for clarification. They bluntly told me that the behaviour of the Israel state was the perfect negation of Jewish ethics.
Jean-Marie Gillis
Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium

Controlling the brumbies

I can understand that there may be a need to limit the ecological damage done by brumbies (Australia’s wild horses face end of their trek, 12 September) and, by the way, thank you for the explanation as to how the name came about. Yes, they cause ecological damage and that has to stop. However, it seems to me that slaughter may not be the only answer.

Has anyone noticed that some of the brumbies, running wild, have obvious male features? However, has anyone ever thought of that as the key to a less terrifying solution than slaughter, which might solve the problem entirely in a, shall we say, kinder manner.

I am sure you know where I am going with this and I apologise to the gods of libido. However, would sedation and castration of a sensibly calculated percentage of male brumbies not achieve the desired end, eventually, without slaughter? It is just a thought. I expect most female readers would agree. I do not want to hear from the male readers.
Ian Cameron
Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

Back on the shelf

I enjoyed Rachel Cooke’s article on reading (5 September). As someone who has read voraciously ever since I could, I love not only the solitariness of reading but also talking about books with friends.

We moved to Geneva almost three decades ago. Initially, I didn’t know any readers, so the books I read were exclusively ones I or my husband picked up. I am now a part of a community of readers, which has enriched my reading experience. They have lent me books that I would not have read on my own (a reason to buy physical books, as far as I’m concerned!), and vice versa. It’s all part of what Phyllis Rose did by reading her way through a library shelf – widen her reading horizons.
Suroor Alikhan
Geneva, Switzerland

Queen and country

I write regarding Emer O’Toole’s article (22 August) about choosing not to swear an oath to the Queen to obtain Canadian citizenship. I think perhaps she is just having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” and should consider moving to Australia, where her views might find more support. Or alternatively she could move south of the border to America where no allegiance to a monarch is necessary. Since she mentions her political leanings I hasten to add that socialism is really in a bad way down there and could use her support.

As a Canadian citizen, I am a strong supporter of the British crown. I was born on a Saskatchewan farm on 17 September, 1940, sometimes considered to be Battle of Britain Day, when Hitler decided he was not going to invade England after all. My early childhood was strongly influenced by my mother’s belief that George VI and the British crown provided Britain and its dominions with a rallying point against Nazism. And so I have grown up with a profound respect for it.
David Malcolm
Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada


• I would have to read a transcript, but I do not think that Judge Masipa said she believes Oscar Pistorius did not murder anyone (19 September), only that the prosecution had not produced evidence “beyond all reasonable doubt” in law that he did.

Another judge and assessors might take a different view as to the level of proof, which at least means that a defence appeal against the culpable homicide verdict is highly unlikely, however severe the sentence.
Adrian Betham
London, UK

• With regard to Paul Mason’s criteria for the perfect city (5 September), I wonder whether he was thinking about Wellington, New Zealand. It is a small city with a population of approximately 135,000 and a centre so compact it can be walked across in 30 minutes unless you want to stop and try on some vintage clothing or enjoy a craft beer or perhaps take in a play and afterwards enjoy a real coffee in one of our numerous owner-operated coffee bars.

Apart from some minor issues – Wellington’s trams were scrapped in the 1960s,the bicycle network is a work in progress and the sea can be chilly – I am sure Wellington has everything on Paul’s wishlist.
Bob Dunkerley
Wellington, New Zealand

• Dogs as an adjunct to human activity (Patrick Barkham, 12 September) should be anchored in our psyche. Dogs hunt, dogs work, and only since breeds have become an extension to human behaviour has a dog’s life become, well, a dog’s life. Never, like me, give a sofa to a friend who lives in a flat with an Alsatian. The dog will just destroy what could have been that friend’s wonderful relationship.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

• The United Kingdom should be an annually renewable lease (Will Scotland break the union? 12 September). Let the referendum be an yearly affair. Bleed Westminster dry.
Jeffry Larson
Hamden, Connecticut, US


If Scottish MPs at Westminster are to be barred from voting on issues that mainly affect England, presumably English MPs will also be barred from voting on issues that mainly affect Scotland. This would stop them from being able, by virtue of their far greater numbers, to force on the Scots all sorts of things that Scottish MPs would never have voted for.

The first such vote should obviously be whether the nuclear submarines that English MPs dumped on Scotland, against the wishes of the vast majority of Scots, should stay where they are, just a short distance from Scotland’s largest city. Once Scottish MPs have voted to get rid of them, all those English MPs who thought nuclear submarines were a great idea as long as they were far away in Scotland will face the prospect of having these dangerous craft in their constituencies.

Sheila Miller


The Scottish referendum has produced a result in which the losers will prove to be the winners, which makes Alex Salmond’s resignation stranger than it seemed at first. If the promises made  by David Cameron were kept, as they almost certainly will be, then Scotland will be, in all but name, an independent country.

If we are one nation, as so many have insisted, then I can see no reason why all MPs should not vote on all matters concerning that one nation. But it looks as if we are going to have all kinds of devolution, which should mean there is little or no need for a House of Commons or a House of Lords, so perhaps the referendum result is a good one after all.

Bill Fletcher

Cirencester, Gloucestershire


The answer to the West Lothian question is simple.

Westminster MPs from a 50-mile radius adjoining the Scottish border should sit and vote in the Holyrood Parliament. Thus, Scottish MSPs would have to consider their neighbours on whom their decisions might have an effect; northern English MPs would have a legitimate claim to have a say in Scotland. This would balance the claim that Scottish MPs must vote on England-only matters as it might affect them. Honour is thus restored on all sides. A similar system could be adopted for Wales, leaving time for a lively debate about how we might decide Northern Ireland’s affairs.

Peter Cunningham


I am extremely dismayed and almost disgusted at the Labour and Scottish leaderships’ stance on the West Lothian question. The WLQ has been around since the late 1970s as has the flawed Barnett formula – where Scotland gets 19 per cent per capita more than England. No wonder the Scottish Parliament can dish out all sorts of freebies and socialist programmes to keep the inner-cities voting for the free money.

Both need sorting out if Scotland gets more powers.  It is not democratic to leave it as it is, as pointed out by Chris Grayling at the weekend. In the event of a Yes win, the independence negotiations were planned to take 18 months.

The same timescale can be used for further devolution talks and addressing the WLQ. I might also add that I am fed up subsidising Scottish business and retail outlets with higher costs for us in England. Costs should fall where they lie.

Colin Macleod Stone



The sad part is that normal isn’t better

I was impressed with Oliver Wright’s paean to dyslexics and (implicitly) to others with non-normal abilities.

I employed many programmers over the years when I ran a software development company and a high percentage were dyslexic. Most of these were quite brilliant in seeing through the morass of logic required for any big project but often found it hard to explain to the “ordinary” programmers how or why they wrote what they did. Suffice to say, their work  was some of the most inventive and successful code we produced.

This is purely anecdotal and may not indicate that dyslexics make good programmers but it does reflect a well proven phenomenon where people excel in some areas despite or maybe because of struggling to achieve the “norm” in others. Given that the “norm” is the same as the average and the standard, who would want  to be normal?

The sad part is that some sections of society, education and commerce would rather we were all normal but that is mostly laziness on their part. Different can be good. Very different can be very good.

William Charlton


Why not in my back yard?

I am truly conflicted (Mary Dejevsky, 23 September). A couple of weeks ago an email was circulated around our leafy neighbourhood in East Molesey exhorting us to write in to complain about increased potential noise and harm caused by a new trial air route round Heathrow.

One resident even said she had moved to Molesey all the way from Richmond to avoid the noise. Who among us can say we have not shared in the benefits of air travel, especially those of us who can pop down to the almost equidistant airports of Gatwick or Heathrow and set off for a light lunch or weekend in Milan or Paris?

I am trying not to be a Nimby and so, despite the possible damage to my personal sleep patterns if the flight path were to change, how can I argue that it is better for the residents of Richmond to suffer more than those of East Molesey? Or for the birds of Boris Island to be moved on?

Anthony Lipmann

East Molesey, Surrey

The argument for Heathrow expansion

Mary Dejevsky concludes that the benefits of Heathrow expansion are ‘‘overstated’’ (23 September). That is not the view of thousands of residents, businesses and workers who depend on the UK’s only hub airport. Heathrow’s importance is recognised by the 40,000 people who have joined our campaign to ensure the airport grows and succeeds. Nationally, millions of passengers rely on the  long-haul connections that only a bigger and better Heathrow can deliver.

Rob Gray

Back Heathrow Campaign, Hounslow


I’ll bet Janet a tenner I can prove her wrong

Janet Street-Porter is completely wrong (20 September). Choice of beer is not simply down to packaging. I am happy to sit down with her and, for a £10 bet, in a blind tasting identify a real ale such as Fuller’s London Pride or Timothy Taylor’s Landlord from Heineken or Stella Artois lagers. It would be the easiest tenner I’d ever earned. Janet needs to learn a hell of a lot more about beer before making such wild statements. I’m wondering whether anything else she writes about can be trusted.

Michael O’Hare

Northwood, Middlesex


This is not Tesco’s finest hour

I like Tesco, my small neighbourhood store carrying things I want at a good price, run by nice staff as a part of a giant but relatively uncomplicated enterprise – so what went wrong?

Tesco has said that the overstatement of its half-year profits by £250m was ‘‘principally due to the accelerated recognition of commercial income and delayed accrual of costs’’.

It’s a long time since I did Business Accountancy 101 but I know exactly what that means. My query is how did PwC, the firm’s auditor for three decades, manage to miss it? Its shares are down 40 per cent this year and in case you think it’s not your problem, if you have a company pension fund, an insurance policy, or a shares ISA, it’s your problem.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews


Independent’s front page make me proud

Thank you Indy for your front page featuring Emma Thompson, highlighting the threat to humanity that others choose to ignore.

I took part in the London march with thousands of other people, to unite in voicing our fears for the future of our grandchildren and the planet that they will inherit. It makes me proud to be an Indy reader.

Margaret Hayday

Benfleet, Essex


Tiresome pun amid a mixed message

The Independent is loud in its silence over celebrity Royal events and quick to publish letters congratulating itself on the same. Yet you report an important climate change march with the front page headline (22 September) “The nanny states her case: Emma Thompson joins climate launch” and a dominating picture of the smiling celebrity. Quite apart from the tiresome pun, how is Ms Thompson’s attendance the news story here? Could you perhaps share your policy on celebrity newsworthiness with us readers?

Julian Stanford



Silly season is over

Lord Bell’s suggestion that Hilary Mantel be investigated by the police  for incitement to murder is ridiculous!  You cannot incite someone to murder a person who is dead. And where will this end? Should Lord Dobbs be investigated for his novel set in the House of Lords in which the Queen is the target.  Police have enough serious work to do and Lord Bell should be aware that the August silly season is over.

Sue Miller

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

House of Lords


Sir, With regard to “Medical schools ‘moving admissions goalposts’ ” (Sept 22), the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds has not changed and would not change any qualification requirements mid-cycle.We operate a transparent admissions process that is reflective of the changes taking place in secondary education.
Dr Gail Nicholls
Director of admissions, School of Medicine, University of Leeds

Sir, No one can disagree with the conclusion of the latest Cancer Research UK report that earlier diagnosis of common cancers could improve survival chances (“Half of cancers spotted too late to save lives”, Sept 22). In many cases, the key to rapid diagnosis is the availability of medical imaging — X-rays and scans — and the expert interpretation of these images.

We are aware of growing delays in reporting images due to a shortage of those trained to interpret them. With about half as many radiologists as other comparable Western nations, there is an urgent need for the UK to train a larger workforce and to remove the barriers that prevent clinical radiology services working more efficiently on a networked basis. We are seeking the support of all the main parties in achieving this.
Giles Maskell
President, the Royal College of Radiologists

Sir, Your report (“Bridge to the past as children honour the heroes of Arnhem”, Sept 22) of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem says that on the night of September 25 we withdrew “to the safety of territory held by the Poles”. Not so. As one who swam the River Neder Rijn
I can assure you that when we crossed to the south bank it was bravely held by the 43rd Division, the leading infantry division of the 30 Corps relieving force.
Lewis Golden
Petworth, W Sussex

Sir, You report that 25,000 paedophiles have been identified but most will not be caught (Sept 23). So the offence is more prevalent than we thought. Surely this is a reason to increase the maximum sentence for those who are caught. Prevalence is relevant to sentence, and prevalence is measured by how much something happens, not by how much of it leads to arrest or conviction.
JJ Rowe, QC
Bowdon, Cheshire

Sir, I was impressed that 68-year-old Tim Claye and his wife had recently picked 4.5 tonnes of olives (letter, Sept 22). One wonders, however, what Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is doing with all those olive trees. They are not native and hence are not supporting British wildlife.
Dr Michael Cullen
Dunvegan, Isle of Skye


Those who worked with Edward Lord were shocked to hear of his dismissal by the Football Association last week

Dismissed: Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association

Dismissed: Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association

6:57AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – Having known and worked with Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association last week, we are surprised by the FA’s statement announcing his departure. Without taking sides in the dispute, we believe the statement describes a character that we simply don’t recognise.

In our experience Mr Lord is a capable, professional, and collegial board member, and an inspiring advocate for equality and social inclusion, whose public service has been recognised at the highest level.

As group chairman of the Amateur Swimming Association – representing England’s largest participation sport – and through his continuing involvement in football, we are certain he will still lead the way in UK sport by speaking out for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

George Dorling
Chairman, London Football Association

Sir Stephen Bubb
Chairman, Social Investment Business

Lord Dholakia

The Rev Canon Mark Oakley
Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral

Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn Harris
Principal, Leo Baeck College

Rachel Beadle
Former Chair, The Pride Trust

Cllr Ruth Cadbury (Lab)
Former Deputy Chair, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

George Dorling
Chairman, London Football Association

Lynne Featherstone MP (Lib Dem)

Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Lab)

Cllr Peter Fleming (Con)
Leader, Sevenoaks District Council
Chairman, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

Ed Fordham
Chair, LGBT+ Lib Dems

Alderman Tim Hailes JP
Elected Member, City of London Corporation

Claire Harvey
Ambassador, LGBT Sports Charter

Colm Howard-Lloyd
Chair, LGBTory

Cllr Peter John (Lab)
Leader, London Borough of Southwark

Simon Johnson
Non-Executive Director, Amateur Swimming Association

Dan Large
Former Campaign Director, Freedom to Marry

Mark MacGregor
Former Chief Executive, The Conservative Party

Sir Nick Partridge
Former Chief Executive, The Terrence Higgins Trust

Mayor Jules Pipe (Lab)
Chair, London Councils

Cllr Jill Shortland (Lib Dem)
Former Leader, Somerset County Council
Vice Chair, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

Terry Stacy JP
Former Leader, London Borough of Islington

Richard Stephenson
Former President of the National Conservative Convention

Jo Swinson MP (Lib Dem)

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill (Lib Dem)

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem)
Vice Chair, Local Government Association

Cllr Jess Webb (Lab)
Former Speaker of Hackney Council
Equal Opportunities Officer, RMT

Samuel West
Chair, National Campaign for the Arts

It is perilous for an island nation such as Britain to rely on foreign ships and crew

The crew of the SS Norman in 1896

Merchant Navy: the crew of the SS Norman in 1896

6:58AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – I have spent my entire working life at sea in ships, from apprentice to Master Mariner. Since 1995 I have been privileged, as a Port of London pilot, to bring ships in and out of London.

During this time I have witnessed the decline of British-officered ships. Just this week, I boarded a 37,000-ton tanker with a cargo of ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel. It was registered in London and I was curious, before I reached the bridge, as to the nationality of the master. It turned out that the captain was Russian.

British ships need no longer be captained by British officers because, in the dying days of John Major’s administration in 1997, an all-party select committee decided as much. This was after much lobbying by ship owners to reduce their crewing costs. A statutory instrument amended the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, without any debate in Parliament.

For an island nation to rely on foreign ships and a few British ships crewed by foreigners is a suicide note. It also insults those seamen of the British merchant navy whose cargoes saved this country from starvation twice, during two world wars.

Why was the law changed?

Christopher P R Clarke
Little Clacton, Essex

Message in a bottle

SIR – Last week the post was collected too early for me to get a birthday card to a friend for the following day.

There is no point in paying to send anything first class as it is about as reliable as throwing a message in a bottle out to sea – and now we are supposed to throw it out on the morning tide.

Felicity Foulis Brown
Bramley, Hampshire

Rasher decisions

SIR – Alan Self should certainly not give up bacon. He should buy proper bacon from a proper butcher.

This way he can buy as much or as little as he wants and his rashers, wrapped in greaseproof paper, will keep for much longer than plastic-packaged bacon.

Suzie Marwood
London SW6

SIR – Mr Self can patronise his friendly local butchers and buy as much excellent bacon as he wants, or, as I do, buy a piece of belly pork and cure his own. At least he will know he is eating 100 per cent bacon.

Ian Carter
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

Longer school days

SIR – I chose to teach at an independent school as a second career. The school day was a minimum of nine hours for day students with an extra hour of prep for boarders. My own hours exceeded 80 a week, including Saturday morning school, sports coaching, Combined Cadet Force activities and school trips.

The Teacher Support Network’s concern about the health and wellbeing of fellow professionals, whose average school hours are 8.30am to 3pm five days a week, reveals the disparity between state and independent sectors.

Hard work and pride in shaping future generations should be basic ingredients of teaching. Personal time is well catered for with generous school holidays. My attitude is shaped by the career I had prior to teaching; I was in the British Army.

Wesley Thomas
Stonehouse, Gloucestershire

Down with Downton

SIR – Can there be anyone else in this country who thinks, as I do, that Downton Abbey is a most dreadful bore?

Dudley Paget-Brown
Esher, Surrey

One reader’s childhood memories of the Wallace Collection remind us that the past is a foreign place

On guard: the Wallace Collection was bequeathed to Britain by Lady Wallace in 1897

On guard: the Wallace Collection was bequeathed to Britain by Lady Wallace in 1897 Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – It is good to know that the Wallace Collection is opening again and still going strong.

Some of my best childhood memories are of spending Saturday mornings there during the school holidays, while my father worked at his nearby office.

Aged eight or nine, I loved looking at the art works and admiring the great collection of historic armour. Wandering around alone, I hardly saw a soul, and could daydream to my heart’s content.

Who works a five-and-a-half-day week now? And who today would dare leave a child alone anywhere in London? But that was in 1949; the past is a foreign country.

John Underwood
Bramber, West Sussex

Labour’s desire for Scottish MPs to continue voting on purely English issues is transparent and undemocratic

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

Ed Miliband has refused to say whether he backs the PM’s plans to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English laws Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – Labour’s position on representation has descended into rank gerrymandering. Labour has for years resisted a much-needed adjustment to constituency boundaries that would address the unfairness of Labour seats being on average 6 per cent smaller than Conservative ones.

Now Ed Miliband dredges up fatuous excuses for permitting Scottish Labour MPs to continue voting on English matters after they lose the ability to influence the same matters in their own constituencies. This is so transparently undemocratic and based on naked political self-interest, that ethical members of the shadow cabinet disagree with him.

Termination of the involvement of Scottish MPs in purely English affairs, after the introduction of devo max for Scotland early next year, is so clearly desirable and easy to implement that it need not await the substantive national debate that must precede a full constitutional settlement.

The main political parties can simply agree with the Speaker that, as soon as devo max becomes effective for Scotland, a new convention will operate in the House of Commons under which Scottish MPs will not vote on those matters involving England which have become, in Scotland, exclusively reserved for Holyrood. The rest can follow later.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

SIR – Why does Scotland require three sets of MPs – SMPs, Westminster MPs, European MPs – on top of local government?

David Bannister
Driffield, East Yorkshire

SIR – At one stage during the Scottish referendum campaign Alex Salmond told us: “The English will dance to a Scottish tune.” Even though he lost, it seems now that he was right.

Raymond Whittle
Marlborough, Wiltshire

SIR – With his attitude to Scots MPs continuing to vote on English matters, Ed Balls is typical of the professional MP class. They simply cannot do what is right and proper. Instead, they are only interested in protecting their jobs. Integrity? Hah!

Lt Col Dale Hemming-Tayler (retd)
Edith Weston, Rutland

SIR – Now we can see a master plan that rights the British constitution, while winning the Tories the general election in 2015.

Scottish devolution started life as a ploy to shore up Labour’s Westminster vote with Scottish MPs. This was outbid by Scottish nationalism and almost cost the Union. Fortunately the tail that sought to wag the dog has not been cut off.

Meanwhile British Tories, anxious to restore national authority in order to halt EU federalism, foresaw the possibility that a nationalist victory could leave what remained of Britain being constricted by an unholy alliance of Scotland and Brussels, while Ukip digested Britain from within.

Sir William Mackay (who led a commission on the subject) is said to have prepared a list of subjects that Scots MPs should not vote on. This is the simplest (and most logical) solution to the West Lothian Question. It could in time be extended to any (eventual, expensive) devolution of further powers to Northern Ireland, Wales and the regions – while leaving Ukip stranded without a programme, and a rejuvenated Tory party to return the EU to its proper level of authority.

William Wyndham
Lewes, East Sussex

SIR – In a statement on devolution, the Prime Minister says that matters will move forward swiftly “in tandem”. It is to be hoped that he means “in parallel”, or the process may last for a very long time.

Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to your editorial (“Lost for words”, September 23rd), there is indeed a serious lack of speech and language therapy services. I work in three part-time speech and language therapy jobs – public, private and charitable. I have been a speech and language therapist for 28 years. Waiting times are only the tip of the iceberg.

Public services are pushed to lower waiting times by the colour-coded system. If children wait less than four months, your service stays green. The question we are not expected to ask is, “What are they waiting for?” If the only measure of success is reduced waiting times, then the pressure on speech and language therapists is to assess, minimally treat and move on to the next child. There is little room for a careful, effective and compassionate approach to children and families, especially those with significant disabilities.

Meanwhile I am surrounded by qualified graduates working in non-professional jobs, planning to emigrate or return to college because employment opportunities are so scarce.

Speech and language therapy should be “what it says on the tin” – therapeutic.

In the overworked, overstressed world of the speech and language therapist, reaching out to support a family whose child has not achieved the ability to talk is a constant challenge. How much harder must it be to be the parent of a child with communication difficulty? – Yours, etc,


Rock Cottage,

Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to Carl O’Brien’s article (“Child speech therapy services ‘a lottery’, says report”, September 22nd), once again the critical gap in resources to meet needs, long waiting times, discontinuities in provision at critical points in children’s development and unmanageable caseloads are highlighted. Meanwhile we continue to watch as many of our speech and language therapy graduates leave Ireland to seek employment elsewhere.

Meeting children’s speech, language, communication and swallowing needs requires a continuum of care delivered by therapists in partnership with parents, educators and others. Some children may have their needs met by a relatively short course of intervention, others will require support across childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Meeting current and future needs not only requires additional posts, but also a resolve to organise and deliver services so that children are provided both a timely and sufficient level of service to achieve meaningful outcomes.

Taking a child from the “waiting list” and assessing needs is but a starting point; once in the system children need to be provided enough effective intervention to support communication development and thus maximise long-term participation in education, employment and society. 2014 is designated International Communication Project Year, which emphasises communication as a fundamental human right. Inclusion Ireland’s report and concurrent media articles are a stark reminder of the distance we have yet to travel to achieve this for all children here. – Yours, etc,



Department of Clinical


University of Limerick.

Sir, – I read Malachy Clerkin’s column in The Irish Times with interest (“Is there no end to Denis O’Brien’s intervention in Irish sport?”, September 18th).

Clearly Malachy Clerkin doesn’t want Denis O’Brien to support Irish soccer or Irish rugby. Would he have preferred that these sports would be denied any assistance that just might help them progress? It strikes me as a rather unusual stance for a sports journalist.

If Malachy had bothered to check the facts he would have learned that Denis O’Brien’s support for the Irish cricket team came as a result of a request for immediate assistance during the 2007 Cricket World Cup when they unexpectedly got through to the Super 8 round.

From the general tone of his column it would appear that Malachy would have been happier if the plea for help was rejected. If he has such a hang-up about financial contributions that have sought nothing in return, how does he feel about sports sponsorship?

What strikes me as particularly incongruous is how an advocate of sport could so determinedly attempt to convert what just might be a positive motivation into some covert agenda.

What lies ahead for readers of The Irish Times – Malachy Clerkin rails against corporate branding of sports? Opposing advertising on sports pages? Refuses any element of his salary which might be sourced from commercial activities?

Maybe Malachy is a sports journalist who simply does not like sports. Yours, etc,


Media adviser

to Denis O’Brien,

Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4.

Sir, – One of the interesting titbits bandied about in the recent Scottish referendum was the curious fact that a fifth of “British” casualties in the first World War were Scottish. Irish casualties, from a country of similar population, were well less than half of the Scottish total. The difference is accounted for by the impossibility of bringing in conscription in Ireland, due to the fear of extreme republican opposition, especially after the Rising.

People such as John Bruton, who somehow persist in seeing themselves as virtuously anti-militarist, have a blind spot when it comes to this question. Redmond’s support for the war was the greatest act of political cowardice in modern Irish history. Sinn Féin’s successful campaign against conscription was perhaps that party’s greatest gift to the people of Ireland. All other debates about devolved powers, dominion status, oaths, etc, are minor details when set beside the question of Westminster’s power to forcibly conscript unwilling young men in wartime.

Tens of thousands of young lives were thrown away by Redmond’s short-sighted tactical decision to support enlistment. Tens of thousands of young lives were undoubtedly saved by Sinn Féin’s defeat of conscription. The numbers involved dwarf the casualties in 1916, the War of Independence, the Civil War, and the recent Troubles put together. Mr Bruton’s attempt to reimagine the gung-ho militarist Redmond as some kind of early John Hume figure is simply unhistorical. – Yours, etc,


Ferndale Road,


Dublin 11.

A chara, – Ian d’Alton (September 23rd) is himself guilty of a “dangerous illogicality”. He lays the blame for the “centre of Dublin” being “devastated” squarely on the shoulders of those who rebelled. I would remind him that he is the one who is reading “history backwards”. The rebels only had small arms and it was our British colonial overlords who devastated the city by using artillery and a warship (the Helga) to shell it. – Is mise,


Thormanby Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It was heartening to hear Minister for Defence Simon Coveney say the following: “I think Irish people are very emotionally attached to 1916 as a pivotal point in Irish history and to suggest it wasn’t a significant event towards the achieving of Irish independence, I don’t think is a fair reflection and, in many ways, denigrates people and families who deserve better” (“Coveney ‘takes issue’ with Bruton’s Easter 1916 Rising comments”, September 22nd). – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – While there is much in Mark Paul’s article “Excise cuts are best for big business, not local pubs” (September 19th) that we agree with, we feel that it is important to emphasise the reasons why an excise cut would be good for small businesses such as ours and why supporting an excise reversal is indeed supporting your local pub.

Government tax policy has imposed 28 cent on the average pint in three budgets – of which excise increases have been the key driver. As publicans, we have had no choice but to pass on these excise increases to our customers. In contrast, the large multiples can absorb these tax increases by spreading it over their product offer. This is causing a further widening of the price of alcohol in supermarkets versus in pubs.

Consider the cost of alcohol sold in supermarkets. Take for example last St Patrick’s Day, when a slab of beer – 24 cans – was available for €24. It is being sold as a loss leader. The same quantity of the same beer was €38 when sold on promotion in 2005.

Local pubs such as ours simply cannot compete with these kind of prices and this, along with the cultural shifts to which Mr Paul refers, encourages people to consume alcohol at home. Furthermore, the reality is that the cost of a meaningful VAT reduction would be prohibitive for the exchequer, whereas excise applies specifically to alcohol. The consecutive excise increases were an additional extra burden on our sector when compared to other small businesses around the country, as they targeted our sector and our sector alone. Conversely, an excise reduction would have a positive impact on the pub sector.

Finally, the reality is that excise increases have impacted on our cost of doing business. Excise impacts on margins, profitability and the sustainability of small businesses such as ours. This is why we are urging the people that enjoy socialising in our pubs and those of our members to support jobs, support their local and join us in our call on the Government to cut excise. – Yours, etc,



Vintners’ Federation

of Ireland,

Rocky’s Bar,

Nenagh, Co Tipperary;



Licensed Vintners’


Blue Café Bar, Skerries,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Italy has added its voice to those countries trying to block our Government’s plans to ban branding on tobacco packaging (“Italy joins EU states objecting to Irish plan for plain cigarette packs”, September 19th). As Europe’s leading tobacco producing country and one of the top 10 tobacco growers worldwide, Italy’s motivation in opposing Ireland’s plans to reduce tobacco consumption is apparent. Indeed, it comes as no shock that eight out of nine countries attempting to prevent Ireland implementing the most important piece of tobacco control legislation since the 2004 workplace ban are tobacco producers. The ninth country, the Czech Republic, has one of the poorest tobacco control records in Europe.

While these states lodge objections with the European Commission, the real opposition is coming from the tobacco industry. This legislation is about health not tobacco profits, and a reduction in the 5,200 Irish deaths caused each year by the tobacco industry is what is at stake. – Yours, etc,


Asthma Society

of Ireland,

Amiens Street, Dublin 1.

Sir, – Anyone who wants to know what actually happened in the Scottish referendum should access the interactive map carried on your website. This shows the overwhelming rejection of independence by Scotland. A total of 28 of 32 electoral areas voted No, many of them by very large majorities. By contrast three areas, in a tiny heavily populated area centred in Glasgow, along with Dundee, voted Yes. So much for the “too close to call” nonsense of the polls and the predominantly wishful thinking of our media. Perhaps the nationalists’ next campaign should be for independence for Glasgow. – Yours, etc,



Castledermot, Co Kildare.

Sir, – I rejoice with Amhlaoibh Mac Giolla (September 22nd) that Ireland, having cast off the yoke of her former colonial oppressor, enjoys such a wealth of democratic freedom. I hasten to reassure him that, over on this side of the Irish Sea, we do have a certain, albeit limited, measure of democracy ourselves.

Granted, in the matter of our head of state, we pretty much have to accept what we’re given. As her role is largely ceremonial, this makes little practical difference to how we’re governed day to day. Just as in Ireland, we get to vote in a general election every few years. Between those elections, the government in power does exactly as it pleases, without any reference to those who elected it.

However, once a week, the prime minister calls on the queen, whose reign has seen many of his predecessors come and go. What passes between them is never disclosed, but it’s well known that, although her majesty has neither the authority nor the mandate to tell the prime minister what to do, she does give him advice, sometimes in quite forthright terms. Advice which he would be foolish not to listen to – whether he follows it or not.

The one thing the queen represents is continuity. She has a punishing schedule of official duties which would daunt someone half her age. She does have holidays, of course, which she usually spends in Scotland. How unseemly would it be if, heading off for her customary break, she had to stop at the border and show her passport? Grant that it may never happen. – Yours, etc,


Kelsey Close,

St Helens, Merseyside.

Sir, – I am a sports nut. I love sport. I am involved professionally in sport and in particular golf. But I can’t tolerate the Ryder Cup. I believe that there is already too much money in sport and in particular golf.

Then you have this elite event. Essentially this is an exhibition match played by 24 multimillionaires over a weekend and all the players talk about is the “pressure of the Ryder Cup”. These are people fortunate enough that they will never experience pressure the way the rest of us do in our work and lives. Yesterday you noted the “pressure the caddies are under” in the Ryder Cup (“No one gets closer to the action than the Ryder Cup caddies”, September 23rd). Oh, come on! Enough! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Sean Moran (“Hard for neutrals to care as football gets stuck in the system”, September 23rd) writes: “For All-Ireland winners, the end justifies the means – for everyone else it’s just hard going”.

Mr Moran’s candid salience surely rings true throughout the land.

The handball/football hybrid that is now passed off as Gaelic football is a frustrating one for the genuine supporter, spectator and true footballer alike.

Tactical systems are okay in moderation, but the extreme, contorted, claustrophobic versions in so many matches these days surely leave much to be desired. – Yours, etc,


Chapel Street,


Co Waterford.

Sir, – I would like to add my voice to that of Brendan Lynch (September 22nd) regarding Oliver Goldsmith’s Lissoy parsonage in Co Westmeath. My last visit there was five years ago, when evidence of the neglect was already apparent. Sadly, without concerted pressure from local public opinion, it would seem unlikely that the council will take the initiative.

“A stitch in time saves nine”, however, and it would be in the interest of all concerned to expedite the matter. – Yours, etc,


Mapas Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I refer to the article “All Hallows College for sale” (September 17th), in which it is stated that the college is owned by the Vincentians.

I wish to confirm that the Vincentian Fathers do not, or have not at any time, owned All Hallows College and would not therefore benefit in any way from the sale of the property. – Yours, etc,


Vincentian Fathers,

Provincial Office,

St Paul’s,

Sybil Hill,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – I was interested to read (“Irish society should draw up new ethical principles, says President”, September 23rd) that the recent conference in Dublin addressed by President Michael D Higgins was “organised by St Vincent de Paul”. Saints alive! – Yours, etc, 


Pine Valley Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Enda Kenny’s “turn off the tap” remark (“Turn off tap when brushing teeth to save water, says Kenny”, September 18th) shows that his arrogance and pomposity are in full flow.– Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

Irish Independent:

It was the 40th anniversary of Watergate in August, which was a seismic event in 1974.

US President, Republican Richard Nixon, resigned on August 9 that year to avoid impeachment. He fired his close aides, but in the end the buck stopped with him, and Vice President Gerald Ford replaced him and granted him a pardon months later to help the country heal, as he put it.

It may never have happened only for the ‘Washington Post’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee and its journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (immortalised in ‘All the President’s Men’) finding out what was behind the break-in into the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate Complex in Washington DC in June, months before the 1972 presidential election, which saw Nixon into his second term.

‘Deep Throat’ was one of their famous sources and was said never to be wrong. He was revealed a few years ago to have been a top FBI man.

What they found led to a two-year battle with the president and his aides, as the newspaper uncovered information, bit by bit, about how some close to Nixon were involved in the break-in to discover what the Democrats were doing to in the 1972 election.

Spying on rivals’ political camps was not unusual, but phone taps and break-ins were, and the ”Washington Post’ discovered these were a threat to democracy.

Nixon and his aides, who knew of the break-in, acted like they were untouchable. The integrity of the US federal legal system was severely tested.

The newspaper, alone at first, kept to its task and in the end Nixon’s recordings of conversations in the Oval Office forced him to resign. Crucial to this was investigating judge, John J Sirica, who insisted on the tapes being handed over.

The five main players involved in the break-in were jailed, along with a former US attorney general. When Ben Bradlee became editor in 1968, the ‘Washington Post’ was in the backwater and he wanted it to be a better newspaper.

He achieved this with Pulitzer Prizes and with controversies he had to face head on. He retired as editor in 1991.

Bradlee received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013. Here, in Ireland, the media exposed wrongdoings by Church and State and is also an important watchdog in protecting our democracy.

Mary Sullivan

Cork Curbing population growth

Recent statistics show that one in eight do not have enough to eat globally.

Almost every 12 or 13 years another billion is added to the global population, yet why does this issue never seem to get the media attention or debate it so crucially deserves?

The world’s scientists spend time searching for cures to life-ending diseases, yet disease is nature’s way of keeping global population numbers at controllable levels.

If there were no diseases – which is what some people would like – countries would have to spend astronomical amounts on aid for famine-stricken nations.

As controversial as it may be, leading nations must at some point face this and restrict population growth through sterilisation.

John O’Brien

Drogheda, Co Louth

Paisley was just one of a kind

I cannot help but think of Peter Robinson’s tribute to Ian Paisley in Stormont last week, in which we were told that we would, “never see [Paisley’s] like again”.

That’s alright by me.

Killian Foley-Walsh


Saving the world – that’s rich

As our former President Mary Robinson expresses her concerns that ‘We’re running out of time to save the world’ perhaps she should take a closer look at the UN.

The UN, in the recent past, has been condemned for the overexpenditure by officials.

Much of the expense is due to upgrading to business and first class airline travel.

Marion Murphy

Sallins, Kildare

U2 take a page from Glen’s book

Recent coverage of U2 and their ‘free’ music reminds me of what the great Glen Campbell once sang: “Looking back, I can remember a time when I sang my songs for free.” So if it’s good enough for Glen . . .

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

A rain dance in a downpour

So, Budget fever has descended again. Meanwhile, people are invited to “apply” for free water that already runs in their taps.

In what is resembling the equivalent of performing a rain dance in the middle of a downpour, the citizens are being asked to hand over their children’s private information.

Considering these two points, is it fair to ask whether those immigrants that are here from the EU will also be getting a water allowance for their children back home in the same way they get children’s allowance.

Or is the children’s allowance just Germany’s (and indeed the troika’s) way of transferring monies within the eurozone at Ireland’s expense?

Might I suggest that Joan Burton attends herself to these poor unfortunate children that live in foreign and cheaper economies with the full benefit of our high-cost allowances.

Perhaps a whistle-stop tour of the former Eastern Bloc countries would be in order.

She might even be accompanied by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, fresh in his basking glory of having announced tax incentives to the dairy sector – the one sector of farmers who are not, ironically, complaining about the price of their produce having already benefited from a government hike in the price of their product.

Meanwhile, the rest of us poor plebs can await the drippings from Enda’s table; not unlike those who awaited the soup from the kind Quakers in the times of Trevelyan.

Who knows, if Joan and Simon were to go on such a trip, the vacuum could be filled by the new media darling and historian of some note – John Bruton.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

Farrell doesn’t need saving

I read with increasing incredulity the disrespectful comments in Ed Power’s article regarding Colin Farrell (‘Can a TV show save Colin’s career?’ Irish Independent, September 23).

By any criteria, Farrell is one of this country’s leading acting talents.

That the article was instigated by his casting as a lead role in a major American television series surely is its own response.

He considers ‘In Bruges’ overrated, although it was a Golden Globe-winning performance by Farrell.

He compares him with other “failures” such as Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Kevin Spacey. He also complains that Farrell does not live “outrageously enough” as a celebrity.

Having had the privilege of watching Farrell at work, he is a dedicated professional, determined to give his best to the project, able to play comedy and drama with equal success, and encouraging and supportive to everyone in front of and behind the camera.

It is a pity that Mr Power has not had this advantage.

There are many criteria to quantify the success of an acting role, not only Mr Power’s “bums on seats”, but by any balanced view, Farrell is an international success, of whom we should be proud.

James Finnegan

Tralee, Co Kerry

Irish Independent

Blood Transfusion

September 23, 2014

23 September 2014 Blood Transfusion

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Mary off to St James for her blood transfusion. Me to bank, books, Co op, and post office

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Iain MacCormick – obituary

Ian MacCormick was a clubbable MP for Argyll who pressed for greater self-government and a reform of divorce laws in Scotland

Iain MacCormick in 1976

Iain MacCormick in 1976 Photo: THE SCOTSMAN

5:46PM BST 22 Sep 2014


Ian MacCormick , who died aged 74 the day after voting “Yes” in the Scottish independence referendum, was MP for Argyll between 1974 and 1979, the period of the SNP’s greatest influence and numerical strength at Westminster.

He had an exceptional nationalist pedigree, being the elder son of John MacDonald MacCormick, a lawyer who in 1934 became the first national secretary of the SNP. His brother Sir Neil MacCormick, Regius Professor of Public Law at Edinburgh University, was a towering figure in Scottish intellectual and public life who devised a constitution for an independent Scotland and served as a Nationalist MEP.

Clubbable, civilised and with a natural streak of authority, MacCormick was teaching at Oban High School when in February 1974 Edward Heath called a snap election over the miners’ strike. Not only were the Conservatives defeated but the passions aroused by the campaign led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland – and a breakthrough in Scotland by the SNP.

Capitalising on the imminent arrival of North Sea oil and growing dissatisfaction over being governed from Westminster, the SNP, with its slogan “It’s Scotland’s Oil”, captured six seats to add to its previous one and came close in several others, giving Scotland’s traditional parties their greatest fright until the recent referendum.

MacCormick had stood in 1970 against the former Scottish Secretary Michael Noble. Facing a new Tory candidate and assisted by a doubling of the SNP’s share of the vote nationally, he captured Argyll by 3,288 votes.

The prospect of more losses to the SNP at a likely further election shocked Labour, now in power, into dropping its opposition to any form of home rule and promising a Scottish Assembly. But the grudging nature of the promise led that October to the SNP gaining four more seats, and MacCormick increasing his majority.

MacCormick and his colleagues badgered Labour to deliver on its promises and pressed for still greater self-government. The 1978 Scotland Act provided for an Assembly to which specific powers would be devolved, subject to approval at a referendum by — thanks to an amendment from Labour dissidents – not just a simple majority but 40 per cent of those registered to vote.

Meanwhile the SNP contingent at Westminster gained a reputation for conviviality, and MacCormick pushed through a reform of his own: the Divorce (Scotland) Act of 1976. Previous moves to change Scotland’s arcane divorce laws had been blocked by Scottish Tories who had had their marriages dissolved under the more relaxed regime in England.

When Labour’s devolution proposals were put to the people of Scotland on March 1 1979 51.6 per cent voted “Yes”, but with turnout only 63 per cent the threshold for approval was not reached. James Callaghan’s government pigeonholed the scheme, whereupon the SNP tabled a motion of no-confidence. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives, scenting a chance to oust Labour after five frustrating years, took it over and on March 28 the motion was debated. Emotions ran high, Callaghan warning the SNP they were “turkeys voting for an early Christmas”. Amid dramatic scenes, Labour lost by 311 votes to 310 and an election was called. Mrs Thatcher emerged the winner, but the contest also proved disastrous for the SNP, all but two of its MPs losing their seats – MacCormick by 1,646 votes to the Conservative John Mackay.

Iain Somerled MacDonald MacCormick was born in Glasgow on September 28 1939. From Glasgow High School he was commissioned into the Queen’s Own Lowland Yeomanry, leaving in 1967 a captain. He then took a degree at Glasgow University and moved to Oban to teach until his election to Parliament .

After losing his seat MacCormick held managerial posts at BT, then from 1993 a number of business appointments. He left the SNP in 1981 to be a founder-member of the SDP, but later returned and campaigned for a “Yes” vote until being taken ill earlier this year and admitted to hospital, Despite his continuing illness, he insisted on going to vote in person.

Iain MacCormick was married three times: to Micky Trefusis Elsom in 1964 (dissolved 1987), to Carole Burnett in 1987 (dissolved 1991) and in 2009 to Riona McInnes, who survives him with two sons and three daughters from his first marriage.

Iain MacCormick, born September 28 1939, died September 19 2014


Ed Balls delivers his speech to the Labour party conference on 22 September 2014 in Manchester. Ed Balls delivers his speech to the Labour party conference on 22 September 2014 in Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Three cheers for the proposal by Labour, when next in government, to introduce a phased increase in the minimum wage (Report, 22 September). What are we going to hear next? Business leaders will doubtless be flatly opposed to such an increase, on the basis that the policy will reduce profits and result in jobs being cut. They will be backed up by a screaming rightwing press. When are we as a society going to recognise that an unbridled market economy does not work in the interests of the vast majority of the people? The economy should be a tool that works in the best interests of us all. At the moment, large numbers of poor, low-paid workers operate as wage-slaves to support an economy which feeds the smug, uncaring, rich elites, who appear to live in an amoral universe, parallel and totally separate from that which most of us inhabit. Labour’s proposal is a small but important step on the long road to establishing a more equitable and fair society.
Steve Walker

• So Ed Miliband is going to increase the minimum wage from £6.31 to £8 by 2020. And Ed Balls is going to cap child benefit so he can “balance the books”. Why? Burn the books! Why not arrest bankers, renationalise the railways and the energy companies instead? What a dreary announcement on the first day of the Labour conference. After the balls and guts of the yes campaign in Scotland, even if you disagreed with them, Labour looks pathetic. Ed Miliband is a nice guy, but he hasn’t a clue.
Peter Woodcock

• I am pleased to hear that Ed Milliband is tackling the minimum-wage problem. Will he please address the employment laws that allow contractors to opt out of European legislation on hours worked. In my area workers are required to work 12-hour shifts sometimes on nights, for 13 days on then one day off. This pattern is repeated for months with an exhausted workforce. This is slave labour, employees are forced to comply because of the low minimum wage.
Marilyn Hall
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

• Larry Elliott (It’s time to tackle Labour’s double deficit, 22 September) is right to support the Fabian Society’s call for workers on the board of all but the smallest companies. However, if the unions are to have a bigger say, they need some new ideas. For example, increasing worker responsibility for quality control and self-supervision could raise pay and be business friendly at the same time. Rampant collective bargaining brought down Jim Callaghan and gave Margaret Thatcher her chance.
Malcolm Cookson
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

• Ed Balls’s promise to cut child benefit in order to prove his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit reminds me of an occasion when the Labour government of the 1960s proposed cuts to the health service to impress Swiss currency speculators. Told of this plan, Michael Foot suggested that it would be even more convincing if Labour MPs were sent into the street to tear down the hospitals with their bare hands. I don’t know if Mr Balls has considered this idea, but I offer it to him as a sure-fire way of proving that he is a committed axe-wielder.
Ian Aitken

• Owen Jones is right to point that under Miliband Labour is in crisis (Journal, 22 September). But his notion of “bankrupt leadership” misses the point. Labour was never meant to be a dictatorship. The party was not intended to be the leader and his gang’s personal property. Before the neoliberals staged their coup and ended internal party democracy, Labour was a social movement. Of their own accord, grassroots supporters fought fascism in Spain, embraced the freedom for Africa movement, boycotted apartheid and fought for gender, class and racial equality. The party stood up to the corrupt powerful, rather than consulted with it. The Labour leadership was honoured with the job of evangelising these values. Since the Blairite coup, the leadership has instead attacked and betrayed its grassroots. Without the genuine democratic representation of the grassroots there is no Labour party. All that is left is a cabal of self-seeking careerists. We should question the fundamental structure of the party, not simply its failing personalities.
Dr Gavin Lewis

• The shadow equalities minister, Gloria de Piero, herself from a working-class background, is to be congratulated on criticising the preponderance of those from public schools in high positions (Policy pledges, 22 September). I hope she will also protest about the increasing number of MPs from the less than 1% of the population who attended Oxbridge and the declining number of working-class Labour MPs. The same report refers to the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt (private school and Oxbridge) who was imposed on the Stoke-on-Trent constituency in preference to an able, local, working-class candidate.
Bob Holman

Wherever he finds the money, there is no point Ed Balls trying to save the NHS if he does not also invest in prevention (NHS is Labour’s priority, 20 September). One reason the NHS is getting so expensive is that there are more ill people – obesity and type 2 diabetes are just the tip of an iceberg of preventable disorders. These are not so much lifestyle diseases as life-cycle ones, because the origins of so much chronic illness lie in the earliest stages of life. The best time to reduce it is during pregnancy and the first months of infancy. There is a mass of scientific evidence to show how maternal ill-health has long-term effects on children and thus the degree of so-called lifestyle choices that they can exercise later in their lives. The “transformation fund” proposed by Dr Jennifer Dixon (Letters, 18 September) should be used to combine public and family health in a wraparound physical and mental perinatal service for all; a huge but worthwhile task, which will in due course pay for itself in better population health.
Dr Sebastian Kraemer
Whittington hospital, London

• Professor Hollins (Letters, 18 September) rightly calls for a greater investment in mental health care. However, in saying that mental and physical health problems must be treated with equal importance, he risks giving the impression that the two are fundamentally separate things. As the Mental Health Foundation has pointed out in its 2013 inquiry into integrated care for people with mental health problems, mental and physical health are indivisibly linked through common biological, psychological and social factors. Only when all health and social care staff accept this link will patients, whatever their needs, receive the best holistic care, whatever their primary diagnosis. This would mean, for example, dietary advice and housing support for people with schizophrenia, and psychological support for people with cancer.
Simon Lawton-Smith

I’m disappointed in your hopeless efforts at supporting feminism in fashion (Gucci takes dressing for real life as its Milan theme, 18 September). These are clothes that could never be worn to a day job unless it happened to include visiting Anna Wintour with a fashion plan; could never be worn for real-life shopping, lifting of messy children, or any of the other myriad of practical chores/jobs of most women’s lives. Dear beloved Guardian, you are a Pulitzer prizewinner, please behave like one, and stop putting these fantasy doe-eyed, expressionless girls on your National news pages. If you have to report on fashion shows, please can you put them in the business pages where they belong.
Judy Marsh

Richard Seymour (Bombs are not the answer, 16 September) speaks of a muted sentiment among sections of the left, supporting the US bombing of Isis. I am opposed to a continuing air campaign but I have no objection to bombing Isis in the foothills of Mount Sinjar. Contrary to what Seymour says, the Peshmerga were only able to rescue the Yazidis because of that bombing.

The Yazidis demonstrate how thin the US “humanitarian” pretext was for attacking Isis – it couldn’t wait to abandon them, leaving the most vulnerable stranded. What is true is the hypocrisy of the US, which is revolted by the beheadings of journalists while its ally, Saudi Arabia, is beheading over 20 people per month. Another ally, Egypt, is worse than the Pinochet regime in Chile when it comes to torture and human rights. The evidence suggests that western/Saudi arms supplies to the jihadi groups in Syria are the source of much of Isis’s weaponry.

The solution in the Middle East lies in a tearing down of the whole rotten edifice of regimes and interests that guide US policy – from Saudi Arabia to Israel.

Isis, an openly genocidal group, certainly deserves to be obliterated but only the people of the region can do this. That requires the building of mass movements across the sectarian Shiite/Sunni divide. But there may be a coincidence of interests. Our demands for the withdrawal of the US are not affected in any way by a tactical decision to support bombing as a means of rescue.
Tony Greenstein

• There is one army that can eradicate Isis from Syria and bring stability to the whole country, with the minimum of civilian casualties and the lowest risk of unforeseen consequences. That is the Syrian army and there is no good reason for Obama and Cameron to be preventing them from doing that job.
Brendan O’Brien

• As the UK slides towards another military entanglement in the Middle East, on the coattails of the US, we need the Chilcot report on the lessons of Iraq more than ever (Stop this menace, 15 September). Instead, the coalition are filibustering his report to delay it until the runup to the general election, in an attempt to score cheap political points at the expense of Labour. Chilcot should publish a short interim report with the key recommendations now – with or without government support.
Paul Godier

I read Zoe Williams (22 September) with mixed feelings. I agree that the miners’ defeat crushed the unions and destroyed the mining communities, but I cannot feel sad about the end of mining. Forget about global warming, it was a dirty and dangerous job. I come from a mining family in the west of Scotland. My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father were all miners. My grandfather went straight to the pits from school at the turn of the 20th century; my father, who left school top of his year, tried hard to get work elsewhere (even going as far as London) before ending up in the mines. In 1943, a mine roof collapsed on him and he became a paraplegic with complications which kept him in hospital for the last 17 years of his life.

A little while later, my brothers and I went to live with my grandparents. My grandfather’s hand was maimed while working coal machinery, he also had scars in his backbone caused by cutting coal in very low tunnels and he was diagnosed with pneumoconiosis. He worked the backshift (2pm-10pm) and every night, as a child, I could not go to sleep until I heard his key open the front door. My grandmother’s determination to keep her grandsons out of the mines resulted in me being the first of my family to go to university and my father was the last to go down the pits. I once asked my grandfather about the General Strike. He said he enjoyed it, because the weather was good and he had a six-month holiday from the pits.
Bill Macinnes
Worthing, West Sussex

Yes, we need more powers to be given to local areas, such as the Greater Manchester city region and, presumably, shire counties (Report, 22 September). So much has been stripped away, which needs to be returned and considerably enhanced. The electorate generally has no appetite for more tiers of bureaucracy, but would welcome far more powers being exercised by current local bodies working together. Alongside the debate about subsidiarity needs to be one about solidarity. In this vastly unequal country, where many people’s lives have been ruined by vicious policies, it is not enough for us to neatly divide up the country in ways which make sure we get what we want for our particular neck of the woods, without regard to how the most vulnerable might fare in other places. So we need plenty of time for discussion about how to balance subsidiarity and solidarity, and how to come to a constitutional arrangement where common values and the protection of the vulnerable can be agreed upon and safeguarded across the whole UK.
Gabrielle Cox

• John Redwood (Comment, 20 September) correctly points out that directly elected regional government in England has proved unpopular. Why directly elected? The last time the issue of provincial councils was looked at seriously was by the Royal Commission on Local Government in England. In its 1969 report, the commission proposed eight such councils and made it clear that there was no reason for these to be directly elected. Local authorities within the provincial areas would simply appoint representatives to serve on the council. The powers of the provincial council would have to be determined by parliament, but would certainly have to include some right to tax and to borrow within agreed limits.
Peter Newsam
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire

• John Redwood suggests holding a devolved English parliament at Westminister when the UK parliament is not in session. That seems unwieldy for all sorts of reasons, but I guess he doesn’t want to spend taxpayers’ money on a new building. Why not recycle the House of Lords? Then everyone’s a winner.
Jim Steel

Your coverage of the global climate change protests (News, 22 September) was much appreciated but when are you going to challenge the lifestyle choices that contribute to the problem? You might start by stating the tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by each holiday in the Travel section.
Mark Hancock

• As an ex-NHS-worker, I can assure you there is no need for a strike to be effective to show the importance of its staff (News, 19 September). A simple work to rule will bring it to its knees, such is the hard work and dedication of NHS staff – at all levels – who routinely “go that extra (unpaid) mile” for patients.

Debbie Cameron

• Hilary Mantel was not alone in having fantasies about assassinating Margaret Thatcher (‘I thought, if I was someone else, she’d be dead’, 20 September). My mother was a peaceable and generous woman but in her 80s during the Thatcher years, she regularly denounced the young men of Britain for lacking the backbone to go out and “kill that woman”, ending with “If I had a gun, I’d do it myself”.
Professor Robert Moore

Holywell, Flintshire

• To complete Tim Dowling’s lively piece on U and non-U speech (G2, 22 September), you couldn’t do better than quote John Betjeman’s poem How to Get On in Society. From its opening line – “Phone for the fish knives, Norman” – to the closing couplet – “Beg pardon, I’m soiling the doileys with afternoon teacakes and scones” – every word is loaded. Wonderful snobbish stuff.
Ella Holmes

Burton-in-Lonsdale, North Yorkshire

• Amid the talk of a new constitutional settlement I fear that I must have missed something. I see the Guardian now includes stories from the US (Hormones and high prose: Kerouac’s teenage letters, 19 September) under the banner “National”.
Colin Thunhurst
Keighley, West Yorkshire



Care homes will willingly pay staff more than £8 an hour — if local authorities do their bit too

Sir, You report that Labour is planning to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour (Sept 20). As a director of a company that operates 17 care and nursing homes across England, I would love to be able pay our staff more — but the problem is that local authorities in England are significantly underfunding elderly residential care placements.

The healthcare analyst Laing & Buisson has calculated the “fair cost” of a place in a residential care home at £600 a week. Local authorities are currently paying between 60 and 70 per cent of this figure, which they claim is the maximum they can afford. Meeting the “fair cost” price would increase local authority spending by about £3 billion a year when home care is included.

If Ed Miliband commits to all local authorities paying £600 a week for residential care, I will happily sign the pledge to pay all care staff at least £8 per hour. Unfortunately, as he hasn’t got a spare £3 billion to fund this, I suspect I will be waiting a long time.

Geoff Lane

Director, Regal Care Trading

The Arts Council is investing £250 million over four years in music hubs — a significant initiative

Sir, It’s heartening to see Richard Morrison (Sept 19) urging our political parties to make young people’s access to arts and culture a priority. I plead guilty to “banging on”, as he puts it, about local partnerships between universities, business and cultural organisations because I’m worried by the pressure on local authority funding of the arts. We need alternatives. And the music hubs, which Morrison seems somewhat dismissive of, represent an investment of £250 million over four years. It’s early days but this is a significant initiative.

He also argued that lottery cash is distributed unevenly. Yes and no: London did receive more than its fair share in the first 15 years, something we’re addressing. But quoting crude per capita distribution figures is at odds with the principle for deployment of lottery funds. It was always meant to be invested in a focused number of worthwhile projects. To the Sage in Gateshead he could have added the Lowry in Salford, the Hepworth in Wakefield, the Nottingham Contemporary and many more.

Sir Peter Bazalgette

Chairman, Arts Council England

Bob Dylan said his songs “were about three minutes”. What, exactly, was he trying to say?

Sir, Dr John Doherty (letter, Sept 22) recalls the interview in which Bob Dylan responded to the question asking what his songs were about by saying that they were all about three minutes. Rather than being an admission that his songs did not mean much, this was Dylan’s way of pointing out the inanity of the question. In fact Dylan never interpreted his own songs. To him it would have been the same as a comedian explaining why his jokes were funny.

Jan Zajac

West Milton, Dorset

Some of the greatest minds in history have suffered from this painful condition

Sir, As a sufferer from gout (letters, Sept 20), I take comfort from the fact that I am in the company of three of my great heroes: Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and John Milton.

Tony Phillips

Chalfont St Giles, Bucks

A simplistic ‘left-right’ perspective fails to identify the real problem facing Judaism in Britain: that of disaffiliation

Sir, Your report (Sept 22) on the challenges facing the Jewish community misses a crucial point. Research by the United Synagogue demonstrates that a simplistic “left-right” perspective fails to identify the real problem: that of disaffiliation.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s data shows that while the percentage movement in both directions between Orthodox communities and Progressive communities is very similar (between 9 and 11 per cent), far higher numbers of Jews are disaffiliating from religious communal life altogether, and describe themselves as being “just Jewish” or “secular/cultural” Jews. The rate of this disaffiliation is almost twice as high among those who had a Reform or Progressive upbringing (37 per cent) compared with those who had an Orthodox upbringing (20 per cent).

The good news is that this trend is being addressed; the United Synagogue’s investment in youth provision, for example, has led to a dramatic rise in young membership. The Chief Rabbi has called upon the Jewish community to “transform our synagogues into powerhouses of Jewish religious, educational and cultural experience”; we are doing so.

Stephen Pack

President, United Synagogue


Harvesting hops in Kent: what fraction of the price of a pint goes to the farmer?  Photo: Alamy

6:58AM BST 22 Sep 2014


SIR – Barry Max Wills highlights how over-priced a cup of coffee is (Letters, September 19).

Next time you are sitting – if you can afford it – in a pub with a pint in your hand, consider the negligable fraction of the price retained by your host, the licensee and the low price for which the brewers brew and sell it.

Consider, too, the vast “on cost” despite which the “pubcos” in the middle amazingly still claim to be unable to produce a profit.

Kevin Henley
The White Lion
Crewe, Cheshire

SIR – A pot of tea in a cafe starts at about 80p, but often is more than double that amount; hotels often charge the extortionate price of £3.50. When one can buy a good teabag for half a penny, where do the added charges come from?

Ron Kirby

A&E departments in two London hospitals closed earlier this month Photo: PA

6:59AM BST 22 Sep 2014


SIR – The death of a patient waiting in a queue of 15 ambulances outside an A&E department (report, September 19) reflects a crisis in Britain’s medical services which has been developing over many years.

Since its inception in 1948, the NHS has been closing hospitals and A&E departments, reducing beds from 11 per thousand of population in 1948 to 2.6 in 2012-13. In comparison, the European average is 5.3.

This month, two major London A&E departments – at the Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals – were closed.

When I was the A&E registrar at the Central Middlesex in the Seventies, I frequently had to close the department to ambulances owing to the queues of patients waiting for attention. Conditions today can only be worse.

But the lack of beds is not the only threat to patient safety; increasing closures mean that junior doctors have fewer places to train in acute medicine and surgery, which A&E departments uniquely provide.

Max Gammon

London SE16

SIR – My wife and I are just two of 10,400 patients in my local GP surgery, and have been happy with the service.

But all five of the partners in the surgery have just tendered their resignations from the NHS, with effect from January 2015.

What are we to make of this mutiny in the NHS?

Peter Davies
Reading, Berkshire


SIR – I currently am enjoying a paperback that my father bought in 1959 for 2 shillings and 6 pence.

Admittedly, it is rather dog-eared, but it is almost certainly a lot better than a 55-year-old Kindle will be in 2069.

Clive Pilley
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Bring home the bacon

SIR – I have always understood that bacon is a cured meat that will last a few months. Lately, no matter which supermarket I purchase bacon from, it has on the packet: “Once open consume within two days.”

I really cannot eat eight rashers of streaky two breakfasts running, and do not wish to freeze it.

Must I give up bacon?

Alan Self
Crowborough, East Sussex

EU crime risks

SIR – One of the dire warnings given by Europhiles is that, should Britain leave the European Union, we would endanger the cooperation between police forces and border agencies of all of our European partners.

However, the example of the convicted Latvian murderer being sought in connection with the disappearance of Alice Gross suggests that being a member of the EU could, in fact, be a hindrance to safety.

You report (September 19) that the Latvian authorities said “that they were under no obligation to forewarn Britain about [Arnis] Zalkalns’s conviction”.

It appears that the EU’s policy of “freedom of movement of peoples” is being exploited by authorities in certain countries to lose track conveniently of some undesirable citizens.

Why else would a murderer sentenced to 12 years in prison, but released after seven, not be closely monitored for five years, at least, after release?

Marc Versloot
London SW18

Happy commuters

SIR – A new study by Norwich Medical School has found that walking, cycling and taking the bus increase happiness levels. Driving to work, however, causes boredom, social isolation and stress, and reduces workers’ ability to concentrate.

Londoners like taking the bus. Between 1999 and 2013, the number of bus passenger trips in London rose 64 per cent, from 1.4 to 2.3 billion. A bus trip provides an opportunity to read, catch up on social media, write work emails or call a friend.

Londoners also love to cycle. In the morning peak, up to 64 per cent of vehicles on some main roads are now bikes.

It would be a joy to reward commuters in the rest of the country with a world-class bus network and Dutch-style cycle infrastructure.

Darren Johnson (Green)
Member of the London Assembly
London SE1

Hot autumn offers

SIR – I, too, have wondered about lightweight and flexible ladies” shoes (Letters, September 19).

That sort of ladies probably buy “white boys’ shirts” for their children and “luxury autumn duvets” for their beds.

R M Daughton

The classical factor: bring real music to schools

SIR – You report (X Factor pupils put drums ahead of violins”, September 15) that rising numbers of pupils are shifting away from the violin, flute and recorder in favour of the electric guitar due to the influence of reality television programmes.

Pop music is like football: it presents children with the possibility of a fast way out of their daily reality, to stardom and wealth.

Given the high-profile exposure of pop music through all kinds of media, and the unfortunate categorisation of more serious music as an exclusively middle-class pleasure, it is small wonder the balance has shifted.

Every child has the right to experience the beauty of classical music first-hand.

Sue Freestone
Principal, King’s Ely School
Ely, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Michael Henderson highlights (Sad decline of our musical youth”, Comment, September 20) the parlous state of music in state schools.

James Rhodes, the classical pianist, also deserves praise for his efforts to address this problem recently in his documentary “Don’t Stop The Music” on Channel 4.

However, nothing will change fundamentally until we restor the system – which once existed in counties across Britain – that nurtures and develops children’s musical ability for the duration of their time in school. Unfortunately, this requires proper funding, with well-qualified, properly paid teachers.

Successive governments have encouraged instead a model which relies on a series of models which include cheap, trendy, short-term ideas that lead nowhere.

Robert Parker

In the enthusiasm for devolution, it is time to simplify bureaucracy, not add to it. Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 22 Sep 2014


SIR – I am concerned at the frenetic post-referendum drive for devolution of powers to regional assemblies and even cities.

In my few square metres of England, I currently am represented at a parish council, a city council, a county council, a myriad of quangos, the two houses at Westminster, and the European parliament.

All of these bodies come with their attendant bureaucracies, committees and sub-committees. Some have affiliated, unelected, hangers on, paid for by the electorate.

I feel very well represented and expensively over-managed and governed from grass roots to continental level. I will be able to struggle by without another group, which will no doubt regularly need to go to Australia or America to see “best practice” in action.

I hear the sound carriages being coupled to the gravy train Some of these bodies must go in the shake-up.

Alan Love
Chelmsford, Essex

SIR – There doesn’t need to be a two-tiered system of MPs sitting in Parliament in order to debate and make decisions on English and British matters.

Devolve appropriate powers to cities and town councils that would make sense within their local context, thus freeing up time in Parliament for national matters.

There is passionate desire to have a balancing of the powers and a long-overdue overhaul of the voting system on purely English matters. Politicians should set out proposals to put before the electorate in May 2015 and let us decide.

Valerie Gatward
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – I agree with Jim O’Neill (Business Comment, September 20) that we need to devolve far more decision making to the regions.

He makes no mention of Birmingham and the West Midlands. This region is the second most populous region after London. Birmingham is also at the forefront of the revival in manufacturing – just look at the expansion of Land Rover and Jaguar – not to mention the fact that Birmingham has the highest number of start-up businesses outside London.

Why is one of our great cities relegated to the second division? It is time we took this city as seriously as the Chinese do.

Stephen Message

SIR – Subject, of course, to Nick Clegg’s blessing, would not this be an opportunity to review the constituency boundaries?

Stephen Hitch
Ermington, Devon

SIR – One of the reasons for disillusion with Parliament is that many electors’ votes are futile in constituencies with an overwhelming majority for one party. In my rural constituency, any vote other than Conservative is pointless.

The best answer is true proportional representation, where parliamentary power reflects the votes of the people.

The argument against this is that it can be difficult to maintain the link between constituency and MP. One solution would be larger constituencies with, say, five MPs, enabling a mixture of representatives to be elected.

Stanley Morris
Somerton, Oxfordshire

SIR – Drew Brooke-Mellors asks (Letters, September 20): “How can we motivate 84 per cent of voters to turn out at the general election?”

Surely the important thing is that everyone has a right to vote, not that they exercise that right. Better that they don’t vote at all than they vote aimlessly because they have been told that they should.

Jerry Hibbert
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

SIR – At the next election, should I vote for what is best for me, or my community, or England, or the United Kingdom, or Europe, or the world?

William Jupe

Irish Times:

Sir, – Alex Salmond didn’t win. But he did make a difference. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – David Cameron, promising all sorts of goodies to Scotland, and to Wales, England and Northern Ireland as well, might do well to heed the alleged advice of Sean Lemass to a new TD: “Never, ever make a promise you cannot break!” – Yours, etc,


College Road,


Sir, – The pathetic performance of Gordon Brown in the referendum on independence reminded one of nothing less than our own version, John Redmond. Both men based their pleadings on the promises of the English establishment, commitments designed to undermine the clamour for freedom and never to be fulfilled. It will be interesting to see how “devo-max” will be delivered, if ever, going on past experiences. Of course we will always have another one of London’s favourite strategies to use if necessary. Partition! It worked in Ireland, India, and elsewhere. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – The Scottish referendum was an astonishing waste of time and money, not to mention hours of meaningless media commentary and irrelevant column inches. With estimates of up to £50 million for this diversion, both sides should be ashamed of themselves for advancing a fake “issue” when all that was at stake was the branding of Scotland. The lives of disadvantaged families and children from Thurso to Dumfries would not have been affected one iota by either a Yes or No result.

We’ve all been Europeans for years now, and our destiny is linked to developments on mainland Europe, not what some remote outposts with minuscule populations want.

And don’t get me going on our ridiculous banking inquiry! – Yours, etc,


Scholarstown Road,

Knocklyon, Dublin 16.

Sir, – One very positive result of Scotland’s referendum decision is that the sizeable body of Anglophobic opinion in this country was not given an opportunity to dip its collective pen into the usual old poison and gloat, ad nauseam, over the break up of the UK. For this, dear Scotland, many thanks. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – A new day of note on the Scottish calendar – Dependence Day, September 18th. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Scotland has given Europe and the world an example in democracy. It has shown that it is entirely possible to resolve the always thorny issue of independence through the ballot box. By and large, the debate was conducted in a civil manner, with both sides defending their views. David Cameron and Alex Salmond have reminded us all of the virtues of the democratic process. That in itself is the great triumph of what we witnessed this week in Scotland.

By way of contrast, the government in Madrid refuses to acknowledge the demands of a vast majority of the citizens of Catalonia to hold a similar vote. This desire has been repeatedly expressed in a peaceful but clear manner by the citizens of Catalonia. On September 11th, only a few days ago, 1.8 million people marched down the streets of Barcelona demanding the right to vote. This follows on from similarly large demonstrations over the last number of years.

The Spanish government hides behind an outdated constitution drafted in 1978 under the careful watch of the military, only three years after Gen Franco’s death. Some 80 per cent of over-18s in Catalonia did not vote for that constitution.

The Catalan parliament passed a Bill last Friday that will allow for a non-binding referendum on Catalan independence to take place on November 9th.

For many people around the world, an independent Scotland is no more an inconceivable notion than that of an independent Catalonia. – Yours, etc,





Abbey Drive,

Navan Road,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – In the past fortnight, leadership figures in both Fine Gael and Labour have used the impasse in Stormont over welfare reform as a stick to beat Sinn Féin (“SF control of economy like handing keys back to troika, says Burton”, September 15th).

Not only are Charlie Flanagan and Joan Burton declaiming from positions of ignorance on the policy matter, they are undermining the functioning the NI Assembly in order to score points in Leinster House.

I was alarmed to hear the leader of the Irish Labour Party accept the spin of the Tories and their enablers that those opposed to welfare reform in the UK “seem relentlessly opposed to any measures to help people back to work”.

The trade union movement in Northern Ireland has been relentlessly opposed to these these flawed and vindictive proposals, especially since their disastrous enforcement in England, Wales and Scotland. We have led a major civil society campaign highlighting the injustice and unworkablility of the Tory vision of the welfare state. Alongside allies in the churches, academia, and the community and voluntary sectors, we have lobbied, leafleted, picketed and protested at these pernicious “reforms” – at least some of which will be abandoned after next year’s general election, unless the Conservatives pull off a most surprising win in the current political environment.

Every political party in Stormont has been on the receiving end of our campaign work, which has resulted in support from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party and individual MLAs from the UUP and DUP.

The ICTU in Northern Ireland has never supported any particular political party. Trade unions that support working people are relentlessly opposed to policies that affect and afflict the working poor. That is our function.

It is a sad day when our work is undermined by politicians in the Republic of Ireland desperate for a cheap soundbite. – Yours, etc,


Assistant General Secretary,

Irish Congress

of Trade Unions,

Northern Ireland,

Carlin House,

Donegall Street Place,


Sir, – John McManus, discussing the fish farm proposals being promoted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, notes that many politicians are withholding their support for the proposed projects (“Fish farms a breeding ground for tensions over job creation”, Business Opinion, September 15th).

In reality, there’s no mystery behind the growing scepticism of plans for large-scale fish farms. Recent studies have shown that farmed salmon has more than twice the fat content of a typical pizza (some 14g of fat per 100g compared to 6.4g for a pizza margherita, with the corresponding figure for wild salmon standing at 3.2g per 100g). It’s not a product that can sustainably be marketed as healthy. Farmed salmon have a high fat content because, cooped up in cages, these fish get little exercise. The fish cages, which are tethered to the sea bed, become breeding grounds for lice, leading salmon-farm owners to douse the cages with chemicals to try and abate the problem. But drenching with chemicals has its own ill-effects and concerns over the level of toxins found in farmed salmon are increasing.

Caged fish are typically fed by dropping feed from overhead. Sadly, this makes for an easy meal for wild fish – and so they can congregate around the cages. But, as mentioned, the fish cages harbour high concentrations of lice. And, while the exact level of impact continues to be debated, it is no longer disputed that the presence of fish cages leads to higher levels of lice infestation among wild fish.

And so, for the most part, politicians are being convinced by one straightforward argument – there are more salaries at stake in Ireland’s pre-existing fishing and angling tourism sectors than stand to be created by the proposed fish farms, with the case made here in Ireland borne out by the experience in Canada. In short, it’s coming down to simple economics. – Yours, etc,


Policy Director,

An Taisce,

Tailors’ Hall,


Dublin 8.

Tue, Sep 23, 2014, 01:07

First published: Tue, Sep 23, 2014, 01:07

Sir, – I attended the Reform Group seminar on September 18th on the passage of the Government of Ireland Act, 1914.

Some have put forward the proposition that the British government was never serious about granting home rule to Ireland. I think that I can ascertain the necessity for this line of argument – it’s all to do with an uneasiness about the legitimacy of the Easter Rebellion.

John Bruton raised the inconvenient truth that the Rising – led and fought overwhelmingly by people whose morality was set by reference to Roman Catholicism – did not satisfy the conditions necessary for a “just war”. While it may, possibly, have been defined as a “just cause” and of “right intention”, it was certainly not authorised by a “competent authority”, nor was it a “last resort”.

It is doubtful if the harm done (hundreds dead, the centre of Dublin devastated) was proportionate to its prospects of success (it had none).

In that context, the apologists for the Rising adopt two lines of reasoning to get around the problem. The first is to assert that the whole home rule business was a chimera, a mirage, that would never become a reality. Only armed rebellion would deliver “freedom”. That was not the perception of the vast mass of the Irish people in 1916; it would have negated what the entire leadership and followers of the Irish Parliamentary Party, from Parnell to Redmond, had stood for.

The second line of defence is that of “post-event justification”.

This reads history backwards, using the 1918 election results to validate retrospectively the 1916 rebellion.

It is exactly the sort of dangerous illogicality that has allowed the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin to justify their murderous campaign between 1968 and 1998. The end, in other words, always justifies the means. I am sure that your readers can see where that can lead.

I also got the sense at the seminar that Mr Bruton had a real grasp of the human tragedies that lie behind the Rising and the wars of 1919-23.

Prof Ronan Fanning suggested that, in the context of the Great War then raging, the fatalities of the Rising were “a drop in the ocean”.

Mr Bruton pointed out that this was a false comparison; the Rising’s casualties were additional; and, in his view, unnecessary. No death is “a drop in the ocean”; each left parents, children, lovers, siblings and friends bereft. Whatever about the military men and rebels, no-one asked those civilians who died whether they were happy to do so for Ireland.

Finally, it was also pointed out that the 1916 rebels’ appeal to “our gallant allies in Europe” in the Proclamation was utterly counterproductive, since it ensured that the Irish separatist case was ignored at the Versailles peace conference. The British, the French and the Americans were not going to treat with people who had openly sided with those posing an existential threat to their states. – Yours, etc,


Rathasker Heights,

Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – I am driven to wonder what John Bruton hopes to achieve by his repetition of the thesis that Ireland would have done better if the violent events of 1916 to 1922 had not occurred.

Leaving aside his limited view of the Irish side of the equation – noble-hearted John Redmond gently leading us all across Jordan to a rather inadequate land promised, tardily and reluctantly, by London – it is his perception of the Britain of the period that surely calls for remark.

The British Empire had no experience of or inclination towards letting bits go. Eventually fortified by victory in the Great War, it tended to be pugnacious in the defence of its God-given dominion over palm and pine. Hence also in 1916 the response had been solely military, including the inevitable gunboat, and the drumhead dispatch of the leaders and signatories. That reaction was not a British policy mistake; it was entirely consistent with the British approach to native trouble wherever it arose.

To suggest that by mere acceptance of the Home Rule Act, we might have avoided revolution and the independence struggle, or negotiated better terms leading to separation (the essential aim of the Irish majority over the centuries) is unprofitable speculation, lacking even amusement value.

Reference to current events in Scotland, which has been made, brings sharply to view how very different today’s PC and welfare state Britain has become, with its enormous national debt and rather fewer gunboats to its name. The Scottish nationalists have it easy. – Yours, etc,


Silchester Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Last Wednesday a relative was taken by ambulance to Tallaght hospital A&E unwell and in a distressed condition.

A total of 33 hours later a bed became free and he was admitted. He spent almost half that period lying on a trolley in the hallway of the busy A&E department while the clearly overworked staff did their best to attend to patients.

I’d be surprised if this intolerable situation was not replicated in other underfunded and understaffed hospitals across the country.

At the same as this deplorable state of affairs continues, the Government is hinting at tax cuts in the upcoming budget, a vote-grabbing stroke if ever there was one.

The leopard clearly hasn’t changed its spots, despite protestations from the political class that auction politics is a thing of the past. – Yours, etc,


Lansdowne Park,

Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Coming on the heels of data privacy concerns, the furore over the distribution of a U2 album offers a revealing insight into competing approaches of cloud computing – personal consent versus corporate creepiness.

It would seem that the keeping of naked selfies on an individual’s device is fine, but the pushing of music onto the same device is not.

Perish the thought that Apple and the Rolling Stones might ever enter a deal to republish Get Off of My Cloud. – Yours, etc,


South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I hope the recent EuroMillions winner takes his or her time to collect the €86.7 million jackpot. The longer the winner takes to claim the money, the more outlandish the rumours.

I had a phone call yesterday from a friend letting me know that he had heard that I had won. I didn’t deny or confirm the rumour. – Yours, etc,


Mill Street,


Co Mayo.

A chara, – It struck me as curious that Donald Clarke’s article decrying a general ignorance of basic scientific principles among those who would consider themselves well educated (“Scientists are respected in theory while artists are celebrated in practice”, Opinion and Analysis, September 20th) was tagged under “Religion and Beliefs”, in the online edition at least. An editorial slip? Or a sly nod towards the notion that for some science has taken the place of faith? – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I would like to thank all those involved in establishing the Woodenbridge World War One Memorial Park (“Woodenbridge park to mark Wicklow dead of first World War”, September 18th). A hundred years ago John Redmond urged Irishmen to go “wherever the firing line extends in defence of right, of freedom and religion in this war”. My great-uncles, Edward and George Kearon, answered Redmond’s call, and died together at sea on November 10th, 1917, aged only 17 and 19.

For far too long, all these forgotten heroes of Co Wicklow went unremembered, but this park remedies that wrong. – Yours, etc,


Ballinacarrig Lower,

Ballinaclash, Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

If Sunday’s fare in Croke Park is a forerunner of what we can expect in next year’s All-Ireland football final then I can only suggest there will be no shortage of tickets for anyone.

I feel truly sorry for all players who played in this year’s final. They were confined to orders not to express their skills and talents, which I have no doubt they have in abundance. However, it appears there is now a law of win-at-all-costs. It doesn’t matters if what they serve up to their loyal fans is boring and a step nearer to what is played in the soccer world.

The song about building a wall around Donegal almost happened on the pitch on Sunday. All we were short of was the blocks and mortar in the middle of the pitch so that each team could kick the ball over the wall at selected intervals.

It’s sad when the only exciting memory of this fiasco of a final was the unfortunate mistake made by the Donegal goalkeeper which allowed the Kerry forward a free shot into the net.

GAA fans deserve better than this – and county boards better wake up and instruct their managers that the game is meant to be played for the enjoyment of the fans. If this kind of football continues it wont be long before people think twice about paying for something they can do at home for free – and that is to fall asleep.

Fred Molloy, Dublin 15

Paisley a man of contrasts

Tributes to Ian Paisley have tended to define him in terms of numerous deliberately-ambiguous characteristics. These are driven by the Irish injunction not to speak ill of the dead.

For instance, the claim that Paisley was a man of conviction implies that this was a virtue. To have unmovable conviction is often an indication of pathological inability to see beyond one’s own beliefs.

Ian Paisley was determined to keep the Catholics at bay, colluding in depriving them of basic rights, particularly equality of treatment.

He was steadfast in his determination to have no truck with Irish nationalists, particularly the IRA.

His thunderous rabble rousing declaration, “Never! Never! Never” was chilling in the determination to perpetuate the injustices that defined life for so many in the North.

Paisley was the chief influence in sustaining the radical antipathy between the Protestant and Catholic communities.

It was his determination not to budge one inch from the Protestant supremacy in the North that eventually led to the violence that marked the life of the region for years.

Attempts to bring together the warring parties were frustrated by each side desiring to fire the last shot. There seemed to be no hope of mutual forgiveness of the wrongs of the past.

Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony said: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones”, but the good that Ian Paisley did will live after him; in the end, he saw that if we want closure on the dark history of the North we have to be prepared to forgive and seek reconciliation with those we have learned to despise.

It is a strange irony that Ian Paisley showed us that way; like his God, he worked in mysterious ways.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England

Time to help out the poor

To tax or not to tax!

Average citizens don’t fully understand the tax system. I know that from long experience.

Between direct tax on wages and indirect tax example vat, surcharges, fuel excises, and tax on new homes Ireland collected over €37 billion in 2013.

Dr Michael Collins, senior researcher with the Nevin Institute, has completed a comprehensive study of the tax system in Ireland by gathering and analysing information from regular household surveys, CSO figures and data from the Department of Finance. His key findings were that people on middle income pay the least amount of tax while those on the bottom and top income pay the most tax.

Startling as it may seem our direct income tax is progressive, while our indirect is regressive.

Politicians are trying to make a case for tax relief for the “squeezed middle” earners. This is a myth. Citizens on low income need tax relief and waivers if society is not to pick up the tab further down the line in the shape of homeless, poverty, and illness.

Many on low income have slipped into poverty in the last six years, they are struggling to maintain some semblance of pride and dignity while trying to eat regularly and keep the bills paid. There are other, better ways of collecting tax.

Tax is critical for the operation of a democratic civil society. Ireland’s leaders need to ensure the poor do not suffer by indirect tax.

Dermot Hayes, Ennis, County Clare

Wanted: billionaires

Who wants to be a billionaire? It’s the most lucrative position in the world, with just three recorded in Ireland – though I’m of the opinion I could name five off the cuff!

The number of billionaires around the world in 2014 remains static since last year at 2,325 – surely a rare species! Europe is the place to be if you’re one of this select group, according to a new report carried out by Wealth X and UBS (Irish Independent September 19).

More billionaires – 775 – live in Europe than any other continent on Earth; most of them reside in the UK and Germany. North America is the second-most popular continent, with 609. Their total global wealth is $7,291 trillion.

It was also of note in the report that the fastest-growing segment of the billionaire fraternity – in terms of wealth and source – are those who inherited only part of their fortune and became billionaires through their own entrepreneurial endeavours.

Most of the fortunes were made in finance, banking and investment. This professional species are thin on the ground here, leaving endless opportunities for bright young Irish sparks of the future. In the process, they would create a real employment boom.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Health service is ailing

Last Wednesday my brother-in-law was taken by ambulance to Tallaght Hospital A&E unwell and in a distressed condition.

Thirty-three hours later a bed became free and he was admitted.

He spent almost half that period lying on a trolley in the hallway of the busy A&E department while the clearly over-worked staff did their best to attend to patients.

I’d be surprised if the intolerable situation is not replicated in other under-funded and under-staffed hospitals across the country.

At the same time as this deplorable state of affairs continues the Government is hinting at tax cuts in the upcoming Budget – a vote-grabbing stroke if ever there was one.

The leopard clearly hasn’t changed its spots, despite protestations from the political class that auction politics are a thing of the past. Finance Minister Michael Noonan would better serve the country if he forsook the tax cuts bribe and put any money he has to spare into the desperately-needy hospital front-line services and provide beds for sick.

Frank Khan, Templeogue. Dublin 16

Irish Independent


September 22, 2014

22 September 2014 Boredom

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp quiet day we are bored but too tired to do anything about it

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Rivers Scott – obituary

Rivers Scott was a literary editor, diarist and agent who pruned the prose of Britain’s authors

Rivers Scott

Rivers Scott

6:38PM BST 21 Sep 2014


Rivers Scott, who has died aged 92, was the most experienced literary editor in London during the 1960s and 1970s, working for The Sunday Telegraph, Now magazine, the Mail on Sunday and The Tablet.

Starting as deputy to Anthony Curtis on The Sunday Telegraph’s books page, he reviewed travel books, war memoirs and novels and was highly valued for his skilful cutting of copy from a talented stable of reviewers, who included the Malta-based critic and novelist Nigel Dennis, the poet Kathleen Raine and the comic writer Arthur Marshall. In addition there was the formidable Dame Rebecca West, who succumbed to Scott’s charm over the phone as he cut her back to 1,000 words. On one occasion a lead review of the collected poems of CP Cavafy prompted a complaint from management that poetry was never again to be given such prominence. When Scott remonstrated, another memo repeated the prohibition, adding: “What is worse, it was a Greek.”

The son of a stockbroker, Francis Geoffrey Riversdale Winstone Scott was born on December 12 1921. At Eton he started a film society which made a feature about a day in the life an Etonian.

He then went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read History. Commissioned in the 17th 21st Lancers, following the outbreak of the Second World War, he was captured in his first significant action, at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, after rescuing a gunner from a blazing tank. He was sent to a camp outside Naples, from which he was released after seven months by the Italian commandant.

With a colleague he then spent three months on the run, sleeping in barns and learning to speak Italian from peasants who gave them shelter when Germans forces came close. After reaching Switzerland, Scott was appointed interpreter to an Australian transport officer, then became ADC to General “Monkey” Morgan at Caserta. After the war Scott learned French in Paris and ran a schools’ magazine in English and French for three years, then joined the Times Education Supplement, reporting on school and university drama at the Festival of Britain.

Taken on by The Daily Telegraph he arrived for his first day on the Peterborough diary wearing a trilby, only for Harry Dickens, great-grandson of the novelist, to take him aside: “On this column we wear bowler hats.” Scott claimed to have been an indifferent reporter, but he fitted the classic model of a diary journalist, being well-bred, likeable, high-spirited, and with a mischievous streak; his brother John was to become the paper’s racing columnist “Hotspur”.

Although never particularly ambitious, Scott found he greatly enjoyed being in charge when he was unexpectedly elevated to the position of literary editor in 1962. After four years he left to run the non-fiction list at Hodder, but soon moved to Now magazine for double the salary ; two years later Goldsmith suddenly announced Now’s closure.

Scott was next asked to join the new Mail on Sunday, an experience he did not enjoy, though he had time to edit a volume of John Donne’s prose for the Folio Society. After 18 months he found himself the only original section editor still in post. A convert to Roman Catholicism, he then became literary adviser to The Tablet, whose reviews he raised to an unsurpassed standard .

By 1981 Scott had had enough of journalism, and started up a literary agency with Gloria Ferris, demonstrating a flair for editing, then selling, unusual manuscripts to a wide variety of publishers for such authors as the polar biographer, Roland Huntford, the film encyclopedist Leslie Halliwell, the historian Trevor Royle, the Tory Attorney General Peter Rawlinson as well as Ned Sherrin and the runner Steve Ovett.

Rivers Scott married, in 1950, Christina Dawson, daughter of the historian Christopher Dawson. She died in 2001, and he is survived by their five sons.

Rivers Scott, born December 12 1921, died May 22 2014


Brighton joins in the National Day of Action to say No to TTIP Anti-TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) protest, Brighton, July 2014. Photograph: Kate Nye/Corbis

Owen Jones (This trade deal puts private profit above people’s needs, 15 September) is an intelligent political and social commentator, not a one-man campaigning NGO. So he must know that investment protection treaties don’t allow multinationals “to sue sovereign governments … on the grounds that their profits are threatened”. And he must certainly know that, as with any lawsuit, the fact that Philip Morris has brought proceedings against Australia over the plain packaging regulations doesn’t mean that either side has won this highly contentious case before judgment has been given.

What investment treaties typically do is offer investors (in either direction) reciprocal guarantees of basic principles such as fair and equitable treatment, protection and security, non-discrimination both generally and by comparison with local investors, and against expropriation without compensation (also guaranteed by the European convention on human rights).

Writing as one of those “so-called” arbitrators Owen Jones refers to, I’ve been prompted to do something I’d never thought of doing before: draw up a balance sheet of all the arbitration tribunals on which I’ve sat. It seems that in seven cases we decided for the investor, and in nine cases for the government. All of these decisions bar two were unanimous (ie including the arbitrator nominated by the investor or, as the case may be, the government); and in one case, although we found some breaches of the guarantees described above, we awarded no compensation because the investor failed to prove any loss, and in another the investor apparently found the amount of compensation we awarded so modest that it chose not to contest a subsequent attempt to upset our ruling.

There are many weighty arguments against the TTIP, as there are in its favour. But they deserve to be debated on their objective merits, not by mythological scaremongering.
Frank Berman QC
Essex Court Chambers, London

• Congratulations on Owen Jones’s article highlighting the threat that the proposed EU-US free-trade deal known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presents to our sovereignty – not to mention our standards of workers’ rights, environmental standards and food safety rules.

As he rightly says, it is astonishing that the Tories and Ukip, which claim to be gravely concerned about British sovereignty, have only positive things to say about TTIP. Even more surprising perhaps that Labour and the Liberal Democrats do likewise. Indeed Menzies Campbell defended the secrecy of the negotiations when discussing them with me on the BBC2’s The Daily Politics, saying the public should know nothing until they are “eventually presented with a package”.

The lack of general media attention and examination of TTIP has been a matter of grave concern to Green parties, which in the UK and across Europe are at the forefront of opposition to the proposal. And there should be an outcry about the EU commission decision to block a proposed European citizens’ initiative on TTIP and the similar EU-Canada proposed deal (Ceta), which was backed by more than 200 organisations across Europe.

Please keep reporting regularly on TTIP, and let’s all demand that the BBC and other news outlets cover this critically important issue.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green party of England and Wales

• On behalf of the European commission I would like to reassure Owen Jones that the TTIP trade deal with the US will be no threat to the NHS. Publicly funded health services are excluded from most trade deals. Healthcare services are excluded from the general government procurement agreement at the World Trade Organisation. They are even in large part exempted from the EU’s own single-market rules.

TTIP will be no different. The deal the commission will propose will not require the UK government or NHS to put anything out to private contract. TTIP will not give US companies leeway to sue a future UK government for returning privatised or contracted-out health services to direct public provision. Neither will we be compromising on food safety in the EU, as some of your other correspondents have alleged.

Furthermore, European governments and parliaments – and not “faceless EU bureaucrats”, as Mr Jones alleges – make the final decisions on all EU trade deals.

The commission will put before them a TTIP deal that will mean more growth and more jobs. Not one that would undermine things that citizens across Europe hold dear and that would anyway have no chance of agreement.
Jacqueline Minor
Head, European commission office in London

• Owen Jones sees the TTIP and its system of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) as an attack on democracy. Looked at from the opposite direction, ISDS effectively dismantles capitalism. The justification of capitalism has always been that it directs capital to those best able to use it. ISDS replaces this impetus of capitalism with the comfort blanket of permanent society support. ISDS removes the risk from business investment and places all risk on the consumer and on the taxpayer. As corporations no longer pay tax, society effectively underwrites all risk. The last time this happened, we called it feudalism. Under feudalism, the barons acknowledged allegiance to the monarch, under God. Under ISDS, monarchy is replaced by corporate bodies under their God, money.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• Well done, Owen Jones, for the long-awaited and very welcome follow-up to George Monbiot’s article last November. Let’s hope it isn’t too late. As the letter from the World Development Movement, War on Want and others that you published on 12 September warned, that day was the last chance for Vince Cable to use the UK’s veto to remove ISDS from the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta). The TUC’s international head, Owen Tudor, has said that once Ceta is implemented, “most of the worries people have about TTIP will already have come to pass”. Any news on that lethal agreement? Was it finalised on 12 September? Did Cable use his veto? (Or are those airborne porkers passing my window now?) Please let us know.
John Airs

• Owen Jones is quite right that the anti-EU right’s failure to object to the TTIP “demonstrates the duplicity of rightwing Euroscepticism”. However, he seems not to notice that the issue also illustrates the dishonesty of centre-left Europhilia. Jones does not even name the European commission among the villains of the affair. The TTIP gives the lie to those commentators who insist the EU is a force for social progress. If the TTIP goes through as it stands, support for continued membership of the EU will be incompatible with any position that can claim to be social democratic.

Perhaps the Guardian could publish the answer to this question: the TTIP is a treaty between the EU and the US; if it is finalised while the UK is a member of the EU, would a subsequent “Brexit” free us from its rules?
John Wilson

Carol Ann Duffy Carol Ann Duffy, poet laureate. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Irvine Welsh lives up to his reputation as a writer of fiction with his assertion on the front page of Saturday’s Guardian that the yes campaign came “within a whisker of a sensational victory” in the Scottish referendum. The noes polled 24% more votes than the yeses (2,001,926 to 1,617,989). And only four of Scotland’s 32 regions voted yes. That’s more of a country mile than a whisker.
Dominic Lawson
Dallington, East Sussex

• As a yes voter, my eyes filled with tears on reading Carol Duffy’s poignant poem, September 2014, on Saturday’s front page – as if I had grasped that thorny thistle. So much said in so few words!
Margaret Geyer
Tayport, Fife

• As a Scottish voter bewildered by the issues in the referendum, I welcomed the exceptionally high quality of comment on the subject by Guardian writers. What I found even more helpful, however, was your letters page. Day after day, readers on both sides of the debate expressed their views in clear, knowledgable, passionate and often brilliantly worded language, often illuminating aspects not covered elsewhere. What a resource are Guardian readers!
Susan Tomes

• If only English MPs are to be permitted to vote on English laws (Report, 20 September), surely only women MPs should be allowed to vote on subjects affecting women’s rights, and so on.
Gordon Reece

• You note that the referendum turnout was “awesome” (Editorial, 20 September). Your conversion to the world view of the Lego Movie is welcome. As it reminds us, “everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team”.
Keith Flett

Fitting solar thermal water heaters onto the roof, Eigg Community energy: fitting solar thermal water heaters onto the roof of a cottage on the Hebridean island of Eigg, which has a completely renewables-powered electricity grid. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters

How silly of Jenny Turner, in her review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, to refer so patronisingly to the “knit-your-owns” (Review, 20 September). Of course governments should be taking on this threat – and of course we keep on telling them so. But voluntary groups like Ovesco, a community-owned and -funded renewable energy company, also create large amounts of green energy through lots of hard and mostly unpaid work. Organisations like ours are the means by which many people know about climate change, understand that renewables are simply common sense, and see that there are ways in which they can act. Big things arise from little things; governments will not take notice until the many start demanding that they do. It will be a welcome day when/if we are able to pass the task over to them; I am quite looking forward to doing some knitting.
Elizabeth Mandeville
Lewes, East Sussex

Margaret Thatcher leaving 10 Downing Street for the last time as prime minister. Margaret Thatcher leaving 10 Downing Street for the last time as prime minister. Photograph: Lennox Ken/mirrorpix

In the current climate of ever-rising work-related stress and mental illness caused by working conditions, it only surprises me that it would surprise any researcher to discover that psychopaths are very likely to be in authority roles in large organisations (Report, 19 September). In the public sector as well as private companies, a lot of people on the receiving end have been aware of it for a long time.
Mark Lewinski
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire

• A “theoretical physician” (Who said Britons were drunk, dirty and deplorable?, 20 September) sounds a rather dangerous thing to be; I think João Magueijo must be a theoretical physicist, which is a very different occupation.
Elizabeth Grist
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• While their exploits are legendary, there is nothing made-up about the existence of Ireland’s three patron saints (Letters, 17 September). Saint Patrick, Saint Brigit and Saint Columba were all real people, as was Saint Piran, patron of Cornwall, another “home nation” that might one day gain independence.
Cian Molloy
Wicklow, Ireland

• Great story from Hilary Mantel (The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: August 6th 1983, Review, 20 September), but I would not have missed that stabbed-in-the-back, tearful exit from Downing Street for anything.
Sheila Rigby
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

• Kay Ara (Letters, 20 September) may be very happy looking at photographs of a man in pants. It put me off my dinner. I do not expect that on Page 3 of the Guardian.
Mari Booker



Sir, As an Anglo-Scot with a Scottish wife, I heard the good news on Friday that I was not, after all, going to be married to a foreigner. The last thing I now wish to see is the growth of an harrumphing Longshanks tendency in Westminster. Having worked in London in an office overlooking Big Ben, I am very aware of the evolution of a form of government which aggravates hitherto-submerged cultural divisions.

William the Conqueror took no account of the north until its peoples rose against him. The result was genocide. Nevertheless, the Conqueror found England to have a most profitable, efficient, system of centralised tax gathering and local government. The evolution of government from these early beginnings is peculiar to Britain. In Europe a revolution was needed before the Napoleonic system could be either adopted or imposed, yet ironically this was more suited to the devolution of the power to govern and raise taxes.

Here, nothing can be done without central government approval or oversight. The British system has reached the stage where it is totally unsuited to such devolution. In our former American colonies the problem was overcome by federalism and the sometimes-bloody assertion of states’ rights, while all the time retaining the Anglo-Saxon posse comitatus.

The downside to the British genius in retaining some of the old while evolving the new, is the production of back-of-a-fag-packet solutions.

Devolution undoubtedly requires a federalist solution, to which our old, creaking system of local government is totally unsuited. For the first time in our history we now perhaps need to tear things up and start again.
Keith Elliot Hunter
Ilkley, W Yorks

Sir, I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1983 but I profoundly disagree with the Labour leadership on how to deal with the fall-out from the “No” vote in the independence referendum.

The only viable solution for the UK is a genuine federal system, whereby the UK Parliament is responsible for agreed federal issues and devolved assemblies in the four home countries deal with the residue. If that causes problems for Labour in England so be it.

Both Canada and Australia — Commonwealth territories to whom we have bequeathed parliamentary systems — both operate on a federal basis.

Sometimes parents should follow the examples of their children.

Alex Rae


Sir, I find it preposterous that Messers Cameron, Gove, Hague, Redwood et al seriously think that their solution to the West Lothian Question, namely English votes for English laws by the same set of English MPs who also legislate on UK-wide policy is remotely tenable, for it raises more anomalies than it solves. The one that I would like to raise is: how is it possible to imagine an MP from a non-English constituency ever becoming the British prime minister?

An English parliament together with a US senate-style UK parliament does solve this, and many other anomalies. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians could think beyond short-term political expediencies? For the sake of the long term stability of the UK, I hope all parties will give this proposal proper consideration, and not simply regard it as the goal of a nationalistic minority.

William Barford


Sir, In addition to examining (“How Germany kept its trust in teachers”, letters Sept 18), it might be be worth a look at the German political system also — should politicians be intent on their pledge to review the British system in the wake of the Scottish Referendum. Given the success of the coalition government, thanks in no small part to David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s courage, it would seem that coalition governments can and do work — whatever the Jonahs say. Much of the economic success of Germany can be ascribed to the stability and even-handedness of its political system.

Michael Bacon
Watford, Herts

Sir, True Scots should not be too despondent. Now that Brown, Darling and Cameron et al can return Scotland to the backburner and ensconce themselves on their cosy green benches at Westminster, 45 per cent of us can excuse ourselves from culpability when the promised extra powers to the Scottish parliament are cast aside, minimised or deferred. The 55 per cent will have much to contemplate when they are left grinding on the rusty Tory/Labour swings-and-roundabouts of London establishment politics
William Burns

Sir, With regard to the Union, we should examine England’s tendency to bray the national anthem at the other home nations before sporting events. If I were Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish I would be irritated beyond civility by another home nation singing my national anthem at me. Should we not take a leaf out of the books of athletics and cricket and use another song?
Roger Bull
Islington Green, N1

Sir, Westminster is going to need superb constitutional advice, as was provided by the previous Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Robert Rogers. You reported that he left because of Mr Bercow’s behaviour

(“Parting shot from Commons clerk questions Speaker’s role”, Sept 21). Surely it is not too late for MPs to oust Bercow, thus allowing Sir Robert to return to his duties? The needs of the country must take precedence over one individual.
John Harris

Sir, More people live in Essex than voted “Yes” in the Scottish referendum, so if more powers are to be devolved to Scotland then the higher subsidy paid to those living there should cease.

sir bob russell,

Lib-Dem MP for Colchester,

Colchester, Essex

Sir, Westminster’s challenge now is to engage 84 per cent of the electorate outside of Scotland.
roy hamlin

Sir, Tattoos. Was there ever a more apposite three-letter start to another word for eyesore?

Edward Macauley


Sir, I noticed today that the annual migration of local university Freshers has begun, a week earlier than previously: another result of climate change, perhaps?

JR Knight

Reading, Berks

Sir, I am delighted that the “Better Together” faction gained 85 per cent of the votes cast. It is marvellous news that women and men can play golf together, at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Jim Macey
Bracknell, Berks


Victims of trafficking need more and better support after they come forward

2.4 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, says UN

Photo: Alamy

6:58AM BST 21 Sep 2014


SIR – As Peter Oborne , slavery is by no means confined to the history books.

In Britain nearly 3,000 trafficked women are working as prostitutes at any given time. Instead of being helped, many trafficked victims face prosecution, deportation and the risk of being re-trafficked, which means they are often reluctant to testify against their traffickers.

While the Modern Slavery Bill is a step in the right direction, as it offers victims immunity, there needs to be a far greater focus on the support available once they come forward. Proposals to extend statutory support to victims beyond 45 days are absolutely vital and must become law.

Jakki Moxham
Chief Executive, Housing for Women
London SW9

Uniting against Isil

SIR – Turkey was understandably loath to join a multinational response to Isil while 49 of its citizens stil remained captives of the organisation and after Nato failed to invoke Article 5 in its defence.

Without evidence of robust support, the message to all aggressors was clear: concerted Nato action can easily be avoided by seizing hostages from the sovereign territories of diplomatic missions.

Robert Stephenson
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Bricks and nostalgia

SIR – As David Kynaston points out, planners, given the opportunity, will always sweep away the old in favour of the new.

Like Prom organisers who like to set Beethoven beside Boulez, London’s architectural planners preserve a St Pancras Station here but insert a Shard there, just for the sake of the frisson created by the old-new contrast.

Isolated concessions, such as the campaign to save Giles Gilbert-Scott’s redundant Battersea Power Station, may come across as exercises in nostalgia and ultimately speed the plough of unsentimental modernisers.

David Pope
London NW11

Over-managed NHS

SIR – It is no wonder the National Health Service is experiencing financial problems when it is drowning under too many tiers of bureaucracy.

Each area of the NHS is managed by scores of different trusts, all with several layers of management and all apparently carrying out identical tasks for the area covered by their group.

Other successful industries have a board to make policies and one layer of managers to implement them.

Let doctors and nurses use their skills without being harassed by inexperienced box-tickers.

Stanley Mangham
Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire

A royal injustice

SIR – I am less concerned about cruelty to goldfish in Jamie Lloyd’s Richard III than I am about Shakespeare’s cruelty to the real Richard III, possibly the best king of England and certainly no murderer.

Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire

Westminster walk

SIR – Baroness Hanham racked up a bill of almost £1,000 in taxi fares for 38 journeys between the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo.

A single ticket from Westminster to Waterloo on the Jubilee Line costs £4.70, or just £2.20 with an Oyster Card. The walk can be pleasant, costs nothing, and might do the baroness a power of good.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

SIR – There is only one viable way in which the British constitution could be changed to permit the delegation of powers to England to match those to be granted to Scotland: the creation of a separately elected English parliament in addition to the UK Parliament at Westminster.

The cost of introducing an extra tier of government could be mitigated by greatly reducing the number of Westminster MPs, while moving the new English parliament away from London could lend it wider acceptance.

Tony Allen
Kettlestone, Norfolk

SIR – The leaders of the three main parties had no mandate whatever from the voters who elected them to promise further powers to the Scots, who are already over-privileged and over-funded by comparison with everyone else.

Any MP who has a conscience should vote against implementation of such a promise before justice for the less privileged Welsh and the totally exploited English majority is secured. Otherwise, the only party deserving our votes in the general election will be Ukip.

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – While the SNP will be disappointed that it has not achieved independence for Scotland, the result surely gives the party the best of both worlds – the security of knowing that Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom and also, with a 45 per cent vote for independence, the ability to put pressure on Westminster for more devolved powers.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – Whatever changes are made to the terms and conditions of the Scottish devolution agreement must be matched by more economic and political autonomy for England.

The new constitutional arrangements must be written into a binding legal statute.

Don Bailey
Frodsham, Cheshire

SIR – In their last minute scramble to persuade the Scottish voters to remain part of the UK, our inept political party leaders offered them all kinds of financial inducements.

The people of Scotland already enjoy an enhanced slice of the UK cake and I, for one, do not agree with increasing the differential.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – The Scots have voted in favour of the Union, and politicians now have a responsibility to strengthen the values which bind the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Alongside the devolution agenda, the UK Government must pursue policies which actively benefit the entire realm socially, financially and politically.

I propose that Parliament establishes a permanent Standing Committee to advise ministers on the likely effects of projected legislation on the home nations, chaired on a rotational basis by members from each of the constituent countries.

Alan Webb
Chelmsford, Essex

SIR – Scotland has voted No to independence; how does that demonstrate that Scotland wants more devolved powers?

As for England – or indeed Yorkshire, Manchester or London – where is the evidence that we want devolved powers?

Given that the main parties are apparently now all committed to devolution, do we not deserve some referendums?

Peter Cave
London W1

SIR – The Scottish independence debate has focused attention on the need to reform radically the structure of the United Kingdom.

The current system may be described as one of asymmetric devolution; that is, devolution of powers unequally to the four nations. Creating a new English parliament would transform the current system into one of symmetric devolution.

A fully federal system – which would require a significant additional step, namely the drafting of a written constitution specifying the division of powers between the centre and the parts – may represent the only solution that would prove sustainable, meeting the now evident demands for national autonomy without dismantling the Union.

Dr John Law
London W2

SIR – More devolved powers for Scotland? Then more devolved powers for England.

L A Lawrence
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – The Scots have had their say, now it’s time for the rest of the UK to have ours on issues such as the end of Barnett Formula, devolution and House of Lords reform.

Anthony Gould
London W1F

SIR – As an Englishman, I would like to congratulate those living in Scotland who decisively voted for the best of both worlds. Not only will it bring more devolved powers to Scotland, it seems to have persuaded our Prime Minister to think about the English for once.

For too long, the majority of people in the UK has been marginalised in the political pursuit of minority interests.

Brian Pegnall
Falmouth, Cornwall

SIR – Now that the Scots have had their opportunity, what chance is there of England being offered the right of independence from Scotland?

Michael I Draper
Nether Wallop, Hampshire

SIR – Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Queen should act right away. Arise, Sir Gordon Brown.

William Clewes
Lower Bourne, Surrey

SIR – Scotland still has the Tory-led Government it didn’t vote for and now, next year, England will almost certainly have the Labour government it won’t vote for. Democracy?

Graham De Roy
Gosfield, Essex

SIR – As a Better Together campaigner, I am, of course, very happy that No has won fairly comfortably. It would be even better if, in a parallel universe, the Yes campaign had won and its supporters had seen if Alex Salmond’s promise of milk and honey came true. As it is, they will always claim it would have done.

Anthony Garrett
Falkland, Fife

SIR – Are we proud to be Scots? After a referendum costing millions of pounds, which has divided the country, split families and friends and left us with an uneasy truce, I wonder.

Sheena Crichton
Port of Menteith, Perthshire

SIR – The Prime Minister is reported to have said that the Scottish nation will have to live with its No decision for another “generation”, whilst Alex Salmond is reported as having used the word “lifetime”. If, by a “generation”, Mr Cameron means about 25 years, and, by “lifetime”, Mr. Salmond was hinting at a much longer 70 years, does that all imply that these referendums on Scottish independence will continue until an emphatic Yes vote is registered, such that the zip that is Hadrian’s Wall can be undone and Scotland allowed to drift off on its own ?

Frederick Reuben Parr
Tyldesley, Lancashire

SIR – The best way to ensure new legislation required by the Scottish vote is agreed before the next general election is to cancel all MPs’ leave.

James Boyce
Bosbury, Herefordshire

SIR – In the interest of unity, presumably we will have to continue with GMT in the winter and GMT plus one hour in the summer?

Graham Dean
Lewes, East Sussex

SIR – This week Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer, made all her models at London Fashion Week wear “Yes” badges in support of Scotland’s bid for independence because, as she told her adoring audience, she hates England (, September 15).

Obviously her hatred doesn’t extend to refusing a damehood.

Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – Until 2006, Radio 4 played the UK Theme every morning before the Shipping Forecast, but this was ejected in favour of Westminster prattle – the last thing anyone wants to hear at break of day. To celebrate Scotland’s decision, and in the renewed spirit of union, could the UK Theme come back?

E G Nisbet
Egham, Surrey

SIR – If it was Yes, I vowed never to drink Scotch whisky again. What a relief.

Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Paul Cullen (“Slow response to Halappanavar report”, September 12th) deserves credit for his report on the slow implementation of recommendations made following the death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway almost two years ago. It’s encouraging to see that apparently significant work has since taken place with many recommendations implemented in UHG. Most worrying, however, is the slow pace of change and that only one of 39 hospitals ranked itself as “excellent”. A further concern is the use of self-assessment as the method to assess performance in the implementation of recommendations.

Qualitative self-assessment by hospital management is, by itself, a most unsatisfactory way to measure patient safety. Quantitative standards of performance, subject to independent audit, are required. The fundamental flaw throughout our health service is lack of responsibility and accountability. If hospital management is slow to accept responsibility for the speedy implementation of patient safety recommendations, what hope for accountability?

Perhaps the more interesting revelation in Paul Cullen’s report is that the validation of UHG’s self-assessment comes from external management consultants, and not the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) – the statutory body established under the Health Act 2007 to set standards and monitor compliance. I believe that patient safety verification is too important to be delegated, with or without regulatory control, to private enterprise.

Many of the problems in our health service can be linked to the failure of successive governments to clearly define the role of public bodies such as Hiqa and the HSE. These bodies should be empowered to accept responsibility and be accountable.

The Health Act 2007 is the classic example of ambiguity. Hiqa is required to set standards on safety and quality, and then monitor compliance in relation to services provided by the HSE or service provider. Hiqa’s only function thereafter is to advise the Minister and the HSE. Hiqa claims that it’s not responsible for patient safety, but rather the HSE.

The HSE is compromised in its approach to patient safety. The patient safety test it uses is a self-assessed assurance provided by a public hospital that the resources provided by the HSE are being used by the hospital in the most efficient and effective manner. This assurance is accepted even if the resources provided by the HSE are inadequate to ensure the necessary standard of patient safety. Hiqa is also required to operate within the constraints of inadequate resources even if, as a result, patient safety standards are not in line with best international practice. A review of the Health Act 2007 is long overdue. – Yours, etc,


Cypress Downs

Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Dr John M Regan (September 17th) commenting on Charles Townshend’s review of Gemma Clark’s Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War and focusing specifically on the depopulation of southern Irish Protestants between 1911 and 1926, rejects Prof Townshend’s observation that this population decline, if not ethnic cleansing, was a process far from normal.

The exodus of tens of thousands of Protestants from the Irish Free State heralding the decline in the Protestant population was not as a result of sectarianism, intimidation or land-grabbing. Such views clearly promote a sectarian narrative about republican actions during the War of Independence and is not supported by evidence. Although some Irish Protestants were victims of a process of expulsion, coercion, and in some cases murder – acts which would have been abhorred by those who planned the Easter Rising – there are reasons other than those suggested by Prof Townshend.

A significant contributor to this population decline can be identified with the Great War and aggressively encouraged Protestant relocation north. The horrific slaughter of young Irish Protestant men in the first World War had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the male Protestant population of the South.

This was reflected in the birth rate for decades following the war. In addition, the Northern Ireland regime led by Sir James Craig enticed large numbers of Protestants, through the offer of government jobs and housing, to relocate north of the Border in an attempt to offset Catholic majorities in Border counties. Some in government service chose to leave with their families rather than enter the civil/public service of the Free State.

In addition, there was a large British military establishment in Ireland which was stood down in 1922. This group was disproportionately Protestant.

Others left because they no longer enjoyed social and official privilege being Protestant once brought.

Furthermore, the strong religious, cultural and political ties which southern Protestants had in common with the northern majority resulted in a sizable shift of Protestants north across the Border.

It is worth noting that two Protestants who decided to stay south subsequently became presidents of Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The subject of Protestant depopulation in the area of independent Ireland continues to provoke analysis and comment, especially within the scholarly community.

John M Regan mentions the recent publication by Prof David Fitzpatrick on the subject of Southern Irish depopulation. It is particularly gratifying to see that Prof Fitzpatrick has arrived substantially at the same conclusion I arrived at in 1993 in my article in the Irish Economic and Social History Journal. In a study of the Dublin Protestant working class (with conclusions on the whole Protestant experience), I concluded that the causes of Protestant decline in Dublin, apparent since the 1820s, were social and economic.

The deindustrialisation of Ireland led to economic decline, leading in turn to a fall in immigration of Protestant persons from Great Britain, along with accelerating out-migration of Irish Protestants.

However, also very significant was the social force of marriage, especially the marriage pattern of Irish Protestant women marrying British military grooms on an Irish tour of duty.

I found that fully one-third of Protestant brides married British military grooms. The loss of young marriageable females to British soldiers was much more significant than the notorious Ne Temere decree in depleting Protestant society.

It seemed to me then, in 1993, and recent research has tended to confirm my conclusions, that social class is more important than religion in explaining depopulation.

The survival of a confident and prosperous Protestant middle class in the independent Irish state suggests that the simple category “Protestant” is not sufficient to sustain an historical explanation. – Yours, etc,


Senior Lecturer,

Department of Humanities.

Dundalk Institute

of Technology,


Co Louth.

Sir, – John Bruton’s assertion that the Home Rule Act of 1914 would have ultimately led peacefully to national independence is mere speculation (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says Bruton”, September 18th). The parallel he now draws with Scotland is absurdly unhistorical and ignores the radically changed contexts of a century. Even if the 1914 Act had been implemented (with some form of partition) it would have delivered no more than a mild measure of local government, of the kind later provided by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The truth is that the imperial government was determined to preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom at all costs.

At a time of rapid transformation of a London-controlled British Empire to a Commonwealth of self-governing states (at least for the former “white” colonies), the London government set its face adamantly against dominion status for Ireland, with Lloyd George denouncing the notion as “lunacy”.

Whether we like it or not, the imperial mindset was forcefully changed only by the nationalist resurgence of 1919-1921 guerrilla war, a successful counter-administration, civil resistance, dramatic hunger strikes, the impact of British and world liberal opinion – resulting in the 1921 treaty. That settlement, whatever its limitations,provided the essence of independence, and constituted a chalk-and-cheese difference from 1914 home rule.

Moreover, independent Ireland, and the way it came about, was a world removed from the genteel order envisaged by well-off, elite, gentlemen politicians and their latter-day admirers. – Yours,etc.


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College Cork.

Sir, – Congratulations on your editorial “Humanity and asylum” (September 17th). I have never understood why Ireland is so uniquely vulnerable to hordes of job-hunting asylum seekers that we are the only EU country (apart from Lithuania) which bars these poor people from working. Similarly I have never understood why we are among the very few nations in Europe that bars the children of asylum seekers from subsidised third-level education.

Why do we allow this cruel system of depriving a small number of defenceless people of work and education to continue? Rather than hide behind a few hard-faced senior bureaucrats in the Department of Justice, the Minister, Frances Fitzgerald – a decent, liberal woman – should end it as soon as possible. Ireland’s image as a civilised and humane nation demands nothing less. – Yours, etc,


Palmerston Road,


Dublin 6.

A chara, – There can hardly be better proof of the correlation between the political “silly season” than the current controversy about the direct provision system for asylum seekers.

Much has been made of the fact that some people and their Irish-born families have been in the system for up to a decade. Apart from the trademark State inefficiency in doing anything, they are there because they have chosen not to accept the answers given to their asylum application and appeal which were negative. These processes are now dealt with in 12 and 18 weeks, respectively. They are instead pursuing an eight-stage process at taxpayer expense which has resulted in over 849 appeals being listed at the High Court on June 14th and many more at Supreme Court level.

Among the “rights” being demanded for asylum seekers are that they should be allowed to work and attend free university education. Can you imagine the influx these pull-factors would generate? How many more “unaccompanied minors” would appear to claim their third-level education, and more “workers” for the dole queue?

It is clear to what the real agenda is – cancellation of current deportation orders and no future deportations. This would mean effectively no State control over who stays in the country – once you’re in, you’re in for ever.

Comments by the neophyte Minister of State for Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin that the system is “inhumane” are plainly inaccurate and potentially dangerous in a country already burdened with a host of litigious victim groups. –Is mise,


Carrigaline Road,


A chara, – I was somewhat surprised by the unexpected rush of emotion and disappointment I experienced upon confirmation of the referendum result on Friday morning. A scan of Irish social media and online commentary appeared to display a similar feeling in our national psyche.

It occurred to me that this feeling of disappointment stems from a simple inability to comprehend why a nation would choose to maintain ties to an archaic, hierarchical and still monarchy-centred power structure, rather than make the first move away from it.

And then I remembered that every morning, I get to wake up and live in this great – albeit imperfect – little democracy, where our hardworking political leader has the air of a kindly country uncle and our much-loved head of state the defiant pose of a radical poet.

And I rejoiced that because we as a nation made a different choice, many years ago, I could help to elect whomsoever I choose to these positions of power. And I put my shoes on and went to work in a Republic where I strongly sensed – to quote a Mayo poet – “Davitt’s ghost smiling everywhere”. – Is mise,



An Muileann,

Oileán Chliara,

Co Mhaigh Eo.

Sir, – I was shocked on a return pilgrimage to Oliver Goldsmith’s Lissoy parsonage to see how the structure has deteriorated over the past half a century. Goldsmith spent his formative years here. His most famous poem resounds with the sights and sounds and characters of this unassuming midlands area.

Stones seemingly stand in mid-air with little to support them. Should one apparently floating boulder collapse, it would irreparably damage the last remaining window frame. While awaiting proper restoration, even some pointing work would protect from the forthcoming frosts. But unless something is done soon, the remaining walls will crumble to the ground.

A lamentable disrespect to the man whose poems moved millions and writers as diverse as Samuel Johnson and James Joyce. I hope he would forgive the parody – Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and sacred sites decay. – Yours, etc,


Mountjoy Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Daisy Hawksworth (September 15th) laments the “perfection” of magazine models. Has she not noticed how miserable most of them look? Sadly the modelling and photographic worlds seem to be ignorant of the fact that the best (and cheapest) beauty treatment is a smiling face. – Yours, etc,


Woodley Park,


Sir, – Further to the letter of Sofia Rainey (September 16th), oh, if only I had read when a teenager! I’m now 63 and still trying to catch up! I never will; the older you get the harder it is to keep the concentration going.

So, please teenagers, start reading now. It’s something you will never regret. No technology will replace the magic of reading. – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

Sir, – I recently flew Aer Lingus, returning home to Dublin after a trip to the US. The passengers were of all ages, including toddlers, children and teenagers.

Midway through the flight the captain made an announcement that duty-free items were on sale. He made a particular point of mentioning that cheap cigarettes could be purchased. He didn’t place the same emphasis on the favourable deals on any other products. Large cartons of cigarettes were the most prominent articles displayed as the trolley went around the aisles.

I’m not suggesting that the airline has a deliberately pro-tobacco agenda. That would be ridiculous. But it certainly didn’t sit well with me that the pilot and crew of the aircraft – people whose positions I expect are admired by many of the children aboard – appeared to be supporting smoking, however tacitly.

Even though cigarettes are proven to cause numerous fatal diseases, I’m a firm believer in people’s right to choose what risks they take regarding their own health. However, I would encourage Aer Lingus to give some thought to how it handles the advertisement, display and sale of tobacco products when there is a captive audience of children on board. – Yours, etc,


Specialist Registrar

in Medicine for the Elderly,

St James’s Hospital,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – My enjoyment of the nostalgic correspondence on the above topic is somewhat tempered by an apprehension that some time in the future, people will question why nobody called a halt to the current practise of paper sellers walking up and down between rows of commuter traffic inhaling exhaust fumes for a couple of hours every afternoon.

Surely those with responsibility for health and safety at work, or indeed those charged with enforcing the Road Traffic Acts, should act before we are reminiscing about a time when paper sellers had the lung capacity to shout at all. – Yours, etc,


Aughrim Street,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – The web is awash with critics panning U2 for flooding iTunes with their latest “free” album. Whatever about the music, lambasting U2 for allegedly promoting a culture of free music is seriously misguided.

Contrary to what their critics think, U2 may have just spotted a smart way for musicians to create a new avenue to make future income from their copyright or recorded work in a universe where it has evidently no direct value to consumers. – Yours, etc,


Andres Mellado, Madrid.

Irish Independent:

In 21st century Ireland women are still being excluded from access to third-level education.

We hear a lot from the Government about getting people back into education and lifelong learning in order to improve job prospects and get people off social welfare.

Access courses are designed to provide access to third-level education for people whose socio-economic background prevents them from entering third-level education.

Of the 12 or so institutions in Dublin to provide such courses all bar three of the courses are full-time. And two of those three are held in the evenings.

How can women and men with children, single parents and carers (the majority of whom are women and save the State significant costs in care bills) hope to use this service?

The very socio-economic background that qualifies candidates for entrance to these courses means that they have lives which are not 9-5. We need part-time access courses in the daytime and they need to be widely available.

When ‘Women and Education in Ireland ‘(NUI) was published 15 years ago it identified the very same problems. And when a candidate enters third level having finished the Access course – it is a full-time commitment.

Third-level education is a challenge of intelligence and creativity and that is the way it should be. However, it should not be made harder for people with families, mothers of young children, single parents and carers or care-givers and those who cannot attend full-time – most of who are women.

Social Welfare and the course providers need to come together and offer a pathway to third-level education which is flexible, accessible and where people are not scared off with cuts in benefits if they attend.

“Women do not enter or return to education for an easy time. They do it to get a job, to get a better job, to be a role-model to their kids, to lift themselves and their families out of a history of dependence on the state. It radiates out and benefits very level of society.”

The quote above was written in 1864. It is as relevant today as it was then because it is timeless.

Marguerite Doyle, Santry, Dublin 9

North must not be abandoned

In her column last week (September 16) Liz O’Donnell questioned Sinn Fein‘s suitability for government in the Republic. Thankfully, that decision lies with the people who rejected Liz’s now-defunct Progressive Democrats.

Ms O’Donnell questions Sinn Fein’s ability to reach agreement in the North on welfare cuts and outstanding issues in the political process.

Sinn Fein has built and delivered agreements from the Hume/Adams initiative through to the Good Friday and ancillary agreements. Sinn Fein has always honoured its commitments, abided by agreements and sustained the institutions.

It is not Sinn Fein that is threatening the political process. Look at the record of Martin McGuinness to see how far Sinn Fein has moved to promote reconciliation and reach agreement.

A section of political unionism however, is opposed to power-sharing and equality. This element has walked away from Programme for Government commitments, threatened the institutions, failed to abide by legal rulings of the Parades Commission and challenged the independence of the courts.

Unionist leaders refused to accept the Haass/O’Sullivan compromise proposals on parades, flags and dealing with the past.

Unionist leaders walked out of talks and have yet to return.

Sinn Fein wants agreement on these issues, but it must be on the context of the Good Friday Agreement, which was by the people of Ireland.

As co-guarantors of the Agreement, the Irish and British government cannot walk away from their obligations.

Efforts to hollow out the agreements and undermine the institutions must be resisted by London and Dublin.

It is no surprise that Liz O’Donnell, as a former PD, supports cuts to welfare benefits to the disabled and a tax on people in social housing. But, as far as Sinn Fein is concerned, these cuts are wrong. They have had a disastrous impact in Britain. We would oppose such cuts in Dublin, Cork or Donegal and will not impose them in the North.

Sinn Fein has demonstrated its capability for government.

Sinn Fein has not, and will not, shy away from hard decisions in government or in the peace process. But neither will Sinn Fein be forced into making the wrong decisions.

There is a need now for both governments, with the support of the US administration, to defend the agreements that have been made and to ensure their implementation.

Gerry Adams, TD, Leinster House, Dublin

Scotland an example to all

The Scottish referendum must be taught in schools. Scotland has gained worldwide admiration for its ingenuity, rationality and democratic performance.

There was no deployment of tanks and military personnel such as the case in the Crimean peninsula, no electoral fraud and rigging as the case in many parts of the world, and – most importantly – no illegal forms of voter intimidation.

The voting was a happy ending, a colourful demonstration of a strong sense of belonging to the UK. The UK has asserted itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. As Prime Minister David Cameron put it “now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and move forward”.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London

Balfour no friend of Home Rule

John Bruton – both in his articles on Home Rule and also during his recent appearance on RTE’s Prime Time – refers to former British prime minister Arthur Balfour as supporting Home Rule. I would respectfully suggest that, before Mr Bruton releases some more howlers about Mr Balfour and Home Rule that he read and study ‘Aspects of Home Rule’ by Mr Balfour. It is a collections of speeches collected from the Times newspaper with the assistance of the Conservative Central Office. The Book – 247 pages of vitriolic anti-Irish language – was published in 1912 by George Routledge and Sons. In three words Mr Balfour describes the Home Rule Bill as “a legislative farce”.

Mr Balfour’s statement in Belfast on April 3 1893 sums up his feelings about Home Rule.

“Whatever be the combination of forces arrayed on the side of this iniquitous measure, the forces against is so united and so strong in principle, and above all so strong in the righteousness and justice of their cause, that surely in the end they will prevail.”

With friends like that, who needs enemies.

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

Irish Independent

Alison De Vere Hunt

More in Letters (2 of 20 articles)

Saving rural Ireland Read More


September 21, 2014

21 September 2014 Tired

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp quiet day

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


Sheila Stewart – obituary

Writer brought up by the Waifs and Strays Society who chronicled a lost rural way of life

Sheila Stewart

Sheila Stewart

6:00PM BST 20 Sep 2014


SHEILA STEWART, who has died aged 86, was the illegitimate child of a servant who, from the age of three, was brought up in homes run by the Waifs and Strays Society (now the Church of England Children’s Society); in later life she became a successful author of books and plays which chronicled traditional life in rural communities of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.

Nowadays children’s homes have something of a bad press but as Sheila Stewart recounted in A Home from Home (1967), a memoir of her early life, while their residents often endured loneliness and misery, the homes could also be places where children were given compassion and support that enabled them to make something positive of their lives.

She was born Sheila McCairn in the fishing community of Appledore, Devon, on January 6 1928 and it was only later in life that she discovered, from her birth certificate, that she was illegitimate. Shortly after her birth, her mother Maisie moved to London, leaving her in the care of “Danma” and “Danpa” Cox, elderly and impoverished relatives whose diet, she recalled, consisted largely of shellfish collected on the Taw estuary.

One day, when Sheila was three, a “lady” turned up at their tiny cottage: “Danma gave the lady a brown paper bundle tied up with string and I trustingly held out my hand to her,” she recalled. “I did not know that I was walking away from Danma Cox for ever.” From then on she was brought up in various children’s homes under the supervision of Waifs’ and Strays’ Society committees and patrons. She remained in sporadic contact with an “Auntie Flo” in Barnstable, but never saw the Coxes again. It was only later in life that she learned from her “auntie” how the elderly couple had fretted after she had been taken away by “the welfare” and how, though illiterate, they had treasured the piece of paper upon which the lady had written Sheila’s name and address.

Sheila Stewart, third from right in checked dress

Sheila Stewart recalled the terrible shock of abandonment, the bullying by other girls, the harsh regime in some homes where corporal punishment was the norm, and the petty humiliations that were the lot of “Home” children (she hated the term Waifs and Strays): they could have their heads shaved to combat lice, or be compelled to wear clogs, leading them to be ostracised by classmates at school. Sheila was forced to wear the same pair of boots for several years, resulting in her needing an operation on her deformed feet in later life.

But she also recalled close friendships and the kindness of many staff, notably a “Matron Bailey” to whom she dedicated her memoir — and the good intentions of the Society which, in general, tried to do its best for those in its care with meagre resources.

Maurice Home, Ealing: Sheila Stewart is sixth from the right, centre row

Most of Sheila’s companions left school at 14 to work as domestic servants, so when Sheila confounded expectations by becoming the first Home girl to pass the exam to grammar school (in Ealing), to begin with the Society was loath to give such a privilege to one girl when it might lead to resentment among the rest. However, Sheila had some strong supporters and, after 18 months of prevarication (by which time her home had been evacuated to Englemere Wood, Ascot for the duration of the Second World War), she was allowed to attend the grammar school at nearby Bracknell for a trial period of a year. Despite her late start, she thrived in the academic environment, and the Society allowed her to stay on to take higher school certificate.

Even after she left the care of the Society and her last children’s home, Grenville House in Ascot, to train as a teacher at Bishop Otter College, Chichester, Sheila’s old matron continued to send her parcels of “tuck” and pocket money. When she married her husband, Eric Stewart, in 1952, the matron and her staff gave her a white wedding and reception at the home.

After qualifying as a teacher, Sheila Stewart taught PE and English at the Friends’ School in Sibford, Oxfordshire. Then, after the birth of her three children, she established a private nursery school in her home, later moving to purpose-built premises in Bloxham. Many of the ideas she pioneered at the school were documented as “best practice” by the Department of Education.

After the publication of her memoir in 1967 Sheila Stewart sold her school to concentrate on her writing, and the family moved to the village of Ascott in Warwickshire, later settling in the Warwickshire village of Brailes.

Her second book, Country Kate (1971) was a charming family portrait, largely written in Warwickshire dialect, based on the recollections of an elderly countrywoman who had grown up as the daughter of the local vet in a Cotswold village before the Great War. Her adaptation of the book for radio won the Writers’ Guild Award of 1974 for Best Radio Feature Script.

Sheila Stewart’s technique of writing in the vernacular would be shown to best effect in Lifting the Latch; A Life on the Land (1987), on which she began work after a local butcher suggested she write the life story of Mont Abbott, an elderly former farm labourer living in the Oxfordshire village of Enstone. “Thee can come if thee wants,” Abbott wrote in reply to her letter of introduction. “I have no transport, only a wheelbarrow.”

With his permission, Sheila Stewart recorded all their conversations and then worked his words into book form. The result was a lyrical masterpiece of social history that evoked a lost world of carting and shepherding, thriving church choirs, country fairs and the day-to-day life of a tightly-knit rural community. Reviewers compared it to Lark Rise to Candleford as a classic of time and place.

Sheila Stewart’s final book, Ramlin Rose: The Boatwoman’s Story (1993), drew on recorded interviews to describe the experiences of women who had lived and worked on horse-drawn narrow boats, plying the country’s canals.

A keen member of the WI and an enthusiastic gardener, Sheila Stewart was an active member of her village community, often playing a leading role in organising flower shows, pensioners’ Christmas parties and other events.

She is survived by her husband and their daughter and two sons.

Sheila Stewart, born January 6 1928, died September 3 2014


Peggy Mount & Judi Dench

The way it was: Judi Dench as Juliet with Peggy Mount as the nurse in the Old Vic’s production of Romeo and Juliet in 1960. Photograph: PA Archive

Many older actors in Britain will be cheering Judi Dench to the rafters for her display of anger that new financial barriers to training have made the acting profession more elitist (“Dench laments actors held back by wealth divide“, News). And also for the regret she expresses at the demise of repertory theatre, which provided such splendid experiences that were the basis of the acclaimed excellence of many British actors.

For all that drama schools endeavour to help their chosen students find a financial way through the usually three-year course, there are many students who fall by the wayside. Worse still, many are too daunted by the impossibly high fees even to apply.

Young people with rich parents have other unfair advantages. Their private schools, such as Eton, may employ a theatre professional to stage school plays. They can afford the average £45 charged to audition for a drama school and they can apply to dozen of schools to give themselves many chances. They can pay £800 to do a two-week course on how to audition or £10,000 to do a six-month foundation course at a recognised drama school.

Philip Hedley

Director emeritus

Theatre Royal Stratford East

As a 25-year-old struggling actor, it is a daily frustration to me that opportunities seem open only to an “elite” few.

However, I am confused by how in this article it is lamented that acting has become too “middle class” while in the same breath it is said that our top actors come from a handful of elite schools. How are these one and the same thing? I would consider myself middle class, having grown up in perfectly comfortable circumstances, but I was educated in the state system and certainly have no “connections”.

The idea that drama school is too expensive is, I believe, distorting the point. Most drama schools are now affiliated to universities and offer BA courses at exactly the same price as any university course. Therefore it is possible, as I did, to get a student loan. It is still expensive, but less so than it used to be and certainly no more so than a normal degree course.

Many of the posh actors who are big at the moment did not even go to drama school, but were, rather, fast-tracked into the profession by connections. It is this network at the top of the industry that must be stopped for the sake of our acting industry.

Natalie Bray

London EC1

Judi Dench is absolutely right about the impossibility of the less well off now entering the acting profession, and she is also right to ascribe this to the demise of local repertory theatres.

May I add a further point?

Not only does the disappearance of the local rep deprive Britain’s potential talent of its chance to develop, but it also denies the public access to what is perhaps our greatest artistic achievement of the last 400 years: live drama. In what Dame Judi rightly calls “a civilised country”, everyone, from their very earliest years and on their own doorstep, should be able and encouraged to enjoy the excitement of our national genius through familiarity, and not just as part of the GCSE syllabus. Let us have cinema, television, popular music, DVDs, the internet – and live theatre. The latter is globally acknowledged to be the greatest since Athens, as my own experiences in Moscow, Japan, Brazil, China and elsewhere testify. Yet it is denied to most of us in the UK.

As with swimming pools, libraries and museums, there should be an active professional theatre in every town and city. People, their children, and their talented forebears deserve no less.

Ian Flintoff

Former RSC and National Theatre actor


There will come a point when the elderly can only afford basic foodstuffs. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Katie Allen could have included in her article (“After the house deposit, pensions are just a saving too far“, Business) reference to the fact that in 30 or so years’ time there will, in addition to increased hardship for individual pensioners, also be serious implications for retailers and for HMRC.

If perhaps millions more of our people are having to live on subsistence levels of income (state pensions), their retail spending will almost entirely be limited to basic foodstuffs and they will probably have nil liability to pay income tax. There will be an additional drain on the state because the state pensions of these unfortunate citizens will need to be supplemented by whatever benefits are by then replacing pension credits. Not good forward planning by the powers that be.

Tony Parker

London SE1

Garden bridge is blooming big

My colleague Mark Whitby and I read with great interest Rowan Moore’s article on London’s proposed garden bridge (“A walk on the wild side? It’ll cost you“, New Review). From an engineering viewpoint, this bridge is an unnecessarily complex structure. Much of the cost will be the result of the very extensive foundations in the river. The proposed costs could be significantly reduced by rationalising engineering with the bonus of potential for improving the architectural aesthetic.

Dr Wilem W Frischmann

Pell Frischmann

London W1

Turkey’s strong record on Isis

Your article “Isis surges towards the borders of Turkey as west mulls options” (News) implies that Turkish borders are “the only way to smuggle oil, weapons and foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria” and claims that “Turkey has a lack of will to confront the jihadis” and “Turkey has facilitated an extremist threat either through neglect or undeclared policy”.

These claims not only ignore the threat that these terrorists pose to Turkey but also disregard the sacrifice of the Turkish people and security forces: 46 staff and family members of the Turkish consulate general in Mosul in Iraq are still being held hostage by Isis; 74 Turkish citizens have lost their lives in the Syrian crisis and 337 people have been injured by mortar shells being fired into Turkey, terrorist attacks linked to Syria and illegal crossings at the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey hosts more than one million Syrian refugees and helps many more in Iraq.

Turkey maintains a no-entry list of 6,000 names. Since 2011, almost 1,000 suspected foreign fighters have been deported by Turkish authorities. Turkey designated Isis as a terrorist group in 2005, under their previous names.

Turkey, as the co-chair of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, works closely with friends and allies and hopes to see the same co-operation from other countries, in particular the nations where foreign fighters emerge. I am glad to see that the bilateral co-operation between Turkey and the UK gets even stronger. We are unfortunately witnessing a wave of misinformation, blaming Turkey for almost all aspects of the crisis caused by Isis. Some journalists advocate the closure of the border with Syria, but consider this: at 565 miles, it is virtually the same distance as from London to Inverness.

Abdurrahman Bilgiç

Ambassador, Embassy of Turkey

London SW7

UK exports at risk from TV sale

Will Hutton is right to be concerned over the possible sale of ITV to overseas interests (“If ITV is sold to a foreign mogul, a vital part of our culture is threatened“, Comment). There is not just the threat to our nation’s cultural capital to consider, there is also the effect on the exchange rate of an inflow of foreign capital resulting from the sale. If we continue exporting our national assets (Mr Hutton estimates we have sold £440bn of British business abroad in the last decade), we continue to crowd out the export of UK goods and services, thereby undermining the competitiveness of our economy. The benefit to the UK of such trade is by no means clear.

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University

Let’s get coherent over culture

Nick Cohen’s article “The privileged few are tightening their grip on the arts” (Comment) exposes the malaise but fails to provide a cure. Cultural institutions such as the Arts Council are run like a fifth-rate hedge fund. They “invest” in a rag-bag of “national portfolio organisations”, but this exercise is not informed by coherent policies for individual art forms. For example, there is no policy for music and its creation, promotion, marketing, education and export. The BBC also has an enormous output of music but there is seemingly no policy that joins the whole lot up. It is high time that the  taxpayer was better served with a concrete policy rather than with this incoherent and disjointed approach to the arts and culture.

Chris Hodgkins

London W13



Two voters in the referendum wear their political colours proudly. Now Scotland has decided to stay in the Union, will Westminster’s pledges be kept? Two voters in the referendum wear their political colours proudly. Now Scotland has decided to stay in the Union, will Westminster’s pledges be kept? (Robert Perry)

The Scots have spoken. Now let England have its say

IT IS excellent news that the sensible Scots have voted for the beloved status quo. In our contribution to world peace, democracy and commerce we are more influential together. What would it have cost us to reorganise institutions, set up border patrols and relocate our nuclear submarines, among other things?

The tail should not wag the dog, however, and there should be no more special treatment for Scotland over funding or votes at Westminster. Any further devolution must be openly debated and voted on by the English electorate. That’s what we have been denied by most British political parties over the debate on Europe.
Malcolm Hey, Portsmouth


The “no” vote on Scottish independence is due to the common sense of the Scottish people and in no way due to David Cameron, whose panicky last-minute promises showed how little he plans ahead.

Let us hope he will do better over the renegotiation of our relationship with Europe and will tell us his specific aims rather than leaving it to the last minute before declaring his hand, as he did with Scotland.
Dr Douglas Model, London SW1


For the first time I am ashamed of my fellow Scots, who have been bought off in the referendum by a series of half-thought-out promises from the Westminster trinity of Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Does anyone believe that Westminster will honour pledges to give greater powers to Scotland when these three are fighting for their political lives at next year’s general election?

The promises will all be lost in a porridge of excuses and Scotland will degenerate into a backwater of England.
Dr Don Campbell-Thomson, Glasgow


The star of the Better Together campaign was Gordon Brown. This was his finest hour. He deserves at the very least a knighthood.
Pamela Shimell, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire


Alex Salmond’s ingenious idea to give the vote to children of 16 has not had the desired effect.
Don Roberts, Birkenhead, Merseyside


What is clear is that Salmond is the smartest and wiliest politician in Britain today by some margin. Should the Scottish National party (SNP) convert itself into a British political force, he could reconsider his decision to step down and lead the party at the general election next year.
Douglas Lindsay, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset


I cannot express how delighted I am that the independence referendum proved to be a triumph for those who wished the UK to remain intact. My reasons are not political, constitutional, financial or even emotional.

Rather, I would be fearful of a Scotland run in the manner displayed by so many in the SNP and its allies during the campaign — a Scotland where opponents are labelled anti-Scottish, or are threatened with retribution for their opinions. I would also have been fearful of a country where free speech and expression are no longer precious.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh


Having conceded that they can’t rise now and be a nation again, shouldn’t the Scots change their “national” anthem?
Walter Roberts, Edinburgh


The MP John Redwood asks: “Who speaks for England?” (“If the marriage is saved, the English deserve new rights too”, Comment, last week). While MPs may speak on England’s behalf, they are neither elected nor mandated to do so.

The 2012 Future of England survey showed 56% support a form of governance that treats England as a distinct political unit, compared with 8% in support of regions in England having elected assemblies.

MPs of all parties in English constituencies need to reject any further attempts at imposing regionalisation — and call for an English parliament.
Matthew Aldridge, Campaign for an English Parliament, London SE6


I do not normally agree with Redwood, but much of what he wrote made good sense. Should Scotland get devo max, its MPs ought not be allowed to vote on English-only issues.

There are 59 Scottish seats at present in Westminster, so who will form the government after the next election? The party with the most seats overall, or the one with most in England and Wales? I fear there may be trouble ahead.
Gareth Bennett, Cardiff


The resolution of the West Lothian question is overdue. Politicians must grasp the nettle.
Robin Knott, By email


Scottish MPs are likely to be excluded from English topics at Westminster. How are they going to react to working two or three days a week on a pro-rata salary? Perhaps it is time to follow the example of the Northern Ireland and the Welsh assemblies and send representatives of the Scottish government to Westminster instead of the present MPs, who vote as instructed by their whips.
Brian Chilles, Alva, Clackmannanshire


Shame on Camilla Long for her sneering and offensive description of the Loyal Orange Lodges’ march in Edinburgh (“Own goal by Hobbit horde in pompoms and braids”, News, last week). To refer to the marchers as “Hobbits” and the meeting as being “like a nuclear version of Ladies’ Day at Aintree” is cheap journalism.

I had the privilege of coalmining with lodge members in Fife as a young man. They were hard-working Christians whose core values embraced loyalty to Queen and country and a strong family life.
Professor Andrew Porteous, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire


We should appreciate living in such a democratic country. An independent Scotland lost and the UK won. There were no riots in the street, no heads rolled and no leaders were thrown in prison. No wonder this little island is the utopia for so many repressed people.
Mavis Goldberg, Manchester

Give children gift of time with parents

How sad that Sian Griffiths urged parents to congratulate themselves for choosing daycare instead of home-based care (“The nursery kids are all right”, News Review, last week). Time and time again we’re told that more childcare, more paid work for mothers and fathers and less family life is progress. But for whom? Not for babies and young children, who, if they could express themselves, would always rather be with their parents at that tender age.

If we’re talking “research”, there’s plenty to show that parents would dearly like to have more family time and that children benefit enormously from the loving care provided by a special person in their lives when they are young. It gives them the secure base they need and it’s the best place for learning about life. Family time is also important for teenagers and for elderly relatives. What a miserable world if we don’t have time to care.
Marie Peacock, Mothers at Home Matter



While sympathising with the UK’s plight regarding illegal immigration from Calais, I also urge it not to forget the pickle Malta has landed itself in as a result of its EU membership (“Leaky EU borders behind tide of migrants to UK”, Letters, last week). We are now being invaded by hundreds of illegal African migrants, whom under various EU regulations we are forced to keep, despite being a tiny, overpopulated island with a very small economy. The best the EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom could offer us was to urge our government not to detain these illegal immigrants but to “integrate” them as soon as possible.
Dr Charles Gauci, Gozo, Malta


Richard Brooks (Biteback, Culture, September 7) called attention to the increasing absurdity of cross-gender casting in plays. Surely the most ludicrous outrage will be perpetrated in the National Theatre’s scheduled production of Treasure Island, in which Jim Hawkins is to be transmogrified into the “innkeeper’s granddaughter”. As Robert Louis Stevenson made clear, his classic was written for boys, and it is probably the finest male adventure story of all. One cannot imagine boys taken to the show as a Christmas treat will be pleased to see that Jim is not a lad at all. Some theatres complain that it is difficult to attract young men. Treasure Island would be an ideal introduction, so why emasculate it?
Alan Stockwell, Smarden, Kent


Theresa May said after the resignation of Shaun Wright, the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, over the Rotherham scandal that anyone who fails in their duty should step down. So why is Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, considering standing for mayor of London after failing to act over the allegations of child abuse in Islington care homes when she was the council’s leader (“Hodge’s choices”, Magazine, last week)?
Dermot Donegan, Darwen, Lancashire


I can’t decide if India Knight is being ironic or a fool in her column “Bite your lip, chew your knuckles, but never tell a child they’re fat” (Comment, last week). Obesity is the biggest health crisis this country faces: in 25 years it will be the cause of an NHS crash. And yet Knight feels we should not mention to anyone that they are fat for fear of hurting their feelings. Obesity should be socially unacceptable in the way drink driving and smoking are.
Terry Whitehead, Bourne, Lincolnshire


Eleanor Mills fails to understand the nature of any big expansion of historic cities such as Oxford (“New builds to keep the spires dreaming”, News Review, September 7). You would see not a new Bloomsbury or Regent’s Park but endless dour estates, as no finance would be available if the object was to provide affordable housing. The historic centres would crumble under the strain of increased pressure. The figure of 100,000 new homes for Oxfordshire is based on a dubious report for a business-led organisation with its own agenda, and the leadership of the Oxford Civic Society does not express any public desire for more urban sprawl.
Paul Hornby, Oxford


I think everyone expected Ian Paisley, a fiery politician turned gentle giant, to be around for ever. The tributes on television were poignant and the words from the deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, were moving. It showed how far the people of Northern Ireland have moved on since the Troubles, and Paisley’s positive relationship with McGuinness served as an example of this for all to see.
Colin NevinTel Aviv, Israel

Corrections and clarifications

Rod Liddle (“Yours at a snip: a Jo’burg heaven with murder at the gate”, Comment, last week) wrote that Oscar Pistorius’s house where he shot dead his girlfriend was in one of Johannesburg’s most salubrious suburbs. This is incorrect. It is in a suburb of Pretoria. We apologise for the error.

Our property report “Country club”, featuring 10 vibrant but commutable villages (Home, last week), confused Whipton, a district of Exeter, with Whimple, a village near the city, and contained inaccurate information. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our website for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Curtly Ambrose, cricketer, 51; Jimmy Armfield, footballer and pundit, 79; Jerry Bruckheimer, film and TV producer, 71; Ethan Coen, film maker, 57; Leonard Cohen, singer, 80; Don Felder, guitarist, 67; Liam Gallagher, singer, 42; Stephen King, author, 67; Ricki Lake, chat-show host, 46; Bill Murray, actor, 64


1792 the National Convention in France abolishes the monarchy; 1937 JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit is published; 1964 Malta gains independence from UK; 1981 Belize gains independence from UK; 1999 earthquake strikes Taiwan, killing about 2,400 people; 2013 al-Shabaab Islamists attack shopping centre in Nairobi, killing at least 67


The morning after: dejected Yes supporters head home up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

SIR – Those who voted No in Scotland did not necessarily do so because politicians were offering pledges of more devolution. Many may have simply made up their minds and just wouldn’t tell the pollsters.

Politicians are in danger of compounding the mistakes of this distracting campaign and pursuing the federalisation of the United Kingdom. Further devolution was promised by politicians, but that question was not asked of the Scots, so it was certainly not voted for.

No one asked the silent majority of the UK whether they’d like to save money, reduce costs of the public sector, and whether they are perhaps happy with a single Parliament, sitting in Westminster.

Ann Grant
Pluckley, Kent

SIR – Politicians keep telling me I want change. They are wrong.

Peter Washington
Presteigne, Radnorshire

SIR – The residents of Scotland were asked one, very specific question and answered it. No one could vote for or against any individual politician or accept or reject any particular campaign promise; we could merely answer Yes or No.

We did not embrace or reject more devolved powers; we did not embrace or reject the leaders of the political establishment. We answered one question. If all those now pontificating about the implications learn nothing else from this, they should learn not to assume.

If they wish to ask more questions of us, they have an opportunity to do so in May.

Hamish Hossick

SIR – Just over 3.6 million citizens have taken part in a “democratic process” which could have resulted in lasting damage to the whole country. They gave a welcome, but hardly ringing, endorsement of the status quo. Would anyone in Westminster care to hear the views of the other 58 million of us?

Robin Howden
Mayfield, East Sussex

SIR – Now that Westminster has had its own unexpected ice-bucket shower of chilling reality, may we hope to see the bursting of the Westminster bubble?

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

SIR – How kind of the Scots to decide they would like to stay in the UK. Perhaps the English could now have a referendum on our own independence.

Pippa Bly
West Molesey, Surrey

SIR – I find it a rather curious kind of democracy that it has taken a Scottish vote on independence for England to get a promise of a form of devolution.

Rodney Silk
Billericay, Essex

SIR – The Scots have spoken. Who will speak for England?

Labour and the Lib Dems gain from Scottish votes, so they will remain in favour of the status quo. The Conservatives failed to get the last boundary commission proposals through.

England needs and deserves better.

Andrew Wauchope
London SE11

SIR – Is it not time for England to have its own “First Minister” and its own devolved parliament?

Barry Jackson
Tadley, Hampshire

SIR – The West Lothian Question is back at the head of the agenda. Already we hear cries from Labour that English votes for English laws would create two classes of MP, one class with the right to vote on England-only matters and another class without such a right.

This is a situation of Labour’s own making. From the time devolution was first looked at in the Seventies this problem was flagged up, but in the Nineties Labour went ahead regardless and it now has to suffer the consequences.

Until now there have been two classes of citizen: Scots, with a say over their own affairs and those of the rest of the United Kingdom, and the other citizens, who have no say in many Scottish matters. If a choice must be made, far better to have two classes of MP than two classes of citizen.

Richard Dowling
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – The English may live to thank the Scots for precipitating a crisis which will restore English political independence. However, there is a danger of missing a crucial point in talking of English votes for English matters.

The three Celtic nations have both devolved parliaments (legislature) and devolved governments (executive).

Simply allowing only English MPs to vote on English matters doesn’t give England a government, for it would leave the cabinet of the United Kingdom in charge of English government. We need not just an English parliament; we need an English cabinet as well.

Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire

SIR – The Scottish referendum has been a political triumph for David Cameron. His insistence on a simple Yes/No question has been justified. A devo-max option would have allowed the fundamental issue to drag on, while people argued as to whether or not the devo was max enough. Perhaps Conservative MPs and commentators who have been attacking the Prime Minister for his supposed poor judgment will now stop, and accept his leadership on the constitutional issues to be settled.

In any case, we need the party to unite behind him in this pre-election period.

Anthony Pick
Newbury, Berkshire

SIR – Giving Scotland a referendum was not part of the Tory manifesto, and David Cameron had no mandate to grant one.

The devolving of more powers to the Scottish Parliament was not on the agenda either, so again he has no mandate to carry out his panic-stricken promises.

Like other taxpayers in England, I find it galling that many children in England cannot afford to go to university, while our taxes fund free university education in Scotland. The English pay for their prescriptions. In Scotland these are paid for by the taxpayers of England.

If Scotland is granted more devolution and the power to raise and keep taxes, this must be matched by a reduction in the amount paid under the Barnett formula.

R W Mansell

SIR – David Cameron’s unnecessary decision to give the Scots a referendum and his panic attack when the polls appeared to be moving against him do not bode well for his renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s EU membership.

A strategy based on bribing the Scots has plunged the country into a complicated constitutional crisis. There will surely be a high political price for the Prime Minister to pay when Parliament rejects his expensive promises and the terms of a new settlement, which are likely not to be in the interests of the English people.

John Barker
Prestbury, Cheshire

SIR – Mr Cameron continues to make promises he can’t keep. There will be no English votes for English law, any more than there are now British votes for British law. Politicians at Westminster, Holyrood and in the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies only determine policy within the law set by unelected officials in Europe.

The only promises the Prime Minister can keep are those which increase the subsidies paid by the English to the Scots.

Peter Jones
St Neots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – The Union owes a huge debt of gratitude to Gordon Brown, a man most of us had written off with his political demise in 2010. Were it not for his passionate and convincing speeches, the result of the referendum might have been different.

Anthony Haslam
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – As the SNP blames the BBC and everyone else for the referendum result, perhaps it should ponder a piece of betting-shop lore that has been the salvation of many gamblers. If you make excuses for beaten horses, you’ll end up living in a cardboard box.

Michael Stanford
London SE23

SIR – Scotland has spoken. May we now hope that it will shut up?

David Cole
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – How can we motivate 84 per cent of voters to turn out at the general election?

Drew Brooke-Mellor
Hastings, East Sussex

SIR – During the referendum campaign, life in Scotland has been unpleasant, divisive and upsetting. I pray that we never have to go through this again.

Rosemary Gould
St Andrews, Fife

SIR – Had the result been a Yes vote, David Cameron said that this would be for ever, with no going back.

Now he tells us that the No vote is for a generation. Have we got to go through all this again in 25 years’ time?

Nicola Knill-Jones
South Petherton, Somerset

SIR – Apart from all the understandable fervour and pressure from the Yes campaign, we should be heartened that, at the end of the day, British people vote as they will, in the silence of the ballot booth.

Graham Aston
Weybridge, Surrey

SIR – The slogan for one side was “No thanks” while the other just had “Yes” without the “please”. Look who came out on top.

Cate Goodwin
Easton-on-the-Hill, Northamptonshire

SIR – Well, that solves the problem of having to think up a new name for Union Street in Aberdeen.

John Godfrey
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – Common sense has prevailed. All the same, I had been rather looking forward to Alex Salmond being revealed as a mendacious fantasist after a Yes vote.

Roger White
London SW12

SIR – Alex Salmond did achieve his aim of keeping the pound as Scotland’s currency.

Iain Purchase
Wilmslow, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – May I congratulate Lucinda O’Sullivan on her interview with Alison de Vere Hunt of Cashel Mart (Sunday Independent, 14 September). She articulated the intolerable pressures experienced by the farming community in rural Ireland today, some, unfortunately, even leading to loss of life, as happened in Alison’s family.

At last year’s Agricultural Science Association conference in Waterford, I asked the Government to

introduce a “yellow card” system for farm inspections for this very reason. The recent response to me was: “We would have to get EU permission.”

Since then I was told it is operating in France. Why not here?

Politicians have abandoned rural Ireland and are now carrying out the suggestions raised in Huxley’s “Brave New World” to take people out of rural Ireland.

Their tactics of extra charges, reduced or no public services, encouraging rural crime and using fear for our property and even our lives to drive us out, are just a few of their conceived methods.

The commission for the development of rural areas chaired by Pat Spillane have reported on “34 ways to improve Irish country life” but have omitted to include the number one priority – remove the fear factor which is a priority issue for families and the elderly.

May I call on our law makers, our public representatives and all politicians to read Lucinda’s article  on Alison’s experiences and act immediately on the issues raised.

Save rural Ireland where the very roots of our great image of beautiful countryside , natural health-giving food production and Irish friendliness is born. It’s intentional destruction experienced today will ruin Ireland as a nation.

David Thompson, B Agr Sc,

Cappamore,  Co Limerick


Are there no Irish Navvies?

Madam – Recently on the return leg of a 40 km journey along the scenic Wicklow Way with my son,   water and supplies were running low. We decided to make a slight change to our pre-planned route in order to take respite at a well known traditional Irish pub. This was located near the small village of Glencullen.

Enjoying the weather, flora and fauna we descended from Glencullen Mountain onto the R116 when. Then, upon rounding a bend a few hundred meters from the pub, we stumbled upon a rare sight indeed.

No, it wasn’t the red deer we had seen in the hills, nor was it the elusive red grouse, but to our surprise a large fleet of  UK- registered  vehicles and  machinery together with with several dozen men, all busy laying tarmacadam and chippings along the road.

I consulted my OS maps  – sheets 56 & 50  – and no,  I hadn’t made a map reading error, we had not strayed into the UK and were in fact still in the Republic.

While sitting down outside the pub enjoying our well earned refreshments, perusing our maps and planning route home, a few questions sprang to mind.

How was it viable for a UK company to undertake such road works in the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains; and  given that wages here in Ireland have been driven to a record low since the end of the Celtic Tiger era, and that we still have record numbers here in Ireland unemployed, why can we not compete with these companies for such contracts?

 Have all of our own home-grown road maintenance technicians emigrated to the four corners of the world?

Noel Tuohy,

Drogheda, Co.Meath


First, face up to past mistakes

Madam – Jody Corcoran’s article (Sunday Independent, 14 September) about celebrating the lives of public figures like Bertie Ahern before they die, misses the point.

He doesn’t seem to understand that the reason there was a genuine response to the death of Albert Reynolds is not because people glossed over his mistakes, nor even that people had ever supported Fianna Fáil. It was because on his death, the mistakes he made became part of history to be debated at another time and place.  The public’s compassion came from the recognition that he didn’t pretend he was something he was not. Also, his funeral was not about what political offices he held but was about his wife, his children and his grandchildren.  There were no political speeches, no line of old time party hacks.  Just his family whose clear warmth touched an emotional chord within people. They empathised when they saw Kathleen Reynolds and her children quite clearly distraught at their loss on their journey through this life, with all its ups and downs. In a nutshell, you get the sense that if the Reynolds family invited you into their home for dinner, you’d feel welcome and you’d enjoy the meal.

But when it comes to people like Bertie Ahern, or Gerry Adams for that matter, the fact is they continue to wallow in denial about their past and their contribution to the damage caused to our country and the impact their mistakes had on all our lives.  Until they face up to their past and admit it, there can be no forgiveness for what they did or the mistakes they made.

You cannot draw a line unless you know what it is you’re drawing a line under and the permission to draw such a line must come from their victims, not in Mr Adams’ case some squalid secret deal with the British government. In Mr Ahern’s case it must come from the Irish people whose lives he destroyed, the hundreds of thousands of emigrants, the people who lost jobs or homes or businesses.

 Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf, London


‘Scurrilous’ article on John Paul II

Madam – I was astonished to read the scurrilous attack on St John Paul 11 by John Boyne in the Sunday Independent last week. For someone who said he didn’t want to be hard on the Church, he seemed to operate on the principle that you can’t libel the dead, when he accused him of criminal behaviour.      As the world and his wife know, the process of canonisation involves a rigorous examination of the deceased’s actions, writings, speeches, etc. I doubt very much if John Boyne applied the same rigour to his judgement of John Paul, a man who fought the evils of Nazism, Communism, capitalism and secularism.

Sean Ryan,

Dundrum, Dublin 16


Water supply now has to be asked for

Madam – Irish Water are sending out to every household, what they are calling an “application form” for supply and billing.

This must in fact mean the life-giving liquid can only

be obtained if we are asking for it to be provided by Irish Water.

“Application Form” implies we have a choice in whether we drink and wash with ‘their’ water, or if we decide to paddle our own canoe, without he benefit of a flow from the only supplier.

In the midst of the destruction of so many lives in this cruel country through existing taxes and levies, to think people have the added fear of not being able to afford water in their  homes, is the last straw. We are merely taxable units now, and not citizens with valid rights and concerns.

If and when there comes a widespread demand for water barrels with which to catch rain water in the future, be assured there will also be some other tax imposed through a follow-up lie.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co.Cork


Kealy’s piece on socialism ‘spot on’

Madam – I wish to defend Willie Kealy’s article (Sunday Independent, 7 September) –  “Socialist Ireland pushes capitalism to the margins, “ after the response it received from Vincent Kennedy who was “aghast” last week.

Mr Kealy was spot on, when he wrote that those who work for the State “do not produce anything which can be sold for real money”.     It is of huge importance that we all grasp this fact.  The private sector which is the wealth- producing part of the economy,  pays the taxes that support public and civil servants.

As well, the government continues to borrow €800 million per month of “consumptive debt”  to service, completely unaffordable salaries, golden handshakes and pensions to those embedded in the top tier of the public service system as well as politicians and those on extremely lucrative state contracts, namely  legal, accountancy and managment consultant firms. These people  have been  protected  to the core, at huge cost to the private sector and the economy in general since  2008.  We can therefore safely say,  we have a new form of neo-capitalism, where the Irish state has become the economy; capitalism has been turned on its ear, and the private sector is subservient to the State.

If we do not put a stop to this, the parasites at the top will bring the entire system crashing down upon us.

Olivia Hazell,

Clane, Co Kildare


First class flights damaged Ferris

Madam – I find the revelation in the Sunday Independent that Martin Ferris TD flew business class on a 27 hour plane trip to Melborne both astonishing and disappointing, given his numerous calls on this and previous governments to quit reckless expenditure on junkets or unnecessary travel around the world.

His party paid for his luxury flight. How must all those people who contributed money to it feel? The many dedicated men and women who organized fund-raisers, large and small,  across the country must feel like twats after hearing about this.

His credibility as a defender of the poor and underprivileged is in ruins. The precious party funds spent on that trip down under could have put food on the table for hundreds of Irish people whose lives have been ravaged by the recession and cruel austerity regime. And to think his supporters have frequently asserted that he walks in the footsteps of the great Connolly!

Sinn Fein must as a priority expel Martin Ferris and he should also resign his Dail Seat for the sake of the very cause he claims to hold dear: a political system under which all are equal, where wealth is distributed fairly and that is purged of the cute-hoorism that has bedeviled Irish politics. If James Connolly, a true socialist, had foreseen Ferris’s pathetic party-financed luxury jaunt he might well have stayed at home in Easter Week…or maybe just called to the GPO to buy a stamp.

John Fitzgerald ,

Callan, Co. Kilkenny


Only one way to clear Ragworth

Madam – Approximately 30 years ago while living up the Dublin mountains, I was approached by a local farmer to give him a hand for two days removing Ragworth weed from his field. We agreed on a fee for the work and to my astonishment he wanted each one hand-pulled and piled  into large haycock-type stacks. It was a three acre field and needless to say my back ached for weeks after. About a fortnight later he doused the stacks with diesel and lit them; a week after that he put ten goats on the field.

I passed that same field a month ago and its smooth clean weedless surface resembles a snooker table. Clearly removing this pesky weed by hand followed by the goats is the only permanent solution.

Proinsias O Rathaille,

Killiney, Co Dublin


Giving and sharing is the true path

Madam – Some very good points were raised in Colum Kenny’s article concerning the Irish bishops. I concur with most of what he had to say in his article; and, in particular, the need for embracing women completely into the ‘priestly role.’

God treats all of us equally and with the same love. When mankind can learn to love as Christ taught in a total giving/sharing way for the good of all, only then will our pilgrim journey on earth be completed.

Our  sin is in not recognising the beauty of Christ in our

Lives, and our inability to

forgive our enemies their

worst acts against us.

Thomas O’Reilly

Monasterevin, Kildare


Sharia Law is not for Irish women

Madam – Claire Mc Cormack’s article ‘Rows erupts over wearing hijabs …’ (Sunday Independent, 14 September) prompts me to think there are some people out there who have but a single agenda: that of softening up their audiences into thinking Sharia Law is the best thing that has ever happened to humanity. Well, it is not.

 Having lived for six years in countries ruled by Sharia Law, and having studied it, I have a fair idea of what I am talking about. A Rubik’s Cube is still a Rubik’s Cube ever which way you turn it. However eloquently and scholarly Sharia Law is presented it still remains a means of repressing women.

David Quinn of the Iona Institute is on the right track when he says he has “issues” with what he is hearing. The only inclusiveness that Sharia Law unabashedly upholds is that of the subjugation of women.

Women of Ireland – this is a major attack on your dignity, and ultimately a destroyer of our nonpareil Irish culture. Let your hair blow freely in the wind; your eyes be glistened by the sun, and your lips by the rain sweetly kissed.

Richard Mc Sweeney,

Tallow, Co. Waterford


Penal law memory puts us off Sharia

Madam – Having read Carol Hunt’s article (Sunday Independent, 7 September) and Adrian Burke’s letter (Sunday Independent 14 September) regarding the views of Dr. Ali Selim, I feel compelled to say I could not agree more with the sentiments of both.

 It seem extraordinary that Dr. Selim should lecture this country on our educational obligations knowing full well that the system we in Ireland have enjoyed since independence has served the nation very well indeed.

I would be able to take and digest his suggestions about removing school emblems depicting Christian beliefs seriously if I could travel to his country wearing a crucifix or other such Christian emblem and be certain that I was not subject to Sharia Law or that my wife could accompany me and not be required to wear the Burka.

Perhaps Dr Selim is familiar with our history in penal times when the Irish were forced to express their Christian beliefs in secret in fear of being caught by the imperial masters of that time.   This generation is more enlightened and Dr. Selim should be so aware.

Tom Butler, Co. Dublin.


We need a new  plan for Palestine

Madam – I am so disappointed in your publishing such a tendentious letter as that from W. Dunphy (“Writers ‘were wrong’ about Israel/Gaza , Sunday Independent, 14 September) in which he had the chutzpah to claim not to be “anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist” while referring to “the murderous, land-grabbing Israelis”.

The claim that “the people of Gaza are living in a virtual concentration camp”, let alone the allegation of “the destruction of a people”, is ludicrous and shows how easily one can be misled by mendacious Palestinian propaganda.

As it happens, the population density of the Gaza strip is lower than, for example, that of Singapore and Hong Kong, both highly successful economically. There is no reason why Gaza should not be equally so if only it could be rid of Hamas’s stifling crypto-theocratic control or, what would be almost equally disastrous, its replacement by Abbas’s Fatah kleptocracy.

The first step for its rehabilitation must be the abolition of UNRWA which encourages a perpetual dependency culture by its definition of Palestinian refugee as anyone with an ancestor who was displaced as a result of the invasion of Palestine in 1948. Its place should be taken by the UNHCR whose definition should be implemented whereby only those actually displaced would qualify, and then only where nothing else can be done to help them rebuild their lives, as was the case with all other refugees elsewhere in the world.

  I find the writer’s comment on “the indifference of you and some of your columnists to the plight of these poor people” utterly appalling and implore you not to be bullied into taking a partisan line on this complex international problem.

Martin D. Stern,

Salford,  England


Penal law memory puts us off Sharia

Madam – Having read Carol Hunt’s article (Sunday Independent, 7 September) and Adrian Burke’s letter (Sunday Independent 14 September) regarding the views of Dr. Ali Selim, I feel compelled to say I could not agree more with the sentiments of both.   It seem extraordinary that Dr. Selim should lecture this country on our educational obligations knowing full well that the system we in Ireland have enjoyed since independence has served the nation very well indeed.      I would be able to take and digest his suggestions about removing school emblems depicting Christian beliefs seriously if I could travel to his country wearing a crucifix or other such Christian emblem and be certain that I was not subject to Sharia Law or that my wife could accompany me and not be required to wear the Burka.    Perhaps Dr Selim is familiar with our history in penal times when the Irish were forced to express their Christian beliefs in secret in fear of being caught by the imperial masters of that time.   This generation is more enlightened and Dr. Selim should be so aware.

Tom Butler, Co. Dublin.


We need a new plan for Palestine

Madam – I am so disappointed in your publishing such a tendentious and bigoted letter as that from W. Dunphy (“Writers ‘were wrong’ about Israel/Gaza , Sunday Independent, 14 September) in which he had the chutzpah to claim not to be “anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist” while referring to “the murderous, land-grabbing Israelis”.

The claim that “the people of Gaza are living in a virtual concentration camp”, let alone the allegation of “the destruction of a people”, is ludicrous and shows how easily one can be misled by mendacious Palestinian propaganda.

As it happens, the population density of the Gaza strip is lower than, for example, that of Singapore and Hong Kong, both highly successful economically. There is no reason why Gaza should not be equally so if only it could be rid of Hamas’s stifling crypto-theocratic control or, what would be almost equally disastrous, its replacement by Abbas’s Fatah kleptocracy.

The first step for its rehabilitation must be the abolition of UNRWA which encourages a perpetual dependency culture by its definition of Palestinian refugee as anyone with an ancestor who was displaced as a result of the invasion of Palestine in 1948. Its place should be taken by the UNHCR whose definition should be implemented whereby only those actually displaced would qualify, and then only where nothing else can be done to help them rebuild their lives, as was the case with all other refugees elsewhere in the world.

I find the writer’s comment on “the indifference of you and some of your columnists to the plight of these poor people” utterly appalling and implore you not to be bullied into taking a partisan line on this complex international problem.

Martin D. Stern,

Salford, England

Ellie andRichard

September 20, 2014

20 September 2014 Ellie and Richard

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. Ellie and Richard come to call.

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


Angus Lennie – obituary

Angus Lennie was a diminutive Scottish character actor who played Steve McQueen’s ‘cooler’ companion in The Great Escape

 Angus Lennie as Shughie McFee 'Crossroads' TV Programme. - 25 Jan 1979

Angus Lennie as Shughie McFee in Crossroads Photo: Rex Features

5:19PM BST 19 Sep 2014


Angus Lennie, who has died aged 84, was a comedian turned actor best known for his portrayal of a British airman in the classic wartime action film The Great Escape (1963); he became a household name playing Shughie McFee, the Scottish motel chef in the television soap Crossroads.

As the Hollywood star Steve McQueen’s “cooler” companion in The Great Escape, Lennie’s character, Flying Officer Archibald (“the Mole”) Ives, met a shocking end when he was machine-gunned after walking despondently to the perimeter wire of Stalag Luft III in broad daylight as if in a daze and clambering up it.

After nearly reaching the top, he was strafed with bullets by a guard in the watchtower, and Ives’s body was left hanging lifeless on the wire. “I had to wear a jacket lined with blanks with a steel inner [layer] next to my body,” Lennie remembered. “There was a wire down my trouser leg which went across the street, where some guy pressed a button and all the bullets exploded outwards. Luckily, there were only two takes.”

Trained as a dancer, Lennie worked as a comedian before going into straight acting. He always reckoned that the American director John Sturges cast him in The Great Escape because he made McQueen look very tall: as the USAAF officer Virgil Hilts, McQueen stood only 5ft 9ins while Lennie was a diminutive 5ft 1in.

Despite criticism about many inaccuracies in the film, Lennie’s character was based on a real prisoner-of-war, who scaled the fence in plain sight , apparently knowing it was suicide. The film was a huge international hit and has become a bank holiday television staple .

Lennie also appeared in another wartime adventure film 633 Squadron (1964) as Flying Officer “Hoppy” Hopkinson, describing the moment when he and the star Cliff Robertson had to escape from a burning aircraft as “the most frightening thing I ever did”.

“They used gas jets to simulate the fire but they didn’t take into account that the Mosquito was made of wood and it went up in flames. The close-ups of us scrambling to get out of the plane were real,” he recalled.

Angus Lennie as Shughie McFee and Noele Gordon as Meg in Crossroads

Angus Wilson Lennie was born on April 18 1930 in the east end of Glasgow and was encouraged to go into showbusiness at an early age by his stagestruck father. Educated at Eastbank Academy in Shettleston, he started as a song and dance man at the age of 14 with Jimmy Logan’s parents at the Glasgow Metropole and was a comic on the variety circuit before making the transition into acting at Perth Theatre in the late 1940s.

He worked with several repertory companies in Scotland and England and appeared on television as Sunny Jim, the “cabin boy” in Para Handy: Master Mariner (1959). His film breakthrough came the following year when he landed a part in Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory (1960), starring Alec Guinness and John Mills.

After The Great Escape, Richard Attenborough, who had appeared in it with Lennie, cast him in the film version of Oh! What A Lovely War (1969). Lennie appeared in two Doctor Who stories on television, The Ice Warriors in 1967, with Patrick Troughton, and Terror of the Zygons in 1975, with Tom Baker. He continued to be in demand in a number of Scottish supporting roles, including that of Mr Tumnus, the faun, in a 1967 television adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Having made a one-off appearance in the ITV soap Crossroads as a travel agent in 1972, he was cast three years later as Shughie McFee, the hot-headed motel chef. His character suffered a breakdown in 1980 and Lennie made his last regular appearance the following year, returning briefly for a final time in 1985.

Between 2001 and 2003 he played Badger, the loyal valet to Earl Kilwillie (Julian Fellowes) in the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen.

He appeared regularly in Scottish pantomimes — in 1990 he and the comedian Stanley Baxter were the Ugly Sisters at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh — as well as in regional English theatre.

Angus Lennie, born April 18 1930, died September 14 2014


Scots turn out to vote in Scottish referendum A motorcyclist takes his daughter for a spin in the side-car of his bike as he rides through central Edinburgh. Photograph: EPA/ANDY RAIN

The opening salvoes in the debate on the “West Lothian Question” have already been fired by Cameron and Farage, but they are woefully off target (Scotland’s history-makers, 19 September). The current arrangements have worked well through changing circumstances over the 35 years since the question was first put and will continue to work. When a joint arrangement is an unequal one between partners of different sizes, the smaller partners need additional tools to even up the disparity and having a seemingly unfair voice in the larger partner’s “private” business is such a tool. If Scottish constituency MPs sought to act in concert in an anti-English way, they would be immediately put down by the English majority, so the problem as it is stated does not really exist.

The existence of an English parliament would do nothing to address the disparity in wealth and opportunity that exists in the poorer parts of England – and indeed would make it worse because it would further centralise power and resources, rather than spread them. In the wake of the Scottish referendum it is the “Westminster question” that needs asking. We must devolve power to viable elected regional and local democratic structures throughout the UK, be they city states built on to the remnants of the metropolitan counties in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield, or regional assemblies.

There is now an opportunity to reverse decades of cancerous centralisation which has led directly to the rotting away of local government, the abysmal standard of both political debate and representation, and to the low esteem that those in politics are held. Yet on day one we are in danger of heading off in entirely the wrong direction.
David Helliwell
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

• It was always predictable that once the result of the referendum had been announced in favour of the union, some politicians south of the border should proclaim the current settlement as discriminating against the downtrodden English. My understanding is that the UK parliament legislates for the whole UK and that the effects of that legislation may be modified or qualified according to local circumstances and the degree of responsibility devolved to local administrations, whether national parliaments or assemblies, or local government districts and counties.

It was not the Scottish MPs in the UK parliament who foisted on an unsuspecting England such abominations as the bedroom tax, the dismantling and selling off for private profit of the NHS, the failure to address the housing crisis, and the financial and blatantly political squeeze on local authorities, with its consequent destruction of essential public services. The responsibility for all this lies fairly and squarely with the Tory party, and its predominantly English MPs and supporters, who have dominated government within the UK for far too long, and who now see an apparent opportunity to permanently cement their English majority. I hope that this partisan opportunism will be seen for what it is and will be resoundingly kicked out along with its Tory authors in next May’s general election.
Paul Selby
Redhill, Surrey

• The referendum result is welcome and heartening. The prime minister’s instant reaction is neither. His false equation of the West Lothian question with “English votes on English laws” obviously foreshadows an attempt to fob us off with a clumsy constitutional fudge, pretending that MPs in English constituencies can be an acceptable substitute for an English parliament when they can provide no accountable English government, no English government departments or civil servants to staff them, no distinctive English elections, and no way of identifying draft legislation or other parliamentary business that will affect only England.

Increasing the powers of English local government bodies is similarly hopelessly inadequate. We English should refuse to accept anything short of our own parliament, with internal self-government at least equal to what is now promised to Scotland; and that inevitably requires, in turn, the extensive safeguards against English domination that only a full federal system can provide. Mr Cameron’s promise to solve these monumental constitutional issues, along with further devolution to Scotland, on the same timetable, within a few months, is frankly ludicrous.

Labour’s feeble and non-committal response to these great issues is terribly disappointing, especially after it was left to Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown to supply the intellectual and emotional case for preserving the United Kingdom. LibDem support for federalism is sound, but the LibDem voice is half-hearted and almost inaudible. We face the depressing prospect that the only political leader making the incontrovertible case for an English parliament and government is Nigel Farage. Labour needs to act urgently to prevent Ukip’s support for what plainly needs to be done becoming its kiss of death.
Brian Barder

• I am pleased Scotland voted no, but understand why many yes voters sought to give a complacent, self-serving British establishment a pasting. I hope people of good heart now push for a new UK settlement to create a more federal country like Germany. This new UK will have a written constitution and bill of rights enshrined in British law, written in ordinary English that students can learn at school and immigrants can read when they settle here. It will define us as citizens not subjects, declare us all to be equal under one law, and enshrine our commitment to live sustainably within our means.

It will create an English parliament to sit alongside Scotland’s, Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s, devolve powers to the regions (allowing them to keep a percentage of VAT), and allow cities to retain a percentage of income tax and business rates, encouraging innovation and addressing the regional poverty that blights us. I hope this also diminishes Ukip. The problem has never been the EU; it’s the British establishment that prevent this nation from becoming a modern democracy. Let all who want positive change encourage whatever party they support to bring a new settlement to all the UK’s people.
Christian Vassie

• Following the inclusive Scottish campaign, we cannot allow plans for English devolution to be rushed through in weeks by the same discredited group of Westminster politicians. Nor can we permit the arguments to be hijacked by the Tory party. We must prevent a narrow Westminster-based solution with the added sops of extended powers to a handful of big cities. Each of us deserves a say on fundamental changes to our constitutional settlement. If it was right for five million Scots, it must be right for 50 million English.
Nigel Watson
Leyburn, Yorkshire

• In the face of a few polls suggesting a yes majority in the Scottish referendum, the three major English party leaders showed the collective backbone of a jellybaby. In their panic to bribe the Scots at the expense of English voters, they have handed an issue to Ukip on a platter. They will not be able to placate English voters with promises of English devolution, an issue which most of them find tedious and irrelevant and Ukip would enjoy asking them if they really want more politicians in their lives. Ed Miliband would have the additional problem of explaining why he is consulting voters on English devolution but continuing to deny them a referendum on EU membership.
Richard Heller

• And there I was thinking it was about Scotland’s future and it turns out to be about the English parliament.
Saveria Campo

So it’s a no, but only just. And what a journey. I wonder if it might have made a difference if the yes had been to stay and the no a big negative to the union. There was something about the yes for me, as a Scot living in Birmingham, that made it feel disloyal to Scotland not to want to go with the yes. No might have felt less of a rallying cry and the results might not have been so close. And what of tribalism, anyway? The Breathes There the Man poem by Sir Walter Scott, which I recited at school, has hugely tribal sentiments; and I proudly waved a Scottish flag at the annual gala march. We bullied the English girl who came to our primary school. Then I went to live in Nigeria, during the Biafran war, and witnessed the effects of tribal hatred – of course, it was about oil too – but decent Ibo academics were killed or forced to leave their homes and jobs. I began to have a feeling of being a citizen of the world: feeling the colossal unfairness that the accident of birth bestows. I felt I was not part of any cultural group there. This detachment from a group identity meant that there were no longer cultural clues to place people with: class, accent, clothes – nothing helped. Plus the fact that many intelligent people were poor and uneducated. So I had to take people as they presented themselves, to learn to read them using other, un-culturally cluttered, information cues.  

So here I am again, the same amount of Scottish as yesterday, but where yesterday it felt like a layer, a foundation of my being, today it feels somehow less important. It doesn’t matter today as it might have done if the yes vote had won, and Scotland had become an exclusive club, excluding me from being Scottish.

This is what I find difficult – the subtle difference between national identity, national characteristics and stereotypes. The Scots are … what? A continuum like every race, country, group, family. Now when I think “Scottish”, I am back to imagining a vast continuum that includes tartan and bagpipes, and that horrible chalky Edinburgh rock, through to trainfuls of drunken, puking, loudmouthed football fans; juxtaposed with my mother’s kind, bridge-playing, friends and my father’s decent, working-class, thoughtful parishioners.

When the no vote won, it felt like an enormous relief. I can still feel Scottish, then, perhaps even more so since not excluded. I can be as Scottish as I choose, whatever that means. Thank goodness. We are all world citizens. We might as well try to get along.
Judy Tweddle

Smartphones in the US are more direct (Letters, 19 September). An American friend recalled the time he roundly abused his phone, to be reproached by its sweet-toned voice reminding him that “I treat you with respect”.
Pat Lyes-Wilsdon

• I did enjoy your page three male totty (M&S advert, 19 September). It made one old lady very happy. Thank you.
Kay Ara
Trinity, Jersey

• Congratulations to the male members of the R&A golf club on voting to accept women (Report, 19 September). Now they’ll almost certainly have bigger and better balls. At Hogmanay, for example.
Fr Alec Mitchell

In your editorial on election day (18 September), you say that the debate now should lead to decentralised powers from Westminster. It seems to me that the Tories have been very clever – in fact they are already attempting to shore-up their power in London by addressing the West Lothian question, so that Scot’s MPs can’t vote in westminster on certain important English policies. See how rightwing England goes then. Combine that with a possible EU exit, and maybe the Guardian might consider it could have been more hopeful about an independant Scotland.

As someone brought up in England, having lived in Scotland for 20 years, I strongly believe an independent Scotland would have thrived. Many Guardian journalists wrote eloquently and passionately in favour of independence. The paper sided with the no campaign. If the promises of Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Brown and Darling that Scotland will have prompt devolved powers in the event of a no vote prove hollow, I hope the Guardian does not shy way from exposing those politicians as dishonest opportunists, and reconsiders its position on the idea of Scottish independance.
John Macdonald

• The Conservatives may well be trying to take the initiative on future UK devolution, but before the dust settles on the referendum, we need to remind ourselves of a few facts. The union was almost destroyed by the Tories. Because they have been able to rely on support from the south of England, the have ignored the way in which they have alienated Scots in the last 35 years. What does it say of a political party that it has only one Westminster MP returned by Scots? No wonder Scotland was tempted by independence. Doesn’t it also speak volumes that Cameron had to rely on two Labour politicians to head the no campaign and save the union? Instead of jumping on the devolution bandwagon, the Tories ought to be asking themselves how can they engage more with people north of the border, how can they improve their standing in Scotland, how can they make their politics more acceptable to the whole of the UK and not just to the affluent south of England.
Arthur Gould
Loughborough, Leicestershire

• The Scottish debate has given us the opportunity for the most innovative debate on our constitution and politics since 1945. But much of the talk about devolution misses the main point. It may be readily accepted that local authorities should have more power within their localities. But the crucial need is for a constitutional counter to the power exercised  by dominant capital interests (increasingly foreign) through our national government. We need a system of regional governments – say eight English regions, alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – playing a direct, constitutional role in the machinery of central government, for example, through mandatory representation in cabinets alongside departmental secretaries of state.
Richard Pengelly

• Now the Scottish people have demonstrated that the public are prepared to engage with politics when they feel that their vote counts, couldn’t this be the ideal opportunity to consider some form of proportional representation of regional representatives into a reformed second chamber?

And surely this is the time for Ed Milliband to lead the drive for fairer society, which was one of the main demands of those supporting the vote for independence. Limiting pay differentials between the CEOs and lowest paid staff, increasing taxes on the very highest paid and a review of property taxes would be a strong and welcome start in demonstrating that you don’t have to be Scottish to value fairness.
Steph Crutchley
Newton Abbot, Devon

• Now that the Scottish people have voted to remain within the United Kingdom, will our UK parliament instigate an international programme of education to inform the wider global community that the terms “England”, “Great Britain” and “United Kingdom” are not synonymous. Further, will all media organisations promise to take steps to correct interviewees, correspondents and contributers when they use the terms inappropriately. It may seem a trivial matter to some, but with repetition comes resentment.
Hugh Craig

• David Ward (Letters 18 September) should indeed incorporate swithering into his vocabulary. He should also add scunnered – as I am today.
Tom McFadyen

• In the wake of the Scottish referendum result the PM is dangerously wrong to press for “English votes for English laws” as the answer to the West Lothian question. Such an arrangement would be utterly inconsistent with the constitutional doctrine of responsible government. For instance, it is entirely possible that a future Labour administration would have enough UK-wide MPs to govern the UK while the Conservatives formed a majority in England. What then? Will we have two administrations sitting side by side in the House of Commons responsible to two classes of representatives? How will executive government be conducted in these circumstances? For instance, if the English executive loses the confidence of English MPs will there be an UK-wide general election? And so on. In practice, Cameron’s proposal is not a solution to the West Lothian question but a recipe for chaos and ultimately the dissolution of the UK.
Richard Edwards
Senior lecturer in law, University of Exeter

• Surely the answer is staring us in the face: the House of Commons becomes the English parliament; the House of Lords becomes the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Elected! By PR. The remaining questions: What would the leaders be called? If one of them is prime minister, how about the other being first lord of the Treasury? That way, 10 Downing Street wouldn’t have to change its letter box. Oh, but where would the other one live? No 11? No 12? We’d better have that constitutional commission…
Ian Chown

• I was moved almost to the point of tears when I saw 16- and 17-year-olds enthusiastically entering the polling booths in their school uniforms to cast their vote in the referendum. Surely Westminster needs to move on this very quickly and amend the Representation of the People Act to lower the voting age and extend the franchise in time for the 2015 general election? We could even motivate young people by allowing them to vote in school.

However, I’m under no illusions that the Westminster establishment will find procedural and other reasons to block this.
Steve Flatley

• So UK citizens aged 16 and 17 voted for the very first time. Many older Scots voted for the first time for a long time; some for the first time ever. People have been involved, excited, engaged and empowered in a political discussion as never before. The political landscape in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in Scotland has been changed. No small achievement.
Chris Birch

• The Scottish referendum must be taught in schools. Scotland has gained worldwide admiration for its ingenuity, rationality and democratic performance. No deployment of tanks and military personnel such as the case in the Crimean peninsula, no electoral fraud and rigging as the case in many parts of the world, and most importantly, no illegal forms of voter intimidation. The voting was a happy ending, a colourful demonstration of a strong sense of belonging to the UK. The UK has asserted itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. As Cameron put it: “Now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and move forward.”
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

• What a relief! Never again should there be a referendum on secession in this island. A decision based on a simple majority, which could for example be affected by the weather on the day, is not appropriate for a choice so massive and final. But more than that, after 300 years and all we have been through together, surely the island belongs to everyone.
Myer Salaman

• Following the result of the Scottish referendum, I have a suggestion for our relatives, friends and neighbours north of the border, beginning perhaps with those in Glasgow and Dundee. It has occurred to me that in Italy there is a Northern League, which works to defend the privileges of that country’s northern cities. Our northern cities, both English and Scottish, have fewer privileges to defend, but we could work together to promote their prospects in the face of the strong power base in the south-east of England. How about it Liverpool, Tyneside and Hull?
Kate Allen
Guisborough, Cleveland

• It is to be hoped that the result of the referendum will be seen as a massive rejection of nationalism and independence and that the concepts will be put to bed for good. There is then a need to rebuild relationships which have been damaged during the campaign and two steps would help to accomplish this. First, Alex Salmond should recognise that his personal credibility as leader has been rejected and he should resign. Second, the SNP has lost its ultimate raison d’etre and should re-name itself: the Scottish Democrats would be a possibility.
Dr D J Rowe
Newcastle upon Tyne

• Now that the Scottish referendum has settled their question “for a lifetime”, please remind me why the European one of 1975 no longer applies.
Mike Mulliner
Belper, Derbyshire

• Thank you, Scotland. Memo to the UK parties: Keep your promises, devolve powers, and give England a voice. Strengthen the Union by three simple immediate steps: 1) Make it clear that God Save the Queen is the British national anthem: tell English teams never to play it before a game; 2) Rename the Bank of England the British Reserve Bank; 3) Disestablish the Church of England.

Get on with it: England expects.
Ian Turner
Melbourne, Derbyshire

• So good to see the democratic process working in Scotland, despite the absence of the promise of a referendum in the Conservative 2010 manifesto. In the interests of democracy, could we please have the opportunity to vote on new party manifestos and a properly constituted conference before new laws for devolution in England and the rest of the UK are passed, or indeed could we have a referendum on the issue? Anything else will be a gross misuse of political power and a denial of democracy, for the rest of the UK.
Dr John Crossman
Sherborne, Dorset

Having supported the yes campaign pretty much throughout, I had tears in my eyes this morning when it was a no. Tears of thanks, relief and of being deeply moved. That after all this, Scotland is not going – it’s not over. Some very important things have been said, felt, explored, dreamed and Scotland is going to stay – for the time being, at least.

I know of course that it was never going to be a complete and acrimonious separation. And I know that independence might have led to something extraordinary; a new paradigm for life on this island, that may even have spilled over to the south one day. But right here right now there’s just relief that Scotland and England are not parting ways. That after everything has been said, we are staying together.
Tim Foskett

• As an Englishman who spent several happy years living and working in Scotland, I commiserate with those who voted for independence. A golden opportunity to create a fairer society has been missed. Burns got it right: “We’re bought and sold for English gold. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”
Paul Hewitson

• A narrow escape for Cameron, whose cavalier approach nearly sank the union, thanks to Gordon Brown, whose passionate oratory probably saved it.
Roy Boffy

• Thank God. Scotland is trusting us to drive for real change now. We must sort the lack of UK democracy out, especially in England. We mustn’t let their trust down! Now we all have a real chance in our future together. Well done to both sides in the debate. (And can we please have this Gordon Brown back? Labour, heed: timidity gets you nowhere.)
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxford

• And there I was thinking it was about Scotland’s future and it turns out to be about the English parliament.
Saveria Campo

• If nothing else the Scottish referendum stands as a reminder that it is not the people who are unwilling to engage in real political debate, it is the politicians.
Jane Thomas
Eglwyswrw, Pembrokeshire

• I suppose it’s too late to check the hanging chads, isn’t it?
Simon Aves

• Alex Salmond must be the most relieved man on the planet.
Jim Eccleston
Alicante, Spain

• Being half Scottish, the result for me showed two important things that our politicians should note: 1) That almost half the population of Scotland is disillusioned with English rule. 2) That 97% of the population actually voted, revealing a strong commitment to the democratic process. For me it was summed up by the words of an old man from a poor estate interviewed for the BBC who said: “Whatever the outcome, it shows that a large percentage of Scots are disillusioned with all three party leaders.”

If there can be one lesson to be learnt from this, it should be for Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to seriously reconsider their values. For Cameron, the shameful attacks on the NHS and for the poor in our society; for Clegg, his shameful about-turn on student fees; and for Miliband, following in the footsteps of Tony Blair, his rejection of the true values of the Labour party. If we are a truly democratic country, could we please have a referendum on essential decisions such as the NHS.
Lorraine Haldane
Hove, Sussex

• Three factors are required for a high turnout: a clear choice; a strong campaign on both sides; and continuing doubt about the outcome. This enables the maximum number of voters to feel qualified to decide, to be encouraged to vote whatever their preference, and to believe their personal choice has consequences. This conjunction is relatively rare, as are very high turnouts.
Paul Martin

• Clearly some of the yes vote reflected support for the SNP. However, when it comes to major cities like Glasgow, it was surely something rather more than that. The grassroots anti-austerity campaigning of the left made its voice heard and felt. No doubt Mr Cameron will continue to ignore that voice as he has since 2010, but Mr Miliband would do well to take note. The referendum vote was about much more than yes or no to independence.
Keith Flett

• Further to Niall Cooper’s suggestion (Letters, 19 September) that parliament should move out of London, wouldn’t now be a very good time to announce that the capital of the still United Kingdom was to move to Edinburgh? This would demonstrate the establishment’s commitment to Scotland, help to rebalance the British economy and defuse the absurd London housing market all in one go.
Peter Malpass

• Now the result is in, can we think about the phrase “devo max” a bit more carefully. It surely should not be taken to mean just a few extra tax-raising powers (which a future Westminster government could nullify by cutting Scotland’s block grant), but rather maximum devolution, that is, full home rule.

When around 40% of the total electorate say they would like to leave the union and a large number on the other side are undoubtedly in favour of substantial change, something on this scale is clearly what is required. And that in turn demands careful consideration of the implications for the structure of the UK state as a whole. Rushing through badly thought-through, piecemeal legislation is not the answer.
Richard Middleton
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway


A number of positive things came out of the referendum, civility and engagement being just two, but I feel the most important was the huge turnout. We need to look  at how we can replicate  this in every election, whether for council, Parliament or EU in every part of the United Kingdom so that we get the type of Government we want.

It seems to me that a key element for the huge turnout was that the Scottish people not only thought it was important but felt also that their individual vote counted and would affect the final result.

 This morning we hear again about the West Lothian question. Rather than this being divisive could this not be an opportunity to tackle the issue, along with the need for people to feel that their vote counted? Is it not time to look again seriously at proportional representation as a solution? It could help Labour, which feels threatened by some possible solutions to the West Lothian question, and would help engage people who feel their vote does  not matter.

John Simpson
Ross on Wye

With a conclusive result against independence, Scotland is now in a “win, win” by having the comfort and security of staying in the UK and yet more devolved powers given to our Parliament.

The remarkable turnout of 84 per cent endorses the result of the referendum and kicks independence into the long grass for the foreseeable future as the people of Scotland have now spoken loud and clear in the matter.

Dennis Forbes Grattan
Bucksburn, Aberdeen


I am a Scottish voter who cast his vote in the referendum on the Yes side. I had many reasons for doing so, but by far the largest one was that I am constantly angered and shamed at the things the UK government does around the world, supposedly in my name. Our national Government is base and evil and without any moral compass. I had hoped that the new Scottish nation could break free from this and forge its own path as a real democracy, with a foreign policy which reflects the wishes of its people. What I am left with is the feeling of being trapped in a system which will never change and which will continue to make enemies around the world for years to come.

Ross McCleary 
West Lothian

As the collective sigh of relief echoes around Westminster and the City of London, it would be encouraging to think that lessons have been learned. Firstly, that the democratic process thrives on passionate debate and vision. The chances of next year’s election producing a healthy turnout will not be helped if Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg continue in their current styles. I do not wish to see misty-eyed declarations of what they “passionately believe in” but I want to hear their passionate advocacy of their radical solutions to the issues that confront our country. Bland, anodyne party politics is killing UK democracy at its roots.

The second lesson is that many found the threatening, bullying pronouncements from the leaders of the financial and business world distasteful to say the least. Our political leaders must have the strength to resist threats from unelected figures, who often speak only for themselves and their vested interests. If fear of change drives our future the outlook is bleak and our decline assured.

John Dillon

It was a Scottish Labour MP, Tam Dalyell in 1977 (yes, 37 years ago), who pointed out the obscene unfairness of Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh MPs voting on issues that pertained only to England.  Why have Labour and Conservative governments taken so long to address the West Lothian question?

Stewart Birks
Northfield, Invergordon

The Scottish referendum must be taught in schools. Scotland has gained worldwide admiration for its ingenuity, rationality and democratic performance. No deployment of tanks and military personnel such as the case in the Crimean peninsula, no electoral fraud and rigging as is the case in many parts of the world, and most importantly, no illegal forms of voter intimidation.

The voting was a happy ending, a colourful demon- stration of a strong sense of belonging to the United Kingdom. The UK has asserted itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. As Mr Cameron put it, “now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and move forward”.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

A tragedy that Scotland voted No. I was looking forward to Nigel Farage (why isn’t it pronounced Faridge?) bleating on about repatriating the Scots who live in the rest of the UK.

Keith Barnes

The answer to the English question is so obvious that politicians can’t see it: abolish the House of Lords, put an elected English assembly in its place and make the House of Commons the upper house, with over-arching authority over all four national parliaments.

Michael Leapman

Our political ‘‘leaders’’ may well be feeling some relief at Scotland’s choice to stay with the Union but none of them can claim victory: the vote went the way it did not because of them but in spite of them. Not only David Cameron but also Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg jeopardised the very fabric of our country through their obstinacy, their ignorance and arrogance. We don’t need a referendum to know that the people of Britain have no confidence or belief in these stuffed shirts.

Julian Self
Milton Keynes

The disunited kingdom may thank those who behaved poorly during the course of the Scottish referendum. It reminds the rest of us of the dangers of nationalism. Like Mr Farage, Mr Salmond can- not easily control fellow-travellers. As we know from the past, other potential nationalist leaders may not even want to.

Cole Davis


In victory, the leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, has proclaimed the primacy of unity over division. Yet he was part of a government that presided, untroubled, over the longstanding division of Ireland.

Throughout the campaign, a definite hypocrisy and dishonesty has been at work, and David Cameron’s government has no option now but to support and facilitate the unity of Ireland, without delay, in the interest of justice and democracy.

Cadhla Ni Frithile
Wexford, Ireland

Scotland’s decision, followed by Cameron’s announcement of a “fair settlement for all parts of the UK”, presents the problem of the disproportionate size and power of an English assembly. Suppose that there were not just one ‘‘English assembly’’ but several, with each assembly serving a population of, say, eight to 10 million.

This would offer not only the benefits of equity and balance, but could also build on institutions already in existence (the mayoralty of London, for one), while directly addressing the opportunity to devolve more power to large cities. The parliament in Westminster would be the seat of the government; the next level would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and a series of regional assemblies across England – with names, perhaps, such as Mercia, Wessex or Northumbria.

Dennis Sherwood
Exton, Rutland

Before folk in England rejoice at the thought of a form of devolution, they should reflect on the reality of the Welsh Assembly. Here we have an over-manned talking shop, distributed across an archipelago of expensive and ultra-modern office blocks that stand half empty in small rural towns “distributing democracy” to a disillusioned population.

English regional administrations will have exactly the same disposition to providing themselves with equally well-provided accommodation. Instead of streamlining the British government in our medium-sized country, with its faltering economy, we have chosen to expand admin-istration and entangle ourselves with a multi-layered series of govern- ments when we could have reinvented ourselves as a federation of states, governed by a House of Commons and an elected second house. We have another British fudge of confusion that will preserve the Etonian/Harrow ruling elite beneath a phoney veneer of radical reform.

Vaughan Thomas
Gwent, South Wales

In the midst of his relief that the UK is still intact, Mr Cameron would do well to consider how close his government and its policies came to destroying it. With almost half of Scotland voting to quit the Union, I am not sure anyone can call this a victory. Can I suggest he prioritise social cohesion and a sense of justice throughout the country that is felt by all. With that in mind, he would do well to immediately scrap the Bedroom Tax, a levy so disastrously conceived that it has gone a long way to almost changing the shape of the nation.

 Mike Galvin


Sir, Your editorial “For Valour” (Sept 19) quite rightly highlights the greed and crassness displayed by the RFU. I am, however, disappointed by the opinion in the final paragraph as to the action which the RFU might now take. The only decent course of action is to withdraw the shirts from the market immediately. To allow their continued sale would set a most undesirable and unhealthy precedent.
David Jones
Tring, Herts

Sir, These shirts should be scrapped immediately; that is the only acceptable apology, but I suppose that money will win and the RFU will brazen it out.
WR Armstrong

Sir, I have no intention of purchasing an overpriced England shirt. I do, however, propose to make a donation to the Victoria Cross Trust.
Hilary Hardie
Nassington, Northants

Sir, Stephen Pollard (Thunderer, Sept 18) is wrong: homeopathy can be a matter of opinion since interpretation of evidence is debatable. The researcher Dr Klaus Linde has written of the confusion of “too many anomalous results in high quality studies to rule out a relevant phenomenon”, and a research group from the University of York reported in 2010 on eight systematic reviews providing evidence that the effects of homeopathy were beyond placebo for a range of childhood conditions. The existence of meteorites was formerly dismissed, and journals rejected early reports of manned flight. It is always thus with developments that break the mould. Allegations of quackery, however, with its moral undertone, are uncalled for.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
formerly Joint Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare), House of Lords

Sir, I am 86 years old. I recently switched my eight-seater Peugeot 505 diesel estate for a secondhand five-seater Ford Focus diesel with a smaller engine. My comprehensive insurance went up from £340 to £1,017. I wonder if this is an example of an increased charge as depicted in “Older drivers exploited by insurers”, (Sept 18)?
D Thomas
Rugeley, Staffs

Sir, As leaders of faith communities in Britain we believe that one significant contribution to a safer world is the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is unacceptable that British citizens should be persuaded that their security depends on a credible threat to kill millions of innocent people.

Our faith traditions reject the notion that reliance on the threat of mass destruction could ever be right. We believe the government should cancel the replacement of Trident. The £100 billion saved should be diverted to combating poverty at home and overseas; in providing affordable homes, and investing in education and the NHS.

The government must take a lead in current global initiatives which aim to create a nuclear weapon-free world. Our security does not exist in a vacuum: we must work for genuine global security in its many aspects. Tensions between states with nuclear weapons must not divert attention from initiatives that would give impetus to the goal of the non-proliferation treaty to bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.

Cancelling Trident would be a momentous step in this direction. Britain can lead the way.

The Right Rev Stephen Cottrell
Bishop of Chelmsford

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton
Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council

The Rev Kenneth Howcroft
President, Methodist Conference

The Most Rev Malcolm McMahon
Archbishop of Liverpool

The Most Rev Barry Morgan
Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Llandaff

Juliet Prager
Deputy Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain

The Rev John Proctor
General Secretary, The United Reformed Church

Sir, Is it too late to get my 1963 GCE exam papers re-marked, if only to stop old school friends who still allude to my remarkably poor performance?

Alan Phillips

Epping, Essex


Public-school boys: stars of the stage but not the pitch

When will football teams start recruiting at Eton?

Eddie Redmayne: QPR’s new goalie? Photo: Boo George

6:58AM BST 19 Sep 2014


SIR – Class discrimination is the current accusation levelled against the acting profession as a result of the coincidence of young stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne being products of leading public schools. It is, of course, nonsense, as Sean Connery, Michael Caine, James Corden and hundreds more starry Equity members demonstrate.

If you want empirical evidence of class discrimination, look no further than the Premier League. Why do no public school boys play for Chelsea, Manchester United or Everton? It is blatant prejudice.

What is Greg Dyke, the chairman of the Football Association (not, so far as I know, an old Etonian) doing about this?

Lord Grade of Yarmouth
London SW1

Road closures

SIR – One of London’s busiest roads, the North Circular, was closed recently because of a fatal accident. This is not uncommon and is always a tragedy.

The accident happened at 8.45am and the road was only partially opened at 6pm.This caused queues of over nine miles. All of north London was snarled up, and after 12 hours traffic was still at a crawl.

This happens after every accident. The police must do their job, but thousands of motorists and local residents must ask why it takes so long, when in most European countries the aim is to gather data and open the road again within three hours.

Russ King
London N11

Friendly shops

SIR – I agree with Jane Shilling about the virtues of individual shops (Comment, September 13). Having recently moved from a village, I miss its excellent shop, where staff knew all its customers. I’ve found a very good butcher, and enjoy the market, but nothing touches the friendly service of an individual shopkeeper.

Diana Goetz
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Bendy trend

SIR – Tony Hill (Letters, September 18) mentions an “electric soup maker”. This week, the Telegraph shop offered “lightweight and flexible ladies’ leather shoes”. What does it have for overweight and arthritic ladies?

T A Willetts
Tarporley, Cheshire

Recognising Palestine

SIR – The Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC) was established under Margaret Thatcher in 1980, following the Venice Declaration, when the then nine members of the European Community registered their concern over the continued building of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Comment, September 17). They saw this as an obstacle to peace and resolved that the traditional ties and common interests which link Europe to the Middle East obliged them to play a special role in working towards that peace.

Thirty-four years later, we are no nearer to peace, and another 1,000 acres of the West Bank is to be taken over by settlers.

Britain, more than any country, has an obligation to the Palestinians and we should fulfil that obligation by recognising Palestine at the United Nations. As a good friend of Israel and Palestine, the UK has always supported a viable Palestine alongside a secure Israel, and we believe this vote will help to move us closer to that goal; at the very least it will mean that the Palestinians can sit a little taller at the negotiating table.

Baroness Morris of Bolton
Chairman, CMEC
Sir Nicholas Soames MP
President, CMEC
Sir Alan Duncan MP
Deputy Chairman, CMEC
Adam Holloway MP
Vice Chairman, CMEC
Dr Phillip Lee MP
Vice Chairman, CMEC

On board

SIR – Having been expelled from three convent boarding schools (Letters, September 15), I have some experience in this field. However brutal the reality (and mine was), there are advantages to be gained from boarding. The idea of leading two separate lives, one at school, one at home, is surely an engaging concept, and one cannot learn too early that life does not revolve around oneself. And why on earth should parents not have holidays? Mine certainly deserved them.

Jane Cullinan
Padstow, Cornwall

Better safe. . .

SIR – On checking into my hotel room, I was grateful for the warning displayed on my room safe, which was 6in by 4in across: “Caution – suffocation danger exists.”

John Stephen
Paphos, Cyprus

What’s behind the price of a good cup of coffee

The price of your latte may be rising, but the farmer in Colombia isn’t seeing the profits.

Full of beans: Brazil grows about a third of all coffee, making it by far the biggest exporter

Full of beans: Brazil grows about a third of all coffee, making it by far the biggest exporter  Photo: Paul Smith/Bloomberg

6:59AM BST 19 Sep 2014


SIR – In your leading article (September 16) about the rising cost of olive oil due to increases in wholesale prices, you suggest that readers should compensate by giving up their “outrageously priced cup of coffee from a shop”.

As a farmer who grows fine Arabica coffee in the Colombian Andes, I thought that your readers might be interested to ponder why those prices are so high, and only ever go in one direction, when the amount paid to growers for the coffee goes in the other.

The price that the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNCC), the co-op of which I am a member, pays us for our coffee fluctuates in line with the international commodity exchanges.

Coffee is the second biggest traded commodity, in value, after oil. But while the price of fuel at the pump reflects the movements in the commodity exchanges, this does not happen with coffee. None of you is paying less for your coffee than you were three years ago. And yet the commodity price of a pound of coffee dropped from $3 (£1.89) in 2011 to around $1 (£0.65) in 2013.

Earlier this year, because of problems with the crops in Brazil and Central America, the price of coffee rose 34 per cent and it was announced that retail prices would have to rise, even though they had never stopped rising over the years that commodity prices were sinking so low.

Cafeteros (coffee farmers) cannot grow quality coffee more cheaply. It is labour-intensive, and we have to pay everyone who works with us every week because that is what feeds their families, puts a roof over their heads and educates their children.

When the coffee price is good, we are all happy. It is when the coffee prices fall, and the co-op, the government, and middlemen still take the same big cut that we start to get upset.

But we are not the only losers in this equation: you are, too, as you are paying an ever-rising price for something that costs a fraction of what it once did.

Next time you enjoy your fine cup of coffee, spare a thought for those of us who grew the beans that make it so special, and ask your supplier why the price has never reduced in line with the cost of those coffee beans.

Barry Max Wills
Anserma, Caldas, Colombia

The play’s the thing

SIR – Roger Croston (Letters, September 18) asks when the works of William Shakespeare will be translated into “everyday, understandable English”. The answer is that they are already understandable, and that any attempt to rewrite them would be a crime.

The trouble with Shakespeare is that too many of us (myself included) harbour traumatic memories of studying him at school: dry textual analysis with all the joy leached out.

Shakespeare never intended his plays to be pored over in this manner; he wrote for the stage, not the page. It is best to see his plays at the Globe, where they are presented with unmatched joie de vivre. And much of the theatre’s back catalogue is available on DVD.

Steve Howe
Grays, Essex

The genie of nationalism is out of the bottle and spreading intolerance to ever smaller communities

The United Kingdom is divided by nationalist intolerance.

Whether you're hoping for a Yes or No on independence: how to spend result night

Will the Scottish referendum inspire Cornwall and Yorkshire to demand self-governing powers? Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 19 Sep 2014


SIR – The nationalist genie is the idea that, if you have nothing in common with those elected to govern you, then you reduce the size of the electorate until you have. This genie is now out of the bottle.

So we have people in Yorkshire and Cornwall demanding self-governing powers. As we in North Wales have little in common with those in South Wales, why are we governed by them? Next those who use Welsh will be demanding that only Welsh speakers govern them, and the same with those who use English.

Nationalist intolerance – the belief that our own needs are different and more important than those of others – is continuing to cause most of the world’s conflicts.

Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire

SIR – Scotland’s problem has been with Westminster, and the financial centre that is London, sucking all profit to itself, reserving its rewards for an international elite that never doubts its right to them, and, apart from a booming trade in exponentially priced second homes in favoured regions, excludes the rest of the United Kingdom.

Why don’t we all secede?

K M Stewart Hamilton
Sheerness-on-Sea, Kent

SIR – What grates with this Englishman is how, after making a complete mess of the referendum campaign, the three leaders of the “Westminster mafia” then tried to bribe, for that’s what it was, the Scottish electorate with our money.

J D Mortimer
Great Harwood, Lancashire

SIR – Mark Lauder (Letters, September 18) regrets the hijacking of the saltire by the Yes campaign.

The Cross of Saint George suffered the same fate many years ago at the hands of the National Front. Only in recent years have we seen it flown or exhibited with honour and esteem. I am still waiting for celebrations on April 23. Perhaps 2015 will be a good year in which to start.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

SIR – I was moved to tears when I read Neil Oliver’s Comment piece yesterday.

Whenever I am asked for my nationality, I always write or say, without thinking, “British”. Now I know why.

Sheila Culver
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Exactly 70 years ago, after the launching of Operation Market Garden, the ferocious fighting at Arnhem was at its height. The brave men of the King’s Own Borderers played their full part, particularly in the defence of the landing grounds as the Paras fought heroically against the odds.

Yesterday, many Dutch homes, as I have seen, were flying flags in salute of their united action, while here the anniversary went almost unnoticed, as all attention was upon the question of whether the Scots would vote to split the Union.

Philip Morris
Cookham, Berkshire

SIR – When visiting Scotland, I have always felt that I was welcome and among friends. The rhetoric used during the campaign by the Scottish National Party has, sadly, destroyed that feeling. How many Englishmen and women feel the same?

Bryan Gane

SIR – I shall now view with great suspicion all those who live in Scotland, as I shall not know how each voted.

Robert Hood-Wright
Bodmin, Cornwall

SIR – The people of Scotland now need Archbishop Desmond Tutu to facilitate reconciliation between the opposing sides.

Barry Rochfort
Dereham, Norfolk

Irish Times:

A chara, – Bought and sold for English gold? No, this time it’s just a handful of magic beans. I’m waiting for England’s generous rolling out of the desperate promises they made to the Scottish people.

I’m not holding my breath. – Is mise,


Glasdrumman Mor,

Drumkeeran,Co Leitrim.

Sir, – I congratulate the Scottish people. Not for voting No, but for the manner in which they conducted themselves throughout the campaign. We listened to debates and opinions that were both robust and passionate but with few hysterics. Irish parliamentarians, please take note. – Yours, etc,


Riverside House,

Dunleer,Co Louth.

A chara, – The 307-year-old union as been saved. The people have spoken. Scotland remains part of the family of nations that make up the United Kingdom. However it does so amid a flurry of promises, vows and reassurances of further devolution and increased autonomy over tax, health and welfare. Much analysis will be done as to why the Better Together campaign succeeded. Some will cast blame on what many interpreted as scaremongering, with RBS and Lloyds banks threatening to move operations south of the border should independence have been endorsed. What has been intriguing is that economic arguments featured as the key to influence and not any ideology based on language, culture or identity. Scotland and its people have always had a clear and distinguished identity in this regard.

Westminster has made promises that it must keep with Scotland. Now that the genie is out of the bottle Westminster must give equal regard to other areas of the United Kingdom – Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Failure to do so would could lead those nations to feel “Bitter Together” and not “Better Together”. – Is mise,


Clare Village,

Malahide Road, Dublin 17.

Sir, – The will of the people of Scotland was determined with out the loss of one life. The biggest win of all. – Yours, etc,


Radolfzeller Strasse,

Allensbach, Germany.

Sir, – Repeated attempts to denigrate England failed to convince a fair-minded people. We, too, have had little else but slurs and put-downs from our propaganda-mills for a century. And where have our huddled masses, failed by this State, headed for? Why to England, of course, where they received full citizenship rights and plentiful opportunities. What a shame the Irish people were never asked. They would have settled for “Devo-Max”, but what they got instead was “Dev Max” and a partitioned country. – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,

Holywood, Co Down.

Sir, – As a Scot living in Ireland, I really don’t understand why so many people voted No but, like their children and grandchildren, who won’t understand it either, I fear that we’ll all live to regret it, and maybe in unexpected ways. The referendum was never actually about nationalism, or at least not in the anti-English sense that the No camp tried to paint it. It was about admitting that the politico-economic union of the last three centuries has simply run its course, and that Scotland and England have been moving in different directions for at least a generation now.

The socio-cultural union, which stretches back for a millennium or more, is rich and rewarding and we are very much “better together” in that sense. The overwhelming majority of Yes voters wanted it to continue yet, ironically, independence was the surest way to safeguard that it did. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Interesting that David Cameron’s first act for Scotland is to ask an unelected peer, Lord Smith of Kelvin, to oversee the process of devolving more powers over tax, spending and welfare to Scotland. – Yours, etc,



Ballina,Co Tipperary.

Sir, – There are lesson for our European leaders in this. Let’s hope that they are alert to the effects the referendum will have across Europe and the need for substantial changes to give regions and the general population far more say in EU decisions. – Yours, etc,


O’Callaghan Strand,


Sir, – In what way was the result like a cold in the head? Sometimes the Ayes had it and sometimes the Noes. – Yours, etc,


Avenue Louise,


Sir, – Scotland the Brave? Yeah, right. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street, Dublin 8.

Sir, – To the thoroughly disappointed – though by no means despondent – Scottish nationalists I say this – if at first you don’t secede, try, try again. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Scotland seems to be saying “Never, not now, possibly”. Remember that even Big Ian said yes eventually. – Yours, etc,


Clybaun Heights,

Knocknacarra, Galway.

Sir, – The Scots are a canny lot. It would appear they went along with Hilaire Belloc’s advice – “and always keep a-hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse”. – Yours, etc,


Marina Village,

Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The pollsters had it neck and neck, while Paddy Power had it by a distance. – Yours, etc,


Merlyn Park, Dublin 4.

Sir, – At least that’s the Scottish question answered – now know what’s not under the kilt. – Yours, etc,


Market Square,

Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – I note that Enda Kenny (“Turn off tap when brushing teeth to save water’, says Kenny”, September 18th) has taken to endorsing the advice of Barney the Dinosaur, who sang “While I’m brushing my teeth and having so much fun, I never let the water run, no, I never let the water run”.

In the grown-up world, does the Taoiseach have any suggestions as to how cash-strapped citizens are going to pay €400 water bills? I’m all ears! – Yours, etc,


St Columba’s Villas,


Co Meath.

Sir, – I would hope that the regulator will include in any compensation scheme for contaminated water those households which must run a sinkful of water first thing each morning due to lead contamination from old pipework.

There are about 100 such households in Dundalk. – Yours, etc,




Co Louth.

Sir, – Your interpretation of the OECD position (Editorial, September 18th) that Ireland should “move sooner or later to end abusive tax avoidance” by multinationals should equally apply to ending our tolerance of mechanisms and regulatory interpretations that support social dumping on a continental scale.

In 2009, the Revenue Commissioners closed one loophole preventing the abuse of sole trader status as an acceptable means of engaging pilots in the Irish aviation industry. Unfortunately, the exploitation of pilots continued in an evolved model, requiring them to become directors of limited companies for no obvious benefit to the pilots themselves.

Ireland’s apparent tolerance for such “clever” arrangements brings our national good name further into disrepute. Ireland is increasingly seen as a peddler of cheap employment practices in the service of corporate engorgement.

Given its potential to destroy the lives of individual workers and to undermine the social fabric of society, it is past time to review the export of abusive social and employment practices from Ireland, as much as it is time to curb the abusive tax avoidance schemes that the OECD has so clearly identified. – Yours, etc,



Irish Airline

Pilots’ Association,

Corballis Park,

Dublin Airport.

Sir, – After three years and some media attention, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has had an epiphany and decided that cleaning positions may not be suitable for JobBridge, despite them appearing on for years (“Cleaners in schools ‘not best use’ of JobBridge, says Burton”, September 18th).

What I am disappointed by is how JobBridge has had a detrimental effect on jobseekers with disabilities. It was not until 2012 that most disabled people were given access to the scheme, while vision-impaired people continue to be barred.

The Department of Social Protection will tell you that there are “other schemes” for blind and disabled people, just as there were “other seats on the bus” for black people in the US before the civil rights movement. The positions I am qualified for are not advertised on schemes like the work placement programme or the other schemes “for my kind”. I did not put four years of my life into a degree just so I could go weaving baskets!

Would it not be better for the Minister to put her efforts into giving access to schemes to those who want the experience of work rather than wasting money by forcing people into positions they may not be interested in or suitable for? – Yours, etc,


Peter O’Donovan Crescent,

Ballincollig, Co Cork.

Sir, – When I read Gabrielle Brocklesby’s letter (September 19th) I had to go and dig out Jennifer O’Connell’s piece from last Monday (“Two men and a baby now so wonderfully ordinary”, September 15th). I expected a major full-page gay rights propaganda piece, driving home the benefits of having two fathers with remorseless logic and vigour. Instead I found a short, neatly written description of an encounter in a park with two parents of a newly born baby. Ms Brocklesby’s letter was longer than Ms O’Connell’s article!

If Ms Brocklesby wants us to challenge gay adoptive parents as to the whereabouts and psychological state of the natural mother of their child, then we should do so with all adoptive parents. This has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

As a nit-picking aside, the article is written from California so the parents were never in Ireland, and the accompanying picture is obviously a stock photo, not an actual picture of the family.

It is essential that the Minister for Justice removes the issue of adoption from the debate by clarifying our adoption laws before any referendum. Let us discuss the issue of same-sex marriage on its merits and not have other issues brought in to confuse the issue. – Yours, etc,


Wilfield Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – John Bruton again asserts that the Easter Rising was unnecessary (on the basis of no evidence whatever) and that the offer of home rule should have been pursued (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says John Bruton”, September 18th).

Mr Bruton seems to have forgotten that the Irish people overwhelmingly voted in the 1918 general election for independence and this exercise in democracy was comprehensively dismissed and disregarded by the British government, which decided to meet the wishes of the Irish people with military might.

Perhaps Mr Bruton could explain how the Irish were at fault here? Perhaps he could also let us know if he considers that any of Britain’s colonies were right to take up arms in a bid for freedom ?

Maybe if the American people hadn’t had the temerity to seek and win independence they might be expecting an offer of home rule any day now. – Yours, etc,


Newtown Road,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Former taoiseach John Bruton in drawing parallels between Irish and Scottish Independence models once again rebukes our revolutionary past.

Addressing a Reform Group seminar at the Royal Irish Academy, Mr Bruton said Scotland had decided to seek a mandate for Scottish independence from the UK without loss of life and without the bitterness of war and Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards the independence that Scotland is now considering taking.

The fight for Irish separatism was not just an ideological strike for independence. The Irish people had endured for centuries the violence of colonisation by our imperial masters This colonial violence inflicted on the dispossessed peasantry included the punitive policy of transportation to the penal colonies for minor infringements of law. It also forcibly imposed the plantation of Ireland, the Penal Laws that led to the “hedge schools” and Mass rocks, harsh evictions, harsher landlordism and chronic hunger. The violence of the Famine, which saw Ireland lose millions of her poorest children to starvation, disease and emigration, despite being an integral part of the wealthiest and most powerful empire in the world, was more than sufficient reason to forcibly rid this country of British rule. In the general election of 1918 John Redmond and home rule were overwhelmingly rejected by an electorate that espoused separatism. This wholly constitutional and parliamentary decision of the Irish people was rejected by the British government, a rejection which led to “loss of life and bitterness of war”. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

A chara, – John Bruton says that “Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is considering today”. He is forgetting (or pretending to be ignorant of the fact) that half a million Ulstermen and women swore to reject Ireland’s first step to separation from the UK by force of arms, and that the British army threatened mutiny if sent to counter this threat; two minor details that do not exist in Scotland’s situation. – Is mise,


Church Street,

Killaloe, Co Clare.

Sir, – John Bruton’s fixation on the 1916 Rising is bordering on a Freudian obsession. – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – I attended the conference at which John Bruton spoke. While Mr Bruton understandably is accorded full coverage for his praise for John Redmond and John Dillon in taking the Home Rule Bill to the statute book on September 18th, 1914, it was made quite clear at the conference that this was a mere parliamentary achievement which would never achieve reality. A speaker from the floor outlined James Joyce’s contention that British political leaders from Gladstone to Asquith never seriously intended to accede to home rule to Ireland but were stringing the Irish Parliamentary Party along.

This Joycean view was substantiated by Ronan Fanning, at the conference, based on his book Fatal Path, which studied the process from the British government records.

It is a pity that in his attempt to bolster the standing of John Redmond, John Bruton has to seek to undermine the heroic revolution of Easter 1916. – Yours, etc,


Gilford Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – If Alan Shatter (September 19th) in office had pursued the penalty points issue with the same vigour as he is pursuing it now that he is out of office, he would probably still be minister for justice. – Yours, etc,


Belton Terrace,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – If Alan Shatter (September 19th) in office had pursued the penalty points issue with the same vigour as he is pursuing it now that he is out of office, he would probably still be minister for justice. – Yours, etc,


Belton Terrace,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Further to correspondence relating to Eircode, if the Government is so insistent on the widespread use of the “Eir” prefix, why isn’t Enda Kenny called the “Eirhead”? – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,


Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

Love him or loathe him, Paisley – the enigma – will be missed

Letters to the Editor

Published 20/09/2014 | 02:30

Ian Paisley

It is crystal clear from the various views of Ian Paisley that at the end of his life he was an enigma to g people, especially to the opinion-formers trying to assess him.

Paisley was a tub-thumping anti-Catholic bigot on the stump. This was a man who bullied, intimidated and shouted down people who opposed him while at the same time exercising great charm in one-to-one meetings.

I still remember an amazing ‘Late Late Show’ with Gay Byrne hosting Paisley and what seemed like the majority of the Paisley family during his pre- First Minister period.

Paisley came over like everybody’s favourite film star. He was humorous, affable, witty, tolerant and extremely charismatic.

There was no sign of the Free Presbyterian preacher who would rail against ‘Romanists’, the Pope, Sinn Fein and the Nationalists. Dr No was replaced by Mr Nice. Those who said that the last time Paisley said “yes” was when he married his wife were confounded and dumbfounded. As I recall, the Rev Ian made such a good impression that night that Rhonda, his daughter, presented the ‘Late Late Show’ some time afterwards.

The big question, of course, is why he changed his long-ingrained policy of no truck whatsoever with the IRA and Sinn Fein to form a power-sharing government with them.

It was as if he had suddenly stopped reading the Old Testament and started reading the New Testament.

It will take a better and more-informed writer than has appeared so far to satisfactorily explain the life of Ian Paisley.

One thing is certain – love him or hate him he’ll be missed.

There is nobody around with his peculiar mixture of religion, politics, bile, hatred, humour, sarcasm and just downright hyperbolic demagoguery.

The verdict of history on Paisley will be interesting.

Liam Cooke, Coolock, Dublin 17

Commemorating Home Rule

I have decided to throw my pen behind the calls for Home Rule and John Redmond to be gloriously commemorated, but feel it should not be celebrated as a stand-alone event.

What I propose is that we have a ‘Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda Day’.

While I am sure the hardline republicans will be somewhat distressed to see the Home Rule Act receiving support, I suggest to appease any derision from this quarter by proposing we include ‘Nice 1’ and ‘Lisbon 1′ in any national day of commemoration.

Nice 1 could be the ‘we could have held onto our right to determine our own future’ argument commemorated.

Lisbon 1 could be a celebration for all those who argue that austerity and the banking collapse would never have happened had it been passed in our own parliament ?

I would also like to propose a date for the celebration of such a day – let’s say, April 2 – just to keep all those who are staunch supporters of Nice 2 and Lisbon 2 happy. And who knows we might get Brian Cowen out of political retirement and away from his day job to officially cut a ribbon, or plant a tree.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co Galway

Cost of providing for asylum

There can hardly be better proof of the correlation between the political ‘silly season’ and the fine weather than the current controversy about direct provision for asylum seekers.

Much has been made of the fact that some people and their Irish-born families have been in the system for up to a decade.

Apart from the trademark state inefficiency, they are there because they have chosen not to accept the answers given to their asylum application and appeal, which were negative.

These processes are now dealt with in 12 and 18 weeks respectively, according to the 2013 ORAC/RAP reports. They are instead pursuing an eight-stage process at tax-payers’ expense, which has resulted in more than 849 appeals being listed at the High Court on June 14 and many more at Supreme Court level. The total cost of this asylum industry in the last five years is €1.27bn, according to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Ted Neville, Douglas, Co Cork

Vote for FG? Not anymore

Much as I admire Enda Kenny and his government for the difficult decisions and work they have done in turning our country’s finances around, I cannot, in all honesty, vote for any Fine Gael candidate in any future election.

The reason for this are the continuing pronouncements from John Bruton on any matter pertaining to the Irish nation!

K Nolan, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim

Bridging the Scottish divide

I think it is time we built a bridge from Ireland to Scotland as our next big civil engineering project. That would be from the nearest point, of course, from south west Scotland to Northern Ireland. We can do this together now we are staying as one country.

We could use a fixed link to revive the economy of both of these islands. The Chinese have built bridges over 26 miles long. Th e distance between south west Scotland and Northern Ireland is a mere 16 miles.

How many jobs would we create? We are greater together than apart. Now the sterling zone is staying as it is, perhaps we should rejoin sterling and take part in the type of negotiations we nearly had to have with Scotland?

Nigel F Boddy, Darlington, England

Spread knowledge, not illness

We should be grateful for the generosity of the US for sending 3,000 troops to combat Ebola.

This is a war worth fighting. The current outbreak is the deadliest, the most complex and most severe since the virus was initially discovered four decades ago. The speed of infection and the number of fatalities outpace the capacity of authorities to contain the virus.

People are highly vulnerable to diseases and infections which science is supposed to solve.

This is due to weak health systems and the failure to base policies on existing knowledge. And since the transmission chain of infection is from wildlife to livestock to humans, and it occurs from the consumption of bushmeat and burial practices, knowledge becomes an effectual tool to curb the spread of this virus, especially in under-resourced countries. Knowledge leads to the improvement of health as it becomes assimilated into the daily lives of people.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, England

Irish Independent

Scotland decides

September 19, 2014

19 September 2014 Scotland decides

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. A quiet day

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


John McIlwaine – obituary

John McIlwaine was a forensic archaeologist who worked tirelessly to discover the remains of Northern Ireland’s ‘Disappeared’

John McIlwaine

John McIlwaine Photo: PA

5:55PM BST 18 Sep 2014


John McIlwaine, who has died suddenly aged 51, was a forensic archaeologist who led the team of excavators searching for the remains of Northern Ireland’s “Disappeared” — the people who had been kidnapped, killed and secretly buried by Republican terrorists in the 1970s and 1980s.

There were 16 people who “disappeared” during the Troubles. The IRA admitted responsibility for killing 13 of the 16, while the INLA admitted responsibility for one. No attribution has been given to the the remaining two. Under the intergovernmental agreement signed in 1998, the British and Irish governments agreed to establish a commission, known as the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, to discover what happened to them.

The ICLVR’s remit is to obtain information, in confidence, which might lead to the location of the remains of victims of paramilitary violence and to oversee the effort to recover their bodies.

McIlwaine, an archaeologist specialising in forensic archaeology at Bradford University, began work with the ICLVR in 2006 and made a huge contribution to the commission’s work, leading a team of excavators which had to scour huge stretches of bleak landscape, often in atrocious conditions. Forensic archaeology involves the use of archaeological fieldcraft and geophysical techniques to help locate buried evidence. The painstaking excavation of a grave under archaeological conditions can provide valuable evidence on the time and circumstances of burial, the cause of death, and the techniques used for interment.

McIlwaine, who had himself grown up in Northern Ireland during the worst of the Troubles, was motivated by a deep compassion for the victims’ families which led him to work tirelessly to find the remains of their loved ones — a challenge which often ended in frustration and which took an enormous physical toll. To date nine bodies have been recovered, of which McIlwaine and his team found two.

In 2008 they uncovered the remains of Danny McIlhone, a 21-year-old west Belfast man suspected of being an informer by the IRA who went missing from his home in 1981, in bogland in Co Wicklow. Then in 2010, in another bog in Co Monaghan, they found the remains of Charlie Armstrong, a 57-year-old father-of-five from Crossmaglen, who went missing in 1981 and for whose death no one has yet admitted responsibility.

Whenever the press turned up to find out more about the man whose skills had led to the discovery of the bodies, McIlwaine, self-effacing to a fault, preferred to refer them to the families of the Disappeared. But he was much more than a technician. Sandra Peake, from the Wave Trauma Centre, which supports the families of the Disappeared, has described how he helped the families to come to terms with their bereavement: “John had a way of humanising the science which helped families understand more clearly what was being done to find their loved ones.”

John James McIlwaine was born on September 14 1963 in Hayle, Cornwall, but brought up in Portadown, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, where he attended Portadown College.

After taking a degree in Archaeology at Lancaster University, he worked as a field archaeologist with, among others, the Vale of Pickering Trust and the Museum of London, and as excavation officer for three years at the Wood Hall Moated Manor Project, an early Medieval Manor House near Pontefract. He also devoted much energy to teaching, lecturing on courses run by the Workers Educational Association and tutoring at Wakefield College. In 1994 he was appointed co-ordinator for Continuing and Professional Education at the University of Bradford.

There he developed an interest in how archaeological fieldwork techniques could help in forensic crime investigation which led to the launch of an award-winning MSc course in Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Investigation.

As well as his work in Northern Ireland, McIlwaine worked as a consultant to several police forces in the North of England. He also continued to be involved in more traditional archaeology, undertaking work for both commercial organisations and government agencies and giving up evenings and weekends to support local archaeology and history groups.

He was planning new field investigations in Northern Ireland when he was taken ill.

John McIlwaine is survived by his wife and son.

John McIlwaine, born September 14 1963, died September 16 2014


Is it surprising that NHS hospitals are facing a deficit (Financial crunch tips NHS towards £1bn deficit, 16 September) when the so-called “efficiency savings” of 4% a year have been running for at least four years and the money for hospitals for doing the work (tariff and non-tariff) has been reduced every year. Mental health hospitals have had a bigger reduction in payments than other hospitals and there can be no rational reason or justification for that, particularly as Jeremy Hunt stated there was to be “parity of esteem” for the treatment of mental illness.

Simon Jenkins (Devolution of the NHS is next, 16 September) is wrong to say that there is a growing lobby of doctors calling for charges for GP care. The number is small, not growing and the call was decisively rejected at the BMA annual representative meeting this year. I am glad Jennifer Dixon of the Health Foundation agrees that the NHS needs more money (Letters, 18 September), but disagree with her solution.

Since managers took over the NHS in 1984, administrative costs have risen from 5% to 15.5% in 2011. The Commonwealth Fund, an independent US body recently placed the NHS at the top of the OECD league for efficiency. We believe that abolishing the purchaser-provider split and the market would save at least £10bn; and if Monitorand other “regulators” were also abolished, and clinicians really put in charge, we believe merging health and social care would improve services for patients and save money, once the system had bedded down.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but the combination of tough language from the Department of Health; the yearly reduction in frontline funding; the fact that in the previous two years the NHS paid back over £3bn to the Treasury; and the continual denigration of the NHS from the centre; does make one suspicious that the NHS is being set up to fail so that the private sector will seem a more attractive option.

As David Cameron said during the floods, “We are a rich country”, and we can afford to provide a properly funded NHS. As Andrew Lansley said during the passage of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act: “No decision about me without me” and “clinicians will be in charge”. This has not happened, but we could try it – and ask NHS staff how to make the service run better, as well.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public

• Urgent action must be taken to ensure that equal value is placed on patients’ mental and physical health and mental health patients are no longer let down by a lack of adequate care (Report,, 16 September). Repeated warnings that many mental health patients have to wait a dangerous amount of time for treatment have gone unheard and as a consequence thousands of people have attempted suicide while waiting for psychological treatment. Very simply, these people have been failed by the current system. Mental health in the UK is not universally held in the same regard as patients’ physical health, nor does it receive comparable levels of funding. There would be an outcry if patients with a physical illness were denied treatment or care due to cuts in funding, yet this is what we are seeing for those patients suffering from mental illness.

Waiting times for therapy treatments must be reduced, mental and physical health problems must be regarded with equal importance and provided with the same high levels of care, and training must be improved for medical trainees and doctors in how to deal appropriately with people with mental illness and to make any needed adjustments to their care to achieve positive outcomes.
Professor Sheila Hollins
Chair of the board of science, British Medical Association

• It’s astounding that the Labour party, which, in the NHS, created one of the greatest institutions this country has ever seen, feels it is a gamble to state clearly it will protect that institution. And, further, that it is a problem that “the service is likely to end the year £1bn in the red”. We, the taxpayer, supported the banking sector to the tune of hundreds of billions of pounds (which then found its way on to their balance sheets via QE). I feel I am more likely to need healthcare, free at the point of need, than I am a bank, most of which are not free and will largely abandon you in your hour of need. No, Labour, be plain and be clear, tell people you will protect the majority, not the privileged few. £1bn versus £375bn – no contest.

Healthcare before bankers.
Barnaby Stackhouse
Shepshed, Leicestershire

• This situation was common before the NHS came into being in 1948 (Poorer women receive worse maternity care, 17 September). Poor women could not afford to go to a doctor or hospital, with the result that they’d cope with childbirth themselves.

This resulted in multiple injuries for many and some couldn’t even walk without pain. I know because as a student nurse on a gynaecological ward I was able to help them when at last they did not have to pay. We must not allow this to happen again.
Joyce Morgan

Interest Rates The Bank of England. ‘London is not the “victim of its own success” but of its failure in its function as a capital,’ writes John Blodwell. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Your editorial (17 September) missed the point. London is not the “victim of its own success” but of its failure in its function as a capital. Surely the measure of its effectiveness is the performance of the national economy. The City, whose interests are the main focus of government economic policy, has negligible interest in investing in the country’s productive economy. If a factory is to be built that will actually make something and possibly sell some of its products abroad, it’s a pretty certain bet it will have to be financed by foreign capital. Yet there is a vast amount of money hoarded by British companies. Where are the tax incentives encouraging productive use of such resources and penalising its absence? It seems, for example, that there is no London interest in something as fundamental to the national interest as forming companies to build our own power stations.

It was once said Britain had lost an empire and not found a role. A role has been found: promoting London as a world financial capital. Since banking deregulation this priority has been given unlimited support by the political establishment. Yet the country cannot achieve solvency on the basis of this economic model. London cannot generate enough income for a country of 65 million. It is no wonder that patience is running short in the once great productive regions, now reduced to semi-mendicant status. Their zest for doing something about it is plain. But nothing will come of it without a transformation of the City. Simple devolution, necessary though it is, is not enough. The real issue facing the country is whether London can become a national capital as opposed to a city-state.
Dr John Blodwell
Newcastle upon Tyne

• For too long London (or Westminster to be more precise) has held too tight a sway on the nation’s life. The institutions which have held the UK together for the past three centuries are broken. The UK is no longer united. If the UK is to have a future, it can only be on the basis of reimagining what it means to be the UK in the 21st century.

One of the strongest complaints across the country is that the UK is run by and for the benefit of a Westminster elite. The evidence from Scotland is that devolving powers (though welcome in its own right) serves only to increase alienation and anger with Westminster. The risk is that focusing only on further devolution to the nations and English regions, will exacerbate this trend. Moving parliament to the north of England would not break the power of the City, but it would reduce its power over politics – and provide a huge economic boost to whichever city or region it moved to. It could help reshape politics away from the adversarial bear-pit of the Palace of Westminster and establish a more transparent, consensual political culture, no longer bound by centuries of tradition and procedure at Westminster. Parliament is already contemplating moving out of Westminster for a major refurbishment for up to five years. What could be a better symbolic way of reuniting the UK than moving parliament to the geographic centre of the country?
Niall Cooper
Director, Church Action on Poverty

Cabinet meeting, Downing Street, London, Britain - 09 Sep 2014 ‘Iain Duncan Smith is proud to announce a fall of 148,000 in the number of unemployed. He has no justification for his pride because millions of our youngsters can only get part-time, low-paid or insecure jobs,’ writes Brian Crews. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex

The latest statistics on employment continue to show strange contradictions and anomalies (Keep rates low, says City, after earnings fail to match job surge, 18 September). While employment is up, the number “economically inactive” has also grown (8.93 million). And the number of people classified as unemployed continues to exclude those claiming universal credit and those who are part-time carers also looking for work. There continues the peculiar fact that wage growth is effectively non-existent (but, on average, people are working longer hours – up 0.3%). This has an additional impact on the large numbers of students who are supposed to repay their loans – already nearly half of loans will never be repaid.

Other strange elements are the increase in home workers (including large numbers classified as managers) – 4.2 million; those declared self-employed (3.24 million); unpaid family workers – now 119,000; and those working who are 65 or over (1.1 million), most of these last three categories receiving state benefits of one sort or another. Most worrying is that in large parts of the country, people’s property prices are increasing faster than the average wage – in London it’s rougly three and half times that of the average wage.
Mark Bill

• What exactly is confusing Mr Carney and others about the failure of wage growth? It is blindingly obvious from each successive monthly release that employers are splitting one full-time job into four separate zero-hours contracts so that instead of one person being paid a living wage, four are getting subsistence wages. Mr Cable?
Phil Thomas
Heswall, Wirral

• Iain Duncan Smith is proud to announce a fall of 148,000 in the number of unemployed. He has no justification for his pride because millions of our youngsters can only get part-time, low-paid or insecure jobs. My granddaughter, whose graduation with a first I will be attending next week, has only been able to find a few hours in a retail business.

This is what Mr Duncan Smith calls employment: with earnings so low that her rent of a single room takes more than half of her earnings. If this is a situation to be proud of, I despair. What is needed is real jobs with career prospects, not a few crumbs spread ever thinner to make the figures look good.
Brian Crews
Beckenham, Kent

Boxes of food ready to be picked for distribution at a food bank. Labour’s commitment to austerity ‘will only intensify the social damage caused by austerity policies’. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

The coalition’s spending plans for the next parliament are an intensification of austerity, demanding what even the Institute for Fiscal Studies calls unsustainable cuts to public services. Under the coalition, poverty has increased, living standards have fallen dramatically, and homelessness and dependence on food banks is rising. In contrast, corporate profits and reserves are holding up nicely and executive pay is increasing at more than 10 times the average wage.

Given that the Labour party started this parliament saying government austerity was “too far, too fast” it is extremely disappointing that the party leadership has said it will adhere to the coalition’s reintensified austerity for 2015-16. This commitment, including to the 1% pay cap policy, will only intensify the economic and social damage caused by austerity policies, and by reducing demand could easily see the UK slip back into recession. Labour must also end the race to the bottom on tax and regulation.

We urge Labour members, MPs, and trade unionists attending Labour party conference to demand an economic policy that boosts living standards and invests in the economy – and to save their party from a calamitous mistake.
John Christensen Tax Justice Network, Andrew Fisher LEAP economics, John Hilary War on Want, Richard Murphy Tax Research LLP, Ann Pettifor Prime Economics, Professor Prem Sikka, Mick Brooks

• I welcome new ways to make the NHS more efficient (Letters, 18 September). But how can Frank Field say £30bn of new revenue can’t be found for the NHS by the end of the next parliament? Five years of growth of 2.5%/year, as is usual, is 13% of GDP, recently worth £200bn, of which £30bn is 15%. That’s more than the low fraction spent on the NHS but why could it not be increased by this much? The answer is belief the budget deficit is a failure to balance the books so justifies austerity. But it’s due to excess global saving that must be borrowed to avoid a slump. This excess should be reduced by more spending, preferably on wages. Surely Field knows common sense is sometimes wrong?
George Talbot
Watford, Hertfordshire

The autumn sun shines through Japanese maple leaves The autumn sun shines through Japanese maple leaves. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

The Japanese maple is one of my favourite trees. Clive James could not have known the impact of his poem (17 September) for me. I am a Methodist chaplain in a large hospital. On Wednesday I was at the bedside of a lovely woman who had suffered a deep bereavement, then, a few minutes later, I was praying with someone who was close to death. So I arrived home emotionally very tired. Reading his poem over a much-needed cuppa grounded me solidly on this Earth again, while reminding me of the gap between all things spiritual and “Earthly sweet beauty as when fine rain falls, On that small tree”. Thank you so much, Clive, for being my Earthly pastor. And may you be richly blessed in the knowledge you have brought much joy and laughter to me and my husband on many occasions.
Carole Natton

• Thanks to Henning Mankell for sharing his thoughts on having incurable cancer (There are days full of darkness, G2, 17 September.) His observation, “One day we shall die. But all the other days we shall be alive” speaks to everyone, sick and healthy alike. And thanks to Clive James for the poetry he continues so bravely to write. “So much sweet beauty” puts into just four words how lovely the world becomes as we leave it.
Pat Sutherland

Displeased woman talking on phone in studio, (B&W) How phone use used to be … but today’s mobiles could perplex even more. Photograph: George Marks/Getty Images

I am writing to inquire whether anyone else has experienced what I believe is a previously undiscovered threat to human life from over-engineering in new technology. My 76-year-old mother recently bought a new mobile phone. She was sitting quietly and alone in her house at night, trying – but repeatedly failing – to send a text using the unfamiliar system. She finally gave up in exasperation and shouted: “Well fuck off then” at the phone. Whereupon a voice replied, with the eerie calm hitherto only mastered by HAL: “Have I done something wrong?” She did not know the phone was equipped with a speech app and is still in a state of physical and emotional collapse.
Dr Emma Wilson

Fitting solar pv panels to roof Solar panels … coming to a church roof near you? Photograph: Alamy

Your article suggested the main reason for the demise of many sleeper services is the growth in budget airlines (13 September). However, another, if not the main, reason for their decline is the growth in high-speed rail services across Europe. These make it possible for far longer distances to be covered in much reduced time thus obviating the need to travel overnight. This is a development to be welcomed as it has attracted considerable additional traffic to travel by train.
Ian David Markey (former BR manager)
Sherington, Buckinghamshire

• My colleague Michael Cunningham (Letters, 18 September) is wrong to claim that Russell Brand’s £25 routine is cheaper than his own witty politics lectures. £9,000 annual fees divided by the 216 hours students spend in class (much more is spent researching independently, of course) works out at just over £41.60 per hour. Having endured Dr Cunningham’s disquisitions frequently, I recommend them to readers as a bargain (though we both oppose tuition fees, of course, and yearn for the day they are freely available to all).
Dr Aidan Byrne
University of Wolverhampton

• To supplement the “Prophetic visions [that] can help to save the planet” (Comment, 10 September), Rowan Williams should urge his colleagues in the Church of England to install photovoltaic panels or tiles on the hundreds of south-facing roofs of churches found in almost every town and village in our country.
RF Gunstone

• Your correspondent Mike Gordon (Letters, 18 September) wonders why Prince Harry headed the birthdays list on 15 September. Some of us are probably more concerned that the prince doesn’t appear to have an occupation.
Graham Downie
Studley, Warkwickshire

• Now it’s all over, is it OK for non-Scots like me to incorporate swithering permanently into our vocabulary?
David Ward
Bollington, Cheshire


According to an article in The Independent (7 September), Katie Derham ‘‘wants to bring classical music to the masses and rid the Proms of its posh-people-only stereotype’’.

How many times in my 68 years have I heard this? Every one of them, probably. It really is time to scotch this nonsense. High art – complex plays, difficult paintings, intellectual music – requires not only a certain level of intelligence to uncover hidden meanings, but a degree of commitment to work at this ‘‘art’’ – a commitment which not everyone wants to make.

I, like many, am not terribly interested in the subtleties of pole-vaulting, so I don’t watch it and make no attempt to understand it. That doesn’t make pole-vaulters ‘‘posh’’ and ‘‘elitist’’, it makes me just not very interested in  pole-vaulting.

It’s time we stopped this folly of imagining ‘‘the masses’’ (whoever they are) are sitting there impatiently waiting to be exposed to Bach and then their lives will be complete. This is such arrogance! Maybe their lives are complete already? Maybe they’ll get along just fine without Bach?

No one ever says football is elitist because there are many millions of us who wouldn’t be seen dead going anywhere near a match. Why does classical music have to be any different? The irony is Katie Derham cites the Proms – of all occasions – as posh! If you held a pole-vaulting, or even, I suggest, a football match in the Royal Albert Hall every night for three months, would there be larger crowds? Could there be larger crowds? Classical music is difficult to understand. That’s it. Nothing more. Not everyone wants to commit the time and energy to understand it. That’s it. Nothing more.

Robert Walker


We need more organ donations

I hope that The Independent readers found Katy Charlton’s account of organ donation (Andy’s last wish,  16 September) a brave and inspiring read. Our thoughts are with Katy and her family at what must be an unimaginably heartbreaking time for them.  We hope that by reading Katy’s story, people will be able to see how important it was for her to honour her husband’s decision to be an organ donor and the comfort she takes knowing that she was able to spare five families from also going through the heartache of losing someone close to them.

Katy is a member of the Women’s Institute (WI) and earlier this year the WI passed a resolution to help raise awareness of organ donation. We are delighted that such an influential organisation is supporting organ donation and that their involvement helped Katy to make the decision that she did. We are working with more organisations throughout the UK which, like the WI, can help us to change public attitudes to organ donation so that more people donate when and if they can. Organ donation saves lives but with fewer than 5,000 people each year in the UK dying in circumstances where they can donate their organs, it’s important to make every opportunity count. Three people will die today and every day because there are not enough organs available. Join the Organ Donor Register and tell your family.

Sally Johnson
Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation

Media should reject stick-insect ideal

I enjoy reading The Independent and am respectful of its values as a newspaper. I also enjoy reading about fashion at times, but I did not on Saturday, 13 September, as I was confronted in the Independent Magazine by a picture of an emaciated and decidedly sick-looking young model, who could easily have passed for a famine victim, were it not for the cost of the clothes and shoes she was wearing.  This photograph opens the fashion section and is headed ‘‘Gang Leaders’’.  I think your editors should acknowledge the influence the media have on impressionable young girls and women, and face up to their moral responsibilities. Why succumb to the pressure of the fashion industry’s portrayal of the ideal figure as that of the stick insect? As an ex-teacher, I am aware of the damage that such  images can do.

Christine Renshaw
Maidstone, Kent


Journalism’s role in the rise of Isis

The apparent swiftness of the rise of Isis and its potential threat to the Western world can in part be attributed to journalism. Even at the beginning of the Syrian conflict many foreign correspondents, including  those coming from assignment in Libya, considered Syria too dangerous to operate safely in. In addition,  the reduction of foreign  bureaus and the increasing  reliance on wire services has meant Syria received  scant attention. Perhaps this trend in reporting needs to be seriously reconsidered by editors and board members?

Paul O’ Sullivan

Just how old is Rosie Millard?

Is Rosie Millard older than she looks? I can’t remember when I last saw “people in hats” singing hymns on Songs of Praise and I am 82.

Merrill Johns
Dover, Kent

Phones 4U and the companies act

Your articles on the Phones 4u story, assuming them to be true (18 September), miss a far more fundamental problem, sadly now very common. Under Section 151 of the Companies Act 1985, a company’s provision of financial assistance to purchase its own shares was a criminal offence. Such provision would include unusual dividends.

The purpose of the rule was to stop the very thing to which your coverage refers. These rules had in one form or another been around since Victorian times but were then so watered down in the Companies Act 2006 as to render them ineffective. Who lobbied for this change? I’ll put my money on Private Equity being part of that story. So get some lessons from lawyers experienced in Company Law and start investigating this outrageous change in 2006.

Christopher Yaxley 

After weeks of increasingly vitriolic and divisive debate about Scottish independence I’m suffering from referendum fatigue. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like in 2017 if we decide to have a referendum on Europe? With so much of the world already tearing itself apart, do we really have to  join them?

Stan Labovitch

One of the reasons Sarah Bart (letters, 16 September) has given for deciding to vote Yes in Scotland’s referendum is that Westminster MPs ‘‘were found with their fingers in the till’’. Curious judgement. Does she not know that Alex Salmond was a Westminster MP at the time of the expenses scandal, and was one of the many MPs who had made questionable expenses claims. The details were published in the Complete Expenses Files supplement published by the Daily Telegraph in June 2009.

his and other such information concerning Mr Salmond is readily available on the internet.

John Elder
Chepstow, Monmouthshire

When Harold Wilson held a referendum on Europe in 1975 he made sure that the question was asked in such a way that the side he wanted to win staying in Europe was the ‘Yes’ side of the argument. First can I ask please who negotiated the question on Scottish independence in such a way as to allow the SNP the advantage of this Yes factor? Secondly why was the referendum held so early? Alex Salmond wanted to postpone the voting by two years.

The Scottish vote might have easily taken place after next year’s general election. Referendums on Scottish matters have always taken place in the past during Labour governments.

Hasn’t that always favoured the United Kingdom staying together? This argument, of course, assumes a Labour victory next year. Third and last, why didn’t we have a referendum on Europe first and then a referendum on Scottish independence? Uncertainty over English people’s commitment to the EU has played a big part. These three factors had an enormous impact on yesterday’s vote in Scotland. Who handed these advantages to Alex Salmond? We haven’t really had a PM who knew what he was doing since Harold Wilson have we?

Nigel F Boddy

Richard Topping (17 September) repeats the myth that Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a “guinea pig” for her poll tax. In fact a rating revaluation was due in Scotland, which would have seen the rateable values of many properties (which had not been re-valued for many years) increase dramatically. This would have caused financial difficulties for many people and was thought likely to trigger an electoral backlash against the then Conservative Government. To avoid this, Mrs Thatcher’s Government cancelled the rating re-valuation and introduced the poll tax a year earlier in Scotland. Ironically, this led to a different electoral backlash, which ultimately resulted in Mrs Thatcher’s downfall.

Brian Jones
Garforth, Leeds


Sir, The picture of the London property market painted by Shadow London Minister Sadiq Khan (Sept 18) does not stand up to scrutiny or represent the reality of the situation in Westminster. Earlier this summer, this council commissioned the first detailed analysis of London’s prime and super-prime residential market from independent consultant Ramidus Consulting, whose findings strongly countered the perception that overseas investors are buying high-value properties in London as an investment and leaving them empty. On the contrary, the majority of such properties are occupied by owners or rented by London workers — the perception of “ghost homes or communities” is not true. Moreover, the report found that this market is such a small sector of London’s property market that it does not have a significant impact on prices further down the chain. It did, however, show the huge contribution that the owners of super-prime properties make to the economy — estimated to be £2.3 billion a year. Mr Khan’s interpretation, based on a single set of figures obtained through one Parliamentary question, does nothing to help London’s economy or the attempts of councils to provide affordable housing to the capital’s residents.
Philippa Roe
Leader, Westminster City Council

Sir, Yesterday I travelled on the top deck of a bus between Kensington Olympia and Holland Park. It was obvious that most of the houses I passed were unoccupied. A mansion tax is one way to approach this problem, but this discriminates against UK resident owner-occupiers. Another way is to introduce some form of land value taxation (LVT). My late mother was an advocate of LVT for most her life; I thought she was mad but now I realise how forward-thinking and sensible she was.
Janet Davies
London W14

Sir, The article on Alan Johnson (Sept 17) reminds me of a saying in a factory many years ago. “It is easier for a fitter’s mate to become prime minister than to become a fitter.” For without serving an apprenticeship it was impossible to become a fitter.
Max Lines
Frome, Somerset

Sir, The “have a nice day” culture has invaded the internet. Completing an online form, I entered my first name and got an ingratiating “Hello, Reg!” So far, so creepy. When I added my surname the algorithm responded with “Great name!” At this point I logged out. Give me BSI (British Sullen Indifference) every time.
Reg Manser
Cranleigh, Surrey

Sir, Times2 (Sept 17) has on its cover “Oh you pretty thing . . . London fashion lightens up”. A glance inside shows the usual scowling, arrogant-looking, models. Shouldn’t “lighten up” also include a smile or two?
Jeremy Hornsby
London N1

Sir, Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Sept 16) does well to remind us of the chilling impression created by Ian Paisley. It was his frequent appearances on television which gave vast numbers of people in Britain the illusion that Ulster Unionists were a horde of religious maniacs and political fanatics, an alien breed for whose welfare a malign fate had made the British responsible. In this way, he did more damage to the Union than any other politician of the day.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

Sir, Having been a childhood fan of war films, and not aware of his TV or theatre work, I was shocked to read the obituary of Angus Lennie (Sept 17). While at an impressionable age I saw him die so many times, I never contemplated a different reality. I discovered this too late.
Alistair Cliff


Sir, Professor Patnick’s belief that randomised control trials are ethical in and of themselves is worrying (report, Sept 17). I recently declined an invitation to have breast cancer screening, having become aware of the risk of over-diagnosis. The Harding Centre for Risk Literacy has done good work on this and Professor Patnick, as director of NHS cancer screening, should be aware of it. I looked in vain in the literature that came with my invitation for the numbers that would enable me to make an informed decision. Some 32 years ago, I was an unwitting participant in a randomised control trial, part of a project conducted by midwives. I assumed I was signing up for an emergency caesarean, should the need arise. When I protested that I had not given informed consent to a randomised episiotomy trial — no woman in her right mind would do so — I was rebuffed at the highest level on the grounds that the trial met the ethical standards required. I still wonder how many babies’ lives were damaged by that trial.
Patricia Mulcahy
Henley-on-Thames, Oxon



Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin in June 2014

Militants of the Islamic State posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin in June 2014 Photo: AFP

6:59AM BST 18 Sep 2014


SIR – The question that no one appears to be addressing with regard to potential military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is: where do you drive the fighters?

Isil is not a country, which could potentially surrender. Their fighters are within other people’s countries. We could possibly push them out of Iraq, and perhaps Syria, but where to?

Isil has fighters of various nationalities. Might they just return to their original countries and create mayhem from there?

Mark Allsop
Menheniot, Cornwall

SIR – Muslims, in particular, must stop Isil, which is composed of people who have vowed to establish a blood-drenched caliphate in which only their distorted version of Islam – a fusion of misogyny, intolerance and mayhem – will hold sway.

We have an obligation to snatch our faith from the clutches of these killers. These so-called Muslims are damaging Islam and dishonouring the Prophet.

Dr Hasanat Husain
Woodford, Essex

Paisley and violence

SIR – In his assessment of the career of Ian Paisley, Lord Bew connects the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with the decline of religion. If anything, the reverse is true: secularisation prolonged the Troubles.

The IRA did not heed the Pope’s plea for peace in 1979; the so-called loyalists who committed acts of terror against Catholics tended to be cultural Protestants rather than religious believers. Violent men acted against the voices of the main churches.

C D C Armstrong

Merchant of Beijing

SIR – The entire works of Shakespeare are to be translated into Mandarin (report, September 13).

When will they be translated into everyday, understandable English?

Roger Croston
Christleton, Cheshire

Beginning in Béganne

SIR – My current husband and I moved to France to start a new life: beginning again in Béganne. How unfortunate, then, that our French neighbours on either side should be Madame Suzanne and Monsieur Martin – the exact Christian names of our former spouses.

Julia Evans
Béganne, Morbihan, France

Tip off

SIR – Bill Thompson suggests (Letters, September 16) that the Today programme’s daily tips on the nags encourage children to gamble.

I would have thought that the exact opposite is true for, given the programme’s forecasting success, most sensible children would be deterred from further exposure to gambling in a fairly short time.

Anthony Freeland
London SW10

Shocking soup

SIR – Having seen advertisements for a “folding wooden dog ramp” and an “electric soup maker” this week, I thought I would get a folding wooden dog and feed him on electric soup.

Tony Hill
Lancing, West Sussex

The independence campaign has betrayed Scotland’s enlightened identity

Shrinking the vision of hte Scottish Enlightenment

Tails who wins? A Better Together poster in Edinburgh with a Yes campaign sticker added

Tails who wins? A Better Together poster in Edinburgh with a Yes campaign sticker added  Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 18 Sep 2014


SIR – Born in the same place as William Wallace, educated at a Scottish state school and then a Scottish university, I have always been a proud Scot.

In particular I am proud of Scottish education and its reputation abroad. My Irish grandfather worked on the Clyde, my English grandmother in service and both my Scottish grandparents farmed in the Borders. Their belief in education ensured that I was the first of my family to go to university.

A good education can raise children to distinction, a point underlined by Arthur Herman’s The Scottish Enlightenment (which was published in the United States as How Scots Invented the Modern World.) The Scottish Enlightenment flourished as a consequence of the Union.

Yet now, to me living in England, a narrowing of outlook is evident, and the saltire on my car leads to assumptions that I must be a nationalist, since the flag has been hijacked by the Yes campaign.

I deeply resent being made to feel “less than Scottish” by the insinuations of the Yes campaign, though I agree with them that, as a Scot, I am defined as much by my future as my past. But I am being denied that, without a voice or a say.

The only thing that depresses me more is the dressing up of the breathtaking political cynicism in this referendum as “democracy at its best”. In the 18th century, Scots were intent upon advancing human understanding. No one has been enlightened by this referendum, or raised to distinction through it. That is the real betrayal of Scottish identity and of our inheritance as a nation within the Union.

Mark Lauder
Headmaster, Ashville College
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

SIR – I have just returned from Botswana and South Africa, where Commonwealth friends are deeply concerned that a Scottish breakaway from the United Kingdom could encourage similar – but bloody and destructive – secessionist movements in Africa.

Scotland already enjoys a national identity in many Commonwealth bodies, as was shown by the highly successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This should be built upon further.

Carl Wright
Secretary-General Commonwealth Local Government Forum
London WC2

SIR – Alex Salmond and the SNP have repeatedly stated that they would be less likely than Westminster to become involved in foreign wars, and that this would reduce conflict.

Surely the opposite would be the likely outcome. With a Scottish Army of 4,700 (of whom 1,700 would be front-line troops), a fleet of one or two frigates or destroyers, and eight fighter aircraft, an independent Scotland would be incapable of preventing a hostile fleet from passing through the Northern Approaches.

Furthermore, as an anti-nuclear country, Scotland would not be a member of Nato, and would not be able to call on assistance from any allies.

This opening of the door into the North Atlantic will not have gone unnoticed in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin has repeatedly shown willingness to embark on military adventures .

Clive Kent
Heathfield, East Sussex

SIR – I can’t help thinking that Alex Salmond’s philosophical position is inconsistent. He battles for independence and wants Scotland to have more power over its own affairs, but he also strives to remain part of the EU. The record of the EU is to remove powers from member nations and centralise decision-making to Brussels. This is the driving force for Ukip and feeds the clamour for an EU referendum. What does the egotistical Mr Salmond really want?

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – I have had to travel to an English hospital for cancer treatment not available to me in Scotland. My son has also had to be transferred to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to obtain life-saving treatment.

If Scotland votes Yes today, what impact will this have on those like us?

James Webster
Blairgowrie, Perthshire

SIR – An extraordinary aspect of the referendum is that the Scottish National Party assures 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 round the corner in 2016.

Its majority is wafer thin, with 65 seats out of a total of 128. The possibility that it will lose is real. If this happens, all Alex Salmond’s promises go out the window.

Peter Rutherford
London NW6

SIR – Waiting upon the outcome of the referendum, the main Westminster parties have promised that the Barnett formula is to be retained if there is a No vote, giving Scots more spending per head than the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Barnett himself, who established the formula, has said that it is “grossly unfair” to the people of England. It is intended largely as a bribe to the Scots. In the words of Robert Burns, is Scotland to be “bought and sold for English gold”?

Jonathan C Simons
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

SIR – For the last few weeks I have given up all news outlets (apart from the Telegraph) and turned instead to music on Classic FM. It has been marvellous. Thank you, Scotland.

Margaret O’Connell
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

SIR – Was the Better Together campaign quick to respond to Gillian Degnan’s photograph of a cloud with a detached Scotland (September 16) by arranging for this cloud to appear over Hampshire?

Alan Turner
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – I was pleased to hear a BBC newsreader say the referendum was “neck and neck”. A welcome change to the overdone American “down to the wire” and “too close to call”.

Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey

SIR – If the result is a dead heat, will the issue be decided by the toss of a coin? If so what currency should be used?

Eldon Sandys
Pyrford, Surrey

Irish Times:

A chara, – In his recent address to the Royal Irish Academy (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says Bruton”, September 18th), John Bruton made a very daring attempt to predict what never happened.

There may be some similarities between Scotland today and Ireland 100 years ago. The differences, however, are many and there are three that are crucial.

Scotland does not have an armed militia, like that of the UVF, which was allowed to organise and arm itself in the open to oppose reform. There is also not a seemingly interminable world war happening on our doorsteps. Neither will Scotland have to deal with the agony of internal partition, which was written into the Third Home Rule Bill in Ireland since 1912.

Violence and partition were political realities in Ireland well before 1916. Thankfully, they are not in Scotland in 2014. – Yours, etc,


Cearnóg an Ghraeigh,

Baile Átha Cliath 8.

Sir, – The 1916 Rising is a fact and attempting to retrospectively justify or condemn the actions of Pearse et al is a spectacular waste of newsprint. Spare us, please, the historical fetishism and fantasy.

In this centenary of commemorations, let’s deal with each event objectively. Looking into our hearts and making conclusions based on “what ifs” and “might have beens” is a peculiarly Irish character flaw and one which I hope will be struck out by future generations. – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.

Sir, – John Bruton has conflated the Irish home rule movement and the Scottish independence referendum.

He is picking and choosing facts for a nice piece of pointless revisionism. In 1914 Ulster was armed to the teeth; so was the south but that was mainly a reaction to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers.

To take a page from Mr Bruton’s book, ie pointless and spurious historical revisionism, I would say that if the first World War had not broken out, there would have been a civil war in Ulster if all-Ireland home rule was granted as planned in 1914. That is essentially what they were planning anyway, with the weird doctrine of disloyal loyalty. Remember that 237,368 men and 234,046 women signed the Ulster Covenant specifically pledging themselves to oppose home rule at any cost. Whereas in the south there were the Irish Volunteers, with a strength of some 200,000, formed to protect home rule. Not only would home rule have led to a war, it is entirely possible to assume that this war would have been on a far greater scale, with much greater loss of life.

This is all of course absent in Scotland, making his comparison somewhat less than apt. – Yours, etc,


Margaret Street,


Sir, – Billy Timmins is quoted as saying that “The Irish Parliamentary Party and John Redmond had no political descendants” (“Woodenbridge park to mark Wicklow dead of first World War”, September 18th).

Garret FitzGerald for one recognised that their traditions and values were very well represented in Fine Gael. I recall him saying more than once that he was particularly well placed to persuade the Fine Gael party to accept compromises on traditional nationalist positions on Northern Ireland because the FitzGeralds were from the original Sinn Féin founding wing of Cumann na nGaedhael/Fine Gael. The suggestion being that other Fine Gael leaders such as Dillon and Bruton were temperamentally unsuitable to dealing with republican nationalists because they represented the Irish Parliamentary Party and the Redmondite traditions of deeply rooted antipathy to use of violence for political ends and their absolute adherence to the principles of parliamentary democracy.

John Bruton as taoiseach had a portrait of John Redmond in his office and it was not there because they went to the same school.

The Irish Parliamentary Party tradition did not evaporate – it adapted to independence and continued its adherence to parliamentary democracy.

One wonders where we might have gone without it. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – It should not be forgotten by your newspaper that same-sex marriage will shortly be the subject of a referendum, in which citizens will be required to examine the pros and cons of a fundamental change in a key building block of our society. Jennifer O’Connell in her column (“Two men and a baby now so wonderfully ordinary”, September 15th) described how “special and wonderful and beautifully ordinary” her meeting was with two new fathers she met in a local park last week. Their new baby was two days old and had been born three weeks premature. They did not live in Ireland, but had come from Germany to “get” the baby!

It did not seem to occur to Jennifer that this baby had at least one further parent (who was not present) and that the baby might never be allowed to know who her genetic mother was, or indeed where she continues to live. There was no mention of the pangs of separation being suffered by the birth mother, or the fact that the baby would never bond with her mother or be breast-fed. She would forever be a motherless child.

Has Jennifer no knowledge of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the right of a child “to know and be cared for by his or her parents” (Article 7)? Has she never read Article 9.2, that speaks of the right of a child “to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests”? Nowhere are the rights or wishes of parents given precedence over the fundamental rights of a child.

Has Jennifer not seen the film Philomena? Why are nuns cast as heinous monsters for depriving a baby of knowledge of its birth mother, whilst two fathers, who may very well be doing exactly the same thing in a premeditated way, are not questioned at all on this issue by a passing journalist? Instead, they are lauded for “doing something wonderful and beautifully ordinary”!

The baby in the accompanying photo was clearly a lot older than two weeks old.

This uncritical approach to same-sex marriage is not worthy of a newspaper such as The Irish Times. – Yours, etc,



Beechwood Lawn,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell writes of the phenomenon of homosexual couples parenting and how it is becoming “wonderfully ordinary”. By drawing attention to this welcome phenomenon, she is making it extraordinary. Rather than allow homosexual parents feel accepted and – dare I say it – “normal”, such articles in fact do the opposite. – Yours, etc,


Synge Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I refer to “Timeline of penalty points controversy” (September 17th). Unfortunately, the timeline omits matters of substantial relevance. They include the following:

September 2012: Correspondence containing a large number of allegations that fixed-charge notices had been improperly cancelled by members of An Garda Síochána furnished to the Garda Commissioner with a request that the allegations be fully investigated, without revealing the name or identity of the member of An Garda Síochána who made the complaint.

May 2013: The publication of the O’Mahoney Report, and a related report by the Garda Professional Standards Unit, detailing the findings of the investigation, an examination of the processes and systems in place to deal with the cancellation of fixed-charge notices and recommendations to ensure the integrity of the system. As minister for justice, in implementation of the recommendations contained in the two reports, I asked the Garda Commissioner to ensure that seven essential principles were incorporated and made central to the decision making process in relation to fixed-charge notices. These were:

1. There must be no question mark hanging over the integrity of the fixed-charge notice system and in the application of penalty points. 2. No individual should receive preferential treatment because of their perceived status, relationship or celebrity. 3. The law and any discretionary application of it to individuals must be administered fairly, with compassion and common sense. 4. No member of the Garda force should feel compelled by a person’s position, relationship or celebrity status to treat that person any more or less favourably than any other person. 5. There must be proper oversight and transparency to the discretionary decision-making process and the applicable rules and procedures must be fully complied with. 6. All statutory provisions, regulations, rules, protocols and procedures applicable to the termination of fixed-charge notices must be readily accessible to all members of the Garda force and the circumstances, factors and procedures applicable to the termination of fixed-charge notices should be detailed clearly on the Garda website for the information of members of the public. 7. Where application is made to terminate a fixed ticket charge, where possible and appropriate, material to support any application made should be sought while understanding in some circumstances no such material may exist or be obtainable.

Additionally, due to my concerns to ensure that no further difficulties arose and at some of the decisions made in cancelling fixed-charge notices, which I described in a statement of the May 15th, 2013, as defying “logic and common sense”, as minister I referred both reports to the Joint Oireachtas Justice Committee to enable it hold such hearings as it deemed appropriate and make any necessary further recommendations. I also asked the independent Garda Inspectorate to examine the matter and the recommendations received to ensure the difficulties that had arisen did not reoccur.

As you record, the report of the inspectorate was published in March 2014 and its further recommendations fully implemented.

January 2014: Following Sgt McCabe making additional allegations concerning the cancellation of fixed-charge notices, at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, as minister, I asked the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to conduct an investigation into the new allegations made and also to revisit the original allegations.

Unfortunately, the omission of the above matters from your timeline could give credence to the false accusation made during my time as minister that the allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe regarding the fixed-charge notice processing system were ignored and not taken seriously.

This is very far from the truth, as would be evident to anyone revisiting the statement issued by me on May 15th, 2013. – Yours, etc,


Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Any optimism about our “economic recovery” is surely tempered by listening to debates on national radio about whether or not qualified teachers should be paid €50 on top of their social welfare payment for a full week’s work (“O’Sullivan pledges to ensure no abuse of JobBridge scheme”, September 18th). Education is the indispensable foundation of a country’s social and economic future development. It offers the next generation the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills to live fulfilling lives and contribute successfully to society and economic growth.

Government spending on education is an investment in the future for all of us. That we have become so inured to injustice that anyone, least of all the professional teachers to whom we entrust the care and education of our children, could be expected to work for €50 a week is an utter travesty.

Rail workers, refuse collectors and nursing staff have also been driven to strikes and protests due to continued deterioration of their pay and working conditions. These measures are politically justified by the requirements of “austerity” and “fiscal adjustment”. Meanwhile, 17 bankers in Ireland were paid an average of more than €1.2 million each in 2012, with 10 investment bankers and three retail bankers earning more than €1.4 million each.

The inevitable outcome of decades of financial deregulation is that unelected and unaccountable bankers now effectively run the world. They feather their own nests while ordinary workers, both public and private, are reduced to serfs in a regressive, exploitative neo-feudal system. These new aristocrats offer nothing but a vision of unhindered private profiteering for the top 1 per cent and their lackeys; and austerity, discipline and ultimately impoverishment for the rest of us. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I share Pat McArdle’s amazement (September 17th) at the apparent need to call a postcode an “Eircode”. I blame in part the framers of the Constitution and the utterly pointless double naming of the country in Article 4. Had they called the country Ireland and left Éire to the Irish-language text, many things would be a lot simpler.

Mr McArdle is right to suspect the appeal of “uniquely Irish” names for the Eircode mess; to that, I would add a uniquely Irish addiction to ambiguity. – Yours, etc,



Helsinki, Finland.

Sir, – “The mountains labour and a ridiculous (and confused) mouse is born”.

It is distressing to read that after such a long wait we are to be saddled with a system that will be more unhelpful to business and the man in the street than that which already pertains. Imagine asking directions to four random numbers?

The fact that it will require the purchase of special equipment to interpret implies the protection of vested interests. Surely we deserve something simpler and better. – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Parade,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Pat McArdle asks, “Why do we have to insist on giving everything a ‘uniquely Irish’ name?” Whatever about the name, to reflect both languages, the postchód/postcode could have omitted the letters JKQWXYZ. –Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin.

A chara, – Joe Humphreys in his “Cog Notes” column (September 16th) is very wide of the mark when he describes the position of ASTI and TUI on the Framework for Junior Cycle document as a “rejectionist stance”. On the contrary, the position of both unions is and has been positive and protective of the best traditions in Junior Cycle education in Ireland. In seeking the retention of State certification and external assessment, we are endeavouring to safeguard consistent educational standards across the country in the interests of all of our students.

We have been measured and responsible in our joint campaign against then minister for Education’s Ruairí Quinn’s decision (without consultation with ASTI, the National Council for Curriculum Assessment or any of the education partners) to abolish the Junior Certificate in October 2012. Incidentally it was Mr Quinn who rejected the NCCA’s advice of 2011.

What has changed now is the decision of the new Minister, Jan O’Sullivan, to persist with implementation of the framework in the absence of agreement with the second-level teacher unions on the key areas of assessment and certification.

It is imperative that teachers in the ASTI ballot send a strong message to Ms O’Sullivan in advance of the talks due to take place in October. – Yours, etc,


President, ASTI,

Thomas MacDonagh House,

Winetavern Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Whatever the result, it must be said that Alex Salmond is a remarkable man. Using entirely peaceful means he is on the cusp of achieving dramatic constitutional change. He has successfully led a coalition that includes trade unions, pop stars, hedge fund managers and possibly Rupert Murdoch. He argues that independence is necessary both to protect the welfare state and at the same time to promote business in Scotland. Such a broad nationalist coalition is not without precedent. I believe that Mr Salmond is the reincarnation of Charles Stewart Parnell. – Yours, etc,


Wilfield Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Passing through Dublin Airport’s Terminal One this week I paid €2.49 for a single, unadorned croissant. Is this a record? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – There was a time when I would have been happily among the tractor fans as described by Frank McNally (“Irishman’s Diary”, September 18th) but that day is over. I’m now an extractor fan. – Yours, etc,



Tralee, Co Kerry.

Irish Independent:

I am sure many of your readers saw the “debate” on ‘Primetime’ between John Bruton, Eamon O’Cuiv, Michael McDowell and Kevin Myers on the legacy of 1916 and its place in Irish history.

Many points were raised and many were, depending on perspective, valid.

All were missing a very important point about 1916.

The reason for 1916 sticking in the Irish psyche as a flashpoint in our history is that the men in the GPO and Boland’s Mill and other points throughout the city during that fateful weekend had rifles. They had limited ammunition and no explosives. The opposing Imperial troops had cannon and a gunboat and used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

This, allied with the fact that the Rising leaders were offered only a military trial and were subsequently executed, is where the real story of 1916 as the birth of our nation is – 1916 was when Britain proved through violence that it did not wish to allow self-determination in Ireland. It was the very coalface of the tradition of monarchy versus republic that hadn’t been seen since the late 1700s in France and America.

If you imagine yourself back in those times, the Irish had – since its parliament had been voted away by, according to many accounts, a drunken mob of parliamentarians in 1800 – been subjected to great hardships by a parliament in London. The Famine, Land War, tenement slums and the Lockout had all preceded 1916, as had two years of World War I, which saw men from many families trade their lives for a letter from some British Army officer who would have shot the same men if they refused to charge into no man’s land.

The history of Ireland under direct rule from London, which had only lasted for four or five generations, was one of the most harrowing of any people who produced so much wealth for little reward. Indeed, Van Diemen’s Land was, for many, no worse than the conditions that had given rise to the actions that put them on that one-way ticket.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Galway

Scotland’s day of destiny

This morning, David Cameron may well be ruing his decision not to offer the Scots maximum devolution.

Although English, I will be sad if the Union has come to an end, but I hope the Scottish people would have grasped the monumental opportunity for independence.

Whatever the financial cost, if I were a Scot, I would prefer freedom from Westminster than to be treated as a second-rate citizen. If the vote was “No”, the change will still be huge.

The present UK coalition government is dominated by the undisguised ambitions of Boris Johnson plotting to seize the Tory leadership and premiership after the next election. The ‘Old Etonion Mafia’ are more in tune with champagne and caviar, than the bread and butter needs of the ordinary Briton. Only the clever man can act the clown. This morning, Alex Salmond may well have made a mockery of England’s so-called political ‘elite’.

If so, the Scots’ wrath will only have been the first to be delivered last night. The English will deliver the rest in due course.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3, UK

Dirty secret of the ‘Great War’

There has been much commentary about the so-called ‘Great War’ over the last few months. However, the ruthless execution of 346 men in the course of that war was kept secret for many years.

The authorities in Britain finally relented, giving access to the court martial files of those men to retired judge Anthony Babington (an Irishman). He wrote an account of the deaths in a book, ‘For the Sake of Example’.

It is a horrific tale of callous destruction without mercy of the lives of many young men. The policies and the promulgation of sentences came from General Staff, who were for the most part based in comfortable chateaus far from the front lines.

The men in the trenches faced repeated orders to go “over the top” to face the German machine guns. It was over the top to your death or refuse and face certain death from your own side.

Great War indeed.

Harry Mulhern, Millbrook Road, Dublin

Mind your language

Now that we’ve all agreed to stop skinning cats, perhaps it’s time to ban expressions like “I’ll kill him!” and “you’re dead” lest they normalise the practice of murdering people?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Mary Lou’s flight of fancy

Regarding the Mary Lou McDonald flight affair, Brendan Dunleavy (Letters, Irish Independent September 17) quotes Marx’s riposte that when the revolution came everyone would be travelling first class. He mentions that even Michael O’Leary has introduced business class.

This brings to mind another Michael O’Leary (the late TD and minister) who, when admonished for smoking a cigar as he arrived for a union meeting, blew a large cloud of smoke and simply said, “nothing is too good for the workers”.

John F Jordan, Killiney, Dublin

History is repeating itself in Iraq

A new book by Ian Rutledge entitled ‘Enemy on the Euphrates’ illustrates clearly how in the present “crisis” in Iraq, Isil should not be a surprise to the British Government They have faced it all before.

In 1915, the infamous Sir Mark Sykes, the British diplomat who framed the Sykes/Picot agreement which carved up the Middle East between Britain and France, said “the Muslim intellectual uses the clothes of Europe and has lost his belief in his creed, but the hatred of Christendom and a lust for the domination of Islam as a supreme political (goal) remains.”

In 1920 there was a huge rebellion against the British rule in Iraq. It was a greater threat than any other anti-British uprising in modern times, with 131,000 Arabs under arms, in which tribal and religious conservatives led the insurrection.

This revolt was eventually brought to its knees. The British went on a village-burning exercise to teach the Iraqis a lesson they would never forget. From the air, the RAF chased men and women into the swamps and machined gunned them there.

An example is a quote from Air Commodore “Biffy” Borton about a 1921 attack by eight aircraft at Nassariyah, “The tribesmen and their families were put to confusion, many of them who ran into the lake making good targets for the machine guns.”

It is little wonder, then, that the present Isil will seek revenge when it’s possible that their grandparents were victims of British justice two generations ago?

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

Feminist confusion in deacon row

In relation to Bishop O’Reilly seeking candidates for deacon training (Irish Independent, September 3), women in Killaloe diocese should acknowledge the difference in the Catholic Church between power and authority.

Feminists seem to confuse democratic systems with hierarchy; the authority of consecrated clergy comes from almighty God, whom we lovingly obey as Jesus taught us. Women have always served the people of God through many roles – advisors, missionaries, mothers, wives, nurses, teachers, etc.

Many parish and diocesan positions are well served by lay people. Though fallible humans, God shares His creativity with us through many religions and none. The courage of churchmen is admirable.

BJ O’Connor (Mrs), Carlow

Irish Independent

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Bagpiper Craig Lawrie plays on Westminster Bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament on September 17, 2014 in London, England. The Scottish referendum debate has entered its final day of campaigning as the Scottish people prepare to go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether or not Scotland should have independence and break away from the United Kingdom.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

More in Letters (2 of 20 articles)

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September 18, 2014

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

Meg and Ben

September 17, 2014

17 September 2014 Meg and 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. I take Mary to the GP and Myself. Meg and Ben come to do some books.

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


Dr Sandy Holt-Wilson – obituary

Dr Sandy Holt-Wilson was an eye surgeon who devoted his retirement years to the sick and needy in Ethiopia

Sandy Holt-Wilson treating a young patient in Ethiopia

Sandy Holt-Wilson treating a young patient in Ethiopia

6:13PM BST 16 Sep 2014


Dr Alexander (Sandy) Holt-Wilson, who has died aged 78, crowned a career in which he became a consultant eye surgeon in Wales with a retirement devoted to establishing health services in Ethiopia.

The African country had fascinated him since he had heard tales of it at his grandmother’s knee, and between 2001 and 2014 his achievements there included founding an eye hospital in the grounds of the university at the former capital city of Gondar; setting up a health centre at Debarq, at the foot of the Simien Mountains; initiating cataract surgeon services for rural areas; and almost single-handedly running a charity to train Ethiopian doctors.

Sandy Holt-Wilson examining a patient in Ethiopia

Alexander Daniel Holt-Wilson was born at Alverstoke in Hampshire on April 30 1936, the youngest of three children of a naval officer.

Holt-Wilson’s grandmother had been the daughter of Henry Montagu Draper, headmaster of Lockers Park School in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where Prince Alemayu, the orphaned son of Emperor Theodros II of Abyssinia, was a pupil after having been brought to Britain on his father’s defeat and suicide at the battle of Magdala in 1868. The prince, whose mother had died from illness, became a protégé of Queen Victoria.

Sandy’s boyhood dreams of Ethiopia were soon matched by ambitions to become a doctor and, in his teenage years, a keen interest in the achievements of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Albert Schweitzer (who also founded a hospital in Africa). So enthused was the 17-year-old Holt-Wilson that in 1953 he bicycled all the way to Schweitzer’s house in Alsace-Lorraine to shake hands with the great man. Possessing, however, no shared language, the two were unable to make conversation, so Holt-Wilson turned round and cycled off again on the long journey home.

Having attended Rugby School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, he did his medical training at Barts, spending a year of it at Bulawayo, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He made a point on his way home of visiting Ethiopia, staying with friends working for the British Council in Addis Ababa. He completed his training as an ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.

He married, in 1970, Caroline Davies, whom he had met while both were volunteering with Rugby School’s boys’ clubs. Her father, Rear-Admiral Anthony Davies, was at that time Warden of St George’s House, Windsor Castle, and the wedding ceremony was held at St George’s Chapel, where Prince Alemayu’s funeral had taken place in 1879, and where he had been interred at Queen Victoria’s wish.

Holt-Wilson took his surgeon’s examinations in 1971, working in London until moving to Kuwait in 1976. On their return to Britain, the family settled in South Wales, and Holt-Wilson became a consultant ophthalmologist at St Woolos hospital in Newport and Nevill Hall hospital in Abergavenny.

Nevertheless, Prince Alemayu and Ethiopia remained in his thoughts, and he would often travel to auctions, acquiring related photographs and artefacts. His discovery of items left by the Prince’s guardian, Captain Tristram Speedy, yielded up a letter from Queen Victoria.

Sandy Holt-Wilson and his wife Caroline

In 1989 he bought a farm near Raglan on which the family bred free-range bronze turkeys. While that proved a success, the stress of managing the farm’s flock of sheep during the outbreak of foot-and-mouth in 2001 spurred Holt-Wilson to return to Ethiopia. Fed up with the agricultural crisis, he eagerly agreed to fill the place of an absent member of staff at the University of Gondar, which was until 2003 Gondar College of Medical Sciences, and before that had been known as the Public Health College, the country’s oldest medical institution, founded in 1954.

There he found himself fully occupied removing cataracts and attending to eye problems, many of which sprang from vitamin deficiency or fly-borne infections. By 2004 he had established the charity GEES (Gondar Ethiopia Eye Surgery) to remedy gaps in care and training.

The work was not without risk. In his seventies and bent on attending to Ethiopians’ eye complaints, he lived on tinned sardines for six months and began to show signs of scurvy. He also caught the protozoal gut affliction, giardia, which made him so thin and weak he became stuck in a bath.

Despite these setbacks, he tirelessly conducted negotiations with Ethiopian government ministers and medical bodies to bring nursing and doctoring expertise to rural areas. He communicated his news to his wife by letters which took 10 days to arrive, there being no other means of communication. On one occasion she joined him to climb the steep-sided, flat-topped Simien mountains, 40 miles from Gondar, where they stayed in a tent surrounded by grass-grazing baboons.

Holt-Wilson, his wife Caroline, and their border collie Bet (NICK MORRISH/SOUTH WALES ARGUS)

His last journey to Ethiopia was in October 2013, and at the time of his death, by then confined to home by illness, he was pursuing a means to bring into production a small, cheap, light and portable ophthalmoscope of an acquaintance’s design that doctors in Ethiopia might carry about easily in their pockets.

For his work he was appointed OBE in 2013.

Sandy Holt-Wilson hoped his collection of mementoes of Prince Alemayu might raise money for the charity’s work, and also gave lectures about the prince to the Anglo-Ethiopian Society in London and to students in Addis Ababa. One of his talks was broadcast in Ethiopia. At their farm he and his wife entertained the novelist Elizabeth Laird, to whom he gave access to his collection for her book about Alemayu: The Prince Who Walked With Lions (2012).

He is survived by his wife and their son and two daughters.

Dr Alexander (Sandy) Holt-Wilson, born April 30 1936, died May 7 2014


Cyclists pass pro-union banner Perthshire Cyclists pass a pro-union banner in Perthshire. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

I’m a pro-union Scot, but I have to admit that the yes campaign’s positive vision for a fairer society with closer control of its fiscal affairs has appealed to me and others. The overly negative no campaign has also upset many on both sides. The question though is not can Scotland be independent but should it?

The yes campaigners talk about national debt, social inequality, the NHS, TTIP and UK intervention in wars, but those concerns affect the whole UK. Our friends in England are disaffected too, but feel they have no power to change things. People underestimated Scottish teenage voters, but look how informed and articulate they proved themselves on a televised debate recently. Together we could put more pressure on politicians in central government to effect change for everyone, from the inside.

If we gain independence, we still won’t like our neighbour’s wars and ethics, but without any MPs in Westminster, we will have absolutely no power there any more. And if the UK’s massive debt causes a financial implosion, we’re stuffed as well if we’re in a currency union. Many people have compared this to a divorce. It’s not and we can’t move out. Our fates will be for ever inextricably linked and we can either be selfish and go it alone or work together for the good of all these islands.
Jenni Allardyce
Braco, Perthshire, Scotland

• Billy Bragg (Scottish nationalism and British nationalism aren’t the same, 16 September) is correct to say that the SNP is a different kind of party from the BNP. Though its central aim to repatriate powers is akin to Ukip’s, it hasn’t linked this policy to immigration. True, terms like rUK-settlers can be heard from the yes camp, but this is a broad church and groups such as Radical Scotland have done much to avoid it.

Yet these blunt facts do not absolve Scotland’s “civic nationalism” from all of the accusations so readily levelled at “ethnic nationalism”. This distinction, popularised by Michael Ignatieff in the mid-1990s, has received much debate, which Bragg blithely ignores. Its critics point out that both kinds of nationalism require drawing a boundary between those who belong and those who do not: between citizens and non-citizens. Nationalism can embrace multiculturalism and draw its boundary liberally, but a boundary must still be drawn.

The Scottish left hopes that a yes vote will bring rights for Scots that are not available in the UK. But these will only be extended to the rUK through hard work; work which the Scottish left, as citizens of a separate state, will have debarred themselves from doing. This is the reason why those of us who oppose a yes vote claim it is a break in solidarity.
Dr Liam Connell
University of Brighton, England

• Tom Devine (How history turned on Tory-voting Scotland, 16 September) seems to show that while historians are good at analysing the past, they are no better than the rest of us in making political judgments about the present or the future. His account of Scotland’s history since the second world war is interesting, but does not seem to me to support his conclusion that it now makes sense to end the union. The UK is surely at its strongest as a united kingdom, which accounts for its continuing importance in the world today. In the face of the 2008 recession, most particularly in the west, I find it hard to understand why Tom Devine thinks that a relatively tiny country can, let alone should, be insulated from the effects of that recession.

He says that many Scots think the union has outlived its purpose but that does not, I think, justify the breakup of this small island. That would seriously disadvantage all of its inhabitants as we face the increasing globalisation of the world’s economies. Economic wellbeing and social justice are a target for all of us. In my opinion we must tackle it together.
Terry Holmes
Pocklington, East Yorkshire, England

• For a while it looked like this might be different, but sadly tomorrow’s decision seems to be coming back to the usual political choice of whom we distrust the least. We have the “vow” of more powers from Westminster and, from the SNP, indignation that anyone might question the economic viability of the “land of Adam Smith”. Going with what seems a reasonable assumption – that Scotland can be successful either independent or in a federal Britain – we are left with a leap of faith in one direction or the other, based on whose utopian vision of our future is most likely to be untrue.

For Westminster’s part, we have definitely been let down before. Alex Salmond referenced Nick Clegg’s broken promise on tuition fees. The very man who is now asking us to trust him again. But at that time Clegg led the smaller party entering negotiations with a larger party that held the opposite position. Agreement of the three main UK parties is unprecedented in my lifetime.

For Alex Salmond’s part, Alan Greenspan has described his economic forecasts as being “so implausible they should really be dismissed out of hand”. Both are smart men, but which is the more reliable? One, as the retired chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has no obvious reason for bias in the question of Scotland’s independence. The other has dedicated his career to one political moment. Thursday.
Hamish Matheson
Edinburgh, Scotland

• Paul Younger (Letters, 15 September) says: “A yes vote would simply formalise a parting of the ways that was started under Thatcher and perpetuated under Blair.” Exactly right – a yes vote will finish the job for them. That job, the very thing Thatcher set out to accomplish, with the backing of the richest and the most powerful, was the breakup of the British working class as a force for change. Will Scottish voters hand them that prize?

Why can’t we build a better Britain together? The Scots have to ask themselves: what is deficient in ordinary English and Welsh people that makes it impossible to continue this vital struggle with them as allies? Most people south of the border hate the bedroom tax, as they did the poll tax, the Iraq war and the idiotic tuition fees. Can it make sense for the British people to separate into their constituent parts? Our foes won’t make that mistake.
John Rigby
London, England

• The SNP has been in government in Scotland for seven years, in which time it could have transformed governance in Scotland so that come the independence referendum the voters of Scotland would be able to observe their achievements and think what further transformations would be possible if Scotland was fully independent. The outcome of the referendum would then have been a shoo-in. Unfortunately, the SNP missed this opportunity and attempted to rely on flattery to achieve their goal, rather than a bedrock of actual positive achievements. Stay calm. Vote no.
Neil Sinclair
Edinburgh, Scotland

Yes supporter Richard Harrow on the roof of his home in the shadow of Stirling Castle. Yes supporter Richard Harrow on the roof of his home in the shadow of Stirling Castle. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

It is no surprise that the big financial guns and corporate bosses are coming out at the 11th hour to try to frighten the Scots people into voting no. They are inevitably worried about what they have to lose if Scotland becomes independent. But they don’t seem to understand that this debate is not just about money. It is about equity and social justice. It is about creating a fairer society for future generations by taking care of its weakest members. Of course finance is important, not for its own sake but in the service of vision and values. Yes, currency matters but life ultimately does not reduce down to pounds and pence, or euros or any other currency.

Successive Westminster governments put the demands of big business and profit ahead of wellbeing every time. The creeping privatisation of the NHS and children’s services, the contracting out of the probation service, the selling off of Royal Mail and so on, have not been in the best interests of society but instead are lining the pockets of corporations, a process that will only be exacerbated by the TTIP negotiations which the government appears to support. Meanwhile Serco and G4S are allowed to continue bidding for public contracts in spite of being under investigation for serious fraud.

So Scotland needs the freedom to find another way. As I understand it, the yes campaign is about Scotland being able to realise the communitarian principles which are embedded in the Scottish psyche by rejecting the neoliberal policy agenda of both main Westminster parties in order to create a better, fairer and more sustainable future. This referendum is not about Alex Salmond and the SNP. They could be voted out in May 2016, two short months after the planned date for achieving independence.

Perhaps the pro-independence camp should give a nod to another small, mountainous, albeit poor, country – Bhutan – which pursues GNH (gross national happiness) rather than GDP. That might help to clarify the difference between the two sides by drawing a clear line between a government in hock to big business and the aspiration to achieve a government by the people, for the people.
Fiona Carnie
Isle of Coll, Argyll, Scotland

• How many members of Labour feel a sense of shame about their part in the referendum debate? They must know deep down that their door-to-door campaigning and transporting of MPs en masse has far more to do with their fear of never winning an election again in the UK than with genuine concerns for the people up here. Yet still they do the bidding of the establishment and the Tories, who could not possibly persuade voters on their own.

I am no nationalist. Maybe that is because I am English and I am not particularly proud of some of my country’s history. Maybe it is also because I don’t believe waving a flag ever did much for anybody. But where I will defend the Scottish Nationalists is on the policies they have introduced since they came to power. It is no coincidence that their majority increased dramatically after they introduced genuine democratic socialist policies, which New Labour could only dream of.

That is the big threat that this referendum poses to the establishment – the setting up of a real alternative to what is going on in Westminster. Is wrangling over Europe, updating nuclear weapons rather than schools and hospitals, and prioritising fracking over investment in renewable energy, the best we can come up with? Why should Scotland vote no this week and then next year wake up to the nightmare of a Tory or Tory/Ukip coalition? Despite what they have been promising, Labour cannot guarantee this won’t happen.

Many in England and Wales want the same vision that much of Scotland has. However, the status quo will not achieve it. The liberation of our different peoples is essential for the flourishing of a new perspective that will prevent us falling into social fragmentation and European isolation.
Peter Strother
Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness-shire, Scotland

• I listened in amazement to a TV contributor explaining how she didn’t want Scotland to leave because as British she felt 40% Scottish and she didn’t want to lose that 40%. Like a lot of other people she just doesn’t get it: we don’t want to be 40% of something or 20% of something or any per cent for that matter, we just want to be Scotland. I know this has come as a great shock to many people, especially Mr Cameron – he does seem a bit like the husband who reacts to his wife saying she is leaving him with “I thought we were great together … you can’t manage on your own … I’m going to stop you using our bank account” and when all else fails “If you leave me now I’ll never let you come back ever, ever”.

Don’t worry, folks, you will get over it – and when you do, we will be very good friends.
Douglas Martyn
Sandilands, Lanark, Scotland

• To choose to stay in a union is as valid an expression of self-determination as voting for independence. So whichever way it goes, I think it is incumbent of everyone in the UK – including Scotland – to respect that decision. I just hope the Scots have the courage to decide their own future. Scotland’s not a region trying to break away from the rest of England. It’s a country that happened to share a common government with England. The time has come to unshackle those political bonds, but even with independence England and Scotland can remain close, just as Sweden and Norway do.
Richard Bartley
Henllan, Denbighshire, Wales

• The historical momentum is with the nationalists. Whether it happens on Thursday or 25 years down the road, independence for Scotland is coming. Once the future has been imagined, it is best to be realistic and strive to achieve that outcome as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Change can be difficult but it can also be invigorating. Not just for Scotland but for England, Wales and Northern Ireland too.

There is nothing to fear in an independent Scotland. Scotland will be one of the wealthiest and most vibrant economies in Europe, with one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. Ireland, with a similar population, ranks 17th or 18th in GDP per capita (higher than the UK) and we don’t even have any oil.

So, will there be another 10 or 20 years of frustrating procrastination while the reactionary naysayers dwindle and eventually concede defeat, or will the people of Scotland take their destiny into their own hands and embrace the future with courage and confidence and create a fairer, wealthier, more democratic state that will be an inspiration to the rest of the world?
Tom Gelletlie
Rathnew, County Wicklow, Ireland

• I know I’m only 72 and three-quarters but I’ve never looked forward to something so much in all my life. Even if Scotland doesn’t vote yes, just getting this far has done irreparable damage to the nonsense world our current constitutional arrangements are built on. Either way it will be the Bullingdon Club’s, and Toryism’s, greatest gift to civilisation. Can’t wait.
John Smith
Sheffield, England

Referendum If Scotland votes for independence, what will be the point of the SNP? Party leader Alex Salmond campaigning in Glasgow. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Catherine Shoard compares the film Still Alice to a “Glasgow kiss” (Review, 13 September), describing the emotional effect as “a sucker-punch that smacks sufficiently hard you have trouble breathing”. I hope she is alluding not to a head-butt but to John Barrowman’s cheeky wee snog with a male dancer during the opening performance of the Commonwealth Games, which has led to a revised definition of the term – one that reflects the modern, friendly and tolerant city that Glasgow really is.
Patricia Davies
Lenzie, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

• Whether or not the Scots follow the Queen’s advice and think carefully (Report, 15 September), how can David Cameron say a vote for independence would lead to a permanent split from the UK? Neither he nor Alex Salmond will be in power for ever. What happens in the future will be decided by others and, as Gladstone said in the Reform Bill debate in 1866, “You cannot fight against the future.”
Chris Birch
London, England

• There’s a lot of hand-wringing now in England about “losing Scotland”. Unless there is some major tectonic shift, we will be able to find Scotland in the same place, and people will be able to move up and down freely as before. What we will have lost is the ability to control the day-to-day life of Scots from Westminster.
Jim Pettman
Anglars-Juillac, France

• What would Jesus vote? Surely yes, since he chose Saint Andrew to be an apostle, whereas all the other home nations have made-up patron saints.
Fr Alec Mitchell
Manchester, England

• Is it too late to offer London independence and let the rest of us get on with redesigning the society we’d like to live in?
Jill Wallis
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, England

• If Scotland votes for independence, what will be the point of the SNP?
Brian Ronson
Liverpool, England

• If it’s a yes, does that mean we can do away with British Summer Time?
Les Farris
South Petherton, Somerset, England

Detail, Act of Union 1707 Detail of the Act of Union that unified Scotland with England, 1 March 1707. Photograph: National Archives of Scotland

With a vote so close, in many senses of the word, the historian’s sense of perspective is increasingly being drowned out, even though we are often invoked: we must “learn the lessons of history” or we are “doomed to make the same mistakes again”. Slogans that the vote would mark the “end of Britain” or “the end of the union” provoke anxiety and caution. But Britain existed as a concept and an identity before parliamentary union, and if people wish to continue to identify themselves as British, they will not cease to be so if the inhabitants of Scotland vote to dissolve the parliamentary union of 1707.

The new slogans of this final week of campaigning also cause anxiety, probably because they are contradictory. While warning that the decision is irrevocable, there is now the threat of “neverendum”. Whitehall has made statements on the benefits of stability and permanence that come with union in 1536, 1603, 1653, 1654, 1707, 1801, 1914, 1922, 1937 and 1972. And if Scotland votes yes there will still be a union, but maybe those who live in England, Wales, islands, and six of the 32 counties of Ireland might be encouraged to have a debate about whether union is the most appropriate and workable political model.
Sarah Barber
Department of history, Lancaster University

The former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble says a yes vote in the Scottish referendum The former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble says a yes vote in the Scottish referendum would inevitably intensify pressure for a similar vote on Northern Ireland’s future. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

As the English press has woken up to the possibility of Scotland voting yes this week, there is relatively little coverage of what is happening in Northern Ireland and the implications of a yes vote in Scotland for political stability in Belfast. On 9 September, the Belfast Telegraph carried an article by first minister Peter Robinson where he claims that the institutions agreed in 1998 and refined in the St Andrews agreement are “no longer fit for purpose”.

He is merely confirming what the Northern Ireland electorate has known for several years: devolution has ground to a halt because of the intransigence and mutual dislike of the two extremes of local politics – the DUP and Sinn Féin – who dominate the executive.

A yes vote in Scotland will provide a huge destabilising dimension to a settlement which is already in trouble. Unionists will be very unsettled by the loss of those with whom they feel closest to in the UK, while Sinn Féin will demand a referendum on Irish unity under the terms of the Belfast agreement. Instead of tackling the entrenched segregation of Northern Ireland through the devolved institutions, we could be facing political turbulence on a massive scale.
Professor Emeritus Bob Osborne
University of Ulster

• “If Scotland votes yes, Sinn Fein will call for a new referendum on Northern Ireland’s membership of the UK” (The genie is out of the bottle – we want more power, 12 September) Well, yes, it would certainly be a nice revenge to see the partition of the island of Britain used as a justification for the ending of the partition of the island of Ireland.

What would be interesting would be the inducements Sinn Féin might offer the electorate of the six counties to lure them into union with the Republic. Vote to withdraw from the NHS? Vote to adopt the euro? Vote for centralised rule from Dublin rather than devolved government from Stormont? Vote for union with an economy that offers so many of its young people the opportunity to emigrate?

Martin McGuinness and his fellow Sinn Féiners currently share power at Belfast and cooperate in the government of the six counties; one must wonder if they really are eager to relinquish that power for the pride of seeing the tricolour flying above a redundant Stormont.
Michael Ghirelli
Hillesden, Buckinghamshire

• I can’t work out whether was it to antagonise the yes camp or the no camp that you let Fintan O’Toole loose on your pages (Forget Braveheart, kilts and tribal nationalism, this is about democracy, 13 September).

Any commentator who speaks of “Ireland” (26 counties thereof) gaining “independence” (sic) whole ignoring the fact that almost one million of its citizens are now trapped in a gerrymandered United Kingdom statelet in which they want no part of, nor ever wanted, shouldn’t be pontificating on Scottish independence.

The “toxic bitterness … passed on through generations” that he refers to stemmed exactly from this same partition, the sticking-plaster British solution to the Irish problem of the time, which stored up trouble for generations to come.
Kieran Murphy
Dromintee, County Armagh

• Owen Jones may be right that “whatever Scots decide, the old order is dead” (Comment, 8 September) but there is an interesting omission in his article. Among the constant references to the Scottish, Welsh and English, including the “need for a new constitutional order” involving these three, there is no mention of Northern Ireland.

As you reported earlier this year (Don’t harm no campaign, Ulster loyalists urged, 12 May): “The cross-party Better Together organisation banned the Orange Order from taking part in its official campaign as soon it was set up in 2012 … fearing it would inflame sectarian tensions or polarise voters.” Nor do I imagine would Better Together have welcomed the Orange Order march in Edinburgh on Saturday, which included Loyalist marchers from Northern Ireland.

However, the implications for Northern Ireland are the real issue. Loyalists are very proud of their “Ulster-Scots” heritage. If Scotland leaves the union it can only make the position of the North of Ireland as a part of the rump UK even more untenable.
Declan O’Neill

• Recent days have seen the Westminster unionists’ desperate appeal to the Scottish people to reject a yes vote. Their argument appears to be based on a great principle – the idea that the people of small islands should remain united. This sounds good, but only until we look at the country closest to Britain.

The British government partitioned the island of Ireland in the early 1920s and Westminster has ensured the division of that country’s land and people ever since – with Britain’s armed forces being used to enforce this.

So, until we see the parties at Westminster supporting and calling for the unity of the Irish people, we can only believe that the great calls of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg to the Scottish people are just weasel words intended to gull them into accepting the Westminster unionists’ status quo.
Alastair Renwick and John Lloyd

• David Trimble said a yes vote in the Scottish referendum would inevitably intensify pressure for a similar vote on Northern Ireland’s future (Ulster warning, 11 September).

Surely the people of Northern Ireland should be given the choice of whether to go with the UK or Scotland. History and geography make Scotland the logical choice. It’s rather strange that this question hasn’t been raised. It might affect Scottish votes. Presumably Mr Trimble means that union with the Republic of Ireland will be an option. How a referendum should accommodate three choices is an interesting question.
John Wilson

Yes and no signs in Newtonmore. Yes and no signs in Newtonmore. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

A yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum would initiate the breakdown of the current UK constitutional settlement, decided on a narrow margin by an electorate of less than 10% of the total.

The arrangement that made this seem appropriate was set up by the leaders of the Scottish Nationalists and the Conservatives. As things stand, initial arrangements for the separation would also be made by negotiations between those two parties, perhaps starting on Friday. Is this, as hoped by Ruari Gordon (A yes vote in Scotland would be good for the rest of the UK, Letters, 15 September), or the constitutional assembly elected by all Britons preferred by Hugh Brogan (Historical messages for the Scots, Letters, 11 September), more likely to lead to an “informed, peaceful, democratic” shakeup or breakup? If the latter, how could such a constitutional assembly be created, outside the reach of existing political parties?

Yes or no is a simple question, but the ideas it suggests are complex, as will be the results of asking it. How do we take the power we need to make a new, equable, constitutional settlement?
Jan Dubé

• After a close-run general election, the losing side commonly asserts that, if a couple of thousand voters in a dozen constituencies had voted differently, they would have won. While this may be arithmetically correct, it relies on the highly implausible event that they would have won a dozen seats with a majority of just one vote, while their opponents won no seats narrowly at all.

With 650 or so constituencies, we can confidently expect that narrow majorities are shared fairly evenly across the parties, so that the overall result is generally seen as just. But in the Scottish independence referendum – a single constituency with several million voters – would a yes victory by, say, 20 or so votes really constitute a mandate for separation?

Many clubs place a high threshold – perhaps 75% – for a change to their constitution; plainly that would be too high in the present question, but should not such a momentous change require a comfortable majority, say at least 52%?
John Haigh

• The closer we get to the date of the referendum, the more obvious it seems that to base the outcome on a simple majority is just ridiculous. Surely such an irrevocable change to the constitution of the UK should require at least a 60% majority of the voters, and preferably two-thirds. Presumably the UK government agreed to a straight majority because it was confident Scotland would not vote for it. If the yes votes do marginally exceed 50%, I do not think this could be considered a sufficient mandate for such a fundamental change.
Peter Garnham
Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire

• The yes campaign will have to win by more than a percentage point or two if independence is to be justified against the terms of the Edinburgh agreement signed by the UK and Scottish governments in 2012 (Nine legal questions if Scotland votes yes, 11 September). The agreement reads: “The governments are agreed that the referendum should deliver …. a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of the people of Scotland and a result that everyone will respect.”. It is hard to see how victory by a few percentage points would constitute a “decisive expression of views”; nor how it could command the respect of “everyone” in Scotland, let alone the rest of the UK.
Tim Lankester

• Practically all the ex-colonies of the British empire with constitutions require three-quarters of votes for any change. Mauritius went through this process recently to remove the obligation to declare one’s “community” in order to be a candidate for a general election. There was and is much sense in this three-quarters requirement: it guarantees stability and preserves acquired rights of those who do not wish for “catwalk” change.

How come that the UK itself can stand to undergo a major constitutional change with only 50%+1 of votes? We call on Britain to apply to itself what it has to so many of our nation. No independence for Scotland without a 75% of votes. (Northern Ireland would have been a better candidate to independence, leading to a possible unification of Ireland.)
Dr Michael Atchia
Past programme director with the United Nations, Mauritius 

• Whichever way the vote goes, Scotland’s future is going to depend on how the winning side behaves immediately afterwards. The losers are going to be worried, fearful and/or heartbroken. If the winning side treats them with compassion, humility and respect, then the divisions and wounds of the referendum campaign will begin to heal. If, however, the winners exhibit triumphalism and smugness, then wounds will become scars, disagreements will become enmities and the country could end up permanently divided. A public “day of celebration” by whichever side wins would therefore be extremely unhelpful – let them celebrate in private, instead of making the day even worse for those who don’t get what they want. Everyone from the leaders to the ordinary people involved in both campaigns needs to bear this in mind.
Dr Richard Milne

• Whichever way the vote goes on Thursday, Alex Salmond can bask in the glory of his achieving the acrimonious splitting of the Scottish people. If the result is yes, he will also have earned the animosity of the other residents of the UK who were given no opportunity to participate in a decision that affects all of us. I hope he feels proud.
Sam Sexton
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

• George Monbiot (Comment, 9 September) paints a sunny picture of a nation united in the struggle to free itself from foreign domination, ready to emerge on to the level playing fields of independence. Isn’t it more likely that, as in the case of so many liberated nations, from Ireland to Ukraine, once independence has been won, divisions in Scottish society will re-emerge as Scotland becomes a battleground for rival factions struggling for power and influence?
Hugh Closs

BBC Scotland's studio complex at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, Scotland. BBC Scotland’s studio complex at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Your feature answering the key questions raised by the prospect of Scottish independence (What a carve-up! From politics to sport, oil to national debt, how the split could work (10 September) leaves out an issue which many of us consider extremely important: culture. There is constant, fruitful cultural collaboration between the four nations of the UK, including touring across borders, funding and sponsorship, co-production and shared educational initiatives. The article mentions the BBC, but as the BBC Proms 2014 season ended many of us were asking whether the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will still be around in a couple of years, and whether the participation of an independent Scotland in this great national music festival had yet been considered.

Scotland may be able eventually to join the EU as an individual nation, but in the meantime will it still be able to draw on EU funding for cultural projects – and, indeed, for educational purposes? Even a short hiatus could be deeply damaging.

The Edinburgh festivals receive funding not only from Scottish sources but also from the BBC, VisitBritain and Arts Council England. Will, and indeed should, this funding cease in the event of independence? The Edinburgh fringe may well remain a mecca for arts companies from all over the UK, but the funding and resources that individual national arts councils currently put into this annual cultural hotbed may be thrown into question.

I think it very likely that artists north and south of the border will strain every sinew to keep cultural relationships strong and thriving, but I fear that the upheaval of moving towards independence for Scotland may unintentionally break or damage a great many cultural links and ties.
Catherine Rose
Olney, Buckinghamshire

• The debate on the Scottish referendum has been littered with the panegyrics to the union from the Westminster-based politicians. Yet what has the union done for the cultural life of Scotland and its heritage?

From my experience the union has stunted the cultural life of the country. Linguistically, Gaelic has been brought to the point of extinction, Doric and Scots have been sidelined for years. Scotland remains the only country not to teach its own children its history, and the built heritage has been neglected, bulldozed or shunned by politicians fearing anything that might be construed as “too nationalistic”. During my time on the Ancient Monuments Board, the struggle to secure the protection of Scotland’s battlefields was a case in point, as time and again the political masters of the British parties sought to block moves that might be too Scottish.

In conclusion, if you believe in the cultural life of Scotland unhindered and a heritage truly protected and nurtured for future generations, then there can be only way to vote.
Dr Scott Peake
Director, The Saltire Society, 1998-99; member, Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland, 1996-2000

• Claire Enders (What would a Scottish yes mean for democracy, 14 September) claims that “Scotland simply isn’t big enough to support strong independent media”.

She suggests the substitution of a Scottish Broadcasting Service for the BBC in Scotland would reduce media plurality. However, since 1957 Scotland has had an independent commercial station, STV, with a vibrant news and current affairs output, which would continue to offer strong competition to any licence-fee/state-funded broadcaster. Not since the 1980s has Channel 4 had any Scottish current affairs or political output, so the level of plurality would remain unchanged.

She suggests Scotland could not secure a free-to-air deal with the BBC. The licence fee (or post-independence equivalent) in Scotland raises £300m; the pro-rata share of network BBC television is £75m, while BBC Scotland costs £86m. Even if the BBC secured £100m for supplying its services to Scotland (considerably more than Ireland currently pays for the same privilege), that would still leave £200m to fund SBS, radio and online services.

After independence the Scottish parliament and whichever government the people of Scotland elect would shape Scotland’s media regulation. Holyrood, elected on a proportional representation basis, and with much greater cross-party pre–legislative scrutiny, is considerably more democratic than Westminster.

The biggest threat to democracy in broadcasting posed by independence has been the BBC reverting to the kind of suspension of impartiality that we last saw during the General Strike of 1926.
Professor Robin MacPherson
Edinburgh Napier University

• Tara Conlan’s article (Independent Scotland faces doubling of BBC licence fee, 12 September) chimes very closely with my own knowledge and experience. I was BBC controller Scotland from 1982 to 1992. While the sums involved now are different, the relativities will be unchanged. In my time the licence fee income from Scottish viewers pretty well equated to the sum required to run the radio and television services for Scotland. In effect the BBC centrally provided network programmes for Scotland at nil cost. The same is true of Wales and Northern Ireland.

To provide the programmes which Scots currently enjoy from London and other parts of the UK would require the successor body to purchase broadcast rights and content. The cost of such provision could, as suggested, double the licence fee for Scots.

If a BBC paper was drawn up three years ago, I am disappointed that it has not been published. As Burns said , “facts are chiels that winna ding”.
Patrick Chalmers
Bibury, Gloucestershire

Letters pic Will the wars ever end? Illustration: Gillian Blease

Let countries fix themselves

Is US foreign policy “principled realism or failed isolationism?” writes Dan Roberts (5 September). Indeed, this debate has merit: many argue that Obama has used hard power too much, such as with his drone programme, resulting in many innocent deaths. Others argue he is too soft, on Vladimir Putin and others, resulting on lines being crossed. It seems Obama can’t win, as he is criticised heavily either way.

However, I would argue Obama is soft or softer than George Bush. This is what many Americans and people the world over have wanted to see for many a decade: for there to be more time and thought given before intervening. This is what Obama and his associates are doing. He knows complete western intervention will not solve any problem in the Middle East, neither is the Islamic State his problem; sectarian infighting has existed since Islam’s inception.

What is needed is less US intervention and for countries to sort out their own problems, perhaps with a helping hand from the west. This is no failed isolationism, or it is at least too early to call it that.
Daniel Pearson
Perth, Western Australia

Growth is not the answer

In your editorial about the EU (5 September) you state that “nothing matters more … than the crying need for a stronger growth strategy”. Are you kidding me? How can you publish all your thoughtful articles by writers like George Monbiot and yet still tout this nonsense in your main editorial? As we all know, indefinite growth in a finite world is impossible; in the short term, in today’s crowded world, one person’s gain can only be another’s loss.

Europe started the modern world and its greatest challenge now is the responsibility to lead us out of it. Europe is wealthy and its population is relatively stable, so there is no need for growth. What we have is all we’ve got and we have to learn to live with it. The “crying need” is to show how to expand, not upwards but sideways – sharing what we have equitably, both globally and nationally, so that poverty and unemployment are reduced. If you don’t say it, who will?
David Trubridge
Havelock North, New Zealand

Will the wars ever end?

Why are there so many wars? My compatriot Annie March (Reply, 15 August) is correct. Further to her comments, “For every dollar spent on United Nations peace-keeping, $2,000 is expended for war-making by member nations … Four of the five members of the United Nations security council, which has veto power over all United Nations resolutions, are the top weapons dealers in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia” (Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the largest social movement in history is restoring grace, justice and beauty in the world) .

So how can wars ever end? It would seem to be impossible. But we have to keep trying, by wielding our pens and demonstrating, and all of us maintaining our own little oases of peace in our daily lives. It doesn’t seem much and we don’t have much money for our cause but what’s the alternative?
Penny Hanley
Canberra, Australia

Solution for India’s women

I do not understand the problem outlined in your article, Lethal risks in India’s sanitation battle (5  September). You report that millions of Indian women have to wait all day to relieve themselves so that they can go out in the fields at night, braving monsoon rains, wild animals and an occasional rape. All the blame seems to be levelled at the Indian government, but what are the Indian people doing individually to solve the problem?

I was born in a small village in North Dakota. We had an outhouse: a small wooden building over a hole in the ground. All the farms in the area did the same thing. No one had to wait to relieve themselves in the fields at night. So why don’t the Indian people build an outhouse when they build a house as a matter of course, instead of suffering while waiting for the government or some charitable organisation to do something?
Jon C McKenzie
Fairfax, Virginia, US

The wonder of books

Rachel Cooke’s article about Phyllis Rose hit the mark (22 August). I grew up in a household with no bookshelves to explore, no stirring dinner table discussions, and in our neighbourhood, no libraries that I knew of.

When I went to high school, I discovered a library. At first I was selective. But then I decided to just go along the shelf and take whatever book was next. My world suddenly changed. I read about other countries; I read books about nature and other areas of science. But most of all, I discovered creative writers who connected me to their imaginary world, and this was a eureka moment. I found that my imagination had its fellow in those who wrote the novels I took home. I had discovered a place where I might belong.

I had not thought about another “hoovering” exercise at my age. Maybe I could consider a trip to another library, and try books that I otherwise would bypass. Who knows what I may discover this time? And what that may do to my own writing. And to my perception of the world.
Lavinia Moore
Aldgate, South Australia

Resting is a good thing

Like Stuart Heritage (29 August), I’m dedicated to siestas, and organise my days around an hour’s rest at noon, and a 20-minute endocrine recharge before tea. The odd one out in a family with boundless energy and nerves of steel, I can’t remember ever not being more or less tired. I’d always grudged, resisted, felt guilty about resting, until an epiphany during a conversation with an ex-athlete crippled by chronic fatigue. We were shocked by the realisation that in heroically, habitually forcing ourselves to override tiredness and instinctual wisdom, we were in fact enacting on our bodies the self-same abuse that humankind is inflicting on the planet; and that entrenched in our psyches was a template not just of violation and power misused, but of the body-mind dualism that so corrupts our religious traditions. Can our bodies, can earth forgive us?

Resting is an act of moral, political, ecological, spiritual and creative defiance and sanity.
Annie March
West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

City of dreams

The good news for Paul Mason (5 September) and his 10 criteria for the perfect city is that it already exists as Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. The bad news is that if he wants to join in, he’d better get a move on because it’s under attack from the usual quarter – the multinational property developing financial and commercial monster that swallows up all good things.
Tony Simpson
Wellington, New Zealand

• I read Paul Mason’s criteria, and was amazed that he did not realise he was describing Vancouver. Near the sea: yes. Hipster neighbourhoods: yes. Finance sector big enough: yes. Theatre: yes. Bicycle lanes: yes. Hangouts of various orientations: yes. Concerned with heritage: yes. Hospitable to women: yes (mostly). Hopeful slums: yes. Loud political culture: yes.
Donald Grayston
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Solving the Scottish problem

As an American living high in the inland mountains of the western US, I am far removed from the political turmoils of Scotland and England. Yet, perhaps because of that very objectivity, I believe I have a good solution to your problems.

Somewhere in Scotland there is likely to be a presentable Stuart duke, hopefully with a few good stalwart sons, who could replace the Windsors at Buckingham Palace. I recommend to my British friends that you usher the Windsors into an honourable retirement and end their long and arduous duties as royals. Bring back the Stuarts: that way the Scots cannot complain, and by all means invite Elizabeth II to replace Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey, where I feel she would be a huge success. I call it representation without taxation.
Jim Van Sant
Santa Fe, New Mexico


• The Queen may have inherited wealth and position, but not power (22 August). While the sovereign remains head of the legislature, of the judiciary and of the military, no one else with power can combine these roles. And while all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and should be accorded to no one, especially one who would then also wave flags.
Adrian Betham
London, UK

• In my experience the reason teenagers need to sleep in late (5 September) has less to do with their neurological development and much more to do with electronic devices in their bedrooms.
Nicholas Houghton
Folkestone, UK


Whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum, I fear the consequence will be one of bitterness and resentment.

For this the blame must fall largely on Alex Salmond. Day after day Mr Salmond has given knee-jerk reactions to anything he doesn’t like – it is irrelevant, it is incorrect, it is a lie, it is driven by panic. There is never an acknowledgment that there are arguments in favour of continued union that deserve consideration and need to be answered.

The fact that independence would also sever links with the Welsh and Northern Irish seems never to be mentioned. Mr Salmond seems determined to foster the notion that the Scots are a subservient people waging a heroic fight for freedom from a hated foe.

There will be a price to pay for this. It is beginning to look as if the result of the referendum will be either acrimonious divorce or an equally acrimonious marital relationship. Can I appeal to both sides to do their best to exercise restraint and display a constructive spirit when the result is known?

Adrian West
London N21

Scotland is a weathy country. We have one quarter of all the renewable energy potential of Europe and we still have oil reserves. We have had enough of  Westminster: they bailed out the banks as they didn’t regulate them properly in the first place; they went to war against Iraq against the will of the United Nations; and they also were found with their hands in the till in the expenses scandal. That’s why I’m voting Yes.

Sarah Barts

At this time of bitter conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, combined UK energies must not be diverted by introverted dissension about our own differences. History will shame us if our island peoples put national self-absorption before international peace building.

Yvonne Craig
London WC1

Progress, wealth and health are created through partnerships: in businesses and councils, schools and clubs, the NHS, fair government and, of course, marriage. Compare the opposite: dictators, feudal lords, divorced states. Look at North Korea, a destitute and starving nation.

Neighbouring countries will question the Scottish separation campaign: ‘‘Why can’t you make compromises and hold the union together? Where will the young adults go for work? And where is the integrity with this proposed separation?”

A UK without Scotland will be a disaster, not only for Scotland but for all of us. An expensive, divisive scenario, especially when one compares other unions and their successes: East and West Germany, the United States of America, the Union of South Africa, the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia. The UK together stood firm and strong. Divided it will weaken, topple and fall. There is no benefit in separation, it will be a disaster for all.

Norman Ball
Maryport, Cumbria

It would be a tragedy if Scots gave up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to choose a Scotland where governments, of any political hue, would be more concerned about social and political justice for Scottish people than any London government would.

We should not be listening to careerist, synthetic Scottish politicians with whom Rabbie Burns might have recognised certain similarities with the earlier treacherous nobles, hastening him to coin the phrase: “We’re bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”  We should listen to our heads, hearts and souls and not end up spending a lifetime lamenting the great opportunity we missed.

William Burns

The whingeing from the Scottish nationalists about the so-called BBC bias is the way other groups have behaved whenever coverage is impartial. When someone accuses the Beeb of bias, what they usually mean is that they are angry the BBC isn’t taking sides in their favour. It was the same when Andrew Gilligan was attacked. All the BBC has done is to report the referendum, which I think it has done without any preference for either side.

Steve Lustig
Willesden Green, London

Setting aside all economic and legislative issues, the one thing that should concern the Scottish people about the potential secession of Scotland from Britain is this: with just over a week to go, polls suggest that the result is too close to call. Indeed, it is likely that the outcome will be a matter of 1 or 2 per cent one way or the other. This being so, Scotland could be in the position of opting for drastic upheaval against the wishes of, effectively, half its population.  Surely there should have been built into the referendum protocol a requirement for a minimum two-thirds majority before its result could be the basis of such a break-up?

John Thorogood
London NW2

I am an elderly campaigner for Scottish independence. Many old people are worried about their pensions if we vote Yes, but I am much more afraid of a No vote, because of the opposition to welfare in any form by all Westminster parties.  Over the years the state pension – classed as a “benefit” – has been eroded and gradually replaced by means-tested benefits.

Independence or not, London is legally obliged to pay the contributory pension, but not the means-tested parts. For future pensioners, the state pension may be means-tested, as recommended by the think-tank Civitas, or made conditional on workfare, as recommended by Lord Bichard in 2012.

In addition, Westminster is raising the pension age, so that, given high unemployment for all ages, plus age discrimination, many elderly people will find themselves on JSA, facing the same threats of sanctions as younger people.

In fact, Westminster will probably soon be claiming that ‘we’ can’t afford retirement at all as a right, but only as a privilege. In Scotland, the political culture is different. ‘Welfare’ is not a dirty word here. And crucially, we have influence over the Scottish government, but none over Westminster. For security and dignity in old age, vote Yes.

Katherine Perlo
Prestonpans, Edinburgh


Our role in the death of Haines

Everyone is saddened by the death of David Haines, the British aid worker who was recently killed. However, we must put this horrific act in context, and look at our country’s role in this disastrous situation.

Our media seems to forget that this country, along with the US, invaded Iraq on a pack of lies 11 years ago. We are also still fighting in Afghanistan for some reason. In those two countries combined, around one million people have been killed by Western forces. Then you had Libya, where around another 30,000 people were killed. In addition to the destruction caused, we have also sold huge amounts of weaponry to that region. The result – chaos.

Let’s face it, in order to gain control of the Middle East, and its resources, we have trashed much of the Muslim world. And, if that wasn’t enough, we’ve seen Cameron and Obama back Israel’s recent slaughter of at least another 2,100 Muslims in Gaza. I am in no way justifying what Isis/Islamic State are doing, but I can understand how they’ve come about, and why they have a grievance with America and its allies.

So now David Cameron is trying to push for war in Iraq (partly because he failed last year to get one in Syria). We must not be fooled again, and need to oppose the killing of any more civilians there. We’ve done enough damage already. I say to our PM, why not try and save people in this country first, by reversing this coalition government’s aggressive privatisation of our NHS. That’s if he’s sincere about saving lives.

Colin Crilly
South London

Will the NHS be protected?

David Cameron has promised that NHS Scotland will be “protected” from privatisation if there is a No vote. Will NHS England be similarly protected? Why should the NHS need protecting from privatisation? Could it possibly be to do with the potentially dire con- sequences to the NHS of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

John Murphy
Bapchild, Kent

Doctors fighting back at last

You report ‘Doctors to run against Cameron and Hunt’ (8 September). What a relief the medical world is fighting back at last. I hope they can slow down or stop the lunatic “market” between hospitals and other madness.

SG Ball

Berlusconi to chair ethics committee

Using the same thinking that led to Tony Blair’s appointment as Middle East Peace Envoy, perhaps the EU should appoint Silvio Berlusconi to chair an ethics committee, or Ireland should posthumously award Oliver Cromwell a humanitarian award. The reason groups like Isis form are obvious. They will continue to form as long as we provoke contempt from Islamic countries.

Conor Mulligan
Rathmines, Dublin


Even if Scotland votes “no” on Thursday, Britain has another conundrum to answer

Sir, You are right to endorse the answer to the West Lothian question (“Wild West”, leading article, Sept 15) proposed by John Redwood (who, contrary to your assertion, has often called big issues right, such as the disastrous European exchange rate mechanism).

The idea of “English votes for English laws” was the basis for the 2010 Conservative manifesto commitment to set up what become the Mackay Commission in 2012. Devo-max makes implementation of its key principle even more urgent, namely that “decisions at the United Kingdom level with a separate and distinct effect for England (or for England and Wales) should normally be taken only with the consent of a majority of MPs for constituencies in England (or England and Wales)”. This can be given effect by resolution of the House of Commons, rather than by legislation, and would give the English an effective parliament.

There would, however, be consequences for Whitehall. We could never have a Scottish UK chancellor setting English taxes in England at the annual budget but not in his or her own constituency. So Parliament will have to consider how to establish an English executive, with an English first minister and finance minister, along with England-only departments for matters such as health, education and local government, made accountable to English MPs alone.

This does not preclude enhanced functions for counties and cities (rather than for artificial regions), but that would be a matter for the new English executive.

Bernard Jenkin, MP
Chairman, Public Administration Select Committee

Sir, You say in your leader that the best answer for the Union and its nations in the event of a “no” vote in Scotland is not clear. It seems to me to be obvious. If the Scots get devo-max, historically known as home rule, then England and Wales must have the same (Northern Ireland already has own its unique version). That means an English parliament.

This need not be a costly and cumbersome solution because, as has been pointed out by others, English MPs could divide their time between the English parliament and the UK parliament, and could share the Palace of Westminster. The only extra cost would be the setting up of an office for the English first minister to whom the devolved English departments would report. It could also be enacted by the coalition government before the next election, thus being up and running next June.

Any other solution — grand committees or stronger regions — are just fiddling at the edges and would eventually collapse under pressure, as the present arrangements have done.

Lord Horam
House of Lords

Sir, Equitably solving the conundrum which would be posed by the introduction of devo-max and the ramifications of the West Lothian question might prove difficult. Matters apparently of only English relevance could, nevertheless, have indirect implications for other regions. Issues might also come before parliament that were not within the purview of devo-max assemblies but which did not affect England. In that case, presumably only MPs from Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland would be able to debate and vote on them?

Without the benefit of relevant precedents to be drawn upon in Erskine May, the task of future Speakers and Clerks to the House does not seem enviable.

Gerry Jackson
Nether Poppleton, N Yorks

Sir, The alarming fall in the value of sterling (report, Sept 13) has been accompanied by many clear reports on the financial damage that a “yes” vote would bring to Scotland. Without seceding, however, the case for the devolution of Westminster’s power is strong.

The best example of devolution comes from the United States, where individual states can accept the policy decisions of central government while retaining a freedom of action that is the envy of countries in the European Union.

If the United Kingdom could follow America’s devolution policy, it would not only preserve a vital relationship with Scotland but would serve to remind the EU of its commitment to “subsidiarity”.

Professor Maurice Lessof
London N1

Sir, How can Will Hodgkinson omit Madonna’s Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed conical bra outfit from his “10 fashion statements that changed pop music”? (Times 2, Sept 16).
Nicholas Bostin
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbys

Sir, Your chief rugby correspondent decries the overuse of military metaphors in sport (Sept 16). In 1966, on the eve of the World Cup, your distinguished football writer, Geoffrey Green, asked that if the Germans defeated us in our national sport we should remember that we had twice defeated them in theirs. Times pass.

John Pittman

London SE9

Sir, Dr Shaw’s admonition against ties (Sept 13) may be justified in the case of schoolchildren — I hated them then myself. But when she adds “for adults too”, I take exception. A tie can show a quiet allegience to one’s clan, or to a sports team; I wear my Olympic tie with pride. On the correct date I wear the Tanzania independence tie, with its fine long blue giraffes. And, increasingly at my age, I wear the black tie of mourning.
craig sharp
Brunel University, West London

Sir, Just over 30 per cent of my GCSE candidates this year have appealed successfully against results issued last month and gone up a grade in at least one subject. The range of subjects affected is wide, including arts, sciences, mathematics and, as ever, English. It is increasingly clear that our experience is not isolated. We have devoted considerable staff time and expenditure to holding the exam boards to account, an annual ritual to which we have become accustomed, if not resigned. I fear, however, that wrong grades in state schools may have been allowed to stand because they are not equally well-staffed or resourced.
I have now been informed that a person appointed by one of the exam boards to oversee A-level exams in classical languages has studied neither Latin nor Greek to A level. This inspires zero confidence in a system that is already bereft of credibility. We have a new secretary of state for education who has stated that she wants to listen to teachers. She would do well to begin by asking them what they think of the utter shambles that is our public examinations system.

Richard Russell

Headmaster, Colfe’s School,
London SE12

Sir, China will welcome, as Leo Lewis confirms (Sept 16), an independent Scotland as it welcomes all new small nations — with the construction of a vast new embassy. From these the Chinese expand their military and political influence. What a chance for China and indeed the Russians to sit athwart Nato’s communications and bases and preside over the emasculation of the UK’s Trident nuclear defence system base in Scotland. One trusts the Scottish people will weigh the emotional attraction of separation from Westminster against the proven practices of the communist powers when new nationhood is available for their exploitation. There will be no way back.

Sir Kenneth Warren
Cranbrook, Kent

Sir, Ian Ward’s claim that the strengthening of Scottish independence was caused by the Tories and the poll tax does not in its own right stand up to electoral scrutiny (letters, Sept 11). The SNP only re-emerged on the parliamentary scene in 1987, winning just three seats from the Conservatives, and were still stuck at three seats in 1992, four years after the introduction of the community charge. If the impact of the poll tax was so strategic, the Conservatives would never have held all the nine Scottish seats they were defending in 1992 or go on to gain Aberdeen South from Labour and take back their by-election loss in Kincardine. It is worth comparing that result to 1987 when the Conservatives lost nine of their Scottish seats and a tenth at a by-election. Poll tax was not even mentioned.

Neil Pearce
London E16

Sir, Professor Martin West (letters, Sept 15) makes valid points on the origins of the geographical term Great Britain. However, his suggestion on the name of a successor state should Scotland secede is inelegant. Far simpler would be changing the “of” in the current title to “in”. The United Kingdom in Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be geographically correct as neither component would encompass the whole of Britain or Ulster but would compose the larger part of each territory. Moreover, the Union Flag should be retained in its current form as it represents our country being a mixture of peoples.

James Dawson
London N11

Sir, Ben Macintyre’s article on William Wallace (Sept 11) struck a chord. Much has been made during the referendum debate of Scottish history and culture, including several references to Braveheart. That is all very well, but during the past seven years the Scottish government has invested absolutely nothing in preserving the original medieval remains in Lanark relating to Wallace’s era. These are St Kentigern’s Church and Lanark Castle.

Ed Archer

Sir, Those of us who have been watching the Invictus Games and Last Night of The Proms must be asking what is it that Scotland does not like about being part of the UK. The unpleasant and sometimes suspect attitudes and actions from the independence movement’s so-called debate leaves me somewhat ashamed to call myself a Scot.

Andrew Irwin
Yeovil, Somerset

Sir, Is there a conspiracy to keep quiet those English who want to see Scotland leave the UK? Or could it be that I am the only Englishman who has that aspiration? The West Lothian question will return with a vengeance unless Scotland votes yes.

John M Bostock
Paddock, W Yorks

Sir, As an expat Scot, I shall be making my mark for Scotland and the Union on Referendum Day by riding my motorcycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats. Of course, with all the hazards and uncertainties along the road I may never reach my intended destination — rather like voting in a flawed referendum where the only choice is between two bum steers. And yes, I shall be taking my passport.

Pete Evans
Wisborough Green, W Sussex

Sir, I listened in amazement as one contributor on Sky News explained how she didn’t want Scotland to leave the Union because she was British and felt 40 per cent Scottish — and she didn’t want to lose that 40 per cent. Like a lot of other people she just doesn’t get it: we don’t want to be 40 per cent of something or 20 per cent of something or any percentage for that matter . . . we just want to be Scotland. Don’t worry, folks, you will get over it and when you do, we will be very good friends.

Douglas Martyn
Sandilands, Lanark

Sir, If, and I hope it is not the case, the referendum returns a “Yes” vote, we must not erect a “tartan curtain”. What will be required is for men and women of goodwill on both sides to negotiate the best deals and compromises. If that means using the pound or letting Trident remain, so be it. Both nations must maintain the bonds and friendship which currently exist.

John Crook
Brookwood, Surrey

Sir, How unfortunate it is that, so far, neither party seems prepared to look beyond the arithmetical result — “one vote is enough”, presumably, after a recount. When the result is announced, the time for statesmanship will begin. Let us hope that both parties will rise to the challenge.

Sir Anthony Evans
Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2

Sir, The Yes campaign is built on “civic” nationalism and there has been no talk of sacrifice, just a plethora of uncosted giveaways and some inane warbling about “Scottish values”. It is Yes voters who will be devastated in the aftermath of a Yes victory — No voters have few illusions, will transfer their assets south and follow them if the new statelet hits the wall.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife

Sir, Can the time-expired phrases “too close to call” and “go down to the wire” be despatched to a fiery grave after the current hostilities?

Robert Aspinall
Christchurch, Dorset


SIR – The simplest way to improve the air quality in London is to ban the use of private cars there completely, not by using government-backed bribes to change from diesel-powered cars as mooted by Boris Johnson.

As a frequent visitor to London, I find public transport options are fantastic and can get you to places far more quickly than driving can, without the complication of finding somewhere to park. Taking private cars off the roads would improve air quality more effectively than charges or bribes, by reducing congestion at a stroke.

Alan Brown
Medstead, Hampshire

SIR – Someone down south has decreed that diesel cars are bad, not sparing a thought for us rural dwellers who bought the most economical cars – diesel – in the quest to reduce running costs. Diesel fuel can be stored legally in a tank above ground, avoiding trips to rural fuel stations many miles away.

William Bradley
Middleton on the Wolds, East Yorkshire

SIR – Years ago, when a rash of new diesel vehicles were being launched, there were warnings in the newspapers about particulates. I decided I would not buy one. Those who ignored the warnings, in order to make savings promoted for diesel over petrol, benefited, so why should the rest of us have to subsidise diesel car owners now?

The best incentive to bring about change is to raise the duty on diesel.

Paul Beevers
Cliddesden, Hampshire

Flight path risks

SIR – Dr Michael Fopp correctly points out that flying over densely populated areas of London is very dangerous. London is the only major world city where the main aircraft flight paths pass directly over the city centre.

Has he communicated his concerns about aircraft safety over London to the Davies Commission, which is currently contemplating more runways at Heathrow?

Peter Bryson
Addingham, West Yorkshire

Challenge to Speaker

SIR – The fallacy that Speakers remain politically neutral and the main parties do not field candidates in their constituencies may be more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Speaker Weatherill, for example, consistently faced Labour challenges. Was it just Labour that broke the “convention”?

R A McWhirter
Zurich, Switzerland

Last post or reveille?

SIR – A notice on my local post box advises that the last collection will be 9am Monday to Friday and 7am on Saturday. One wonders when the first post will be.

Sheila Robertson
London W11

Under-age flutter

SIR – Yesterday, an item on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme was sanctimonious on the issue of children using betting shops to gamble while under age. Presumably, the youngsters get their tips from the same Today programme, which gives daily suggestions on which nags to back.

Bill Thompson
Birkenhead, Wirral

Is the Scottish referendum a case of not knowing how much we love something until it is gone?

Aeroplane trails leave a saltire on the blue skies of Scotland as it debates its future

Aeroplane trails leave a saltire on the blue skies of Scotland as it debates its future Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 16 Sep 2014


SIR – It is said that we don’t know how much we love something until there is a risk of losing it. I have mixed English-Scottish ancestry. My grandfather played for Rangers, was capped for England and was awarded the Military Cross for rescuing other British soldiers under fire in the First World War.

I have lived in England and Scotland, but I regard Scotland as home. For the past 18 years, working and bringing up a family in Edinburgh, I have found Scotland a great place to live. Looking at other countries, I feel fortunate that I could take for granted the freedom to live peacefully, go about my business and plan for my future.

Not everything in Scotland is perfect (nor is it anywhere else), but over the past 50 years there have been huge improvements in living standards and in social mobility.

Yet the values that have made all of this possible – tolerance of others and respect for the rule of law, combined with a willingness to question authority, peacefully – are essentially British values that allow all in these isles to be governed with a relatively light touch.

The proposition now being put to the electorate of Scotland represents, I believe, a threat to freedom and security. Despite continually calling itself positive, the Yes campaign has whipped up resentment of “Westminster”, which in turn manifests itself as bigotry towards anything English.

The greener-grass social aims of the Yes campaign are to be delivered by economic policies that any savvy householder will realise don’t add up. Yet questioning of such policies is shouted down.

Of more concern is that we are being asked to give an open mandate to politicians who, in government, have already centralised policing and brought police with guns on to our streets. The SNP administration has also passed a law determining that all children born in Scotland are to have a state-appointed guardian to ensure they are brought up “correctly”.

Finally, the unrealistic timetable for the uncoupling would produce 18 months of bitter rancour between people who have lived together relatively harmoniously for all of my lifetime.

I plead with my fellow voters not to take for granted the many, many benefits of being part of the United Kingdom.

Sally Grossart

SIR – Scotland is a wealthy country. We have one quarter of all the renewable energy potential of Europe and we still have oil reserves. We have had enough of those in Westminster: they bailed out the banks that they didn’t regulate properly in the first place; they went to war with Iraq against the will of the United Nations; and they were found with their hands in the till in the expenses scandal. That’s why I’m voting Yes on Thursday.

Sarah Barts

SIR – It would be a mistake if some voters opting for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom did so on a tide of Scottish patriotism coupled with anti-English sentiment. One can be a Scottish patriot as well as being British, and emotions should not rule the mind on such an important matter.

Should the Yes vote prevail, the stark realities would dawn once the initial euphoria had died down. It seems to me that the Yes camp has tended to ignore the many warnings of adverse economic consequences that could arise.

John Brenton
Storrington, West Sussex

SIR – If a referendum were held in Ireland on September 18, and the question was “Should Ireland stay independent or go back to being part of the United Kingdom?” I wonder what percentage of the people would vote to return to the UK. I imagine it would be exceedingly small.

Scottish voters should focus on the long term. Issues such as currency and pensions will be sorted out, just as in Ireland, and will become irrelevant in the future.

Harold Beirne
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – My great-grandfather was Angus McDougal, a sea captain. His daughter, my grandmother, married Jack Jones, son of a sailmaker who was later the landlord of the Gun Inn on the Isle of Dogs in London.

I am deeply proud of my Scottish-Welsh heritage. The thought that either nation should want to detach itself from England is upsetting. An emotional view, I know, but valid for the many people like me.

Will I be a foreigner in Scotland if the Yes voters win?

Dinah Parry
Ottery St Mary, Devon

SIR – Our poor Queen – who, if she were not so level-headed, would surely be close to despair at the range of idiocy on display – has to appear neutral.

Scotland is a much-loved part of the Union for which she has worked tirelessly all her life. Anyone who needs to ask how she feels really has his head in the sand. (It’s crowded down there at the moment.)

Those who have counselled her to appear neutral have done her, and the whole of the United Kingdom, a disservice. Perhaps she should “stay out of politics” – but this is about far more than just politics.

The Queen’s opinion and advice are much needed, especially when so many of her subjects have been denied a vote.

Antony Thomas
Esher, Surrey

SIR – As things stand, if Scotland votes for independence, it will still elect MPs to the Westminster Parliament next May.

On taking their seats, they will be asked to take the following oath: “I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successor, according to law. So help me God.” Will they do so, knowing they will represent a foreign country in less than 12 months?

Edward Rayner
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – The Scots, should we reject independence, are not being offered “devo max”, which can broadly be described as full fiscal autonomy, with all revenue generated in Scotland under the control of its government.

What is being proposed is a far cry from this: some tweaking of income tax rates but no control over, for example, corporation tax or the precious oil and gas revenues. Nor is there any guarantee we would see these powers. Christopher Chope has stated that there are enough of his fellow back-bench Conservative MPs who are against more powers going to Scotland to vote down such a move. Proposals would also have to go through the Lords.

Alex Orr

SIR – The House of Lords plays a major part in legislation, yet I have not heard it mentioned during the run-up to the referendum.

How does one define a Scottish peer?

Diana Spencer
Wigton, Cumberland

SIR – Usdaw, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers – of whose executive council I am a member – is at one with several major retail companies in supporting a continuation of the United Kingdom, with Scotland as an integral part.

Retailing consists of a complex network of outlets, distribution chains and manufacturing venues. Thus a fully functioning UK single market is a prerequisite in expanding this sector.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – Whatever else, the referendum is not about sacking Nick Robinson from the BBC. Thank heavens for a free press, which can tell us what Alex Salmond does not want us to know.

Rob Dixon
North Berwick, East Lothian

SIR – If there is a Yes vote, which nation pays the generous severance packages of the 59 Scottish MPs who lose their jobs by March 24 2016?

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Should Scotland turn its back on the rest of the UK this week, will the Royal Yacht Britannia be returned to its rightful place alongside HMS Belfast?

Phil Williams
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Whatever the outcome, English will still be Scotland’s official language. I would wager that most Scots will be relieved to hear this – even the anti-English ones.

Cllr Simon Fawthrop
Petts Wood, Kent

SIR – Ae fond X and then we sever.

Geoff Milburn
Glossop, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – Daphne Guthrie (September 16th) wonders if the UK will become the SK, or “Split Kingdom”, in the event of a Yes vote. Perhaps “Former United Kingdom” would provide us with an acronym that would more faithfully reflect the resulting mood in Westminster. – Is mise,





Sir, – The latest panic-stricken initiative by the Better Together campaign is genuinely mystifying. What they appear to be saying to Scotland is, if you don’t vote for independence, we’ll give you rather a lot of independence! – Yours, etc,





A chara, – The entire referendum debate has clearly proven how the UK, US and EU establishments are afraid of an enquiring population thinking critically about its future and how its country is run. The mainstream UK media’s nefarious campaign of fear and misinformation has backfired spectacularly, shifting many No voters and undecideds to a Yes vote. – Is mise,


Kessock Road,



A chara, – An interesting feature of the Scottish referendum is that it allows people of 16 and 17 to vote for the first time. On a hugely significant issue affecting their future, these young people are being asked their views. It will be interesting to see, following such an intense debate, the impact this will have on their future levels of political participation. I believe that it will be positive and will encourage young people to vote more often in later life, as well as become more engaged in civic activity.

Austria has allowed 16-year-old citizens to vote since 2007 and the early evidence suggests that this has led to higher levels of voter turnout among young people. An increasing number of countries allow 16-year-olds to vote at least in local elections. This could have been done by the Government for the council elections here this year simply by legislative change.

If a referendum takes place on this issue next year, as indicated, we should reflect on the Scottish experience and look at other ways of encouraging active youth participation in society as part of that debate. – Is mise,



Wexford County Council,

Gorey, Co Wexford.

Sir, – Patricia Stewart (September 16th) writes that “Scotland is currently ruled by a Conservative Westminster government, having elected only a single Conservative MP out of a possible 59”.

The current UK government is actually a coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which together have 12 of Scotland’s 59 MPs and achieved 35 per cent of the vote in Scotland at the 2010 general election. So it is quite inaccurate to suggest that the current UK government has no mandate in Scotland.

But even prior to 2010, Scotland has wielded incredible influence over the “Westminster government” which they now portray as some kind of foreign colonising power.

David Cameron’s immediate predecessor as prime minster, Gordon Brown, was Scottish, and his predecessor Tony Blair was born and raised in Scotland. In fact, nine of the last 25 British prime ministers going back to William Gladstone have either been Scottish or represented Scotland in the House of Commons.

So despite having an average of about 10 per cent of the population of the UK for the last 150 years, Scotland has provided over a third of its prime ministers. And perhaps the ultimate irony is that David Cameron himself, with his obvious Scottish surname, is also of direct Scottish descent, as his great-great-grandfather was born in Inverness and migrated south in 1860.

Scotland and Scottish voters have punched well above their weight in the government of the United Kingdom since it was established, and will continue to do so into the future if this ill-advised attempt at independence is rejected. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – I wonder what the odds are against Scotland winning next year’s Eurovision Song Contest? Lulu may be available! – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – I’m appalled at the amount of anti-English sentiment circulating since the campaign for Scottish independence began. Seemingly it’s slipped some minds that a significant number of Scottish men and women emigrated in their droves to England for hundreds of years in search of a better life. Perhaps Scottish nationalists would quit exploiting this old chestnut to win a Yes vote. – Yours, etc,


Cypress Springs,

Mill Lane,

Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Speed, bonnie Scotland, with the wind in your sails. I have high hopes that you will say Yes. Dare for the best. – Yours, etc,


Sitric Road,

Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – It’s not the fiscal consequences or political implications of an independent Scotland that concern me, but the real possibility that us Sassenachs will be deprived of the Scottish football results and with it the unlikelihood of us ever hearing the score East Fife 5 Forfar 4. – Yours, etc,


Lonsdale Road,



Sir, – The message from Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband to the people of Scotland – vote against independence and we will give you more independence. – Yours, etc,


Bóthar an Chillín,

An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe.

Sir, – At last some new – or perhaps not so new – thinking in relation to the dire housing crisis (“Prefabs may be used to ease housing crisis”, September 15th.

After the second World War in 1945, the UK needed an immediate means of replacing the vast number of houses destroyed by six years of wartime bombing. It was recognised that the traditional “bricks and mortar” method of building would be far too slow to provide the answer and factories which had been used to manufacture aircraft and munitions were rapidly converted to assemble “prefabs”.

They were transported in sections by road and assembled on pre-constructed bases to form new estates in and around every major city in Britain. They were robust, low-maintenance and comfortable homes produced rapidly for thousands of families and even now, some 70 years on, there are some of them still in use. In Ireland we have come to associate the word “prefab” with temporary school classrooms, which are greatly inferior to the prefab dwellings produced in postwar Britain and certainly inferior to units which could be manufactured today.

With the advances in technology, materials and assembly processes, it must be possible to produce modern, pre-fabricated homes to form attractive long-term estates in Ireland.

Traditional house-building could continue simultaneously employing the skilled workforce available. However, the factory-built house production would be a quick and effective means of producing much-needed accommodation, unimpeded by weather and providing additional employment.

Perhaps the starting point for factory-produced homes would be a design competition to harness the abundant talent in Ireland’s educational establishments? – Yours, etc,


Temple Manor,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – We should have great sympathy for the failures of John Michael McDonagh (“Director of The Guard says Irish films are not ‘intelligent’”, September 15th). He fails to convince the public, the arts “industry” and even the more objective tax authorities that his Calvary is anything but an Irish film.

It was filmed and set in rural Ireland, featuring a cast including Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, Pat Shortt, David McSavage and with a plot based on clerical sexual abuse, suppressed adolescent rage, drunkenness, domestic violence and fanaticism.

Whatever about the ordinary filmgoer, Mr McDonogh’s arguments evidently also eluded the aesthetes of the Irish Film and Television Academy who insisted on awarding Calvary the 2014 best Irish film accolade. The revered authorities of the Irish Film Board gave his film almost a million euro in funding. Clearly they failed to recognise that his work was too technically accomplished and too intelligent to qualify as Irish. Presumably the artistic devastation of this insult prevents him returning either award or money.

He also seems to have failed to persuade the Revenue Commissioners that his film should not be granted section 481 tax relief certification for, as the Act specifies, the “contribution which the film will make to the development of the film industry in Ireland, and the promotion and expression of Irish culture”. There is hope yet for, as the Revenue’s documentation adds helpfully, the relief can be withdrawn “if it subsequently transpires that these conditions cannot be satisfied”. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Dublin 13.

A chara, – I would never consider the film The Guard to be an intelligent film – which is precisely why I enjoyed it. The old phrase “notions as high as the goats of Kerry” springs to mind when reading Mr McDonagh’s comments about Irish films. – Is mise,


Windmill Park,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – Charles Townshend reviewing Gemma Clark’s Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War (“Campaign of fire”, September 6th) writes that: “Between 1911 and 1925 [County] Tipperary lost 46 per cent of its Protestant population . . . it seems likely that the great majority left after 1921”. He concludes: “fertility and migration patterns can hardly account for such an exodus. If this was not, as some historians have suggested, ‘ethnic cleansing’ . . . it was a process far from the normal”.

Prof Townshend’s observations balance on a hunch and a few statistics.

In a recent article in Irish Historical Studies (“Protestant Depopulation and the Irish Revolution”, November 2013), Prof David Fitzpatrick arrived at different conclusions. Prof Fitzpatrick charted the steady depopulation of southern Irish Protestants between 1911 and 1926 in which, he argues, revolutionary violence in 1920-3 played no exaggerated role. “The . . . Protestant malaise in the nascent Irish Free State”, Prof Fitzpatrick says, “was not excess migration but failure to enroll new members, presumably as a consequence of already low fertility and nuptiality, exacerbated by losses through mixed marriages and [religious] conversions”. Prof Fitzpatrick’s reinterpretation rests on a sophisticated analysis of census and other data.

However, common to both interpretations is the laboured suggestion that southern Irish Protestants might have experienced, despite the lack of evidence, ethnic cleansing. For Prof Townshend, this is because some historians have “suggested” as much. In 1996, the late Prof Peter Hart used the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the experience of southern Protestants, whereupon it was seized on by polemicists. Prof Hart was the only serious historian ever to apply the term to the 1920s, but he reversed his position in 2005. Then he conceded that the conditions for ethnic cleansing had not existed in southern Ireland. Prof Hart’s unequivocal rejection of his earlier findings is often overlooked.

In her new study of the Civil War, Gemma Clark also categorically rejects “ethnic cleansing” terminology.

In his article Prof Fitzpatrick writes: “If any campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ was attempted, its demographic impact was fairly minor”.

But “if” ethnic cleansing was attempted, how, logically, could it go undetected and still be worthy of the name? For reasons unexplained, an invented event for which there was never any credible evidence remains a reference point for diametrically opposed interpretations of Protestant demographic decline.

“The spectre of Protestant extermination has distracted debate about revolutionary Ireland for too long and should be laid to rest”, says Prof Fitzpatrick. I could not agree more.

Prof Fitzpatrick’s conclusion that the “inexorable decline of southern Protestantism was mainly self-inflicted” is very far distant from continued suggestions that ethnic cleansing, or something of its kind, might have happened. – Yours, etc,


School of Humanities,

University of Dundee,


Sir, – In your editorial of September 15th, the question is raised concerning whether Islamic State “poses a direct and serious threat to western countries”. This terrorist organisation poses a lethal threat to the people of the Middle East, as evidenced by its murderous assaults against various communities in Iraq and Syria. Nations outside the region should not wait until the threat arrives within their own borders.

Members of Islamic State have publicly issued warnings that it is prepared to carry its campaign of terror to the United States.

When Islamic State issues threats to create a vast region under its control, these remarks are neither accidental nor inconsequential.

The environment of external threats to any nation’s security is no longer defined exclusively by massed armies of millions, or by intercontinental missiles with megaton nuclear warheads. A force of several thousand, or a cadre of just 19 men, can inflict staggering destruction in this age of asymmetrical warfare. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Street,

Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Sir, – Margaretta D’Arcy (September 15th) is outraged that a US military aircraft used Shannon airport at the same time that she was arriving at the airport on a commercial flight. She says she repeatedly demanded answers from an air hostess on her flight.

She knows, of course, that Shannon airport facilities are used by the US military because of an agreement between the governments of Ireland and the United States. Instead of interrogating an air hostess, perhaps in future she could simply address such concerns to our political representatives. – Yours, etc,



Rosscarbery, Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to “Should I be worried about knotweed?” ( August 28th), in Co Clare, where I live, Japanese knotweed is rapidly establishing itself in local woods, roadsides, hedgerows and on the shores of Lough Derg.

In the UK, where I come from, there is legislation in place to control it. Educational courses are also being run for homeowners, builders, forestry workers, etc, to help them recognise what this invasive plant looks like – so they know what to do about it.

Two forestry workers in Clare that I spoke to had never heard of it and had no idea what it looked like or how it spread, which is worrying because they were not far from where it was growing.

Wake up officials in Clare! Get proactive or face the prospect of spending millions of euro the longer you put it off. – Yours, etc,



Ogonnelloe, Co Clare.

Sir, – At last we’re catching up with the rest of the developed world and getting a national postcode system. This is a good thing. Why, though, do we have to insist on giving everything a “uniquely Irish” name? Why can’t we simply call it a postcode, not an Eircode?

I can foresee endless confusion when fields on official forms are labelled Eircode, and when foreigners are asked for their Eircode, etc.

Everyone knows what a postcode is, but no one knows what an Eircode is. Other countries are secure enough in themselves not to have to call it the “Britcode” or the “Deutschecode”. Why can’t we simply call it a postcode or a postal code, like a sensible country would? – Yours, etc,




Co Louth.

Sir, – I notice that this morning’s Irish Times chess puzzle is number 13,000.

At a rate of six per week this represents over 41 years of daily puzzles.

Congratulations and thank you to your chess correspondent JJ Walsh for providing this daily mental stimulation to chess fans for so many years.

I remember that JJ (Jim) Walsh presented a weekly chess column in The Irish Times during the 1950s and 1960s. His endeavours must be some kind of record.

Well done and keep it up.


Lucan, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Published 17/09/2014 | 02:30

So the clouds of war are being mustered by politicians again. The Islamic State is an evil that must be “destroyed” according to some politicians, and we have been fed scenes from that part of the world that would make one think so. Nothing new there.

It is a sad fact of history that all wars are politically motivated. They are the result of one rhetoric sizing up another, with the men of each side thrown on the bonfire of the vanities of politicians and the businesses that benefit from making machines of war. They are also an excellent method of what we farmers call “a cull” of the young men of these nations.

These are cold hard facts of history and not some conspiracy theory. Politicians do not die in wars on the battlefields – gone are the days when the political leaders had to lead their men out to face the opposing army. The recently-discovered bones of Richard III in England are those of one of the last warrior kings to die in battle when two large groups of men faced each other in open war.

We can look to Michael Collins as an example from this island of a politician soldier dying. He was killed by one who he went to liberate from British rule.

Modern war is now a very ugly beast. It has become urban. It has become as much about genocide and refugees as it has about principle. It uses weapons that can create such havoc and injury that one could be forgiven for wondering if the lucky victims of war are those who die in it, rather than those who witness and survive it. It allows men with military training to wipe out enemies many miles away without ever having met one of their enemies or having to stare into the dead eyes of their victims.

And, as if Isil are not enough of a problem, our “wonderful” European Union seems a little zealous in its attitude to getting embroiled in Ukraine.

Perhaps we shouldn’t care. America and its allies have been at Russia’s throat for years and vice versa. Perhaps we shouldn’t care that the Middle East has now enough blood spilt on its sands that another oil boom is guaranteed when that blood soaks down through the sand and decomposes into oil.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co Galway

Scottish referendum

Regardless which way the vote goes in Scotland, the governments in the UK and across the EU and the EU itself should now realise that proper and balanced regional development across all regions is important and necessary. We should return to European Economic Community for all, rather than a centralised federal system ran by all politicians for banks.

John Healy, Liverpool, England

Dominic Shelmerdine (Letters, September 15) has a very strange view of the United Kingdom. The Scottish parliament already has powers to change the lives of its people and has chosen not to. The fact that there is oil in Scotland is the only reason the SNP want this separation. If there were no oil they would not be considering it at all. To say Britain is ruled by a bunch of old Etonians is laughable. Was he born after the ten years of Labour in government?

The houses of Parliament are full of Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish and English. They have all had an input into the policies of the UK, including invading Iraq, which was under Tony Blair. Gordon Brown was Scottish and was not very canny to sell the gold reserves of the UK cheaply.

For myself, I will be very sad if Scotland leaves the UK. Although I am English and live in the Irish Republic I view all of the people of the UK as my fellow countrymen and women. As a body we are the arms and legs; if an arm or leg is amputated the body can carry on, but it will never be as good as a whole body.

Jayne Donnelly, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford


Time to harvest Sam

Our lovely town of Glenties can also be heaven on a sunny Sunday evening, especially with a nice pint of Guinness at around 6pm on the Main Street outside Phelan’s lovely pub. That’s the way it felt last Sunday after watching all the wonderful floats and bands at the yearly Harvest Fair Festival.

Sitting with me were a group of lovely ladies with diamonds in their eyes and gold dust in their hair. And if you don’t believe me come and meet me there at next year’s festival.

Congratulations to the festival committee, it’s a real credit to you all for giving such enjoyment to us all. Thank you so much.

Please God, we will be in heaven again this Sunday when our Jim and the lads bring Sam home again to the hills!

Brian McDevitt, Glenties, Co Donegal


The Trident firing line ?

The thought has occurred recently: exactly where are the UK’s 250 Trident nuclear missiles pointed? At Lagos? At Johannesburg? At Mumbai? At Dublin?

As the UK and its wartime ally, the United States, seek to put Iran on trial for developing nuclear technology, those of us in their potential nuclear firing line are eager for answers.

Cadhla Ni Frithile, Clonard, Co Wexford


Education and gender

Last week’s publication of this year’s Junior Cert results again draws attention (Irish Independent, September 12) to how well girls do relative to boys in this exam (and, of course, the same is true in respect of the Leaving Cert).

While various explanations are offered in respect of this phenomenon, one point that is rarely mentioned is the feminization of the teaching profession in recent decades (something which appears to have coincided with the development of the present academic achievement gap between boys and girls), which is illustrated by the fact that 68pc of secondary teachers and 86pc of primary teachers are now female, with the overall percentage of teachers who are female being 74pc, which is up from 63pc in 1961.

While, ideally, the gender of a teacher shouldn’t matter provided they have been employed on the basis of merit and doesn’t favour pupils of one gender over the other, some UK research suggests that boys’ academic performance has suffered due to the shortage of male teachers there (which is similar to here).

It also suggests the existence of a preference among this mainly female teaching force for teaching girls (though this is a general point, of course, and is by no means necessarily true of all teachers, whatever their gender). In relation to the above, the following statement can be found on a UK website ( “Sexism has died out in schools, with teachers recognizing, and preferring to teach girls than boys.” Now, if the last part of this statement is true, that’s obviously not good news for boys.

While that research relates to the UK, could it be, given the similar female/male imbalance in the teaching profession here, that the findings of this research are relevant to this country as well?

Hugh Gibney, Athboy, Co Meath


Top Marx for Mary Lou

Mary Lou McDonald obviously never heard of Karl Marx‘s riposte when he was accused of betraying the proletariat while travelling first class in London.

“But when my socialist revolution comes, everybody will be travelling first class!”

With his usual impeccable timing, Michael O’Leary is now introducing business class for Mary Lou’s proletarian revolutionaries.

Travellers of the world unite, – you have only your (socialist) baggage to lose!

Brendan Dunleavy, Killeshandra, Co Cavan

Irish Independent

Naked Girls Reading

You Can't Spell "Literature" without "T&A"


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