Sir, – As in previous years, the release of the Gers figures (General Expenditure & Revenues Scotland) are met with very superficial and muted analysis across news networks, portrayed as some sort of quaint annual Scottish tradition in which the participants give their expected response, and everything is forgotten about the following day.
Gers are important.
They are economic statistics compiled by Scottish Government statisticians, but free of political input.
They are the best estimate of Scotland’s economic position that we have.
Those who don’t like them are free to put together a better methodology, but they never do.
The current SNP Scottish Government have had since 2014 to put together a better methodology, but they have not been able to either.
We have to assume therefore that Gers are the best set of figures that we can get.
Gers are important because members of the public always ask politicians for “facts”.
The vast majority of people in Scotland will consider whether a given course of action will make them and their families better or worse off when deciding on the issue of the day.
Gers is very clear on this.No-one can demonstrate otherwise.
When politicians say that things will be different if only we had a different constitution, they have got to be made to say how that would happen, and what they say should be tested using the Gers methodology, by the same independent statisticians.
Those who dismiss Gers so easily are letting us all down.
Maintaining the intrigue and uncertainty of our current debates seems to be so much more important to many who should know better.
Staring into the financial abyss
Sir, – Once again we have the annual balance sheet for Scotland, as produced by the Scottish Government, and once again we are staring into a financial black hole for an independent Scotland.
Without the financial transfers from the UK Treasury we would be faced with eye watering cuts to public expenditure and increases in taxation.
When oil was booming much of the tax take was spent elsewhere in the UK but now it is virtually zero it is only fair the rest of the UK helps us out.
This would be lost in an independent Scotland and we would be very much poorer for it.
Who would bail us out this time?
Sir, – I congratulate Bruce Mireylees on his excellent letter (Independence is not a game, Courier, August 24) .
He does not however mention the people who have no political representation.
These are a growing number of people who may be encouraged to vote for independence, but under no circumstances would vote for the SNP.
So, who should they turn too? He mentions the economy, and given the Gers figures, I wonder if any of the SNP government can actually read a balance sheet, never mind formulate a long term economic strategy for Scotland.
Mr Mireylees goes on to say “There is no turning back”. I seem to recall about 300 years ago Scotland was in dire financial straits.
On that occasion England bailed us out.
It is by no means impossible for history to repeat itself, but who would bail us out this time around?
Aye, Mr Mireylees, you are right, there are so many questions we need honest answers to before even contemplating independence.
Freedom to think and speak
Sir, – I am offended by the letter published from Ian Stewart of Atheist Scotland regarding the Scottish Government’s proposed Hate Crime Bill.
Were the Bill to come into force, it should be possible to prosecute him under its current terms.
However, I am a Christian who subscribes to the original meaning of tolerance and believe that people should have freedom to think and speak, even if that may be offensive to some, without worrying about subsequent criminal/legal proceedings.
I’m sorry if Ian Stewart feels his belief system is not robust enough to cope in a progressive, social democratic Scotland.
Dr Lorna Muir.
Defence plan is amateurish
Sir, – What parallel universe do the government and the Ministry of Defence live in?
The president of our Nato ally Turkey meets with wanted terrorists.
The navies of our allies Greece, France and Italy conduct exercises aimed at, yes, Turkey.
Belarus on the borders of our ally Poland is in ferment and may yet get a visit from Russian special forces.
Look further afield and the situation is far worse.
Meanwhile America, the foundation of all western defences, is in turmoil, and it could get a lot worse with a disputed result in November’s presidential election.
And yet the government continues to underfund defence, whilst squandering 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
This leads to a question mark over the future of our tank fleet, and the contract for three fleet support vessels for our carriers being delayed by five years.
The world today is far too dangerous for the current amateurish approach to defence.
Masking a poor safety record
Sir, – There is much talk on whether people should wear masks in various situations.
Inevitably most people wear cheap masks.
The fact that my glasses steam up and when I seal a cheap medical mask around my mouth I almost can’t breathe, suggest my breaths are taking the path of least resistance and going round the edges of the mask unfiltered.
There are several research papers on the effectiveness of mask wearing, and perhaps the most interesting one is from 2015 which claims to be the only study on cloth masks to that date.
Lead authored by C Raina MacIntyre, it could not have had any preconceived notions on Covid-19.
The study says “filtration was extremely poor (almost 0%) for the cloth masks” and “poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection”. Danger is the illusion of safety.
Not in a musical dreamland
Sir, – I visited Last Night of the Proms.
Unfortunately I saw a conservative show with songs like Rule Britannia, recreating Victorian dreams.
The August BBC MUSIC magazine stated, “The BBC Proms has no excuse not to reform its Last Night traditions.”
The guest conductor and many others agreed.
An article stating why Boris Johnson wishes to retain the old songs annoyed me.
Music means little to him, but popularity does.
He is trying to regain popular support because of his tragic handling of the Covid-19 medical situation.
It has also meant a heavy economic recession and an educational fiasco, and is also an attempt to perpetuate the Victorian dreamland of his Brexiteers.