Letters: It is Scotland’s votes that keep the Union on an even keel

THE Scottish Government’s latest paper on independence, Renewing Democracy through Independence (“Sturgeon ‘willing to talk to new PM’ over referendum proposals”, The Herald, July 15, and Letters, July 16), appears to found upon an alleged deficit of democracy in Scotland because the government elected to Westminster does not always reflect the same party as the majority of the MPs elected in Scotland. The same might be said, of course, about many other parts of the United Kingdom and that is the nature of democracy rather than a deficit of democracy in a union of nations whose democratic standards are respected and envied the world over. I would certainly not trust the SNP or any political party for that matter to “renew” that democracy.

After three centuries of that successful political union, neither Scotland nor England is a separate political entity and it is of no practical benefit but of academic interest only to measure their respective and varying influences on Westminster decisions.

On the other hand, if we do choose to go down that road we find that in 1966, for example, a UK-wide Labour majority of four seats supported by a Scottish majority of more than 20 seats indicates that while the rest of the UK had voted for a Conservative government, the Scottish vote prompted a Labour victory once again as a consequence of the democratic union rather than any democratic deficit in England.

On at least one occasion, in 1955, when Scotland voted for a Conservative government it was a Conservative government that was elected but the more usual pattern has been for the election of Labour governments to reflect the majority vote in Scotland. Indeed better psephologists than myself have suggested that Labour cannot win a General Election in the UK without winning in Scotland.

The real democratic deficit in Scotland today is seen in the Scottish Government’s dissipation of resources in the promotion of a separatist programme of which it is well aware that the majority of their electors have voted against.

These are, however, very superficial considerations and the true reflection of Scottish participation in Westminster democracy lies not only in the numerical outcomes of past voting but also, for example, in the presence and potential of the Scottish vote to determine the identity of the UK Government. Without that presence there may well be currently a greater risk of unwelcome right-wing or some other domination at Westminster which would undoubtedly be deleterious to Scottish interests as well as to the interests of the Union as a whole even if Scotland had left the Union. The best protection of Scottish interests appears to be to remain within the Union and to keep Scottish hands as close as possible to its levers of power.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.


IF it is clear that it will not be long before Ireland is one united republic, as suggested by Ken Mackay (Letters, July 15), then it would surely be sensible for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom at the same time as Northern Ireland leaves.

I am quite convinced that the European Referendum vote in 2016 by the people of England and Wales to leave the European Union was the catalyst which will bring about the end of the United Kingdom as a political entity. If both Scotland and Northern Ireland leave together then both the Act of Union 1706 and the Act of Union 1800 can be repealed at the same time.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh.


CHILD poverty in the north-east of England has overtaken London as the worst in the UK; London, where high housing and transport costs and low pay for many has traditionally produced child poverty. More than half the children in Tower Hamlets live below the poverty line. Overall, London has 35 per cent of children living in poverty, but that has now been overtaken by NE England at 38%.

What about Scotland? Twenty-one per cent of children live below the poverty line, an appalling statistic, but it should be compared with the English average of 29%, and Wales at 34%, figures taken from the End Child Poverty Coalition. The Scottish Child Payment makes a difference. So too did the uplift in Universal Credit during the pandemic, which makes its withdrawal even more shaming.

As unelected would-be prime ministers battle it out with promises of tax cuts, a pledge to clothe, house and feed the most vulnerable would be like water in a desert. The UK is a country where the average household is nearly £9,000 worse off each year than in Germany or France. It is in a permanent spiral of levelling down.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh.


GORDON Fisher’s letter (July 14) about our millionaire leaders knowing nothing of the realities of ordinary life was spot on.

The really sad thing is the vast majority of the population accept this is the way it is, has always been, and always will be.

When the UK Prime Minister is forced to step down because of sleaze and scandal it is accepted that 200,000 or so Conservative Party members will elect the next leader. Not the 68 million people who make up the country, including 5.5m Scots who have even less choice in the matter.

Call this a democracy? Westminster is a club, a reunion for old public schoolmates, and a retirement home for those who have never really known what a hard day’s work is all about.

I’m talking mainly about the Conservative Party here, but not exclusively.

There are some MPs I have no doubt, who are in politics for the right reasons, but serious questions must be asked of those who stood by Boris Johnson, and now think they are the ones to take the country forward.

They stab him in the back, then pat him on that same back. Are Tory supporters dumb enough to think any of these millionaire or billionaire candidates can offer change for the better?

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.


ALEX Gallagher (Letter, July 12) writes that the 1707 Act of Union was “formed by the willing agreement of all parties … and its legal status has never been challenged”. The reality was that in 1706 Scotland had been forced into a corner by England desperate to secure the Protestant succession of Sophie of Hanover, granddaughter of James VI. English troops had been sent to the border; the Royal Navy was at sea and the destructive Aliens’ Act, which would have severely damaged the Scottish economy, was due to come into force at the end of December. The Scottish Parliament reluctantly agreed to appoint a team of negotiators to agree terms for the proposed Act of Union. Tellingly, all of the 31 Scottish commissioners, hand-picked by the London-appointed Lord High Chancellor, the Earl of Seafield, were supporters of the proposed Union.

The agreed terms were received with shock by Scotland. The representation in the new United Kingdom parliament were extremely disadvantageous to Scotland. Only 45 MPs were to join the 513 English MPs (Cornwall had 44 MPs) and just 16 peers were to join the 190 English peers in the House of Lords. Scotland was to lose its weights, measures and coinage and take on a share of the colossal English National Debt of £14m. What really rankled the Scots was the choice of the new flag. The Union flag of Cromwell’s Commonwealth had shown the crosses of St Andrew and St George quartered. The new Union Jack had the cross of St George on top of the St Andrew’s Cross.

We must remember that the Scottish Parliament was not chosen democratically. Most of the 200 or so members chose themselves. Popular opinion was expressed by demonstrations or by petitions. A total of 96 petitions were submitted from all over Scotland – not one of them supported the proposed Act of Union.

There was much comment at the time of the 2014 Referendum as to what Sir Walter Scott’s view might have been. It is quite clear that Scott supported the Union but deplored the terms that had been agreed. He bitterly recorded that “the interests of Scotland were considerably neglected…and in consequence, the nation …considered it a total surrender of their independence by their false and corrupted statesmen into the hand of their proud and powerful rival.”

And yes, Burns was right about being “bought and sold for English gold”. The Earl of Glasgow was given £200,000 to win support for the Union while honours and awards were generously distributed. The senior Scottish nobleman the Duke of Hamilton was given an English Dukedom, the Order of the Bath and the Order of the Thistle and appointed the British Ambassador to Paris. Finally, an attempt to repeal the Act of Union at Westminster in 1713 was defeated by only four votes.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

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