Over the last week the West Highland Free Press has been inundated with letters and comment on the forthcoming independence referendum.
Unfortunately we can’t publish them all in the paper, but below are some we have made available online only.
While I share John Boocock’s enthusiasm for the Cosla report “Effective Democracy: Reconnecting with Communities”, I feel rather more optimistic about the morning of 19 September. (Letters, 5th September).
We cannot and should not expect clear direction from either ‘warring’ side; they will be waking up in a changed Scotland just like with the rest of us.
Surely, therefore, in that brave new world we must continue the debate in which we are all currently engaged and begin to build a new democracy from our communities outwards. We must not allow ourselves to slip into the old world where decisions are made for us in rooms far away, where our particular needs and wants are either (being generous) not understood or (being less generous) disregarded.
Regardless of the outcome, we will not get this chance again. There is a consensus that our system of democracy as it stands is broken; we have a chance to use the momentum of the referendum to rebuild it and that is too precious an opportunity to leave to politicians…it is an opportunity that each and everyone of us should grasp.
So, on 19 September I will be celebrating not just my father’s 88th birthday, but the birth day of a new Scotland in which we can be active participants, not passive recipients. And yes, the big questions will be hanging over us, but they will be hanging there for all of us to answer.
Moira Scobbie, 28 Geary Waternish Isle of Skye
Amidst the furore about the pound neither side has commented on its future value.
Whatever the Scottish currency is, if there is a Yes vote on September 18th, the most important issue is what it will be worth. I believe it could be as low as 80 per cent of its current value for years to come until Salmond’s dream of Utopia becomes a reality.
Anyone who thinks that the Scottish pound will retain parity with sterling is already in Salmond Utopia.
The WHFP has been discussing excessive delivery charges recently. What is the point when the majority of the mail order firms are based in England? If the Yes vote wins, Scotland will be a foreign country and liable to international shipping charges.
When the pound was worth 240 pennies we paid 6p to exchange our Scottish notes in England. People should think about the pound in their pocket when they go into the polling station to vote.
Alastair Nicolson, 16 Royal Ness Court Inverness
For a newspaper that was unafraid of courting controversy in its youth, the WHFP appear to have failed to do any meaningful objective research/investigation into/on the significance and implications of Scottish independence for the Highlands and Islands, let alone to comment on the alternatives that might be open to us.
The Highlands and Islands have historically been subjected to third party rule, a practice that continues up to the present. We have yet to benefit from the development of a proper infrastructure — as evidenced by the lack of a motorway to Inverness and Aberdeen; the antediluvian railways that make it faster to drive; an educational system that has reversed the achievement of our area once having had the highest number of professionals per capita in the British Isles; a hospital and health care system that is being restructured to take care away from the communities in total disregard of the fact that we have only some 400,000 people spread over 60 per cent of Scotland’s land mass; the lack of investment in local communities and the failure to accept, build upon and nurture those things that set them apart.
For example, the local fisherman are made to play second fiddle to the interests of the outside trawlermen (in whose interests was the 3 mile limit abandoned — and why the need to set up special marine parks when all one has to do is to re-impose that ban?).
These are but a few of the issues that mark the Highlands and Islands out from the rest of Scotland. Overall it is a picture of repression and neglect by Edinburgh and yet people seem to think that upon “independence” a magic wand will be waived and centuries of innate prejudice and discrimination will suddenly cease to exist and be practised.
At least under Westminster there exists a body that is capable of controlling the self-interest and self-aggrandisement of Holyrood. Without it where are the checks and balances and who is there to say nay to its demands? Where has the WHFP been at this crucial point in our history? Why has it been so silent, so lacking in debate and stimulus? At less than 10 per cent of the population, is not the Highlands and Islands in danger of selling its birth right and consigning itself to the role of some bit player on Holyrood’s stage? Now that the genie is out of the box, does its future lie in replacing Westminster with the Lowlands or should it be grasping this opportunity to redress past failings and assert its right to a meaningful level of self-government? Perhaps for the first time in a long time the Highlands and Islands have a chance to repossess their birth right and assume the responsibilities that come with it.
Anthony Walford, Scalpay, Isle of Skye
“The Scottish people are quite capable of looking after their own affairs”. These are the words of the First Minister, Alex Salmond and repeated on many occasions by himself and his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon.
I agree. Who would wish to disagree? In the same vein, one could state that the people of the United Kingdom are quite capable of ‘looking after their own affairs’. Therein lies a dilemma for those who intend to vote in the forthcoming referendum.
The UK itself is no longer an independent country. Now that we have signed away most of our sovereignty, we are subservient to our masters in Brussels in most things. Eighty percent of our laws are created by unelected, unaccountable, incompetent foreign bureaucrats. The farcical European Court of Human Rights rules with an iron rod and we must obey its every decision, most of which are without sense.
What does this have to do with the Independence Debate? Alex Salmond is committed to membership of the EU. Indeed, it could be said, the First Minister is truly, madly, deeply in love with all things associated with the EU. What kind of independence would Scotland have if, after Mr Salmond has his way, it must defer to its unelected, foreign masters in Brussels? One year onwards, those who voted ‘yes’ may well feel betrayed at the realisation that they are not in charge of their own affairs as was preached by the First Minister. The EU, as an institution, is generally accepted as one of the most corrupt and undemocratic in the world. Who says so? The EU’s own auditors every year when they discover that millions of Euros have mysteriously ‘vanished’ and no-one can be held to account.
It will be no different this year or in any following year. This laughably-incompetent and excessively-expensive institution receives a handsome cheque each year from the British taxpayer to the tune of approximately £12 billion (for unelected bureaucrats to squander as they see fit). Based on population figures, one might expect Scotland to stump up £1 billion per annum (plus a level of control over certain assets in Scotland). Just think of what we could spend this money on in a truly independent Scotland.
Part of me wishes independence. I am independently-minded by nature. However, I cannot vote yes to continued dictatorship by unelected, unaccountable, incompetent bureaucrats in Brussels.
Donnie M MacDonald, 25 Aignish Point Stornoway Isle of Lewis.
Whatever the result of the referendum we know: The further from Westminster, or Edinburgh we are, the worse we are governed.
It is not irrevocable. All that is needed are two identical, simultaneous Acts in our Parliaments.
We can rely on our politicians to behave as badly as they can. Westminster’s constitution must change. For me, I was born in Edinburgh of Scots and Irish parents and came to live in Bristol in a United Kingdom. I have been betrayed,
Paddy Bannerman, Redcliff Cottage, Clift Place, Bristol (sometime Allt Slapin, Torrin, Isle of Skye)
David Cameron’s heartfelt plea for the Union leaves out one thing: any heart at all for Scotland as an entity with any real existence or significant character or interests of its own.
He talks of Scotland “remaining part of the Union” as if that was its whole definition and it had never been anything else. Scotland was not established “as part of” anything. Cameron wants us to forget the 900 years in which Scotland developed in its own way, fighting off a succession of English Hitlers to preserve its existence, before the 300 which have seen every attempt to bring them victory by ‘peaceful’ means.
Cameron’s redefinition of Scotland is a kind of genocide. We must be in the most abusive and falsest “family” in history. In Scandinavia, a real family of nations, the family members are all independent. From day one of the “Union” we were supposed to forget our culture, history, dignity, even our name, and say goodbye to our people, natural resources, potential and future.
Our young men, always reluctant to fight for “Britain” as real history shows, were murdered under the guise of patriotic war, carrying out Wolfe’s genocidal stratagem. Scotland is still a culturally, and with it politically, occupied country.
It can’t function as Scot-LAND any more than France could be any more than a name under the Nazi occupation. We have morally and historically alien English Toryism forced on us, and we can’t implement our alternative. Labour keeps that going. Elastoplasts and maintained poverty — keep us voting for them. That is control and an outrage to 21st century democracy.
Ian McQueen, 44 Cargenbridge Avenue, Dumfries