IT was inevitable that nationalists would seize on the LSE report on EU membership and the Velvet Divorce of the former Czechoslovakia (Letters, April 2), despite their earlier rubbishing of other opinions coming out of that academic institution. However, they choose at the same time to ignore the very real and pertinent differences between Scotland and Slovakia.
The industrial strength of Slovakia is founded upon a number of advantages that Scotland does not possess, including low wages, low tax rates, and a favourable geographic location in the heart of Central Europe. Of these, we know that driving down wages is part of Andrew Wilson’s SNP growth strategy, and that reduced public expenditure would be required to apply to join the EU as a new member state, but we are not there yet. Moreover, even the most ardent nationalist will admit that Scotland is a geographically peripheral territory.
Furthermore, the economy of Slovakia is heavily dependent on the automotive industry, which is all but absent in Scotland. Indeed, the VW takeover of Skoda plants also serves as an example of one of the functions of small member states in the EU – to provide privatisation opportunities and profits for the major companies of the large member states. Other such functions include providing cheap migrant labour and outsourcing economic weakness to keep the value of the euro low and with it to keep German and French products competitive in growth markets like China.
To sum up, the story of Slovakia is typical of the role of small member states in the EU: to provide cheap labour, to have low-level taxation, indifferent public services and agree to the privatisation of state assets, while providing a captive market for companies such as Siemens. When you add in the costs of net contributions (without the UK rebate) and VAT on all of the products exempted in the UK during our membership, two things become clear.
First, Scotland is not Slovakia (in case nationalists have not noticed.) And secondly, life as a small EU member state will not be at all like was as a large member state. Many aspects of it will be much worse.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow.
SPAIN WOULD VETO SCOTLAND
MARIANNA Clyde (Letters, April 2) ignores a crucial point about Scotland trying to join the EU; namely that Spain would veto its application. There is no way the kingdom of Spain would encourage Catalonian separatism by furthering the aims of a separatist Scotland.
But why would we rejoin the failing EU anyway? The success of the vaccination roll-out in the UK contrasted with the dismal performance of the EU is reason enough to have nothing to do with this sclerotic organisation. Vaccination saves lives.
The UK Government invested £21m boosting Astra Zeneca’s Halix factory in Leiden, Netherlands, in April 2020 and signed contracts with the company to supply the UK. Now the EU wants to break those contracts, and force the British-Swedish company to supply the EU instead. It has even talked about seizing the factory, breaking international law, even though the EU hasn’t contributed a single euro to the plant.
William Loneskie, Lauder.
CO-OPERATION ON THE VACCINES
THERE is much media noise about the current EU vaccination programme roll-out difficulties and unfavourable comparison against the apparent success of the UK programme. However, it is worth noting that the EU is one the largest vaccine manufacturing hubs on the planet (producing 106 million doses of Pfizer/BionTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna since December 2020) and exporting the bulk of these (72 per cent or 77 million doses) to countries mainly in the developing world, also including 10 million to the UK (under its contract with AstraZeneca), and even one million to the US.
To date the EU has only blocked one export order, of 0.25 million doses to Australia. Similar vaccine production and export data for the UK is not publicly available, and it is highly likely that UK exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine (the only one currently manufactured in the UK for use) are zero, or close to zero. Critics of the EU would do well to remember that UK “success” in its vaccination programme is in part due to EU willingness to export vaccines from its territory while its own population remained under-protected and UK unwillingness to do the same. “No-one is protected until everyone is protected.”
Mr D Jamieson, Edinburgh.
LIFE HERE HAS GOT WORSE
SCOTLAND is often linked with New Zealand, Finland, and Sweden as examples of successful small countries. The big difference is that the leaders and political parties in these countries actually care about their citizens, and make policies to improve life for everyone. New Zealand is raising the minimum wage for all, and hiking taxes for the rich.
SNP history is littered with failed promises: reform council tax – it didn’t. Land reform – it didn’t. Close attainment gap – it didn’t. Reduce class sizes – it didn’t.
Education is starved of resources, so children are now getting a very poor educational experience, in larger classes, with basics like art, music, PE and drama cut to the bone. The SNP answer – give every child a laptop. Every child getting enough food would be a better aim. In the last 10 years food bank use has risen by 400%.
Many older or disabled or vulnerable Scots are not getting essential care in their homes, and too often any care that is provided is very poor indeed.
The trouble is that the SNP is not interested in creating a better Scotland for everyone. It is only interested in an independent Scotland. So, from youngest to oldest, things have got worse.
Anne Wimberley, Edinburgh.
* COULD Scotland survive a yes vote after Indyref 2? Yes, of course. Would the country be better off? Who knows? The one thing that common sense does tell us is, after Covid-19 and the idiocy of Brexit, there would be years of anger, bitterness and chaos. Does any sensible person want that ?
Kenneth T MacDonald, Kilmarnock.
CONUNDRUM FOR SARWAR
I AGREE with Alison Rowat that Anas Sarwar did well in the leaders’ debate (“It is no joke: Scottish Labour leader looks like a winner”, The Herald, April 1). However, I believe that his Achilles heel will be education.
How as a socialist can he justify having his children at a fee-paying school and thereafter make any meaningful comment on state education?
Roy Gardiner, Kilmarnock.
QUESTIONS ON SCHOOL TESTS
AFTER a year of constant disruption, teachers were advised to gather information on coursework, that is, evidence of “efforts during the course of the year”; pupils and parents were of that understanding.
John Swinney has backtracked, again. Schools are now instructed to conduct “chunks of assessment” or perhaps an “exam-type situation” while pupils are attending “normal” classes (“Schools have been warned to ‘tread carefully’ over exam stress”, The Herald, April 2). No study leave. Senior staff, no doubt following instructions from Mr Swinney/the Scottish Qualifications Authority/School Leavers Scotland, inform us tests are “designed so schools could make arrangements according to their circumstances”.
If schools are given leeway as to how tests should be run, there will be inconsistencies based on the well-recognised disparities between social groups which have become more apparent due to the conditions Covid sets and exacerbated by SNP education policy. Ergo no national standard and attainment gaps the breadth of the Grand Canyon. While teachers gather up past papers, some questions:
1. Have all schools covered the same topics/coursework?
2. Have all pupils completed coursework set by their school?
3. Will the test papers include questions on all topics within the curriculum?
4. Has the SQA given schools/teachers permission to direct their pupils to answer only questions on topics covered this year, given that those topics are included in the test papers?
5. Any data garnered from these conditions is worthless, so what’s the point?
Maureen McGarry-O’Hanlon, Balloch.
HOW LONG WILL GIVE-AWAYS LAST?
YOU report a warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (“SNP warned over use of temporary Covid funding to pay for long-term policies”, The Herald, March 31). Will the give-aways linger following independence and loss of payments under Barnett? A rhetorical question; we all know the answer.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes must be aware of funds sourced from Westminster being used in a bid to subvert Westminster. She is both able and ambitious, but it appears that ambition exceeds ability; which is a shared feature of SNP ministers.
William Durward, Bearsden.
LANGUAGE PROBLEM SOLVED
DAVID Leask’s worries about Alba, nation or party (“When Salmond said ‘Al-ba’, he took part of a culture and used it for personal gain”, The Herald, April 2) are easily resolved. The party should be registered as “All-Blah”.
Norman McCandlish, Aberfeldy.