SIR – Nicola Sturgeon will do anything and throw anybody under the bus in her destructive focus on independence (“Sturgeon’s Indyref2 strategy in disarray”, report, November 24).
The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC was unambiguous when it was disclosed that she “did not have the necessary degree of confidence” that a referendum vote could be held in October 2023. But this opinion from a highly regarded and experienced legal officer was not good enough for the former lawyer Ms Sturgeon.
That the Supreme Court judgment came in a matter of weeks and not “some months”, as previously advised by Lord Reed, shows what an utter waste of taxpayers’ money and the Court’s time this charade really was.
While our health and education services are close to collapse, our islanders can’t travel and our nation is as divided as ever, the drive for independence wreaks further damage on our economy, services and people.
SIR – It is a bit rich of Nicola Sturgeon and some of her senior ministers to complain that democracy has been ignored in the Supreme Court ruling against a second referendum.
When she instigated the original independence referendum, 16-year-olds in Scotland were included as legal voters, and expatriate Scots were not consulted. As 16-year-olds are not eligible to vote in general elections, and many expatriate Scots were excluded, I would question her interpretation of “democracy”.
SIR – Nicola Sturgeon says the verdict of the Supreme Court exposes the “myth” that the Union is a voluntary partnership.
The referendum of 2014 gave those in Scotland the opportunity to decide whether they wished to remain in this partnership or not, and they voted decisively to remain.
SIR – At the Edinburgh Festival this year I attended Iain Dale’s interview with Nicola Sturgeon. It felt like an SNP rally: the audience – large and partisan – clearly adored her, and the anti-English feeling was palpable.
Mr Dale read out my question: “Does Ms Sturgeon dislike all British prime ministers on principle, or just Boris?” She replied: “All of them, because they’re undemocratic”, which was received rapturously. The anti-English, anti-Westminster tirade that followed also went down a storm.
This week’s decision by the Supreme Court will energise and infuriate Ms Sturgeon and her fan base even further. Will she and they bow out gracefully? Not a chance.
SIR – In denying defeats in both a referendum and in court, is Nicola Sturgeon now the Donald Trump of British politics?
Hunt’s energy drive
SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, urging people to cut energy use by 15 per cent (report, November 24) shows how out of touch he is. Everyone I know is using at least 50 per cent less energy as it is too expensive to turn on the heating. Mr Hunt should concentrate on getting more gas from the North Sea and Africa to replace Russian gas until we have reliable zero-emissions technologies.
SIR – Mr Hunt says we need to cut our energy use by 15 per cent. By how much will temperatures be reduced in government buildings, especially in empty offices, and when will floodlighting and non-essential street lighting be reduced?
SIR – It is encouraging to see that Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has reached the same conclusion as the Samaritans – that making the internet a safer place is “the issue of our age” (Features, November 20). However, the focus must be making online content safer for everyone, as dangerous content doesn’t stop being a problem the moment we turn 18.
We urgently need protections for people of all ages from suicide and self-harm material, and Dame Rachel is absolutely correct when she says politicians and tech companies need to step up. The Online Safety Bill has been four long years in the making – we can’t afford to wait longer.
Chief Executive, Samaritans
SIR – Letters on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (November 24) take me back to the 1960s, when my school class punishment was to learn Part I of this poem. I can still recite some of it.
SIR – Recent letters on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner reminded me of the old game that involves changing the second line of a famous piece of literature. In this case: “By thy long grey beard and glittering eye/Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?” becomes: “I can’t stop now, here’s sixpence/Go and get a cup of tea.”
Virginia Water, Surrey
SIR – The CBI is calling for easier access to migrant workers (report, November 22) but has for years, as a body, failed to initiate broad training and skills within the British workforce, preferring to rely on cheap EU resources.
It is now complaining about the very thing it has been complicit in bringing about.
Labour recognised the problem, but too late. Where are the benefits of Sir Tony Blair’s “education, education, education” policy, which should have produced a raft of talent in the labour market?
SIR – As a naturalised British citizen who first knew Sir Keir Starmer as shadow immigration minister seven years ago, I’m both unsurprised and delighted by his CBI speech (report, November 22)and the direction in which he has taken the Labour Party.
Sir Keir has a sound grasp of the complex issues, and it shows. The question is not about more or less, but about how the UK can attract much-needed talent while also developing and nurturing skills at home. The two can work together to build a more prosperous future under a reformed, fit-for-purpose, points-based system.
This is not about moving Left or Right, it is about moving forward.
Professor Thom Brooks
Chair in Law and Government
Durham Law School
DVLA’s dirty secret
SIR – The number of fines issued to motorists rose from 1.8 million between April and June last year to a record 2.7 million in the same period this year, after a government crackdown to keep “cowboy private parking firms in check” was withdrawn (report, November 24).
The most shameful aspect of this story is the connivance of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which makes an estimated £20 million a year selling motorists’ details to parking firms. Requests to the DVLA for driver details are supposed to show “reasonable cause” for wanting this information; however, most private parking firms bypass this test and have online access to the DVLA database. This has been called the DVLA’s “dirty little secret”. I am forced to agree.
Dr Ian Mason
West Byfleet, Surrey
A sporting lord
SIR – In his support of Sir Keir Starmer’s suggestion to abolish the House of Lords, David Johnstone (Letters, November 24) says that he doesn’t want, among others, “retired sportsmen” to have any say in the government of the country. But I am delighted to have Lord Botham as an outspoken supporter of the countryside and rural matters.
SIR – Due to temporary house-moves in 1970, my six-year-old daughter had to miss a few weeks of schooling. Trying to fill the gap, I told her we would go over the times tables (“There’s nothing Victorian about times tables”, Comment, November 24). Referring to her previous school, she replied “they don’t do that any more”. I said that we did in our family, so we started from scratch.
After her first day at a new school she told me they were on 11-times tables, so I was relieved I had taken her up to the 10-times. She was also pleased to be up to standard.
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
The perfect time to pause for a cup of coffee
SIR – Camilla Borradaile asks: what time is “coffee time” (Letters, November 23)?
The day after my wife retired, six years after me, she started to make coffee at 10.30 am. However, I informed her that I had adopted 10.40 am as my coffee time.
We now have our coffee at 10.50 am.
West Wickham, Kent
SIR – Coffee time is a religion in our household – observed when King Ken Bruce announces that it’s time to put the kettle on ready for PopMaster.
SIR – Coffee time is certainly not at 10 am, as that is bait time.
Much Marcle, Herefordshire
SIR – Here on the Gloucestershire steppe the rules are clear. It is G&T time at five bells of the clock, or dusk, whichever comes soonest.
Home working is no way to keep the NHS afloat
SIR – Having got home after a 12-hour day in my hospital, I read with disappointment the proposal by Amanda Pritchard, head of NHS England, for menopausal NHS staff to work from home (Commentary, November 23).
The suggestion that middle-aged women such as myself can have “lighter duties” just does not tally with the nature of our work. Does Ms Pritchard mean that patients, staff and equipment will be delivered to my house? NHS leaders should try actually talking and listening to women on the shop floor as what we need from them is proper support, not ideas that would be impossible to implement.
Dr Kate Stannard FRCA
Co-founder, Women In Medicine International Network
High Hurstwood, East Sussex
SIR – Your report, “GPs will be named and shamed over failure to see patients face-to-face” (November 24), states that “poor access to family doctors is fuelling a growing A&E crisis”.
General practices dealt with 28,251,282 appointments in September 2022, two million more than pre-pandemic in September 2019. In September 2019, there were 2,143,093 A&E attendances, but this fell to two million in September 2022.
General practice is dealing with more patients now than we did pre-pandemic, A&E fewer. It is hard to see how this is causing an A&E crisis. What will fuel the crisis in general practice, however, is unfair criticism of staff, many of whom (myself included) are looking to leave primary care.
Dr N W Bunting MRCGP
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