ROBERT McNeil’s excellent and revealing article on Keir Hardie must have made uncomfortable reading for Labour Party members, or at least those who are left (“The Labour Party founder who gave his heart and soul to the workers”, August 1).
My grandmother’s family were all committed socialists; I don’t suppose many people have two gravestones, but my great-aunt Christina Moody’s grave is marked not only by the family headstone, but by a stone erected to her by the Labour Party in recognition of her work for the poor and needy in Glasgow’s east end. A member of the 1915 Rent Strike Committee, she was a leader in the agitation for municipal housing, was well known at Glasgow Sheriff Court where she helped and advised unemployed tenants who were in rent arrears, and in the early 1930s she won a by-election to represent Calton on Glasgow Town Council, shortly before her sudden death. She was a close friend of the great James Maxton, but I have never been able to definitely establish as to whether she knew Keir Hardie.
What I do know for sure, is that my red-hot socialist aunt and her equally fiery sisters would have been horrified to see the Labour Party strip itself of almost every principle it ever possessed. Mr McNeil reminds us that Keir Hardie wanted the abolition of the House of Lords; step forward, along with a great many others, ermine-clad Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. And Sir Keir Starmer? The crowning insult of them all. Keir Hardie, and my auntie, must be birling in their graves.
Ruth Marr, Stirling.
SNP MUST GIVE US DETAILED ANSWERS
WHEN the SNP can clear up satisfactorily all the questions, with detailed, specific, chapter-and-verse answers, as to what currency will be used in its broken-off Scotland; when it can tell us what will be done about the certain-to-be enormous deficit; or about our border with England and about the safety of our pensions, then maybe the downward spiral on which the SNP is now seemingly trapped will ease. It must not only give specific answers but be prepared to be questioned in detail in follow-ups by informed and non-partisan journalists. When all these perfectly reasonable and fair qualifications have been passed, maybe it can be listened to again. Answer well and it will not have only its guaranteed blind mass-following, it will be joined by other Scots with the ability to think past flags and centuries-old battles.
In the meantime, as long as it ducks and dodges or provides only fantasy, back-of-a-fag packet answers, and avoids detailed questioning, it will continue to flounder and remain stalled.
Not that I am over-concerned about that possibility.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.
ADDICTS’ LIVES MATTER LESS HERE
BREAKING one ignoble record is unfortunate. Breaking two in succession smacks of carelessness. But there is only one explanation for breaking seven on the trot: denial. Just minutes after Scotland’s numbers of drug deaths were released, the contribution to a radio phone-in on the subject from a former member of constabulary served to highlight that fact.
The rot set in during the 1970s, he ventured, with Richard Nixon declaring his “War On Drugs”. As a serving officer who dealt with this sort of crime, he was required to enforce unenforceable laws, and to win an unwinnable war. He had already apologised to all previous callers for his part in that charade and now, with the benefit of much more experience and heightened insight, he felt qualified to solve the country’s persistent shame: decriminalisation was the answer.
Whilst not new, the proposal was certainly credible, and already much discussed. That said, today of all days, the suggestion is irrelevant. And the Nixon thesis was completely bogus.
England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – the rest of Europe, indeed – had all signed up to the War On Drugs too. Where their campaigns had failed, that of Scotland stood alone as a rout – not once, but for seven years consecutively. Why?
Relative to the other countries previously cited, addicts’ lives matter considerably less in Scotland.
A very unsavoury conclusion to arrive at, yet the only one available to us. The only “challenging” thing about our numbers (to use the Scottish Government’s expression) is why they have been allowed to prevail for so long.
Archie Beaton, Inverness.
GDP GROWTH DOES NOT REDUCE POVERTY
UNFORTUNATELY Iain Macwhirter’s superficial take on geo-engineering (“Only geo-engineering can get us to net zero – not just renewables”, August 1) merely perpetuates a number of myths.
The comment that Green policy to constrain GDP growth will take us back to the Stone Age is contrarian disinformation. Greens are not Luddites. The Limits to Growth (TLG), almost a manual for environmentalists since its first publication in 1972, as well as Herman Daly and other environmental economists, makes it crystal clear that the necessary switch is from GDP consumer growth to sustainable development – the latter being focused on technological and social solutions.
Dennis Meadows (TLG author) calculates that Earth’s resources are sufficient for all eight billion of us to live at the standards enjoyed by southern European nations – so hardly Neolithic. I’m sure many Scots would settle for the footballing as well as living standards of these countries.
GDP growth perpetuates, not reduces, poverty. Income differentials are widening worldwide. Structurally, most wealth flows to the top 10 per cent. That much-vaunted rising tide means the poor have to bale harder to stay afloat.
As it stands, the wealthiest 20% control 80%-plus of gross output and consume more than 60% of global energy production. An average Norwegian consumes 150 times as much energy annually as a citizen of Niger.
Although global production has multiplied by 14 in the last 75 years, almost four billion people worldwide live on $2 a day, and 80% of the world’s population survive on under $10 a day. Still, it’s jam tomorrow.
GDP growth is disconnected from employment creation. It does not create jobs for all, nor does macroeconomic policy intend such since the death of the Keynesian consensus. Between 2005 and 2012 India’s GDP grew by 54%, but employment by only 3%.
Nor are jobs created sufficient to lift people out of poverty. Forty per cent of those on Universal Credit are in work, and 15% of people using UK food banks are employed.
Infinite growth on a finite planet is unachievable. Lowering aggregate resource consumption so man may live within the planet’s environmental capacity requires global reductions in inequality. However, genuine levelling up is a difficult task when most current trends and political reality is to concentrate wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands.
I wouldn’t hold my breath and hope that the largesse of a handful of billionaires will get us out of the current mess, even indirectly. Suggesting we might rely on such unlikely and futile throws of the dice is trite.
Simple answers to complex problems are illusory. Yes, the technofix of industrial-scale carbon sequestration will assist in tackling a crucial symptom, but it does not address wider causes.
Though still undeveloped and unproven technologically at the scale required, it will have an essential contribution to make but that is mostly because the crisis has been allowed to develop with inadequate responses to date. There is justified concern that it will hinder essential system change as corporate capitalism fixes on the hope sequestration will permit business as usual, plus carbon storage. Carbon sequestration really is no silver bullet.
Tony Philpin, Isle of Gigha.
KEEPING LEARNING THE LESSONS OF LATIN
IT is that time of the year again when the hardy perennial of the topic of a possible resurgence of Latin in our schools hits the headlines. What benefits would the study of Latin do for our grasp of the English language?
That question is very reminiscent of the Monty Python line in the Life of Brian, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”.
Let us clear the decks first with the impact of Latin on place names, such as Saragossa, Cologne, Provence, London and all the English cities which contain “-chester” or “-cester “ in their designations.
Just think of all the botanical and medical terms which come from Latin.The names of our planets and our calendar, including that word, all derive from that single source.
Now we can deal directly with our own language.
We have numerous Latin expressions which could so easily fall into disuse through the loss of Latin in our schools. Those include, to give but a few examples, ad infinitum, experientia docet, e.g., i.e. and et cetera.
Then there are the words which have come directly into our usage and are now seen as English words, which, among so many others, include video, audio, onus, arena, camera, via, omnibus and tandem.
Then there are so many words whose root comes from a single Latin word but which, without any understanding of the basic root, mean that the person who has not had any direct involvement with Latin will see them as separate and disparate words without any linguistic connection.
Let us take one such root, “-duc-”, as an example, which brings us adduce, deduce, induce, produce, reduce, introduce, traduce and conducive.
The rigour in the learning of Latin gives the learner a firmer grasp of grammar, though pedantic purists of the subject still want to insist on not splitting an infinitive because in Latin that is not possible.
I hope that what I have outlined will give the doubters about the value of learning Latin some food for thought and remind them that no area of knowledge is without utility.
I should end by paying tribute, although I will not to go into any detail on that subject, to the impact Greek has also had on our vocabulary.
Vivat lingua Latina.
Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.