I AGREE with the headline and much of the analysis in Mark Smith’s article, “Tories’ Union Jack blitz will not achieve much in Scotland” (August 9).
But the article suggests that those flying flags in Scotland do so largely because of “naked patriotism”, which he says many find “a bit unsophisticated and embarrassing”.
This fails to allow for the broad range of reasons why people choose to fly flags in domestic settings.
Scotland is seen as increasingly close in outlook to our Scandinavian neighbours, and I love seeing how many homes in Norway fly the Norwegian flag: it’s a celebration – not an expression that one identity is more important than others.
I have a (removable) flagpole at home which I use occasionally, but I fly flags of various designs for a range of reasons. I fly the Saltire on the occasions recommended by the Scottish Government (mainly to mark royal birthdays, et cetera) but I fly the Union Jack on Remembrance Sunday, bearing in mind that those who have died in armed conflicts did so as forces of the UK.
I also fly the flags of the other UK nations on their national days (so, the Red Dragon on March 1, and the Cross of St George on April 23).
I also fly the new county flag of East Lothian on the anniversary of its formation, and flags of some other countries on their national days.
Until the UK left the European Union, I flew the Europe flag on May 9, Europe Day.
Flags are a means of celebrating identity at so many levels, a means of marking special occasions, and a means of showing positive relationships with other nations. And, by lowering a flag to half-mast, they are also a profound means of showing respect when someone prominent has died.
Dr Gareth Morgan, Dunbar.
THE FLAGPOLE AS WIND INDICATOR
I NORMALLY enjoy Mark Smith’s weekly column but having just read his latest article I feel that I must disagree with some of his comments, in particular about people who have flagpoles in their garden.
I erected a flagpole in my garden about 11 years ago and alternately fly both the Union Flag and the Saltire. I am proud to be both British and Scottish and don’t believe that flying a particular flag should highlight your political leaning.
I don’t think that I should be referred to as a “flaggy-type person” and as far as I am aware it has not led to any type of problem with my neighbours.
They often make complimentary remarks about my flag-flying and I will usually fly it at half- mast on the death of a friend, relative or neighbour. On the latter, I have often been given some kind words of appreciation by the fact that the bereavement has been recognised by not only me, but by my neighbours.
One of my closest neighbours also really appreciates my flag-flying and often tells me that each morning she looks out to see whether the flag is flying or is limp. This enables her to dress and plan appropriately for the day ahead and until then I didn’t realise that I also provided a wind forecast for my street.
I’m glad that I don’t live next door to Mark as he thinks “how unpleasant, how pointless, and what a terrible waste of money” it would be for me to have a flagpole. Maybe he needs to get out and about more and enjoy “non-political” flag-flying!
John Cuthbertson, Leuchars, St Andrews.
THE CONFIDENCE TO GO INDEPENDENT
ANYONE who has read Alexander McKay’s letters over the years will know that no-one seeking self-determination for Scotland could ever provide him with sufficient details to answer questions he continues to raise about the future path of an independent Scotland – even after many have already been substantially answered.
None of us have a “crystal ball”, but in his latest denigration (“SNP must give us detailed answers”, August 8) of those who have concluded that self-determination is the best route forward to achieve an egalitarian and prosperous future for our children, he poses questions that none of the 65 countries that achieved independence from the UK had to comprehensively answer ahead of self-determination.
Yet none of them are clamouring to return to Westminster rule.
The Nordic countries, with relatively small populations compared to the UK, also appear not only to be content with their independent status but are thriving, too. The same goes for countries with relatively meagre natural resources and which formerly comprised the Soviet Union.
The single question for Mr McKay to consider is why he lacks the confidence in himself and his fellow citizens to believe that Scotland could not join the 65, and the many other self-governing states around the globe, and build a successful country of which we can all be proud.
Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian.
THE RISK OF ANY OIL AND GAS BAN
IF Nicola Sturgeon sells out to the Greens to save her minority SNP Government and bans any new oil/gas developments, then it will become the final nail in the independence coffin. The Scottish oil workers and their families will see their future ended by such a sell-out by the SNP to the Greens and will never forgive the Nationalists for such a treacherous political move.
Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.
INEQUALITY: THE FULLER PICTURE
THE Office for National Statistics reported in January that in the UK, income inequality rose to new high since 2020. Yet, Peter Russell (letters, August 9) is able to condemn the Scottish Government for failing to act on inequality.
The Gini Coefficient in the four UK nations shows that since 2000 inequality of income, before housing costs, has not changed at all, though is lower in Scotland than England or Northern Ireland and compared to the UK as a whole.
Over the 20 years inequality in Scotland has never varied by more than +/- one per cent. Just what can we expect when the main policy areas to address inequality are welfare and tax.
A particular influence recently has been Westminster’s decision to freeze most working-age welfare benefits between 2015 and 2020. The welfare powers devolved to the Scottish Government mainly extend to disability payments, though they do have powers to create new welfare payments.
They do, though, have to find the resources to pay for these themselves, which they have done to mitigate the Bedroom Tax and make Scottish Child Payments. However, such payments will not be reflected in their main source of resources – the block grant.
Mr Russell forgets that 70% of taxation decisions are entirely taken at Westminster, and thus Scottish taxation powers are reliant mainly on a tax – income tax – that is known to be particularly unpopular with voters. How can an argument be sustained that a Government with control of only 30% of the tax base can be said to have “massive powers”, as Mr Russell claims?
Perhaps he is on stronger ground when he asks, do we hold Scotland’s Government responsible when its duties include health, housing and education? Well yes, we do and so we should.
However, we should also remember the constraint that they operate under, as the Block Grant from Westminster is determined in relation to spending on these (and the other devolved areas) in England (or England and Wales in some cases).
The Scottish Government, for sure, can decide to spend more on one area, but very often this means spending less on another.
An independent Scotland could determine their own level of spending in relation to Scotland’s needs and specify rates of tax in all areas to raise the necessary funding to effectively address, which historically, seems unachievable in the UK.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.
FM’S DAY JOB IS TO RUN SCOTLAND
WHAT a load of codswallop from GR Weir (letters, August 9 ) to suggest that there comes a time (now, he means) when what he believes is Nicola Sturgeon’s day job must come first, which in his view is “to give people their say”, by which he means Indyref2.
As we are reminded daily, her day job (and, I assume, her night job, also) is to serve as First Minister of Scotland, for which she is paid handsomely.
What must come first in that role is that she directs her energies to dealing with the many real problems (some of them self-inflicted) that her Government faces, rather than first focusing instead on pursuing the SNP obsession with independence, which Mr Weir advocates it is time for her to do.
Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.
JOHNSON AND THE PIT CLOSURES
I REFLECTED after reading Kevin McKenna’s excellent analysis on the destruction of mining communities by Margaret Thatcher (“Lies that defined Thatcher’s war on the miners live on”, August 7).
Boris Johnson’s mocking of our mining communities illustrates a callousness of breathtaking depths. Surely he has demonstrated a dearth of empathy for ordinary people.
Roddy MacDonald, Doonfoot, Ayr.