Letters: why Norway can never be a comparator for Scotland
The Norwegian experience of extracting oil and setting up a reserve fund of around $1.15 trillion must be of interest to Scotland, as several of your correspondents have pointed out, but cannot provide no lesson or cause for sorrow for a missed opportunity. The respective national circumstances are not comparable.
Norway’s achievement was only made possible in a world order to which Norway contributed very little and whose maintenance was borne disproportionately by Britain and the United States. This world order provided Norway with the functioning sea routes, international transport infrastructure, a global financial order, reliable trade treaties and effective import/export rules and military superiority over international malevolent forces. These factors enabled the exploitation of Norwegian oil and the accumulation of the oil reserve fund.
Norway, on the other hand, pursues a long-standing policy of military neutrality and the exclusion of nuclear weapons and NATO infrastructure from its soil. If all the nations of the free world had followed similar policies, there would probably be no free world and no room for a capitalist economy such as Norway to thrive or even survive. This is now more than ever the case as Norway now derives more of its income from returns on investment in oil funds than from profits from its oil industry and is therefore more dependent than ever on a free capitalist world order.
This is not to blame the good fortune of Norway which, after all, has to deal with a border with the Russian Federation and has, in any case, contributed generously to the promotion of international, peaceful objectives and not military. It is however not a legitimate comparator for Scotland.
Michael Sheridan, Strachur, Argyll.
WHEN 50+1 WOULD BE FAIR
THE most significant point in the replies to my letter of February 3 by R Murray and Peter Russell (Letters, February 4) concerns the question of whether a future referendum on Scottish independence should be settled by 50% + 1 of the vote .
Of course, as R Murray points out, general elections are held every five years, but the fact is that of the 13 referendums held by several Prime Ministers, not just David Cameron, 50% + 1 has been the criterion for success, with one notable exception. The Cunningham Amendment to the Scottish Act 1978 required 40% of the Scottish electorate to vote in favor of a Scottish assembly, along with 50%+1 of those voting. Therefore, of all referendums, UK-wide or in a single UK country (e.g. Scotland) or part of a UK country (e.g. 1998 in Greater London), the only exception to this rule is Scotland, which the Unionist camp is now seeking to extend to another referendum on independence. Therefore, while 50%+1 has become a tradition through ‘custom and practice’, in Scotland it is simply not good enough.
Mr Russell is even more transparent as it is clear that his problem with 50%+1 is when he disagrees with a proposition, such as Brexit. In fact, we agree on the folly of leaving the EU, but is it really democratic to call for greater obstacles for a proposal you disagree with? Or is it a symptom of the realization that you are losing a debate?
In this regard, his assertion that I see “no need for the nationalists to give us a detailed prospectus” is both false and quite revealing. My oft-expressed view is that both propositions – independence and Union – need to be critically tested. Mr. Russell, however, considers that the Union case requires none.
However, that aside, perhaps scrutiny is the answer, because if both proposals have been properly and thoroughly scrutinized in public debate, devoid of baseless scaremongering stories, and with equal access to the media, then , in principle, do we need a result greater than 50% + 1? Merriam-Webster defines democracy as “government by the people: majority rule.” Majority, not majority + whatever percentage this week. If this majority was obtained in an open and fair debate, shouldn’t it be respected? Or do we seek inspiration from the late George Cunningham?
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.
* THE UNITED KINGDOM is made up of one nation with a large population and three other minority nationalities. In the absence of a written constitution, it should be the responsibility of the wider population to respect the rights of minorities, granting them the same rules, prerogatives and obligations that they enjoy themselves. The UK held an EU referendum in 2016, then a British government (Theresa May) proposed to hold a second EU referendum in 2019, without a majority in Parliament or electoral approval (mandate).
MM. Murray and Russell believe that Scotland should not be allowed to hold a second independence referendum, but if such a referendum were to take place, a mere majority vote for independence would not count. This is dangerous nonsense, allowing no legitimate and democratic path to Scottish independence. Meanwhile, the Labor Party (whose nationalism, it seems, is indeed ‘British’) has said it will remain neutral in a poll on the Northern Irish border, whose ‘right to Constitutional ‘self-determination’ is enshrined in the British constitution. Does Mr Russell agree with his party on this, and what size of “super majority” does he advocate for this poll?
GR Weir, Ochiltree.
* I NOTE the debate in your letters pages regarding the merits of various electoral voting systems in the UK.
Suffice to say that the British establishment always chooses a voting system to obtain the result they want. PR was introduced in Scotland to prevent the SNP from sweeping councils, both in Holyrood and local councils, as demonstrated by the SNP waves of 1968 and 1974. In Northern Ireland, from 1921 , a property vote and boundary gerrymandering kept the Unionists in power in the local council. The current system in Northern Ireland ensures a nationalist/unionist balance in Stormont. In multiracial London, a single 5% rule has been added to public relations to prevent racist groups gaining a major platform.
True to form, British fans in Scotland want to change the Westminster system because it no longer produces the result they want.
Tom Johnston, Cumbernauld.
BROWN’S WORK NEEDS TO BE EXPANDED
REBECCA McQuillan (“The Real Threat to Independence That Could Save the Union”, The Herald, February 4) effectively opposes the relentless nationalist opposition by giving the electorate a third option in a future referendum . She points out that two polls this month “show a tie between yes and no”, the conclusion being that “Scottish politics sometimes seems doomed to attrition, but that is only true if the option of third way continues to be ignored”.
In this context, I refer to the work of Our Scottish Future and its commissions on economic growth (chaired by Professor Ronald MacDonald of the University of Glasgow), health (Professor David Kerr, University of Oxford), environment (Robin Harper, former Green MSP) and poverty. Each commission “aims to show how the co-operative work of governments in the UK can bring about the change we all seek”.
Additionally, in the first of a series of podcasts, Gordon Brown talks with the mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City region “about the nature of the UK and how their cities can work more closely with towns and villages of Scotland”.
This is real substantive work that should be welcomed by citizens of all partisan stripes and none as a valuable and continuing contribution to constitutional debate.
John Milne, Uddington.
BEWARE OF AFGHANISTAN
AFGHANISTAN, not Ukraine, is the crisis the world should act on now. Not only are millions of people starving and many are dying from lack of basic medicines, in part due to Western sanctions, but many desperate parents are selling their children as the only way to prevent them from starving.
The posture of the governments of Russia and NATO on Ukraine is mainly an attempt by both sides to divert attention from domestic political issues. Even the Ukrainian president has said that the main effect of exaggerating the prospects of a Russian invasion is to damage his country’s economy by worrying investors.
The US government has told banks to allow money transfers to Afghanistan for aid, but banks may also need guarantees that they will not be prosecuted if certain transfers are not intended for what they claim to be. The Taliban certainly shares the blame, but everyone in power needs to do more.
Ukraine has 200,000 soldiers, 400,000 veterans, thousands of tanks and artillery pieces, as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and training and the threat of sanctions against Russia from NATO countries to help him defend himself. Afghan children and their parents have no one to defend them.
The media must first focus on saving lives, not promoting government agendas, or even Boris Johnson’s Partygate saga farce.
The suffering of the Afghan people and the need for donations to the Disasters and Emergencies Committee (DEC), as well as the need to get governments to act to ease sanctions and provide aid themselves, should constantly make the headlines until they do what is necessary.
Limited sanctions are needed to prevent the Taliban from obtaining arms and money for them, but the entire Afghan population must no longer suffer.
Duncan McFarlane, Carluke.