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A darker side of the Yes campaign, the Darien scheme, and the Prodigal Son

12 September 2014


From the Revd Dr Ian Meredith

Sir, - As a Scot living in exile, though in regular contact with friends and family north of the border, my main regret in having recently moved south is that I will be not to be able to vote No to independence on 18 September.

The Revd Dr Douglas Gay (Comment, 5 September) accuses the No campaign of being largely colourless and fearful, compared with the colourful buoyancy of the Yes campaign. Perhaps the No supporters have every reason to be nervous, even gloomy. The prosperous Scotland we have seen in recent years has not been an independent one, but one that has flourished as part of the United Kingdom.

If the No campaign is accused of scaremongering, it is only because we look with dismay at the Yes campaign's being driven into an uncertain future by sentimental nostalgia from which there will be no way back.

Given the recent comments of leaders of countries as diverse as China, the USA, and Australia, the international community does not want an independent Scotland. It is not certain that Europe wants an independent Scotland; it is not even certain whether NATO wants it; it is not certain whether the Bank of England wants it; it is not certain how many more decades of oil will sustain it; and I don't believe the majority of Scots want it either, but we'll have to wait and see.

My real concerns, however, are not economic but spiritual.

Independence is a spirit which, in the past few decades, has shed much blood and has divided much of Europe. The Bosnian/Serbian wars were fought as parts of nations sought independence from the greater. The present conflict in Ukraine is also fuelled by the spirit of independence: Ukraine from Russia, and pro-Russian elements from Ukraine.

Nationalism tends to need enemies in order to define itself. The Yes campaign is not fuelled simply by pro-Scottishness, but also by anti-Engishness.

Dr Gay in his article has portrayed the Yes campaigners as a folk-singing, pop-singing, fun-loving tartan army. This is how they see themselves, but this is not how others perceive them.

When I was in Scotland this summer, I noticed that there were far more Yes posters in windows than No. My friends told me that if they put up a No poster, they would probably get a brick through their window. In the main, the No people tend to be the quiet in the land. Let's hope than on 18 September the silent majority will rise up to say "No to independence."

The Vicarage
164 Castle Street
Hants PO16 9QH 

From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, - Looking back to the 25 Articles of the 1707 Act of Union, the drafters worked out what was important for them. Religion inter-related with monarchy, as identity principles came first: a Protestant succession in the monarchy, worry about European alliances against England, and a guarantee that the Church of Scotland would have a Presbyterian establishment as enshrined in Scots law.

The next 15 articles of the 1707 Act were economic. These religious drafters were concerned about free trade (navigation), and the Scottish currency, especially after the massive level of indebtedness in the disaster of the Scottish investment in the Darien colony scheme. It appears that the drafters believed in a fixed rate of exchange: 12 pounds Scots for one pound sterling.

The decline in the Scottish pound was stabilised by the fixed rate of exchange. The losses in the Darien scheme were compensated for by negotiated sums transferred to Scotland from the English national debt.

When I read the Articles of the Act of Union, I was amazed at how we are still talking about the Scottish currency, exchange rate to sterling, banks with losses, access to free trade with England, and compensation from the English national debt.

Member of General Synod
23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU 

From the Revd Rajinder Daniel

Sir, - I am reminded of the parable of the Prodigal Son. When the wealth of the North Sea is squandered, the Sovereign will be waiting to receive the wayward son. I hope the older brother, the English, will not be found wanting.

508 Chester Road
Birmingham B36 0LG 

From Mrs Caroline Burkitt

I thought last week's cover picture showed a regrettable bias in favour of Scottish independence.

10 George Street, Willingham
Cambridge CB24 5LJ 

Half a dozen readers suggested something similar. We chose the photograph because the Yes campaign are making the news. (There would not be a No campaign otherwise.) We trusted that the cover line below, and the balance of the comment pieces inside, would convince readers that we had not become a campaigning newspaper. - Editor

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