IT was good of Les Reid to point out that Scotland doesn’t meet the EU accession criteria (Letters, March 18) as our deficit is more than three times over the limit set. Such stark warnings are timely as Scotland faces the prospect of another independence referendum.

However, in the interests of a balanced debate perhaps he should also have referred readers to the House of Commons Library briefing paper number 06167 dated December 1, 2016. That paper stated that the UK budget deficit for 2016/17 is forecast to be £31 billion. Of course, that figure will have been updated following the recent Budget but after the UK Government’s U-turn on National Insurance it’s hard to pin down what’s really going on these days down in Westminster.

The Commons briefing paper also made it clear that public-sector debt in the UK is forecast to be £1725bn (ie £1.725 trillion), or 87 per cent of national income, in 2016/17. It states that UK debt is equivalent to about £26,500 per person in the UK.

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The GERS figures include an item of more than £700 million as Scotland’s contribution towards interest on UK debt. We also pay in excess of £3bn towards UK defence and, while an independent Scotland would still need to maintain credible conventional defences, it’s likely we can do it for less than £3bn per year. Overseas defence expenditure would also attract inward investment to develop our industries and create jobs.

HM Revenue & Customs regional trade statistics show Scotland was the only region in the UK that exported more than it imported in 2016. Note that as Scotland cannot account for oil revenues, our true exports would have been higher. However, best we assume the 24 billion barrels of oil remaining as of 2013 in the Scottish sector of the North Sea don’t exist as we all know that’s worthless.

To maintain balance, note that in 2012 North Sea oil supplied 67 per cent of the UK’s oil and 53 per cent of the country’s gas requirements. Put together with the 29 per cent of excess electricity generated by Scotland that’s exported to the rest of the UK, that’s a very significant proportion of the UK’s energy needs that would surely produce some benefit for an independent Scotland. Whatever that income from energy exports would be, it would further decrease the misleading GERS figure that is so readily seized on by those seeking to talk down Scotland’s economy.

Given control of our own finances there is no doubt that Scotland could reduce its deficit to within the EU accession criteria, and presumably any future referendum White Paper would detail how this would be achieved.

We could then make a judgment based on fact, rather than scaring people with a GERS figure that is skewed by our contributions to Westminster.

To further the debate in a constructive way, it would be helpful if Les Reid could answer these simple questions: 1. Why does Westminster want to continue propping up our basket-case economy? 2. Will the UK guarantee not to negotiate away any of Scotland’s assets in its Brexit negotiations? 3. Should the UK decide in a few years’ time that Brexit was a huge mistake, how will the UK meet the EU’s accession criteria? Clarity would be useful in helping me to decide how to vote in a future indyref.
Geoff Tompson

OF course GERS shows that Scotland does not meet the criteria for EU membership, everything about GERS is designed to show the Scottish economy in a poor light.

If GERS is such a good indicator of the Scottish economy why has it never been introduced for England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
John Jamieson, Edinburgh


Catalonian struggle is different from Scotland's

THE Catalan-Scottish connection seems to be hitting the news here and elsewhere as of late, Gregor Young’s Scotland and Catalonia to Compare Referendum Notes’ on Friday being the latest story in this paper. I cannot but notice an increasing desire by the Catalonian independence movement and their supporters to associate themselves in the tightest of ways to the Scottish independence movement.

Although the aspirations of Catalonian independence are certainly valid and understandable and, by virtue of being a European independence movement, share a few traits with the Scottish one, it is important to stress what makes them different.

First, there is the legal issue.

There is no written constitution in the UK, England or Scotland and the Treaty of Union allows for any of its nation members to abandon the Union, making legally possible for Scotland to become independent.

However, the Spanish constitution makes it illegal for any of its autonomous communities to become independent. Therefore the attempts by the Catalonian Government to run a binding independence referendum are futile unless, of course, the constitution is amended or modified.

There is also the historical background: Scotland was an independent nation and a kingdom before the Act of Union. Catalunya was an autonomous Princedom under the Franks first and the Crown of Aragon later. With the union of the crowns of Castille and Aragon, a process of centralisation around Castille started and culminated in the victory of the French Bourbon dynasty at the end of the Spanish War of Succession where not only Catalunya, but also most of the other nations comprising the Crown of Aragon, were punished and deprived of their self-governing rule by being assimilated into French-supporting Castillian power.

As an Aragonese resident in Scotland for more than 16 years and a long-term supporter of Scottish independence, I can quite understand my Catalonian cousins’ efforts to achieve independence, but their journey is their own and, to this day, it remains quite a different one from our own here in Scotland.
Manuel W Balaguer-Cortes

WHILE I applaud The National for giving the Rev Stuart Campbell a platform and hope that this might be a regular occurrence, I disagree with his analogy of the BBC and Celtic (What do we do about Scotland’s Unionist media in the #ScotRef campaign? We bypass them, The National, March 17).

If I was a St Mirren fan, I would not be expected to pay for the (over) remuneration of the Celtic board and players, but this is exactly what I am expected to do as BBC licence payer. Perhaps the BBC should start reflecting the views of the 45 per cent-plus of the Scottish population that are pro-independence, though like a St Mirren fan hoping to win the league, I am not holding my breath.
Bruce Naughton

I SEE George Osborne is to become editor of the London Evening Standard. Will Donald Trump, I wonder, follow his example and become editor of the Washington Post as well as US President?

And since amateur hour seems to be upon us, I dare say there is a financial journalist at the Standard who could make a reasonable stab at being Chancellor of the Exchequer: at least as much as the present chap.

Peter Craigie Edinburgh I DO hope Allan Sutherland had his tongue stuffed firmly in his cheek when he wrote the letter published on Saturday. Last June, didn’t England and Wales vote for “something for which the terms and impact cannot be known for several years”? We, and Northern Ireland, had of course more sense.
Colin Stuart
Saline, Fife

RECENTLY in the letters pages somebody suggested leaving your National on the bus. Great idea. There are loads of people out there who are bombarded by TV bias and who are not on social media, so I suggest we take this idea further: recycle your past issues in doctor, dentist, and hospital waiting rooms. Although a wee bit out of date, they’re still more relevant than Country Life February 2008!
Robin Maclean
Fort Augustus