JOHN Bratton highlights two important and interdependent attributes of a modern, socially-responsible nation: opportunities for that county’s workforce and scientific research funding (The future is not risk free whether we stay or remain in the UK, Long Letter, March 18). John also highlighted the need to overcome Euroscepticism with convincing policies. I fully agree but would add that they are required even if part of a post-Brexit UK.
Eurosceptics in Scotland’s workforce may be low-wage earners, but not exclusively. The failure to answer questions has nurtured this understandable scepticism. Questions like: “how can countries like Germany produce goods which we can’t, yet still pay attractive wages?” The answer lies in the relationship between scientific research and job creation.
Research funding can be direct government funding, private funding and indirect government funding. Direct funding is additional government support given to research bodies or universities for new research projects approved by the science councils. Traditionally, UK governments have supported “big” science eg medical research or nuclear power. Funding from private sources may simply be from industry or commerce. Successive UK governments have held the position that industry and commerce must fund its own research and not the taxpayer. Indirect funding is government funding of organisations. At one time, the biggest research company in the world was heavily funded by the UK Government when state ownership or sponsorship was commonplace. That company was ICI but the stakes were high. Too high! The loss of ICI dealt a catastrophic blow to the manufacturing sector. The loss of intellectual property rights and knowledge to foreign manufacturing was incalculable and still adversely affects UK manufacturing, even to this day.
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Direct funding is the most efficient way to undertake research and build a body of scientific knowledge that provides continuing benefits to science and the wealth of a nation. It protects intellectual property rights whilst ensuring that research findings are readily available to all at a fraction of the original research cost. In 2014 it was reported the UK spend on directly funded research was 0.4 per cent of GDP. Comparatively, the EU average was a factor of two and a half times this amount; France and Italy between four and five; Germany the highest at around seven. Factors of non EU countries were: the US at 10, Far East block at 12 and China out in front at 15. Some estimates now place this at a factor of 20. What is crucial is that countries whose governments spend more on direct research funding have the strongest and most diverse manufacturing bases. This diversity creates jobs across a range of skill sets which is the ladder of opportunity for lower wage earners. It is essential for social stability and sustainable development. Aspiring companies need not access markets by muscling their way in through expensive mergers or take-overs. This is the value of membership of trading blocks like the EU.
Compare this to the £2 billion of tax-payers’ money recently announced for industry, commerce and private research bodies. The principle beneficiaries will be the already highly-paid, profitable companies and their shareholders. Yes, this will bring some jobs but the knowledge and products will be traded overseas just like any other commodity.
Is this a convincing post-Brexit strategy for a socially responsible nation and sustainable growth?
Iain Jack, Perth and Kinross
IN the interests of balance, after the prominence given in the media to criticism of Martin McGuinness even on the very day his death was announced, I want to say to the unforgiving Lord Tebbits and the bereaved victims of IRA violence: you are not the only ones who suffered. An abbreviated race through the last five or six centuries includes: successive waves of Irish invasion, each accompanied by slaughter of civilians which would nowadays be called war crimes; the plantations and forced evictions in Ulster and elsewhere on the island, intended to divide and rule; violent suppression of Irish language and culture; deliberate failure to relieve the great potato famine, now generally regarded as an act of genocide; violent suppression of peaceful marches seeking nothing more dangerous than equal civil rights; many tit-for-tat murders by Loyalist terrorists which were not only not condemned but were arguably encouraged by some politicians’ rhetoric.
He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone, and let’s have no more disgraceful stone-throwing. We’re all guilty, and if we can’t recognise that there’s no hope for peace.
Derek Ball Bearsden OF course Theresa May wants to dictate the referendum clock. Why? Well it’s sleekit, but quite clever. If we wait until we see what Brexit looks like before another referendum, we’ll of course be out of the EU.
Currently an estimated 180,000 non UK EU citizens stay in Scotland and given the Scottish Government’s position on retaining UK EU citizens continued commitment to Scotland, it’s a reasonable assumption these 180,000 folk would be well disposed towards achieving an independent Scotland.
Post-Brexit our non UK guests would be ineligible to vote on UK affairs, which I’d aver, suits a Tory agenda to frustrate Scotland’s bid for independence by disenfranchising 180,000 Yes votes.
Piers Doughty-Brown, Glasgow
WHILE Brexit is cited as the material change which justifies a new referendum, and we are already being bombarded with the old “can’t join the EU” and “need to use the euro” mantras, we also know that many Yessers are skeptical of EU membership. Maybe now is the time to concentrate the focus on the fact that as an independent country we can choose our destiny both in and out of the EU, and cross that bridge as we come to it. I suspect that if, either due to the will of the people, or due to (in my mind unlikely) problems with retaining EU membership, an independent Scotland, even outside the EU, would, with the approach which we have been seeing from the majority of Scottish elected representatives in looking for a consensus, reach far better deals with every country than we can expect with the egocentric arrogant approach of the Tories.
Colin Macpherson, Straubing, Germany
THE article by George Kerevan describes the historic events leading up to the key year of 1945, when the world was so shaken by the results of two international wars with a global depression in between that they at last tried to create peace by the establishment internationally of the United Nations and its off-shoots; in Britain by the founding of the welfare state; and in Europe, eventually, the European Union which has given the continent relative peace for my lifetime (New protectionism of US markets makes indy ever more crucial, March 22). In his outstanding piece he also warns us what we stand to lose from the current political turmoil.
Reinforcing this was the fine item by Hamish MacPherson on George Boyd Orr (Nobel winner a hero in the war on want, The National, March 21) which told the same narrative from another viewpoint which is best expressed by the quotation, “We must conquer hunger and want – the fundamental causes of war”. The theme of constructive public behaviour is exampled by the figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, such remarkable later Scots as Patrick Geddes and David Livingstone and Boyd Orr himself. It must be the main tenor of our independence campaign as argued by Leslie Riddoch recently. That all these significant writings appear in a daily paper is in itself an historical development. Just as 1945 was a key date, and such events as the collapse of the USSR or the continuing tragic wars in African and the Middle East are making history, we should work to make the arrival of freedom in Scotland such a notable and positive happening, and a memorial to men like Boyd Orr and his principles.
Iain WD Forde, Scotlandwell, Kinross-shire
LIKE, I would conjecture, most National readers I welcome the election of Aamer Anwar as rector of Glasgow University; but may I point out to the writer of the article that Dundee is not one of Scotland’s ancient universities (Anwar is new uni rector, with Mil a distant fourth, The National, March 22)? Staff and alumni of St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen universities have occasionally been known to raise the question whether even Edinburgh deserves to be considered an “ancient” university: that is a joke, of course, but it is much less ludicrous than classing a university established in 1967 with ones that date from 1410, 1451, 1495 and 1582. Dundee is a first-class modern university, and the fact that it maintains the Scottish tradition of appointing a rector is of interest; but it is not even the oldest of our new universities, much less one of our ancient ones.
Derrick McClure, Aberdeen
FURTHER to the discussion about how accurate the GERS figures are, the bigger economic picture can seem complicated. However, two figures have come to light this week which should certainly make us think. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK net debt at the end of February stood at £1.7 trillion: 1.7 thousand, thousand million pounds. This debt is on a steadily rising curve.
In contrast, Denmark has declared that it is free of all foreign debt for the first time in 183 years (Financial Times, March 20). Denmark achieves this with a population very similar in size to Scotland’s and with arguably less natural resources.
Susan Grant, Tain
WHITEHALL were quick to scotch the rumour that the London Government were planning to proscribe the wearing of tartan, speaking Gaelic and playing the pipes. “Obviously, said a spokesperson, “now is not the time......it will happen after Brexit.”
Richard Easson, Dornoch