THERE’S a well-known woman in London touting tickets to Scots for a trip on a Unionist train called the Unstoppable. Scots will get a discount on tickets if they suspend disbelief and hand over all their assets at the ticket counter. The destination board for the train states “Don’t know” and “Not sure”, and the route promises wonderful views of a sheer cliff edge, where train speed is restricted as there is a distinct danger of it derailing. The train has no driver but the ticket seller promises passengers a wonderful, shining bright, red, white and blue livery. There are no refunds on tickets as this is a one-way trip to nowhere, with no return.

There is one station en route which the ticket seller didn’t want to flag up to Scots passengers – it’s called “Independence”. The train is not scheduled to stop there, but I heard on good authority that someone has switched the points on the line at Independence Station to divert the train towards a set of buffers which will stop the Unstoppable train in much the same way that an iceberg stopped the unsinkable Titanic. When asked to comment on this possibility, the woman ticket seller replied, “Now is not the time”.
William C McLaughlin


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AMID the revulsion at the “rape clause” inserted into the latest Tory attack on the less well-off in society, a major flaw in their limiting of benefit to the first two children in a family has been so far ignored – the low birth rates in the UK and particularly Scotland. Criticism of the “rape clause” has overshadowed the demographic dangers in the near future of financially penalising families with more than two children.

We live in an ageing society. Much concern has been, rightly, expressed at the problem of caring for our old people as their proportion of the population increases and that of working-age people shrinks.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the UK is 1.92 children per woman but in Scotland it is 1.56 . Both these figures are below the Replacement Rate (2.075 for the UK), which is the number of births required to maintain the population at its current level.

A TFR below the replacement rate means fewer working-age people, therefore more pressure on those jobs which do not pay well or are unpleasant, or both. The caring professions are already suffering severe shortages – this will continue and worsen given these figures.

In the past we have offset these shortages by encouraging migrants to come to the UK, especially to help bolster the NHS, but given the current UK Government’s obsession with limiting immigration this is no longer an option. Therefore a financial inducement to encourage indigenous births would seem to be required. But again this myopic government who can see no political capital in spending money on benefits, unless for the already obscenely rich.

Thus in cutting future benefits and discouraging families to have children, and without the lifeboat of immigration, the Tories have dealt a serious blow to the future well-being of the UK. And for what?

The term “rape clause” would seem to be an appropriate description of what this policy is doing to the country.
James Mills

THE “rape clause” is so wrong on so many levels. Surely though the bottom line is, as Karen Owens said (Letters, April 14): “all children, by virtue of being children, deserve a modicum of state support. They are blameless, they have nothing to do with ‘austerity’, THEY ARE HERE.” Yes “austerity” was brought on by the bankers’ crisis and to tackle this crisis we use innocent, vulnerable children to pay for it! Unbelievable! What a world we now live in. Roll on indyref 2 to sort this madness out… once and for all!
Robin Maclean
Croftfoot and Fort Augustus

RUTH is right! Actually what I mean is that she’s nearly almost thinking along the right lines. The Scottish Government shouldn’t be having to mitigate her party’s draconian welfare policy. It needs its own DWP and the best way of achieving this is independence.
David Bruce

IT is not merely the offensive hypocrisy of Ruth Davidson’s call on the Scottish Government to abate the wickedness of the “rape clause” that will send shivers down the spines of every Tory council candidate (Davidson: SNP could mitigate rape clause, The National, April 14) – it is the call to confuse constitutional issues like indy2 with the responsibility for local government and the failure to provide even the slightest policy advantage to their candidates on issues ranging from social care to street cleaning, from education to planning. These elections are about electing the best individuals to administer such local affairs.

That Ruthie’s approach has been followed by Kezia and Willie will afford little comfort to the spines of those Labour and LibDem candidates as have such things. The electorate are not daft and know perfectly well which individuals are likely to work hard on their behalf to represent the interests of their community. To attempt to hijack these local elections as a national referendum is contemptible.

Of course the individual elector will be influenced by personal political opinion but the hard-working councillor is generally recognised regardless of national political swings. That is the record that on which the parties should be standing, but it is understandable if the three Unionist parties wish to avoid detailed examination of their role in local government.
KM Campbell

IT was once the case that local elections were about how the council was to be run in your area and by which political flavour, but no more!

The illusion of democracy masks the underlying truth that no matter who you vote for, the council cannot satisfy your aspirations because the Westminster Government has reduced its budget to far less than is required for even the basic services to be maintained.

The political parties that are responsible for this departure from democracy are all campaigning locally on national issues!

My council has put my rates up but cut the times they empty my bins but the Tory/Lab/Lib candidate is shouting about how dangerous the Scottish independence campaign is. No attempt to deal with the issues a local councillor should be dealing with.

This denial of democracy cannot be corrected while Westminster rules the waves. They are the authors of it.

Democracy will be resumed after independence day.
Christopher Bruce