THANK you to Liz (Letters, The National, May 2) for articulating so clearly the specific effects of the vicious, hideous persecution by Westminster and the Tories of those among us who need our support. For a long time, perhaps a major motive in supporting independence has been the drive to retrieve our national identity and to forge our own way in the world – we have, after all, plenty of encouraging examples in the small Nordic nations.

Now, however, I hope and trust that this is being overtaken by a growing horrified revulsion among us at the appalling, callous treatment of anyone who, for whatever reason, cannot be self-reliant. More and more, the Tory attitude to anyone dependent on state help reminds me of Scrooge’s attitude to the poor.

One does not have to be a Christian, or indeed an adherent to any faith with a moral code, to see this as utterly abhorrent, selfish cruelty which is simply intolerable. Further, there can be no doubt at all, by any rational person, that the only prospect of stopping the multiple evils that result from such policies and practices is to cut ourselves free of the perpetrators. 
Colin Stuart
Saline, Fife


Part devolution of social security is not enough

I’M with Jim Taylor (Letters, The National, April 29) on seeing the state retirement pension and benefits separately. Although both are unfunded entitlements paid for by taxation and national insurance, the state pension is a legal contract between worker and government. It is this contractual obligation which made a lie of Better Together claims that a Yes vote would end pensions; as every expat knows, pension rights follow you. Mo MacLean is correct to fight stigmatisation but delineation helps the independence cause.

Social security best describes other state assistance because the purpose is clear and the connotations less pejorative than for personal “benefits” or “welfare”. It is also an important reminder of the social contract which once flourished as part of the post-war political consensus. Other parts included full employment, progressive taxation, strong trade unions, public ownership of utilities, fully funded higher education, free public services (the “social wage”), a well-resourced NHS, state intervention in and regulation of industry and commerce, etc. All shattered by Margaret Thatcher after 1979.

Consequently, Britain is now the fourth most unequal western country. UK pensions were described by Saga boss Dr Altman as “a disgrace, the meanest and most complex in the developed world”, (we are listed 33 out of 34, you’d need to live in Mexico to get proportionately less).

Since then, the UK Government has made people contribute more for longer, with the promise they will receive less, and that’s before the removal of the “triple lock”. At one of the last meetings I attended as an East Lothian councillor, a housing officer reported that 82 per cent of council tenants who had moved from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit (UC) were in arrears and that private “homeless” landlords were getting out.

Residents of East Lothian, the Highlands and East Dunbartonshire are the first to face this experiment in cruelty, wealth transfer and social engineering. It is wretched and unworkable but an “incentivised” Department for Work and Pensions doesn’t want to know. It might when it hits Glasgow and the more deprived parts of Scotland!

At the same committee meeting, a senior social worker said she was meeting clients who were “starving”. Exactly what are impoverished people meant to do without money during UC’s six-week transition? Cancel a Caribbean cruise? Cash in an ISA? The UN has written that the UK Government’s welfare reforms show “grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities”.

We urgently need a return to the civilising norms our society once considered axiomatic. With just 30 per cent of tax-raising power and 15 per cent of social security policy devolved, only independence will meet that need.

Twenty years, ago the late, great Jimmy Reid wrote: “Without social security, society is a jungle. Yet these two words have become dirty in Britain; equated with ne’er-do-wells and scroungers. To me, social security is to be secure in your home, on the street, in the community, in and out of employment, in old age, in sickness and health.

“It means, for example, parents of handicapped children living secure in the knowledge that when they die society will look after their children with tender respect. Such social securities are things of beauty. Priceless rather than costly. They make us truly civilised.”
Councillor Fraser McAllister
Musselburgh West

AS one of the three million EU citizens in the UK, I woke up after the Brexit referendum and found my world was shattered. Like many in a similar situation I was dumbfounded, unable to take in the full picture, sad and angry. It was only the start. Twenty years ago my husband – an Irish citizen who grew up in Scotland – and I, a Dutch national, decided to make Scotland our home. We laid roots; our children are proudly Irish, Dutch and Scottish; we worked; I set up a business with a Scot and I am active in the community.

Ten months after the referendum, we still don’t know whether we will be allowed to stay and under which conditions. One of the stumbling blocks is the little-known condition of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, which any non-national is obliged to have when not working or self-employed.

Even if you have paid your taxes and your National Insurance, even if you have access to the NHS, without this insurance you are not legal. Being over 60 with a long-term health condition, the idea I could get any private health insurance is pie in the sky. So I wake up with nightmares. The thought that one day I might need the NHS urgently and be turned away: “Hang on there, madam. Show us your CSI ...” is a prospect too scary to contemplate. But contemplate it I do. After May’s dinner with Juncker, a positive outcome seems a lot less likely.

During long nights I trawl the internet trying to find news and information. I stumble upon message boards that only make me more depressed. We are thought to be “EU dregs that come here purely to scrounge” or “uneducated and here to pack shelves to get free money” and folk are happy to get rid of us. It hurts, it really does. That is why I feel tears welling up when I hear of a small group of MEPs, the EU Citizens Task Force, fighting for our rights. That is why I choke when I attend a meeting organised by the SNP to inform and reassure EU citizens. That is why I smile when friends are handing out badges that say: I am NOT a bargaining chip.
Truda Duffy
Crook of Devon, Perthshire