It’s not about money
Sir: Professor Tombs criticises Alex Massie (Letters, 22 August) for ignoring evidence when the latter claims that economic concerns ‘no longer matter’ in great political decisions. But the evidence from the last Scottish referendum tends to support Massie. At the beginning of the Scottish referendum campaign in 2014, polls showed 26 per cent of Scottish voters favoured independence. The Better Together campaign amassed compelling evidence that independence would be a financial disaster and set about presenting this to the Scottish public in an exercise they christened Project Fear. The result was a rise of support for independence to 45 per cent, and it is widely considered that what kept Scotland in the Union was an emotional televised speech by Gordon Brown appealing to the heart rather than the pocket.
Before the Brexit vote, many experts predicted immediate financial disaster if Britain voted to leave the EU. We have still to find out the long-term effect of this decision, but their short-term predictions were clearly wrong. What seems to have swayed the public to vote for Brexit was the desire for the UK to have control over its own affairs, not to become wealthier. Many Scots are similarly motivated and it will not be enough simply to argue that Scotland’s economy has become so weakened within the Union that there is no alternative but to keep on taking the same medicine.
Too eager for beavers
Sir: Simon Cooper is quite right (‘Dam nation’, 22 August). Why do we need beavers? Beaver lovers are the same kind of irresponsible zealots who tried and failed (for now) to release lynx in Northumberland and are deaf to the concerns of country people.
Beavers are big aquatic rats that died out 500 years ago in England for the simple reason that we and they cannot co-exist in the peopled landscape that is England. Letting them loose will cause nothing but trouble. Leaving aside the inevitable conflict with landowners and farmers, beaver dams impede the flow of watercourses and damage aquatic life. Their ponds raise the water-table across areas of surrounding farmland, blocking field drains and making the land unworkable. Perhaps worst of all, they are energetic, highly efficient destroyers of woodland.
Before they go overboard, the ‘ecological great and good’ might like to see what they’ve done in Tierra del Fuego where, in the 1940s, ten pairs of North American beavers were released. By 1990 the population had grown to 100,000, spread across many islands. The creatures had wreaked ecological havoc, destroying huge areas of forest, blocking rivers and creating thousands of useless ponds. Extermination was the only remedy.
Scots Gap, Northumberland
Blue cheese, red light
Sir: Despite Martin Vander Weyer’s doubts (Any other business, 22 August), Liz Truss should not be discouraged from trying to sell Stilton to Japan. In Tokyo in the 1960s, my Japanese father-in-law regularly ate imported Danish Blue for breakfast. However, as we have seen in the case of whisky, a problem that may arise is competition from production in Japan. In the 1980s Japanese tourists in Geneva were issued with sandwiches made with ‘English bread’ (igirisu pan). Fresh bread was flown in daily, not from Britain but from Tokyo.
Jonathan A. Coles
Great Clifton, Cumbria
Water, water, everywhere
Sir: In his review of Sarah Moss’s Summerwater (Books, 22 August), Max Fletcher mentions ‘Lake’ Semerwater in Yorkshire. I have often used Semerwater as an example of a place name compounded of words from different languages meaning the same thing, in this case ‘sea’, ‘mere’ and ‘water’ all meaning ‘lake’. By adding ‘lake’, Fletcher has created a record-breaking compound of four synonymous elements.
George MacDonald Ross
Sir: Francis Pike highlights the airbrushing from history of the unbelievably inhuman and depraved acts of cruelty perpetrated by the Japanese in the Pacific War (‘God of war’, 22 August). As someone with a family member who survived conflict in this arena, I was recently quizzed by my granddaughter following her viewing of the BBC 75-year VJ anniversary programme. She wanted to know why there had been so little discussion of the reasons the atomic weapons were dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I gave her my copy of Lord Russell of Liverpool’s The Knights of Bushido to read. This is a straightforward historical factual account of the acts of atrocity perpetrated by the Japanese, and it is a very unpleasant read. Perhaps this book, and others such as Pike’s Hirohito’s War, should be on the syllabus of modern history programmes — at the very least in deference to delivering historical fact, lest it all be forgotten.
Were the bombs justified? Undoubtedly. At the time, they delivered salvation for millions in many countries from one of the most abominable regimes in history. As Pike points out, however, traces of past beliefs still exist in Japan and seem to endure.
Dr Keith Marshall
Sir: James Fenner’s article on the provenance of Thameslink’s Class 700 train seats (‘Bottom line’, 22 August) took the biscuit for speciousness. So the seats meet European safety standards. What train seats in the UK (comfortable or uncomfortable) do not? Trying to blame the EU seems a little cheap — perhaps a bit like the seats?
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