Sir: Thanks for once again highlighting the many issues with government in Scotland (‘Sturgeon’s secret state’, 9 April). It is time for the opposition leaders and the Scottish voters to temporarily put aside differences on other issues – including independence – and focus on holding the Scottish government to account. Surely no one could possibly wish for the additional misuse of public and party funds, and to watch Scotland’s services continue to deteriorate?
The faults in the devolution set-up have been exploited by the 15-year-old SNP government for many years. This has resulted in a government which is obsessive about control, secrecy and hiding and denying mismanagement. So the faults must be addressed. Only Westminster can do this: the opposition leaders should be lobbying for a new Scotland Act. The government must be voted out of power. Then the people of Scotland can return to discuss what affects them in the knowledge that the proper checks and balances are in place to curb the excesses of their politicians. Let’s end secrecy, intimidation and control and have openness and accountability in Scotland.
Sir: I was reminded how data is presented differently in Scotland compared with other UK countries when a friend in London suggested to me that life with increased Covid restrictions (masks and more testing) in Scotland might be preferable to the less restricted life in England.
When searching for evidence on Covid rates to compare, I found this difficult due to the differences in presentation. At the end of March, Scottish figures reported 2,400 people in hospital with Covid, whereas England reported a rate of 17.8 per 100,000. Doing the calculations required to work out the Scottish rate, this came to 44 per 100,000. Though one cannot assert that correlation equals causation, we must also question the evidence as to the effectiveness of restrictions, and the motive behind the obfuscation of these figures.
Sir: I was shocked by Aidan Hartley’s Wild Life column of 9 April in which he attacks the ‘tamed English countryside’, quoting Elspeth Huxley’s description of it as a ‘castrated leopard’. In the past two weeks, while visiting relatives and friends and attending a double funeral, I drove through East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, South Devon, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Everywhere I saw primroses, anemones, daffodils, narcissi, cowslips, camellias and magnolia. Last Saturday on the downs above Firle – 40 minutes from Bexhill, a place Aidan Hartley decries – I heard larks singing and the sea, which he dubs ‘brown and oily’, shone. It was so clear I could see Ashdown Forest to the north. Today a yellowhammer flew across the road in front of me; ten minutes later a heron rose from a pond, very close. Out of my window I hear birdsong all day. The English spring is unique.
Ripe, East Sussex
Plus ça change
Sir: Apropos of nothing, I was browsing my archive the other day when I happened upon a facsimile of the very first edition of The Spectator, issue No. 1, week ending Saturday 5 July 1828. I was astonished to read the very first news story, at the top of the cover page, which ran as follows: ‘The Russians are advancing slowly in their invasion of Bulgaria: the army has crossed the Danube at several points, and thrown a bridge over the river.’ Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Sir: I agree with John Phipps that RTE’s 1982 adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses is a radio masterpiece (Arts, 9 April). But this unique production wouldn’t have happened without the guiding hand of a brilliant director named William Styles. A New Zealander who had trained at Rada, Styles was RTE’s most talented radio producer, the recipient of many international drama awards.
The inside story of the production – 33 actors, 400 parts, 30 hours of broadcasting – was analysed in a fascinating Irish Times article dated 13 June 2020. The author of the piece, Denis Staunton, was a young member of the 1982 cast. He’s currently the paper’s London editor.
Harold’s Cross, Dublin
Sir: There was a minor error in Charles Moore’s thoughtful and interesting Note on the Falklands war (2 April). There is one previous example of a two-term American president (Monroe, 1817-1825) who had the same British PM (Liverpool, 1812-1827) from the day of his inauguration to the day of his departure. This does not detract from Charles Moore’s thesis, since there were very few opportunities for American presidents and British prime ministers to meet and become friends in the early decades of the 19th century.
Sir: What a poignant and wrenching piece by Jeremy Clarke (Low Life, 9 April). It was like reading a West Country version of The Road to Wigan Pier. I do hope its audience extends far wider than this august magazine. Utterly captivating and moving. Thank you so much.
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