Scotland isn’t failing
Sir: It will take more than Adam Tomkins descending from the heights of academe to persuade the Scots that education, health, policing and everything else in Scotland is failing (‘The SNP’s One-Party State,’ 17 October). Scots aren’t stupid: they have heard all this before from the unionist press, and they don’t believe it. That’s why, after seven years in power, support for the SNP is still growing. Meanwhile, the Tories continue to have dreadful results in Scotland, despite having an articulate and personable leader in Ruth Davidson and no competition any more from the Lib Dems.
Here’s two reasons why: first, most Scots have come to the conclusion that in Scotland there is one party that talks about Scotland, and three that talk only about the SNP. Second, there is the perception that the London Tories seem bent upon being offensive to Scotland even in minor things, like appointing a failed Scottish businesswoman to the House of Lords.
Parks of Aldie, Kinross
It’s worse than that
Sir: Adam Tomkins’s account of the excesses of the SNP government in Scotland tells barely the half of it as far as education goes. The nationalisation of further education colleges, the profoundly troubling indifference to the autonomy of Scotland’s universities, and, most recently, proposals to interfere in the appointment of heads of independent schools all indicate a government that has lost the proper awareness that all democratic governments should have that the nation, the state, the government and the governing party are not all the same thing.
Worryingly, Scotland’s devolved institutions were designed at a time when no one party could realistically expect to gain an absolute majority under proportional representation. The checks that might otherwise have been put in place are therefore absent. Those advocating the repeal of the Human Rights Act should ponder what the long-term consequences of such a repeal might be for the institutions and people of Scotland.
Sir: The Scotland described by Adam Tomkins sounds like a truly horrible place. I’m so glad I don’t live there.
Sir: In your leader of 17 October you say that ‘it is unedifying to see our diplomats turned into salesmen’; but the promotion of trade and inward investment has always been a priority of our foreign policy, confirmed in various White Papers, reports and statements over the years. Before the Diplomatic Service reforms which followed the second world war, there was a separate Commercial Diplomatic Service and a separate Consular Service, which also played its part. Would you recommend a change in the policy and practice?
Sir Archie Lamb
About Last Night
Sir: The Revd Anthony Pellegrini writes (Letters, 10 October) to say that his objection in an earlier letter was that the past three conductors of the Last Night of The Proms were not British. Though by all accounts this year’s conductor was a disaster, the Guardian’s review of the 2014 Last Night called Sakari Oramo ‘the perfect maitre d’’. Oramo is a Finn, but he is chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which surely justifies choosing him for the Last Night. By all means avoid angry Americans in future, but don’t exclude forever foreigners with genuine connections to British classical music.
Eyeballs on Maisky
Sir: Further to my review of The Maisky Diaries (Books, 12 September), it is worth adding that the Soviet ambassador was of course constantly being spied on by his own side, and he had to be very careful what he wrote, even in a diary. Consequently, facts or conversations that he recorded cannot always be trusted without more reliable confirmation elsewhere. That said, the diaries remain an interesting read.
Sir: I was intrigued to see that Heath’s Battle for Britain cartoon (17 October) contained an obvious depiction of a Boulton Paul Defiant fighter plane. Was this a subtle assessment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, given that the Defiant was a plane whose entire firepower was aimed to its rear, and which enjoyed a very brief spell of success but was rapidly withdrawn from active service once opponents discovered its weak spot?
A five-bottle lunch
Sir: I read with interest of Bruce Anderson’s epic lunch in Manchester (Drink, 10 October). It would appear that our columnist and his host (‘a prosperous Mancunian one-man powerhouse’) polished off five bottles of wine and were still able to go on an expedition around Victorian Manchester. I trust the original lunch party consisted of more than two people. The truth must out!
Melrose Estate, Johannesburg
Sir: Nadia Boulanger’s ‘My dear, you know what I am thinking’ to comfort abysmal performers (Dear Mary, 10 October) is a distinguished entry in a great tradition of ambiguous compliments. Max Beerbohm, when called backstage, apparently favoured ‘Good is not the word!’