The key to the Union
Sir: ‘Love-bombing’ the Scottish electorate with supplemental spending in devolved areas (‘The break-up’, 27 February) is unlikely to prove a decisive tactic in the ongoing battle over Scottish independence. It will never be enough, and the average voter will not distinguish Westminster spend from Holyrood’s.
Neither should opposition to an independence referendum be the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party’s primary policy in the upcoming Holyrood election. Falling into the SNP trap of focusing on this issue allows the party to pursue its agenda of confected grievance and division. Secession is the SNP’s preferred battleground, not least because it permits deflection of their record in government.
The keys to May’s election, and Scotland’s future, are the former Labour and Liberal Democrat voters. Conservatives in both Westminster and Holyrood need to shine a clear light on the failure of the SNP to use one of the strongest devolved parliaments in the world to improve the lives of the people of Scotland. Plummeting education standards, growing attainment gaps, rises in inequality, soaring increases in drug deaths, an opioid crisis and creeping encroachment of the state are some of the most pressing issues. The people of Scotland are also entitled to an independent, judge-led inquiry into the Salmond affair.
‘Lend us your vote’ has been used as a Holyrood electoral ploy with great success before. It is a tactic that the Scottish Conservatives could usefully adopt come May, with a solid commitment to build trust and improve outcomes in return. The Union will not be saved by Westminster alone.
Offices of the church
Sir: Sorry to bang on about the centralisation and bureaucratisation of the Church of England, but Richard Martin has not started when he calls for a reduction in the number of bishops and archdeacons (Letters, 20 February). Try the diocesan office. Only a few years ago the Oxford diocesan office was housed in an old vicarage in North Hinksey. Now it occupies several floors in a new office block in Kidlington. It needs it: just look at the website. In addition to four bishops, eight archdeacons and assistant archdeacons, there appear to be more than 150 other diocesan officers of one sort or another, compared to 400 paid clergy in the parishes.
On those ‘lesbian pirates’
Sir: As a footnote to Rod Liddle’s column 'Where will vaccine passports take us?' (20 February), the two ‘lesbian pirates’ who liked a spot of ‘how’s your mother’ were in fact pregnant at the time of their conviction for piracy in Jamaica in 1721. The death sentence was commuted when they revealed themselves as such. The fascinating story of Anne Bonny and Mary Read can be found in Under the Black Flag by David Cordingley.
Sir: I read with interest Stephen Prendergast’s article on the national correspondence school in New Zealand (‘Long-distance learning', 20 February). I was an 11-year-old boy in Auckland when the awful 1948 polio epidemic occurred. The then minister of education announced in late January that schools across the country would not be restarting until after Easter (which fell in the last week of March). At the time the National Correspondence School primarily supported students of all ages who lived in remote areas. The provision amounted to about 40 lessons per month. Within a very short time the programme was stepped up to more than 40 radio classes per week, supplemented by lessons being sent out to all children of school age, in memorable green canvas envelopes. These needed to be completed and taken to the local school, where teachers in empty classrooms marked them, recorded grades and returned them. The result was that students did not have their formal education impeded to any real extent.
Sir Graeme Davies
Finding the balls
Sir: Might I add to the formidable list of inventions suggested by Matthew Parris the returnable tennis ball? (‘31 inventions that could transform the 21st century’, 27 February). A simple chip in the ball that matched it to the racquet once play has ceased? While the elite have ball boys or girls, the rest of us spend much of a game retrieving balls. Even coaches could use it by having a simple device on their bin.
Jab by proxy
Sir: The cartoon on page 15 last week (‘Our son’s so lazy, I’m having to take his Covid test for him’) reminds me of an event that occurred when I was working in Kenya in the 1990s. One of my colleagues went to visit a client in Rwanda. On arrival at Kigali airport, it transpired that he wasn’t in possession of the correct vaccination certificate. He was then offered the required injection, but the facilities looked less than salubrious. A standoff ensued, which was eventually resolved when the client’s ‘fixer’, who was waiting for my colleague, was summoned and promptly took the injection ‘on behalf’ of my colleague, to the evident satisfaction of all parties.
In vino veritas
Sir: In reply to Bruce Anderson’s query concerning the origins of supermarket Bulgarian cabernet sauvignon (Drink, 27 February) I can confirm, as a former Sainsbury’s buyer, that yes, it did come from where it claimed. I had to go there once to make sure.
St Martin, Cornwall