State of the Union
Sir: Writing in a week that an opinion poll shows 58 per cent support for independence in Scotland, it seems bizarre for Professor Tombs to claim that commentators are ignoring ‘the death throes of separatism’ (‘Out together’, 17 October). He argues that nationalist supporters rely on the Brexit and Covid-19 crises to advance their cause, and that they will be in retreat once things return to normal. Then, once doubts begin to bubble up about the financial and economic uncertainties of independence, Scottish voters will return to the unionist cause. These arguments may give him some comfort, but here in Scotland they seem unreal. Covid-19 has given the Scottish public the chance to observe the ways the crisis has been handled either side of the border, and Nicola Sturgeon appears to have come out on top. This memory might well outlast the pandemic.
Many in Scotland voted against independence in 2014 because they were told that the only chance of staying in the EU was to remain within the UK. A ‘good’ Brexit is hardly likely to console them. As for the financial cost of independence, this will be the cause of much debate. I can only refer Professor Tombs to the many Brexiteers who acknowledge the cost of leaving the EU, but claim it is worth it to regain sovereignty. More and more Scots are now feeling the same way.
Sir: I can assure Charles Moore and your readers that the National Trust will reopen Thomas Carlyle’s house (The Spectator’s Notes, 17 October) and we will continue to share the history of the life of Carlyle and his wife Jane with all our visitors. Charles Moore takes issue with a podcast that’s available on our website, ‘Think a Likkle: Lineage of thought’. It is a personal reflection from one of the trainees of the New Museum School, a work-based learning programme for people entering arts and heritage careers. The piece is about Carlyle and how his views on race were formed and may live on. It appears alongside other reflections on Carlyle’s legacy, including a panel event at the house featuring writers such as Simon Heffer, Ian Hislop and A.N. Wilson discussing Carlyle’s influence on Victorian and contemporary society.
Charles Moore himself says that the history of Carlyle’s views has never been hidden and he has always been ‘intensely controversial’. Exploring Carlyle’s legacy through new voices as well as established ones should not be at all controversial. The National Trust is for everyone.
Pets and vets
Sir: The people of Britain love their pets, but they have a rather more ambivalent attitude to the veterinary profession. This was reinforced for me by Rachel Johnson’s piece (‘Dog pounds’, 10 October), telling of how her cockapoo’s emergency surgery cost her £2,500. ‘There is no market mechanism, no mix of public or private to keep any sort of lid on fees. Vets have you over a barrel’, she wrote. Do pet owners really think that, presented with an unwell animal, a vet’s intention is to extract as much money as possible? Private vet fees are not cheap, but this does not mean they are overinflated — healthcare for animals is not cheap to provide. The practice is unlikely to have made much profit on Ziggy’s £2,500 bill.
Pet owners want supervet standards for a bargain price, and meeting those expectations is near impossible. Many disillusioned vets are calling it a day after just a few years, and many vet practices are chronically understaffed. Tragically, the suicide rate among vets is a shocking four times the national average.
Vet fees are expensive. But most vets are not motivated to do their job for money. They do it because they love animals.
Ignoring the tide
Sir: Your correspondent is incorrect in stating that reliable baseload power as provided by Hinckley Point C can only otherwise be provided by fossil-fuelled backup (Letters, 17 October). The Severn Barrage tidal energy scheme, which with a subsequent network of schemes to be built around the UK, would have provided more than enough baseload reliable energy at a comparable unit cost to Hinckley. Sadly the government, having previously kicked the scheme into the long grass while their negotiations continued over the building of Hinckley, eventually chose to ignore the cost saving of subsequent tidal energy schemes and reject the Severn scheme — thereby depriving the UK of developing a whole new green industry with the potential to export the unique expertise that would have flowed from it.
Sir: I found Melanie McDonagh’s guidance on how to end an email invaluable (‘Signs of the times’, 17 October). Indeed the double-act podcast with William Hanson wiled away some otherwise dead time on a rowing machine. Having turned the page on Mr Parris’s enjoyable Swedish malarkey, I was reminded of a Norwegian colleague who regularly used ‘Beast regards’ to sign off his otherwise brilliantly written (in English) emails. Another, a Scot, used ‘Yours aye’, or thought he did, until his autocorrect changed it to ‘Yours ate’. Yours ate, beast regards.
Sir: Covid has provided Classicists with the perfect email ending. It combines saying goodbye with wishing correspondents good health. I now sign off simply with vale — or, in the case of my enthusiastic Latin reading group and all Spectator readers, valete.