GORDON MacIntyre-Kemp is certainly excited about the idea of a basic, or citizens’, income (A Citizens Income could be the SNP's NHS moment, April 12). It’s a big, eye-catching policy, with the potential to change the social contract of the country. It’s appealingly simple – everyone has a guarantee of enough money to live: unconditional, unrequited transfers.

Citizens’ income attacks many of the absurdities and outrages of the current tax and benefits system. Despite many attempts to overhaul it, the current system is still not uniformly progressive. Many people are effectively caught in a poverty or unemployment trap. Offered a job, or longer hours in their jobs, they end up with less to spend, especially after taking into account childcare or travel costs. They’re the people at the sharp end of a system that works best for high earners.

But going back to Mr McIntyre-Kemp’s comparison with the NHS, both the Great Depression and the experience of World War Two meant that there was an appetite for radical change in 1945. Government spending in World War Two peaked at almost 70 per cent of national income. All that made it much easier for the Attlee government to increase government spending from just under 30 per cent, as it had been in the 1930s, to a little over 35 per cent. With clearly specified policy objectives, the government simply needed to channel its resources in a new way.

In contrast, a citizens’ income would require the government to collect much more in tax, which it would then redistribute evenly across the population. And that’s always been a challenge. Many years ago, the conservative idealist Milton Friedman advocated this sort of reform. It still bubbles up from time to time in the USA in discussions of a “flat tax”. So, this isn’t just an idea from the left – it has an impeccable conservative pedigree as well. But no government of any political stripe has been able to address the challenges of grafting it onto an existing system.

Independence is the only foreseeable shock which might allow such radical ideas to become a reality. The first independence referendum suffered from a prospectus that was as readable and inspiring as an appliance manual in a foreign language. The next – last – referendum cannot be like that. Citizens’ income can be an important part of the pitch for independence precisely because it appeals to so many people who simply want to build a better nation.

Robbie Mochrie

PETER Craigie’s letter about identity (April 12) begs the question of what dictates an individual’s position in the Scottish identity spectrum – Scottish, British, British Scots or Scottish Brits?

Let’s consider two images for the sake of illustration; one of flag-waving Scottish supporters at Murrayfield, and the other of flag-waving pro-indy supporters marching along the road to George Square. The former group wants Scotland to “win the battle” of the day, but the latter wants Scotland to “win the war” for the sake of the permanent national survival of the economy, culture and well-being.

Of the Murrayfield contingent who are not pro-indy, there is obviously a deep connection to Scottishness. However, it’s very strange that this feeling is not strong enough for them to want the country they appear to be in love with to stand up and be a nation again, despite the fact that these are the very words they collectively sing with great passion!

How can this anomaly be explained? Lifetimes of various forms of subjugation by the British government, perpetuated by the British-owned media, have taken their toll on our Scottish society. The “Scottish identity” (in the context of Peter Craigie’s meaning of the term) of a huge section of the Scottish population appears to be represented by a displaced yearning but within an empty shell of Britishness.

Peter asks how can they be persuaded of their fundamental misconception? Think of the words of the song, “the future’s not ours to see”, and convert it to, “the future IS ours to see”, by our Scottish Government telling tell us all, loudly and clearly, how the economy and standard of living in an independent Scotland will improve and protect the people living in Scotland. Then we can all sing, in unison and with belief, “be a Nation again”.

Dennis White

DONALD Anderson’s long letter (April 12) is to the point, as usual. He writes: “We don’t even have a nation to have a national debt”. Article XV of the 1707 Act of Union provides that Scotland be paid an “Equivalent” (of 398,085 pounds and ten shillings) to compensate for the fact that Scotland, which had no national debt, would, after the Union, share liability for England’s large national debt. This is a bit different from the story we are supposed to believe of a generous England bailing out a bankrupt Scotland! (Some of the equivalent was paid in gold, some in paper bonds, some perhaps never paid: we should be told!)

David Stevenson