I VERY much enjoyed reading George Kerevan’s assessment of the big issues facing Scotland and the UK in 2016 (Amid the chaos of the new economic order, it's vital Scotland recovers its sovereignty, The National December 28).

What was surprising however, is that there was no mention of the current negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The outcome of these negotiations are expected in 2016 although the specific date, like all aspects of the ‘deal’, are not known.

I have tried to discover what the SNP policy is on these negotiations but, to date, can find no details on their website.

I believe the party does require to take a position on this critical issue. Indeed, I would say that in terms of sovereignty it is of equal importance to both Brexit and the next indyref.

I therefore hope this letter will prompt a positioning statement from the party and some debate within your paper from your more learned than me readership.

Some key points, in terms of the process of TTIP negotiations, and which might ring alarm bells in terms of ‘Scottish sovereignty’ post 2016 are as follows.

Multinational corporations will be able to challenge sovereign governments’ legislation through the courts.

Chapter 11, articles three to 18 contain general principles which include rules forbidding governments from “directly nationalising or expropriating” businesses unless it is under due process of law as defined within the agreement.

Articles 35 to 39 mandate competitive markets and ban cross-subsidies.

Chapter Five goes further by “limiting the laws that governments can pass to regulate or publicly run insurance and banking”.

These are but a few specific points but are, I hope, sufficient to exemplify the potential for the loss of national sovereignty.

Can you imagine, for example, the Scottish Government being taken to court by a vastly wealthy multinational corporate to challenge its decision to ban GM crops? I can, and where does that leave our national sovereignty?

The process of negotiations itself should also be of some concern as, according to information available on Wikipedia: “Upon the insistence of the US, the documents are not transmitted any more as electronic or even printed documents”.

They are only made available in a high security room in Brussels or in a number of US embassies in Europe.

The negotiations are essentially being conducted in a ‘closed room’.

Only once the Commission has agreed terms will there be any democratic review of the agreement.

At that stage all 29 democratically-elected governments will be asked to ‘sign off’ on the terms already negotiated and agreed by the Commission – expected in 2016. The whole process is presented as an opportunity to increase trade and wealth between the US and Europe.

Again, according to a feature on Wikipedia, Dean Baker of the United States’ Centre of Economic and Policy Research is on record as saying that the benefits to the average household are “mediocre”, at best the equivalent of 10p per day.

One can only speculate that the new global elite will do rather better!

The whole TTIP appears to remove constitutional sovereignty from nation states by handing over economic governance to multinational corporations and their lawyers who could, through the courts, bankrupt nations if they do not comply with their corporate view of globalisation.

Where is our sovereignty in this New World Order? A position statement from the SNP would be welcome.

Ian Stewart
Uig, Isle of Skye

Scrap the honours system: Put up our own statues

IN response to Russ McLean, who calls for a suspension of the imperial honours system and the adoption of a Scottish one (Letters, December 28). It really doesn’t matter who is in charge of an honours system, or who dishes the honours out; these systems will always be a form of acknowledgement and reward for services rendered. 

The sprinkling of low-level awards to lollipop ladies and the like are there to keep the masses happy. The pretence is that these awards are in some way meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, for those people they are a token of respect from their communities, but the higher up the list you go, the less likely that is. 

I was surprised to find that there is even a company called Awards Intelligence who advise people on the best way to gain awards and who will help you every step of the way. From reading the testimonials on their website it would appear happy clients see an honour or official reward as a good way of growing their business and increasing their worth. 

One person, the daughter of an MBE recipient, stated that it was the “best birthday present I could have arranged for my father”. Another satisfied customer, an OBE recipient, was nominated by his wife! That sums it up for me: an elitist gift service where one selects the badge of honour they wish to buy and pays handsomely for it.

Even if Scotland should refrain from having an official honours system, there’s always the unofficial one. The naming of streets and public buildings is one way of honouring a local worthy. Here in Airdrie the Labour-run local authority renamed the public swimming baths as the John Smith Pool to honour the former MP and Labour Party leader.  

Mr Smith was Labour leader during the notorious “Monklands Mafia” era, yet was strangely silent on the whole affair, no doubt for fear it would affect his chances of becoming Prime Minister. 

The renaming of the pool was not in response to clamour from local people. Because he ignored the problem, they probably would not have donated enough for John Smith’s admission to the pool, never mind its renaming. This was the party honouring one of its own, nothing less. 

I say scrap the honours system, and if a community wishes to honour someone in the good old-fashioned way by erecting a statue then let it be done by voluntary public subscription, not by politicians raiding the public purse.

 Were that the case, they perches for pigeons would be few and far between.

James Cassidy Airdrie

PERHAPS Andrew Learmonth (Fresh attack on SNP’s named person policy, The National, December 29) would do well to take a balanced look at just why there is serious opposition to the policy. 

There has indeed been a roll-out of the scheme (and precursors of it) in the Highland Council area and experience gives rise to a number of concerns, not least that it has the effect of withdrawing from parents (and others accused by a named person) the normal protections of law. ‘Concerns’ on the part of  a named person are shared around other ‘professionals’ (teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses etc). 

 Matters discussed can then go to a child protection case conference. The ‘professionals’ who have already discussed the matter form the membership of the case conference. 

A  ‘concern’ on the part of a ‘professional’, when cited by another ‘professional’, is treated by the case conference as having a status equivalent to fact, without being subject to legal standards of proof.  

Meanwhile the accused persons, parents or otherwise, are forbidden to have legal representation. 

There’s something far wrong with a system in which the same individuals can act as accusers, prosecution, judge, jury and executive agency, while the accused is denied even the right to representation. 

Case conferences have considerable power, but are a very different sort of body from the rightly-admired Children’s Hearing system. Disagree with your child’s health visitor or head teacher at your peril – your children can be on the ‘at risk’ register for years on the basis of allegations which have no basis in fact and which can even be malicious. Are we really expected to believe that all named persons (and all the ‘professionals’ they involve) are always completely correct in their allegations and in the ‘evidence’ they adduce to support the allegations?

John MacLeod Portmahomack, Tain

Letters to The National: December 30, Part 1: Can skiers be partly to blame for the lack of snow on the Scottish pistes?