I WAS not surprised to read Jim Taylor’s long letter, “Access to single market is the prize of EU membership” (September 14) in response to my earlier letter. Mr Taylor and I will never agree about the benefits of EU membership because, I believe, in his bureaucratic heart he is a unionist who only believes in Scottish independence if it is part of a larger union. I do not.

Mr Taylor does not recognise the “fierce debate” (Historian puts independence under spotlight, September 14) which is taking place all over Europe and beyond about the benefits of combining nations into unions with other countries, eg Catalonia with Spain, Scotland with the rest of the UK, and the Baltic countries although, after bloody wars, they have reverted to their nation states.

The photograph of the summer house of Moray House where the Treaty of Union might have been signed, in secret, (Letters, September 14), reminds us, if we ever need reminding, of the nefarious way in which the treaty was imposed on so many Scots at the time and, I think Mr Taylor might agree, from which we have been smarting ever since.

It is true that, bureaucratically, it is easier for big countries composed of smaller nations to exercise control over an electorate which might not agree with the policies of the dominant country. Mr Taylor is right to say I don’t support, not do I believe the EU intends, a “federal union”. After his “state of the European Union” address earlier this week, a reporter asked Jean-Claude Juncker if he wanted to turn the EU into a superpower. He replied ingenuously: “What is a super-power?” I have pointed out before now that that is the aim of the EU. Presumably Mr Taylor would be happy for Scotland to be subsumed into an EU super-power but, once again, I cannot agree with him.

The “fierce debate” is essentially about democracy and the suppression of small countries so I was very pleased to read that Aberdeen University is hosting debates to consider, “Staying together? Crisis and Survival in Political Unions since 1469”. I very much look forward to reading their findings or following the debates on the internet. Mr Taylor must begin to come to terms with the idea that I am not alone in questioning the value of “combination” states and support people’s right to declare independence from them. Once these issues have been settled, then trading between independent countries may take place harmoniously, without residents of smaller countries feeling that their interests have been ignored by their dominant states. In the long run, I believe it is the only way to achieve a lasting peace.

Lovina Roe

READ MORE: Letters: Single market access is the prize of EU membership​

SHONA Craven’s excellent article on national testing is very timely and she rightly identifies the contributions in The National as being measured and evidence-based (Testing times demand a grown-up debate about P1s, September 14). What is at stake here is too important for acrimony or political parties’ tit-for-tat.

We know that there is a gap in educational achievement which correlates very strongly with poverty and disadvantage and we know that elements of this gap are apparent long before P1. However, we also know from research that early-years education is critical in identifying the gap and beginning the process of closing it. Thus, the current debate surrounding P1 testing is not simply about the stress it may cause five-year olds, it is about the quality of the data it will produce. I am very sceptical that a 30-minute online test can add much of value to what the staff in nurseries and in P1 classrooms up and down the country already know about their pupils. Indeed, there is strong evidence that children at this age should not be in a formal classroom setting but should still be learning through structured (and unstructured) play.

What is being forgotten in the current debate is that these tests will be carried out not just in P1 but also in P4, P7 and S3, making Scottish pupils among the most tested in the world. As was pointed out to me by a depute headteacher, “you don’t fatten a cow by weighing it”.

No-one is arguing that all tests should be abolished; rather we are suggesting that formative assessment – aimed at helping individual learners to improve – should be a natural part of the learning and teaching process. Individual, diagnostic tests have a place, but national, standardised tests are a distraction and could, if they are used as ways of comparing schools’ performance, be counter-productive.

I hope we can keep the channels of debate open. Contributors to The National, I am sure, want education to be at the heart of making an independent Scotland a fairer, more just society. It would be good to hear from parents, teachers and others. Robust debate is always welcome. It is important, as Strathclyde University’s Statute states, “…to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions...” – but in a reasoned, measured and professional manner, avoiding personal recriminations.

Brian Boyd
Emeritus Professor of Education

READ MORE: Testing times demand a grown-up debate about measuring P1s progress