I FEEL it imperative to reply to John Drummond’s article “The state is the problem, not the people...” (November 3) as I consider it wrong on so many grounds. I accept that Mr Drummond wrote it with the finest intentions, but nevertheless consider it to be quite irresponsible, particularly as we are entering an extremely important election where the blame for what ails us must be placed firmly at the doors of the people responsible and not at some amorphous non-human entity.

You see, he begins by describing the state as sui generis, implying that the state is a “thing” and quite distinct from the people who compose it, but the state is most certainly not sui generis, a “thing” distinct in itself, independent of human activity and behaviour.

READ MORE: Electioneering 101: The state is the problem, not the people

The state is an interdependent set of human institutions, an administrative concept for the regulation and administration of any given political entity. People can be evil and can utilise the agencies of the state for evil purposes, as the Tories demonstrate daily, but equally, people can be altruistic and concerned for the welfare of others and can therefore utilise the agencies of the state for good, and this is what Mr Drummond seems to overlook.

The state can be large, small, intrusive or liberating; it can be whatever the people directing its activities desire it to be. The state is neither good nor evil, but essentially reflects the policies and behaviour of the personnel in charge of it at any given point in history. If the state is regarded as non-neutral, that is a reflection of the policies and public agenda of the people directing its activities. People are partial, people are prejudiced and driven by class bias, hatred, racism etc, and if the state is perceived as embodying such unfortunate tendencies, then that is because it is under the direction of a particular class of human beings who embody them.

When Mr Drummond tells us we must battle the state tooth and nail because it will fight for its very existence, this is because it is under the rule and direction of ideologically driven free-market neoliberal Unionists who know that they are responsible for a failed state and a failed Union whose time has passed. By Mr Drummond’s logic an independent Scotland will be able to happily survive without a state, but I’m afraid that in an independent Scotland there will still be a state, whose nature will still be a reflection of the personnel guiding its affairs.

He tells us that “there is a place on these islands for a set of ideals and values that are permanent and cannot be struck down on a whim to suit narrow party or factional advantage. A declaration of goodness and ethical principles that may not be negotiated away.” But I’m afraid that I always shudder when I meet someone who knows what “goodness” is. No set of ideals and values can be permanent, nor should be, and I am quite sure that my ideals and values will be quite different from Mr Drummond’s, indeed by writing this I am demonstrating that they are. I agree with him that we need a set of ethical principles, but that is a quite different thing.

Therefore, Mr Drummond, I must conclude that it is the people who are the problem and not the state, as “the state” does not believe anything. People do, however, and as long as we have some form of political community that requires collective decision-making, we will require some form of state.

Peter Kerr

I READ with great interest the very informed and scholastic article by Rory MacLellan regarding the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus and their historical importance and stature in Scotland (The Leper Knights of Edinburgh, October 30).

As the current Grand Baillie of the Order in Scotland I am pleased to record that the legacy of those early Knights still exists here in Scotland as an ecumenical Christian Order. We are small in number but in the charitable world are considered to “punch above our weight”.

READ MORE: Rory MacLellan explores the Leper Knights of Edinburgh

Just a few weeks back I received the report from the Grand Hospitaller of our international organisation of which we are part. Last year donations from St Lazarus internationally were more than €2 million to a wide variety of good causes, including large donations to aid those suffering from leprosy. We donate annually to the Leprosy Mission here in Scotland but in addition aid small local organisations ranging from little-known services to the blind to a hospital in Zimbabwe along with many other deserving causes.

This weekend I will be in Madrid for a meeting of International Heads of Jurisdictions all working to carry on the generous and unselfish work of the Leper Knights. It is most interesting to have such an informed discourse on our organisation’s roots.

Roy Scott
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GOOD to see the latest contribution from my old friend, Billy Scobie (Letters, November 4). On the button as usual. It was also great to see, in your photo gallery, these indefatigable campaigners, Flora and Bobby Stewart. Brilliant! The whole event on Saturday was thoroughly inspiring – despite the pathetic whistles from the band of Unionists at the back!

Ian Baillie