I HESITATE to disagree with Ruth Wishart or indeed Tim Rideout, but my reading of the National Insurance legislation going back to 1911 is that the state makes a long-term, indeed lifelong, commitment to pay pensions and benefits to qualifying citizens (Pensions row shows Unionists are singing from the same hymn sheet, Feb 20).

This it does without qualification. We have, after all, paid in to a mandatory scheme all our working lives in order to gain the advantage of a later reward.

Independence does not of itself breach that commitment. But it does change the relationship between Scotland and England for future taxpayers. To end the agreement between taxpayer and state on the payment of benefits and pensions would require a renegotiation and the repayment to contributors of money they have paid in.

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To suggest otherwise is to give an easy out to the British government and allow them to wash their hands of responsibility for Scots taxpayers over the years. Scots’ contributions to the UK fund are a UK asset and as such will be liable to negotiation on independence. Much more likely is that the UK will opt to continue paying Scots’ pensions until today’s cohort is gone.

Researching in 2013 for the referendum, I discovered the UK had no pension pot as we think of it for an individual but rather paid out pensions from tax revenue coming in. However, two points qualify that. One, there is in fact a Great Britain National Insurance Fund Account which is kept topped up with a minimum sum – circa 17% or £18bn – as a form of insurance against shortage of funds to dole out. In 2020 the actual amount in funds was £43bn, with a total benefits and pension outlay of £200bn.

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Two – it doesn’t matter what accounting system the UK chooses to apply to pensions. That’s their decision, and if it means they are short of billions to pay off Scots pensions, that is also their problem. It isn’t our job to solve it for them – the money is still due. With Scottish NI adding more than 8% to the UK total, or about £10bn, imagine what that contribution would be worth if repaid today after more than 70 years from, say, 1950 – the equivalent of hundreds of billions, money the UK doesn’t have.

My argument is that the billions paid in for all those years by Scots creates a pool of assets which have benefited the British state massively. The UK can either agree to pay back at least an agreed proportion or continue paying out pensions as they promised all those years ago.

Derek Bateman

I WRITE to comment on the Sunday National’s article on fish farming (Use of drugs at fish farms rises 50 times in six year, Feb 27).

Intensive farming of ANY sentient being is morally and ethically wrong for many reasons. However, consider the danger it poses simply to human health based on what we have seen with Covid-19. When human beings are crowded together on public transport, in sporting stadia, in theatres, cinemas and at race meetings, these were all the places where Covid-19 spread widely, causing chaos in hospitals worldwide.

In exactly the same way, in intensive farming of any animal, including fish, where the animals are crowded too closely together in cages, disease spreads. This is exactly the same as what happened at race meetings and football matches with humans.

As with humans, the fish are treated with antibiotics. And as with humans, the infectious microbes are now able to overcome the antibiotics, meaning that they no longer kill the pathogens. So the fish stay sick and the farm operatives increase the doses.

What this does is make the fish harmful to human health. So fish is no longer a healthy option in a human diet. The antibiotics get into the human system and make the human sick. Has our NHS not got enough to deal with?

How much longer are we going to let profit-driven businesses make MORE work for our hard-pressed nurses and doctors? When are our politicians going to DO SOMETHING POSITIVE TO STOP THIS?

Is anybody out there listening, or do I keep banging the same drum till the end of time?

Margaret Forbes

HOW nice of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, to present the document conferring city status to the late Sir David Amess’s constituency of Southend-on-Sea.

How interesting, also, to hear the Prince’s thoughts regarding “attacks on democracy”.

I would just like to know what was the facet of “democracy” that conferred on him the highly privileged office he enjoys? I haven’t seen the ballot paper yet that’s had his name on it. It doesn’t shout “democracy” for me!

But then, maybe, I misheard him: perhaps he was referring to the maintenance of his own fiscal status and had actually said “a tax on democracy”? Who knows?

Ned Larkin