The big problem with the UK’s handling of refugees is the enormous backlog of asylum claims the UK Government has allowed to build up. According to the Refugee Council, there are currently almost 140,000 asylum claims awaiting an initial decision, representing almost 180,000 men, women and children. Of those claims, more than 24,000 are from Afghanistan, Eritrea or Syria. Historically, claimants from those three countries have over 98% success in achieving refugee status, so the Home Office could make a significant dent in its backlog by simply approving (even on a provisional basis) all those claims and allowing the claimants to work.
It’s worth putting the UK’s numbers in context. Tony Smith, former head of UK Border Force, pointed out on BBC Radio this morning (August 11) that the UK received 75,000 asylum applications in 2022; Germany received 218,000, France 137,000 and Austria 100,000. The UNHCR estimates there are 108 million forcibly-displaced people worldwide, with 40 million being refugees or asylum seekers. The Norwegian Refugee Council says that 22% of Lebanon’s population are refugees, while Germany has received 2.5 million in the past 10 years.
There are many reasons for these enormous global flows of people, and one of them is political instability leading to war, civil war or internal oppression. The UK had a long history as an imperial power, conquering and looting around the world, as did other European countries. Maybe if more effort had gone into developing local economies and political and civil society, there might be fewer migrants fleeing to our shores.
Mr Thompson wants refugees to enter the UK only “through legitimate channels”. I’m curious to know what those channels are for, say, a young woman who has been imprisoned, tortured and sexually assaulted by the security forces of an oppressive regime. Does she just trot along to the British embassy and fill in a form?
Doug Maughan, Dunblane.
Harvie playing King Canute
TRUST in politicians is tenuous at best but Patrick Harvie is stretching this to incredulity. Instead of backing down over heat pumps he is continuing on the offensive (“Harvie calls on UK Government to cut cost of running heat pump”, The Herald, August 11). He thinks costs will come down for electricity if everyone installs these pumps.
First, not every property in Scotland is suitable, few are. Secondly, not everyone wants one. Thirdly, the installation costs are enormous so savings are not going to come for a very long time and fourthly, how can he predict electricity prices will drop when he point-blank refuses to adopt nuclear power or even gas-fired power stations?
Finally, think of just how problematic a power cut would be if Scotland was “all-electric”. This is where electricity storage problems plus a lack of wind blow Mr Harvie’s quaint notions all away. Another King Canute scenario.
Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.
Benefits were capped before
RE the debate over Labour’s policy on the two-child benefit cap playing out through the upcoming Rutherglen by-election: n the 1950s when I was growing up, Family Allowance was paid to all families but only for the second child. My father was always working but Family Allowance was not payable for my elder brother, only for me.
I don’t know what the situation was for those families where the father was unemployed.
My understanding is that this was the government’s way of helping with the cost of rearing children.
So, there have been restrictions on child-related benefits before.
Dorothy Connor, Rutherglen.
• SURELY one of the main reasons for the existence of the so-called “attainment gap” in education is that wealthier parents are in a position to hire private tutors in subjects where their children are struggling.
Brian Johnston, Torrance.
The myth of the George Square tank
I WAS dismayed to see the photograph you chose to accompany Cat Boyd’s article (“Red Clydesiders wouldn’t recognise the Left of today”, The Herald, August 11). The picture, which shows a tank in the midst of crowds in Glasgow’s George Square, was made in 1918 as part of a publicity drive to raise funds for War Bonds. It had no connection or relevance to anything stated in Ms Boyd’s thoughtful article which does, however, refer to the discipline of the Red Clydesiders.
The photograph was dishonourably deployed in the 1950s and thereafter to support a false allegations that English troops and tanks had been deployed against striking Red Clydesiders in 1919. These false allegations were subsequently, and may still be, taught as historical fact to school pupils in Scotland.
The photograph appears to have become something of an icon for those who wish to rail against imaginary evils perpetrated on Scotland by the English empire.
Long-standing respectable journals may be one of the few defences which are available against the spreading disease of fake news which threatens our way of life and it is depressing to see you, even accidentally, give strength to that powerful enemy.
Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.
Separate church from state
ON Thursday (August 10) I attended a Festival of Politics event in the Scottish Parliament which discussed how it had been 35 years since the inception of Section 28: a hateful and now repealed local government act which sought to ban the “promotion” of homosexuality as a “as a pretended family relationship”. Though I lived through it at the time it was still shocking to be reminded that gay relationships were believed to be “pretended” and of the absurd idea that children would have chosen to be gay simply because they knew about the existence of LGBT people.
Many battles have been won since those days but we are reminded that outstanding LGBT inequalities are largely religiously-based: faith schools are exempt from providing LGBT-inclusive sex and relationships classes should that run counter to their “ethos”; a full ban on so-called gay conversion therapy was met with demands that “pray away the gay” uniquely should be allowed to continue and unrepentant homophobic views are to be excused even in candidates for First Minister if they are religiously derived.
We cannot prevent that minority of believers who still hold these views from privately doing so but separation of church and state is absolutely vital to prevent them being deployed from a position of advantage or privilege.
Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society, Edinburgh.
HAVING just spent time enjoying the formidable performing talent at the Edinburgh Festival, the accommodation situation brought about by the Scottish Government’s attack on short-term letting operations has been brought abruptly to the fore.
Due to the dire shortage of short-term lets and other AirBnB rentals, we stayed in student accommodation at Brae House. For £190 a night, we were given a modest room which had not been cleaned adequately.
We were provided with no towels and were unable even to make a cup of tea. We used the filthy kitchen and had to wash some dirty mugs. There was no kettle and heating water on a hob was problematic as this was on a timer which cut out before the water boiled.
This rank profiteering is a disgrace to the city and would certainly appal both local and overseas visitors.
There needs to be a major reset in the policies which have driven many wonderful short-term letting businesses to the wall.
Dr Roger Black, Glasgow.
Data breach is worrying
THE recent data breach in Northern Ireland (“PSNI in probe after documents are stolen”, The Herald, August 10) is an important reminder of the purpose of the Data Protection Act (2018). When confidential information is put into the “wrong” hands, the breach then has the power to victimise and intimidate those people who should have had full protection.
Data breaches may happen for different reasons such as human error, but it can also be as a result of intentional and reckless sharing of confidential information. Regardless of how a breach has happened, there needs to be greater recognition given to and understanding that any leak can be damaging and in some circumstance life-threatening.
How can employees generally and those who work in such precarious situations be guaranteed full protection?
Trish Grierson, Castle Douglas.
Don’t make swearing a political issue
LIKE Peter A Russell (Letters, August 11), I remember when different language was used, primarily by men, depending on the audience. I also associate the recollection of those days with the likes of Alf Garnet and Mary Whitehouse, as representative examples of societal division at the time as to what was or was not acceptable. However, what Mr Russell praises I denounce as hypocritical.
These days many may abhor language that is so commonplace and some will blame television and film companies for allowing it. That said, I am more offended by Mr Russell’s attempt to make a political point about swearing, suggesting the SNP and Conservative are foul-mouthed, whereas Labour is witty. To my mind his comments are (to quote him) “a sad reflection of the divided state of Scottish discourse that everything must be reduced to the simplistic binary level of Yes vs No”.
David Bruce, Troon.
The sage of Empire
NEIL Mackay’s article on the use of the old word “f***” (“A tale of two ‘f***s’ . . . and why they are so different”, The Herald, August 10) and the subsequent correspondence (Letters, August 10 & 11) reminds me of a report once made by Denis Healey, a former Defence Secretary. He said that Sir Richard Turnbull, once High Commissioner for Aden, had observed: “When the British Empire finally sinks beneath the waves of history , it will leave behind it only two memorials, one is the game of Association Football and the other is the expression ‘f*** off'”.
A terse, if somewhat facile, view of the legacies of the British Empire.
Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.