Greater Scotland

Your arguments about why Scots should reject independence amounts to saying that Scotland would face the very same perils if it were to secede from the United Kingdom that the UK faces when it leaves the European Union (“Leave one union, lose another”, March 18th). Scotland, however, would be leaving the UK to join a single-market union that is rather larger. Although you talk of Scotland breaking with its main trading partner (England), it would have little difficulty diverting its exports to a single market of over 400m people. Moreover, in terms of geopolitical influence Scotland would be better placed in a renewed EU than in an isolated UK.

Scotland is not seeking to wreck either the UK or the EU. A big argument made for Scotland rejecting independence at the referendum in 2014 was that sticking with the UK guaranteed it a place in the EU. If in 2016 the UK had voted to remain in the EU there would be no question of another referendum on Scoxit, “for a generation” at least. The choice that Scots are agonisingly facing is that of to which supranational union they should adhere, the UK or the EU? The wreckers of unions are I am afraid the English, or to be a little more precise, the English Brexiteers.

Professor of business ethics
Grenoble École de Management
Grenoble, France

Polls consistently show that most Scots do not want another referendum and would prefer our government in Holyrood to get on with its day job. “Scotland” was not on the ballot paper in the Brexit referendum; many Remain votes in Scotland were cast by people who want to stay in the UK.

The SNP manifesto was 76 pages long and contained a mere four paragraphs about a second referendum on independence. The SNP is a minority government in Scotland, propped up by the Greens, having won less than half of the popular vote and losing six seats in 2016. If Nicola Sturgeon was that confident she would secure a real mandate, and face the electorate with an explicit referendum commitment.


Brexit may hint at trouble for us expatriates who reside in an EU country. So why don’t we have an acronym of our own, namely ExBrit.

Bad Krozingen, Germany

Europe’s chain of events

The idea of a “domino theory” in relation to populists winning European elections is misleading, you say, citing the context of America’s strategy of containment to prevent the spread of communism in South-East Asia (“Domino theory”, March 18th). But a more powerful example of the domino theory happened in the European revolutions of 1848. That wave of insurgency was ideological, not military, in nature. Its ideas spread to 50 countries, toppled governments and ultimately reshaped Europe. As Victor Hugo said, no army can stop an idea whose time has come. One must hope that the time has not come for populist ideas to sweep across Europe.

San Francisco

Quantum measurements

Your articles on the present and future effects on us all of quantum physics omitted one small point: metrology has joined the quantum world, but not just for atomic clocks (Technology quarterly, March 11th). Next year, the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures will adopt new quantum-based definitions for most of our well-known basic units of measurement. Notably, the kilogram will be defined in terms of a fixed value of the Planck constant, the basic fundamental constant of quantum physics.

Readers will from then on buy their kilos of potatoes in the secure knowledge that the market trader’s scales are traceable not to a piece of platinum in a safe in Paris but to the Planck constant—which is where? Everywhere, even on the Moon and the most distant galaxy.

Emeritus director
International Bureau of Weights and Measures
Sèvres, France

It is instructive to compare the development of quantum technologies with that of artificial intelligence. AI is now a powerful tool, though it repeatedly fell short of lofty expectations during its early development, leading to disappointment and stagnation. Quantum technologies give much cause for excitement. This is especially true for relatively near-term, special-purpose devices, such as quantum sensors and simulators. We must not, however, demand too much of these microscopic systems prematurely.

Quantum Engineering Group
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Refugees count

Out of sight” (March 18th) rightly criticised the EU-Turkey deal on refugees for its humanitarian impact. At the heart of the deal is a deeply problematic logic. It is not just that states have become complacent, and that this in addition to bureaucracy has allowed asylum-seekers to linger in appalling conditions in Greece. Rather, the deal excludes the vast majority of asylum-seekers in Greece.

One of the problems of the relocation scheme is that it is restricted to those who entered Greece after September 16th 2015 and no later than March 19th 2016 and who are “in clear need of relocation”. However, the eligibility criteria are rigid. The formula is limited to those nationals who have a 75% rate of recognition or higher in the previous quarter. According to the European Asylum Support Office, only asylum-seekers from Burundi, Eritrea, the Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Syria and Yemen are eligible.

Yet with the exception of Syrians, few asylum-seekers from those countries are in fact present in Greece. By narrowing the scope of eligibility, the EU has excluded thousands of Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani asylum-seekers from the relocation scheme.

Middlesex University

War and inequality

Walter Scheidel is overly pessimistic in arguing that only catastrophic events really reduce inequality (“Apocalypse then”, March 4th). Using the Gini index in the Standardised World Income Inequality Database, which covers 173 countries from 1960 to 2012, David Hudson and Niheer Dasandi of University College London identified 23 states that have experienced redistributive policies over seven years or more. What is so far lacking is a comparative study of the politics underlying these redistributive episodes, but their existence alone seems likely to undermine Mr Scheidel’s contention that disaster, rather than politics, is the only way to reduce inequality.

Professor in practice
London School of Economics

Apropos an apostrophe

Too bad that you included an apostrophe in the title to James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (Free exchange, March 4th). The book title lacks an apostrophe because, like so much else in Joyce’s book, it is a pun combining opposites: the funeral service for Finnegan, but also Finn is again awake.

Hanover, New Hampshire