JUST occasionally, I feel some sympathy for Mark Smith (“Can the independence issue really be ‘settled’ one day?”, The Herald, January 31).
Rudely ejected from his comfort blanket of unionist hegemony, Mr Smith confronts sustained support for independence and ponders if Sir Keir Starmer could be the man to “save” the Union with a shot of devolution max. This, of course, was exactly what was promised by Gordon Brown and David Cameron in 2014. Instead, Westminster delivered Brexit, the UK Internal Market Bill, muscular unionism and the Government of Boris Johnston. I doubt if Mr Smith will find the answer to his fears in the Labour Party, which remains electorally irrelevant in Scotland.
It is interesting that Mark Smith fails to mention the Scottish Conservatives as worthy opponents of the independence movement. Labelled as “lightweights” and “nobodies” by senior UK Government ministers, their beleaguered leader, Douglas Ross has now tasted the realpolitik of how Scotland is regarded by the UK Government. The Partygate fiasco has illustrated just how impotent all Scottish MPs are at Westminster, even when they belong to the party of government.
However, I have good news for Mr Smith. The question of independence will soon be settled, perhaps much sooner than he thinks. Sustained pressure, both legal and democratic, will precipitate a second independence referendum. After all that has happened since 2014, I am confident that the people of Scotland will choose to run their own affairs and Scotland will become an independent country. In common with all 62 nations which have gained independence from the UK, Scotland will not turn back but will rapidly establish its place in Europe, Nato and the UN as a thriving modern democracy. Mr Smith’s angst will be salved, the independence issue will be settled.
Iain Gunn, Elgin.
LABOUR MUST NOT PLAY THE SNP GAME
JUST who is advising Sir Keir Starmer on Scotland if he thinks that the priority of any incoming Labour Government is more powers for Scotland?
Labour will only get elected again at a UK level if it looks and sounds like a Labour Party. It cannot out-compete the SNP on the constitutional question. If the Labour Party does not understand the value of being in a union, then what does it actually believe in? Surely it should understand what the arguments are.
If it wants people to vote for it, then it should make itself visible and relevant to the electorate. Instead of trying to find an angle on the constitution, it should simply go out and find a whole lot of doctors, nurses, shop workers, lorry drivers and policemen to stand as candidates, people who really understand what is going on in the world at present. We will need 10 years to get properly out of the Covid situation. Concentrate on that, and Labour might stand a chance. Play the game that the SNP wants you to play and you can forget about it.
Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.
THE UK’S MORAL BANKRUPTCY
I AGREE with your correspondent Michael Sheridan (Letters, January31) when he describes the slogan “It’s Scotland Oil” as depressing. To me the slogan represented the worst form of a narrow parochial nationalism, the opposite of what an outward-looking country should seek to be.
However, Mr Sheridan and others who share his strongly unionist views have questions to answer, not least in outlining which institutions of the British state are worthy of respect. The question is all the more relevant, indeed pressing, considering that the British Prime Minister has shown utter disdain for these institutions, not least that of his own office. This contempt is glaringly obvious when we reflect on the Prime Minister’s treatment of Parliament, the monarchy, the courts and very worryingly, devolution.
Mr Sheridan goes on to say that our nation is a “beacon of hope” in the world; Afghans, Iraqis and others may wish to disagree. He also says that when Scotland joined the Union the country was bankrupt. The worst form of bankruptcy is moral bankruptcy, something ubiquitous in the polity Mr Sheridan so admires.
Brian Harvey, Hamilton.
BALANCING UP DEMOCRACY
I WAS astonished by the assertion from Jill Stephenson (Letters, January 29) that “the same amount of time and (taxpayers’) money” should be spent by those opposing Scottish self-government as by the elected Scottish Government. This implies that she is unaware of the Union Unit which was based in No 10, and fronted first by Luke Graham, then Oliver Lewis, or the Michael Gove-led Union Directorate. We also have the Union Strategy Committee, sitting above the Gove committee, all employing dozens of people across Whitehall, at substantial taxpayers’ expense: this without referencing the state propaganda outfit called the “Scottish Office”.
All this has been going on for years, while the Scottish Government independence campaign has been in abeyance due to the pandemic. If Ms Stephenson takes off her blinkers, she must admit that the “time and money balancing” should be toward the pro-independence side: anything else, as she asserts, is a “denial of justice and democracy”.
GR Weir, Ochiltree.
FRANCHISE IDEA IS DANGEROUS
DOUGLAS McBean (Letters, January 31) advocates extending the independence referendum franchise to all non-resident native Scots. That would be legitimate if the franchise were to be based on birth rather than residence but, for consistency, the quid pro quo would require removal of the franchise from any and all Scottish residents who were not Scottish by birth. Such a franchise test might go down well in Brexit-minded jurisdictions, but would surely be the wrong road to go down in an open-minded and welcoming European nation like our own.
Willie Maclean, Milngavie.
THE CASE FOR PR FOR WESTMINSTER
CATRIONA C Clark (Letters, January 29) gives us a list of the places where the SNP has total dominance in the election of MPs. In doing so, she makes an excellent case for electoral reform at Westminster: it cannot be right that in 2019 the SNP took 80 per cent of the seats on the basis of 37% – little over one-third – of the vote.
Proportional representation would also have other wholly beneficial effects. It would stop the votes of non-nationalists being wasted and would indeed demonstrate that independence is only supported by a minority of Scottish voters. And at Westminster it would stop the SNP from taking its bogus position as the third party and its accompanying procedural and financial privileges. The only surprising thing is that the Tories and the Labour Party do not support electoral reform (although more than 80% of UK constituency Labour parties do.)
And before anyone asks, yes, I did support PR when first past the post disproportionately favoured the Labour Party.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow.
ARMS SALES MAKE LITTLE SENSE
GEORGE Fergusson’s Agenda article (“What lies behind Germany’s reluctance to arm Ukraine?”, The Herald, January 29) highlights the UK arms industry.
A great many British people are puzzled by and despair when it seems clear that the sheer availability of guns in the United States makes repeated mass killings of innocent citizens inevitable. Yet Britain and France, unlike Germany and Japan, have no compunction about ensuring the ready availability of far more deadly weapons to the Middle East and elsewhere, making mass killings on a far greater scale than in the schools and streets of the US also inevitable.
Mr Fergusson comments that “there is little public opposition” to our continuing arms sales. To find the free availability of weapons to American civilians unacceptable, but to be totally relaxed about our Government’s determined supply of deadly armaments throughout the world, makes little sense.
Ronald MacLean, Kiltarlity, by Beauly.
DON’T LET COVID GUARD DOWN
BA.2, the sub-lineage of Omicron, is spreading, as Helen McArdle points out (“Should we be worried about the latest version of Omicron?”, The Herald, January 29). It is more transmissible than Omicron BA.1 and has become the dominant variant in Denmark and India. BA.2’s arrival in the UK on December 6 last year, with 1,072 cases now identified in England (there is currently no data available for Scotland), is a wake-up call.
We cannot afford to do away with face masks being worn in schools, on public transport and in indoor spaces. We also need to reinstate social distancing at one or two metres, as BA.2 is likely to prolong the virus at higher rates into February and March.
Humankind will always be vulnerable to Covid variants unless we in the West ensure Covid vaccines are made available worldwide, especially in Africa, where only six per cent of Africans are vaccinated. Big Pharma has to be forced to waive intellectual property rights to Covid vaccines so that developing nations can produce Covid vaccines locally. In this way we can eventually get back to some real sort of normal.
Sean Clerkin, Barrhead.