Attempts by the Conservative-led Coalition at Westminster to dictate the terms of a Scottish independence referendum are outrageous ("SNP attacks Coalition as poll row escalates", The Herald, January 10).

The Scottish Government won an election with a clear pledge to hold a referendum. The Westminster Government must accept this. The manifestos of both partners in the Coalition made no mention of a referendum, nor does their programme of Government. To claim a mandate to decide the terms now is not on.

The details of what Westminster wants to impose are deeply problematic. The desire to force an early referendum (something I note nobody was keen on when the SNP was only a minority administration) is the least of the problem. The call for a "single clear question" actually means leaving out the option that most Scots favour. While a supporter of independence myself, I freely acknowledge that most Scots want what is commonly termed "Devolution-Max"; why deny them this choice? The junior partner at Westminster, the Liberal Democrats, want something along these lines themselves, so why are they going along with attempts to block it?

Loading article content

The wish to impose a voting age of 18 is also wrong and here I must disagree with your editorial when you say the referendum is not the time to trial this electoral reform ("Clarity and poll on nation's future", January 10). On average under-18s will be living with the consequences of independence longer than anyone else, and should certainly have their say. Moreover the Liberal Democrats are again largely in favour of a lower voting age. I am aware they are short on principle at the moment, but they should at least support this.

Holyrood should pass legislation now determining that the referendum shall have two questions and that the voting age shall be 16.

The timing of the referendum should be open to negotiation but the principle of the Scottish people being given the option they actually want along with the principle that as broad a section of the population as possible be allowed to take part must be insisted upon.

Iain Paterson,

6 Methven Avenue,


The latest furore about the referendum highlights a rather curious fact. Opinion polls repeatedly suggest that two-thirds of the people of Scotland support more powers for the Scottish Parliament, yet all of our political parties seem to want to rule this out.

Much of what we hear about legalities and timing is shallow posturing designed for short-term political advantage rather than long-term thinking about the type of Scotland we want to see in the future. Nothing I have heard over the last few days suggests that our politicians want to move beyond rhetoric and party manoeuvres when it comes to our future governance. A better starting point for a mature debate would be to get people talking and thinking about Scotland's future and that all options are viable and on the table.

We should then use the time between now and the referendum date to debate and refine the choices that have to be made, to improve understanding about the implications of those choices and to generate enthusiasm for participation in the poll. Doing it this way, everyone in Scotland should be in a better position to make a decision in the referendum that's right for them and for Scotland.

These hallmarks of a civilised approach to such a pivotal event are conspicuous by their absence from current political discourse. Is the future of Scotland too important just to be left to the politicians? I think it is.

Martin Sime,

Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, 5 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh.

I AGREE with Andrew McKie when he argues that the Union is important for reasons which have nothing to do with finance (("A positive reason for the Union? Most Scots want it", The Herald, January 9). While small countries in Europe appear to be faring very badly, a poor omen for an independent Scotland, it is the personal ties to England, Wales and Northern Ireland which carry most weight. I do not wish my English nephew and nieces to become foreigners to me; I cannot bear the idea that my much-loved grandmother, who was born in Surrey in 1882 but who lived in Scotland from 1912 to 1971, would retrospectively belong to another country. And my son, living and working in London with virtually no possibility of ever returning to Scotland – would he be obliged to take English citizenship? Blood is thicker than narrow nationalism.

Carole Ford,

132 Terregles Avenue, Pollokshields.

THE UK Government appears to have decided that the debate on the future governance of Scotland will take centre stage in 2012. The timing is presumably based in the hope that there will be an upsurge in British national pride from the combination of Queen's forthcoming Jubilee and the London Olympics.

This may or may not be the case, but what is clear is that the proposal to restrict the vote to a simple yes or no is far from being in the best interests of the Scottish people or, for that matter, the United Kingdom.

Opinion polls tell us that the majority of Scots want change with a clear majority favouring the so called "Devo Max" option.

To chose not to offer such a choice is profoundly undemocratic.

It is hard to believe that the Scottish Labour Party, the original party of home rule for Scotland and the party that created the Scottish Parliament, together with what was once a proud Scottish Liberal tradition of support for home rule, would in 2012 be prepared to join forces with the Conservatives to deny the people of Scotland a very legitimate option for the better governance of our country.

The key point about Devo Max is that this form of governance has existed in the United Kingdom for decades and appears to have worked well for all parties.

After all that is the settlement, within the United Kingdom, enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Why should the Scots be denied that choice ?

Ian Stewart,

Beinn Edra, Uig, Isle of Skye.

I WAS a little confused by the view taken by Michael F Troon and others (Letters, January 10) regarding the UK position on the proposed independence referendum. If this were to be a unilateral matter for Holyrood alone, it would be like a husband saying to his wife over breakfast,: "By the way, as of Monday I have decided we are divorced – better get your things out of my house".

In belittling the effectiveness of the UK Parliament in London Michael Troon omits to mention any possible influence of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster or the many Scottish Lords in the upper house.

One of the great characteristics of the party system in the UK Parliament is that it is cyclical. Once one party is in power for some years it takes its jaded eye off the ball long enough for another, fresh, party to score a winning goal. The very great danger an independent Scotland would face would be that the SNP could become the permanent dominant party.

This is a feature of government one tends to associate more with some African or South American countries. The consequence is inevitably that the line between the party and the state becomes blurred.

The fact that the SNP does not wish to recognise the interdependent status Scotland has with the other members of the UK, including countless interwoven aspects of day-to-day life, seems to suggest a rather blinkered future for those who wish it.

Bill Brown,

46 Breadie Drive, Milngavie.