WHILE no-one could deny that Robert Burns had pronounced Jacobite sympathies, as is evident from the Jacobite songs that he either re-worked or composed, I must respectfully disagree with Norrie Paton's claim today that this undoubted fact reinforces his reiterated view that our national bard was politically ''a Tory''.

Indeed Norrie Paton himself pointed out in his own book about Burns's politics that the poet himself deliberately distanced himself in his private correspondence from ''the basic tenet'' in the Jacobite creed, namely ''the Divine Right of Kings'', though in his latest letter, curiously enough, he omits to mention this surely salient point.

The true explanation for Burns's Jacobitism is that it was a form of Scottish nationalism, an expression of nostalgic regret for the loss of Scottish sovereignty, as symbolised by the defeat of the Stewarts, the ancient - and at least in origin genuinely Scottish - royal line.

Coincidentally this view in fact receives some sustenance from Professor Tom Devine who in the introductory extract from his forthcoming best-seller, The Scottish Nation 1707-2000, as published in The Herald on September 20, specifically states that ''Burns sympathised with Jacobitism for patriotic reasons, seeing it as a movement for Scottish independence rather than for the restoration of an absolute monarchy''.

Admittedly, the issue is perhaps further complicated by the fact that the term ''Tory'' had a rather different resonance in the mid-eighteenth century than it was subsequently to develop. Edmund Burke, the contemporary Anglo-Irish politician who is still today regarded as the spiritual founding-father of modern British Conservatism, had started off his political career as an ''anti-Tory'' Whig. Burns was not the only man of his time whose political perspectives were radically changed by the American and French Revolutions.

Ian O Bayne,

Chairperson, The 1820 Society,

8 Clarence Drive, Glasgow.

September 21.

BURNS'S views changed very little: his Toryism referred to a past in which the Tories had been in opposition (and had therefore received the undeserved support of rebels against the Whig Government). On coming to power in 1760, the Tory Party showed itself no different from the Whig oligarchy that had preceded it, taking over its oppressive and high-handed position; it was opposition that forced the Whigs into their position of liberalism, which the democrat Burns supported as he had supported Jacobitism. Both were manifestations of his dislike of successive indistinguishable uncaring, unprincipled, self-serving Hanoverian administrations in Westminster.

Burns proved what a lot of modern-day Whigs would deny: that Jacobitism is perfectly compatible with liberal, even radical views. (After all, the defenders of ''liberty'' in 1688 had ousted King James for producing his Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience - a document with which Burns, like all true democrats, wholeheartedly agreed.)

Marcus Pitcaithly,

West Rhynd, Perth.

September 21.