MARK Smith argues for a style of talking in politics based on "listening", "compassionate language" and "love" ("How a pamphlet of love could win a Scottish referendum", The Herald, July 1). Curiously, although most people would accept the need for these elements in political debate, Mr Smith wishes to see them marshalled in "a way in which we might be able to take on popular movements that rely on national identity, such as Scottish nationalism".

In case Mr Smith hasn’t noticed, there is much more to the movement for Scottish independence than a narrow identity focus, and his argument would carry more weight if it addressed the wider negativity in UK politics in general, rather than demonising the nationalist movement in Scotland. If ‘love’ is to flourish even in a minimal way – if not in the manner of Ekram Imamoglu’s Radical Love, which he cites as a model – it needs to be based on fundamentals such as listening and empathy. Perhaps Mr Smith could attempt the Sisyphian task of educating his Conservative friends in the House of Commons who howl and shout abuse at Ian Blackford every time he gets to his feet. If he is concerned about the "hateful groove that politics is stuck in", this would be a good place to begin. As recent surveys of opinion in the Conservative Party more widely have shown, retaining the Union is less important than Brexit. Love for Scotland? Aye, right. Mr Smith mentions the "lovebomb" before the 2014 referendum from David Bowie and other assorted "well-known people" who urged Scots not to break away, which was met with abuse. We know cynicism when we see it.

English nationalism is not mentioned in Mr Smith’s column, but it is arguably the element which has driven Brexit and left the country in its present state of lemming-like idiocy. Is it not noticed by media commentators, because it has become so normalised and taken for granted? It does appear to be a significant mote in Mr Smith’s eye and it greatly diminishes his arguments for a better style of politics.

Dr Angus Macmillan, Dumfries.

IT is a lovely idea that a kinder politics could flourish in Scotland rather than that which we have become accustomed to. Mark Smith points out that the remarkable victory of Ekrem Imamoglu as mayor of Istanbul was based on just such a strategy, having concluded that “you cannot fight polarising populists by being polarising”).

Those who have become hardened by the angry confrontation that so often accompanies exchanges over Scotland’s constitutional future might think it naïve to imagine that we could get away from all that rancour, yet the Istanbul example shows otherwise. Turkish politics has after all suffered more than its fair share of divisive and angry political struggles over the years.

Personally, I believe one of the biggest turn-offs when it comes to considering future options for Scotland is the grievance-led narrative favoured by the SNP leadership. The challenge for those who value Scotland’s positive place in the UK is to try to diffuse discord, and to emphasise the positives we share with family, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens across the UK. Many of the differences that nationalists seek to exploit are short-term or exaggerated, whereas the advantages of being in the closest of possible unions have lasted over the course of many generations.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

RORY Stewart was right to be “afraid” of the word “love” in political discourse. All you need is love, said the Beatles, and that ended in an acid trip at Haight-Ashbury. Mark Smith seems to regard love as a political tool that might be utilised so that “we might be able to take on popular movements that rely on national identity, such as Scottish nationalism”. His particular brand of love does not seem to be universal. Who are “we”?

Tricky word, love. Professor William Barclay used to lecture us on prime-time telly, to the signature tune of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, on the difference between “eros” and “agape” (don’t tell me the BBC hasn’t dumbed down). The trouble is that a lot of people who think they are in love are actually in a relationship of coercive abuse. The greatest act of love you can possibly bestow on a person about whom you are crazy, but who just isn’t right for you, is to let her go.

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.

MARK Smith comments on the positive nature of “love” in the political sphere. What he doesn’t say is the first proponent of inclusive political positivity was Alex Salmond in the 2014 referendum, and who always referred to our big southern neighbour with complementary affection. Of course his objective was Scottish self-government and his opponent was Anglo-British nationalism, the nationalism seldom referenced in the media. The term “Unionist”, in the time of Brexit surely being an oxymoron, and certainly contrary to majority opinion within the Tory Party.

Mr Salmond gained nothing for his positivity, being told a Scottish/English border would be “custom posts, barbed wire, and armed guards”: contrast that with the proposed “invisible border” in Ireland. Or Scotland being rebuffed on a currency union, oddly this is now cast as the “SNP ditching the pound” by today's British nationalists.

And there is not much love coming from the Tory leadership contest. What we are told by the contestants is that Scotland will not be “allowed” to be independent: that while border polls in Northern Ireland are guaranteed by international treaty (and are therefore part of the UK’s constitutional architecture), that winning elections with a Scottish electorate, or gaining a majority in Scotland’s parliament is not “a mandate” for a plebiscite.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

I NOTE with wry amusement the ambitions of Jo Swinson, prospective Liberal Democrat UK Leader ("Swinson: Libdems could break mould of UK politics", The Herald, July 1).

Ms Swinson will have no truck with the SNP or an independence referendum; she hopes for a Liberal Democrat government after Brexit. Again we read about the LibDems breaking the mould of British politics, something they have forecast every time they make a small advance. The mould of British politics was well and truly broken by the Brexit Party in this year’s European election; 29 seats, with the LibDems on 16. I might also point out that the Tories got four and Labour 10.

Two things she hinted at: she is not completely against co-operation with the Tories, despite their previous alliance with that party destroying any credibility the LibDems had. And her ambition to be Prime Minister would be dunted by the fact that there is a thing called English Votes for English Laws which could debar her from any Cabinet office; on that score I am constantly surprised at the survival of David Mundell. The Tories, who brushed aside the five-year Parliament plan put in by David Cameron, somehow find excuses to suit.

Jim Lynch, Edinburgh EH12.

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