THERE can be no doubt that the UK's political structure is in a terrible mess, and that the time has finally come for the kind of radical constitutional overhaul that many of us have been calling for since the 1980s.

The twin rocks on which the UK has foundered have been the conjoined twin referendums.

In Scotland, the country has been fractured by the inability of the losing side to acknowledge its de-feat, and its obdurate continuation as a noisily large minority. The rock at UK level has been Parliament's inability to reconcile the outcome of an exercise in direct democracy (the Brexit referendum) with the workings of a representative democracy.

Against this background, the recent contributions of Gordon Brown and Professor Jim Gallagher will be welcomed by most sensible people. However, individual efforts of this kind are unlikely to be enough. What is required is a major inquiry, in the form of a Royal Commission on the British Constitution, and the commitment of all political parties to enact its findings as far as possible.

Its remit should include electoral reform, the role and status of devolved administrations, the responsibilities and composition of the Upper House, the use of referendums (including thresholds for approval), the role of the Speaker, and the codification of the constitution itself.

Those with long memories will remember the defeat of the 1979 devolution referendum, and that what emerged 20 years later was a much better arrangement than the assembly which would have been delivered at that time. In the same way, the Scottish and UK referendums might in turn lead to a long-overdue modernisation of the way in which we are governed, and a settlement which will be accepted by most reasonable people.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

THERE is an old saying – of some validity – that “there are lies, damned lies and statistics”, but this morning Dennis Forbes Grattan (Letters, September 2) tests that to destruction and beyond, by asserting that in the recent Scottish Parliament by-election, “the Liberal Democrat candidate, Beatrice Wishart, romped home to win the seat easily”.

The fact is that Ms Wishart’s majority is only 37 per cent of Tavish Scott’s in 2016. Of the six elections since the establishment of our Parliament, it is the second lowest majority. In terms of votes, Tavish Scott in 2016 won 67 per cent of the vote, but last week Ms Wishart achieved less than half. Tom Wills increased the SNP vote by nearly 10 per cent, while Ms Wishart’s Liberal Democrat vote fell by almost 20 per cent of what it had been in 2016. If Mr Forbes Grattan wants to assert that Ms Wishart “romped home”, then he must surely agree with me that she was limping, and quite badly at that.

Gerald Edwards points out that the “pro-Union parties still achieved over 53 per cent of the vote”. True enough, except last time Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour achieved 75 per cent of the vote between them. If reducing the Union vote by one third is “still a vote loser” he must be using “loser” in a way I have never encountered before.

However, perhaps there is enlightenment to be had from Martin Redfern’s assertion that “pro-UK voters [in Shetland last week] largely avoided any temptation to vote Labour or Tory”. Given that between them, these parties secured less than five per cent of the vote, at one level he must be correct. But the more telling truth is that Shetland continued its tradition of voting Liberal/ Liberal Democrat, rather than avoiding any temptation to vote for anyone else.

As well as Shetland’s Holyrood seat being continuously represented by the Liberal Democrats since 1999, we have to go back to the 1945 General Election to find an instance when the Orkney and Shetland Westminster seat has been represented by anyone other than a Liberal/ Liberal Democrat MP. Given this background, I think James Taylor confuses a “revival” of the Liberal Democrats by winning in Shetland, with “business as usual”, and indeed no less than could be expected. Or perhaps, given their margin of victory, and the comparison with 2016, a bit less than might have been expected?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

IAN Lakin (Letters, September 2) raises the issue of federalism, surely the last resort for the scoundrels who saved the Union in 2014 through a last-gasp Vow promising “near federalism” that never materialised.

It is normal for nations to seek and maintain their independence. The British Empire benefited Scot-land but these days are long gone and the Union has not served Scotland well since then when you compare our economic position with countries like Norway, Denmark, Finland or even Ireland.

The UK once stood for stability and pragmatism, a happy combination of fudged solutions and good intentions which made it a leading nation without dogma or prejudice. That UK is gone and in its place is a chaotic state hostile to its near neighbours, antagonistic to the single greatest peace treaty in world affairs and at odds with the values of European social democracy. Brexit is an English construct readily propagated by tax avoiders and is dragging Scotland out of the EU against our democratic will.

The argument for Scottish independence is an argument for making government accountable to the people of Scotland who will have the final say on which international relationships we enter into.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh EH9.

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