PHILIP Rycroft, the former head of the UK Government's Brexit department, has chosen an apposite time to resurrect a possible solution to the much-maligned Irish backstop (“Former Brexit chief says border down the Irish Sea is the answer”, The Herald, September 10).

Indeed, creating a border down the Irish Sea could have been achieved some time ago had it not been for Theresa May's ill-judged decision to hold a General Election in which she and her party became dependent on the DUP and their so-called confidence and supply arrangement.

The intransigence of Arlene Foster and her party contributed hugely to the political demise of the former Prime Minister and it is clear to any objective observer that a border in the Irish Sea is the only possible way of avoiding a disastrous and unworkable hard land border on the island of Ireland and the only answer to the current ongoing impasse.

Mr Rycroft is openly embracing a soft Brexit which would see Northern Ireland remain in the customs union and attached to the single market. He is obviously very aware that the DUP and hard Brexiters will baulk at such a proposal that, in their view, threatens the sovereignty of the UK. However a forthcoming General Election may present us with a completely different political picture wherein the ruling government is not in thrall to the DUP. Mr Johnson may be many things, but he is certainly a pragmatist and would not hesitate to seize any chance to continue in power, regardless of alleged loyalties or general populist and jingoistic disapproval.

Of course, whoever takes over the reins of government after October will have to manage an unprecedented constitutional predicament that includes calls for self-determination and national reassurance on all matters political and economic. The term "poison chalice" does not do it justice. Nevertheless, they would do well to heed Mr Rycroft's advice if a solution to the Brexit stalemate is to be realistically addressed. His proposed remedy to the the Irish backstop could be the key to establishing a workable deal with the EU and ending the uncertainty and apprehension for the vast majority of people in Britain.

Owen Kelly, Stirling.

THE commentator Fintan O’Toole, in the Irish Times of September 9, makes a valid point when he suggests that Boris Johnson “can still gamble that he can do without trust and credibility because enough voters simply don’t care about them”. Is that the case? It seems to be.

Too many voters apparently “don’t care” or at least have as yet to demonstrate (not necessarily literally) that they value our democratic processes as much as they value Strictly Come Dancing and football. They could do so by whatever means they feel comfortable with such as writing to their MPs, MSPs and party leaders letting them know their opinions.

I suggest that we committed Remainers and moderate Leavers ought to thus support the principled Conservative Party MPs who paid a big price for defying the fanatical Brexiters. Every citizen ought to be deeply worried that Philip Hammond believes that "the Conservative Party is becoming an extreme right-wing faction" ("Javid refuses to rule out election pact with Farage", The Herald September 9). Conservative? Conserve what? The U.K. itself, the rule of law, truth, trust, credibility, parliamentary democracy, rejection of demagoguery? Apparently not one of the foregoing.

Our democracy needs a centre-right party, now as never before: a party which has no room for the likes of the former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith who intimated at the weekend that the Prime Minister ought to break the law.

John Milne, Uddingston.

THE world is currently beset by what George Monbiot calls the “killer clowns” – sociopathic buffoons who head up self-dealing corrupt administrations full of former (?) corporate lobbyists. The prime example of this currently is Boris Johnson, who behind his poor man's positivism is determined to tie the UK into the kind of Brexit that will force Britain into a disaster-capitalist trade deal with the US, which will completely trash its environmental, farming and food standards. And if the UK can be reduced to a vassal state for multinational business interests, this will in turn be used to try and undermine regulatory barriers in Europe and elsewhere.

Why do I make this prediction? All we need to do is look at the statements made by Donald Trump and his cohorts. Mr Johnson, of course, is dancing to Donald Trump’s tune. President Trump recently signed an executive order telling his administration to urgently “develop an international strategy to remove unjustified trade barriers and expand markets for products of agricultural biotechnology”, that is, to “liberate” other countries “from anti-genetic modification rules”.

Not only is Mr Johnson happy to let the US control how we live but President Trump’s secretary of state and former CIA chief was caught on tape saying he would be seeking to intervene to stop the leader of the UK’s main opposition Party from becoming Prime Minister.

This gives the lie to the "taking back control" mantra. Surely even the most pig-headed Brexit supporter must admit that this is not what they voted for. The time has come for a second referendum which clearly offers the option to remain before we are locked into subservient status with President Trump's USA.

David Stubley, Prestwick.

CONTRARY to Dr Glenn Thompson (Letters, September 10) the "no deal" position available in any negotiation is just that – an available position; there is no threat about it.

Therefore, concerning the current UK-EU negotiation, "no deal" is available to either side – and being “a bit more grown up and responsible” doesn’t come into it, with Boris Johnson’s administration recognising that even in a possible No Deal scenario, the UK’s responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement have to be judiciously factored-in.

Philip Adams, Crosslee.

I UNDERSTAND that Boris Johnson has placed within a number of publications an advertisement reading as follows: Wanted urgently: Hat containing rabbit(s) – can collect, distance no object.

Alastair Patrick, Paisley.

YOUR correspondents Martin Redfern and Keith Howell (Letters, September 10) are full of “what if…” questions relating to the immediate likelihood of a General Election and an independence referendum. But surely they are aware that it is simply absurd to expect Nicola Sturgeon, or anybody else, to explain precisely what will follow from each of an indefinite number of imaginable contingencies. In matters of far less moment than the welfare of nations, it is a matter of common observation that too much attention to possible outcomes other than the desired one – what Shakespeare called “the craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event” – leads to indecision and inaction. Results are not achieved in this way.

When the General Election is announced, the SNP will campaign to win every seat in Scotland, using the argument that we will be better off, socially, politically, economically and culturally, as an independent country than as the tail-end of the collapsing ruin that the British state has made of itself. When the independence referendum is announced, not only the SNP but independence supporters in other parties and those with no party allegiance will work their hardest to persuade doubters of this fact. We have good reason to be optimistic; but whatever the results turn out to be, new courses of action will be decided on in response to them.

One thing at least is certain: the issue of independence will never go away until it is achieved.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen.

GERALD Edwards (Letters, September 10) refers to “lack of GP appointments”, but he must have forgotten the Nuffield Trust report just last May that the number of GPs per head of population was higher in Scotland than in any other part of the UK. In Scotland, there were 76.2 GPs per 100,000 people, but only 67 in Northern Ireland, 62.6 in Wales and 58.7 in England. The UK-wide average is 60. Therefore, if Dr Edwards is looking for an appointment with his GP, he is likely to be better served here than anywhere else in the UK.

Of course, it is difficult to dispute the pressures on the NHS in the UK as a whole. Nuffield found that there have been falls in numbers of GPs over the last four years in all four UK nations, and the profession has warned that, even with the aim of recruiting an additional 800 GPs in Scotland by 2027, there will be problems with recruitment and retention.

I am not, therefore, suggesting that all is well in our NHS. It’s not. No one can be happy about the problems with the Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh (unless interested only in making political capital). Indeed, I remain unhappy with events at the QEUH. However, set against that is the fact that the UK spends less per capita on healthcare than Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which supports the proposition that adequate expenditure might not be a sufficient condition for the kind of NHS we would like, but is certainly necessary. That international comparison suggests strongly that the level of health expenditure in the NHS remains inadequate.

READ MORE: The absurdity of the logic behind Boris Johnson’s No-Deal threat over Brexit

Thus should we be surprised, as the BBC reported in 2017 in its comparison of performance in all four UK nations, “None of the four nations is achieving any of its three key targets for A&E, cancer or routine treatments, such as knee and hip replacements”? However, while all four might be deficient, they also concluded that “Out of all the four nations, hospitals in Scotland seem to have fared the best”.

Thus, while there are matters that must be attended to in our NHS, to make unfounded claims, which fly in the face of the evidence as Dr Edwards has done, contributes nothing to the debate other than to mislead.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

NICOLA Sturgeon's argument is that since a small majority of Scottish voters chose to remain in the EU, whilst at the same time the UK electorate's decision overall was to leave, now circumstances must warrant another Scottish independence referendum. This argument can only be labelled as absolute tosh.

Indeed Yorkshire has roughly the same number of voters as Scotland and voted to leave the EU; but I suppose in Ms Sturgeon's eyes that is of no consequence.

I would emphasise that the most relevant point is that 55 per cent of the electorate of Scotland chose, in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, to remain in the UK. So I would suggest therefore that it is high time that Ms Sturgeon gave more credence to that fact.

The referendum on the UK leaving the EU was based on the overall vote of the electorate – not on the views of its regions. So thus I must contend, in such matters, Ms Sturgeon's arguments are totally irrelevant

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.