AS expected, Boris Johnson has replied in the negative to Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a Section 30 order that would allow her to hold referendums whenever it suited her. This is good news. Scots can now proceed without the threat of a divisive and bitter contest and the prolonged instability it would bring.

The person most relieved by Mr Johnson’s decision is, of course, Ms Sturgeon. The last thing she wants is to have to hold a referendum, under pressure from her followers, which she would be most unlikely to win. In a sense, this is a pity, since a second loss would have been more likely to shut down strife about the constitutional issue. Perhaps.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.

NOW that Boris Johnson has finally replied to our First Minister’s request to hold another referendum, one thing is clear.

Westminster reserves to itself the right to make the decision about who has the right to make the decision about who has the right to make decisions about Scotland.

Democracy, anyone?

L McGregor, Falkirk.

NOW Boris Johnson has formally rejected the Scottish Government’s request for a Section 30 order to facilitate Indyref2 it is time to look more closely at our present constitutional settlement to make sure we know where we stand.

Scotland and England are in a de jure union. But what sort of union is it in which one partner cannot leave without permission from the other? Married couples can divorce even if one spouse does not want to. Nations too can separate, as was shown by the “Velvet Divorce” that brought Czechoslovakia to an end.

Some who are pro-independence take comfort by looking to Section 63A of the Scotland Act, which states “the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are not to be abolished except on the basis of a decision of the people of Scotland voting in a referendum”. They would be wrong to find comfort there. The Scotland Act is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is dominated by English MPs because England is more populous than Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales together. The Act can be amended, or even repealed, by Westminster.

Scotland’s devolution is a chimera. The brutal truth is that Scotland is de facto a partially self-governing colony of England and those parties in Scotland that support the Union thereby support the subjugation of the people who vote for them to the will of a government elected by voters in England by an undemocratic system (the Tories have 56 per cent of the seats in Westminster but only won 44 per cent of UK votes). Despite trying to give the appearance that they exist to promote the interests of people in Scotland the “branch offices” of Unionist parties in Scotland are treating the Scottish electorate as cannon fodder to increase their firepower in Westminster. It is high time those who vote for them opened their eyes to this truth.

Peter Martin, Muir of Ord.

WHEN Alex Salmond commented in 2014 that the independence referendum was a “once in a generation opportunity” he was simply making the observation that David Cameron and his successors would never allow a second one if the vote was close.

Ever since Unionists have used this remark to dismiss calls for a second referendum, even after the Brexit vote changed the political landscape. The problem I have with this is that nowhere can I find mention of “once in a generation” in any of the legislation associated with the referendum. If it is not defined in law it has no legitimacy. So how do you define the term “a generation”?

If a woman gives birth to a daughter after her 16th birthday (legal minimum age for sex) and that daughter in turn gives birth after her 16th birthday, then17 years would appear to be the only realistic legal definition of “a generation”. Accordingly, you would have to legislate for a ban on referenda for that period to enforce it. However, under the UK constitution a sitting government in the UK cannot be bound by an Act of a previous government. As Parliament currently has a fixed five-year term, then making an Act banning a referendum for 17 years would be impossible if a successor government could not repeal that Act if it so chose.

Equally puzzling is Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s addition of the “once in a lifetime” caveat. If a child dies five minutes after birth then that’s a five-minute lifetime. So the term is equally unworkable. To add to the mess we also have Boris Johnson wanting to limit the people’s right to vote on the referendum issue within a given time frame. Yet the same Boris Johnson is also bitterly opposed to the Fixed Term Parliament Act which – you guessed it – limits the people’s right to vote within a given time frame.

Desperately trying not to be left out of this on-going farce is temporary Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw. He said during the last election that he would hold Nicola Sturgeon to the “once in a generation” comment, only to then claim that she “does not speak for the people of Scotland”. If that is the case, then it follows that her alleged “once in a generation” remark also does not represent the view of the Scottish people – that is, they must be free to make up their own minds according to Mr Carlaw. But how do they do that ?

The only route left whereby the Scottish people can express their opinion on the matter with democratic legitimacy is via their elected members of the Scottish Parliament. But Mr Jack has now indicated a change in position so that he is now opposed to even allowing this option. At this rate I sense that the word “omnishambles” will soon be coming back into fashion.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

I AGREE wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed in Sheila Joyner's letter (January 14). She referred to the language used on banners during the recent independence march ("Decent people don't use these words and certainly don't expect to see them printed on large banners whilst shopping"). I saw a photo online of a young woman carrying a banner with the "c" word (surely the most offensive word in our language, certainly to women) clearly displayed. She looked very pleased with herself. I hope her mother is proud of her.

If people have to resort to the language of the gutter to express themselves, then I am certainly not going to take their political views seriously. The rest of the world is viewing this inarticulate ranting and as a Scot, I am cringing with embarrassment.

Susan McKenzie, Fort William.

IT is good that Mark Smith came on the Glasgow All Under One Banner march (“What I have learned from my first independence march”, The Herald, January 13). I agree about his criticism of some of the chants and banners, but am annoyed about some of the assumptions he makes about the marchers. How could he possibly know what social class we were, what age we were or what our politics were? For example, my daughter, a Labour voter and middle-aged, came up from London to march with me, a member of no political party. We were marching for self-determination and from my perspective the march was pretty diverse.

Helen Millar, Glasgow G41.

ALLAN Thompson's letter (January 14) demands a thoughtful response. Sitting with two friends in a city centre pub counting the independence marchers going past? Really? Get a life sir!

James Maitland, Bearsden.

Read more: Johnson rejects Nicola Sturgeon's demand for second independence vote