THERE is an assumption built into Ian W Thomson's letter (January 23) which cannot go unchallenged. This is that an SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament after next year's elections will constitute a mandate for another independence referendum.

As Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP acknowledge, the power to hold such a referendum is reserved to Westminster, and it requires the agreement of Scotland's UK Government for it to be transferred to Holyrood. Unless and until this power is transferred, a Holyrood election can only mandate the incoming Scottish Government to request a referendum. Conversely, it would be an absurd proposition to suggest that a Scotland-only election can in any way mandate our UK-wide legislature.

It is always possible that Westminster could choose to transfer referendum powers to Holyrood – as David Cameron did. However, Boris Johnson has made it very clear that he is not minded to repeat that process and that any request to do so is going to be refused.

No agreement equals no referendum: that is the long and the short of it. We should all be aware of that reality before people run away with the false impression that a vote for the SNP can of itself be a vote for another referendum.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

IN the General Election of 2019 the SNP got 1.2 million votes, which is 45 per cent of the total. The three main pro-Union parties got 1.5 million votes between them, which is 54 per cent of the vote. So it is obvious that in terms of the total vote, the percentages for and against have not changed since the 2014 independence referendum.

Of course, thanks to the first-past-the-post system, the SNP was able to turn its minority share of the vote into a clear majority of seats. It now has 48 MPs while the other three parties have only 11 between them.

However, that is a frustrating situation for the SNP. It has a lot of MPs, but its share of the vote has not increased enough to escape from the minority position it was in at the referendum. It has no real basis on which to demand another referendum from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Of course it huffs and puffs and claims to speak for the people of Scotland, but that is just so much hot air and does not change its minority status.

Now there is a campaign in the media telling Labour supporters that independence is the way forward for their party. The Labour vote went down by eight per cent in the election and it lost six of its seven MPs. The pundits pontificate that the eight per cent decrease is evidence that the party should give up its pro-Union stance and join the independence movement. Really? Because a small percentage has switched from Labour to SNP, it follows that Labour should drive the other 92 per cent to switch from being pro-Union to the opposite? What nonsense. Clearly the pundits pushing this phoney reasoning are hoping that the SNP will be the beneficiaries and will improve on that 45 per cent stagnant position.

Labour lost votes throughout the UK, not just in Scotland. The party was split over Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn was unable to resolve the split. Labour's failure to deal with the issue cost it a lot of seats, some of which the SNP gained, but most went to the Conservatives. Just as the majority had voted Leave in the UK referendum, so the voters now backed the party promising to deliver Brexit.

Will Labour recover? Of course. Brexit is rolling on and eventually the UK will be outside the EU. The issue which has split Labour will resolve itself and then the deeper issues of inequality, social justice and the environment will re-emerge.

In the meantime, can the SNP advance at the expense of Labour? It looks unlikely. The people who want a border across this island are all signed up and the unconvinced see stronger arguments for staying in the UK. The failures of the SNP Government domestically in education, health, policing, manufacturing, drug deaths, teen pregnancies and so on mean that its track record does not inspire new converts.

Les Reid, Edinburgh EH15.

NICOLA Sturgeon has been lecturing people about the importance of wellbeing, which she claims is just as important as GDP. It was rather embarrassing for her that, on the very same day, an international index showed that Scotland had dropped five places on its table, to 21st place out of 32 ("Scotland falls down economic and social well-being index", The Herald, January 22).

Scotland’s record on mental health of those in work is poor, while economic confidence in Scotland remains weak. For many of us, well-being has been adversely affected by the constant noise made by Scottish separatists about the constitution and the alleged need for Scotland to "free’" itself from the UK. A period of calm, without marches and hollering, and without a First Minister who constantly "demands, would be the surest way of increasing the wellbeing of the majority in Scotland.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.

GOOD health can be one of the few areas that we have total control over. We might be made redundant, be at the mercy of the tides of globalisation but we can’t be forcibly made to ingest a substance or to live a sedentary lifestyle.

Like most things in life, wellbeing can only be done at the level of the individual and through individual choice. There comes a point when upbringing, adverse childhood experiences and former patterns of addiction are no longer an excuse. Neither is ignorance; Scotland has been saturated with heath campaigns and initiatives for 20 years. Anyone who doesn’t now know what lifestyles are bad and which are good are being deliberately wilful, expecting that their issues can be magically medicated away without any input from themselves, another ‘helpless’ victim.

The SNP has tried to legislate for good health for years now. I appreciate the reasons why it felt the need to do this. But it clearly isn’t working. Given the news about minimum pricing ("Minimum pricing has not cut alcohol intake in teenage drinkers, study finds", The Herald, January 23) and wellbeing surely a change of strategy is in order?

David Bone, Girvan.

I NOTE with interest your report on fisheries arrangements ("'EU states demand greater access to UK fishing waters, warns ex-May aide", The Herald, January 22)

Within the body of this article I noted the following: "Meanwhile, peers set themselves on a collision course with the Commons after inflicting five defeats on Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill."

Taking into account recent reports of plans to relocate the Lords somewhere "up North", the city of York being the favoured location, it struck me that perhaps the PM is seeking to avoid such collisions by taking these measures, the fervent hope being that, by increasing the distance between the Houses, it might in turn result in a decrease in the influence of "the other place".

As it stands, the House of Lords seems to be a little close for comfort.

Perish the thought.

Maureen McGarry-O'Hanlon, Balloch.

IS it not a little rich for the First Minister to warn of the “loss of EU standards protection” from Brexit ("Sturgeon warns of loss of EU standards protection", The Herald, January 23). I seem to recall that her Government has already allowed (by 2014 and 2017 Scottish legislation) the requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments to be avoided in all new housing developments. Trying to blame Brexit for the loss of standards that the First Minister has already kicked into touch is more than somewhat ironic.

Dave Sutton, Cambuslang.

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