JILL Stephenson (letters, March 11) asserts that “the Westminster Parliament has chosen to pay Scots £2,000 each more than the UK average in public spending every year, which enables the Scottish Government to offer certain benefits without charge”. However, the devil here is in the detail.

The Westminster Parliament did not “choose” to pay us more. This is how the system works – it is the consequence of a process, rather than a “choice”. Of course, they could change the process now but the implications of this would be clear, for the Scottish deficit has not happened “every year”. Ten years ago Scotland’s deficit was less than that of the UK as a whole. We might not have been paying our way, but we were paying more of it than the UK as a whole. Nor is it a good idea to draw a conclusion based on only a few years’ data. Estimates of Scotland's fiscal position between 1980 and 2011 vary between a surplus of £50 billion and £148bn, mainly due to different assumptions about the rate of interest we would have earned on these surpluses.

However, the important point is not just that Scotland would have had years with a very considerable surplus, but that this surplus could have been invested to provide a “nest egg” for when things turned down. This was the strategy employed by Norway, who now have the biggest investment fund anywhere in the world, which will support them for many, many years to come. The UK in contrast chose to spend this, to reduce deficit requirements, pay for tax cuts, and continues to do so.

In short Ms Stephenson’s use of the most current data is opportunistic, but it is less contentious than whether or not she is aware that the Scotland Office was responsible for health and education prior to devolution. The Scotland Office might not have been the direct provider, but it was the source of policy, and thinking that through is an object lesson in just why we need the Scottish Parliament more than ever just now.

Imagine there were no Scottish Parliament, and policy was set and managed in the Scotland Office. While the Conservatives may have a UK majority of 80, in Scotland they have only six seats, while the SNP holds 48. However, the Secretary of State and all the ministers in the Scotland Office would all be Conservatives, implementing a series of policies resoundingly rejected by the Scottish electorate. This might be Ms Stephenson’s notion of democracy, but it certainly is not my own. She might do well to consider her own stricture to be acquainted “with the facts”, even if they are not immediately obvious.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

I APOLOGISE to Jill Stephenson for my “wrong” answer to her question on the benefits of devolved government: the answer is Scottish democratic accountability. In the governing model she refers to (and my alleged ignorance of it) of the powers of the previous Scottish Office, she asserts “direct Scottish control”. I disagree totally.

The job of Secretary of State for Scotland was considered as one of the lowest-ranked Cabinet ministers at Westminster: their purview was policy administration, not policy formulation, and they had very little elbow room for differentiation for Scotland from the UK. Ironically they tended to utilise Scottish “nationalist opinion” to emphasise a need for a softer delivery of any unpopular policy.

The Barnett formula was instigated just a vast sums of oil revenue was pouring into the Treasury. Even with Barnett, Scotland has paid more money per capita than it has received over the life span of the policy _ and it can be taken away at any point by Westminster.

It is not easy to figure out where British nationalism is leading Scotland. Separatism in the EU; centralisation in the UK; a substantial infrastructure program for “northern” England (HS2 is actually in the southern half) while in Scotland we have the ludicrous suggestion of a bridge/tunnel/pie in the sky in an attempt at deflection. Alister Jack may as well have a part in a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera: he lacks purpose, direction or gravitas in his present non-job.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

IF a country with more natural resources per head than any other similar nation, higher GNP and GDP than all of them and a history unsurpassed in the whole world of innovation and invention needs a big bung annually from the UK then I can think of no more pressing argument for its independence. Or, to put it another way, the 303-year union has obviously done monumental damage to the Scottish economy.

Jill Stephenson (Letters, March 11) presenting figures to us that have been comprehensively exposed on many occasions as carefully chosen to present the Scottish economy in a suppliant position destroys instead any case for the union.

The suggestion is that a UK in over £2 trillion of debt, increasing daily and now arguably unsustainable, is hanging on to poor wee Scotland to subsidise it.

Aye, right.

David McEwan Hill, Sandbank, Argyll.

BRIAN Quail (Letters, March 10) presents reasonable definitions of nationalism in his letter, but as with the majority of those with a narrow Scottish nationalist/separatist agenda, falls into the nationalist/xenophobic psyche when he states he does “not want to be dictated to by another government”. After massive financial rescue following the disastrous Darien Scheme, “the people of Scotland” have been democratically well represented at the best, most respected Parliament in the world with, in many cases, Scots being at the helm of it.

If Mr Quail feels the Westminster Parliament is “another government”, he truly has totally been taken in by the hapless, controlling regime which they call the Scottish “Government” weekly failing “the people of Scotland”. Of course, Mr Quail and his like want to replace the “other government” with another government – based in Brussels. There is no logic in this.

Douglas Cowe, Newmachar.

IF there were an election in Scotland tomorrow, we can be pretty sure the SNP would romp home again. Everyone is aware of the warped electoral system and of course that the pro-UK party voters would once again outnumber the nationalists but cancel each other out.

Yet those outside looking in must wonder how a nationalist party that seems to stumble from one disaster and/or scandal to the next, with eye-wateringly incompetent ministers and a leadership at war, can be so electorally successful.

The answer clearly is that they are not voted in for achievement or competence or ability but on their willingness to keep a vociferous and zealous minority satisfied.

How I wish we could get back to the old days when parties were elected on policies and competence.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh EH6.

RUTH Marr (Letters, March 9) tells us how lucky we are to live in Scotland. She always mentions prescription charges and with this in mind I see that the majority of the nearly 54 million people living in England do not pay for this service. My council has now announced a 4.64 per cent rise in my council tax which will take care of my pension rise. How lucky am I?

Alan Barlow, Paisley.

Read more: Scotland would not have to go it alone on defence