NEIL Mackay is both misinformed and naive if he believes that politics in its current form will undergo a transformation in the UK post-coronavirus article ("From independence to Brexit – this virus changes everything", The Herald, March 31). One thing most political and economic observers agree on is that there will be a major international economic slump in the months and years ahead which, coupled with the disastrous effects of Brexit in the UK, may cause an economic depression. Historically, the poorest and the most vulnerable in society will suffer disproportionately during any type of depression, leading to political polarisation and, ironically in this case, a significant rise in support for populist leaders.

Though Mr Mackay accurately vilifies populist leaders around the world, such as President Trump, for their current handling of the crisis, popular opinion may not agree with him. Recent polls suggest that the President's approval ratings are steady or even increasing at present and, in the UK, the Prime Minister's popularity, bolstered by a compliant media, appears to be growing by the day. Boris Johnson, despite Mr Mackay's attempt to paint him as reasonable and well-intentioned, has proved to be nothing short of a disaster in his leadership role during this emergency. From his boasting of shaking hands with infected patients to the herd immunity debacle, Mr Johnson has adopted a “wing and a prayer” strategy that befits his indolent and chaotic leadership style.

Mr Mackay also believes, somewhat gullibly, that the Conservative Party and indeed its attitude to Brexit negotiations will be miraculously transformed post-virus as a capitalism with a human face emerges, no doubt personified by Jacob Rees-Mogg volunteering at his local food bank and Mark Francois holidaying with Michel Barnier at Bognor Regis this summer.

The truth of the matter is that the hard and uncompromising attitudes of Brexiters and of a right-wing Tory Party will need more than temporary displacement and the heroic actions of NHS and other frontline staff to alter their xenophobic jingoism. This may sound cynical, yet it will prove more accurate than Mr Mackay's hopeful and ingenuous offerings.

His belief that Scottish independence would make no difference to our national response at a time such as this is also subjective and alarmingly lacking in informed judgment. To draw simplistic comparisons about who is saving more lives is both insulting and irrelevant at this particular point in time. The movement for independence, like all other political and social issues, is on hold until the crisis is at an end. Mr Mackay may be surprised at just how strongly it will re-emerge.

Owen Kelly, Stirling.

NEIL Mackay covered a lot of the ground which has occurred to many of us in his column and Ian McConnell repeats a similar message ("Surely delaying single-market exit can no longer be divisive?", Herald Business, April 1). Certainly, it's clear that there will be no independence referendum this year or next, but equally, there should be no exit from the EU during the same period.

Given the way that Europe, the UK, and Scotland will change, economically and socially, over the next year then Brexit negotiations must be postponed immediately. A target should be set for the middle of next year for a national conversation between all parts of the UK before any further movement on Brexit. Included in this conversation must be Scotland's position within the UK and within Europe. If necessary, a further referendum on EU membership should be held, with a further indyref contingent on the outcome of that.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

NEIL Mackay’s articles are always thought-provoking, and his contention that the current pandemic will bring profound changes in its wake can readily be believed. I am puzzled, however, by his attempt to apply this general argument to the specific issue of independence.

“Independence would have made little difference when it comes to the path of this illness,” he writes. That hardly needed to be pointed out: if anybody imagined that the virus was a respecter of political boundaries, that illusion has been conclusively demolished by now. What follows from that obvious fact is not that the debate on the constitution will be “considerably altered”: what follows is that it has no relevance to the debate whatsoever. And whatever the truth value of his suggestion that the Scottish and Westminster governments have acted “broadly the same” in their responses to the virus, it is again irrelevant: the case for independence is not based on any “exceptionalist” claim that the Scottish Government does things better than the Westminster one, but on the argument that Scotland would do better for itself if free to conduct its own affairs.

When the pandemic is past, specific details of events during its progress may provide debating points; but the fundamental case for independence will remain precisely as it was.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen AB24.

AT the time of writing (March 31) Brent Crude was at one point trading at $26.57.

The reader is invited to imagine an independent Scotland trying to cope with coronavirus, subsidies (Barnett) from rUK now history and Alex Salmond, having achieved Yes in 2014, in charge.

We had a very lucky escape.

William Durward, Bearsden.

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