NICOLA Sturgeon, having led the independence movement up the political hill and left it stranded there, now faces the possible consequences of it splintering as it comes down it. She now has to exercise some wisdom, take off the party hat and put on the movement one.

The strategic objective in next May’s elections should be to amass an overwhelming majority of MSPs committed beyond all doubt to claiming a mandate for another referendum; a mandate the size of which any UK government would find difficult to refuse. How tactically to achieve that is the decision to be made by the movement.

There is logic in the case for the SNP not standing on the List, because (as I have witnessed) the votes pile up but the seats do not come due to the constituency victories. Is it sensible to waste those votes, when a tactical move, letting another group stand in place of the SNP, would see them produce pro-independence MSPs? With her party hat on, the first reaction of the SNP leader has been to say no. But I would suggest that she and others who have spoken should think again. The SNP has been successful in creating an independence movement which has many activists and voters who do not align themselves with its social and economic policies. Their views cannot be dismissed in favour of a narrow party interest. I would urge the SNP leader to think again on the role this new Alliance for Independence group can play towards the necessary mandate.

As for the new Alliance for Independence, internally it will require goodwill among the political groups it seeks to weld into a single List in each region from which there will be a chance of election. Placement on the List, determining that chance, will be important to each different component of the coalition, and I hope that difficulty, and it will be a difficulty, can be managed. The tragedy will be if Ms Sturgeon does not realise that those who form the Alliance have as much right to contribute to strategy and tactics as she. The sensible thing now would be to talk to them.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh EH9.

THROUGHOUT this pandemic a group of contributors to your Letters Pages have routinely found fault with the actions of our First Minister in dealing with the Covid-19 virus. Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of going too slowly; she has been accused of going too quickly. She has been accused of simply copying actions taken by Downing Street and she has been accused of taking Scotland on a different path from that being pursued in England. She is damned if she does and she is damned if she does not. Things though must be pretty desperate for her critics if our First Minister is now attacked for her choice of personal protection. The letter by Dr Edwards (July 13) suggesting that for Nicola Sturgeon to wear a tartan face covering is somehow politicising the pandemic is frankly risible. He claims that she aspires to be some sort of "super heroine" on a mission to "save Scotland". What nonsense.

There are two problems for Dr Edwards and his fellow-critics. Firstly he should read the Daily Update figures printed each day on Page 4 of The Herald. Here he will see the dramatic fall in the number of infections recorded in Scotland over the past weeks added to that the fact that at the time of writing, for the last five days there have been no deaths attributable to the virus. If he casts his eye further down to look at the UK figures. then he will see quite a different story. Frankly I find it depressing that the undoubted success achieved thus far by the Scottish Government working with our NHS and care workers in suppressing the virus is never acknowledged by critics such as Dr Edwards.

The other problem for such critics is the fact that the steady, thoughtful, progress being charted through this pandemic by the Scottish Government, and so clearly articulated by Nicola Sturgeon, has won the support of the vast majority of Scots.

There are more than enough examples of the failings of the UK Government to keep your correspondents busy just now. Your report in the same issue that since January of this year some 2,000 children have been admitted to English hospitals suffering from the effects of malnutrition is truly shocking. This scandal has now been followed by details of the new immigration policy for the post-Brexit UK ("Immigration rules branded a ‘slap in the face’ for vital care workers", The Herald, July 14). This will hit hard key Scottish industries such as hospitality, tourism and agriculture. Furthermore, it is a shameful way to treat the large numbers of our migrant care workers on whom we have come to depend, several of whom have lost their lives during this crisis.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh EH10.

I HAVE taken to summarising Guy Stenhouse's articles, to save me reading them in future, and perhaps saving him from writing them.

His summary of governmental responses to Covid 19 is: Scottish Government bad, Westminster Government good.

He is right that patients were sent from hospital to residential care without Covid testing ("Cavalry arrived – not in perfect formation but in time to save day", Herald Business, July 13), but no one was discharged with symptoms.

It was not known at the time that asymptomatic patients would spread the disease so effectively. The lack of a crystal ball was present throughout the UK and patients were discharged from hospitals in England in the same circumstances. Strange that Mr Stenhouse is not also asking for Matt Hancock's head on a plate.

It's also unfortunate that Boris Johnson's announcement of compulsory face masks in shops came too late for his article. Otherwise, he could have pointed out that Nicola Sturgeon was again following the Westminster line, and that Boris had preceded her by at least minus 10 days.

Sam Craig, Glasgow G11.

THE letter from your correspondent L MacGregor (July 14) must be an attempt to break the world record for the number of exaggerations, deliberate distortions, misrepresentation and downright lies that can be fitted into a single missive. In a way we should perhaps thank her for her summing up of the tissue of mendacity upon which the case for Scottish independence so heavily relies.

These range from the insistence on best-case scenarios (the assumption that a Scottish currency would have a triple-A rating) to utter fantasy (has anyone ever seen the pipelines which the English use to steal Scotland's water?) via financial irresponsibility (independent Scotland would not be responsible for its share of historic UK national debt) to that good old favourite the Independence Time Machine (which would whisk us back to the 1970s to set up a sovereign oil fund), throwing in for good measure the wilful misrepresentation of the devolved fisheries border of 1999 as an oil field border. The rest of the claims in the letter are also rubbish of the same order.

The SNP has recently been advised by a tame academic professor of marketing to abandon facts and tell stories instead – a lesson learned from Donald Trump and Aaron Banks and his successful Brexit campaign ("facts are white noise and emotions rule"). Its followers are obviously quick learners.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

AFTER the human misery and predictable economic failure of a partitioned East Germany, West Germany paid heavily for the reunification, investing billions into the East. If Scotland ever becomes independent and when it inevitably fails (in week two) it can expect no such support from England because of the toxic anti-English rhetoric that is the default position of the economic theory-free zone of the nationalists. Broke and desperate, our future will for sure be as a recipient of “aid” from Moscow or Beijing. Can I suggest that even Boris Johnson is preferable to Putin or Xi Jinping?

John Dunlop, Ayr.

IN response to Janice MacKay (Letters, July 14), Scotland was a country long before most of the present countries of Europe and for some centuries before the United States was cobbled together from the various territories stolen from the inhabitants. Scotland is an individual country just as England is, and the fact that it is shackled to England by an unfair Treaty of Union does not negate its existence as a nation. When devolution was eventually prised out of Westminster, some small elements of government were restored to Scotland in the hope that this gesture would prevent the natives becoming any more restless. It did not work.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh EH10.

WE are currently bombarded in the media by the views of experts. My Chambers dictionary defines an expert as one who is skilled in any art or science.

In his letter today (July 14), Douglas Cowe rightly places the word "experts" in inverted commas.

After listing the supposed benefits of Scottish independence, L McGregor recommends that I read some of the work of true experts, whatever that means, like Dr Tim Rideout. Dr Rideout speaks, of course, in favour of an independent Scotland. Some "experts" lean to the political left, some to the right, some to unionism and some to Scottish nationalism.

One can invariably find an "expert" who happens to suit one's own political leanings.

Experts as defined by Chambers are, after all, human.

David Miller, Milngavie.

THE figures quoted by your columnist Kirsty Hughes ("Scottish politics faces a crisis-ridden year ahead", The Herald, July 13) to the effect that 63 per cent of Scottish voters – versus 48% in England – would wish to rejoin the EU seems to show that there has been little change in the disposition of overall electoral views regarding Brexit.

However, it must lay to rest one belief held by some Remainers: that the narrow margin of victory for Leave in the referendum was due to the larger differential turnout of elderly voters.

Just over four years have passed since the referendum. Plenty of opportunity for members of this cohort to die off, especially since the elderly have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

Perhaps the desire to leave the EU is more widely diffused than previously thought.

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot

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