JIM Sillars (Letters, July 15) is playing with fire in his proposal to use the votes for additional regional members to secure a majority for independence in the election in May of next year.

There are two ways in which a party can secure an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. Such a majority can be achieved if a party wins 65 or more of the 73 constituency seats. The alternative method of securing an overall majority is to secure at least half of the regional votes, or if less a sufficient proportion over the rival parties to secure the additional seats required.

In 2011 the Scottish National Party secured an overall majority by the second method. The party secured 44 per cent of the regional votes, compared to 39 per cent cast in favour of the Labour and Conservative parties. Ironically it is the regional vote, the method by which that overall majority was achieved, that Mr Sillars will negate with his proposals.

The risk that those in his coalition take is well illustrated by the result in 2016. In that election, with the Scottish National Party holding 56 out of 59 seats at Westminster it appeared to me that at least the required 65 seats would be secured, thereby securing another overall victory. Much to my surprise the Conservative Party not only held its three seats, but also gained a further four seats, while Labour managed to retain three seats and the Liberal Democrats won two seats in addition to their stronghold in the Northern Isles, effectively removing the overall majority for the SNP.

The plan that Mr Sillars has is predicated on the electorate voting the way that he wants them to vote. It would be quite possible for the Conservative and Labour parties to stand down in all the seats in which they do not have a sitting incumbent or are in second place and concentrate their efforts on the votes in the regional list. This could reduce the number of constituency members returned who favour independence. Even if the main parties cannot contemplate standing down in any constituency the Sillars plan will fall apart if the electorate votes tactically in constituencies for the party most likely to defeat the incumbent SNP candidate.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh EH3.

APPARENTLY, a new party is to be launched to mop up the list votes that the SNP will not get because it will, we are told, win so many constituency seats that it will not, under the D’Hondt system, be eligible for more than a few list seats. That is the trick of the current voting system. Journalist Kenny Farquharson thinks this new initiative is vandalism. Pollster Sir John Curtice regards it as unwise.

Is the current voting system set absolutely in stone? The easiest way to circumvent any attempt to gerrymander it would be to propose a modest amendment to the effect that any party intending to enter the election for list votes be required to stand at least 10 candidates in the constituency section of the vote. Ten, or 20, or whatever. Surely there is enough time to make such a change before May 2021?

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.

WITH regard to the misguided suggestions by pretenders to her leadership and others who support them, that Nicola Sturgeon is soft on independence, may I simply point out that on the contrary, she has the wit and indeed the nous to recognise when the time is right to strike, if fences are not to be rushed.

A number of SNP members are not only impatient, but are irresponsibly impetuous, in wishing to go full steam ahead at any cost. As in football, rugby, hockey and the like there is a best time to go for the telling score, rather than squander hapless half chances and this applies also in politics.

Recent events have shown our First Minister to be strong and “right on the ball”. Just look at her devastating attack on Westminster over its attempt to usurp Scotland of our devolved rights after Brexit, her leadership regarding the wearing of face coverings, which others are now following and her caution on the reduction of lockdown precautions. All of this is accompanied by her refusal to take the debate over our border off the table, in view of protecting Scotland’s health, should this disastrous epidemic, regrettably, develop more dangerously in the south.

She has been recognised throughout the entire country for her strength, leadership and wisdom and we are very lucky indeed to have her as our team captain.

Ian Cooper, Bearsden.

PETER A Russell (Letters, July 15) sneers at the claims made in L MacGregor's letter of July 14, but one point which he apparently classes under "rubbish" is the undisputed altering of Scotland's maritime boundary by Tony Blair's Labour Government. It is solid fact that The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 changed the boundary established by the 1987 Act, and as a result a large area of Scottish waters and some oil fields which were subject to Scots Law fell under English jurisdiction. In 2001, the European Journal of International Law published a detailed article which concluded that in the event of Scottish independence, the maritime border between Scotland and England as set out in the 1999 Order would not comply with international law.

In pouring scorn on what he describes as "an independence Time Machine which would whisk us back to the 1970s to set up a sovereign oil fund", Mr Russell may find that the people of Norway, who discovered that they had oil in their waters in the 1970s at about the same time oil was discovered in Scottish waters, are devoutly thankful that they have an oil fund which is worth around 10 trillion. However, I agree with Mr Russell that we can't go back to the 1970s; we can't even go back to 2014, but we can go forward, learn from the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past, and make sure we don't repeat them again.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

I HAVE a small bone to pick with Peter A Russell. He asserts that Scotland would be liable for a share of “the historic UK debt”. That would surely depend on the type of dissolution the beak-up of the UK involved.

If I remember correctly, all three British nationalist parties claimed in 2014, that rUK would be the “continuator” state and carry all the international rights, entitlements and treaty obligations of the previous UK. This included not sharing the currency, even on a transitory basis and armed guards at fixed border posts (Ed Miliband). If rUK does insist on this route, then the debt (and assets) would accrue to it alone under international Laws of Succession, I would have thought?

A per capita/geographic share of all debts and assets would be a more adult way to go, but probably not for London. Some expert opinion would be welcome here.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

IF life can imitate art, now it seems it imitates myth. A clever, ambitious man dreams of being king of the world. He becomes leader of his country’s capital city. He is elected a member of his country’s great assembly. Still, he strives for greater glory, and employs bold and cunning plots and manoeuvres, as he seeks to achieve his ultimate goal.

The gods, in one of their random interventions into the world of mortals, grant him his heart’s desire but, in their capricious and perverse way, attach a condition: yes, he can be king, but his country will live under the curse of a plague.

The real tragedy, however, is that it is we, the hoi polloi, who have to watch and live through the gods’ didactic illustration of the meaning hubris.

Ian Hutcheson, Glasgow G11.

Read more: Letters: Sturgeon must take off the SNP hat and put on the independence one