IT is good to see Iain Macwhirter injecting some realism into his discussion of the prospects for Scottish independence ("Does Sturgeon want independence? Well, some in the SNP are so sure", July 12). Accepting subsequent "tight spending for perhaps a decade" and "a flight of funds out of the country" if a new currency were introduced quickly, and the fact that "some people might get hurt, at least financially" is a step in the right direction.

He is, however, mistaken is claiming that in 2014 Scotland could have remained in a currency union with rUK, and that that remains a possibility. Chancellor-candidates Osborne, Balls and Alexander all ruled that out categorically in 2014, and the Bank of England has produced compelling reasons for it not being a possibility. Then, as now, Scotland’s only choice would have been and would now be using the pound informally, leaving Scotland with no lender of last resort and no control over its own monetary policy.

Contrary to what Mr Macwhirter says about member countries of the EU being "supposed to have their own currencies and to seek to join the euro… [which is] honoured more in the breach than the observance", using the pound as the currency of a separate Scotland would disqualify Scotland from EU membership. The EU does not permit its members to use a third country’s currency, and that is a red line. Further, the EU insists that member states have control over their own monetary policy.

It is worse than irresponsible to give the false impression that the currency issue can be easily solved or that EU rules can be fudged by a new supplicant.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

A PANELBASE survey has predicted that Nicola Sturgeon is set to win 74 seats at the next Holyrood election, up from 61 at present. The same poll revealed that 54 per cent of Scots are now backing separation. The Panelbase poll contacted 1,026 voters in Scotland over four days. There are four million people who are eligible to vote in Scotland, so was the selection of this minuscule 1,026 representative?

Regardless of the result of next year's Scottish elections the vocal SNP supporters will demand another referendum on independence. I say give it to them, but with a precondition that there is a trial run to feel what independence would be like. All funds given by Westminster to Scotland are stopped and all funds given by Scotland to Westminster are stopped, including North Sea, oil since this is what would happen on independence. No Barnett formula, no extra per head of population to Scotland. After a two-years trial I suspect that the desire for independence will have waned.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.


ON hearing that the Scottish Government has been able to make its own decisions about requiring travellers from Spain to quarantine, I wonder whether it could also make its own decisions regarding Portugal, and allow Portuguese visitors, and holiday-makers arriving home from Portugal, to avoid quarantine?

According to all accounts I have read, Portugal is a much safer country than the UK in terms of coronavirus, which makes the Westminster Government's decision seem absurd. Portugal has been one of the most successful countries in Europe at controlling the virus, partly because of its cautious approach in imposing lockdown much sooner in the disease's trajectory than neighbouring Spain (it looked at its European neighbours and learned, unlike the UK Government). Another reason has been its record on testing – it has consistently tested a much higher proportion of its population than most other European countries, having decided early on that Portugal would produce its own tests, rather than relying on imports, and state and private laboratories collaborated with the government from the start. This could give an appearance of higher incidence of the virus than in some countries where there has been less testing. Moreover, the opposition parties supported the government, avoiding making the crisis a political football as has happened elsewhere. And the tourism sector has gone to great lengths to make everywhere that tourists might go as safe as possible. No Bournemouth beach scenes there.

I have started to wonder whether Westminster has made this decision for political reasons. Portugal has a successful socialist government which managed to reverse austerity measures while still reducing its debt, and which was re-elected in September. I realise this may feel like a conspiracy theory, but would it be so surprising if Boris Johnson's government wanted to damage the economy of a socialist country? And given the extent to which Portuguese tourism depends on UK tourists, it certainly would cause damage.

Portugal is a beautiful country with wonderful people, and deserves to be treated better. (I lived and worked there for four years so do have some experience on which to base this claim). Moreover, Portugal is a friend of Scotland, Portuguese people seem very aware of the position that Scotland is currently in; when I went back to visit last September, friends and strangers alike would say things like "We know you in Scotland didn't vote to leave the EU, we're really sorry this is happening". Therefore, if Scotland could show friendship to Portugal by unilaterally lifting the UK ban, I am sure it would be appreciated enormously,

Cathy Benson, Edinburgh.


IT was while watching old footage about the ennoblement of Lynton Crosby for his services to the Tory Party that I got round to thinking about our country's honours system.

Over and above, my view was reinforced by the recent newspaper stories about Damehoods being bought for as much as £80,000.

If honours are to have genuine relevance today, they should be focused on those who have benefited the wellbeing and prosperity of the community in general.

Both the examples above do not meet the criteria laid out in my previous sentence.

Crosby was awarded his knighthood for his position as a paid partisan propagandist for a particular political party while the money offered to purchase a Damehood was for the selfish purpose of enhancing the purchaser's social standing.

Those two examples make a mockery of the intent behind such honours.

Eligibility for such awards should not be confined to the decisions of a secretive small committee but should be thrown open to the public at large to nominate suitable people from the following categories – entertainers, sportspersons, politicians, public servants, charity workers and entrepreneurs.

Such a procedure would give the public the pleasure and privilege of proposing those they consider worthy of such awards and would eliminate the sleaze which operates behind closed doors under the camouflage of a so-called impartial committee.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


MUCH more concerning, I suggest, than lies which are gullibly believed by society are the truths which it dismisses without any consideration (Trump, Barnum, Ponzi – the greatest lies ever sold?, Spotlight, July 12). Few would dispute Ron McKay's suggestion that the current US President is a serial misspeaker; but is Donald Trump pathologically unstable, as many other commentators insist he is? Here, we find ourselves in the realm of mental illness and, whenever I want my own biases to be confirmed, I always turn to the visionary psychiatrist Thomas Szasz (1920-2012). In his book The Myth Of Mental Illness, Szasz rounded on two mental illnesses which could scarcely be more topical: Drapetomania, and Hysteria.

Drapetomania was a psychiatric diagnosis given to enslaved Africans who wished to flee their captivity. The condition was said to be brought on by masters who treated their toiling property too well, giving them a taste for better living conditions.

Similarly, Hysteria was a diagnosis frequently ascribed to women who, for whatever reason, refused to bend to a man's will (typically, their husbands). Quite simply, it was an early form of gaslighting.

According to Szasz, what both conditions had in common was not the fact that they were mental illnesses: it was the fact that both labels supplied a pretext to correct behaviour which was socially disapproved of at the time. This was the case with mental illnesses overwhelmingly, which he saw as being largely metaphorical in nature.

Psychiatry has serious form where lies are concerned; and yet critics of Mr Trump are happy to deploy it against him as a weapon. Szasz has warned us that doing so is a big mistake because, like the cons Ron listed in his amusing article, the pseudoscience of psychiatry is just another one of them.

We could learn something if we stopped to entertain ideas such as those of Szasz. We could even solve some seriously chronic problems in our society.

But, why would we?

Archie Beaton, Inverness.


SOME years ago my modest bank balance was marginally improved when I joined those of advanced years and was no longer required to pay a television licence. Now this amnesty is over and I find myself again being required to help fund what I think is a fat cat factory where few employees, if any, receive less than £100,000 per year, but from whose premises emerge monotonous miaows of financial misery and hardship.

A look down the excessively lengthy list of the higher-profile BBC employees quickly suggests that if this excessively financed organisation experiences any financial glitches, this has to be because of the pay level at its places of work. Even that other cosseted closet of employment, the House of Lords, cannot be, I am convinced, doling out such beneficence as the BBC. It could be that commercial TV is equally indulgent, but we are not commanded to fork out our pension pennies for its offerings, and that's the difference.

It is time the fat cats were told to do some commercial feline hunting for their food.

Ian Johnstone, Peterhead.