WITH the SNP claiming to be headed for victory in next year's Holyrood election, what better time to ask the question: is there any longer a case for independence?

In 2007 the SNP stood on a competence ticket. That strategy failed in a blizzard of broken promises and unfinished and lethally dangerous hospitals, bungled police centralisations and ferry fiascos. It promised to abolish the “hated council tax”, institute a local income tax and deliver class sizes of 18 for P1-P3 and have a referendum within 100 days. None of it achieved. It promised to abolish PFI but ended up as major users of it. The standard of Scottish education has declined drastically in the SNP years, key health targets have been set but not met for years on end. It is fair to say that the competence strategy has failed. The gang that couldn't shoot straight has nothing on the SNP in taking a beady aim at the totally wrong target and then missing it by a country mile.

If competence is out, what of the economic case for independence? The SNP's own Growth Commission decided that there was no case without extended austerity, tax rises and public service cuts. The collapse of the oil price (twice) and the costs of the virus pandemic have emphasised the strength that we get from being part of the larger UK economy. Last week's GERS figures confirmed that an average Scottish family would be almost £8,000 a year worse off if we left the UK. Next year the full impact of Covid-19 will hit the accounts, making this year seem like a sea of tranquillity by comparison. No wonder the SNP has withdrawn its promise to publish an annual “economic case for independence”. There isn't one.

So, back to competence. Some claim that the Scottish Government has performed better than the UK Government in the pandemic. But has it? The three main disasters of the pandemic have been the movement of untested elderly people to care homes and the resultant mortality, the lack of a testing strategy and the exams fiasco. In the first two Scotland has done worse than the UK, in the second no different. For death rates during the pandemic there is nothing to differentiate Scotland from the rest of the UK. Is Nicola Sturgeon a more convincing communicator than Boris Johnson? Indeed she is. Should that deflect from the grim statistics of failure and incompetence that both preside over? Indeed it should not.

If the Scottish people vote in line with the current polling numbers next year, what will they be voting for? Certainly not competent governance from the SNP. And will a large number of the electorate really vote to make themselves, their families so much poorer? Next May is a long way off and it is still possible that public opinion will catch up with the facts. We have to hope so for the sake of our country and its citizens.

Alex Gallagher, Labour councillor, North Ayrshire Council, Largs.

NICOLA Sturgeon used to say "judge me on education" and we all know how well that has gone. Now she is saying "judge me on jobs" and it looks to be in the same category. As the coronavirus epidemic continues to make a mockery of her so-called " safe pair of hands policy" we are witnessing an economic meltdown with few parallel health benefits. Scotland might even be heading for another lockdown as well as losing a large number of jobs.

With this backdrop of very major problems Ms Sturgeon is unleashing her "national mission" for greener and better-paid jobs to stimulate the Scottish economy. This is called putting the cart before the horse. Is it any wonder many of us are still questioning the economic competence of both the current Scottish Government and its flagship quest for independence?

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow G77.

COLIN Mayall (Letters, September 1) oddly involves Burns whilst not addressing the incontrovertible truth that devolution has failed. I have long believed that the current SNP incarnation, and there have been a few, was the accidental consequence of too many pints of heavy and a penchant for the songs of the Corries in the 1970s. A mass hangover. Like those nights of ancient memory, the morning after independence we will all wish it had not happened, and we will all have all made utter fools of ourselves along the way. There is, and never has been, an economic case for independence.

John Dunlop, Ayr.

WHERE on earth did William Loneskie (Letters, August 29) get the idea that an independent Scotland would have “no currency, no currency reserves, no central bank”? Of the vast number of countries around the world which have become independent since the Second World War can he name a few to whom this would have applied?

On day one of independence, Scotland would have a currency. The threats during the last referendum that Westminster/the Bank of England would not “allow” Scotland to use sterling, were patently rubbish, as any country can choose the currency it wishes to use without any permission. How many around the world use the US dollar without US permission?

Equally, any country becoming independent will set up a central bank and decide whether to use its own currency or some other, according to what seems most suitable. If its own, new currency seems best, old and new currencies can run parallel for as long as it deems necessary. Then those who wish to change to the new currency can do so without loss of value, and then every sum exchanged from the “old” currency automatically provides the central bank with foreign reserves.

Anent Mr Loneskie’s other unfounded assumptions, one major credit rating agency, Moody’s, I believe, stated even in 2014 that Scotland would have top rating, while the UK was having its rating downgraded. With the dire state of Westminster debt, I doubt that has changed.

The GERS so-called “deficit” for Scotland is a) based almost entirely on estimates; b) includes as Scottish debits expenditures an independent Scotland would not have – for example, a new sewage system for London, Crossrail, HS2, the Brexit lorry park at Dover, Trident, two aircraft carriers (costs added after our share of the defence budget has already been paid from our annual budget allocation); c) is a reflection of how well or badly Westminster has managed the spending of our Scottish taxes and d) only illustrates the future state of Scotland’s finances if we make the exact same decisions and spend on exactly the same things.

Regarding pensions, the Pensions Minister in 2014 actually put it in writing to the Scottish Government that legally, all pensions for which people had paid their contributions would continue to be paid as before.

Everything else mentioned in Mr Loneskie’s letter is mere supposition. Cuts in public expenditure and salaries, privatisation, and tax increases, are assumptions he makes about the policies of whichever party governs after the initial independent election. I doubt if anyone has heard any suggestion of supervision by the IMF, which I find quite ludicrous.

Perhaps all this is simply a wish list of fearmongering from a unionist in a panic, who realises that the Union has no compelling arguments left.

P Davidson, Falkirk.

SCOTLAND is not the basket case William Loneskie would have us believe, as we have vast natural resources, a highly educated population, with a healthy balance of trade surplus and in the top 25 global economies in terms of income generated per head.

As GERS attributes 30% of the estimated deficit as interest on the £2 trillion national debt run up by Westminster I assume that Scotland will get its population share of the UK’s reserves of £137 billion and our share of the Bank of England’s reserves of £13 billion to support our new central bank and currency.

I doubt if anyone can show how much of the UK’s debt was spent in Scotland over above our tax contributions, particularly when oil and gas revenues contributed surpluses for much of the last 50 years.

Even before Covid and Brexit, the UK was the worst performing economy in Europe, in OECD and in the G7. Scotland’s chance to become a wealthier nation sits with independence and not with staying tied to the self-destructing UK economy, and a Brexit that we didn’t vote for.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh EH9.

WE don't need GERS arithmetic to tell us north of the Border that we don't count, nor do we require these statistics to know that those who politically compile them can't count, because there is an ever-present enigma at the very core of this annual exercise. Started by John Major's Tory Government in 1992 to, hopefully, deter Scots from wanting devolved government, it didn't do the trick, no more than it does today. The enigma is that GERS is supposed to show Westminster is subsidising us Scots and that therefore any prosperity enjoyed by us is due to us being part of the UK. As a UK liability it therefore follows that if Westminster willingly and knowingly keeps us, to its cost, then either its kindness tolerates this or else its sums are wrong.

In whatever event, a kindly disposed UK should be happy to have Scotland as a self-governing sovereign neighbour, or if GERS numbers are correct, and we are a financial liability, then a hard-faced, cash-driven UK should be relieved, delighted even, to have us removed from its economic computations.

As many of us say about this GERS thing, it doesn't quite add up.

Ian Johnstone, Peterhead.

IAN Moir (Letters, September 1) states "Edinburgh splashes out more than a billion" on trams and "Edinburgh splashes the cash on two additional bridges across the Forth", clearly suggesting the "Edinburgh" concerned was the Scottish Government.

It was Edinburgh City Council which wasted so much on the tram system, much against the wishes of the Scottish Government. The money spent on the two bridges over the Forth has been great value for money.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

Read more: Letters: It’s time to shake off the shackles of Scotland’s past