REBECCA McQuillan makes some astute observations about the state of the Scottish Labour Party and the position of its leader Richard Leonard ("Scottish Labour may be in the doldrums… but there is hope", The Herald, September 4). I’ve a great deal of respect for Mr Leonard. He it was who first got me involved in Labour Party campaigning, which led to a close shave with election as a Labour MP; but I don’t hold a grudge. Mr Leonard is a man who genuinely believes in what he says, and that’s a quality that is rarer in politics than it should be.

However, Mr Leonard is also a man out of his time. He looks back to an age when the big trade unions were centres of power in UK politics and beer and sandwiches at No 10 a regular date for union leaders. An age when those on council estates were expected to vote for a donkey with a red rosette if that’s what they were offered at an election. Times have changed.

The trade unions aren’t the power they were. In 1980, membership was around 13 million; now it’s more like six million, and most of those are in the public sector. Moreover, the public are better informed than they were, they recognise that the trade unions have their flaws. On Thursday you carried a report about the current state of the GMB, the union Mr Leonard worked for before he became an MSP ("GMB branded ‘institutionally sexist’ in report", The Herald, September 3). The independent expert charged with investigating the GMB, Baroness Monaghan QC, said: “Bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.”

Ms Monaghan’s remarks are no surprise. The trade union movement, for all the good it has done, also has many shameful episodes in its history, with its imposition of closed shops and hostility to the Windrush generation typical of the cronyism and racism exhibited by some officials and unchallenged by the leadership of the day.

So, while I respect Mr Leonard, I believe he’s barking up the wrong tree in his pursuit of a unionist, socialist nirvana. Scotland has moved on and the opportunity to build a modern, confident, outward-looking society is near. Self-government will create enormous dislocation and re-organisation in Scottish politics, which might be no bad thing; and Mr Leonard’s party could be well placed to pick up a significant vote share if it settles on coherent, sensible policies.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

IRONICALLY Richard Leonard has attained overnight fame with calls for his resignation; fame that had eluded him for his politics. If he went, who would replace him? The Scottish Labour cupboard at Holyrood is pretty bare of talent, but accident-prone Douglas Ross is hardly the template they should follow.

The decline in support for Labour in Scotland was driven down by decades of indifference, indolence, feather bedding by a party who lost sight of their electorate. Equal pay in Glasgow, anyone?

Rebecca McQuillan asserts it as “likely” that “Labour is willing to consider a radical reshaping of the UK into a looser more federal system”. Sorry, but we have been hearing this “federal” stuff for many years without any flesh ever being put on the bones. England simply does not want it; Labour MP Ian Murray seems to want LESS power at Holyrood; Willie Rennie, leader of a supposed “federalist” party, stated at a conference earlier this year the Scotland has “sufficient powers”. Sufficient for what? Gordon Brown scatters “promises” like confetti at a wedding.

Scottish Labour could always reset the party back to Keir Hardie, and his wish for Dominion status for Scotland, but like abolition of the Lords and genuine equality for women, it is all a bit too radical for Scottish Labour.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

I EXPECT that Leah Gunn Barrett (Letters, September 4) has the best of intentions in her advice to the Scottish Labour Party, but I am afraid that there are a few elementary errors in her letter.

Above all, she seems to be mistaken in what she thinks the Scottish Labour Party is for: it is a Best Of Both Worlds party, which seeks to combine the benefits of a mixed economy, for example, by balancing the choices provided by markets and the fairness of redistribution. Likewise, as far as the constitution is concerned, the same principles apply: Labour is the party of devolution, of local control for Scottish services supported by all the benefits of pan-UK redistribution.

It would therefore be totally against its principles to do as Ms Barrett suggests, which is to support independence, or in other words to give up access to the revenues available from the taxes of the bankers and others in London and the south-east of England. It is absurd to suggest, as she does, that Scottish Labour should deliberately impoverish Scotland by the massive amounts implied in the SNP Scottish Government's GERS figures.

In addition, she asserts that a majority of Scots want out of the Union. If this is the case, I must apologise that I missed the latest referendum in which this was decided. My recollection is that the last one was in 2104, when Scotland decided it would not be an independent country. It is of course the shabby policy of the SNP to overturn that referendum, but as a party of democracy, Scottish Labour remains bound by its principles to respect its outcome.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Read more: Letters: Getting rid of Leonard not enough to save Labour