YOUR regular unionist correspondents continue to criticise the Scottish Government and ridicule the notion that an independent Scotland could successfully manage its own affairs. However, it does not take much in the way of research to see that far from benefitting from the Union, our country is being dragged down.

On Monday, you reported that a million Scots were living in poverty before the pandemic ("A million Scots living in poverty before pandemic, reveals report", The Herald, October 6). In September you also reported that an increasing number of children were going to school hungry; in some deprived parts of Scotland this figure could be as high as 40 per cent. These grim statistics get even worse. Last week you reported that "Scotland's life expectancy is stalling and is now the lowest in Western Europe with poorest Scots men expected to die 13 years before those in 'least deprived' areas".

The onset of the Covid pandemic has only made things worse for thousands of Scottish families. Years of Tory austerity have weakened our public services and left them struggling to cope. For those most in need, the ideological attack on welfare benefits has reduced many families to having to resort to food banks. According to the Scotland Independent Food Banks Data, in July 2019, 9470 people were given 14,270 three-day food parcels. With Covid, the figures for July 2020 have doubled. What is so tragic is that many of those having to resort to food banks are actually in work – they are not idle or feckless. Rather they are trapped into short-term work; zero-hours contracts or work that is just too poorly paid for people to get by. For a supposedly wealth country, this is shameful.

It was the Thatcher Government of the 1980s that destroyed Scotland’s traditional heavy industries. Whole communities lost the stability of work and the support of the church, the trade unions and good neighbours. For many Scots, decency and dignity have been replaced by drink, drugs and despair. And what has Westminster to offer? We have a Government characterised by incompetence, privilege, cronyism and now more than a hint of English jingoism. We have the empty promises of Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives that his party will "power up" Scotland’s economy. Last week we had the risible claim from Michael Gove that there will be "hundreds of thousands of new jobs and millions of pounds of new investment in the north-east of Scotland as a result of leaving the European Union". Every serious commentator (including the Government’s own advisers) agree that, trade deal or no trade deal, leaving the EU will damage the UK economy and harm our living standards.

This raises again the whole issue of whether or not being "Better Together" really now is in the best interests of Scotland. There are any number of countries our size or smaller who have prospered with independence. Westminster has only itself to blame for the parlous state of the Union.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh EH10.