I AM not a member of any political party, but I regard strong, well-rooted political parties as important for the health of our democracy. Neil Mackay comments today on First Minister Sturgeon ("The end of Nicola Sturgeon? Be careful what you wish for", The Herald, October 20): she is probably the most highly regarded, and the most vilified leader in the UK. She is important to the standing of the SNP.

Miles Briggs is also reported as stating that the SNP are “fighting like rats” over the candidature of a constituency. That is important. When did the Scottish Tories ever “fight” over anything, get red in the face, or stand up for themselves? They had an elected leader dumped, allegedly by – take your time, and take your pick – Ruth Davidson, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Dom Cummings and others I have never heard of. A new leader parachuted in. Reaction? Nothing; zilch; zero.

When Nicola Sturgeon goes, there will be a contest between some highly impressive candidates, a battle of ideas, nerve and wits. This is as it should be in a democracy. Mr Briggs should be asking himself: Why is not like that in the Scottish Conservative Party, why aren’t candidates fighting over selection?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

LAST week Rachel Ormiston of Ipsos MORI observed that the SNP is "in fine fettle" (“Leadership is key to SNP’S good showing in the polls”, The Herald, October 16). Most people, I believe, would have trouble in accepting that judgment after perusing the columns of The Herald today (October 20). I have avoided references to the pandemic at this point. There will be no doubt be important lessons to be learned at some stage in the future. Suffice to say now that I do not think that we have performed significantly any better than other parts of the UK in spite of spin to the contrary.

We have a renowned US surgeon critical of the Scottish Government because of its failure to fulfil promises with regard to the removal of mesh implants ("Mesh surgeon to tell MSPs about his ‘exasperation' with Scots Government"). Further, we have allegations of an "unprecedented" selection rule change to stop an MP standing to become an MSP ("SNP big guns ‘fighting like rats in a sack’ over Holyrood candidacy). Neil Mackay writes of the "brittle nature" of the SNP and the Yes movements. Both are riven by a multiplicity of factional splits. Finally, we have an MP, not doing much for the image of the SNP nor the level of debate by telling Michael Gove, Cabinet Office Minister, to depart and to heat the uppermost part of his body to boiling point ("SNP MP tells Gove to ‘awa and bile his heid' over no-deal Brexit").

SNP in fine fettle? Aye, right.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

NEIL Mackay states that Nicola Sturgeon has pulled off an incredible series of political successes. Apart from winning an election I can’t think of any and that is mainly down to the incredible lack of talent in the opposition.

Maybe he could list them, because I must have slept through them.

Michael Watson, Glasgow G73.

I WAS impressed by the suggestion of Mark Smith (“The phenomenon helping Sturgeon do well in the polls” , The Herald, October 19) to the effect that there is a need for “constitutional reform [introducing] new processes of cooperation ... free of English domestic politics ..... continuing with the current system [not being] an option”. I agree that is the way to preserve the Union. There is however one problem with that vision.

The current Brextremist Cabinet is totally incapable of seeing beyond the New Right’s Jerusalem which they dream of England becoming post-Brexit. I suspect that their philosophy has no meaningful place for a United Kingdom, especially one in which the already troublesome devolved administrations have even more autonomy as in the reimagined Union described by Mr Smith.

I have no idea how the Westminster Government will react in the likely event of the Scottish electorate delivering a landslide victory to the SNP with a corresponding collapse in the Conservative vote in next year’s Holyrood elections. It will be interesting to see.

There is, however, another issue described by Neil Mackay. Nicola Sturgeon sitting as she does “on that spectrum of politicians offering opposition to the new right-wing ideology” offers hope to many describing themselves as reluctant or soft nationalists. And yet her opponents within the SNP are, out of sheer self-interest, in danger of removing that hope from these citizens on which the future of Scotland probably depends.

John Milne, Uddingston.

NEIL Mackay refers to Nicola Sturgeon’ s approach to tackling Covid as "basically much the same as Westminster’s".

I assume he is referring to the mitigations which can be used to tackle the virus which relate to factors common to the four nations of the UK. This is in fact the only similarity between the approach of Ms Sturgeon and that of Westminster and Boris Johnson and is arguably the least important point of comparison.

The First Minister is undoubtedly an exceptionally effective communicator and in this context has taken care to be open and honest in the information she presents daily on Covid-19. She demonstrates commitment, compassion and caring in every coronavirus broadcast and we are left in no doubt about her determination to protect the people of Scotland.

The cooperation and compliance of the population is of fundamental importance in defeating this virus and this can only be achieved by establishing trust and a belief that pulling together will make a real difference. The actions of the UK Government in my view bear no comparison to that of the Scottish First Minister in terms of their track record in attempting to tackle the pandemic.

There may be shortcomings in the working of the Scottish Government but in these difficult times and at such critical moments would it not be best to allow the First Minister to maintain her focus on the most important task at hand, that is the protection of the Scottish people and economy and leave other matters on the shelf, albeit temporarily? We need her to remain strong for us now more than ever.

Christine Vassie, Bearsden.

IT seems that the latest polls indicate increased support for Scottish independence. If that is indeed the case, then those members of the electorate who have decided to change sides should bear in mind that if we decide to leave the security of the UK, there will be no turning back if the going gets tough.

It is an undeniable fact that 60 per cent of Scotland's "exports" go to other parts of the UK. How then will the SNP's dream of independence cope with a potential loss of this market; or with the imposition of levies on goods and services entering England, Wales or Northern Ireland?

The EU will certainly not favour Scotland as a potential new member; it would present the same economic problems as Greece or, in political terms, as Catalonia.

The system of government at Holyrood may seem to be orderly compared with proceedings in the House of Commons; but it so obviously one in which MSPs merely read out prepared statements because the SNP simply does not approve of healthy debate – it has to be its way or nothing.

A craving for independence is the romantic sort of approach to politics in Scotland; it might be described as a means of settling old scores against the dastardly English. But it fails to take into account major issues such as the Economy, defence, international relations, a banking system, currency, and more. It is merely a pipe-dream which has some sort of political appeal, but struggles to reach any sound conclusions. Quite simply, it does not add up.

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.

Read more: Letters: An issue that is bigger than the individuals