I CAN’T be the only one to have been startled to read in Neil Mackay’s piece today that there was a single person who was “the brains” behind the Yes movement. Indeed, his first sentence is a non-sequitur: “If the Yes movement has a brain, then it’s called Andrew Wilson – the man who’s crafted the SNP’s vision of independence” ("Revealed: The blueprint for Scottish independence", October 18). This implicitly equates the Yes movement with the SNP: a huge howler for a Scottish journalist.

Is his slip revealing? The Yes movement I know consists of thousands of people in hundreds of self-organising groups with a great variety of views and huge grassroots energy, as Andrew Wilson acknowledges, but among them the idea of an independent Scottish currency is far from a “minority pursuit”. The realisation that continuing with sterling would shackle economic policy to that of the rUK has spread throughout the movement, as has the very obvious drawback that it would disqualify Scotland from even applying for EU membership. Mr Wilson seems oblivious to this, clinging to the idea that a programme for genuine economic independence would frighten the fearty voters. He couldn’t be more wrong.

The issues to do with pensions, mortgages and wages have straightforward solutions. They need to be explained now. Waiting for the referendum to do so would be fatal. Mr Wilson’s new currency proposal, though different, is as full of holes as that of 2014. These would be remorselessly pointed out by the opponents of independence during the campaign. Moreover, most of the Yes movement outside the SNP leadership would not support it, leading to campaign fragmentation and disaster.

There was a famous Nasa mission to Mars in 1999 which proceeded smoothly right up until the vehicle was almost at its destination. The mission team waited expectantly, ready to celebrate, when things went badly wrong, the rocket veered into the Martian atmosphere and burned up. The firm that had constructed the rocket had used imperial (feet and inches) measurements in its software while Nasa used metric ones. Maybe “Brains” Wilson should take a look at his own software, which seems to be calibrated to different units from that of the Yes movement more broadly. The danger is that, like Nasa, he remains unaware of this until the last moment.

Lyn Jones, Edinburgh.


NEIL Mackay’s interview with Andrew Wilson reveals, as did the Growth Commission Report in 2018, the problems facing a thinking nationalist: "He sees independence as long, hard work." And well he might. But talking about it taking 20 to 25 years – a "generation", he says – for Scotland to reach its ideal state will be either discouraging or, more likely, ignored by separatist supporters, so he has to give them bait: "independence will deliver results early" because "there will be a fillip, a real boost from the act itself". Having made that unrealistic claim without any attempt to provide evidence for it, Mr Wilson tells us that the strategy has to be "to tell the truth and win the argument".

I look forward to nationalists telling the truth, for a change, particularly about how, in their separate Scotland, they would compensate for losing the £10 billion and more that Scotland receives from HM Treasury every year, over and above what we raise ourselves. That is a question that I have yet to see Mr Wilson address, let alone answer.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


POLITICIANS and the like are often mocked for promising "jam tomorrow" rather than today.

However, Andrew Wilson is the first I have come across to promise jam 20-25 years hence, as he believes it will take that long for an independent Scotland to reach the desired standard of living, equivalent to the likes of Denmark.

No doubt during those 20-odd hard years a MacSquealer will often assure us that, however we may feel, we cannot be in want, because he has documents and figures to prove that we are actually much better off than ever, and anyway, even if we think we are hungry, we are a separate country, which is the main thing. "Surely," he will implore, "you do not want Boris Johnson to come back?"

I feared at first that after 20 years the jam of separation would be mouldy.

Then I recollected what Lewis Carroll actually said: that "the rule is, jam to-morrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam to-day".

So we won't get any jam at all.

Though I suppose if we are good we might get a teaspoonful of bitter Scottish marmalade.

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews.


PRETTY desperate stuff from Alexander McKay (Letters, October 18), who writes that "more confusion and uncertainty continue to flow almost daily from the First Minister's seemingly never-ending broadcasts". May I point out to Mr McKay that Nicola Sturgeon has been named as the fifth most eloquent politician in the world by a group of leadership and career experts, and was praised for being "clear, calm and compassionate". However, if Mr McKay is looking for confusion and uncertainty he could always listen to the ramblings from Boris Johnson, criticised by the professionals who drew up the list for "muffling or waffling" and "often left people confused about his message".

Mr Mackay speculates as to who would replace Ms Sturgeon, but given her high approval ratings, it is clear that the public has confidence in her leadership, and that there will be no job vacancy for the post of First Minister of Scotland for a long time to come.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


DR Gerald Edwards (Letters, October 18) maintains that the SNP's current lead in the polls is "only due to the perceived difference in handling the Coronavirus north and south of the Border". Not so much.

The doctor omitted to mention:

(a) The Brexit factor. Scots, in the main, voted against leaving the EU.

(b) In Scotland, the current Prime Minister is generally viewed as an educated buffoon.

(c) Scotland was treated as a "lesser partner" in terms of the UK's negotiations with the EU.

(d) The sad demise of the Scottish Labour Party.

(e) The incumbent Scottish Conservative leader is untested.

(f) Our First Minister is well respected and is serving her country with empathy and compassion.

(g) In 2014 the Scots were told that a No vote would secure our future in the EU.

The way that the coronavirus has been handled north and south of the border is not the only issue.

William Nisbet, North Berwick.


DR Gerald Edwards (Letters, October 1) wrongly asserts a hard border would be an “added” problem. Not so. Goods move in two directions and the borders/tariffs threat by British nationalists would impact on the huge (and hugely profitable) trade England conducts with Scotland. He also wrongly asserts the current poll lead is due to the virus. Two polling companies had Yes in the lead in January.

Alexander McKay thinks a long-retired epidemiologist should have been appointed by the Scottish Government to advise on a viral pandemic, instead of the world-class virologists it has consulted. He also thinks SNP MPs and MSPs have been somehow “appointed”. Not so: unlike his red and blue “Tory” chums, the SNP is overwhelmingly directly elected by the public.

The next leader of the SNP? I can think of half a dozen excellent candidates. Scottish Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates for next leader, after their convoy of abject failures? Anyone got a clue?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


PROFESSOR Nick Megoran wrote last Sunday(Letters, October 18) to compliment the Scottish Government on its handling of Covid-19. He says he can understand why No voters have switched their allegiance.

I’ve often thought that things would work pretty well if we gave London and the south-east its independence. To borrow Matt Taibbi’s description of Goldman Sachs, London is a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of the UK.”

Great city as it is, London is different from the rest of the UK, and I’m sure the rest of us could live happily without its dominance.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


I AM afraid it is Tom Cassells (Letters, October 18) who does not “have a clue how the energy industry works” and I would suggest he refers to the Renewable Energy Forum website for a little lesson as this contains a detailed explanation of the constraints payments system with links to the Balancing Mechanism and other informative sites.

The data on constraints can also be obtained from this site and by last week the total for the whole of the UK was just under £835 million, of which Scotland accounts for just under £773m (it is increasing all the time). The rest of the UK paid only £62m. These figures are what is paid to windfarms to switch their turbines off when the Grid cannot take the electricity. This is not the total, as other windfarm payments are kept secret for “commercial confidentiality”. Payments to other forms of generation are a different system entirely.

Currently the whole UK renewable electricity subsidy bill, which includes constraint payments, is shared across the UK. If Scotland becomes independent this cost will be separated like so many other things; there is no chance those south of the Border will purchase the resultant high-cost electricity.

Unfortunately Scotland’s energy policy allows more windfarms to be constructed even while existing windfarms, both on and offshore, are being paid not to generate. This includes building extensions to windfarms already being constrained off.

Brenda Herrick, Thurso.

TOM Cassels (Letters, October 18) seems to think that a windmill is a turbine like a steam turbine. Not true. A real turbine always involves compression – of steam, or exhaust gas in a diesel or petrol engine by a turbocharger. A wind "turbine" just drives through a gearbox. Mr Cassels may be in favour of wind power but on October 18 the thousands of wind machines throughout Britain were only producing 1.9 per cent of UK electricity. Around where I live there are three visible wind farms and I could see that their blades were all stationary.

William Loneskie, Lauder.