GORDON Brown was a wonderful Chancellor. His ambition to be Prime Minister, however, overwhelmed him and unfortunately, like so many others before him, he was not up to that job when eventually he got it.

Now it appears he is advising the present Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer on Scottish affairs ("Starmer to warn future of UK at risk without ‘real devolution’", The Herald, December 21). His idea of some kind of enhanced devolution solving the party’s problems in Scotland is frankly preposterous. We want less devolution, not more.

Those in Labour who are half-nationalist anyway should have the courage to make the switch to the SNP. Then what is left of Labour in Scotland would have clarity and a clear and unambiguous pro-UK stance. Sir Keir Starmer should consult instead with Jackie Baillie rather than Gordon Brown.

I would strongly advise Gordon Brown and Sir Keir to sit down and read Tam Dalyell’s forecasts of what would happen with devolution and how eerily accurate they proved to be. If they still advocate more devolution, then I am afraid Labour is finished in Scotland.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh EH6.


SIR Keir Starmer’s Scottish speech held some disappointments, starting with the discourtesy to Edinburgh University’s Mackintosh Memorial committee, for whom it was originally billed.

It’s a mistake to lambast Scottish separatism while apparently accepting the uglier phenomenon of Brexit separatism. And perhaps it was a mistake to endorse Richard Leonard’s leadership of Scottish Labour. The English regional solution to the issue of asymmetric devolution makes sense, but it was tried by John Prescott in 2004, and it sadly failed when the north-east of England voted against it.

This diehard Labour loyalist, living in the Tory Borders, is going to find it extremely difficult to vote for the Brexit-supporting candidate of a party led by Mr Leonard. But I just might be tempted by a party offering a credible fast track back into the European Union. I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon can work that miracle?

John Home Robertson, former Labour MP and MSP, Berwickshire.


I HAD a strong feeling of deja vu on reading that Sir Keir Starmer promises to spread "power, wealth and opportunity" away from Westminster if he becomes Prime Minister; we've heard it all before and nobody will buy it for Christmas, let alone for life. But what will really go down like a lead balloon on Christmas morning is his announcement that the adviser to this "boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation" will be Gordon Brown; the self-same Gordon Brown who as Chancellor wrote the cheques to pay for the illegal Iraq War, under whose premiership the UK economy went to hell on a handcart, and who crafted the infamous Vow at the 2014 independence referendum.

Scotland listened once to Mr Brown; we won't make that mistake again. Mr Brown was never even yesterday's man, and his tired, worn-out rhetoric has no place in a confident Scotland which increasingly sees its future as a modern European nation, not tied to a diminished UK. Sir Keir's Constitutional Commission won't cut it in England, it won't be believed in Scotland, and it will inevitably end up at the back of a dusty shelf, alongside Sir Keir and Mr Brown.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


PROFESSOR Emeritus Sir Tom Devine argues that when the time comes for “the great decision to be made,” it should be “later rather than sooner” ("Scottish independence supporters will have to wait despite recent polls", The Herald, December 19).

His caution is understandable, but perhaps overstated, and even perilous.

Prime ministers can be transitory, but some more than others. Compare Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher to, for instance, Theresa May. Moreover, it is not only Boris Johnson we should be wary of, but also his gang. Is Michael Gove just waiting in the wings? Or how about Priti Patel? With a majority of 80 there is the potential for an awfully long Tory regnum in the UK, passing the prime ministership around between them. Do any of them appear “emollient”? Or do they just do a good job of hiding it?

Is it not normal for “the SNP’s record in government [to] come in for sustained evaluation”? Its record, and I share his analysis, will come under even more sustained scrutiny come April and early May next year, and yet its polling is universally positive, with one poll suggesting it could win every constituency seat except Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.

During, and after, the 2015 General Election, Scottish Labour MPs could be heard frequently complaining that they (the Scottish electorate) weren’t listening. Such complaints can be heard just now from commentators such as Alex Massie, who, having assembled an even longer (and more imaginative) list of SNP failures, expressed his astonishment that its vote continued to increase.

However, and most importantly, the next referendum will differ from 2014 in at least one crucial respect. In 2014 Project Fear could offer the certainty (or so we thought) of a “steady as she goes” future in the UK, or the Sod’s Law of independence. That obviously is no longer to be had.

The UK has left the EU, conceivably without a trade deal. How will a trade deal with the US work out? What will it mean, even with Joe Biden in the White House? Will the NHS be “on the table”?

Not only this, though, if the referendum is left to “later rather than sooner”, how many of the challenges the UK will face will become extant? Independence will, for sure, pose challenges, but a wholly certain future is not offered by either side, though I share Sir Tom’s hope “that behind the scenes the Scottish Government and its advisers are developing a robust and intellectually compelling case for independence” to minimise this.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


I AM not a professional historian, but Sir Tom Devine is wrong regarding two key episodes alluded to in his article. Sir Tom says, regarding the Jacobite revolts, that “the Anglo-Scottish Union was now unquestionably in mortal danger – the Union seemed doomed”. He has 1745-46 in mind. The aim of the supporters of Charles Edward Stuart was to replace the Hanoverian with the Stuart dynasty, not to break up the Union. The westerly route to England was chosen to gather Jacobite support in Lancashire. Sir Tom's interpretation would be that such Jacobite supporters wanted to break up the Union. Apart from being absurd, there is little or no evidence for this.

The other issue on which his historical parallels are completely misguided is Quebec. It was the wake of the 1995 referendum, although the result was a lot closer than the one in 1980, that saw support for secession fall away. According to my colleagues, who have lived in Canada since the late 1970s, this was because Canadians, including people from Quebec, got fed up with, in the words of Bob Dylan, “the restless hungered feelings that don't do no one no good”.

A Senate replacing the House of Lords, in which there was representation from the nations, and regions within these nations of the UK, would go a long way towards bringing peaceful co-existence to grievance.

Rod Cross, Glasgow G11.


IT is striking to note the restrictions between Scotland and England over the festive season, and to highlight that it is almost 70 years ago to the day that the border between the two nations was closed for the first time in 400 years.

That of course was due to the return of the Stone of Destiny to Scotland, when four student nationalists removed the ancient artefact from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in 1950.

The incident happened nearly seven centuries after the stone was taken from Scone by King Edward I during the Scottish Wars of Independence and placed under the monarch’s chair in the abbey. When news of the stone’s removal broke, the authorities closed the border between Scotland and England. It was ultimately recovered from Arbroath Abbey, where Scottish nationhood had been asserted with the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, 700 years ago this year. It was returned to Westminster Abbey in 1952.

This action also coincided with attacks on postboxes in Scotland in a dispute over the title of the new British monarch, Elizabeth II, there being no Elizabeth I of Scotland.

Interestingly, it has recently been revealed that James Stuart, Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, recommended in 1953 that the stone be returned to Scotland, but Churchill’s government vetoed this, seeing it as rewarding a small minority of hardline nationalists.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh EH9.

Read more: Letters: Absence of trust will scupper any anti-SNP alliance