ALISON Rowat refers to an Edinburgh Evening News report of 1975 when Margaret Thatcher, the newly-elected leader of the Conservative Party, was "mobbed by enthusiastic crowds" ("When the sun and smiling crowds came out for Maggie", The Herald, January 2). Compare and contrast with the reactions to her visit to Scotland in 1988 after a spell of being Prime Minister. By that time her unpopularity in Scotland had reached high levels, particularly since the community charge (poll tax) was to be introduced in Scotland a year before the rest of the country and the severe cuts in welfare payments were having a profound effect in many parts of Scotland.

It was decided that she should visit Scotland in 1988 and two wizard wheezes were conceived. First, although she had not shown any particular interest in football, she attended the Scottish Cup Final. Unions arranged for the handing out of red cards in advance with instructions for the fans to raise them up when she arrived. That part of the visit could not be viewed as an unqualified success. She also had the opportunity to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Her performance was subsequently dubbed "The Sermon on the Mound". The reaction was not one of universal acclaim. Clearly, during the years between 1975 and 1988 Mrs Thatcher had never quite appreciated the effects of her policies on Scotland nor, in fact, did she ever quite "get Scotland". Her references from time to time to "we in Scotland" sounded forced and patronising.

Boris Johnson is already in danger of following into that situation of not quite "getting Scotland". His trip to Scotland at this time, during the pandemic, is unlikely, I believe, to do much to improve his standing in that regard.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


I NOTE that Boris Johnson has made a further attempt to strengthen his support by heading for Scotland at a time when most people have other matters on their minds. It must be an unnecessary distraction for the security services, police and hard-pressed hospital staff having him traipsing around in search of a suitable photo opportunity.

Had the Prime Minister tried to be a comedian at the first house on a Monday night at the Glasgow Empire, he would know by now that the power of his personality will not be sufficient to break Caledonian ice. There has to be substance in his act.

Dave Stewart, Glasgow G11.


WHERE was Nicola Sturgeon's self-righteous concern when Boris Johnson travelled to visit Greater Manchester during the flooding in January?

He is the Prime Minister for all of the UK.

Perhaps she should consider if it's "essential" and a “duty to lead by example” if it is only she who delivers what is a daily numbers update, an easy task that can easily be allocated to and delivered by a lesser minion while she gets on with non-referendum issues, like sorting out the mess the SNP has made in Scotland and those who are incited to stand at the Border to voice their disapproval.

Mr Johnson is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't and cannot even holiday in Scotland without his location being "leaked". So much for being "open and inclusive".

Allan Thompson, Bearsden.


I AM no fan of Boris Johnson, much the contrary. But he is the Prime Minister of a UK Government that has unhesitatingly sent billions to Scotland to pay for furloughs and supplied vaccines and much else. Remember, if we had been separated, where would the cash have come from?

So the churlish and typically nationalist words of the First Minister of Scotland regarding Mr Johnson’s visit were stomach-churning. I did not expect a gushing thank-you for all the help Scotland has been given, but I do not believe in any case she could be gracious or dignified if she tried.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh EH6.


YOUR front-page headline today quoted Westminster’s Scottish Secretary: “Jack: Boris is an absolute ass.” Oh wait a minute, I’ve put my specs on; it actually reads: “Jack: Boris is an absolute asset to the UK Union”. I hae ma doots about that, Mr Jack.

As for Boris Jonson and his entourage coming up to engage in political campaigning just now… well, if that’s an essential trip, I think I’ll head up to Sutherland for a few days of campaigning, if that’s OK with you, Officer.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


LABOUR'S defence strategy for the Union is to trot out the dreary Gordon Brown; how out of touch is the party.

Now for the Conservatives bumbling Boris Johnson himself traipses north. That will probably add two points to the pro-independence polls.

If Scotland is to avoid the economic and social catastrophe of independence then we need to find a decent front person for the Union. Someone who is honest, intelligent, popular and approachable. Unfortunately, a job description along those lines completely rules out politicians of any party. Time to step forward, Neil Oliver.

Iain Walker, Bearsden.


TOM Gordon hits the nail squarely on the head in his account of some the hurdles faced by the SNP's Plan B for an unauthorised independence referendum ("Sturgeon’s Indyref Plan B is even worse than it looks", The Herald, January 28). However, neither he nor his journalistic colleagues have addressed the practical issues which would be faced. In particular, there has been no mention of the fact that the Scottish Government does not run polls, which are in the hands of local Returning Officers, who are usually local authority chief executives.

An independence referendum without the transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood (by means of a S30 Order) would not be lawful. Therefore those Returning Officers could not be instructed or compelled to incur expenditure on the preparation for, conduct or counting of such a poll. It simply could not and would not happen.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

* TOM Gordon’s analysis of the implications of Nicola Sturgeon’s 11-point plan for a second independence referendum drives a forensic skewer through the heart of the proposal. Diehards may rail against his conclusions, but to counter cold reality with frothy talk of “the settled will of the people of Scotland” based on opinion polls is a disservice to the rule of law.

Attempts by the SNP to turn the forthcoming Holyrood elections into a nationwide poll on independence should be seen for what it is, a cynical and convenient means of avoiding judgment on its woeful record in government, including painful blunders in education, commerce and industry.

Bob Scott, Drymen.


DOUGLAS Cowe (Letters, January 28) asks for more facts on independence. The simplest way to get the information he wants is to read Business for Scotland's book Scotland the Brief.

Quoting from the back cover, this book "began as a collection of economic facts. Often surprising, always interesting and enjoyable to read, it is also hard-hitting, with more than 400 sourced and referenced facts mixed with credible and informed opinion". The concluding statement says: "Regardless of how you feel about independence, Scotland the Brief will open your eyes, engage and educate you by supplying you with the facts you need to truly inform your opinion on Scotland's future."

First published in January 2020, it is perhaps in need of an update, especially given the Covid constraints affecting all aspects of business and private lives. But the essential information for Mr Cowe and everyone else is there.

Ian Gray, Croftamie.


LABOUR Councillor Alex Gallagher blames the SNP for the soul-destroying ferry crossing between Arran and Ardrossan (Letters, January 28).

Let's be clear about this: the current MV Caledonian Isles was a design museum piece when it was foisted on North Ayrshire in the 1990s, and which takes an hour's travel only in the imaginations of Caledonian MacBrayne. This was at the same time English Channel provider Stena Sealink was introducing car ferries capable of 20 to 32 knots – double the speed of their Scottish counterparts.

Calmac has got away with its abominable, tourist-deterring service for decades largely because Labour and Tory politicians allowed it to. If any politicians of any party were ever serious about the economies of Scotland's largest islands, transport issues would have been prioritised long before now.

There are times I feel the likes of Arran, Iona and Scotland's other fed-up islands should vote to rejoin the Isle of Man in a reconstituted Kingdom of the Isles: they'll wait as long for Holyrood to care as they have Westminster.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone.

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