TOM Gordon ("Think what the next SNP government will look like", The Herald, February 4) is correct; the SNP is needing a refresh. Neil Mackay ("SNP has nobody to blame but itself for culture wars disaster", The Herald, February 4) is correct; the SNP has splits. Mark Smith ("The hidden sadness in the new report on independence", The Herald, February 4) is wrong; the LSE report (“Independence could leave Scots £2,800 a year worse off, claims report”, The Herald, February 3 and Letters, February 4) is postulated on the absurd notion that an independent Scotland would change not one iota, from present policies.

But Mr Gordon fails to give a wider context to the next election. There are people like me, who are not members of the SNP, but regard independence as vital for Scotland, after more than a century of relative decline, and who will vote for the SNP to attain that goal. There are also many voters who discount much of the media content about the SNP, because the media has indulged in “knocking copy” about the SNP for at least two decades. Cry wolf too often. Nor is there any mention of the lamentable opposition. Alison Rowat ("Even HQ thinks Scottish Labour is a waste of space", The Herald, February 4) nails Scottish Labour to the mast of a Viking funeral ship.

Looking for tired, dispirited and running on empty? Look no further than the Scottish LibDems. The Scottish Tories are to parachute a new leader into Holyrood after the one-dimensional Ruth Davidson and the non-dimensional Jackson Carlow. Think Douglas Ross will be popular? His net satisfaction rating on the Conservative Home blog is under 30 per cent and falling. Alister Jack, who rose without trace under the patronage of Boris Johnson, is under 20% and also falling. If their fellow Tories don’t rate them, why should we?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


LABOUR councillor Alex Gallagher (Letters, February 4) appears to rejoice in the London School of Economics (LSE) briefing report findings, that independence would cost Scotland £2,800 per capita, and I would certainly not challenge the findings of such an august institution.

In the LSE briefing, Disunited Kingdom? Brexit, Trade and Scottish Independence, running to some 23 pages and not a difficult read, there is an immediate qualifier: “In this briefing, we restrict our analysis to trade effects and do not consider other potentially important economic effects of Scottish independence, such as changes in investment flows into and out of Scotland, whether Scotland continues to use sterling as its currency and the fiscal implications of independence.”

Like many unionists, Councillor Gallagher will seize on anything which does Scotland down in order to reinforce their stance and it is this mindset which is holding Scotland back from realising its full potential and look at the evidence. For example, in 1991 Estonia became independent from the Soviet Union and overnight lost 100 per cent of its trade. Look at how successful it is now. It started trading elsewhere, developed its natural resources, had a smaller land area and a population of 1.3 million – the Scots should grow a backbone instead of wanting it all handed to them on a plate.

Now is not the time for another divisive referendum, cry the unionists. I say, now is not the time to return to the old ways and to pre-Covid austerity. Surely we can grasp the nettle and offer a better future to our young? I am not aware of anyone in the independence movement who thinks independence is going to be a bed of roses, it will involve hard graft, risk and some financial hardship; but the rewards are a real sense of worth and achievement and long-term gain by harnessing the efforts of the people – ask any successful business entrepreneur who has risked everything to start a business.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.


THE basic assumption of various reports on the effect of Scottish independence is that people south of the Border will suddenly stop wanting our products. Why would this be the case, and from where will they get equivalent products without going through a trade barrier? The whole premise of Brexit required the erection of barriers between the UK and the rest of the world, but that didn't seem to worry Brexiters overmuch.

Barriers don't stop trade, they just make it more expensive. Post-Scottish independence that will be a shame for the folk behind the barrier, but trade won't stop until the rUK can find products of similar quality cheaper than they can be produced in Scotland, taking account of course of trade barriers with whomever they trade – and as things stand that's just about everybody. But then again, maybe there's a growing taste for Chinese whisky in certain parts.

John Jamieson, Ayr.


ALEX Gallagher repeats the myth that the Scottish Government, which has virtually no borrowing powers, has a £15 billion hole in its annual budget. The LSE report he refers to merely covered the impact of trading costs and did not consider post-independence Scottish Government economic priorities or inward investment opportunities. Also, Richard Murphy of Taxresearch UK said it was based on absurd assumptions.

As Scotland is one of England’s largest export markets, no one has ever explained why London would want to erect trade barriers with only Scotland, and many of Scotland’s exports to England such as services, water, gas, electricity and oil are not overly affected by physical borders.

Glasgow has already missed out on the thousands of financial sector jobs that have moved from London to Dublin in order to trade in the EU. Through membership of the EU, independent Ireland has dramatically reduced its trade dependence on the UK, diversifying into Europe and in the process its national income per head has overtaken the UK’s.

In January, Ireland’s shipments with France doubled while those with Britain halved. In the last year numerous new ferry routes from several Irish ports have been established with different counties on the continent.

Meanwhile, Scottish ports have suffered from a chronic lack of investment over decades by private-equity port owners in new technologies, infrastructure and facilities as well as from the privatisation of the port authority role. Independence in Europe would accelerate such investment.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh EH9.


MICHAEL Settle's article referring to the LSE report which concludes that citizens of an independent Scotland would each be £2,800 a year worse off compared to remaining in the UK, is a useful addition to the Indyref2 debate.

It adds flesh to the bones of Nicola Sturgeon's bold statement, made in 2016 and carried by The Herald, that "the case for full self-government ultimately transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends".

In furtherance of its raison d'être, the SNP appears to be willing for each of us to make that financial sacrifice. It is difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that First Minister Sturgeon intends to point a pistol at our nation's economic heart, in the hope that the electorate will allow her to pull the trigger.

Bob Scott, Drymen.


IAIN Macwhirter writes about debates within the SNP, and about the party's position on trans equality, including in relation to the current Hate Crime Bill ("Was Joanna Cherry sacked for thinking women are female?", The Herald, February 3).

It is incorrect to suggest that the Hate Crime Bill will make it a criminal offence to criticise policies or proposed policies on any subject, including trans issues. That is already clear from the definition in the bill of the offence of stirring up hatred, as it will be amended at stage 2 next week by amendments on which all parties seem to agree.

To make this even clearer, the Equality Network and our colleagues in other LGBT organisations have for months publicly supported amending the bill with a broad and inclusive freedom of expression provision. The problem with some of the amendments that were originally proposed, and were withdrawn on Tuesday, is that they singled out criticism of, and in one amendment potential harassment of, trans people as a form of particularly protected speech.

Freedom of speech should apply in the same way to discussion or criticism of a wide variety of matters. Liam McArthur MSP lodged a freedom of expression amendment for the bill along those lines, and we hope that something similar can be broadly agreed and adopted at the bill's next stage.

Informed debate is the right way forward on these issues, and there should be no place in Scottish politics for personal abuse, harassment, or threat.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network, Edinburgh EH6.

Read more: It is now clear that there is no realistic economic case for independence