PREPARING for Holyrood elections, Scotland faces a constitutional debate demanding either another independence plebiscite or

the status quo – namely condescending, arrogant unaccountable Westminster governance.

Voters may wish to consider 10 quick questions ahead of May 6 in search of vital perspective.

1, Did Nicola Sturgeon lead Scotland out of the EU, selling out our fishing, seafood, farming and manufacturing communities?

2, Has/would she ennoble friends/family into lucrative lifelong sinecures in the House of Lords?

3, Would she accept a six-figure sum for SNP funds by playing tennis with a Russian oligarch’s wife?

4, Has the Scottish Government permitted cronies and donors to profit mightily from coronavirus?

5, Did Ms Sturgeon fake Covid testing statistics by including kits bunged in the post?

6, Did the SNP manipulate election website content or misrepresent itself as a bona fide Fact Checking service to hoodwink voters?

7, How often has the Scottish Government been found guilty of breaking the law compared to its Westminster counterpart?

8, Was it John Swinney who prevented Scottish students from accessing the Erasmus programme?

9, Has the First Minister openly condoned proven acts of bullying by a senior member of her Cabinet?

10, The "botched" Alex Salmond affair is embarrassing to the country, costing taxpayers more than £500,000; as Energy Secretary, now Northern Ireland FM Arlene Foster presided over a green energy scandal costing taxpayers more than £500 million, yet she was feted and lauded by the Tory Government and given unprecedented access to the "magic money tree". Why was there a not a whisper, let alone demand, for her to resign?

Come the Holyrood election, Ms Sturgeon could have been forced out over an issue that would scarcely register in Downing Street or Belfast; Scotland must not allow itself to be judged to an altogether higher standard than other UK counterpart administrations.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.


I VERY much agree with Lesley Riddoch’s vision for a fairer future Scotland ("Only independence can bring the opportunity to deliver effective change", The Herald, February 22). Independence, however, is neither the only, nor the best solution.

We are already experiencing the consequences of a needless, divisive and damaging Brexit, supported by a campaign of disinformation and decided by a slender majority. The last thing we need is another unnecessary and expensive experiment in separation.

There are major advantages in belonging to a diverse, gifted and influential community of 68 million people, the majority of whom share the same language, island, values, and much of our culture and recent history. More people in England than the whole of Scotland voted to remain in Europe. Before further rash and irreversible steps are taken, alternative strategies should be prioritised which avoid the significant disadvantages of leaving the UK.

Rather than further isolation, we should be aggressively campaigning together with the unrecognised majority of our fellow Britons to heal an ailing UK. First and foremost we need to abolish an archaic first past the post (FPTP) voting system which has effectively kept the Conservative Party in power at Westminster for 30 out of the last 40 years, latterly returning possibly the worst Government in living memory with a majority of 80 seats. FPTP, together with the centralisation of power within a small, self-serving and self-perpetuating Westminster clique, is the greatest threat to a viable and successful Britain.

Our current UK voting system, ultimately responsible for Brexit and much of the present mess we are all in, disenfranchises the majority of English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters as well as Scots. In opting in 2019 not to vote for Boris Johnson’s right-wing Conservative Government most English voters were, and are, on the same side as us.

We in Scotland need to be working in concert with our fellow British countrymen and women in tackling the real problems of poverty, deprivation, disadvantage and lack of opportunity wherever they occur. For this we need proportionally elected leaders who accurately reflect our best shared values of fairness, tolerance, openness, and freedom of thought and opportunity.

Robert Bell, Cambuslang.


LESLEY Riddoch's fresh, dynamic new column, brimming with positivity, blew away the cobwebs from Kevin McKenna's predictably dreary rant against the SNP ("SNP is emerging as the main threat to independence", The Herald, February 22). Mr McKenna complains that under Nicola Sturgeon the SNP is no longer a vehicle for independence and social justice; where has he been while the First Minister has been wrestling with the coronavirus emergency over the past year?

While making that her number one priority, Ms Sturgeon has nevertheless confirmed that, if given the mandate in May, she wants Scotland to have the right to choose its constitutional future in the early part of the new parliamentary term. As for the SNP's commitment to social justice, is Mr McKenna not aware that it was the SNP which mitigated the effects of the deplorable bedroom tax, provides baby boxes to help give every child a good start in life, has just introduced the Scottish Child Payment, the only one of its kind in the UK, which has been hailed as "a game-changer" by anti-poverty campaigners, while the Young Carer Grant, also the first of its kind in the UK, was delivered just over a year ago by the SNP Government?

I am becoming increasingly suspicious of commentators who declare their support for independence, but devote their columns to lambasting the SNP without deigning to explain how they think independence can be delivered without the SNP.

I suggest that the welcome mat be put out for Ms Riddoch, while Mr McKenna should be shown the door.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

* LESLEY Riddoch is a very welcome addition to The Herald; she's forward-thinking, encouraging us to look beyond the narrow confines of the UK to see what Scotland could become – if only we get independence.

Well done.

Patricia Fort, Glasgow.

* LESLEY Riddoch in her first column for The Herald held no surprises. She states that she would love to discuss things other than the constitutional matters. Well, why doesn’t she?

Comment on our education system which is failing our pupils. Comment on the welfare powers that the SNP has handed back to Westminster as the supposedly governing country can’t get to grips with them. Comment on the deficit that needs to be dealt with. Comment on the child poverty and drug deaths in Scotland that has not been dealt with by the SNP in its 14 years in power.

As long as commentators like Ms Riddoch keep their blinkers on, they may well believe that independence is the answer to every issue that faces Scotland. Fortunately many in Scotland see the issues that we are facing and know that independence would exacerbate the problems. Independence is not the panacea they believe it to be. It would inflict more harm on our country.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.


THE much-maligned Hate Crime Bill being discussed at Holyrood has had its share of criticism, but there's one area I haven't heard much about.

The bill has a section about "Protection of freedom of expression: religion" which I assumed gave some leeway for religious leaders to offer opinions on behaviours their religion deems to be wrong.

It does not.

This section explicitly states that behaviour is not an offence if it involves or includes expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule or insult towards religion, religious beliefs or practices – whether a specific religion or religions in general.

The bill also removes the offence of blasphemy.

So, although religion would be a protected characteristic under this bill it will be perfectly legal to ridicule and insult religions and those who hold religious beliefs or participate in religious services.

This means that it is not acceptable to insult someone for having a religious belief but it is fine to be as offensive as you want about that religion and its practices.

This seems like another step in the drive to make Scotland a secular society whether we want that or not.

Michael Kent, Giffnock.


I WRITE as a complete ignoramus about Twitter, Facebook and all their spawn. However, I find it hard to understand why these platforms cannot/will not insist on identifying their keyboard warriors accurately.

If the peddlers of abuse and vitriol were identified and thus made to stand by and justify their submissions I expect many would think twice.

I have no doubt that the platform providers will employ their usual cant and techno-speak to mask their fear of losing a few bob.

This is no attack on freedom of speech but an attack on mindless unpleasantness The cloak of anonymity has been so egregiously abused it surely is time to remove it.

Forbes Dunlop, Glasgow.

Read more: The SNP will win, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory