TOM Gordon claims a “dubious whiff coming off Mr Salmond's Alba Party” ("Something doesn’t smell right about the Alba Party", The Herald, April 8), but there is a bit of stink about his argument.

He seems puzzled that Alba is not targeting wavering No voters, but as the party that claims that it will “hold the SNP’s feet to the fire if necessary” over seeking independence, just what kind of pitch does Mr Gordon think would be successful?

Much of the rest of his argument stands up to a similar – limited – level scrutiny but are basically word games. Mr Gordon is much too experienced a member of the press to expect a politician to offer up “definitions” since, as sure as night follows day, they will be used against them at some point in the future.

He is of course right that with 86 seats, parties supporting independence could hold an election at their option in order to put more pressure on Boris Johnson to grant an agreed referendum. That is how the Scotland Act works, but in terms of political reality would it matter all that much if instead of winning 86 seats they won “only” 85? Has support for independence changed all that much, even if an arbitrary requirement has not been met? I am sure for some it would matter a very great deal, out of all proportion to one seat.

Nor does he mention that in 2016 three quarters of a million SNP list votes elected no one at all. If a respectable proportion of these list votes transfer from the SNP to another party – whether Green or Alba – then the number of independence-supporting MSPs will increase, and because the SNP has only four MSPs to lose (three of them South of Scotland region) this will be at the expense of the three Unionist parties.

Mr Gordon is unwilling to grasp that if the Alba Party does nothing else, it has done us a service by prompting independence-supporting voters to think how most effectively to cast their vote. I presume that is an outcome the Unionist faction would rather avoid at all costs.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


IF an SNP/Alba "supermajority" is achieved in the May election and is presented as a mandate for Scotland to demand another independence referendum, the idea may well find support in some unlikely places. This in turn could lead to us quickly discovering the reality of political independence.

The UK and EU are just beginning the long struggle to rebuild their economies and societies from the effects of Covid-19. This will take huge amounts of money and effort by both. The last thing the UK needs while trying to "build back better" is to have to factor in the requirements of a sullen, unwilling partner intent on breaking up the country. In these circumstances it might be in the interests of the UK to offer Scotland a snap referendum and then, if the decision is to separate, better a quickie divorce than expending effort and money on projects and support north of the Border.

Similarly, the last thing the EU needs in its own quest for recovery is to have to consider the needs of a fledgling, heavily debt-laden country on its periphery. It has enough struggling members competing for a share of the recovery fund without having to deal with an application from another.

All of this will not be a consideration for the independence purists who consider that it is the principle of self-determination that matters above all else. Those who believe that separation is the route to a more prosperous future should be careful what they wish for. Being independent could be a "superisolated" experience.

Mark Openshaw, Aberdeen.


JILL Stephenson’s support for George Galloway’s plan that Scottish regions could choose to remain part of a failing UK or an independent Scotland (Letters, April 9) is tiresomely predictable. She fails to see that it is English nationalism that has fractured the UK beyond repair. The English Nationalist Party, aka the Tories, imposed a hard Brexit on Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both voted to remain but weren’t given a choice in the matter. No one should be surprised that the cracks in the precious Union are widening.

With no empire, England has transferred its need to dominate and control to the UK nations. The impending break-up of the UK is a microcosm of the dissolution of the Empire. I would remind Ms Stephenson and others who would deny Scottish self-determination that none of the 62 nations that broke free from the British Empire has ever asked to return.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

* GEORGE Galloway is a long-standing supporter of Sinn Fein and Irish unity, but now astonishingly believes in the partitioning of Scotland. International law since the Second World War is clear on its central tenets: equal sovereignty of states; internal competence for domestic jurisdiction and territorial preservation of existing boundaries. The Scotland/England border has been set since 1237 and there are no territorial disputes (though the maritime border will probably revert to pre-1999), and given the recognition in modern international law between sovereignty and territorial integrity, will allow no partitioning of Scotland.

Scotland would leave the Union as one internationally recognised territorial entity, not as a pawn in Mr Galloway’s imperialist “Great Game”.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


IT would not be unreasonable for the majority of readers to associate a party that calls itself "Green" with campaigning on environmental issues, however the Scottish Greens seem to be happily distancing themselves from what you would consider to be their core values.

A recent party political broadcast aired on primetime TV failed to mention the environment apart from the last sentence. Their leaders appear regularly in the media talking about independence, social justice, trans rights, in fact anything part from protection and preservation of the environment. It is difficult to separate them from the other parties in terms of environmental policy as they are all promising to tackle climate change and support renewables but nothing concrete beyond this.

Are they afraid to mention controversial issues that may upset their position of power in the Scottish Government? Pollution from open-cage salmon farming; air and plastics pollution from the Ineos plants at Grangemouth; the lack of policing and regulation in Marine Protected Areas; unwanted developments such as the proposed Flamingo Land development in our national parks; unregulated ATV tracks and controversial hydro schemes being built across our mountains; the Cairngorm funicular fiasco; golf course developments on SSSIs – the list is long. Where are the Scottish Greens in all this? They also seem to have alienated some of the groups that might be able to work with them on some of these issues – the Scottish Gamekeepers Association being one example where the Greens' support for a complete ban on grouse shooting may have its merits, but how do you implement alternatives and retain rural livelihoods? At least have the conversation.

I would love to see a party that properly championed these environmental issues and extracted itself rom political campaigning on behalf of its SNP colleagues. If the Scottish Greens sat on the fence in the independence debate (and other political dalliances) and instead focused on strengthening their core environmental campaigning and policies they might find that with access to the non-independence supporting 50 per cent of the electorate that they end up with enough power to make some real changes.

Angus Ritchie, Gairloch.


A RECENT Ipsos Mori Poll suggested that independence (49 per cent) and not the economy (16%) is the top priority for Scots in the forthcoming Holyrood election. Sir Tom Hunter’s intervention ("Economic growth needs bold policies, says report", The Herald April 7) could not be timelier or more prescient as the deep-seated challenges faced by the Scottish economy remain uncomfortable truths for us all.

Scotland’s general ails are well documented and better known amongst policymakers: lethargic long-term growth, a below-average standard of living, poor productivity growth, a. low business birth rate and the inability of businesses to scale and compete internationally. You could also add to these a) inadequate long-term investment b) a university sector with less-well developed local commercialisation linkages and c) key business decision making functions which are either weak or absent. Underpinning the latter, in particular, are other basic factors such as:

• A private sector which lacks overall scale and dynamism;

• Outside acquisition of the more attractive Scottish-based start-ups; and

• An historic over-reliance on foreign direct investment that may be weakly embedded and fails to add significant value over the economic long run.

Perhaps unlikely given the nature of Scotland’s political discourse, but the electorate urgently need to become more savvy and aware of these economic realities. A generational challenge it may be, but addressing the structural weaknesses of the Scottish economy must surely be the sine qua non of any proposed constitutional change. Indeed, whatever form political structures may eventually take in Scotland, Google-sized change for the economy is urgently needed.

Ewen Peters, Newton Mearns.