FULL marks to Iain Macwhirter for his excellent column on the new landscape which those who support Scottish independence must now face ("Voters will twig that Sturgeon is kidding about indyref2", The Herald, April 28). In the light of these new circumstances, it is now incumbent on nationalists, foremost amongst them Nicola Sturgeon, to be interrogated on their plans to move forward.

A good start would be for her to be clear what levels of economic hardship or social hardship would or would not be acceptable to her. Her red lines clearly do not exclude a hard border and massive friction to Scottish trade with rUK, and it would appear she would accept any conditions for entry to the EU without asking Scottish voters if they agree.

We need to know what levels of economic austerity and social hardship and for how long would be acceptable to reach the Promised Land. In short, who would pay for independence? How much it would cost us: and is there any level of pain that would be too much for the SNP?

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


IAIN Macwhirter is taking a dangerous line in suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon is kidding about a second independence referendum and that such a referendum will not take place. I am sure that Ms Sturgeon recognises the difficulties and possibly insurmountable problems as highlighted by Mr Macwhirter and that she will try her best to delay holding such a referendum. However, having promised a referendum in the manifesto, it will be difficult to resist pressure from within both the Scottish Parliament and the SNP to hold a referendum.

David Cameron made the mistake of promising a referendum on leaving the European Union. He did so in the expectation that he would hold power in a hung parliament and that even if he had to hold such a referendum there would be a majority in favour of remaining in the European Union. I suspect that when the referendum took place there were people who voted to leave expecting the vote to be against leaving and that, even if in favour of leaving, the United Kingdom would somehow be prevented from leaving. History has shown that the United Kingdom is no longer in the European Union even though Mr Cameron had no intention of such an outcome.

If Ms Sturgeon were to remove the option of a referendum from the SNP manifesto she would assure her party of an absolute majority in the next parliament. She might lose votes from hardened nationalists, but would gain votes from the ordinary voters who have been impressed by her competence. That tactic worked at the 2015 United Kingdom General Election when, with independence off the agenda, the SNP won all but three seats in Scotland.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh.


NICOLA Sturgeon can’t win as she is attacked for not preparing an economic prospectus for independence when she is entirely focused on leading Scotland out of the Covid pandemic and gets faint praise for her more cautious approach which has resulted in a much lower death rate per 100,000 population than in England, where Boris Johnson was prepared to see bodies pile up, or in Labour-run Wales.

Large deficits will become the norm as countries rebuild their economies as part of the Covid recovery and an independent Scotland with a central bank and its own currency can print money just like the UK Government, which is under no obligation to repay its massive debt. Austerity is a political choice adopted by the Tories and rejected by the SNP. There is no deficit rule for joining the EU but Scotland could decide, initially at least, to join the European Free Trade Association (Efta), which has free trade arrangements with the EU, plus 24 other countries, and the Efta/UK agreement will be finalised later this year.

Scotland’s economy, when benchmarked against similar-sized independent nations, paints a vivid but miserable picture of the impact of Westminster’s continued economic mismanagement.

Smaller, more flexible independent nations invariably outperform the UK, and Scotland as part of the UK will lose that opportunity as the quickest way to recover from the economic impact of Covid.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.


JOHN Milne (Letters, April 28) tries to equate “achievement of Brexit” and a “desire for independence”, but fails to realise that these two situations are diametrically opposite.

Brexit was based on the desire, mainly in England, to withdraw from close cooperation with 27 of our closest neighbours and instead, start from scratch trying to build new relationships elsewhere in the world.

The desire for independence, supported by many in Scotland, is based on a desire to remain in close cooperation with these European countries, as a result of which being able to play our part in the global community too.

After all, Scotland’s bonds with Europe go much further back than those of England, even to a time when the latter was still warring with parts of the Continent. Witness the area of Warsaw named “Little Scotland”, and Dirleton Castle, built by a French family in almost identical style to Carcassonne.

P Davidson, Falkirk.


TIMOTHY Flett (Letters, April 28) asks if we should trust an incompetent Scottish Government with independence; he is presumably referring to the SNP. The answer is an emphatic no. We should trust our fellow Scots to elect the government of their choosing, which could consist of any or none or a coalition of the existing parties.

These repeated suggestions by unionists that an independent Scotland would be a one-party state are becoming tiresome.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


JOHN Steven (Letters, April 28) contends that the SNP Government has failed in such fields as the economy, policing and health, but most of all in education. In fact, Scotland is the top destination in the UK, outside of London, for foreign direct investment, with our international exports up 63 per cent under the SNP; police-recorded crime is at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974; Scotland has the highest number of GPs of anywhere in the UK, and our A&E services are the best-performing in the UK.

Nobody is claiming that everything is perfect, but spending on education has increased in real terms for the past three years, almost 1,000 schools have been upgraded since the SNP came to power, and it is encouraging that the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show that the Government has met the key target of having 16% of students from the most deprived areas of Scotland studying at universities.

Nicola Sturgeon has given a cast-iron guarantee that no government of hers will ever charge Scottish students for a university education; I believe students in England face tuition fees of up to £27,750.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


IN his paean of praise for UK defence policy, Ian Paynter (Letters, April 28) overlooked the shortcomings of much of its frequently over-budget hardware, and its diminishing numbers of personnel.

Scotland will have conventional defences, membership of Nato and will co-operate with its neighbours, sharing intelligence and training with them. In assuming that the SNP has given no attention to defence, Mr Paynter underestimated his opponents. A UK defence journal last autumn featured the SNP's defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, comprehensively discussing the challenges and possible solutions to the defence of an independent Scotland.

Colin Campbell, Kilbarchan.


NICOLA Sturgeon must be desperate to be using the word "sleaze" in connection with the Tories when it could just as easily be applicable to her own party ("Sturgeon uses Tory sleaze as key weapon in TV debate", The Herald, April 28). The Labour Party in England is trying to jump on the bandwagon too.

Boris Johnson has pretty effectively (so far) saved the United Kingdom from the true ravages of the coronavirus both in health and economic terms. Yes, of course he could have done better, but one look at the situation in India puts this all into perspective. I don't think the general public are really concerned about who paid for the decoration of his flat nor about his insensitive throwaway lines if they turn out to be true. Anyone directly affected will most likely and understandably have a different viewpoint but it is the overall national effect that really matters.

Simply ask those who have been vaccinated here and take a quick glance at the situation in Europe. Just how has Ms Sturgeon fundamentally alleviated the virus outbreak effects in Scotland on her own without UK help? Don't forget that the consequences of her actions, particularly economic, are just beginning to be felt.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

Read more: Let us have indyref2 now so we can get on with our lives in the UK