PETER A Russell's letter (May 4) is more telling for what he doesn’t say than what he does.

His criticism of Alan Morris amounts to pointing out that after 2014 we got the Smith Commission and the 2016 Scotland Act. It would be easy to point out that in that same year we also got Brexit, and as Sir Tom Devine says: “I cannot recall any issue of such magnitude since 1707 [the Act of Union] where the manifest will of the Scottish people, as confirmed explicitly by virtually all the nation’s MPs in the UK Parliament, and overwhelmingly by a democratic vote in a UK referendum, was not only rejected, but treated with such brazen contempt by a British Government.”

David Cameron’s 8am announcement on the day after the referendum vote, of Evel (English Votes for English Laws) was not a good start. This is particularly so as Scotland, during successive Conservative governments, had become used to legislation which the majority of Scottish MPs had voted against (the poll tax is only one example). However, since then there have been a variety of actions by the UK Government which confirm, without a shadow of a doubt, Sir Tom’s view of Brexit.

In particular the Internal Market Act is contrary to devolution powers in a number of areas, including food and environmental standards because of the Act’s requirement of “mutual recognition of standards”, so that, for instance, food produced to lower standards elsewhere can still be sold in Scottish shops, irrespective of legal requirements in Scotland. Moreover, the Act’s “market access” principles could lead to the privatisation of the Scottish NHS, again irrespective of the views of the elected Scottish Government.

But perhaps the current high-water mark of contempt for Scotland from Westminster concerns two Holyrood bills, which have cross-party support, incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Scottish Law. However, Holyrood’s competence is being challenged at the Supreme Court by our Secretary of State, Alister Jack, claiming: “What [Holyrood] cannot do is seek to make provision that constrains the UK Parliament’s ability to make laws for Scotland.”

As Ciaran Martin, a former constitution director at the Cabinet Office has pointed out, “there are no limits to which Westminster can go to block Scottish independence”, even on matters that Westminster agreed to devolve.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

* PETER A Russell takes me to task for failing to cite the setting up of the Smith Commission as the response of the UK Government to the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. This was a completely inadequate response, but do not take my word for it.

I refer Mr Russell to the article today by Andy Maciver, former Head of Communications for the Scottish Conservatives ("Tories must say yes to new independence referendum if Scottish folk vote for one", The Herald, May 4), and I quote an extract: “Unionism’s response to the SNP winning the 2007 election was the meek extra powers of the Calman commission; its response to nearly losing the first referendum was the Smith Commission. Each time, Scotland wanted a slice of cake and was given a crumb.”

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.


IN 2016 the SNP won 46 per cent of constituency votes and with the Greens accounted for 48% of list votes on a turnout of 55%. This time it seems likely that the turnout will be lower; even if the joint SNP plus Green vote exceeds 50% of those voting it seems highly likely that the votes in favour of parties backing another referendum will have the positive support of under 30% of the electorate. To my mind that is far too weak a base on which to build a huge constitutional change.

I recall the 1979 devolution referendum where the devolution effort was scuppered by the requirement to muster the support of 40% of the electorate. I thought that was unfair. But independence is a far bigger step than devolution. The idea that independence could be gained on the basis of a 50% plus 1 majority seems to me to very divisive.

Nicola Sturgeon has acknowledged that she needs to persuade a convincing majority of the Scottish electorate before she goes for another referendum. It is good that she says this, but it would be better if she laid to rest the claim that a majority of seats in the new parliament, if gained on a vote of well under a third of the electorate, represents an unanswerable democratic demand for a new referendum.

Geoff Cohen, Edinburgh.


IT may be acceptable (if somewhat disingenuous) for the SNP to refuse to address questions surrounding the economic case for Scotland leaving the UK until it publishes its case in the run-up to a referendum.

However, it tends to present Scotland in the UK and Scotland in Europe as though they were immediately-viable alternative outcomes. This is simply not the case.

There would appear to be four sequential stages to Scotland becoming an independent country in the EU.

The first stage covers the period from reaching agreement in principle with the UK Government about holding a referendum until that referendum takes place. For the 2014 referendum this took 2.5 years.

Then, following a vote in favour of Scotland leaving the UK, there would be a period of negotiation on the terms of the separation. The issues are much more complex than for Brexit, so it is hard to see that period being less than the 3.5 years that took.

At this point Scotland becomes an independent country but outside the UK and outside the EU.

To join the EU, Scotland must demonstrate that it has a properly functioning market economy. This is very unlikely to be achieved until Scotland has a central bank controlling its own currency. The SNP Sustainable Growth Commission suggested that this (third stage) would take 10 years, though other commentators consider this optimistic.

Finally, the process of applying for EU membership, negotiating the terms and EU member states ratifying that agreement can be expected to take four to five years.

So in total, Scotland appears to be around 20 years away from EU membership.

This would be a period of continued uncertainty and, with border friction affecting all international trade, it is hardly an environment to encourage investment.

It would aid the debate if those in favour of seceding set out the timescale to achieving their objective of an independent Scotland within the EU and concede that there will be some very challenging economic issues to address to get from here to there.

George Rennie, Inverness.


THE SNP election manifesto is a cornucopia of giveaways. Another £1 billion for the Scottish National Investment Bank, free dental care, a pay rise for NHS staff, free laptops and bikes, bonds of up to £50,000 for families to remain in or move to underpopulated areas… the list of monies to be spent is almost limitless. And in among them, a commitment not to raise income tax and to freeze LBTT. For a country already deep in deficit, how is this to be achieved?

Ah, the largesse of HM Treasury will pay for it. If ever there were an admission that Scotland is better off in the UK, the SNP manifesto is it.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

* AFTER all the rhetoric since 2014 we are nowhere nearer finding the true cost of independence except "it will be alright on the night", which is hardly an endorsement.

Independence was supposed to make us better off and if that cannot be demonstrated to be the case then what is the point of embracing decades of independent austerity just to beat our chests that we're independent, but with the caveat we will be joining another even more remote union?

We do not need to make the rest of the UK our competitors.

Allan Thompson, Bearsden.


BORIS Johnson is known to be a habitual and addictive liar and it seems this illness is infectious to his party members, for in the latest Tory TV broadcast, Ruth Davidson claimed definitively that if SNP won a majority, it would pursue a new referendum immediately, when in fact it was made clear by Nicola Sturgeon that it would not do so until the Covid-19 pandemic had been resolved. Apologies would be in order, or is that too much to expect?

Ian Cooper, Bearsden.


THANK goodness, only one more day of seeing party leaders making fools of themselves on camera to encourage voters. Just as well kissing babies is off limits just now. Be thankful for small mercies.

Celia Judge, Ayr.