TODAY'S article by Mark Smith struck a chord on many levels ("Forget the labels: I don’t want to be a unionist any more", The Herald, May 31).

Going to school in Aberdeen, I would be hard-pressed to recall any instance when the labels "Catholic" or "Protestant" were applied. Throughout primary school the religion of any fellow pupil was of no interest whatever. In secondary school, it only became clear which classmates were Catholic as they were excused attendance at morning assembly. Whether the rest of us could be classed as "Protestant" was debatable since most of us regarded the praying and hymn singing as a compulsory chore. Reunited with our Catholic chums after Assembly, religion never got another thought.

On the other hand, a friend brought up on the west coast told me that it was quite common to ask which school someone attended or what their Christian name was so that they could be "labelled" accordingly. Mr Smith's experience was clearly not unusual.

His experience of current unionist and independence labels being applied also struck a chord. It seems to me that social media is much to blame for this, as I have seen some quite hateful posts which, I would hope, the authors would not dream of expressing to someone face to face. Reasoned argument and debate seem to have taken a backseat to labelling and name-calling.

Sadly, like Mr Smith, I find it difficult to see where this is all going to end. Even if the independence issue is resolved by a second independence referendum, one half of the population is going to be bitterly disappointed, and, unless we all learn to be a bit more tolerant of each other's opinions, a deeply divided Scotland seems the inevitable consequence.

Keith Robertson, Kingussie.


AS a former Tory voter (until a combination of Thatcherism, the poll tax and Beeching’s railways demolition), Fidelma Cook’s summary of the present Government and Boris Johnson rang true: “It was both embarrassing and saddening to think that the public had become so gullible that they fell again for a tawdry salesman of used ideas and low morals” ("I am sorry but I won’t shut up – and why should I?", Herald Magazine, May 29).

Perhaps she should have modified the public as being the majority of England and only a few Scots.

We should remember that Mr Johnson came to power by firstly fighting for Brexit against a lacklustre campaign by David Cameron, then by stabbing Theresa May in the back. The red bus misinformation was one of the first mendacious claims. With our own eyes and ears we have noted untrue statements by Mr Johnson and Matt Hancock, followed by risible explanations/clarifications by the rest of the Cabinet or, when all else failed, an apology for having misspoken.

To be fair to the present incumbents, it has been confirmed that previous governments – mostly Tory – were not prepared for likely pandemics. However, that does not excuse the PPE debacle that followed.

Indeed we do not need Dominic Cummings to tell us what is obvious. Yet, as recently as Thursday night’s Question Time (May 27), we still had a Cabinet member refusing to admit the fact that Mr Hancock misled Westminster and us.

In Scotland we have different Tories, but still apologists for Mr Johnson, who use the excuse of berating Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP to avoid admission of loyalty to a PM who was kept south of the Border during the recent elections.

I see no reason to ever vote Conservative again.

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.

* I AM sorry that Fidelma Cook is so unwell but I do not think that her diatribe should go unchallenged. She might like to know that there are very many "sane" people in the United Kingdom who do not consider themselves "gullible", especially regarding politics. Can the same be said for those in Scotland, one wonders?

Elma Cunningham, Coatbridge.


THE Herald is to be commended for the range of contrary personal views it now publishes. However, there must surely be limits to some views expressed. Even Twitter and Facebook have accepted that constraint.

I hold no brief for Home Secretary Priti Patel, and I think she should have been sacked or had to resign over her breach of the Ministerial Code, but Fidelma Cook’s article crossed a red line of decency and fair comment.

To label the UK Home Secretary, who happens to be of Asian background, "like a black-shirted stormtrooper" is to plumb depths of invective which should never have escaped your sub-editor's knife.

I did not vote for the First Minister’s party in the recent Scottish election – but then neither did more than half of those who did vote. But in spite of that, her party is the Scottish Government and I do not believe that anyone should ever, ever stoop to likening her or her ministers to Nazi thugs.

I appreciate that the language of debate can get pretty fiery in current circumstances but as we saw in the United States on January 6, words can have extreme consequences. We surely don’t need that here.

George Robertson, House of Lords.


AM I alone in finding the following comment I overheard in the supermarket troubling: “I would never buy any of their products. They all have the Union Jack on them. It makes me boak ”? Express that sentiment about the flag of any foreign country and you would be denounced as a bigot and probably a racist. Why is casual anglophobia considered acceptable?

Penny Ponders, Newbridge.


I AGREE with Dr Douglas Pitt (Letters, May 29) that public scrutiny of our governance is both even-handed and rigorous. There is a problem, though, in that as soon as opinion polls showed Nicola Sturgeon to be trusted by the public (not just in Scotland) much more than Boris Johnson, there has grown an unsupported (by facts) “narrative” from the unionist politicians and media, that Covid-19 outcomes in Scotland were every bit as bad as down south, and for the same reasons. It is a verifiable fact that there was no equivalence in Scotland over lockdown timing, closing borders or furlough, and our mortality rate has been demonstrably smaller. If we are to have the same level of public scrutiny, it must be substantiated by facts, in proper context and with perspective.

There is the same issue with the distasteful use of a child’s death (preventable?), repeatedly utilised, but again without a broader context. Anas Sarwar refers to this tragedy as “the biggest scandal of devolution” ("Sturgeon accused of ‘breaking candour law’ after child’s death at hospital", The Herald, May 28). The police are looking into up to 1,500 cases of child death or harm in the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. This is just one of a series of health scandals over the last 30 years in England involving Labour, Tory and Coalition governments. No Health Secretary for England has faced any opprobrium for these gross failures in responsibility.

Why is this relevant? Because the media treat health outcomes in Scotland differently from health outcomes elsewhere in the UK, and this appears to be down to the opposite of “equivalence” in public scrutiny.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


TODAY, many eminent scientists are warning of a possible third UK lockdown due to the rapid spread of the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Tomorrow it is widely predicted that Scotland's First Minister will declare that Glasgow will now enter Covid Level 2, and so enjoy fewer restrictions than before. Fewer restrictions, despite the continuation of high rates of infection in certain parts of the city.

So after many months of the "Daily SNP TV Show", closely resembling Holy Willie's peddling of traditional Scottish negativity and misery, instructing us to be cautious, suddenly Glaswegians are likely to be liberated from harsh Covid rules. I wonder why?

It couldn't be surely that there is a connection between this instant latter-day joie de vivre and the fact that thousands of football fans are due to arrive in Glasgow in a few days time for the Euro football matches? I believe that unlike everybody else arriving here, they need not isolate in a hotel for 10 days at a cost of around £1,700. After all, football fans are noted for their sobriety and strict observation of social distancing rules, so it would be quite wrong to have them go through this. As they often live in countries where the vaccine numbers are dreadfully low compared to the UK, it would be plainly ridiculous to control their entry in any way.

The present Scottish Government always panders to the lowest common denominator. What does the risk of a few deaths matter? We're talking popularity and votes here.

Alistair Bonnington, Glasgow.

Read more: Scotland didn't vote for Johnson and Patel – so do something about it