MUCH has been written in The Herald on the subject of the possibility of another independence referendum.

It is clear that the positions of both camps have become more vociferous, entrenched and vitriolic, not helped by the apparent prevarication of Nicola Sturgeon, the animosity of Alex Salmond, and the asinine stupidity of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove et al.

Independence has obvious attractions and palpable disadvantages; dozens of democratic countries with population sizes not unlike our own seemingly thrive under their own power yet the received wisdom by many, particularly in Westminster and Holyrood, is that Scotland alone would be incapable of self rule. We would be an economic basket case without the beneficent teat of the mother country, conveniently ignoring that Britain as a whole is in financial dire straits reliant on ever-increasing borrowing and is a basket case in its own right. But they have a point: it is not yet clear exactly how Scotland would manage to go it alone, certainly in the early years, and given the horrors of the split with the EU, one can only imagine what a divorce from England would be like. The animosity directed at the EU would be as nothing compared to the ordure that would come our way. I, therefore blow hot and cold on the whole issue; my heart tells me yes, my head tells me no.

But I do know this. I would never vote for independence under the auspices of the current SNP. Over the past couple of years it has been shown to be a party devoid of any ability to organise a garden barbecue let alone run a nation. We have seen debacles like the continuing inability to build a couple of small ferries now running six years late and more than four times above budget. We have seen the new children’s hospital in Edinburgh held up for more than a year and a half because of design flaws, previously pointed out by professional architects. There has been the downright dishonest saga of the Alex Salmond case costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands. We have seen the party’s auditor resigning because he was refused access to the books and £600,000 has gone "missing". How can you let a party govern an independent nation with all its attendant fiscal demands if you can’t even properly account for your own money?

Currently it’s a choice between a party of inward-looking incompetents versus Alex Salmond’s pretendy wee party and that’s no choice at all.

Where, oh where, are the men and women of wisdom, enterprise and honour who once made this small nation "loved at home, rever’d abroad"? We need you now.

Robert Buntin, Skelmorlie.


YOU report that Kirsten Oswald, the SNP’s deputy leader in Westminster, asserts that “the data proves Scottish independence is the only way to unlock the country’s full economic potential” (“Wealth figures show UK is the ‘poor man’ of north-west Europe”, The Herald, June 28). It does nothing of the sort.

I agree that the UK is in a mess with, for instance, Professor Prem Sikka of Sheffield University maintaining that “the last 40 years of neoliberal coup has restructured the UK state so that instead of being a provider of public services it has become a guarantor of corporate profits and enrichment of the few…accompanied by an erosion of democracy and human rights”.

I suggest that a newly independent Scotland would struggle with its biggest customer and dominating neighbour being under an authoritarian neo-liberal government, a nativist flag-waving country incapable of being honest with its citizens and with the international community; a neighbouring government choosing its ministers on the basis not of their intelligence and capability but of their loyalty to Brexiteering dogma. It would be with such a totally unreliable bunch we would have to negotiate independence terms.

As a consequence Scotland ought not to choose its way out of the debacle that is the UK by becoming independent. It must stay within the UK and join with the moderate forces in the three other nations saying “enough is enough; a hard-right Westminster government has already been shown to be a total disaster ”.

John Milne, Uddingston.


YOUR Agenda article "Famine threatens world’s newest country" (The Herald, June 28) should be sent to all in Government at Westminster in light of their selfish action to cut foreign aid in 2021. But would it tug at their conscience or would capitalism prevail?

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


PROFESSOR Donald Gillies (Letters, June 25) poses a question of fundamental importance when he asks whether school pupils should be asked to produce in examinations information which is available on the internet. This question suggests that school pupils are at least as well served by the existence of information stored on the internet as they are by knowledge acquired through teaching and learning.

I have great difficulty with that premise. At a very basic level, access to useful internet information depends upon a functional device, electrical and internet connections and further connections within the internet and the accuracy of the information accessed. An absence of any one of these is not uncommon and renders the internet information useless.

At another level there appears to be a gulf of difference between information stored on the internet and knowledge acquired by teaching and learning. If one learns by rote the French irregular verbs then one does not require to look them up on the internet in order to write or speak correct French. Can the pupil who is able to demonstrate an ability to do so without consulting the internet be graded equally with a colleague who cannot do so? Corresponding examples can be found in other areas of study.

The minds of school pupils are often compared with blotting paper, much more able to soak up knowledge than persons at later stages in life. However, the school pupil requires teaching, experience and full brain development in order to acquire full understanding of and insight to that knowledge. If, however, instead of reposing within the mind of that pupil, the knowledge is left lying out on the internet then when will the pupil ever acquire that insight and understanding?

My own conclusion is that it would be a seriously defective basis of educational policy to assess school pupils on the basis that they do not require to present knowledge because that information is available on the internet.

Michael Sheridan, by Strachur, Argyll.


I BEG to differ with Professor Donald Gillies's dismissive remarks (Letters, June 25) about the importance of final certificate exams to provide satisfactory assessments of students .

Schools are set up to stretch the cognitive capacities of their clientele and that is the prime reason for their existence, the final exam being the requisite tool for finding out whether the pupil can produce coherent responses in a pressurised situation, and such a system will always have contemporary significance.

In a final exam, the examinee has to read the questions carefully before constructing any essays, showing that the student can think clearly and quickly under the pressure of time constraints, develop arguments with apposite quotations and reasoning along with marshalling sufficient and appropriate facts to support the trains of thought in the essays, which must have the coherence and completeness expected in any such written work.

May I dare to say (unless I have misread what he alleges) that I find it hard to believe that most assessment practices executed in traditional exam halls have all but disappeared from the university sector. Either I am a dinosaur from the Jurassic Park era of university education or our universities no longer have sufficient confidence in their intakes to subject them to producing calibrated and coherently argued compositions under the pressures exam halls bring with them.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


TIM Hair, Ferguson Marine turnaround director, says that more than 100 degree-qualified engineers were working on the ferry problems ("Islands tourism faces new ferry delay challenge", The Herald, June 26). Around 1970 Dean Martin released a record Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians. This sums up the Ferguson fiasco.

They do not appear to have sufficient people with practical hands-on experience in building ships, and this appears to be true of many other industries as well. Education seems geared to producing graduates, and we need graduates, but not to the exclusion of people with hands-on skills. I wonder how many of those 100 hold Certificates of Competency?

George Smith, Clydebank.

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