KEN Mackay (Letters, August 4), in criticising a letter published the previous day from Dr Gerald Edwards regarding the SNP raising the Scottish independence issue at its conference, states “What exactly do you expect from a nationalist party?” A good question, and not as rhetorical as Mr Mackay implies.

I suggest that Scotland has shown the world that is possible to be “patriots of heart but unionists of reason”. We have illustrated for centuries that it is perfectly possible to retain the separate identity of a nation but enjoy the very many advantages of being part of a commonwealth of nations in the form of a political union. I consider our union to be a sign of a nation thinking with its neocortex while we look abroad at so-called nations displaying primal aggression and bloodshed over the ownership and control of land.

Many other nations in the world should study us and recognise that there is absolutely no financial imperative to politically become a small separate part of a small island in a big world.

I believe that a nation which lacks the self-confidence to believe in its positive self-identity within a union does not deserve to be called a nation, never mind a separate nation state.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.


IT’S Groundhog Day yet again. Nicola Sturgeon is about to push ahead with a new drive for a referendum ("Sturgeon accused of ‘plotting to divide people’ with new indy call",The Herald, August 3, and Letters, August 4). I think it’s correct to say that she has done this every year since she became SNP leader. This is, of course, hedged – as always – with conditions. It is to be held "at the earliest moment" after a "clear end" to the public health crisis. It’s "how long is a piece of string?" again.

Ms Sturgeon has to have some red meat for her followers at the SNP conference to be held next month. It is always the same. There is no economic or financial plan. A lot of goodies are promised, without any attempt to compute how much these would cost or where the money would come from to pay for them. But the promised land is in sight. Most SNP members seem unaware that they are routinely marched to the top of the hill, and then abandoned there by their leader, although some now seem to have twigged that.

Let’s have some real plans for a referendum – for example, an acceptance that 50%+1 vote is not an adequate majority for momentous constitutional change. The SNP’s own constitution requires a two-thirds majority for change. Would the SNP leadership really argue that what is good enough for the SNP is too good for the people of Scotland? Momentous change requires overwhelming support.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


BRUCE Crichton (Letters, August 4) is rather selective in his argument. He claims that in stark terms, England took us out of the EU. We should remember that nearly four out of 10 who voted in Scotland voted to leave and the question was whether or not the UK should stay in the EU and not individual parts. I remind him of this despite me voting to remain but accepting the majority decision.

Furthermore he, like many SNP supporters, quotes the effects of a hard Brexit. I again remind these columns that had the SNP not abstained on the option of a customs union, despite Nicola Sturgeon stating that this was the minimum she would accept, we would have a much softer Brexit and not have a virtual red line in the Irish Sea threatening the fragile peace for our neighbours. But when does any nationalist care for the wider good of the UK?

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.


IT is no surprise that Sir Keir Starmer, as leader of the party that believes above all else that “we achieve more by our common endeavour than we achieve alone”, does not support a deal with the SNP which would lead to Scottish independence. Likewise, it is a matter of historical fact that no CLP or affiliate has brought a proposal for such a deal to Labour Party conference at either a UK or a Scottish level: in other words, the party membership does not want it.

However, it is also worth heeding the words of Dan Jarvis MP, the directly elected mayor of South Yorkshire, who recently said about immigration that “if we do not talk about a subject, our opponents will dominate the debate”. This has very much been the case with Labour and the constitution, with successive leaders since Gordon Brown having nothing worthwhile to say: Ed Miliband was negligent in the extreme in not confronting the dangers of 2014 , and Jeremy Corbyn was not interested full stop.

It is essential that Labour must have a strong case to argue on the constitution so as to be able to seize the initiative back from the tired old arguments of the SNP and the Tories. The only logical place to start is where we are, and the project should therefore be based on a New Act of Union, setting out the benefits of UK membership to its citizens, and also define under what circumstances secession from the Union might come about. Such an act could also define relationships between the nations and regions of the UK, the role and composition of a replacement for the House of Lords, all underpinned by electoral reform at Westminster.

Such an act would catch the imagination of the majority on Scotland who reject independence, and of those who support a radical new political settlement for the whole UK. It would in short, be a vote winner.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


BRIAN Wilson ("£50,000 island bond is a gimmick – but here’s an idea that would work...", The Herald, August 4)highlights current housing problems in Scotland. The lack of availability of decent social housing at fair rents is a disgrace in this age. Access to building land and finance for construction are the main problems. Rural land owners and private house builders retaining unused building land are obstacles to be overcome. However, the current nationalist Scottish Government has the powers and the money to act. I note that £80.3 million is set aside in the 2021/22 budget for “Total Constitution, Europe and External Affairs”. Why? These are matters reserved to the UK Parliament.

That £80.3m would go a long way to solving Scotland’s housing problems if there were a willingness to take bold steps.

Sadly the nationalists have other priorities.

James Quinn, Lanark.


IN yesterday's Covid statement ("Beyond Level Zero easing brings 'elation and worry'", The Herald, August 4) Nicola Sturgeon said this virus is not beaten and will be with us for a long time, despite some months ago trumpeting that in Scotland we had all but eliminated it. She previously lambasted Boris Johnson on his Stay Alert statement, but she used Stay Safe instead, which obviously her more intelligent listeners understood was much better. She also changed the Covid restriction level system used in UK to using zero as the lowest level. Now we're moving from zero to an unnamed one – could it be -1? – where restrictions are in place but we are to rely on the First Minister to tell us what they are day to day.

The only winner in her Covid briefings are rhetoric and soundbite and certainly not clarity.

Bill Adair, Renfrewshire.


UNDER Bill Clinton, Nato participated in combat for the first time – a huge mistake marking the beginning of a new cold war. He was the first president to disregard the War Powers Act and helped legitimise the autonomous war‐making power of the presidency. His Iraq Liberation Act (1998) asserted it was “the policy of the USA to support the removal of Saddam Hussein”. He also expanded the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Blind-sided by 9/11, George W Bush neglected the Afghan conflict for half a decade by blundering into Iraq. Allied trust in America was eroded, and attitudes about the US in the Muslim world were poisoned. The public became very skittish about overseas adventures involving ground forces so Barack Obama attacked Libya from the air. It disintegrated and Islamic State established a franchise operation in what became “Somalia on the Med”.

Now Joe Biden unleashes insecurity and uncertainty in Afghanistan though a heedless military withdrawal. Health, education and transport infrastructures are being destroyed by the Taliban while escalating violence means millions face acute food shortages and mass unemployment. Looking at his predecessors and successor one might well conclude that, in terms of innocent lives lost abroad, there were worse presidents than Donald Trump.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews.

Read more: The UK is always in crisis. That's why we have to go