IT seems that the two Green ministers are to be additional to the 25 SNP ones already in place, as there is no word of any of the 25 losing their jobs ("Green ministers' responsibilities overseen by Sturgeon lieutenants", The Herald, August 31). Ministerial inflation is now out of control.

In 1999, Donald Dewar's Government, excluding law officers, had 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers. In May this year Nicola Sturgeon appointed 10 cabinet secretaries and 15 ministers (these being the inflated titles brought in by Alex Salmond ­– a harmless, but nevertheless rather pathetic, SNP affectation). That was a 25 per cent increase in ministers (and of associated Private Offices and the like) since 1999.

Sadly, with our public services in disarray (a problem which pre-dates the Covid pandemic), there is no sign of a 25% improvement in ministerial delivery. Indeed the truth is quite the opposite.

But to be fair, Dewar's ministers' duties did not include picking pointless fights with Westminster and manufacturing grievances, a duty which every SNP minister pursues with such devotion. Despite the help of Boris Johnson and Co, grievance manufacturing must take up much of each SNP minister's time, leaving limited time for more traditional ministerial work.

Will the addition of the Green ministers improve matters? With the Not-really-a-Coalition Agreement not listing picking pointless fights and manufacturing grievances as one of the issues excluded from the agreement, I very much fear that the answer is "No".

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.


PETER A Russell (Letters, August 31) makes an excellent point regarding the idea of a post-legislative referendum following the Norwegian model. Thrashing out the details of crucial matters like Scotland's share of the UK national debt, dispersal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, the relationship of Scotland to the UK currency post-independence or the establishment of a Scottish pound are central to the decision-making process for voters.

It would allow the Westminster Parliament to fully (and patiently no doubt) explain to the Scottish people why, after 300 years of union, the Scottish economy is too weak to stand on its own, and the Scottish people are, for whatever reason, inferior in their moral and intellectual make-up to small neighbouring northern European neighbouring states. Conversely, it would allow the SNP and other independence-supporting MPs to explain the process and path to independence, and how a new Scottish currency and economy would be established and operated. It would also allow the Scottish Government to initiate contacts with neighbouring EU states to scope the relationship we might expect with them.

A debate in Westminster, concluding with an agreed pre-referendum agreement and a legal path to an independence referendum would tell us all that we, the voters, need to know.

Let's get on with it.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

* PETER A Russell (Letters, August 31) is spouting nonsense when he claims that the referendum which established devolution in Scotland was post-legislative.

The referendum to which he refers was held on September 11, 1997 and the resultant Scotland Act followed in 1998. I should know because I was one of the legislators.

If the 1997 precedent is followed, then Indyref2 should also be pre-legislative.

Dennis Canavan, Bannockburn.


I AGREE with Keith Howell (Letters, August 31) regarding the need for 60 per cent support for any new independence referendum in order to show genuine support for one, but this figure also needs to apply to the actual result as well.

We have had two significant referendums in the last seven years. Neither has resolved the issue at hand, and in many ways, the vote has made things worse. The chances of another referendum held on the same basis resolving matters is zero, especially as we know that the losing side is unlikely to accept the outcome if the result is close.

If the 55% result in 2014 was not regarded as being convincing by the Yes movement, then, by definition, the winning margin needs to be more than this. Even the smallest village hall committees or golf clubs in Scotland put a two-thirds majority in their rules for significant constitutional change in order to prevent damaging splits.

For all of us who have been paying attention to what has been going on in the world for the past 18 months or so, this particular issue is not the priority or anything like. We are going to need a decade at least to get out of the problems that Covid will leave us. The harsh reality is that the independence ship sailed in 2014, and it is not coming back. We have other things to be concerned about.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.

* KEITH Howell suggests that Nicola Sturgeon should gleefully accept Alister Jack's idea of only accepting a 60% majority in an independence referendum. Interestingly, Mr Jack did not propose following the Westminster model where the winning party requires less than 50% of the vote to run the country. It would seem that what is good for the unionist goose is not good for the independence gander.

Duncan Stirling, Cardross.


WITH agreement reached on Green MSPs joining SNP MSPs in Scotland's Government it appears that some ardent supporters of the UK constitutional status quo have still not accepted the democratic mandate of the Scottish Government to hold a second Scottish independence referendum on terms previously agreed with the UK Government under the Edinburgh Agreement.

The proposition by Alister Jack that a threshold of 60% of sustained polling intentions in favour of holding a referendum should be required appear to indicate a devious intent to move the goal posts for the next referendum from what the UK and Scottish governments agreed – that a majority vote would determine the result. Furthermore, the UK is governed through adherence to precedence and favourable polling was not needed to conduct the only UK referendum since 2014 and nothing more than a simple majority was required to bring about the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in spite of the narrow margin in support of Brexit. Certainly if a threshold of 60% had been required in the referendum itself the extreme outcome could probably have been avoided and we would not now be witnessing the potentially disastrous decline in Scotland's food and drinks exports as well as increasingly empty supermarket shelves, but this is UK democracy.

For those who have remained silent through the whole Brexit referendum process dictated by an ideologically-driven right-wing Tory Government (that even refused to include representatives of the devolved governments in the Brexit negotiations) to now proclaim the necessity of new standards for the holding of Scotland's second independence referendum smacks of more than a little hypocrisy.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.


CAROLINE Wilson's report ("‘GPS don’t have enough knowledge about the menopause’", The Herald, August 30) made me realise one of the reasons why General Practice is struggling to recruit and retain doctors, and how fortunate I was to spend most of my professional life in a medical specialty, rather than my initially-intended career path of GP. The implication in the report is that the solution is for GPs to have more training in this particular health problem.

Scarcely a week seems to go by without some spokesperson from a patient support group appearing in the media claiming that their particular health problem is misunderstood or not appreciated ("medical students only receive x hours' instruction in their entire undergraduate career..."). Once again, the proposed remedy is more training.

Specialists are almost as bad. There seems to be a steady trickle of reports from the medical royal colleges, their faculties, specialist societies and academic departments of universities seeking more attention or spending on their particular disease/disorder, and the length of time it takes to diagnose a particular condition. Almost always, these reports contain the phrase "and the GP is ideally placed...", reducing them to the status of spear carriers of a special interest group. Then there are those who wish that GPs would spend more time screening patients for gambling, domestic abuse and other social problems.

Many years ago, the British Medical Journal carried a series of articles entitled "What I look for in a good GP" by various consultants. One, a consultant geriatrician, wrote that in his opinion, possession of the Diploma in Geriatric Medicine was the hallmark of a good GP. This prompted one GP to write to the BMJ's editor to the effect that, applying that sort of criteria, in order to earn the approbation of all the consultants in the hospitals to which he sent his patients then he would have to acquire 47 diplomas and certificates. He wondered where he would find the time, money and study leave to achieve this level of excellence.

And that's before GPs start to grumble about the things that all doctors, specialists included, begin to complain about.

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.

Read more: Why is Sturgeon running scared of the 60% indy rule?