MANY thanks to Neil Mackay for identifying so frankly the recently increasing social division within the Scottish nation (“Does Scotland really have an anti-Irish problem? Yes and it’s getting worse”, The Herald, September 18).

Such is the toxicity of this issue that it is rarely if ever possible to have a rational discussion of its causes and effects but it seems to be more than a coincidence that the increase which Mr Mackay describes coincides with rising passion and militancy in the constitutional debate. He advocates that we “do better” and even that is a difficult theme to address without raising hackles, but I would like to develop the theme with a couple of practical suggestions as to how we might do better.

Please consider not waving or supporting the waving of the Union Flag in demonstration against citizens of that same Union. It is our nation’s flag and its current appropriation by one side of the national debate clearly serves to deepen the cracks in the very Union which its bearers profess to support. Of course, the same applies with reference respectively to the Saltire and harmony within the Scottish nation.

Please consider not voting in tribalised blindness for or against the dissolution of the Union in which many of ourselves or our forebears looked for and, for the most part, found better lives but, instead, look at the real issues and make your own individual and rational choice according to your judgment of these issues.

It seems to depend upon whether we are more motivated to crush those with whom our people disagree rather than to strive to find a rational outcome in which people of different views might be able to invest for the greater benefit of the nation as a whole. The current direction of travel identified by Mr Mackay should surely be abhorrent to people of decent mentality and I offer the above rather obvious suggestions as possible steps in a different direction.

Michael Sheridan, by Strachur, Argyll.


WILLIAM Loneskie (Letters, October 1) suffers from the political myopia which afflicts the British variety of nationalist and can see nothing good about Scottish independence. Mr Loneskie is quite wrong in saying independence supporters write to The Herald every day “girning about how bad the UK is”. A quick review of recent letters pages shows the majority of independence correspondents do not criticise the UK at all. Instead they are exposing some of the nonsense spouted by unionists who appear to want to do Scotland down at every opportunity and seldom answer points made by those whom they appear to hold in contempt.

I do not criticise the UK needlessly, there is much to like. After all, it is the only thing Scottish independence supporters have known and some have done very well for themselves, but huge numbers of our people have not and their prospects continue to be bleak. The question to be asked is: is Scotland as an equal partner in the United Kingdom best served by a future of continuing decline or is it time to return to our former status but now as a modern independent country where we control our own destiny? The fact is we have so much to offer, the UK simply cannot afford to let us go and instead of being honest with us, we are portrayed us a begging bowl nation – it is the UK way of things, just as in India in the days of Empire.

Mr Loneskie lists a number of benefits of being part of the UK but what is his point? An independent Scotland would have done the same; most modern countries do and sometimes better. Certainly the vaccine has been a success story and I have heard only praise from independence supporters and unionists alike. Naturally less fortunate people from all over the world are keen to live in the UK as they also do in huge numbers in Germany and other European countries too. It is unfortunate in this constitutional debate there is such misinformation and partisan acrimony.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.


I AM in wholehearted agreement with GR Weir (Letters, October 1) that the Labour Party has been negligent in not creating its own constitutional project since 2014 – and indeed I have made exactly that point on a number of occasions in these pages. As Dan Jarvis says: “If you don’t talk about a subject, your opponents dominate the agenda.”

For the record, my preference is to start from the obvious place – the status quo which has been endorsed by the SNP’s own referendum, and to create a New Act Of Union. However, this should also include a new unilateral right for any part of the Union to secede, subject to a level of support similar to that expected as best practice by other countries and organisations. This could be either a supermajority, such as the two-thirds required to change the constitutions of everything from the United States down to the SNP, or double majorities as required for Swiss national referendums. Or perhaps both, to be certain that independence really is the settled will of the people – such safeguards would also show that the lessons of the Brexit debacle have been learned.

So Gordon Brown’s commission ("Starmer vows Scotland unity as key speech faces heckles", The Herald, September 30) is to be welcomed, and hopefully it will spur the nationalists into creating their own new proposal, which will tell us exactly how independence will come about, how much it will cost, who will pay that price, and how long we will suffer its consequences. Without that proposal, we are stuck with the rather pathetic wishful thinking of “it can’t be any worse” and the unsupported “fiddlesticks” assertions which we have to suffer all too frequently in these columns.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


JOHN Shanks (Letters, October 1) writes that, for him, "the road to independence is a series of tests that need to be passed". He could have equally said that staying within the present Union is a series of tests that need to be passed, and I would contend that they haven't.

Mr Shanks tells us that he is in his twenties, so I presume that he probably can't remember a time when all issues affecting Scotland were made at Westminster and there was no Scottish Parliament, albeit with limited powers, democratically elected by the people of Scotland. However, he can certainly remember a time, because he and the rest of us are living through it, when there are still many crucial decisions affecting Scotland which are made at Westminster by a Government Scotland did not elect, and it is worth noting that of all the parties in the Scottish Parliament, only the Tories have never participated in a Scottish government.

The hard fact is that we are currently suffering the consequences of being dragged out of the European Union by a Tory government, despite Scotland voting heavily to remain, while the end of free movement is perhaps especially harmful to Mr Shanks's generation. It speaks volumes that the latest opinion poll shows that 72 % of Scottish voters think Brexit has gone badly.

An independent Scotland won't cure all ills overnight; but it would take Scotland out of Westminster's hands and it would be entirely the choice of Scottish voters to elect the government of whichever political hue they wanted, and to sack it if it failed to deliver. The future would be within Scotland's hands to make and shape a modern European nation of which Mr Shanks and future generations could be proud. Independence is normal for almost every other country in the world, and Scotland needs to take the right road to become a normal country too.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


I’M a nationalist born and bred; I’d love to see an independent Scotland before I kick the bucket but unlike Brexit I don’t want to be presented with a pig in a poke. Simply transferring all the powers of governance to Holyrood without a substantial change to the social order and distribution of wealth; saying goodbye to the old boss and hello to the new one, would be a complete waste of time. Maybe rather than banging on about independence ad nauseum, if the roadmap to a fairer, more equal society were presented to the electorate the prospects of leaving the Union may seem more attractive.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


KEVIN McKenna (“We are being run by a new impostor class of politician”, The Herald, October 2) simply puts a modern slant on an old theme. In a 1952 campaign speech, Adlai Stevenson said that he had offered opponents a deal: "If they stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about them".

Plus ça change …

David Miller, Milngavie.