RUTH Marr (Letters, November 4) raises two issues when she writes that “most nations of the world are independent and manage their own affairs”.

In the first place, when one considers the number of distinct nations that exist within each of the states of the United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, the UK and Australia and others, it seems likely that the number of nations greatly exceed the number of states and that it is not the norm for nationhood to coincide with statehood. It seems likely that most nations of the world are not independent political states but are nations none the less.

The second point is the query as to whether any part of the Scottish nation seeks to be independent. It seems that the whole tide of opinion in Scotland is to participate in political union, either in the UK or the EU, and the word "independence" is code for rejecting the UK rather than any realistic national objective.

A great danger in confusing state with nation is that when people denigrate the absence of political statehood they appear to denigrate the Scottish nation, for example by claiming that Scotland as a nation can no longer maintain its former educational primacy, operate functional ferry services, deal with illegal drug consumption, provide a national health service, maintain a national banking system or deliver a credible legal system all because of malign external influence and despite all of these having been taken for granted before we became obsessed with our national status.

If we can focus on the Scottish nation rather than squabble over an illusory state of independence which no one really wants then we will be better able to deal with all of the above issues and more besides.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.


BRIAN Wilson (“Nationalists need to understand the difference between nation and state”, The Herald, November 3) writes that “energy policy offers the classic example of why inter-dependence within a small island makes a lot more sense than rolling back centuries of history”. However, it is not so simple as claiming that “there is an overwhelming argument in favour of co-operation” on such matters, no matter how superficially true it might be.

What kind of co-operation is it between two parties where one is much more powerful than the other? The UK Parliament’s own website tells us: “Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law."

If Westminster “can create or end any law”, if Holyrood is recalcitrant, Westminster can resolve the situation by legislating, as it did with the EU Continuity Bill.

Inter-dependence is rather different, in that in many respects it is a statement of fact. For instance, the states negotiating at COP26 cannot resolve climate issues on their own and must negotiate to try to secure a settlement they all agree with. We know already, for instance, that India is not prepared to commit to carbon neutrality till 2070, rather than the 2050 target which other states and the UN want. Only as an analogy, if this were Holyrood and Westminster, the latter could legislate to require our carbon neutrality by whatever date it decided appropriate.

Thus, it is not enough to point to inter-dependence, but we need to explore the power relationship between the parties to understand how it is managed. At COP26, pressure will be applied to India (and others) to fall into line, but nominally they are not only states, but sovereign states with the power to walk away if the agreement on offer is overly contrary to their interests. Scotland’s current constitutional position means we cannot resist the intentions of Westminster.

Concealment behind warm words such as “inter-dependence” and “co-operation”, cannot be allowed to conceal this substantial and significant power difference, and the consequences thereof. Mr Wilson’s approach is at best inadequate and naïve.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


TOM Gordon is correct to point out the obvious: Scotland has no power, autonomy or leverage within the UK ("Unionists on manoeuvres as SNP stalled on Indyref2", The Herald, November 4). Holyrood has a pro-independence majority but its electoral mandate is not recognised in the same way as lesser electoral mandates in other parts of the UK. This should not be a cause for unionist celebration, but is actually a failure of democracy, which can only lead us, blindfold, to an uncertain future.

The next steps are fairly predictable. The SNP leadership will have to pursue its goal of a referendum or lose credibility; vetoed by the Tories; SNP MPs pulled out of Westminster. It is what happens next that is the problem, as the UK has been through this before in Ireland. When minorities are constitutionally impotent because rules are not applied uniformly, and the ballot box cannot bring change, that should be a concern for us all, and journalists should be asking pertinent questions to those who exercise power.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


THE recently published Social Security Scotland report for 2020/21 clearly indicated that the morals and ethos of the service have been achieved: fairness, dignity and respect. Most service users (more than 92 per cent) reported having had a positive experience, with 94% reporting they had been treated with kindness.

Social Security Scotland is administering 11 benefits, seven of which are brand new, supporting those with complex needs, disabilities, carers, and the game-changing attack on child poverty with the new Scottish Child Payment, the only place in the UK to introduce such a benefit. This payment of £10 per week for each eligible child will be doubled in the lifetime of this parliament, a clear demonstration of the determination of the Scottish Government to tackle child poverty head on. Perhaps a copy of this report could be sent to Rishi Sunak amidst the recent and most damaging cut to welfare since the Second World War, and just for good practice a copy to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Social security is something no one wants to claim, however should the need arrive, the service must provide and be the safety net it is designed to be. This encouraging report from Social Security Scotland has come about in the midst of a global pandemic, when demand for the service has been stretched, when Social Security Scotland staff were working remotely from home in many cases, indicating we have much to thank them for. They have been a lifeline to so many of the most vulnerable in our society.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


DOUG Maughan (Letters, November 4) criticised the nature of the British political class and stated that we need "fewer Oxford elitists and many more practical, numerate doers". I say "Amen" to that. His remarks reminded me of the observation of Corelli Barnett, the historian, when he said that the ruling class in this country was made up of "essay writers rather than problem solvers … an elite aloof from the ferocious struggle for survival going on in the world’s marketplace; more at home in a club or senior common room than a factory".

The continued existence of an educational system that is divided by class has been deeply harmful to the prospects of creating a country properly geared to meet the many challenges, economic and otherwise, constantly posed in the modern world.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


I PREFACE my remarks by stating I am fully supportive of the rights of workers to withdraw their labour and to go on strike. Now my beef.

Having recently moved into a new home, my visits to the Glasgow City Council Dawsholm Recycling Facility have been frequent and despite facing the Spanish Inquisition on entry (nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition), this elderly, obviously somewhat incapacitated recycler has been allowed unaided to dispose of permitted items in the appropriate receptacles; the system worked.

Late last week, it was different: 20 or so pickets were symbolically arranged in front of the main locked gates; the entrance to the public part of the site was locked but unguarded. The net result of this was that disgruntled members of the general public, rather than returning home with a car-load of rubbish, simply dumped it in the street against the gates.

First, I fail to see how a demonstration by striking workers in a cul-de-sac has any point or achieves anything. Secondly, why is a publicly-owned facility which normally appears to function with little obvious input from council staff closed, one assumes by strikers – or is it closed by the management on grounds of "health and safety"? Could an admin guy not ask the pointless residency question? Thirdly, why are the only people suffering the consequences of the strike the general public and specifically in the case of Dawsholm those individuals attempting to help rather than hinder keeping the city litter-free?

David J Crawford, Glasgow.