YOU report that the President of Catalonia, on his visit to Glasgow for COP26, met the First Minister to compare notes on the progress of their respective campaigns to achieve independence ("Sturgeon and Catalan president discuss independence at COP26", The Herald, November 9).

Although there are some common factors shared by Catalonia and Scotland, there are also wide variances.

It is not Scottish exceptionalism to say that in many areas of world affairs, because of the tides of history, Scotland is treated as a state. Sport is the most obvious example, where the “nation” competes in world title competitions on equal terms with “states” from across the globe; and in many other fields, such as law, the universities, and the arts, Scottish institutions interact with the wider world and are treated as representative of a distinct nation. Furthermore, try to avoid being treated as having Scottish nationality; if you are an author, a painter, an actor or a holidaymaker, once your origin is discovered, the world will label you Scottish.

This recognition factor extends to the country itself. Some time ago, you reported on the frustrations experienced by another Catalonian politician when he attempted to explain to the world the desire of many in the region for independence. He found that outside of Spain there was little knowledge of Catalonia, making it difficult to obtain traction for his argument; and he contrasted that situation with Scotland’s higher profile. It is common to find people in other countries well aware of the existence of the country of Scotland, even although that knowledge may have been acquired from seeing Brigadoon, Braveheart or the label on a bottle of whisky.

As a result of this prominence, Scotland has a further claim to fame: it is the luckiest country in the world. Scots can rub shoulders with peoples from across the planet and interact with them on equal terms, and yet be unwilling to take full responsibility for governing their own country: in other words, they are world champions in having their cake and eating it.

Ian Hutcheson, Glasgow.

* YOU report that the First Minister met the President of Catalonia at COP26. It is indicative of their senses of perspective and proportion that they chose to devote their discussion to local independence matters rather than the small matter of the future of the planet.

At the same time, it was interesting to note the President’s comment that “whatever the Scottish people decide, Catalonia will support Scotland”. It has of course been the policy of Nicola Sturgeon since 2014 to do exactly the opposite, and to ignore what the people of Scotland decided.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


MICHAEL Sheridan (Letters, November 8) discusses nationhood, statehood and independence in his letter. He uses some arguments I cannot agree with.

For instance, it is indeed true that not all nations form independent states. India, Brazil, Germany or Nigeria are federal republics, very different from the UK Union. It is common though, that when national interests within one multinational state start to significantly diverge, democratic countries often decide to peacefully split up (such as Czechoslovakia, for example).

Then there is the tiresome misconception unionist Brexiters use against Scottish independence, that being a member of the EU means not being an independent country. EU member states remain their own masters, they retain control of taxation and only those matters that absolutely need to be determined collectively are so determined.

In the UK Union, the narrow constraints of the non-permanent devolution arrangements prevent Scotland from fully realising its ambition to be an open and trustworthy country with a just and fair society and sustainable wellbeing economy.

Mr Sheridan mentioned that independence is something "no one really wants" in Scotland. In fact, barely six months ago the people of Scotland elected a majority of MSPs who contested the election on a clear mandate to hold a second independence referendum.

It is perfectly legitimate to oppose independence. But it is not legitimate to deny democracy. And it is not legitimate to use untrue arguments to justify this lack of democracy.

Marie White, Houston.


I WATCHED an excellent House of Commons debate this afternoon (November 8) on the subject of the mishandling of matters relating to Owen Paterson and the generalities surrounding the contemptible behaviour of Boris Johnson and co ("Storm over Tory ‘sleaze’ sees call for criminal probe by Met boss", The Herald, November 9). There were many good points made from all sides of the House, but it was a pity that two of the main stars could not add their contributions.

Mr Johnson was too busy elsewhere, but was back in London in time to make an appearance and the chance to apologise to the House. Jacob Rees-Mogg (no mask) looked very uncomfortable while sitting on the naughty stool for a couple of hours with nothing to say. Stephen Barclay was probably feeling equally uncomfortable, but this was hidden by his face mask.

How long will it be before Cabinet ministers decide that they are fed up with being wheeled out to make apologies for a boss who has no principles and who does not deserve to lead either his party or the country?

Malcolm Rankin, Seamill.

* WESTMINSTER, the Mother of Parliaments and the envy of the world. It was always an arrogant and deluded boast but used to be just hot air. Now that air carries the stench of decay and desperation. The UK has become a grubby little place. I feel for our friends in England, but Scotland must free herself from this failing state.

Grant McKechnie, Glasgow.


IN 1765, in his dissertation on canon and feudal law, John Adams (1735-1826), the Second President of the USA, said: "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right ... an indisputable, unalienable [sic], indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers."

Given the current politicians who sit in Westminster and Holyrood, and the constant media reports of the inappropriate, and what is often defined as the "sleazy" behaviour of some of them, I can only assume that we have never had, nor will ever have, anything that can remotely be recognised as that particular "right" needed for the preservation of our liberty.

Is government sleaze, and often untruthfulness, something we have to live with? Are we forever condemned to living in cloud-cuckoo-land? Are we just wishful thinkers?

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


THE row over party benefactors being elevated to the House of Lords ("Storm over Tory ‘sleaze’ sees call for criminal probe by Met boss", The Herald, November 9) highlights the fact that there continues to be no plan or even vision for how to reconstruct that seemingly august but ultimately ludicrous institution into something recognisably democratic.

In 2001 the total number of its members was 691. By 2011 it had risen to 792 and currently stands at 822, of whom three are listed as disqualified and one as suspended.

In 2013, when its membership was 810, the Lord Speaker was quoted as saying: “If we don’t reform and shrink our numbers, the Lords will collapse under its own weight”.

Apart from providing a convenient avenue through which governments can continue to deliver patronage to their often-questionable friends there is no obvious benefit to the current arrangement. It merely stands as a stark reminder of the deficiencies in the supposedly democratic UK parliamentary system.

Cameron Crawford, Rothesay.


THE presidential elections in Nicaragua on Sunday have been widely denounced as a democratic fraud.

Neither the government of Chile nor neighbouring Central American country Costa Rica recognises the results after reports of a national average abstention of 81.5%. This varied from 79% to 84% locally, although there was no public boycott campaign.

However, as many potential candidates, also critical of the Ortega Murillo regime, had been illegally detained, people tried to register a protest by not voting properly and so making the election invalid.

Urnas Abiertas, an observer organisation estimated only 18.5% participation by the electorate. It also reported violence and intimidation in every "autonomous" region as well as 119 of 153 municipalities (78%).

I was previously an active and enthusiastic supporter of the Sandinista revolution that championed democratic participation to replace the Somoza dictatorship. This farce clearly shows that the people's struggle must continue.

Phil Macdonald, Innerleithen.

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