ALL academic instinct and training suggest that Professor Sir Tom Devine (“FM’s legacy ‘will be defined by delivery or not of independence...’, May 23) is wrong. There is no place in historical enquiry for the concept ‘regardless’. Yet he is right, and the support for the SNP hinges on its ability to achieve a referendum.

Historical evidence and informed forecasting appear not to influence decisively enough the independence debate. Professor Devine has not overlooked the facts, but has commented merely on their perceived inability to sway the argument decisively.

Facts are what they are and should be capable of shaping judgement. Professor Devine acknowledges the unavoidable truth of the SNP government’s dreadful record across critical spheres: the economy, education, health, crime, drugs, poverty and social disadvantage. Governments should be judged on their record in office, not their ability to win elections. Yet the converse appears to prevail, keeping Boris Johnson in office and Nicola Sturgeon leading Scotland over the cliff-edge.

Failure to appreciate the lessons of history leads to unsound forecasting, based on optimism rather than fact. In this context, arguments for a vote for independence ignore recent government performance and expect uncritically a step-change in outcomes regarding, for example, industrial regeneration, currency, debt management, taxation, public spending and the ability to attract sustainable inward investment.

The central question is, how can this be? Only part of the answer lies in personality. The perceived strength of Sturgeon, right or wrong, lies in crisis management and her role during the pandemic. As Professor Devine points out, she appears to take decisions in isolation from other, strong opinion. As a result, we have had weak and inconsistent decision-taking across all spheres.

Could it be that her self-appointed role in crisis management during the pandemic gives some comfort to her supporters that she would be able to steer Scotland through the wave of crises that would break following independence? That’s knife-edge politics.

We have arrived at a very uncertain position. Substantial responsibility lies with the failure of devolution. For the unionist side it was job done, and a rationale for resumed neglect.

Cranking up the Barnett Formula was not the answer, especially if distribution was left to a careless Scottish government, opening the door to the nationalist argument that they have been short-changed. For separatists/nationalists it was a stepping-stone and progress toward the ultimate goal. For them, devolution was a signpost to independence.

Wider accountability lies with the failure of both Labour and Conservatives to devote sufficient attention and priority to Scotland. Diminished numbers of parliamentary seats won in Scotland by both parties only contributed to neglect. Scotland’s need is for an administration that is competent, accountable and capable of encouraging economic growth. That depends on a higher bar in education, health and infrastructure.

The desperate needs of Scotland are obvious. Clarity of purpose, and heightened intervention, from Westminster would be welcome along with much tighter discipline and accountability around the performance of the Scottish government.

Professor William Wardle, Glasgow.




I HAVE always found rail to be a rotten and unreliable form of transport, and during my working life I gave up on rail for any important appointment.

For a time, I used the Edinburgh to London service, and it was never once on time. In fact the guard had a mobile phone for passengers to ring ahead and say how late they were going to be.

On occasion, when I had a client in Scarborough, I would wait at York for the scheduled train to Inverkeithing to arrive from its London start. It, too, was never on time. On one occasion it simply did not come, and I had to hire a car.

Rail staff were universally rude and unhelpful, and some seemed to revel in the misfortune of delayed passengers. The trains – when they did arrive – were usually filthy and had run out of food and drink in a buffet car that was ankle-deep in spilt beer and discarded sandwich wrappings. The toilets were indescribable.

Road is the answer. Always has been. Money spent on rail is wasted.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.



THE current line regarding the Scottish Government’s responsibilities over the ScotRail negotiations – no doubt fed to it by its army of spin doctors to enable it to distance itself, somehow, from the proceedings – is totally disingenuous.

Ms Sturgeon and Ms Gilruth, the Transport Minister, tell us whenever they are interviewed on the current dispute that they are not involved in the negotiations and are “ not in the room”, but urge ScotRail and the unions to get round the table.

Let me draw an analogy between the Scottish Government and a corporation with several companies. I worked for one such company in the construction sector. We had a Group Board (the Cabinet), a chairman (First Minister) and directors (ministers), each responsible for a company within the group.

We had construction, mining, housebuilding and commercial developments. The director in charge of each was hands-on and accountable for the success or failure of his company.

ScotRail is a nationalised company, wholly owned by the Scottish government. Its employees, including its management, are public-service employees paid for by the Scottish taxpayers. CalMac and Ferguson Marine are also in public ownership.

If Ms Gilruth really feels she has no remit to involve herself in the current running of these companies (which are vital to the people and economy of Scotland), perhaps Holyrood should dispense with the post of Transport Minister and save the taxpayers the £106,000 salary and the costs of a chauffeur-driven limousine.

Come to think of it, why stop there? There are several other departments that are requiring close scrutiny. Scotland deserves better.

Donald Lewis, East Lothian.



CONGRATULATIONS to Iain Macwhirter for his most informative article (“What could the SNP do about the cost of living? Quite a bit”, May 20), outlining the many steps which our Scottish Government could take now to help with the rising cost of living without reference to Westminster. I hope all our MSPs read it.

Alan Prentice, Stirling.



LIKE all political commentators, Mark Smith presents a particular view of party alliances (“The latest ‘unionist pact’ is a positive sign for Scotland”, May 23) but, in the usual manner of political commentators, evades the most important issue.

No amount of alliances, percentage juggling or public posturing can obscure the glaring anomaly of political parties being allowed to participate in local government.

Local election candidates and those elected should be required to renounce party membership for as long as they are involved.

The obvious distortion of democracy caused to national government by the party system should be sufficient warning about its extension into “local” government.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.



I READ, with interest and indeed some hope, Mark Smith’s article, at the core of which was his assertion that “a sign of a society’s political maturity is when two sides can speak to each other with mutual respect and work together when necessary”.

It is some time since I stopped reading the contributions to your Letters Pages on the constitutional issue, whether from unionists or nationalists, mainly because the contributors are largely incapable of demonstrating the aforementioned political maturity called for by Mark Smith. What a sign of things to come, should we refuse to have regard to the lessons of Brexit.

Those currently in neither camp do not wish to listen to the daily bickering imposed upon them in the years leading up to the holding of IndyRef2. They shall be bored to tears by years of repetitive arguments.

That is no way to create the necessarily positive atmosphere necessary in such challenging times called for by Frank Luntz, the American pollster, from whose recent speech ‘Saving Democracy’ Mark Smith so justifiably quoted.

By all means criticise the obvious incompetence of the SNP Government – but that is a different matter altogether.

John Milne, Uddingston.