CONGRATULATIONS to Ash Regan in choosing to resign rather than being compelled to vote against principles ("Minister quits over gender reform", The Herald, October 28). Some of us had hoped that the Scottish Parliament would be less rigidly whipped than Westminster but it has simply imitated the worst of Westminster practice.

My personal view is that I recognise and respect the emotional needs of a small number of people who are unhappy in their biological identity but there should be some qualifications in changing that legal identity. But I would not wish to force people who think differently to vote dishonestly.

I strongly support women's right to choose on abortion and the right of the terminally ill to choose assisted dying. But I accept that others are entitled to different views and they should vote according to their principles. We should not need to whip on these issues and deny our elected representatives their right to personal moral positions.

The extent of intolerance on the trans issue has been among the most extreme in my lifetime although this is not reflected among among the public. This degrades our political culture.

Stepford husbands and wives are not what we need in Scottish politics. Party leaders seem to have a pathological fear of free thinking. That is how you get bad outcomes.
Isobel Lindsay, Biggar

The problem with whips system

“UK democracy is as dead as the Monty Python stuffed parrot”, writes Stan Grodynski (Letters, October 26).

It seems to me that our democracy has a fundamental problem. The problem is the whip. There is a conflict of interest between pursuing a political career, and following the dictates of your conscience. It is not unlike the conflict of interest that is recognised in a court of law, when it transpires that in a criminal case, a potential jury member happens to know the defendant. That individual will be excused. Similarly, when a Member of Parliament is called upon to vote, for example, that fracking be given the go-ahead, or that a moratorium on fracking continue, should not that vote be disallowed when it becomes apparent that the MP’s future career, ability to pay the mortgage, put bread on the table, and support the family, is dependent upon that vote? In that sense, the party whip is rather like an agent of the defendant in court, who infiltrates the jury and leans on jury members with threats and intimidation.

The whip is the origin of political humbug. When you express and avow opinions which in reality you don’t actually hold, you need to adopt techniques of humbuggery which, at least, evince a degree of cognitive dissonance, and at worst, demonstrate an ability to hold two diametrically-opposing views simultaneously. George Orwell called this latter technique “doublethink”. Such techniques are apprehended universally as the political norm. When a politician appears on Laura Kuenssberg’s programme we no longer expect that he or she answer a question in a straightforward way, or, indeed, answer the question at all. You could even argue that the ability to speak fluent Humbug is the only skill that is particular and peculiar to the political profession.

In truth, every vote, from how often the council should empty the bins to whether or not Trident should be maintained and updated, is a conscience vote. But if you are being leaned on, and your spouse reminds you that you need to pay the children’s school fees, what are you to do?

After the customary pleasantries between Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak at last Wednesday’s PMQs, the usual noisy uproar ensued. The occupants of the green benches on both sides of the House seem to be the last to know that the country no longer takes this elaborate gavotte seriously.
Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling

Ministers who go without

NADHIM Zahawi’s insecure position as Minister Without Portfolio in Rishi Sunak’s Government is as intriguing as it is amorphous. Nobody seems to be able to define what Mr Zahawi’s responsibilities are, so how can he ever be called to account for failing to discharge them?

It does make me wonder what other similar non-job positions Mr Sunak might conjure up to keep inside the tent those who might cause mischief outside it. Looking at the likely candidates, titles that come immediately to mind are Minister Without a Clue, Minister Without a Care, Minister Without Morality, Minister Without Shame and Minister Without Sense.

Over recent months the Tories have shown shameful disregard for the democratic process throughout the UK. Although Rishi Sunak appears to possess rather more gravitas then his recent predecessors (hardly difficult), I fear it is too late for him to undo the damage they have done to the country and its people.
Iain Stuart, Glasgow

UK mandated to refuse indyref2

YOU report that Nicola Sturgeon has issued her demands to Scotland's new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak ("Sturgeon sends list of Holyrood spending demands to Prime Minister", The Herald, October 28).

One of these stands out in particular: not unexpectedly the First Minister demands a second independence referendum, citing her mandate from the 2019 Holyrood election. Setting aside the matter of fact (and courtesy) that she is not really in any position to "demand" anything, Ms Sturgeon appears to forget that Mr Sunak has his own mandate to not agree to that referendum, as set out in his own party's 2019 General Election manifesto.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees otherwise, no agreement means no referendum – and Ms Sturgeon is wasting her breath on demands which one suspects she knows cannot be met. Those who cite the Holyrood Government's mandate to seek a referendum must also acknowledge our UK Government's mandate to decline one.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow

Where to draw the line?

ONE of the many wriggles being suggested for the purpose of invalidating the result of an independence referendum is that of a 60% threshold, as discussed by David Bruce (Letters, October 26). I wonder if the supporters of the idea have considered the implications of a narrow failure resulting from the application of this or any other arbitrary number?

Suppose, for example, that the vote reached only 59%, would the principles of democracy be served if a result supported by 59% was rejected?
Peter M Dryburgh, Edinburgh

Corbyn is not far left

WELL said, Kevin Orr and David J Crawford (Letters, October 28), regarding Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Orr's assessment of Corbyn as "centre-left" is spot on.

Mr Crawford's "interpretation of events" regarding the anti-Semitic accusations is also quite accurate. Mr Corbyn was anti-Zionist not anti-Semitic, two entirely different things and much to the chagrin of the Zionist administration in Israel; the last person they wanted in 10 Downing Street was a Palestinian sympathiser.

The fact of the matter is that, over the past decade, the political ground has shifted so far to the right in the UK that the average voter wouldn't recognise "far left" if it came up and hit them in the face.
Maureen McGarry-O'Hanlon, Balloch

Think again on fracking ban

A NATION'S riches, spent to meet vital national needs of all kinds, including its people's welfare, depends on its natural assets.

Petroleum products, vital for so many valid purposes, may be recoverable by fracking, as was promised in Rishi Sunak's pre-election manifesto as a candidate for UK Government leadership.

Mr Sunak evidently judges that clamorous pressure from green groups is more important and worthy than is our virtually-broke and energy-starved nation's proper needs ("Sunak told to ban new oil as well as fracking", The Herald October 27). If that is representative of his way of doing things, he is unfit to hold Prime Ministerial office.

At the very least, further pilot studies are essential to study fracking's safety and efficacy in the UK, designed and carried out by relevant, independent experts.

After all, electricity generation based on wind power was introduced without pilot studies. That now costs us billions and with no end in sight. This means of electricity production is very flawed by intermittency and myriad additional problems.

Pre-installation evaluation of wind turbines could have allowed much more rational policies for their application. They are not even green when account is taken of greenhouse gases production in manufacture alone.

The PM has now arbitrarily deprived the nation of petroleum from fracking, potentially vital as a source of energy and of petroleum-derivatives, and evidently without due consideration. In the national interest, Mr Sunak must think again.
Charles Wardrop, Perth


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