IT is hard to find anything to take seriously in Guy Stenhouse’s article on referenda ("Scottish areas which vote No to indy must be allowed to stay in UK", The Herald, November 2) beyond his main contention that, in an ideal world, they should have overwhelmingly clear outcomes. In this less than ideal world, this is far from universal, with the 2016 Brexit referendum being a case in point.

When Nicola Sturgeon proposed that a majority for leaving should be necessary in all four home nations, she was roundly poo-pooed by the Unionist press. The argument was that the UK was a unitary state, and that anything but a simple majority was "undemocratic"; this may have been to head off a situation where England in particular voted clearly to leave but was stymied by smaller Remain majorities in one or more of the Celtic nations. Mr Stenhouse chooses to ignore this precedent as it does not suit his argument, though it would have avoided the slow car crash that is Brexit.

It is common amongst those of a unionist persuasion to set the bar higher and higher for a successful independence referendum. Back in the 1980s, the talk was that a simple majority of Scottish MPs would "win" the General Election and thus constitute a mandate to begin independence negotiations. While Alex Salmond’s overall majority in 2011 might have constituted such a mandate, he chose to legitimise the decision with a referendum requiring a simple majority, a position accepted by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and all the unionist parties. Only now, when the Yes side is starting from a position of around 50%, rather than 25% in 2012, do unionists want to change the rules.

As an aside, the 60% (or whatever) threshold would presumably apply to both sides. Were the unionists not to achieve their own threshold, the issue would remain "sub judice", and require further referenda till one side achieved it. The Good Friday Agreement stipulated seven years between border plebiscites; the unionists want generations, or centuries or, preferably, one thinks, never.

His further contention, that areas or regions which do not vote for independence should remain in the UK hardly bears scrutiny. Presumably those that do would become independent; presumably it would not apply retrospectively, as the four authorities with Yes majorities in 2014 would now be independent and The Herald would now be published in an independent Scotland. Similarly, to pick on local authority areas is arbitrary. One could equally well pick postcodes.

Looking further back, during the "Great Cause" of the 1290s, the Interregnum that followed the untimely death of the heirless Alexander III, the 13 Claimants were assured by the legal arbiter called in by the nobility, Edward I of England, that Scotland was not "partible"; in other words, any constitutional arrangements made and agreed applied to the whole country. Mr Stenhouse is neither a historian nor a lawyer, but a precedent of more than 700 years is worth respecting.
Larry Cheyne, Bishopbriggs

Scotland's votes are disrespected

PETER A Russell (Letters, November 2) refers to the Smith Commission Report "whose recommendations were agreed by all of the Holyrood parties". I would remind him that Paragraph 18 of the Smith Commission Report states: "It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose"; all the Holyrood parties signed up to that too.

Mr Russell clings to the 2014 referendum result as if nothing has happened since. But there have been seismic changes; Brexit (which Scotland didn't vote for) and three Westminster General Elections which produced Tory governments we didn't vote for either. Indeed, at all three Westminster elections, the SNP won the majority of Scottish seats, while at last year's Scottish Parliament elections, in spite of the Unionist parties campaigning solidly against a second independence referendum, the SNP won the overwhelming majority of constituency seats and was returned to power.

Mr Russell claims that he is sick and tired of his vote being "disrespected and ignored". I am sick and tired of Scotland's votes being disrespected and ignored by one disastrous Westminster government after another, and the findings of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, as reported by you ("Brexit, a pandemic and partygate ... where Scots place their trust, and why", The Herald, November 1), suggests that I am not alone.
Ruth Marr, Stirling

• PETER A Russell continues to drone on in the same vein about old chestnuts such as an independence referendum being a once in a generation event. This despite the obvious fact that SNP members are a tiny minority of the electorate and, in any case, whom Alex Salmond did not consult prior to making that statement.

He claims that independence voters are denying his democracy while ignoring the fact that Messr. Weir and Galloway (Letters, November 1) along with myself are entitled to equal democratic rights. Also, while we Scots are entitled to participate in a UK election, the odds are heavily stacked against us getting a government which we vote for in Westminster.
Gordon Evans, Glasgow

SNP giving us fake news

WE all know by now that the ruling SNP is not very good with figures. Its failure to produce any kind of detailed plan for Scottish independence is one indication of this, as are the fantasy figures produced for various issues, which are mostly designed to show that Scotland is performing better than England.

Reporting of Covid figures was a part of this. Ms Sturgeon’s recent inaccurate claims about the percentage of renewables powering our electricity is another indicator. Now there is the issue of hospital admission waiting times, where it seems that the figures have been manipulated so that, as the UK’s statistics watchdog points out, "patients who have not yet been treated, some of whom may have been waiting a long time, are not included in [SNHS] figures" ("NHS waits data ‘misleads’", The Herald, November 2). This means that the figures "could potentially mislead some patients about the length of time they may have to wait". This is far from being an isolated instance of skewed figures in Scottish public services.

This raises two important points. First, why are staff in the SNHS and elsewhere using manipulated figures to misrepresent the situation? Well, we know why – to make things appear better than they actually are. But who tells them to do this? Is there a written order instructing them to do so? Does this come from the top – the ministers, the First Minister? Are there relevant emails deep in the interstices of the internet?

Secondly, it should be a matter of profound relief to Scots that the UK’s statistics watchdog is indeed scrutinising the Scottish administration to learn about its shabby practices. We need more of this, especially where the SNP administration intrudes into reserved issues.

The one thing missing is relentless publicising of the fact that our rulers have been imparting fake news to us while concealing the much less palatable truth. It is beyond time that Scots were treated as adults and kept accurately informed of the performance of their public services.
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

We are in fact four Britains

ADAM Tomkins' article ("There are two Britains. One is inclusive, one sadly is not", The Herald, November 2) sadly failed to reflect the fact that the Government, whilst reflecting the diversity of the population in the UK, also reflects the discrimination against poorer people by the very rich.

Thus we have a Government which seeks to restrict the rights of workers to fight to improve their lot, seeks to restrict the efforts of refugees to seek asylum, seeks to reduce services on which the bulk of the population depend through cuts to budgets and continues to support removing the restrictions on bankers' bonuses.

We are in reality four Britains, two of which he rightly identifies in terms of tolerance of the views of others but also a country increasingly divided by wealth and the power of the richest to protect themselves at the expense of the rest of society; but then perhaps you can't expect a Tory to identify this as an issue.
Bill Eadie, Giffnock

Unsustainable expenses

ANENT our “free” admission to cultural venues, Eric Melvin (Letters, November 2) is quite correct. I trust he would also agree that the remaining defined-benefit final-salary pension schemes are also “unsustainable” (overwhelmingly in the public sector) as I wrote on October 4, along with many other long-standing commitments which all governments are not prepared to cancel or reform but prefer to load on to the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. £100-150 billion for HS2 anyone?
John Birkett, St Andrews


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