REBECCA McQuillan writes that "the values that Nicola Sturgeon espouses are largely Labour values.

Under Nicola Sturgeon, the social justice mission of the SNP has been indistinguishable from Labour’s", and suggests this underpins the rivalry between the parties ("Forget the Tories: 2023 will be all about Labour and SNP", The Herald, January 5). However, even setting aside the constitution there are many areas of clear blue water between Labour and the SNP.

Just this week, Labour’s Lisa Nandy ruled out Labour committing to the UK rejoining the EU, branding it a “fantasy”; compare this with the SNP’s clear commitment to returning to the EU (however feasible you believe the party’s plan to be).

Take a look at immigration; last October Labour’s Rachel Reeves criticised Suella Braverman’s plans not as being too harsh or inhumane but instead saying the Home Office “need to process claims faster. Get people out of the country”. Compare with the SNP’s stated aim of an immigration and asylum system “founded on fairness and human rights”.

How about nuclear weapons? Labour’s support for them, in the words of the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence John Healey, is “non-negotiable”; compare with the SNP’s steadfast opposition to nuclear weapons.

Even on the basics of representative democracy, despite his party voting – at long last – in favour of proportional representation, Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour’s manifesto will not include a pledge to reform the voting system. Compare this to the SNP, which continues to favour a move to proportional representation in Westminster despite this meaning a certain loss of seats for the party.

Are Labour and the SNP really a hair’s breadth apart, then, on everything except the constitution? For voters who care about representative democracy, humane immigration, and seek a return to the European Union, Labour has precious little to offer.
Declan Blench, Glasgow

Sunak in Cloud Cuckoo Land

SO with huge anticipation, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister for the time being, stands up in front of a huge media audience to give a much-anticipated statement. Then he announces five major things that he and his Government are about to do ("PM tells voters ‘judge me on delivering pledges’ in first keynote speech", The Herald, January 5).

They are going to halve inflation, grow the economy and create better-paid jobs, resolve the NHS crisis, reduce the number of immigrants crossing the Channel by boat and reduce the national debt. Talk about free beer for the workers!

Does he honestly not realise that his Government has been at the helm for 12 years and has caused all of this mess? It has grossly underfunded the NHS and spent eye-watering amounts on vanity projects too numerous to mention, meaning that it is responsible for the huge increase in the national debt.

So he is standing there telling the country how he is going to undo all the damage caused by his Government. There are no specifics like how long this will all take and he cannot quantify anything such as by how much he will reduce the self-inflicted national debt.

This is scandalous. The man must live in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Instead of maths for 18-year-olds and flights to Rwanda, he should be seriously looking to reduce child poverty and food bank usage.

Surely no one one will be conned by his desperate attempts to cling on to power.
Stewart Falconer, Alyth

We would not have mirrored Ireland

WHAT D Jamieson (Letters, January 4) is overlooking in his comparison with the Irish Republic since 1973 is that Scotland was nothing like Ireland at that time. For nearly all of its existence before EEC entry, Ireland was a desperately poor country, with in some ways almost a peasant economy, with the Catholic Church having a "special place" in the constitution, giving it what could be seen as a disproportionate influence on how the country was run.

Ireland was in great need of the assistance which the then Common Market was able to offer and subsequently benefited greatly. In contrast Scotland had a mixed economy including a sizeable component of both heavy and light industry, kept Kirk and State separate and had a higher standard of living.

Even had Scotland magically become independent in 1973, the development of the two countries would not have been similar, since they had been formed in very different circumstances. Scotland, which actually made the first approaches seeking union with England in the late 17th century, had not had to suffer a war on its soil since the Jacobite rebellion, whereas Ireland had undergone a war of independence and an even bloodier civil war when it came into existence just over a century ago.

While Ireland is now much more prosperous than it was pre-1973, despite a severe wobble during the 2008 financial crisis, it should be noted that it still has not managed to create a National Health Service for its people. There is a fee to be paid to visit the doctor in Ireland, just as in AJ Cronin's chronicles of Dr Finlay, and for other medical treatment too, so in some ways Ireland is well behind Scotland.

The comparison between Ireland and Scotland, though interesting, is therefore not a valid basis for or against independence for the latter.
Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews

• SCOTLAND would be a far better place if more people expressed the engaging self-confidence that many find in Ireland, as they have built a well-working, modern republic that delivers for its citizens and which is ranked the seventh most democratic nation on the planet by the Economic Intelligence Unit.

The basic Irish pension is £214 a week compared to £185 in the UK and the average annual salary in the UK is £29,600 whereas it is £38,000 in Ireland, which more than covers a higher cost of living.

Ireland is not Utopia but it surpasses Scotland in the UK on what matters. They live a year longer than the UK average and are far more likely to describe their personal health as good. Their economic wealth per person exceeds the UK. Fewer are in poverty and have far lower levels of income inequality. They are more highly educated. Their media is deemed far freer and they are far more satisfied with how their democracy operates. As part of the EU, Ireland's exports have boomed and there are now more than 40 direct ferry sailings to Europe each week.

Given Scotland’s vast energy resources and a highly educated population, it is fair to compare Scotland’s economy, which is mostly controlled by Westminster, to Ireland and the Scandinavian countries where they all enjoy a higher standard of living than the relative decline facing Scotland as part of the UK.
Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

A far-fetched comparison

OF the many letters today (January 5), the most far-fetched was from Michael Sheridan.

Citing the Darien Project (a failed attempt to set up a Scottish colony in the 1690s, no less) to cast aspersions on the desire for "separation" is as preposterous an attempt to undermine a serious present-day political movement as anything I've read in a while.

Mr. Sheridan also asserts that the United Kingdom is "the envy of the world". Which world is he living in? Who is he referring to?

Are the 65 countries who have gained independence from the UK now envious and desperate to rejoin?

Perhaps Mr Sheridan's letter was tongue in cheek. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Kevin Orr, Bishopbriggs

Royals mean little to Scotland

IT’S a bit of a stretch to consider the future of the Monarchy as one of the biggest issues of independence as Alastair Stewart asserts ("A thorny question at heart of Scotland’s relationship with the royal family", The Herald, January 5). I suspect most Scots only think about the royals because of the attention the media gives them.

The royals have a small problem with Scotland: they are all born in England, live in England and the titles they mainly use are only relevant to that country. Their absurd “Scottish” titles may as well refer to places on the Moon for all the interests the royals have in them. If independent, I think Scotland would quickly morph into a republic as the Windsors have so little connection to our daily lives.
GR Weir, Ochiltree

Read more letters: SNP ministers should come and see NHS misery for themselves


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