YOUR correspondence this past week has understandably been dominated by the first competitive SNP leadership race for 20 years. This race raises two important questions – one on the stability of the extremely broad coalition within the SNP tent, and the other on the nature and equity of media scrutiny into the personal beliefs of the candidates.

Kate Forbes, notwithstanding the fact that she served as Nicola Sturgeon's Finance Secretary, has stated that she wants to lead a business-friendly, competent administration that prioritises economic growth. This stance, along with her socially conservative views, places her firmly on the right of the party and more in the mould of the SNP administration under Alex Salmond.

Humza Yousaf meanwhile seems to represent "continuity Sturgeon", with a strong left-wing perspective and focus on identity politics and socially divisive issues. Forgive me if I have not been paying close enough attention, but his detailed policy proposals for economic growth have thus far eluded me.

This divergence is significant because the SNP owes a large part of its electoral success, and 16 years in power, to its ability to coalesce its voters around a single totemic issue (the details of which continue to lack clarity).

Opponents of that issue are fragmented amongst (principally) three parties, splitting their vote. One wonders, with such radically different views within the party on seemingly all issues bar one (and doubtless starkly dissimilar visions for that), how long SNP unity can endure.

I meanwhile follow the race with interest, and in anticipation of the early Holyrood election that the winning candidate will no doubt immediately call. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Nick Ruane, Edinburgh

Regan best hope for indy

THE clarity and balance of Ash Regan’s campaign to win the leadership of the SNP ("I will hand indy cause back to the people if I am FM", The Herald, February 24) is unsurpassed by either of the other two candidates, in my opinion.

Like them, she is clear that they should “get on with the business of governing on the day-to-day issues affecting all of the people of Scotland”, which is essential as the SNP has been elected to do just that. However, like any other political party it has a core aim, which in its case is securing Scotland’s independence. Asking the SNP to give up independence would be like asking the Labour Party to give up socialism. Well, maybe not the best analogy, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

It is therefore, not just appropriate but encouraging that she is talking about not just securing independence but how this might be achieved by securing 50%+1 at every election. This, to be clear, is necessary to secure the support of the international community to independence for a route other than the referendum that Westminster has to date resolutely not granted, and is doubling down on refusal.

However, most heartening is her acknowledgement that independence is not just about the SNP but the wider Yes movement, a campaign which has been "effectively dismantled”. An aim as wide-ranging as independence is perhaps not achievable by the efforts of a single party, but only by a widely-based social movement. In 2014/15 when the membership of the SNP grew exponentially there was an opportunity for the party to transform itself in this way, but instead it opted to become the third-largest party in the UK.

It is therefore reassuring that Ms Regan recognises that “in recent years the wider Yes movement has become marginalised in the fight for independence. If elected, I intend to change that.”

Lastly, even if Ms Regan fails in her bid, she has done a service by raising the issue of routes to independence and the relationship of the party to the wider Yes movement. Hopefully the debate so stimulated might encourage the successful candidate to act in a similar way.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton

Irrational beliefs

THE press focus on the faith beliefs of Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf is ironic considering a belief in independence is itself a faith “akin to religion”. This was confirmed by Judge Frances Eccles in his judgement in 2018 on the employment tribunal case of the SNP councillor Christopher McEleny.

Perhaps, instead of journalists asking the SNP leadership candidates about whether they believe the world is flat or in dinosaurs co-existing with humans, they could be questioned on their equally faith-based and evidence-free belief that independence will solve all ills. Which irrational belief is, after all, why they wish us to vote for them in the first place.
Alex Gallagher, Largs

Telling the truth harms politicians

WE expend a lot of our anger and energy on being outraged at autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin who blatantly distort the truth and lie in broad daylight. Sadly, democratic politicians in our own country, Scotland no exception, have learned the hard way that telling the truth or answering direct questions honestly does one thing and one thing only. It makes them unelectable.

No wonder politicians hide their true thoughts and distort the truth.
Ian Godden, Al Maryah, Abu Dhabi

Time to explore the way forward

THE resignation of Nicola Sturgeon poses a number of important issues. Her undoubted talents and strengths are legendary, but it has to be admitted that a sound grasp of (or interest in) economics has not featured prominently. Unfortunately, without a strong economy and tax base, our health, social and educational services will struggle and are seriously struggling through paucity of funds.

I would contend, therefore, that continuity is not an option. It’s time for a reset. The battles over sexual orientation have largely been won or been taken as far as practicable in terms of public appetite. It’s time to focus on three key priorities. These are: 1) foster a strong productive economy and tax base to generate national wealth; 2) use the wealth thus generated to stabilise and improve our struggling health, social and educational services; 3) in so doing, set out a credible vision of how an independent Scotland will be of positive benefit to our citizens.

As 2 and 3 depend on 1, growing the Scottish economy, productivity and tax base should be our number one priority. How is that to be done? Here are a few pointers:

a) Boost trade by exploiting Scotland’s strategic maritime location to develop enhanced global maritime connections, port infrastructure, and logistics with more effective regulation focussed on the national interest – SNP policy, it seems blocked by civil servants.

b) Draw on best practice in Scandinavia and elsewhere to create productive businesses.

c) Explore the practical implementation of a land value tax aimed at more productive use of Scotland’s underused rural land.

d) Develop a more effective and sustainable (including financially sustainable) social housing policy including controls on “land banking”.

e) Extract a realistic revenue from profitable offshore renewable energy operations.

f) Enable councils, as a planning condition, to levy a tax on onshore wind developers.

g) Enable councils to levy a tourist tax to help defray tourist impact on roads, other infrastructure and amenities, as is commonplace in many other countries.

h) Reinstate hospital car parking charges. Those who can afford to run a car, can pay a parking charge.

i) Stem the needless outflow of public funds and improve ferry services by gradual debundling of the appallingly poor state funded ferry sector.

If progress is to be made along these lines and if the independence cause is to attract a wider, as yet unconvinced voter base, we need a First Minister who is energetic, experienced, numerate and business-savvy. The only realistic candidate who fulfils these criteria is Kate Forbes.
Roy Pedersen, Inverness

Commons food for thought

IN response to Therese Coffey’s exhortation that we should eat turnips in the absence of tomatoes ("Coffey: Eating turnips could help avoid produce shortages during winter months", heraldscotland, February 23) I thought I’d check what’s on the menu at Westminster. Nae turnips.

What I found interesting however was the difference in pricing between the Members Dining Room and The Strangers Dining Room which offer identical menus. The difference is remarkable. Members get “soup of the day” for £2.80, strangers pay £5.25 for the same soup; "prawn cocktail" costs an MP £3.35 while one of his constituents pays £7.05; "chargrilled sirloin steak with thick-cut chips, balsamic roast shallot, TOMATO, mushroom and Bearnaise sauce" costs the state servant £13.90, but the voter who pays the MP’s wages is charged £22.75 for the same platter. I could cite more examples but I’d just get angrier.

We are mugs.
David J Crawford, Glasgow


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