WHILE the media has called last Tuesday's televised SNP leadership debate a "fiery" confrontation, at the end of the programme I was no further forward in deciding which contender would be the best suited to lift Scotland out of its economic malaise.

One point that does puzzle me is why the outgoing regime seems to be pushing so hard for Humza Yousaf to be the next leader. He might come across as a polished performer but his ministerial track record and his vague responses in the debate must surely raise questions about his suitability in the minds of many people.

When it comes to voting for the next leader, I hope that SNP members will show common sense and not be bound by dogged ideology as Scotland's future hangs very much in the balance. Resolution of the question of independence from the rest of the UK may rely on the calibre and credibility of the next leader and whether he or she can grab the imagination of the electorate.

A breath of fresh air may sweep through the SNP or the stench of stagnation may become more intense.
Bob MacDougall, Kippen

Step forward Kate Forbes

IT’S wrong to believe opinion polls as if they were absolute fact like footy scores, but I think an apparent dip in support for independence is mostly a tired public digesting the close of an era.

The First Minister created her era. Most people still respect her. She has recognised that new energy is needed.

Step forward Kate Forbes, a candidate of real warmth, talent and devotion to duty. She understands that strength and prosperity are needed before the undecided part of the public can be interested in constitutional change.
Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland

An unfair question

THE Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, hopes that there will be an equal split of women and men MSPs ("Presiding Officer hopeful Scottish Parliament has 50-50 gender split by 2026", March 5). Would that be those born as women or would it include men who identify as women? It is farcical to vote through GRR and then hope to have fairness for women.
Jane Lax, Aberlour

Read more letters: Post-Sturgeon meltdown demands a new election

Bin this hydro proposal

YOUR investigative article regarding Gilkes Energy's hydro scheme proposal for Ardverikie estate was very informative ("Fears for scenic TV location over major new hydro project", March 5).

The company would be well advised to reassess its project as its proposals will be widely deemed unacceptable.

The outlook from the southwest end of Loch an Earba is one of the finest vistas in the Central Highlands and that reality is well known and appreciated by a large body of outdoor enthusiasts.

If this scheme were to go ahead the extensive landscape change that would result would be appalling. Back in the 1960s the ultimately unsuccessful Glen Nevis hydro scheme generated fierce debate and this present proposal will likely arouse similar degrees of opposition. My own view is that, yes we do require a number of pumped storage schemes to iron out renewables intermittency. But they should not be regarded as the sole solution. There are well-developed alternatives.

For example, technology using cooled compressed air looks to be a viable, clean, much less intrusive means of energy storage. Some of Gilkes's schemes may indeed be beneficial but given the likely public reaction it might be well advised to drop this one.
Dick Webster, Kingussie

Politics as a function of faith

HEREWITH my answer to the question posed by Neil Mackay and Fraser Sutherland ("What is the role of religion in modern Scotland?”, March 5).

They focus on the conservative Christian understanding of God, that being the patriarchal anthropomorphic figure modelled on a two/three millennia-old tribal God who demanded sacrifice for the “forgiveness of sins”.

However a Progressive Christian such as myself is much more likely to question these traditional beliefs in order to focus on the instruction to "love one another” at the core of the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. This understanding of Christianity focuses on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, and tolerance, often through political activism. Hence my frequent assertion that my politics are a function of my faith.

I, from my Christian perspective, must congratulate Denis Bruce on his splendid letter “The right kind of capitalism”(March 5) in which he maintains that recent events “have made us aware of the importance of compassion, care and community, those three elements showing our species at its best, once we realise we are all in it together”.
John Milne, Uddingston

No lack of transparency

NEIL Mackay’s Big Read appears to rely on a single source, the chief executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, an anti-religious campaign group.

Fraser Sutherland is quoted as saying: “I don’t think people of faith who campaign on issues are sinister. They should be able to campaign on anything they want… What’s questionable is opaqueness, lack of transparency, hiding who’s involved and why they’re involved.”

He cites the Be Reasonable campaign as an example. But the reason Mr Sutherland knows that I and The Christian Institute support the campaign is because my photo, my name and the name of my organisation are listed on the site under the heading “supporters”. This is hardly a "lack of transparency".

What he says about "lack of clarity" over the funding of Christian charities seems to be an attempt to suggest they are doing something wrong by not publishing the names of all their donors. But they are acting in compliance with the same privacy laws as every other charity which prevent them from doing anything so foolish.

Mr Sutherland’s “suspicions of money coming from American Christian organisations” are just that – unfounded suspicions. If he had examples, he would have cited them. But what would it matter if American Christians were to give money to UK charities? Are they such awful people that their giving is somehow tainted? Is Mr Sutherland’s suspicion of them based on hostility to their religion, their nationality, or both?

Mr Sutherland protests that he doesn’t think people of faith who take part in campaigns are “sinister”. Perhaps he protests too much.
Simon Calvert, The Christian Institute, Glasgow

Read more letters: History shows we must not allow Putin to keep his ill-gotten gains

Nuclear threat is very real

THERE are times when the public are so caught up in the emotion surrounding Ukraine that we lose sight of the fact that Russia is a superpower with more nuclear warheads than the USA or China. At the time of President Zelenskyy's visit to London, and his "Wings for Freedom" speech, some were demanding that the UK give him aircraft. The UK has 30 F35Bs on aircraft carriers and 137 Typhoons. It takes more than four years to train a pilot for a sophisticated modern fighter.

At a time when Russia has deployed tactical weapons for the first time in 30 years, their media and embassy are making chilling comments about UK support and its consequences. This support amounted to £2.3 billion in 2022 and Ben Wallace claims we will emulate that this year, so just how prepared are we for a nuclear attack?

Those of us who were around in the 1960s and 1970s will recall the public information campaign on civil defence. There were leaflets, radio broadcasts, newspaper adverts, and TV films which have lived long in the public consciousness. The origins lay in the civil defence leaflets prior to the Second World War and told householders how to survive a nuclear war. They were ridiculed by CND.

The best known were delivered by actor Patrick Allen, who told us, helpfully, how to build a shelter, avoid fallout and bury your dead. Each episode ended with a distinctive electronic musical phrase (created by BBC Radiophonic). Broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy broadcast the documentary QED, A Guide To Armagedon (1982) which focused on a nuclear attack on London. The War Game (1985) was a harrowing film of the period. In Modern Studies classes we saw pictures of Swiss nuclear bunkers. Today the few we had are a museum piece.

In the years since, we have convinced ourselves this was consigned to history. Then, in September, President Putin marked the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war, saying Russia could use a tactical nuclear weapon if Ukraine continued offensive operations. Until then Russia had said they would only be used if the very existence of Russia were threatened.

A month after the threat, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, warned Putin against this, but cautioned Nato not to give President Zelenskyy aircraft, long-range missiles or tanks.We have given 14 Challenger tanks.Wiser counsels have prevailed since the Westminster speech and, while giving air defence systems, President Biden and PM Sunak have denied planes.

China has proposed a 12-point peace plan involving a ceasefire and UN involvement. Xi has met Chancellor Scholz and will meet President Macron next month. Mr Zelenskyy is willing to go to Beijing but agreeing the UN can run independent referenda in the Donbas region would be a good starting point.
John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing

Make students pay us back

SCOTLAND'S NHS is facing a shortage of about 2,000 doctors as many leave to go abroad. There are already long waiting lists which are forcing desperate people who cannot afford it to seek out private treatment. This need not have happened if MSPs had put conditions on free university education.

In 2007 the Scottish Government introduced free university tuition for those who had lived in Scotland for three years. The university fees of £9,250 a year are paid by Scottish taxpayers. That is £40,000-£50,000 per student. There are ongoing shortages in the NHS of doctors, nurses and NHS dentists are scarcer than hens' teeth.

The Scottish Government should belatedly introduce a legally-binding contract that free university education is conditional on that they work in Scotland for five years and thus repay taxpayers' reluctant generosity.

Tax relief on private medical care would help ease the pain and reduce NHS waiting lists.
Clark Cross, Linlithgow


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.