AT its best a political party leadership election should be an opportunity to put all the party's positive characteristics and strengths to the fore.

Yet the SNP leader election process, together with the candidates vying to be the next First Minister, have instead emphasised the very worst of what the SNP has to offer. Flaws and shortcomings have been bared for all to see – revealed not by the SNP’s critics but by the party’s own past and future leadership (“Russell: Things have gone wrong, and spectacularly wrong, in recent weeks”, The Herald, March 20).

The party that has too often used cynical deflection and misdirection to sidestep criticisms of its many years of missed targets, questionable priorities and misjudgements, has demonstrated itself that the pretence cannot continue.

With the many twists and turns of politics no one can predict confidently what will happen in the next few weeks, let alone the coming years. Yet one thing seems certain. Whenever the SNP seeks to push for independence from this point, Scotland will remember the chaos and admissions of failure of the last few weeks, that have come from the very people who want us to trust them with all our futures.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

• THE Letters Pages today (March 20) are awash with commentary on the SNP leadership situation which Michael Russell has described as a "bourach". Some suggest that the independence campaign has been set back by a decade. This might be the case for those whose goal is an SNP Scotland, but the case for an independent Scotland is unaltered by turmoil in any political party.

Scotland will remain like a trailer hitched to the towbar of a vehicle driven by its neighbour whose driver will dictate the destination and route. The SNP has always been the easy target for unionists. The democratic deficit is much more difficult to dispute and discredit. Independence will only be achieved when sufficient Scottish voters of all political stripes "come out" and add their voices to the All Under One Banner movement.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


ISOBEL Lindsay's plaintive cry of "why did no-one tell us?" (Letters, March 20) is risible – the shortcomings of the Nicola Sturgeon-Peter Murrell cabal have been plain for all to see for years. However, the cult surrounding the SNP leadership was very happy to go along with the myth of Nicola Sturgeon-The-Cleverest-Girl-Who-Reads-Lots-of- Books, and anyone who voted for her or her party is complicit in delivering to Scotland the mess that we see today. "Weesht for indy" says it all.

Thankfully, the Salmond-Sturgeon-Murrell Years are over, and the credibility of all those who so blindly followed them into the dead end of the independence movement is in tatters. Every time they speak, every time that this or that ludicrous claim is made for independence is made, when every letter in favour of independence or Indyref2 is published in these columns, we should look at it and say "these people are the same ones who worshipped Nicola Sturgeon and kept shtum about the SNP. Why should we trust a word they say?"

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

Read more: SNP President admits 'things have gone spectacularly wrong'


I ATTENDED an SNP leadership debate in Inverness last week which was very well organised and hosted by a local newspaper. The audience was derived from its digital subscribers. There was no way of determining their politics, and no-one asked us, either during the event or beforehand.

It had an interesting effect on the candidates, who had to assume that this was a genuine cross-section of opinion from Inverness and the northern Highlands. There was virtually no mention whatsoever of constitutional politics. The discussion was to do with the A9 and the A96, NHS provision, support for rural businesses, infrastructure development, the operation of the Cairngorms National Park and reform of local government. At one point, there was so much talk about devolution of local government that it felt like the candidates were reading from a LibDem manifesto. Kate Forbes was presenting her Tory-lite side to local business, and there is no doubt that had politics in Scotland been different at the moment that Humza Yousaf would have been wearing a red rosette.

Much of the crowd was sceptical. Why would the SNP invest in the area now when it had not done this in the last 15 years? Why would a party which has centralised so much power now suddenly see the value of delegating responsibility? You would think they were telling people what they thought they wanted to hear.

And here is the thing. This SNP Government is obviously not going to last for long. The real choice is between one of these three, and Messrs Ross, Sarwar and Cole-Hamilton. If the debate is between left, right and liberal, then you might as well look at the full-fat versions. The issue of course is that they are all virtually invisible at the moment. All opposition politicians in the Scottish Parliament need to up their game and start telling the public what they are about and what it is they have to offer. The public want to debate real-life issues. They are sceptical about the SNP, but it is not good enough for others to simply be anti-SNP.

What do they believe, and what will they do? These are the real questions. The next election is not as far away as people think, and the Holyrood opposition parties need to waken up to this.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.

Read more: Shame on those who practised 'wheesht for indy'


FOR Peter Murrell, one of the most successful political operators not just in Scotland but across Europe, to be brought down by a trivial matter of party membership is almost comic. However, it is important to the narrative that his demise was not a result of political or media exposure but was a result of internal party disquiet at his long, secretive tenure.

We may all ponder why the Labour Party lies over Iraq, or Tory lies over Brexit, were not career-ending events, as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are still Labour Big Beasts and Boris Johnson plots yet another Tory comeback. “The end of the SNP” froth pundits. The party has a breathing space before elections, and if it chooses a decent leader and properly fights its corner, the opposition it faces is still Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar (hardly political heavyweights), whose policies are more London-centralised control.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

• I HAVE been amused by the repeated comments by Jackie Baillie (the deputy leader of Labour in Scotland) that, at a time of evident SNP disunity, Labour at Holyrood under Anas Sarwar and Labour at Westminster under Sir Keir Starmer have never been so united.

Though, presumably, not on Europe, where Sir Keir's views diverge markedly from those of 72 per cent of the people of Scotland.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife.

Read more: Sturgeon should be ashamed at the mess she's leaving behind


ON March 3, John Swinney announced without much fanfare his departure from high office in the slipstream of Nicola Sturgeon's dramatic statement on February 15, perhaps in the hope that his own record will thus receive less scrutiny than hers.

Last Thursday, he seemed confident that his plan was working out when he reprimanded opposition MSPs for "shouting" during his latest ferries update ("Stop shouting at me': John Swinney hits out over Scots ferry fiasco", heraldscotland, March 16). He felt so sure of his ground, that, twice, he emphasised with sincere satisfaction, that he won't be around when the ferries see active service.

One wonders if such "quiet confidence" is the norm in the Deputy First Minister's department, which is apparently responsible for efficient government, public service reform, the National Performance Framework, and also for the National Register of Scotland (NRS) whose chief, Paul Lowe, was quietly replaced on the very day of the First Minister's resignation announcement. As the keeper of the nation's statistics, a vital tool for evidence-based policy making and for holding politicians to account, Mr Lowe had failed to deliver on both counts: defying a ruling by the Scottish Information Commissioner, he delayed the release of Covid-19 deaths in individual care homes until after the 2021 Holyrood election; and he presided over the late, delayed and possibly botched 2022 census. On the latter, the UK Statistics Authority said: "We consider that it would be in NRS’s interests to be more transparent now about the steps that it is taking to generate good quality census estimates".

Yes, we could do with less shouting and fewer tantrums. As long as we have ministers and government departments who own any failures transparently and without obfuscation and delays.

Harald Tobermann, Edinburgh.