I AM sorry that the Saltire makes your columnist, Mark Smith cringe ("Why the Saltire makes me cringe", The Herald, October 10).

The Union flag, or "Butcher's Apron", that gives him such warm feelings makes me cringe for most of the reasons he outlines in his piece. But then, taste in national symbols is always subjective.

I must, however, reject his statement that the Saltire, and thereby Scottishness, represents a "narrowing of perspective, a separation, a reduction of identity". Not from where I'm standing it doesn't.

Scotland is a nation and has retained its identity in spite of 300 years of pressure for us to submerge Scottishness in a swamp of a British identity that increasingly reflects English and more particularly, metropolitan, language and culture.

As to "narrowing", I can do no better than quote from Hugh MacDiarmid's wonderful poem, Scotland Small?:

"Scotland small? our infinite Scotland small?

Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliché corner

To a fool who cries 'Nothing but heather ...".

Mark Smith may consider it smart to decry his native land and its symbols. He is relatively young and these are the ways in which young people often like to draw a distinction between themselves and older, "past it", generations.

As someone who has lived a lot longer than he has, I caution him to be on his guard as he grows older: be prepared to ward off those warm Scottish sentiments that are the comfort and consolation of age.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,



MARK Smith may cringe at the Saltire and experience warm feelings of shared destinies at the sight of the Union flag but to James Connolly, the Edinburgh-born socialist and Irish Republican, it was the "Butcher's Apron". To many it is a symbol of oppression and racial domination and it has cost Scotland dearly.

The ethnic cleansing of the Clearances and extirpation of Gaelic language and culture; young men press-ganged into the army to die in distant lands; exploitation and wretched poverty for the ordinary folk, but incredible wealth for the few; and disease, ill health and an early death for the poor crowded together in hovels. This is Scotland's historic legacy for being complicit in British empire building.

Mark Smith may prefer to dwell on the Olympics and the rousing music of the Proms but ignoring the huge negative aspects of modern Britishness - the systematic dismantling of the welfare state, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deployment of Trident - doesn't make them go away. We still suffer these, because we're British, loyal to the Union flag.

The Saltire was never, as he claims, "at the front of many an invader's army". It was not blood-stained in imperial wars of conquest abroad, but in defence of Scottish identity and independence, so frequently threatened.

It is the Union flag, the emblem of British nationalism, that "represents a narrowing of perspective, a separation, a reduction of identity" from the internationalist and communitarian spirit which has always characterised Scottish identity at its best.

This is why honourable humanitarians such as Jimmy Reid have embraced it, as have many of our finest writers and poets - Edwin Morgan, Ian Banks, William McIlvanney, Alistair Gray, James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, David Greig, and many more.

Does Mark Smith not wonder why the No campaign lacks a comparable constellation of talented supporters?

Brian M Quail,

2 Hyndland Avenue,


OVER the years, during frequent visits to family and friends south of the Border, I have become increasingly comforted to see that more and more English people are realising that their national flag is the cross of St George, not the Union flag. How ironic it was, then to read Mark Smith's article. The Scottish cringe is indeed alive and well.

James Clark,

8 Thistle Place,


DR Martin Seligman, the positive psychology guru, notes in an analysis of US presidential election results that those who offer a positive view of the future consistently trump those of a negative persuasion. If we take this hypothesis and apply it to the current independence debate, it would seem to me that the Yes campaign is on the positive side, offering voters a vision of a more prosperous and fairer Scotland, whilst the Better Together Campaign has been largely negative, focusing on potential problems that come with independence rather than the positive benefits of staying in the Union.

It seems that the new Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, will need to come up with a positive vision for Scotland staying in the UK, rather than just being "feistily" negative. The Coalition Government's offering of more austerity, privatisation of the NHS, dismantling of the welfare system and targeting the disadvantaged, whilst giving tax breaks to the wealthy and bashing immigrants may well be an agenda which appeals to the Home Counties, but it won't cut the mustard in Scotland. This positive vision should also include some clear statement about what additional devolved powers will come to Scotland should the No campaign triumph.

Unless the Better Together team gets its act together, could Alex Salmond and the nationalists prove Dr Seligman right and deliver a Yes victory contrary to the pundits and against the odds?

Gerry Boyle,

17 Spalding Drive,


I CAN sympathise with Bill Brown's dismay about Michael Moore's sacking, but when was Scotland's future ever "a wholesome public issue" (Letters, October 10)?

We have seen dirty dealings from the earliest days, when Daniel Defoe was a spy for the Unionist side and the "parcel o' rogues" made up of leading Scottish aristocrats handed over Scotland's sovereignty in 1707. This carried on to the concealment of the McCrone Report and Denis Healey's recent revelations of lies about Scotland's oil wealth.

One of the big difficulties in the debate is that those who support the Yes vote have been persuaded that Scotland was forced into the Union and that the benefits have been far less than claimed by those who support the Union. Those in the No camp generally see this as an irrelevance, not part of what affects us now.

Like Ireland, we have been blighted by emigration, with many of our most talented young people leaving Scotland. I often wonder why people can accept this state of affairs as being in the nature of things. Scotland has contributed annually 9.9% of GDP to the UK Government, which has given back 9.3% through the Barnett formula. This effectively means that Scotland has helped to build and support the infrastructure of London and the south-east at the expense of her own. We will contribute to the folly of the HS2 rail link, from which we will derive no benefit.

Alistair Carmichael among others is calling for the dismantling of the Barnett formula in favour of a needs-based approach excluding a national formula.

We should all think hard about this, because the losers will be our future generations.

Maggie Chetty,

36 Woodend Drive,