lead letters: Liz LOCHHEAD:


My attention has been drawn to a curious, almost madcap, article by Colette Douglas Home complaining about our national Makar taking out her civic entitlement of SNP membership (??Makar should be above the fray of party politics??, The Herald, December 2)) .

If Ms Douglas Home had not speculated on my remarks about Eddie Morgan??s political affiliations and motivations about the appointment of Liz Lochhead then I would have let the matter rest. But she did and so let me explain why her views are both wrongheaded and out of touch. My remark about the late Eddie Morgan not wearing his SNP politics ??on his sleeve?? was not because he was our Makar but because he was Eddie Morgan. It was his way. Just as it is Liz Lochhead??s way to do things differently; as is her civic right.

If Liz was our head of state (an interesting idea) then her SNP declaration might be open to question assuming she had not run on such. She is not. She is the Makar and no member of the committee of former First Ministers who appointed her would ever have made this appointment politically restricted. Such a nonsense would have been the very opposite of the artistic merit on which the appointment was based.

But Ms Douglas Home??s views are not just wrong about the specific post of Makar; they are also strangely illiberal and out of touch with the new Scotland. For example, some time ago I asked a prominent Labour Party supporter to serve as one of Scotland??s Law Officers. In the event she declined the offer due to other commitments. It would never have even occurred to me to not make that offer because of her politics or to insist that she resiled from them in order to secure appointment.

Ms Douglas Home assumes that, by taking out SNP membership, Liz Lochhead distances herself from the 55 per cent of the country who voted No. She does not. Your columnist needs to reflect further on her idealistic youth in Northern Ireland and the present liberating reality of so many of her fellow citizens, and in this particular context, especially women, newly and publicly declaring themselves for the national cause.

In contrast, the only people worried are that tiny percentage (and it is a tiny percentage) who, like Ms Douglas Home and in extraordinary small mindedness, would seek to deny others the very civil rights that she would demand for herself.

Alex Salmond SNP MSP, The Scottish Parliament,

Holyrood, Edinburgh.


As an admirer of Colette Douglas Home??s journalism, her latest article was a huge disappointment. Her argument that ?? ??If a country is to have a Makar, shouldn??t that person speak to all the people???- is ridiculous. Does she think that, since joining the SNP, Liz Lochhead??s poems will all be haggis flavoured? Liz??s poems, like all good poetry, do indeed speak to all people, regardless of nationality.

My understanding of the role of Makar is that the holder should be a gifted poet, raise the profile of poetry in Scotland and inspire and encourage others to write, or simply enjoy, reading poetry. That Liz Lochhead fulfils all these criteria has never been in any doubt.

As Ms Douglas Home points out, the Makar??s predecessor, Edwin Morgan, was also an SNP supporter. No one suggested his poetry did not speak to ??all of the people??; ah, but he was a man.

Patricia Dishon,

62 Inchview Terrace,



Peter A. Russell??s understanding of the obligations placed upon members of the SNP (Letters, December 3) is a misinterpretation of the facts. The obligation is there to prevent party members opposing the SNP in elections or otherwise damaging its reputation.

As an SNP member, I fully understood what I was signing up to and I also fully understood that the party and the Scottish Government are separate entities. I have often heard members at branch meetings criticise our government??s actions or policies, it would be strange if every party member agreed with everything. These criticisms have been debated with frankness and in good faith and nobody has called for the head of the person making them.

As a party member, I know that if I damaged the SNP??s chances in any election I would be obliged to resign. As a poet myself, however, I know that the only thing that makes for good verse is utter, even painful, honesty. Happily, I have never found those two obligations incompatible and I know, from the quality of Liz Lochhead??s work, that she will feel the same.

What I don??t know, but suspect, is that none of this furore would have arisen had Ms Lochhead opted to join any one of the Unionist parties.

David C. Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,

Loanhead, Midlothian.


I am very concerned that Liz Lochhead, as a former pupil of Dalziel High School, might be a supporter of Motherwell football club. How can any right-thinking fan of Hamilton Accies be certain that she is not smuggling pro-Steelmen references into her published work? If it can be shown that she does indeed possess a season ticket for Fir Park, I demand her immediate resignation from the post of Makar.

Sandy Thomson,