Should we really be ruling out Plan B?

Nicola Sturgeon is quoted this week, “We don’t need to be talking about Plan B when we have a perfectly good Plan A”. I agree that plan A is “perfectly good”, and also that “if we were to try to hold a referendum that wasn’t recognised as legal and legitimate – or to claim a mandate for independence without having demonstrated majority support for it – it would not carry the legal, political and diplomatic weight that is needed”. There can be no doubt, recognition by the international community is an essential precondition for independence.

However, that said, when the First Minister approaches Westminster for a Section 30 Order, what happens next when we get the Boris Johnson equivalent of “Now is not the time”?

Why would he not say that? Most polls suggest that in a general election any time soon, the Conservatives would be lucky to hold on to even half of their seats in Scotland. Some suggest a return to the 2015 result where they retained only one. Moreover, it is likely that Johnson’s manifesto would be saturated with claims about “GREAT Britain” and “the UNITED Kingdom”. A section 30 order is hardly consistent with that. He has little to lose in Scotland, and much to gain elsewhere.

So, in that event – and this is the basis of Plan B (whatever form it might take) – what then? A poll this week reports that Yes and No are both at 50%, but that in the event of Brexit, Yes would move ahead. However, if Westminster proves unwilling to allow expression of Scotland’s opinion, do we just meekly consent? Or do we look for an alternative route forward that could meet the same tests?

When the First Minister says that “Our opponents want to push us to talk about Plan B, because they know Plan A is the right one to deliver independence”, I fear she is being disingenuous. If there is a Plan A and a Plan B, it seems obvious that the order of use would be Plan A, and only if that led to continuous refusals, to bring Plan B forward at that point. From a negotiating point of view, if Westminster is convinced that Scotland’s only strategy is a S30 order then continuing to say “NO” will be enough. But if this goes on often enough and long enough should there not be an alternative approach? After all, how much sense does it make to keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result?

I am confident that the First Minister’s strategy, certainly since June 2016, has been to be able to go to the Scottish electorate at a second referendum and say, “I tried this, I tried that, I tried every possibility, but nothing worked”, and I think in this she has been right. But eventually, if it becomes clear a Section 30 order is unlikely, the only alternative left is surely to assert ourselves and our own rights as the nation we are.

Alasdair Galloway


I was astonished to read Iain Macwhirter's gloomy assertion that there "is a kind of melancholy settling over the independence movement" (Herald on Sunday, October 13). I can detect no signs of melancholy in the independence supporters I know who are geared up, eager and ready for the campaign to come.

There was definitely no melancholy on display at the recent All Under One Banner march in Edinburgh, just thousands upon thousands of dedicated and determined people who know their goal is within touching distance, and the opinion poll results published in The Herald on Sunday show that they have every right to be optimistic.

Of course people are in a hurry for independence, and there are bound to be different opinions as to how that can be achieved. But Nicola Sturgeon is right to keep her troops on the high ground for now; when Plan A is the only plan that can ultimately deliver a legally and legitimately binding independence, there is no need for a Plan B, as delegates to the SNP conference overwhelmingly agreed.

As for seeing our independence hopes "come to nought" never have our hopes, our optimism and our resolve been so high. So cheer up, Mr Macwhirter, this is no time to sag at the knees.

Ruth Marr


As she continues to agitate against Brexit, deal or no-deal, and indeed any kind of future in the UK, no matter who is in power at Westminster, Nicola Sturgeon seeks to reassure Scotland that she will be honest with us regarding the implications of independence.

While she intends to contrast this with the arguments for Brexit, the First Minister unwittingly reminds us that so much in the White Paper that the 2014 case for Scottish independence was based on, has since been discredited. Economic forecasts based on unrealistic oil tax revenues, suggestions that a divorce deal with the UK and establishing all the infrastructure for a separate country could all be finalised in just 18 months and at minimal cost, and ill-judged assumptions about currency, will all need to be revisited.

With people so much better informed on the realities of what it takes to try to disentangle a relatively recent union (with the EU), the “trust us, it will all be easy” approach will no longer wash when it comes to explaining the risks and costs of breaking up the closest possible of economic, social and political unions.

Even more sensitive for the SNP, is how to explain "honestly", if we do choose to leave the UK in order to rejoin the EU, how, when and on what terms the SNP can guarantee that EU membership.

Keith Howell

West Linton

These are the real people our society needs

What an inspiring article that should be read by every politician ("These kids just want somebody to tell them that they're good enough. I'm on a mission to show them they're the best", The Big Read, October 13). I was one of that group who got a second chance (or first chance!); I worked for an organisation that gave second (or first) chances to live and study overseas.

As a teacher, for a spell I taught the "15 year-old drop-outs" and saw the "mathematically illiterate" flash back fixed-odds calculations that left me breathless.

Will our politicians please leave academia to the academics and the "top few" elite and design schools that teach practical skills (that actually also address the three Rs) and re-instate colleges that offer "practical" education that is vital for the bulk of jobs and employers.

This would have the side-effect of making our universities fit for purpose rather than full of overseas students – to swell the budgets and over-pay top staff, and young people sent to make them feel educationally adequate (surely inverse snobbery).

Instead we would highlight the real fact of life that our society needs the silent middle-of-the-road group who are the true elite in terms of their use and contribution to society.

James Watson


Take care with these restrictions

Those who argue for new legislation to control camping should be very careful (“Ban on tents at country’s top beauty spots”, Herald on Sunday, October 13). To be able to travel across land and water is a basic democratic right, to be exercised by everyone at any time.

This includes the ability to stop, for rest, relaxation or safety reasons. It may include the need to park a vehicle or bicycle, tie up a horse or land a boat. UK traffic, river and marine regulations protect these essential requirements and, in this country, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 safeguards our right to walk across land and erect a tent.

Today too many politicians at local and national level do not appear to recognise these fundamentals. Worried about problems in our national parks and other popular places, some appear determined to reach for draconian regulatory measures that would be excessive, expensive and unnecessary.

The answer lies in better roadside facilities, as found in every other European country, combined with the proper enforcement of our existing laws to prevent litter, fly tipping and damage to trees and vegetation. A drive along the A9 between Perth and Inverness is just one example of a pathetic lack of such facilities which no other country would tolerate.

No new laws are required. Neither should we misuse existing law, as is occurring today in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park where large sums of public money are being wasted on an ineffective and inappropriate camping permit system. It is completely wrong to criminalise those who wish to stop overnight close to our road network and leave no trace. Any politician who thinks otherwise needs to get outdoors and put up a tent.

Dave Morris


When I read Sandra Dick's article around a plan to ban wild camping, I went looking for a packet of salt so I could add a large pinch to what Highland councillor Kirsteen Currie had to say.

The people she wants to target aren't "put on gaiters and go for a nice walk Munro-baggers", she says. "I don't want to impinge on anyone's right to roam," she says.

I agree that there are real issues with people selfishly ignoring the age-old unwritten rule of wild camping – "Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints" – and I agree that action should be taken to do something about them for the sake of our wild places.

But these new rules give me a huge sense of foreboding – it wouldn't be the first time public bodies and jobsworth autocrats have taken the spirit of rules and stretched them so far that they are unrecognisable from their original purpose.

Am I the only one who wonders how long it will be before the "only by the roadside" restrictions will become "within 100 metres of the road" or "within sight of the beauty spot"?

Eventually, how far into the wilderness will the restrictions go, how many traditional camping spots will be lost because they happen to be inside an arbitary line on a map? And who will be the ones making the decisions?

Because, let's be honest, it's not going to be the genuine lovers of wild places; the ones who DO "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints" – it's going to be someone in a big office who has little knowledge of our wilderness, but who has a big axe to grind or a budget cut to make (how much cheaper would it be if there were fewer bins that needed emptied along busy routes?).

Be careful what you wish for Ms Currie – or one on the things that make Scotland so great might be sacrificed.

Davie Anderson


Have these Craftivists really thought it through?

I was interested by Vicky Allan's article on the peaceful knitters and Craftivists (Herald on Sunday, October 13). I completely acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of knitting and sewing, I’ve applied it all my life and yes the world would be a better place if we all created more with our hands and less with our thumbs!

But I do wish the young (that’s anyone under 45) would look beyond their immediate social media excitement and acknowledge those who have indeed fought and supported the fight for the planet since the 1960s. Thousands of individuals across the country and groups such as Greenpeace are involved in that fight every day. And remember such actions as the wonderful women of Greenham Common did. Now those were was the days!

I fervently hope that something useful materialises out of the current activities, but the young do act as if no one has been concerned for or considered the state of the planet before Blue Planet was shown on our tellies. Has everyone forgotten Jonathon Porritt and Irving Stowe and Dorothy Stowe? Shame!

Also it’s great to give the local paper an item with the amazing soft pink road block but – but just think for a moment how many blankets those squares would have made for refugees huddled at our “border” in France, or for local homeless shelters – embellished with all their lovely bits of knitted jewellery. How they would uplift a homeless person’s spirit in the hostel.

And finally, but critically, I am pretty sure the “wool” they use to festoon everywhere with symbols of love and peace will not be natural, biodegradable British wool but acrylic – now do they know what that is made from ...?

Theresa Hughes


There is ongoing correspondence relating to climate change, emissions etc with Scotland’s share quoted as 0.15%, this figure often being compared with much larger contributors such as China. The UK share is quoted as 1.13%.

If one looks at emissions tables, India lies 20th. In tonnage per capita terms with the UK placed 13th, just above Italy and France, however in total tonnage terms India lies 3rd, with the UK 13th – again higher than Italy and France.

It is known that greenhouse gas levels have risen by over 30% in the last 50 years and I have no doubt that climate change is happening. I am aware of measures being taken to mitigate increased flood risk due to new road and property developments but wonder what measures are being taken/are required relative to climate change issues?

Duncan Miller


I always know what Dr John Cameron, Clark Cross and Keith Howell are going to say before I read their letters. Thank goodness for the expert climate scientists AND Greta Thunberg getting Extinction Rebellion started.

I have worried for 40 years over the lack of respect for the planet and everything on it. Now the demonstrations are getting people and governments talking. Of course it's ACTION we need now, the time for talking has ended.

The opinions of the aforementioned correspondents make no sense to anybody but themselves. So we just don't waste our energy on them.

Margaret Forbes