I AM grateful to Peter Russell (Letters, January 24) for his acknowledgement that “no agreement equals no referendum: that is the long and the short of it”. This exposes the triviality and evasion of statements such as “once in a generation” as well as the regular observations about no majority of votes, as if this only matters in Scotland. None of it is more than a deflection from the reality of Westminster power and how it uses it.

Mr Russell fully exposes the utter powerlessness of Scotland and the Scottish electorate. It will make no difference if, as the polls suggest we will, we elect another Parliament with a majority for independence. Or, by electing in December as 80 per cent of our MPs, candidates who supported independence, it makes no difference, for, as Mr Russell prosaically puts it, “Boris Johnson has made it very clear that he is not minded to repeat that process [referendum] and that any request to do so is going to be refused.” Put another way, “Westminster says you’ve had your referendum” no matter who you elect, how you vote or how many there are of you. Democracy in the UK.

There is though, an alternative. Aidan O’Neill QC has recently published a legal opinion that an unofficial referendum is within the powers of the Scottish Government. Even if the Unionist side boycott this a very strong Yes vote might not have legal force, but it would be politically influential.

Former UK Ambassador and blogger, Craig Murray, argues: “One day, all supporters of independence are going to be forced to get their heads round the fact that London is going for the Madrid solution, and we are not going to achieve independence without using peaceful, non-violent routes which are nevertheless going to be deemed illegal by the Establishment.” It is therefore ironic that in its opinion to the International Court of Justice during the Kosovo case, the UK Government said: “In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor state’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition”.

I think it’s clear from Mr Russell’s conclusion that the notion that a vote for the SNP is a vote for a referendum is false, that he shares the view that if the independence movement is ignored it will go away. Presumably he hasn’t noticed that this hasn’t happened since 2014.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

ALEX Neil is an old Labourite who was our best ever Housing Minister and he is right about holding an advisory referendum on Scottish independence this year as it would be legal and within the competent powers of the Scottish Parliament to do so. Various academics have already said so.

Nicola Sturgeon, as we all know, was predictably refused a Section 30 order by the Tories at Westminster and instead she should get on with it and call the consultative referendum now. She already has four mandates to call it and anyway the devolved Scottish Parliament is the embodiment of a renegotiation of the terms of Union on the part of the sovereign Scottish people.

Therefore the Scottish Parliament is the legitimate representative of the people of Scotland and can legally sound out what the wishes of the Scottish people are on the future of Scotland as an independent nation without further recourse to Westminster.

Scotland should hold that consultative referendum as advocated by Mr Neil on Scottish independence as the Brexit clouds gather – because the window of opportunity will be short. Britain’s Brexit difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity.

Sean Clerkin, Barrhead.

PETER A Russell (Letters, January 24) maintains that it would be "an absurd proposition to suggest that a Scotland-only election can in any way mandate our UK-wide legislature". I did not say in my letter, to which he refers, that the Prime Minister would be mandated to transfer the power to hold another referendum, but rather that, with the background of an overall majority voting for the SNP, he would put in question his own credibility if he refused it.

If, in the Holyrood elections next year, a majority of those voting vote for the SNP, they are stating that they wish Scotland to be an independent country. After all, what that party stands for in the main is not at all obscure with the platform upon which it stands, being absolutely clear – it is all in the name. The General Election last year, with all the different party manifestos, turned into an election on Brexit when eventually the prolonged efforts to deny the result of the referendum on Europe were defeated. The Holyrood elections in 2021 will provide a meaningful test of the state of Scottish opinion. What could be a more relevant gauge? In my view, it would be absurd for the Prime Minister to ignore that hard evidence and to turn down another request from the SNP with that background. Such behaviour by the Prime Minister would smack of some kind of diktat and thus treating Scotland, as what many would view, as some kind of colonial appendage.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

SO now the truth is out. The SNP had no intention of honouring the result of the 2014 independence referendum if it did not go its way. In two separate interviews Kirsty Blackman, the SNP deputy leader in Westminster, stated that the "once in a generation" agreement was as far as the SNP as concerned, only a "turn of phrase". The argument seems to be that as it was not a written agreement then it was worthless. I now cannot but wonder what other verbal commitments were just "a turn of phase". Closing the attainment gap? Protecting the NHS? Judge us on education? Even "Standing up for Scotland"?

How can voters have confidence and trust in a governing party that thinks nothing of making commitments and promises that it later shows had no intention of fulfilling? Does Scotland want a government that has to be committed into a written agreement every time it makes a promise to ensure it honours it? How will other governments deal with a Scottish government whose message is "our word is not our bond"?

Paul Lewis, Edinburgh EH17.

Read more: Indyref2 power will stay with Westminster whatever the 2021 result