THE other day I received a call from an English friend and lifelong supporter of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

To my pleasant surprise he did not seek to engage in further arguments around UK democracy but told me how impressed he had been with the First Minister through the coronavirus daily briefings which he regularly watches, apparently along with many of his compatriots in the north of England.

His praise did not stop at her straightforward and clear delivery or shrewd decision-making, but the fact that, in spite of persistent attempts on the part of the ‘British media’ to divert her onto political matters, she had consistently shunned the politics and focused on public health.

He then astonished me by expressing the view that he wished the “Tory Party” had a leader of the substantial abilities of Nicola Sturgeon and that she would undoubtedly make a much better Prime Minister than the “current incumbent” (his actual words were slightly more derogatory).

Yet in Scotland, and in spite of tens of thousands of lives being lost due to poor decisions made by the Prime Minister at the start of the pandemic, and over 10,000 lives lost in England over the last two months as lockdown measures were eased, there are still those who attempt to denigrate the First Minister and her management of the pandemic.

With no deaths to report most days now, and deaths over the same period at a fraction (even on a population basis) of those in England, primarily achieved through applying stricter easing of lockdown combined with a co-ordinated Test and Protect strategy, there is still a confounding denial among some here that Scotland can do anything better on its own.

The anecdotal evidence of how small independent countries around the globe, most without Scotland’s natural resources, have outperformed the UK both on health and economic bases is spurned, because supposedly our “great UK legacy” will be that, as an independent country, our economy has been so decimated that we will not even be able to prosper at an equivalent rate of what remains of a UK long in decline.

Not only does this belief illogically presume that an independent Scotland will adopt the failed policies of the UK Government but it is a sad indictment on those who identify as “Scots” but who lack faith not only in their fellow citizens, but perhaps more pertinently, themselves.

If Scotland can produce a First Minister who is head and shoulders above the Prime Minister as a competent political leader, why does anyone still doubt that we can produce leaders in all aspects of overcoming economic challenges and building a truly progressive country in our interconnected “new world”?

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian.

AS the “ fever” for independence sees its temperature rise it is sensible to look ahead to contemplate what is in store.

Apart from the still hugely uphill struggle to actually achieve independence there is another massive problem awaiting the nascent state.

Independence does not correspond to its dictionary definition in Scotland’s case. It refers to switching allegiance from Westminster to Brussels with a large dose of German and French “influence.” Not only is that not true independence, it will trigger copycat movements throughout Europe to push for a similar form of “independence” themselves if Scotland is granted access, starting with Catalonia.

Is this ramping up of grievance politics a realistic prospect for a European Union already riven with problems from its current member states?

Remember when we were claimed to be 14th most prosperous state on Earth as espoused by the SNP in 2014. EU membership will therefore either cost Scotland a lot more than it will get back to make it palatable to the other members or it will be refused. Why would the EU want another dependant state determined to “make its voice heard” on its books? Scottish independence might end up returning to its true dictionary meaning after all.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

I READ with interest the results of a poll undertaken by Panelbase on behalf of Business for Scotland, indicating that 49 per cent of people in England now supported English Independence.

Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “England should be an independent country and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be allowed to stand on their own two feet.”

Moreover, the majority of those who profess to be Labour or Conservative supporters, south of the Border, would like England to be an independent country.

What is particularly interesting is that respondents were invited to agree or disagree with the statement that “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be allowed to stand on their own two feet” and thus by inference, the suggestion that England currently subsidises the rest of the UK nations.

With survey results like this, I fear for the UK government. It is a case of “you reap what you sow”. For years the Conservative government approach has been to suggest that Scotland would not manage on its own, that we are propped up by the UK and thus by implication, the larger country, England.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has suggested Scotland would have struggled to cope with the pandemic if it were independent. What he failed to stress is that the money used for the furlough scheme is borrowed money and that Scotland under current constitutional arrangements does not have borrowing powers.

Last week, in Orkney, Boris Johnson did exactly the same, presenting the money for Orkney as if it were a gift from the UK. The message from Westminster is mixed and insulting.

For years the impression that Scotland is getting out more than it puts in has been the dominant theme. Papers released in 2014 indicated that Mrs Thatcher intended to suspend the Barnett Formula, after advice from David Willetts, a member of her policy unit, who told her that “Scotland and Northern Ireland have their snouts well and truly in the public expenditure trough”.

This sense of injustice is then aggravated by a misunderstanding down south of devolution and devolved responsibilities. The fact that Scotland has free prescriptions, free personal care and university tuition fees is seen as unfair by many in England.

What is rarely mentioned, however, is that the UK government could do the same for England if the parliament saw fit to do so. Scotland may be moving towards independence as polls indicate, but ironically, England may beat us to it.

Stuart Smith, Aberdeen.

THERE is some contradiction between the idea of an organisation in which Scotland is a partner and the relentless portrayal of any UK government payment to Scotland as a hand-out, a subsidy or a present, rather than an allocation from shared resources.

Although there have been many statements made by pseudo-independent think-tanks and economists of various cults, there has never been a truly independent assessment of the relative division of assets and liabilities between England and Scotland. As a co-proprietor of UK assets, Scotland has no say in their distribution. This is not the characteristic of a partnership.

Dr P.M. Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

IN his article (“BoJo still doesn’t ‘get’ Scots (It’s not the economy, stupid)”, July 26), Iain Macwhirter makes a couple of very good points to which both the Yes and No camps would do well to pay heed.

By not focusing on either of these issues, whichever is relevant to their cause, neither are doing their cases any good whatsoever, they being at the core of the debate on independence.

He suggests “...becoming independent would involve sacrifices and a degree of disruption. . . . . But there is no reason to suppose Scots would not put up with those if they thought the cause was big enough”. I welcome the initial admission, it being up to the Yes side to persuade us to consider independence worth the said “sacrifices and disruption”.

As far as the No faction is concerned they must demonstrate that they have a refreshed vision for the Union containing “Scottish identity within a new Union of equals”, there being a need for “politicians capable of articulating such a compelling vision. . . Johnson’s tunnel vision being Brexit nationalism.” “It’s not the economy, stupid.”

It is time for mature debate replacing the endlessly sterile disputes, for example, in your Letters Pages.

John Milne, Uddingston

BEFORE the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, a generation of leading UK politicians made promises about equality for Scotland within the UK.

At the 2012 Scottish Conservative Party Conference the then Home Secretary and future Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised “A future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners.”

Prior to the 2014 referendum, her promise of “equal partners” was endorsed by Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Ruth Davidson. Brown even talked of “Near Federalism”.

On the eve of the referendum, the then UK party leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg personally signed and published the “Vow” in which they agreed to “sharing….equitably across all four nations” and to “honour these principles and values not only before the referendum but after”.

Clearly, a distinguished generation of leading UK politicians gave these solemn promises – one might say these “once in a generation” solemn promises. Promises abandoned after the referendum.

The term “once in a generation” can be applied with equal weight to both referendums and to abandoned promises: it is no barrier to a second independence referendum.

Bruce Crichton, Hamilton.