MARK Smith (“Reaction to Johnson reveals what Scotland is really like”, The Herald, July 27) is wrong to ascribe Boris Johnston’s unpopularity in Scotland to entrenched dislike of “rich, posh, English Tories” stretching back for over 40 years.

He feels we despise the man rather than his politics, and invites comparisons with Scottish attitudes to Margaret Thatcher who, interestingly, was neither particularly rich or posh.

Mrs Thatcher was indeed despised in Scotland as she pursued her heartless destruction of Scotland’s heavy industries. The overwhelming reaction to this onslaught (shared by a significant number of Scottish Tories) was not driven by antipathy to her accent or origins but by way these policies were applied without regard to communities or society.

Turning to Boris Johnson, it doesn’t take an opinion poll to confirm that he is held in extremely low regard by a majority of Scots, especially in comparison to the First Minister.

Newspaper columnists find it easy to write how his persona of the dissembling public schoolboy with tousled hair and faux bonhomie does not play well in Scotland.

However, it is his shambolic communication, poor attention to detail and misplaced optimism in the face of a deadly pandemic that has eroded our opinion of his abilities. And that’s before the Dominic Cummings debacle is considered.

Beyond Mr Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis however lie the principal reasons why he has little traction in Scotland.

He, of course, was the leader of the Brexit campaign, standing before the red bus, parroting “take back control”, and now heading for either no-deal or a poor deal at the end of this year.

By a substantial majority Scotland rejected both Brexit and more recently, Mr Johnson’s government. Tories would claim that the Brexit vote and general elections are UK plebiscites and Scotland’s opinion in isolation is irrelevant.

That assertion is legally correct but politically unsustainable. In many ways these events mirror the “democratic deficit” and “doomsday scenario” widely discussed in Scotland in the 1980s.

It has been reported that Boris Johnson, like Margaret Thatcher, “doesn’t get Scotland”. I suspect that is true. Mrs Thatcher’s intransigence in applying policies, including the Poll Tax, which had no popular support in Scotland eventually led to her downfall and, seven years later, the legislation to establish a Scottish Parliament.

I expect Boris Johnson’s legacy will be to facilitate independence by inflicting Brexit and a raft of deeply unpopular Tory policies upon Scotland. However, this will not occur, as Mark Smith suggests, because Scots are generally unimpressed by entitled, posh Tories from the deep south.

Iain Gunn,



MARK Smith argues that the Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland and the reactions to it “isn’t a sign of how much has changed. It’s a sign of how much hasn’t changed at all”. Really?

He was comparing the Thatcher years with today, and the opposition to the Conservatives in Scotland. Well, during the intervening period the SNP started to rise in popularity, rattling the Blair Government into “allowing” a Scottish Assembly, and thereby “killing the SNP stone dead” (George Robertson, Labour grandee).

When that didn’t work, and those pesky SNP people kept winning more seats, the Smith Commission granted more powers. Labour were decimated, and the Scottish Conservatives, after a brief revival under Ruth (put-the-boot-in) Davidson fell back. And the SNP continued, and continues, to rise in popularity.

So the situation has radically changed: the two main Unionist parties have substantially declined (as have the Lib Dems), and the opposition to the UK Government, and Westminster rule, is in Government in Scotland. That’s a big change.

Mark Smith is correct that the SNP is still talking about a threat to Scottish policies and institutions, but he dismisses these threats. And – the old, old story – he advises the SNP to pipe down, as there’s no longer any question of Scottish interests being undermined. Brexit, anyone?

If indeed nothing has changed, what does that say about the state of the Union? The hard fact is that Scottish interests will always be secondary to a Westminster Government. And only one party will stand up for Scottish interests.

Hamish McPherson,


MARK Smith claims that not much has changed in Scotland and that the Scottish reaction to Boris’ trip north of the Border last week is similar to that of visits from Tory PMs of the past.

On what planet has Mr. Smith been living these past few months?

Polls showing sustained support above 50 per cent for an independent Scotland are what sent Boris scurrying north to coddle crabs and slurp soup.

Here are a few reasons attitudes have changed.

The Tory Government’s abysmal response to the pandemic means the UK has the highest per capita Covid-19 death rate in the world. Being part of the UK has harmed Scotland’s Covid-19 response compared to other small independent European nations.

Because it doesn’t have control of its own finances, Scotland is on the hook to pay back a population share of the £1.95 trillion UK debt even though Scotland gets less than a population share of the furlough scheme and loan packages.

An independent Scotland would have its own currency and central bank and could provide the necessary support to its people and industries as other small European nations have successfully done.

A UK single market is a poor substitute for the EU Single Market, which Scotland did not vote to leave. In terms of exports, Scottish trade with the EU is worth £15 billion and growing, whilst that with England is static.

Scotland is being ripped out of its biggest market thanks to the UK Tory government. Boris says an independent Scotland would not be able to trade with England and Wales. Then where will the electricity, gas and oil come from to keep the lights on and heat homes in England?

Westminster will impose lower food, environmental and safety standards on Scotland and last week voted to put the NHS on the auction block to the highest bidder as part of getting a trade deal with the US.

The threat to Scotland remaining in this failing Union is great and growing by the day. That’s what has changed.

Leah Gunn Barrett,


MARK Smith’s argument depends on going no further back than the 1980s. In the 1940s and 1950s, it would be difficult to suggest that “Scotland and England [were] profoundly different/they are on different political paths”, and by comparison that things are as they always have been.

During the 1940s and 1950s, almost the reverse of now, the Conservatives could only be said to be serious political players in Scotland.

Even in the Labour triumph of 1945 they won as many seats in Scotland as Labour (35), while in 1955 they were the largest political group with 36 seats compared to Labour’s 34. Not much need to “regain Scotland” then, though things changed.

If we continue to use seats won at Westminster as our measure, until 1987 the usual Conservative Party representation from Scotland would be twenty something. In 1987, however the decline became more marked as only 10 Conservatives were elected in 1992, and then in 1997 none at all, while Labour in the main took advantage. In the Noughties they typically won one seat.

The years between 1945 and now reveal the poverty of Smith’s argument. For instance, he claims “Tory PMs have always been unpopular in Scotland”, yet in 1949 Winston Churchill (by then a former and future Prime Minister) addressed a rally of 22,000 at Ibrox Park, during which he said, “I hope we shall continue to call ourselves the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations. In this title there is room for all and none need be repelled or slighted by its terms”.

Would this happen today?

It is obvious, since that time of a clear sense of a unified British project, things have changed. The unimpeachable evidence of MPs returned at elections graphically illustrates the waxing and waning of the two main British parties committed to the Union.

Of course their supporters will say they will come again, and so they might. However it is completely clear that Mark Smith’s conclusion, that “the Prime Minister’s visit to Scotland isn’t a sign of how much has changed. It’s a sign of how much hasn’t really changed at all” is wholly unwarranted.

Alasdair Galloway,


HOW much longer is the Herald going to subject us to the increasingly despairing anti-independence ramblings of Mark Smith?

The latest rabbit to emerge from his hat is his exclusive disclosure that English Tories are no longer a threat to Scotland.

We Scots should therefore relax and take comfort with constitutional arrangements under which we find ourselves governed by a party which we did not elect, which has modelled itself on UKIP, which has taken us out of the EU against our wishes and has introduced an immigration policy under which our young people will have unhindered access to low-paid employment while facing competition from immigrants for better-paid careers.

Both sides of the independence debate should be represented in the Herald but surely we can have some serious grown-up journalism rather than Mark Smith’s pathetic attempts to airbrush away the truth.

Willie Maclean,