IN his article “The dilemma every unionist voter is about to encounter” (September 21), Mark Smith suggests that “last year’s election was our chance to vote against Brexit. Next year’s election will be the chance to vote against independence.”

I suggest that it is not as simple as that. In May next year the Scottish electorate will in all likelihood be facing another three years of Conservative rule under Cummings and Johnson. A lot more irreparable damage to Scotland, the UK and its global standing can be done in that time.

Mark Smith fails to take on board the possibility that many voters will take the opportunity to express their alarm, not to say disgust, at what has become of the Conservative Party and the total failure of the Scottish Conservatives to reflect our profound disquiet. A vote for the SNP is the way numerous voters, including many a unionist, will see as being the only answer to that dilemma.

John Milne, Uddingston.

MARK Smith comments that a poll says that 63 per cent of Scots are of the view that another independence referendum should not be a priority of a Scottish Government at this point.

Most of the current prognostications concerning the economic and financial implications of contending long-term with the pandemic and Brexit, have reminded me of another poll, conducted for the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey in 2011.

It showed that 65 per cent of Scots would support independence if they were to be £500 better off as a consequence and only some 21 per cent indicated that they would support it if they were to be £500 worse off. Much of the informed comment on the topic would suggest that, come independence, the Scots would be worse off by a multiple of £500.

One has to doubt that, faced with this, the majority of Scots, if given another referendum vote, would be prepared to allow the heart to overrule the head and to bite the bullet of making themselves significantly poorer.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

ANDY Maciver paints a pretty bleak picture for Scotland staying in the UK (“There is only one way unionists can put a stop to independence”, September 19). He points out that Leave UK has “won” the last seven opinion polls as an indicator of inevitable victory for nationalism. But he omits to mention that in the 114 polls prior to August 2020, Leave UK had been ahead in only 16 of them.

If the argument was on the basis of polls, the Nationalists would have given up years ago. A Survation poll on Friday put Remain ahead by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. Add the fact that there is no imminent referendum, so the question of how accurate these polls are will probably never arise. Put not your faith in polls, is my advice.

The other thing that Mr MacIiver misses is that even now, six years after losing their “once-in-a-generation” referendum, the Nationalists have no respectably argued case for leaving the UK that can stand up to intelligent scrutiny. And we have Brexit as a dire warning against believing promises based on nothing but supposed national exceptionalism and vigorous flag-waving.

The Scottish people were smart enough to reject the Nationalists’ pig in a poke once before. If they ever try to sell it to us again, there is no reason to believe that we will not reject it again, transient polls notwithstanding.

Alex Gallagher, Labour Councillor, Ward 8, North Ayrshire Council.

ANDY Maciver’s relatively short defence of Federalism (he spends most of his time discussing the travails of the Union) reminded me of discussions I used to have with my late colleague at Paisley University, Richard Mowbray.

Richard was a convinced Unionist, and we agreed little but we did agree that devolution was an organizationally unstable system of government.

My own view was that as the devolved administrations became accustomed to their new powers they would inevitably seek more, to the point where the centralisation of the UK state – or the Union, if you will – would be threatened.

A similar view to Richard’s was published last week in These Islands, a paper by Henry Hill, assistant editor of the website Conservative Home, in which he claims: “Devolution isn’t working. On that, both federalists and integrationists like myself are agreed.” I would take issue with the first claim, but it is the second one which is more interesting.

I think we know what is meant by “federalists”, but “integrationist” is a bit more obscure. Delving further into his article, we learn that “Without a sense of shared Britishness, political consent for fiscal transfers is on borrowed time”.

The key part of that sentence for Hill is the “sense of shared Britishness” as it underlies his hostility, at least conceptually, to devolution – “As more powers accrue to Holyrood and Cardiff Bay, the scope of British politics, and thus of the British national conversation – diminishes and so too, inevitably, does British identity”.

The logic of Hill’s position is that devolution was a wrong turning and should be reversed. However, we have to start where we are and that means contemplating the political reaction even to no more than a major diminution in Holyrood’s powers, or even a return to Scotland’s position in the Union prior to the first Scotland Act.

Of course, at this time, we can do no more than conjecture, but it seems to me that it could well seal the deal for independence. If, for instance, the choice was not independence or the UK, but independence or the UK without a Scottish Parliament, how might we vote?

However, Hill does at least have the merit of recognising the inherent and, for the UK, immutable defects of federalism – that one state would be 85 per cent of the whole, and that unless Westminster gave up its claim to be the sole sovereign legislature in the UK, nothing has really changed.

Those sharing Maciver’s support for federalism would do well to address such issues, as well as the challenges posed by Hill, before offering us up a federal structure as the solution to the UK’s constitutional debate.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

SOME might agree with Andy Maciver’s analysis, but perspective gives an alternative history.

David Cameron and his party, fresh from their victory in 2014 stated, “now the voices of England must be heard”, and instigated EVEL, and the referendum on the EU, membership of which Scots were given an absolute assurance of.

But forget the past, and let’s concentrate on Maciver’s “second group” and what he thinks it can offer. It’s difficult to trust any proposed federal system as an alternative to independence when we see the EU Withdrawal Bill overturning the very concept of devolved and autonomous national parliaments, and instead reserving all overweening authority/power to Westminster.

This is centralisation on steroids, and neither Johnson nor any other potential PM will readily give that up. Indeed the historic English tradition of Westminster parliamentary sovereignty made the promised entrenchment of devolved powers an impossibility, never mind federalism.

At a time when, incredibly, the Johnson Cabinet is willing to breach international Law, no sane person could, nor should, believe a word they said (or put in a Treaty).

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

I HOPE Sir Keir Starmer has taken note of The Herald’s on-line poll which asked readers how they would vote in a Scottish independence referendum; 72 per cent said they would vote in favour of Scottish independence, 28 per cent said they would vote against independence.

Pressed in a TV interview as to whether there should be an independence referendum if the SNP win a majority next May, Sir Keir admitted that “This is a question for Scotland and the people of Scotland. If there’s a majority it has to be looked at in Westminster”.

That is all well and good, but strangely enough I don’t see any mention from Sir Keir of it being looked at by his warring troops in Holyrood, or by his beleaguered branch manager, who is so anonymous that even the Deputy Leader of the UK Labour Party can’t remember his name.

This is a caught-in-the-headlights moment for Labour in Scotland; if they don’t change tack and fail to adapt to an increasingly more confident Scotland, they will be left mangled, again, at the side of the independence road when the ballot boxes are emptied next May. And Scotland’s future may be “looked at in Westminster” but it will be decided in Scotland. Remember that, Sir Keir.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

SIR Keir Starmer has expressed frustration that in the midst of a pandemic the SNP is talking about independence and the Tories are talking about Brexit.

He is being utterly disingenuous. These issues – Brexit in particular, given that the clock is ticking down on it and that we have a huge way to go before we get all the trade deals we desperately need – are hugely important ones for the future of country and cannot be ignored.

Less of a case can be made for talking about independence, but it is not as if the SNP government is actively campaigning for it, sending out leaflets and making nightly TV broadcasts. In any event, Labour and all the other parties are having to focus their attentions on the elections next May and to gear up for them. If that is not a distraction from the pandemic, what is?

James Scott, Glasgow.

Correction: An editing error in a letter yesterday from Ian MacGillivray attributed a remark about face-masks in schools to Glasgow’s Director of Education. The remark should have been attributed to John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister.