THE article by Kevin Hague, chairman of pro-union group These Islands and their focus groups’ analysis offered no statistical information on how the groups were constructed (“Why Sturgeon might not actually be leading an unstoppable force”, November 27).

I searched in vain that some light might be shed on why Scotland should remain in the Union. Apart from the discredited GERS report, which shows how Scotland fares as part of the UK and not as an independent country, the cupboard remained empty with nothing on offer.

For those seeking independence this is disappointing but, as Ruth Davidson found out previously, if you offer nothing, there is nothing to defend, which in turns allows the attack dogs to be released, untrammelled by the need to defend anything.

Where I do agree with Mr Hague is that support for independence based on a single leader doing well in a pandemic would indeed be based on sand and could quickly collapse along with the virus.

Unlike Mr Hague, I do not think it is “near-blind faith” in Nicola Sturgeon which has resulted in favourable polls for independence, but the circumstances in which she has operated which have demonstrated how an independent country might look when left to its own devices, and at that, with extremely limited powers and Westminster holding the purse firmly in its grasp.

Mr Hague tells us his comments are “Project Fact” rather than “ Project Fear” but completely destroys his own argument by failing to mention the most important fact of all, which is the effect Brexit has had on increasing support for independence with Scotland being taken out of the EU against the wishes of a large majority of Scottish voters.

It is those taking the UK out of the EU who are the real separatists.

Some argue the economic case for independence has to be proved but it cannot be other than predictions, estimates and guesswork based on what we know, and that is easily distorted by both sides, as we know from the many examples set by Westminster.

There has to be belief in being able to stand up and do it for yourself, difficult, of course, with a well-encouraged begging bowl mentality.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield, Glasgow.

KEVIN Hague’s analysis makes fascinating and illuminating reading. Boris Johnson is an ill-disciplined, incompetent and ruthless individual and we are surely setting the bar very low for anyone to be compared against him but, unfortunately, that is exactly what many SNP supporters are doing.

What concerns me in the report was the observation that many of those in the focus groups were behaving like the Trump supporters who refuse to accept the science on Covid, with such catastrophic results, or the Brexit supporters who believed the lies churned out by Gove, Cummings and Johnson.

Populist politicians eschew evidence-based data and tell people what they want to hear, irrespective of the consequences. Nicola Sturgeon plays the game very well and is a master of political spin; however, by encouraging her fact denying followers, she is displaying the same lack of integrity and ruthlessness shown as Trump and Johnson.

Maureen Henry, Glasgow.

THE ‘analysis’ piece by Kevin Hague asserts that it is a fact that Scotland receives more from than it gives to the UK coffers.

This is a highly disputed ‘fact’ and like me, your readers may find it difficult to tease apart ‘fact’ from ‘interpretation’ around the question of whether Scotland’s post-independence economy can stand on its own feet.

Personally, I would look to the comparatively wealthy Nordic countries, similar in size and outlook to Scotland, for the answer.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder whether this is the right question to ask. A more relevant question is whether the UK government can ever be trusted to rule over Scottish resources.

It seems to me that Westminster so far has and always will have its eyes on “more important” matters than what matters to Scots.

The point is that Scots increasingly do not want the dominant partner in the so-called Union to overrule their agenda, financial or otherwise. To be fair to Mr Hague’s final point, I agree that Scots are tired of being walked all over and are now seeing self-determination as the way forward.

Peter Glissov, Edinburgh.

KEVIN Hague ‘s interesting article highlights issues that will be debated if a second referendum happens.

Given what happened at the last one, and during the Brexit debate, it would make sense to have the the consequences of a Yes vote clearly spelled out and agreed by both the Westminster and Scottish before the vote.

This would enable voters make a considered choice and would hopefully stop the claim and counter-claim that happens during all such campaigns.

It could include the date and amount of the final Barnett payment. From this date Scotland would assume responsibility for all tax matters and the SNP could explain how they would fund the gap. This would help solve some of the doubt expressed by the focus groups that Kevin Hague mentioned.

It could also explain how the cost of defence would be apportioned; if the Scottish government could use the pound sterling; Scotland’s share of the national debt, and other such topics likely to surface during the pre-referendum debate.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list but anything that can be agreed and published before the vote (if there ever is one) is to be welcomed.

J. S. Morrison, Kirkintilloch.

KEVIN Hague’s analysis of focus group interviews appeared on the Herald’s political news pages but would have been more appropriately placed in the opinion section, as it contained no political news and the conclusions he draws from the ‘data’ would have any serious pollster or statistician running for cover.

It’s one thing to write a news article based on an opinion poll of over 1,000 voters conducted by a British Polling Council member, but to draw newsworthy conclusions from focus groups totalling 64 participants is quite a stretch.

The ‘These Islands’ website reveals the demographic of the focus groups to be predominately blue collar remain voters who now favoured independence in the EU over Brexit Britain.

Interestingly, two groups of voters were considered too toxic to participate; SNP members and Glasgow Rangers supporters. I’m not sure which of these excluded sections of society would be more upset at being identified by Mr Hague as inhabiting the extreme ends of Scottish political opinion.

The crux of the article is, of course, the reaction of the focus groups to the economic data (viz. the GERS figures). In the most excruciating, patronising piece of analysis Hague claims that once the group moderator had ‘explained’ the veracity of the figures, the participants capitulated and declared that “if this were true nobody would want independence”.

Really, Mr Hague? You might as well have stated that the group now grasped they were too stupid to realise that we were too poor to support an independent Scotland. The dubious GERS figures may give some indication of how Scotland fares economically under Westminster but are no guide to how an independent Scotland might flourish within the EU.

In that regard the question for ‘These Islands’ to answer is “what makes an independent Scotland so intrinsically different to Finland or Denmark that it could not prosper within the EU?”

Kevin Hague, Dan Snow and other These Islands luminaries who think they know what’s right for Scotland, would be best to seek analysis of serious polls provided by Sir John Curtice on his excellent What Scotland Thinks website and prepare some better arguments for the forthcoming referendum.

Iain Gunn, Sheriffmill, Elgin.

MR Hague should have said the biggest threat to the Union is economic reality. The UK is an economic basket case that the Brexit catastrophe is compounding.

The UK’s debt has spiralled out of control; its banking system is close to collapse; a decade of austerity has slashed investment and public services; its growth rate is the worst in the G20; its state pension is the lowest in the developed world and it has the lowest sick pay; exports per head are less than half of Scotland’s and its trade deficit is ballooning.

Decades of Tory economic mismanagement, cronyism and corruption have come home to roost. The UK is utterly incapable of subsidising Scotland and in fact, Scotland has been subsidising the UK.

The Tory-created GERS accounting system has been engineered to show a false Scottish deficit which is why the SNP Government needs to publish a set of accounts showing Scotland as an independent nation, not as the northernmost region of the UK.

Scots realise they’ve been conned and exploited by the UK. They know Scotland is wealthy in both natural and human resources and is perfectly capable of managing its own affairs, certainly better than London has done. What’s more, the UK knows it, which is why it’s terrified that Scotland will soon be leaving.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.