Not for the first time Jill Stephenson (letters, December 18) exhorts Scotland’s opposition parties to “agree on the candidates best placed to defeat the SNP in each constituency”.

She asks why this should be so difficult. There are several answers to her question.

First, many of these candidates have spent years battling for nominations which will not be conceded lightly, especially if the chosen one is a Tory candidate.

Second, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have had their fingers severely burned in recent years following ill-advised alliances with the Tories – both are facing wipe-out in Scotland.

Third, modern politics is a ruthless business, and to achieve Ms Stephenson’s desired outcome would require a level of trust which simply doesn’t exist.

Lastly, in the unlikely event that this strategy reduced the SNP’s constituency numbers, the likelihood is that their list numbers would increase and they would still be the largest party.

Maybe we should run it past Prof Sir John Curtice?

Stuart Chalmers, Jackton, East Kilbride.

... And what would the manifesto say?

IT seems to me that Scots are already uniting to defeat nationalism—British nationalism, that is.

Jill Stephenson wants the British nationalist parties to unite against Scotland becoming a self-governing country.

What would their manifesto look like, I wonder? More autonomy for Scotland, or, more likely, none at all? The Tories are still split on Europe, North v South, “wet” or “dry”.

Labour are split on ideology, Corbyn and Scotland. The Lib Dems are stuck in quicksand.

Perhaps they will just hoist a flag and huddle round it, singing Jerusalem and “await further orders”.

G.R. Weir, Ochiltree.

All Under One (Union) Banner

IN times long gone Julius Caesar was advised to beware the Ides of March. The nearest modern translation I can think of would be ‘Beware the Dirty Tricks Brigade’.

Jill Stephenson advocates that the three unionist parties unite and field just one candidate per constituency. I’m all for it, Jill, and propose that an even better solution would be to put trivial party politics aside, disband their party and reform under one banner as The Unionists.

Should this solution not be to the liking of their London masters, I’m still all for Jill’s proposal. However, she might find that barrow loads of voters for the other two minor parties don’t have her fervour and prefer the stability that they have here to the right-wing shambles daily created by the parliament down South. And that’s before Brexit!

Bill Hendry, Milngavie.

Independence: caveat emptor

YOUR correspondent Ian W. Thomson (letters, December 17) argues that people should agree to disagree on the issue of GERS and drop the whole subject.

In fact, we need acceptance of the account in which the SNP Scottish Government tells us the likely cost of its central purpose of independence.

After all, we would not buy a house or a car (or a copy of The Herald) without knowing the cost. Indeed, it seems that many Nationalists would devote more due diligence to buying a bag of bananas than they would to forcing secession from the UK on us.

In short, Scotland needs to know what independence would cost in terms of revenues lost from cutting ourselves off from the redistributive mechanisms of the United Kingdom: a figure which GERS tells us currently stands at over £15 billion per annum.

Then we need to be told how the shortfall would be made up: what cuts in public services we would suffer, and what tax hikes would be necessary.

Peter A. Russell, Jordanhill, Glasgow.

Unite to build a new country

I REGRET that Tim Flinn (“Fighting the Brexit war”, letters, 17 December) does not understand the issue.

While I accept that we have left the EU I shall never, ever, accept the means used by the Brexiteers to achieve that end, means which have been incredibly damaging to our unity and our democracy.

Does that, in Mr Flinn’s opinion, make me a “niggling nitpicker”, a member of the “(self)-appointed elite”, a “democrat for only as long as I am on the winning side”?

He suggests I “devote my energies to constructing a worthwhile future for us all”. I accept that is a desirable aim and is indeed possible on one condition.

In his article of December 10 Neil Mackay (“When it comes to the ‘woke wars’ I know which side I am on”) referred to “your average decent Tory”.

Our future as a country worthy of respect, globally and in our own eyes, will depend on these decent Conservatives joining the rest of us in speaking out in rejection of the values of the nepotistic, chauvinistic cabal which hijacked their party.

Only if they do so will we have any chance of saving our democracy and the integrity, in both senses of the word, of the UK. Perhaps together we can then build a new country from the wreckage of the Brexiteers’ ill-considered and divisive strategies.

John Milne, Uddingston.

The question for a new referendum

WHILE I agree with some of what Sir Tom Devine says in his thought-provoking article (“Scottish independence

supporters will have to wait despite recent polls, December 19), he doesn’t mention one important aspect of the issue: if there is another referendum, what the question would be? I would suggest the following: “Do you want to remain within the UK ? Yes or No”.

Sir Brian H. Donohoe, Irvine.

Better treatment of BAME students

WE, the students of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Edinburgh University, strongly condemn the racist attack on the seventeen-year-old East Asian student on the university campus.

An attack of this nature is not the first of its kind and sadly the end to them does not seem very near.

The University of Edinburgh, where many international students arrive every year and call it home, must actively call out against perpetrators of racist and other forms of discriminatory crimes.

Such crimes are structural in nature and the response to it must be nothing less than a structural shift in the ways universities perceive and treat its BAME staff and students.

It should not take a violent incident like this one to remind the authorities of the greater changes that must be made to not just aim but to create safe, equal and free university spaces for all.

The immediate action expected from the university after this brutal reminder is to have a 24/7 helpline number specifically meant for crimes of racist nature, ensuring quick medical and psychological help to the victim even before any formal complaint is made.

Placing the responsibility of reaching out on the victim adds to their trauma and so the university must be proactive in its efforts to aid the victims of such crimes.

Several staff and students have been working towards creating spaces at the institutional level for dialogues and changes around the issues of race.

However, much needs to be done from the side of the university in ensuring a zero tolerance to discriminatory and racist crimes on campus. An increased surveillance is not what is required, rather an increased sensibility towards issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, region, caste, class, disability is.

We wholeheartedly support the ongoing protests organised by Racism Unmasked Edinburgh. We strongly condemn this incident and expect greater changes from the university.

Centre for South Asian Studies Students, University of Edinburgh.

Why granny still knows best

THIS is one of the good things about having a ‘free press’; and, my word, The Herald is an excellent example of our freedom (so far) to speak our minds as we see things.

I have often disagreed with Neil Mackay and only recently wrote to say so. In September, when he recommended that Unionist and Independence supporters might benefit from observing the wisdom of their grannies, I thought that any wisdom taken from this granny would turn Scotland into a nation of fungi-watchers, but who would do better by also being writers of letters to The Herald.

In his moving piece (“This year nearly broke me mentally and physically but it taught me so much”, December 17) I can see why he had earlier advised listening to Granny.

His own obviously much-loved Granny had long ago advised that “a wound to the body and a wound to the mind are a cure for the soul”. Her words have only now made sense and are helping him to heal the very deep wounds he has carried for so long.

This Herald reader sends best wishes to Mr Mackay for a full recovery with the proviso that when cycling around Glasgow, to speed up his return to health, he is careful – and doesn’t fall off his bicycle.

Thelma Edwards, Hume, Kelso.