ON January 31, 2024, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris unveiled the agreement that the Westminster Government had reached with the DUP to form the basis for the re-establishment of the power-sharing executive and end Northern Ireland's long period without a devolved government.

With the re-establishment of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, it is well worth considering the constitutional anomaly that exists between the people of Ireland and the people of Scotland. The Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998. Part of the agreement reached was that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and would remain so until a majority of the people both of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland wished otherwise. Should that happen, then the British and Irish governments are under "a binding obligation" to implement that choice. This means in effect that regardless of the views of the UK Government, the people of Ireland, both North and South, have the constitutional right to hold a referendum on whether or not there should be a united Ireland.

No such right exists for Scotland. In 1707 the Scottish Parliament was bribed and bullied into accepting the 26 Articles of the proposed Act, not one of which made any reference to the rights of the people of Scotland to vote for the repeal of the Act. So my question is: why should the people of one part of the UK be denied the constitutional rights granted to another?

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

Read more: It's Labour's duty to represent the centre ground

Where the real swamp lies

I HAVE already stated that Michael Matheson should have resigned over his iPad bill, but was taken aback by the execration toward him on the Letters Pages (February 10).

Allan Thompson asserts that government in Scotland is mired in sleaze and secrecy, and it’s time to “drain the swamp” by closing Holyrood down. Let us remind ourselves that Westminster is the real “swamp”, filled with decades-long sleaze, corruption and sexual misconduct (examples from the expenses scandal to PFI procurement are available).

“Imagine… the uproar… if this had been the Tory Party," writes Mr Thompson. Well, it cost the public £245,000 for Boris Johnson’s Partygate inquiry lawyers: he resigned from Parliament before he could be suspended, so the lawyers were never used. Did this multi-millionaire cover the costs? Liz Truss, while Foreign Secretary, cost the taxpayer £500,000 to fly by private plane to Australia rather than use a scheduled airline. When found out she paid not a penny toward this cost.

Both these two ex-prime ministers were entitled to tax-funded “grants” when they got the boot, and then substantial annual dollops of public moneys (for life, even for Ms Truss, who was only in office for 44 days), though they were both embarrassing, expensive failures in government. There is even talk of Mr Sunak resurrecting Mr Johnson’s political career:.

Mr Thompson can have his Westminster lot and I’ll go with a self-governing Scotland.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

The biggest failure of all

READING Brian Wilson’s latest epistle ("Sutherland is becoming a desert thanks to eco elite", The Herald, February 10) I cannot help but restrain a chortle (or is it a choke) over his suggestion that if Labour is elected to serve in Westminster people here should vote Labour for Holyrood. This will apparently guarantee us joined-up government thinking such as we allegedly had in the past.

Forgive me, but I seem to recall that it was a Scottish Labour leader who quit her post telling all who cared to listen that Labour in Scotland was simply treated as a branch office by its Westminster colleagues. The recent fall-out between Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer over a Gaza ceasefire suggests nothing has changed. The obsession with retaining power at the centre is still there as it always will be.

But what really got me was his jibe at SNP procurement failures. Was Mr Wilson not a minister in the Labour government responsible for the building of the new Scottish Parliament building where costs (at today’s prices) went from £74 million to £817m? Methinks that rather eclipses the ferry overspend. Moreover, was it not Donald Dewar who persuaded the panel to award the design contract to a Spanish architect rather than use a Scottish one? So much for claiming to have Scottish interests at heart.

If Mr Wilson seeks credibility for his party then perhaps he can fill in the blanks by reminding us which Labour ministers took responsibility for the biggest failure in Scottish procurement history, and more importantly, how many of them resigned as a consequence?

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

An unhealthy attitude

HUMZA Yousaf’s failure to give Kate Forbes a cabinet post and all but exonerate Michael Matheson betrays a resolve to punish perceived enemies regardless and support allies come what may, an attitude which does not suggest a capacity for balanced judgment.

Duncan Macintyre, Greenock.

Read more: Shameless Matheson has severely wounded Yousaf

Labour's nasty dog whistle

MARK McGeoghegan ("Sunak’s trans comments epitomise the Tory tactics", The Herald, February 10) was right to call out Rishi Sunak over issues in the trans space, yet again a display of playground politics at PMQs last Wednesday.

The attack on Sir Keir Starmer by Mr Sunak was about policy flip-flopping, disagreements (some hidden, some out in the open) within his front bench team and what a Labour Government would look like was a legitimate one. Many comrades are hanging on by their fingernails; Sir Keir deliberately and mischievously sold us a pup during his election. Some might say he lied.

Mr Sunak meanwhile crossed a red line. Our politicians should grow up and act professionally when discussing transgender issues. The life of a beautiful young woman, Brianna Ghey, was lost to actions of killers described by Judge Yip as transphobic and sadistic, no ifs, no buts. This should not be the stuff of yah-boo politics, it's about human rights; trans women's rights are equal to all women's rights and in turn basic human rights.

Mr Sunak is not alone. This weekend Scottish Labour's annual conference will consider a badly worded, badly motivated motion. It has been passed by Scottish Labour Women's Conference. It's wording and interpretation are found on the web-page of Scottish Labour Women's Declaration where LGBT+ (the T being trans) activists fighting for all women's rights are accused of being engaged in tyranny; that is their warped view/ I wonder what Judge Yip would think of it.

The motion pitches party members against Labour MSPs supporting self-recognition overwhelmingly. Its call for "women's sex-based rights" sounds innocent enough; it's not. It's a nasty dog whistle against trans rights designed to make lives of trans women worse.

Thankfully trade unions representing 550,000-plus women members across Scotland were having none of it; I wish they had voted against, but they abstained. The STUC Conference in May 2023 nailed its (rainbow) colours to the mast in supporting the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, General Secretary Roz Foyer stating: “The trade union movement has a long and proud history of championing equality, challenging injustice, and striving to end all forms of discrimination, and harassment. The STUC supports .. .ambitions to stamp out transphobia. We make no apologies for the STUC’s unequivocal support to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and our solidarity to the trans community".

Will it take another callous killing to bring people to their senses? It might be uncomfortable to some but women can obtain a gender recognition certificate without vaginoplasty and other intrusive surgeries, trans men can retain their reproductive organs and have babies.

Douglas McBean, Edinburgh.

The Herald: A vigil in Warrington held to mark the first anniversary on Sunday of the murder of Brianna Ghey. A vigil in Warrington held to mark the first anniversary on Sunday of the murder of Brianna Ghey. (Image: PA)

We must stand up for Gaza

DURING the early years of my life, Hitler was practising ethnic cleansing by trying to exterminate the Jewish population of Germany, the UK and the Allies were fighting to defeat him and thereafter leading the plans to give the Jewish people a state of their own.

Now, Benjamin Netanyahu is quite clearly practising ethnic cleansing by implementing his openly-stated aim of driving out Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank and taking over what he regards as “all the land that God gave the Jews”. This time, however, our Westminster colonial masters and their US ally are backing and arming the aggressor, refusing to demand an end to the collective punishment, cutting aid and thus supporting the ethnic cleansing. Does this not make them complicit in this crime against humanity?

This is surely well beyond even the depths of hypocrisy and double standards that we have come to expect. Time for our Scottish Government to stand up and be counted, publicly declare that this is not in the name of the people of Scotland and join with those countries taking Israel to the ICJ for war crimes.

P Davidson, Falkirk.