I'VE lost count of the number of times John Swinney has recited his "unite the party, focus on delivery, social justice, economy, public services, people of Scotland, work with other parties, gain trust, make the case for independence" mantra this past week, giving the impression that the last item, the case for independence, would naturally follow from success in the other eight.

If only Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon had believed and done that in 2014 on September 19 or on November 14 when Ms Sturgeon took over, they could have transformed Scotland to the point where in 2024 we'd either be gagging for separation because we'd pulled miles ahead of the UK, or wanting to remain, because we'd done it within the UK.

But, as has often been said, the nationalists preferred to build a case that relied a lot on grievance and proved unable to run the place well, get on with their rivals, rebuild the already shaky 2014 case, or have any succession plan for talented people when the 2007 generation left the stage.

So now, very few people believe a word they say. And no wonder when we now have a retread with no tread in charge.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.

Where were the good ideas?

THE latest poll is predicting even more gloom for the SNP. John Swinney is charged with coming to the rescue but can he? If he had any good ideas where were they for all the years he was Nicola Sturgeon's deputy? And where were the good ideas from Kate Forbes?

There have been no hints of any ground-breaking policy changes mooted so far. Putting independence as a priority has already been dealt a blow as the claimed turnout at the recent march in Glasgow oscillated between 2,000 or a few hundred. The Greens still have to be dealt with and olive branches to the pro-Union parties will be hard to swallow for the diehard nationalists. There is no obvious way forward but there are a growing number of pitfalls waiting to set the SNP back.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

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I'm so glad we have the UK

SO now Scotland’s First Minister is merely “appointed”. The nameless, faceless ones in the SNP’s backroom can seemingly decide all these things for us. No elections are now necessary, not even amongst SNP members.

If it was democratically wrong and morally unjustifiable of the Tories to impose not one but two new PMs on us (one being, like Humza Yousaf’s tenure, the short-lived and catastrophic premiership of Liz Truss whom Mr Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon so denigrated) based only on their party members - and it was wrong and unjustifiable - then it is equally wrong and unjustifiable but also hypocritical of the SNP to do the same. But at least the Tories held a members’ election.

Mr Swinney may have been unopposed but an election, even limited to the 70,000 or so SNP members, would have indicated how popular he is, or isn’t. Maybe that’s why there was no election process.

Whatever spark of democracy remained in Ms Sturgeon’s Scotland - because she is the architect of our current dystopia - it has been extinguished.

Thank God we have the protection of the UK against the autocratic and authoritarian dead hand of Sturgeonism.

Alasdair Sampson, Stewarton.

• THE BBC Radio 4 midday news broadcast today (May 6) began with the announcer saying that “the race for the leadership of the SNP is nearly over”.

Oh how I laughed. What kind of race could he have been referring to?

A one-horse race, most certainly. A whacky race without doubt, or perhaps a snail race, given the protracted, drawn-out affair the SNP has made of essentially engineering Humza Yousaf’s replacement.

It’s hardly a race when there is only one participant, and that, an old nag effectively brought out of near retirement.

Paul McPhail, Glasgow.

READ MORE: Who's going to save Scotland? It certainly won't be Swinney

READ MORE: Hard luck, unionists: SNP will be more united than ever

Swinney should start afresh

THE SNP has just proved that it is rather better at recycling than its former Green friends. Unlike Lorna Slater’s bottle recycling scheme, the SNP’s Former Leader Recycling Scheme seems unlikely to be blocked by His Excellency the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Of course this is the second time this century that the SNP has recycled a former leader. The last one brought back into office had some successes during his second term as leader. But history will primarily remember Alex Salmond for achieving an independence referendum which allowed us to reject his party’s number one objective.

If John Swinney wants to avoid a similar fate, he and his party must try to overcome the near-impossible challenge of coming up with a credible and economically feasible proposal for an independent Scotland. The disaster that is Brexit will make voters very wary of more make-believe predictions of streets paved with gold should we choose to leave another union. Mr Swinney should start by binding all the recent independence policy papers into one volume and entering it into a competition for fantasy fiction.

It would then be up to the SNP itself to try to draft a credible alternative. It is not a job for the Scottish Government’s civil servants who are there to assist in administering devolved powers, powers that do not include the constitution. Drafting a credible independence proposal will be somewhere between very hard and impossible. Will Mr Swinney’s SNP be up to the task?

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.

Give Forbes education brief

IT will be very interesting to see which government post John Swinney gives to Kate Forbes. It could, of course, be finance, which she has done previously, and it seems likely that there will be a vacancy there with Shona Robison presumably, and deservedly, on the way out.

But perhaps Mre Swinney will choose a cruel and unusual punishment for his erstwhile rival. He could gift her the poisoned chalice that is the health brief. That would keep her very busy indeed, with no time for mischief-making.

I would prefer her to become education minister, where she has had sensible things to say about pupils needing to learn that hard work and perseverance are the answer, not dumbing down. She might even be prepared to eject the "LGBT champions" and other Stonewall nonsense from our schools. Now that would be a fine result.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

The right priority

JOHN Swinney’s acceptance speech focused on his priority of tackling child poverty ("Swinney pays tribute to Yousaf in his first speech as new SNP leader", heraldscotland, May 6). He has a credible record on this issue, but today he acknowledged that more can and must be done to lift children out of poverty.

Under the SNP and with Mr Swinney in Cabinet, the issue of child poverty has been at the forefront of economic policy at Holyrood. But it is very difficult to deal with it head-on when Scotland does not have full welfare powers; the Westminster Government is still in control of 86% of welfare spend in Scotland.

The SNP - with John Swinney in the Cabinet - is to be commended for the introduction of the baby boxes and to date 292,720 have been issued. It introduced the Scottish Child Payment, worth £26.70 per week per eligible child, something that is not available anywhere else in the UK, again with Mr Swinney in Cabinet, and it abolished tuition fees for our students.

I commend our First Minister-in-waiting for prioritising this issue.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

The Herald: John Swinney delivers his SNP leadership acceptance speech yesterdayJohn Swinney delivers his SNP leadership acceptance speech yesterday (Image: PA)

Sorrow over Labour stance

I NOTICED with great interest that Labour in Scotland is telling us that voters no longer believe in things they believed in only a short time ago.

Labour tells us that people in Scotland want a Labour government and have started supporting Brexit and all the consequences, despite over 60% opposing it previously.

That they support mass murder and civil destruction in Gaza, despite many protests and calls for a ceasefire from ordinary people and politicians alike.

That they will support reduction of worker’s rights, as Keir Starmer weakens support for a previous promise.

That they, even with a majority being left of centre, will be OK with Tory governments forever, for them and succeeding generations; supporting the Westminster voting system guarantees this will happen.

There are many other examples but I will simply finish by saying I would describe that as profoundly sad and this reversal quite inexplicable.

Brian Powell, St Andrews.