THERE seems to be some confusion as to the reasons for the dispute on repatriation of powers at present controlled by the EU.

To start with the Scotland Act: it places in Holyrood, by law, devolved power over areas of competence that are not specifically retained by Westminster.

These include the powers centralised across the 28 members of the EU at present and which should revert to their devolved origins after Brexit.

Mostly these are powers previously controlled by the old Scottish Office and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and devolved to Holyrood by the Scotland Act.

To take them from the domain of the devolved legislatures and put them in the hands of Westminster Cabinet ministers (whose present responsibilities are geographic to England) would be to turn the clock back, not to before devolution but to before the establishment of the Scottish Office in 1885.

Although many of its specific Scottish Office departments were not established until some years later, they were established by the powers vested in the Secretary of State for Scotland. There have been some 20 wasted months for negotiations to reach common ground on UK-wide frameworks between the four administrations.

There is still time before October, and probably two years after that, to do this. This dispute is showing the Tories in their traditional anti-devolution clothes, not least Ruth Davidson.

GR Weir,

17 Mill Street, Ochiltree.

ON the question of a hard border in Ireland, Angus Macmillan (Letters March 6) argues “it‘s time to get real” with the EU and to put pressure on it to change its rules, or on Dublin to force it to.

It was not the EU that asked for Brexit. The real danger of a renewed Irish hard border is not a problem of either the Eu’s, or Dublin’s, making. It is the UK Government, that, by its uncompromising interpretation of a snapshot referendum, needs to take full responsibility for resolving an impasse that should, like many other issues only now emerging, have been faced up to and honestly presented to the British people more than two years ago.

Mr Macmillan thinks the UK is being treated unreasonably. On the contrary; there is no reason why a community of upwards of 700 million should be obliged to change its established rules on the single market because a fraction of that population decided to go its own way and, in so doing, is itself unwilling to compromise; as Theresa May could, for example, well choose to do on the question of a customs union.

Even among the British people, 63% of the electorate did not ask for the mess we are facing. Plus, an additional significant proportion of the population, those who were too young to vote, were not consulted and are going to be the ones most affected. If it’s time to get real, it is we who should be doing so and getting seriously worried about the bleak future that the spectre of Brexit, and in particular a hard Brexit, increasingly threatens.

Robert Bell,

40 Stewarton Drive, Cambuslang.

GIBRALTAR represents an even bigger problem for a smooth Brexit or transition deal than Northern Ireland (Letters, March 7). Let us not forget that some 96% of Gibraltarians voted to Remain. The Irish border problem has to be faced up to because it was a condition of the Brexit divorce settlement and the start of talks on post-Brexit trade; not so the case of Gibraltar.

If we end up with a hard Brexit, as seems to be the case, that means a hard border between Gibraltar and Spain. It would be even worse for Gibraltar than Northern Ireland as almost everything Gibraltar needs depends to an extent on Spanish cooperation.

Placing Gibraltar outside the customs union and single market and adding onerous border controls would put Gibraltar under great hardship. Also, the EU has given Spain a formal veto over Brexit if Madrid is not happy with the Gibraltar dimensions of a deal.

The answer is to give Gibraltar membership of the customs union and single market by special protocol. Other EU countries with dependencies, including some French territories in the Caribbean, have bespoke arrangements. Gibraltar could easily be treated much like other EU micro-states such as Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican City and Andorra.

To secure even that, Theresa May needs Spain to lift its veto and that would mean offering something to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy; perhaps a concession on sovereignty or governance. But the Gibraltar constitution also gives the territory and Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo a veto over any changes.

So, while all eyes are on Northern Ireland, it is Gibraltar that will prove an even greater, if rather forgotten, conundrum for the UK Government.

Alex Orr,

Flat 2, 77 Leamington Terrace,


CHRIS Deerin’s characterisation of Scotland’s Yes movement as emanating from a “rage against the machine” that links with “Donald Trump and the extremists in power or close to it in too many countries” (“Political mainstream must be radical for the centre to hold”, The Herald, February 6).

In Scotland, those who “rage against the machine” are often Unionist malcontents who insist on blaming everything, including the recent inclement weather, on the Scottish Government. Indeed, contrary to Chris Deerin’s analysis of populist insurgencies, the Yes movement has remained broadly supportive of the SNP: a centre-left governing party that will soon enter its 12th year of incumbency, sometimes derided for its caution yet maintaining its lead in the polls thanks to a solid record based on progressive reform and competent management. Since its setback in 2014, the Yes movement has sought to understand and learn, has remained broad and inclusive and, in its great majority, is open to the EU, migration, and exploring new ideas of social justice; not much sign of extremism here.

Chris Deerin also bemoans the political mainstream which, he argues, has failed to “face up to the public spending pressures and intergenerational unfairness” that, in his view, “require increases in taxation and, say, a vast housebuilding programme”. Strikingly, both these measures have already been implemented by the Scottish Government.

Might Scottish independence be an example of the “indecent immoderation” that Chris Deerin calls upon the “decent, moderate centre” to espouse in order to avoid the Brexit vortex into which a delusional political leadership at Westminster is dragging us?

Paddy Farrington,

46 Marchmont Road,