AS the General Election looms ever closer the choices available to voters in our Scottish nation must be perplexing to many. The two main contenders for power in Westminster have evolved into clones of the original Ukip and, having failed to keep us in the EU in 2016, are now united in their determination to keep us out of the EU and immigrants of every description out of the UK.

The Scottish Tories are an endangered species with many of their sympathisers having already taken to voting Labour to stop the SNP; Keir Starmer has very little knowledge of, or interest in, Scotland other than as the possible source of some seats towards an election victory. His strategy is totally aimed at winning back Tory seats in England by persuading our southern neighbours that his lot will be better Tories than the other lot.

I nearly forgot the LibDems; considerable close scrutiny is required to keep track of their policies day by day and although they will gain seats in southern parts as the only alternative to the Sunak/Starmer double-act they are an irrelevance in Scotland.

The remaining pieces in the jigsaw are the pro-independence parties; the SNP is in disarray following the departure of Nicola Sturgeon followed by the perpetual police investigation. The SNP/Greens alliance is teetering and Alba has sensibly come out in favour of a non-party pro-independence movement.

My own view is that sending pro-independence MPs to Westminster, where they are treated with contempt, is a futile exercise and the pro-independence parties should withdraw from attendance and participation at Westminster and concentrate on establishing a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Anas Sarwar and his Scottish Labour diehards are stranded in a blind alley due to their stubborn adherence to unionism. Their support defected in droves to the SNP in reaction to the unedifying participation of Labour in the 2014 Better Together alliance. Surely Mr Sarwar and his cronies can see that abandoning unionism and accepting the right of the Scottish nation to self-determination would bring many defectors back into the fold and that his party would then be in a very strong position to form the first government of a modern, independent, outward-facing, pro-European Scottish nation.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

• THERE has been some speculation in the media as to whom Michael Shanks (if he wins the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election) would answer to. This is easy. The “Scottish Labour Party” does not exist as a constituted political party (indeed it is registered in Newcastle, England). Sir Keir Starmer has openly boasted of being instrumental in removing Richard Leonard as elected leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament, and surely whoever hires and fires is where the buck stops. It is demeaning to us all for Scottish political journalists to fawningly pretend otherwise.

The recent “discovery” of Scotland by Labourites Sir Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, Les Streeting et al, whilst trailing the hapless, nodding Anas Sarwar around with them, both reinforces the actual power dynamic, and is reminiscent of the procession of King George IV to Scotland 200 years ago: “Look your Highness, it is safe now, the rebels are defeated”.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Read more: If Scotland has a deficit, only London could have caused it

Indy would hit poorest hardest

I REFER to the letter from Alasdair Galloway on the latest GERS report (August 18). To characterise the notional deficit shown in the GERS report as some sort of problem caused by London is to completely misunderstand the point.

The deficit that we see in GERS arises for one very simple reason. Through the mechanism of fiscal transfer, Scotland receives more money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer than it contributes. It then spends all (or most) of this money on public services.

It would be strange to characterise this as some sort of problem. It is in fact both generous of England to provide additional money and beneficial to Scotland to receive additional money. It is also a fairly deliberate feature of the Barnett formula; when drawing up the formula additional funding was provided to account for the relatively higher share of the Scottish population who live in rural areas (where it is more expensive to provide public services).

The only real issue arises (in theory) in the event that the relationship between England and Scotland changes so that England no longer provides this boost to Scotland's tax revenue. Should that happen, Scotland would be in the position of having a considerably higher level of public services to fund than could be covered by Scotland's tax revenue alone. As a budget must ultimately balance (no-one is going to lend Scotland an additional 9% of GDP every year with no clear plan on how to pay it back), the only way to resolve such an issue is through a combination of large tax rises and large public sector cuts.

For many years this has been one of the central complaints from those who are sceptical about the benefits of independence: that whatever benefits may accrue from independence, they would surely be massively outweighed by the impact of public sector cuts, which would inevitably weigh heaviest on the poorest of Scottish society.

David McIntyre, Sydney, Australia.

Wilson knew the score

ALEX Orr (Letters, August 17) berates the accuracy of the GERS figures but forgets, just like senior SNP figures, that Andrew Wilson, chief financial guru of the SNP, as leader of the Scottish Growth Commission in 2018 stated that the GERS figures were a very good place to start and had previously called them "accurate".

Peter Wright, West Kilbride.

Held back on net zero journey

REBECCA McQuillan ("Why Tories and right-wing SNP figures have declared war on the Greens", The Herald, August 17)suggests that should the Bute House Agreement not continue, Scotland’s race to net zero could be the loser. However, most independence supporters would consider themselves to be left-leaning. The Conservatives have not achieved a majority in Scotland for nigh on 70 years, so if it were not for Scotland still being being governed by Westminster, which has reserved powers over energy and many elements associated with the race to net zero, Scotland could be further on the climate journey.

The Scottish Government has set targets and moved Scotland forward on the road to net zero, being the second devolved administration to declare a climate emergency after the Northern Ireland Assembly. And in 2019 it set its net zero targets which are the most ambitious in the UK. All this before the Bute House Agreement came into being in 2021.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

Read more: Why I want to keep the House of Lords

Blame SNP for hard Brexit

IAN McConnell ("Bank of England should reflect on calls for a halt to interest rate rises", The Herald, August 18) states that "the UK has particular woes caused by a hard Brexit folly which has fuelled inflation and damaged the economy, business and households". I recall that in June last year Iain Macwhirter wrote in The Herald that "history may judge that the real culprits of a hard Brexit were the opposition MPs, especially the SNP, who failed to moderate a hard Brexit when they had the chance in 2019". Had the SNP supported the motion for the UK to remain in the EU customs union then the motion, instead of failing by six votes, would have passed into UK law.

No one in the media ever asks why, with a major endorsement at the referendum from the people of Scotland, the SNP refused to listen to the voters and support the motion. After all, surely half a loaf is better than no bread and Scotland would have been spared the consequences of a hard Brexit.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.

Sturgeon has to chase the money

IT was interesting to read Rosemary Goring's carefully argued opinion piece ("Did Nicola Sturgeon really have to go with an English publisher?", The Herald, August 17), yet I wonder if she is missing the point?

Surely the reality is that, whatever the outcome of the ongoing police investigations into SNP finances, Ms Sturgeon's arrest for questioning has impacted negatively on her future career prospects and earnings power? It seems the chances are now slim of that oft-discussed prestigious senior UN role. She and her husband's incomes have recently been slashed – she's only 53 and is used to a lavish taxpayer-funded lifestyle as first minister, which she probably longs to replicate. A large publishing advance from the highest bidder may well be what matters above all to her, whatever Ms Goring, with apparent naivety, believes.

It seems to me that, in choosing a London publisher, Nicola Sturgeon has put herself and her personal financial priorities before that of "Scottishness", the Scottish cultural sector, and supporting Scottish business and jobs. Many will archly observe: no change there, then.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.