WHETHER the SNP loses or retains the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election is an important issue, but not the only one of moment involved.

Alex Salmond has urged the SNP to collaborate with him and other separatist groups to the extent of offering one "unity" candidate ("SNP faces ‘electoral disaster’ without pact, says Alex Salmond", The Herald, August 19).

He does this not out of the goodness of his heart but out of self-interest. He is looking beyond that by-election to the General Election next year. His own price for a unity ticket would be, at a minimum, that the SNP stand aside in the constituencies currently represented by Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey, who were elected in 2019 as SNP MPs for East Lothian and Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath respectively, but defected to Mr Salmond’s fringe Alba party. They are the only elected representatives that Alba has - even if they weren’t elected as Alba candidates - and that party’s tenuous credibility would be completely destroyed if the 2024 election left Alba without any elected representative. Mr Salmond needs help from his former party.

The SNP has another headache besides the sniping at its heels by Alba, whether or not Alba stands a candidate in Rutherglen and Hamilton West. For the Scottish Greens are to stand a candidate there. The Greens’ vote is normally negligible in General Elections, but this time - with strife in the nationalist camp and in a by-election that changes little in immediate terms - we can expect some habitual but disgruntled SNP voters to make their own protest against SNP incompetence, infighting and failure to make progress with separatism by voting for the secessionist Greens.

For the the SNP, and also for Alba, it looks as if the old Chinese curse of "may you live in interesting times" is coming true.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

Repeating the big lies

THIS morning (August 22) I again took the risk of reading your Letters Pages. The golf club members’ lounge is usually a safe place for this activity as there is a defibrillator nearby in the hallway. The problem was that I had, once again, become incandescent with rage on reading today’s contributions from amateur nationalist propagandists.

One particular comment illustrated the mendacious spin commonly favoured by supporters of secession. That is the interpretation of the 2014 slogan, “Better Together” as being Tories and Labour together rather than, as was correct, Scotland and the rest of the UK together.

As Joseph Goebbels said, “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. There are many examples of nationalists following his advice: “GERS is produced by Westminster to misrepresent Scotland’s fiscal balance”'; “Scots pay for HS2 and London Crossrail”; “Scotland exports more than it imports”; “Scotland’s water is less polluted than England’s”; “The SNP is a progressive, left of centre party.”

All far from the truth. It’s no wonder that Mr Yousaf has had to inherit Ms Sturgeon’s annual £2 million tab for special advisors to promote this spin.

I suppose we have to accept that Mark Twain was right: “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”

I hope that Eddie and George know how to work the defibrillator because mouth to mouth resuscitation is out of the question.

James Quinn, Lanark.

Read more: Independence can only be rescued by the SNP losing, and losing big

We need SNP to win indy

WILLIE Maclean (Letters, August 22) rightly lists some of the reasons why Labour lost Scotland after decades of taking Scottish votes for granted. My great-aunt was elected as Labour councillor for Glasgow's Calton ward in the early 1930s, but sadly died shortly afterwards. She had been determined to bring about improvements to housing conditions in her ward, but almost 40 years later, when I began my campaigning life, I found the same horrific conditions in Calton she had left all these years ago.

Mr Maclean alludes to Kevin McKenna's "visceral hatred" of the SNP, and I see that Mr McKenna is at it again in his latest, verging on the hysterical, rant against the SNP ("Indy can only be rescued if the SNP lose and lose big", The Herald, August 22). Mr McKenna is of course entitled to his opinion about the SNP, but I find it odd that someone who is supposed to believe in independence should devote so much effort attempting to bring down the main party of independence without deigning to explain how he thinks independence can be achieved without the SNP. He certainly won't get it by voting Labour.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

The arrogance of unionism

PETER A Russell’s letter (August 22) morning is a fine and familiar illustration of an intellectual arrogance on the part of unionism. He writes: “The difference between the two sides is that most people on the No side want whatever is best for Scotland on a pragmatic basis - and there is no convincing case that this will be independence.“ So that’s that then.

While I agree insults detract from debate, often arguing against the UK is treated as insulting of and by itself. As for misrepresentations, Mr Russell’s own letter is a good place to understand the art.

For instance, “most people on the Yes side seem to be dogmatic and want independence, no matter how clear it is what the cost would be”. Does this mean independence supporters want an outcome they realise is detrimental to Scotland?

Or is it an inability to see the wisdom of unionism, as he concludes, “it will certainly be difficult to bring the two sides together unless the nationalists change their ways”. This is really like the old joke that rule 1 is “the boss is always right”, while rule 2 is that “when the boss is wrong, rule 1 applies”. The possibility of error just doesn’t compute in Mr Russell's view. The unionist position was correct in 2014 and remains so.

It should be acknowledged, and understood that in 2014 unionism won. I won't say “triumphed” as almost 45% voted for independence, yet Mr Russell demands the constitutional debate can only be ended by Yes adopting a unionist position. He writes that “the SNP Scottish Government failed to honour its referendum as decisive”. Was it? Is 55/45 “decisive”? Clear, yes, but while the 2014 outcome had “the power or quality of deciding”, for how long?

Mr Russell directs us to the "compromise” of the Smith Commission (representation two independence-supporting MSPs and six unionist), which inter alia delivered extra powers to the Scottish Parliament, including its permanence as part of the UK. This is a great comfort after several Supreme Court decisions emphasising the sovereignty of the House of Commons. Did any of it protect Scotland from Brexit? Does the British Internal Market Act 2020 not undermine devolution?

Considering yourself correct is easy when you start from the presumption that of course you are.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

Read more: Labour has only itself to blame for losing Scotland

Point-scoring cost us dear

I HAVE just heard Lorna Slater on the radio telling all that the SNP/Green pact is unique in that they don’t have to agree on everything but where there is common ground for the common good they work together.

Unique? There have been many similar political pacts in my time and I am afraid that, to my cynical mind, they were in place simply to ensure a party stays in government; just like what we have in Holyrood.

If parties really worked for the common good then the SNP would have voted for a customs union at Brexit and hence achieved a much softer exit. Now that, in my opinion, would have been in the common good but the SNP had no intention of achieving that goal. It chose simply to add to our woes to score points from the UK Government.

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.

What Ecuador can teach us

THE people of Ecuador have voted in a referendum to stop oil drilling in a part of the Amazon that Unesco designates as a world biosphere reserve (“In Brief”, The Herald, August 22). Meanwhile, the UK Government encourages more exploration for oil and gas, determined to extract as much from the seas around us as possible.

The UK’s per capita GDP is almost eight times that of Ecuador, but it’s clear which country puts the environment above profit. Given the catastrophic fires in Canada, Tenerife and Rhodes this summer, and the floods in several parts of the world, you’d have thought enough alarm bells were ringing to penetrate even Westminster’s bubble; sadly not.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.