This week I heard Bruno Kaufman, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe speak on participative democracy, comparing Switzerland to Scotland and the UK.

Switzerland’s constitution and form of government allows and requires citizen participation, individually and directly in key political decisions that affect their lives and the wellbeing of society. In comparison UK polls suggest that two-thirds of the public feel powerless over decision-making and have little or no opportunities to influence decisions directly.

It is no surprise then that a YouGov poll found a disturbing decline in satisfaction with UK democracy, reporting that almost two in three now see politicians as merely out for themselves and the sleaze scandal in Westminster as just the tip of the iceberg of declining political trust. Those who feel more Scottish than British seem less satisfied with the state of democracy in the UK. Low participation contrasts with the apparent unlimited influence of corporate/big business at a time when people face a cost of living crisis and spiraling energy and food costs. Scottish Government stats (2022) show a quarter of children living in poverty and it is recognised that UK spending on state pensions lags well behind most European countries.

Kaufman’s talk was part of a Day for Democracy organised by Salvo. Campaigning for independence, they presented the Stirling Directive to the Scottish Parliament affirming the sovereignty of the Scottish people and their right to self-determination in international law. Whether a supporter of Scottish independence and greater self-determination or a believer in the Union, the case for developing better political and constitutional structures to promote participative democracy in Scotland is a convincing one.

Professor Emeritus Bill Whyte, Musselburgh

Starmer's Labour isn’t the answer

Former Labour MP Brian Wilson’s neoliberal beliefs are clear (“Words have become very cheap. Starmer is doing exactly as he should”, The Herald, September 19). He trots out the Thatcherite fallacy that government spending must be carefully costed and not exceed what is collected in taxes, guaranteeing a continuation of unnecessary and destructive Tory austerity policies.

A government is not like a household because it has the power to issue money via its central bank. If a government really wants to accomplish something, the money will always be made available. That’s why there’s always money for making war, bailing out banks or cutting taxes for the wealthy. But when it comes to spending on education or healthcare, politicians and the media ask how will this be paid for.

To spend or not to spend is a political decision. The only constraint governments face is spending beyond the productive capacity of the economy. And when the UK is screaming out for public investment in health, education, transport, housing, green energy – all things that enable people to live a decent life – there’s plenty of slack in the economy.

The post-war Attlee Labour government faced huge debts, yet managed to create the NHS, nationalise energy and the railways, and invest in education, housing and social services. Like a dying patient receiving a life-saving blood transfusion, the UK economy revived and flourished. There was no inflation, full employment and a steadily growing GDP, enabling the UK to pay off its debts.

Keir Starmer's Labour isn’t the answer. Scotland has the resources and knowledge to demonstrate an alternative to the failed neoliberal model. Independence will give us the power to build a state that benefits all, not just the wealthy few.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Don’t ignore the day job

Humza Yousaf is seeking "fame" on the world stage. His problem is he is ignoring the day job (“FM vows end to Scotland as Europe's oil and gas capital”, The Herald, September 19.) Scotland is nearly broke so Mr Yousaf's brilliant idea is to remove the one major base for his party's 2014 referendum campaign finances: oil revenues. Scotland still needs oil so we will have to import it all at huge cost plus huge environmental damage.

Mr Yousaf goes further and gives away money to poorer countries despite an increasing number of Scottish poor, homeless and hungry many due to unfathomable SNP/Green policies. To further enhance Mr Yousaf's " fame" he has hit out at leaders of Western governments for not being as environmentally friendly as he claims to be, the same leaders and countries whom he hopes will be well disposed towards Scotland's admission into the EU should the event ever arise.

However, ignoring the day job has consequences. Mr Yousaf's quest for "fame and fortune" might come to a shuddering halt by 10pm on October the 5th.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

The problem with tax reform

The money to pay for our public services is raised by a variety of taxes: income tax on wages, VAT on goods and services, corporation tax on company profits and, of course, by local council tax on our houses. Something that appears to have been missed in the current debate about replacing council tax with a local income tax is that the latter would be, for many, easily avoided or evaded.

It could be the tradesman who takes cash payments; or the worker who sets up a business, then pays themselves a dividend with a tax rate as low as 8.75% rather than income taxed at up to 42%. The first is illegal, but hard to police; the latter is legal, but not within the spirit of the bargain that the tax we pay is our fee for living in a decent society. Of course, if some pay less tax than they should, that means the rest of us have to pay more to fill the resulting funding gap.

Money is easily hidden, houses aren’t. It’s sensible to have a broad tax base and reasonable to tax one obvious sign of wealth, which is the house you live in. Of course, it’s a disgrace that we’ve never had a national revaluation of house values and still hark back to notional 1991 values; and there are valid debates to be had about how progressive council tax should be, and how we cater for people who have a big house and are asset rich but income poor. But the fundamental idea of a tax based on the house you live in is a sound one.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane

The plan is there for all to see

Mr James Quinn (Letters, September 20) is certainly determined to stick to the same script, no matter what anyone writes in response and completely misses the point of Neil Mackay's article. A vision and plan for Scotland to be a successful independent country certainly exists, it's just he doesn't want to see it.

May I remind him that the myriad problems he outlines have all come about while Scotland has been part of the UK. So what's the union plan if we stay? Can I assume that there are plans galore to increase investment in Scotland and release its huge potential, thus addressing the deficits he mentions?

Or, on the other hand, perhaps we can go independent and use Scotland's huge potential to develop renewables for the benefit of the people and not multi-nationals, as happened to the oil and gas? A currency built on such would be far more stable than the pound.

Of course there are no guarantees. To have the opportunity to succeed means having the opportunity to fail. Can the union-supporting contingent at least stop assuming that failure is inevitable?

Iain Cope, Glasgow

Concerning Alison Rowat’s article (“Truss, Sturgeon, Blair and the art of shamelessness”, The Herald, September 20) unlike Liz Truss and Tony Blair, Nicola Sturgeon is not (as far as I have seen reported, anyway) talking as if she hopes to return, even in an advisory capacity, to frontline politics. It is also grossly insulting to Nicola Sturgeon - who in her political career showed a level of ability and integrity which was, to say the very least, well above the current average - to bracket her in any context whatever with an unprincipled charlatan like Mr Blair or a total incompetent like Ms Truss.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen

A reminder on EU membership

I'm well aware it's repetitive, but I suppose I may as well take a turn at reminding Ruth Marr (Letters, September 20) that had Scotland chosen independence in 2014 we would have automatically left the EU prior to any Brexit referendum.

Laurence Wade, Ayr