NEIL Mackay’s column excoriating the avaricious, self-serving Tory Party ("Sinking Tories are pulling the country down with them", The Herald, October 3) should be compulsory reading for all Scottish Nationalists.

The reality of Scottish politics is that there is no prospect of change in the constitutional position of Scotland. Whatever the colour of the next UK government, neither Labour nor the elitist Tory Party has any inclination or motivation to legislate for a second Scottish referendum.

The contortions of the SNP leadership in trying to manufacture a mandate from a General Election result, whether numbers of votes or seats or flags, is laughable.

The imminent Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election and next year’s General Election are about replacing the cruel and inept Tory Government. In this respect the SNP is irrelevant and impotent.

James Quinn, Lanark.

It's too late for them now

THE splits in the SNP appear to be turning into chasms as some SNP MSPs appear willing to talk to the "toxic" Tories ("Ross in secret talks with rebel SNP MSPs to end Greens deal", The Herald, October 3). This is no surprise, as the direction the SNP is currently heading in is straight into a brick wall. Few Scots support Green policies, which is why few Scots vote Green in the few opportunities afforded to them.

The word "few" is significant. We still do not have a full picture as to why Nicola Sturgeon took the Greens on board but it is obvious that it was politically essential, otherwise Humza Yousaf would have ditched them from day one of his leadership. It is now too late.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

• "ROSS in secret talks with rebel SNP MSPs": so the Tartan Tories of old are alive and well and trying to make a sneaky comeback. Kick them out of the party.

Eric Duncan, Cardross.

Read more: What a trick the SNP missed in backing Yousaf over Forbes

Yellow card for Douglas Ross

SCOTRAIL'S scrapping of peak-time fares for a trial period is to be applauded ("ScotRail scrap peak rail fares from today in six-month trial to boost train use", The Herald, October 2). So it's a shame one of the UK's national broadcasters is not on track.

Good Morning Britain on ITV completely missed the connection, reporting wrongly that the initiative was being funded by the UK Government.

The Scottish Government nationalised ScotRail last year to ensure money goes back into the network in Scotland for the benefit of customers, workers and the environment, not shareholders.

I channel-hop to Breakfast with Kay Burley on Sky News, who describes Scotland as "a region" of the UK. But she's interviewing Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who'll surely blow the whistle on that piece of ignorance?

Not a word. Red card for referee Ross, who then changes colour and claims the UK Government is a "green government" despite it approving more oil exploration in the North Sea.

Yellow card, Mr Ross. And we all know what that colour stands for.

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.

Why Scotland must leave

A GOVERNMENT should advocate for all its people and the opposition should pounce when it fails to do so. But that’s not what happens here in the dysfunctional UK.

This is illustrated by Ken Loach’s latest film, The Old Oak, about a working-class community near Durham ravaged by Thatcher’s ruthless mine closures and how it copes with an influx of Syrian refugees, themselves victims of a proxy war between the great powers. Leaving aside the foreign policy aspects, the film explores what happens when a government fails to care for its people.

When the mines were closed, the UK Government made no effort to put anything in their place. Unemployment, hopelessness, addiction, illness and early death became the norm. Scotland experienced this on a massive scale and is still dealing with the human fallout.

One of the characters remarks: "We've become a dumping ground, you don't see them being housed in Chelsea, do you?" The initial hostility towards the refugees is not because the villagers were bad people. Rather, it was the years of economic neglect by their own government that seeded their resentment and feelings of hopelessness.

At the end, the villagers and refugees come to a mutual understanding. The great loss each has experienced binds them together and they realise that to create something new requires a collective effort.

The UK is broken because it embraced an ideology, neoliberalism, that values profits over people. Neither the Tories nor Labour show signs of abandoning a system that has immiserated millions and made the UK the deeply unhappy place it is today.

And that’s a pretty compelling reason why Scotland must leave.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

Talk of the exile

WHY do you insist on calling Jim McColl "one of Scotland's wealthiest men" ("McColl hits back over claims on ferries scandal", The Herald, October 3)? He is a resident of Monaco. Can't think why.

Steve Brennan, Coatbridge.

Read more: Labour has given up on serious politics with impossible promises

Why HS2 was derailed

CAMERON Crawford (Letters, September 29) comments on the paucity of high-speed rail network in the UK compared to the EU.

A partially mitigating circumstance is that the EU has a much larger land area than the UK (about 4.45 million square km, vs about 250 000 square km), with a much lower population density (112 persons per square km, vs 270, and 434 in England).

This means that, for many years, longer continuous rail journeys have been possible on the Continent, and it is in these circumstances that sustained high-speed running really comes into its own.

Mr Crawford is probably quite correct about the extent to which planning problems have contributed to the slow progress and dramatic cost escalation of HS2, brought about by attempts to meet the objections of those whose lives and properties have been massively disrupted by this attempt to convert Birmingham into another London suburb, from which the locals would derive no benefit whatsoever.

This attitude to planning is in stark contrast to that in Europe, where the chief engineer to one of the French TGV lines was reputed to have told a group of his British counterparts: "When we drain the swamp, we don't consult the frogs!"

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.

• IN the General Election of 2015 the Scottish Conservatives put out glossy election leaflets highlighting HS2 coming to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen complete with helpful maps.

Plus ça change.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.

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Hard-work message is welcome

HOW heartening it was to read Kate Forbes’s words about education ("Holyrood is letting down the Highlands, says Forbes",The Herald October 2): "There seems to be a view ‘that you close the educational attainment gap by making it easier for everyone…[that] we need to make education simpler and easier in order to ensure everyone is achieving the same." Ms Forbes dares to voice heretical views - in the current political environment - that what is needed is "hard work… aspiration and ambition".

For too long there has been a culture of "all must have prizes", with mediocre work being praised so as not to discourage its author, and no-one winning because no-one can be allowed to lose. This is evidence of a complete failure to understand children: they are inherently competitive, they respond to stimulus, and to being stretched. Their pride in achievement won by hard work and determination is a wonderful thing to see. True, they may take knocks when their ambition outstrips their ability, but that is a lesson for life. Being patted on the head and given easier tasks to do is no preparation at all for life.

Ms Forbes’ words about tradesmen are equally sensible: "The skills and knowledge they have is at a gold standard of excellence." Anyone who has employed a joiner, plumber, tiler, painter, electrician knows how they are experts and, rightly, proud of their expertise, and develops deep respect for them. They do, however, require education at the start - to be able to measure and calculate, to read and comprehend complicated instruction manuals. Lest that be thought too pedestrian, they also learn, through apprenticeship, to be creative and imaginative, bringing clients a further dimension to their original requests.

Ms Forbes’ welcome words on these subjects give me hope that schools may be steered into valuing hard work and achievement once more, and soft-pedalling the priority currently on social issues and identity. My only cavil about her contribution is that I am deeply puzzled by how it can come from someone who also believes in the mumbo-jumbo of Scottish separatism.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.