LIKE many SNP and independence supporters, I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst in the Rutherglen and Hamilton by-election ("Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election: Sarwar hails seismic win", heraldscotland, October 6).

What seems to have happened is that the blue Tories voted in large numbers for the red Tories, which shows that the fault line in Scottish politics is no longer the ideology of the progressive left versus the regressive right, but the convergence of parties of the centre-right. Whatever colour of conservatism we get after the General Election the desire for independence will not go away, and it has remained remarkably stable at 40%-plus over the last couple of years of serious disruption in the SNP.

Independence was never going to be easy, and I foresee a few years of restructuring in Scottish politics along the lines that we have seen in the convergence of Labour and Tory parties around the "precious" (to them) Union. In the meantime, the independence movement must get its act together, and that must start with the SNP. Nobody votes for a disunited political party, but it is still the biggest party, and it's incumbent on it to find ways to bring disparate voices like Jim Sillars, Alex Salmond and yes, Nicola Sturgeon, back into the fold. There's plenty of talent in the younger members of the movement to carry it forward in the likes of Mhairi Black, Stephen Flynn and, I suspect, Katy Loudon.

Any unionists out there who think that a Labour government has any magic solution to repair the desperate post-Brexit UK, and catastrophic decisions like the scrapping of the single most important infrastructure project since the 1960s, are deluding themselves, and the blue Tories will be back in power soon enough.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

A kick up the backside

ALTHOUGH disappointed by the Rutherglen result, I am certainly not despondent. It is a kick up the backside to a hesitant SNP and as such may turn out to be a good result for the party and indeed Scotland.

On this one result the total unionist media hail it as a fantastic and complete political change, forecasting a possible 40 Scottish Labour seats at next year’s General Election. In 2015 the same media did not herald such change when the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats. The facts are the Tories lost their deposit and Labour now has two MPs in Scotland.

However, at the SNP conference it is vital that unity of purpose is now restored and that yesterday’s stalwarts, Alex Neil and Fergus Ewing, gracefully retire.

Rather than scratching about for reluctant election candidates, SNP branches should be looking for committed young and vibrant people to lead Scotland forward but with the drive and energy of a young Alex Salmond.

Grant Frazer, Newtonmore.

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Treat result with caution

PROFESSOR Sir John Curtice is quoted this morning as claiming “If this kind of swing [at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election] were to be replicated across Scotland as a whole you’d be talking about the Labour Party quite clearly being the dominant party north of the Border” ("Rutherglen and Hamilton West result: John Curtice reacts", heraldscotland, October 6). However, some characteristics of the constituency encourage caution.

First, the vote was called because of Margaret Ferrier’s recall, an aspect compounded by the SNP’s own internal problems, not least the instability caused by the resignation of a long-standing and dominant leader.

Then there is the instability of the constituency itself. Since electing its first MP in 2005 the constituency has only once returned the sitting party: 2010 when Labour retained the seat. Since then, it has yo-yoed between SNP (elected 2015 and 2019) and Labour (2017 and last night). Consequently, perhaps change is what should be expected from this constituency?

Comparing last night’s vote to previous elections, the quantum of the Labour vote held up: 17,845 last night, compared to 18,545 in 2019. The fall in the SNP vote, on the other hand, is dramatic, from 23,775 in 2019 to 8,399 last night. Was it that the Labour vote increased dramatically given the much higher share of a lower turnout (37.2% last night compared to 66.5% in 2019)? Or was it that the SNP vote - deterred by the previous MP’s demise and the debacles in the SNP - decided to stay at home? Probably, in degrees we will never know, both.

However, given the instability of the constituency (held only once by the sitting party) and the vote’s circumstances (recalled MP, serious problems in the SNP), perhaps inviting consideration of the replicating of the result elsewhere should be treated with caution?

There are, though, two positive outcomes possible. First of all, if it focuses the Yes movement’s mind to understand unity is not an option but a necessity. Disagreements may happen but we cannot afford divisions. Our adversaries aren’t each other but those opposing independence. Secondly, that independence will not be won by a single party, but only by a movement united around independence.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

There is no way back

CAN Humza Yousaf survive? Indeed can the SNP/Green alliance survive and is independence finally off the table?

The result for Labour in Rutherglen was seismic. Labour took 59% of the vote. Compare that to Winnie Ewing's victory in Hamilton in 1967 with only 46% of the vote. Not only did Labour win spectacularly but the combined voting totals for the pro-independence parties was around 9,000 while the pro-Union parties achieved around 20,000.

A massive tsunami has hit Scottish politics. Voters want a decent health service and good transport links. The SNP / Green alliance is offering nothing but irrelevances. There is no way back.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

The shape of things to come

THE Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election result surely signals a major change in the future of Scottish politics. The people have spoken.

And I forecast that this is just the start of things to come, both at Scottish and UK levels. The Scottish Nationalists have had their day, and their true colours have come out in the wash.

The good people of Scotland should not be expected to wait until 2026 for the next Holyrood election; the SNP/Green alliance has shown itself to be utterly incompetent in most aspects of Scotland’s devolved powers.

The only answer to this dilemma obviously entails the holding of a much earlier election. It is simply inconceivable that Scotland’s economic, structural and political scenes should be subjected to any further governance on the part of this grouping of proven incompetents.

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.

The Herald: How stands the Church of Scotland on the pursuit of Gospel principles?How stands the Church of Scotland on the pursuit of Gospel principles? (Image: Church of Scotland)

Kirk's principles are sound

CONTRARY to what the Rev Dr Robert Anderson (Letters, October 6) would have us believe, the Kirk’s principles are very firmly in place.

In this month’s issue of the Kirk’s magazine, Life and Work, he can read some of them in the article by the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, this year’s Moderator of the General Assembly. She argues passionately that the Kirk must always stand alongside the poorest in society - not only through its wide-ranging charitable activities, but above all in campaigning for justice. In her article, she writes that “the Church of Scotland and others join the Poverty Alliance to call on the Scottish Government and our communities to actively support those living in poverty in this country” and instances the need for “fair pay for social care ... fair funding for the third sector, adequate incomes; food; housing and transport”.

She quotes Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor”, and takes that to mean, as I do, that this is stating his vision: “ a world where everyone has enough and can live a dignified life.”

For me, as for millions of Christians, these are Gospel principles, and Sally’s words set them clearly before us all.

Rev Dr John Harvey, Glasgow.

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When the kids cut you loose

IT would appear that Neil Mackay is not such a tough guy after all. What a beautiful article today ("We men need to share the pain of empty nest syndrome", The Herald, October 5). I am an unashamed blubberer and his words resonated with my own fairly recent family experience and it brought a tear to my eye.

My three cost centres have all now flown the coop in staggered exits and are now all off the payroll and forging their own paths through this life. Mrs S and I are now on a mission to spend their inheritance in our lifetimes.

A few weeks ago, we had one of life’s unplanned serendipitous moments as a result of a health scare (now resolved) where just the five of us were together in the house, without partners or other third parties, for the first time in years.

It was wonderful but strange in that the “kids” assumed their respective roles and positions in the family hierarchy just as it had been when they really were kids. We even all sat in the same places at the table as we had during these childhood years.

It was a wonderful evening and helped my wife back on her feet. The laughs and reminiscences we enjoyed were better than any medicine.

At the end of the day, it’s all a process, not so much of cutting them loose, as coming to terms with the fact that they will, must, cut you loose.That’s the hardest part. Not that you have to cut them loose but accepting that they are going to do it to you.

I just count my blessings.

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

In the swing

JAMES Martin (Letters October 6) makes a good point about your devoting one-third of your front page to a photograph of the Celtic football team.

Today's large front page photograph of Catherine Zeta-Jones, completing her follow-through in fine style when competing in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at St Andrews, ("Star shot", The Herald, October 6) did, however, set the mood and prepared me well for reading elsewhere of the heady issues quoted by Mr Martin.

More of these, please.

David Miller, Milngavie.