MARK McGeoghegan ("The major strategic issue the SNP must now face", The Herald October 9) raises a very important point: what’s the point of voting SNP if independence is not front and centre? The clear message of independence must take priority at any future election if Scotland is to reach her climate targets. We cannot afford to be tied to governments who do not embrace Scotland’s priorities.

I acknowledge that there are people who vote SNP because of the socially-just policies the party has demonstrated in government, but do not support full independence. And it is those policies - including progressive taxation, no tuition fees for Scottish students, free prescriptions and the game-changing Scottish Child Payment - that the SNP must present to the voters in banner headlines, because they are in stark contrast to what Labour is offering.

The goal of the SNP will always be full independence, but the party must get the message across to voters of just how much the UK is in control of our daily lives. Westminster controls energy policy that affects our heating bills; it is in charge of 86% of welfare spend in Scotland, and controls immigration and drugs policy.

With a new chief executive and a new leader in place the SNP is not about to perform a U-turn on its founding principles. However, a campaign of informing voters on who holds Scotland’s purse strings is required.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

Indy is still in the lead

KEITH Howell (Letters, October 9) complains about "every misstep, failure and shortcoming that the SNP has built a reputation for over the last decade and a half"; if it was as bad as that, why did the voters keep putting the party back into government? After all, it is currently in its historic fourth term of office.

I suggest that it has something to do with SNP policies which are welcomed and appreciated by hard-pressed households across Scotland. Mr Howell concludes his letter by hoping that "Scotland can find itself again, preferring to be together rather than apart". I had no idea Scotland was lost, but undoubtedly and unfortunately, we are apart from the European Union. Not Scotland's fault.

While it is understandable that unionists of all colours are thrilled with their by-election win last week, they might be sobered by the news that a new poll from the Tony Blair Institute finds support for independence leading by four points over support for the Union.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, and one by-election won't change the fact that many of Labour's policies are no more than a reflection of Tory policies; indeed, you couldn't put a fag paper between them.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Rutherglen will act as a spur

ANAS Sarwar on the conclusion of Thursday's by-election announced that "Scottish politics has fundamentally changed". Can somebody please go out and survey the position on independence of the residents of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, to put his gas at a peep?

Polls consistently indicate that the country is divided 50/50 on independence. Yes, the SNP may have lost support, but many in Scotland will never identify with the branch office that is Labour Scotland. The by-election has disappointed many nationalists and will only act as a spur to many who wish to right the wrong of the 1707 Act of Union.

Stuart Smith, Aberdeen.

Read more: Now we can hope for a future where we can redress the harm

Is Shanks truly Labour?

IS Michael Shanks, the new Labour MP for Rutherglen, going to sit on the Opposition benches when Labour is in Government?

He does not agree with Labour on gender reform or the two-child benefit cap or Brexit or its failure to roll out free school meals or the bedroom tax or nuclear weapons or the royal family.

During the recent campaign, he told STV News he would, proudly, oppose Sir Keir's policies if elected.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing.

Turnout is a real worry

I NOTE the letter (October 7) from Dr Gerald Edwards on the result in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election saying "a tsunami has hit Scottish politics". I wonder if he has missed the significance of the figures which show that there was a turnout of only 37.2%, which to my mind is appalling in that it reflects the abject disinterest by the majority of constituents who did not bother to turn out and use their democratic right to vote for any candidate.

Sadly, if this is continued throughout the country in a General Election, we are going to be electing Members of Parliament who will represent only a minority of the population. It remains to be seen if this disinterest will be reflected in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voting patterns, in which case we are truly sunk as a nation.

Allan Halliday, Paisley.

Greens have no mandate

THE most significant part of the recent by-election for Rutherglen and Hamilton, apart from the obvious Labour landslide, was the fact that the Greens amassed a paltry 601 votes.It’s similar to the type of results that the Monster Raving Loony Party used to achieve in the past.

Fortunately no party invited the latter to form a coalition government. It’s truly disturbing that such a tiny party as the Scottish Greens has achieved a level of power that is completely disproportionate to its share of the vote.

In Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater we have two zealots who wield ridiculous power and who should be nowhere near the governing of Scotland. They simply haven’t earned a mandate from the electorate.

John Gilligan, Ayr.

Read more: SNP must find unity. And that includes Sturgeon and Salmond

Look again at why they lost

THE response of SNP supporters to losing the seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West has been interesting in some of their throwaway lines. Grant Frazer (Letters, October 7) wrote of it being vital that “unity of purpose is now restored and that yesterday’s stalwarts, Alex Neil and Fergus Ewing, gracefully retire”. I must have missed the interview with Messrs Neil and Ewing where they said they no longer believe in independence.

What exactly is this unity of purpose? Is it blindly following whatever the leader believes even if it means ignoring your constituents and damaging the economy? Yesterday’s stalwarts are from a time when there was more to governing than shouting independence, Tories and Westminster bad. I may not agree with Fergus Ewing on his desire to separate Scotland from the UK but he stands up for his constituents and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Alex Neil may no longer be a serving politician but his recent performance at the Public Petitions Committee showed that he understood how infrastructure projects needed to be planned and that they needed monitoring. It was to our detriment that he was shuffled out of the role. Contrast that with today’s separatist politicians who just follow the party line and never question anything - something that is evident in the ferries and the Deposit Return Scheme debacles.

Mr Frazer ironically seems not to believe in independence of thought and using the powers that the Scottish Government has to do what’s best for the country, its constituents, the economy and the infrastructure. Maybe he should look again at why the SNP lost that seat.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.

Reality has taken over

IT seems that after the Rutherglen and Hamilton by-election result, the people of Scotland have finally woken up to the realisation that the current SNP administration is simply not fit to govern our great country. It does beggar the question as to why it has taken so long?

One answer perhaps is that the voters have realised that the reason for the existence of the SNP and its ideology of independence no longer remains or indeed is achievable. Consequently the focus turns to its achievements in office and so reality takes over. The reality is that the demagogue-like worship of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon has disappeared in the mists of controversy and we have been left with Humza Yousaf. It has dawned that a minister who demonstrably failed as a cabinet secretary in the health brief, the justice brief, the transport brief and the Europe brief is actually not fit to lead our nation.

The time has come to remove the SNP from office via the ballot box at the first opportunity and reunite our country.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.