False premise

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YOUR headline “Sturgeon fails to promise reversal of coalition’s child-benefit cutbacks” (2 February) demonstrates the opportunism of the Unionist parties’ who posed the question.

The question is, of course, relevant only to a situation where there is a Yes vote in the referendum in 2014, and where the SNP wins the 2016 Holyrood election when it would be in a position to reverse the cuts.

Were a Unionist party to win that first election after independence, the question would be equally valid for it.

It is strange, therefore, that Scottish Conservatives should attribute 2016 success to the SNP in this way.

The significant aspect is that, if there is a No vote in 2014, and no Unionist party proposes that welfare should be taken over by Holyrood (where it should have been from the start) as part of a package of extra powers, then we would remain subject to the status quo, ie: welfare would be reserved to Westminster.

But, the Conservatives, who lead the coalition making the cuts, are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Labour in defence of the Union, so they can hardly ask that same question of Labour regarding their position, which would arise, not in 2016, but in 2015, when the next Westminster election takes place.

And, as Labour in its 13 years in power at Westminster also considered welfare reform, but took a sharp step backwards on electoral grounds, its MPs and MSPs are hardly able to criticise the cuts.

If the political parties don’t recognise that the referendum is about the constitutional structures under which government operates and not, meantime, about policies, we will be subjected to similar examples of sterile debate, and the voters out there will become more confused, which might be just where the Unionist politicians want them.

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent

Currie, Midlothian