Independence debate is political theatre

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The most pertinent point made by former first minister Henry McLeish on the independence referendum was the least provocative (Perspective, 20 August).

It was that voters in Scotland want to know what happens the day after the ballot. Once they ask themselves that question, the answers might be unpalatable to both sides.

In the event of a No vote, I think we can expect a period of political gloating from 
Better Together’s assorted support.

That includes, of course, a large number of Conservative MPs in the south of England who have long believed that Scotland has more than its fair share of public expenditure.

They will be backed north and south of the Border by a concerted effort to discredit First Minister Alex Salmond, and everything the SNP administration at Holyrood stands for, in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

But in the event of a Yes vote, there will be little cause for backslapping by the supporters of autonomy.

An affirmative vote in the referendum will trigger detailed negotiations between the governments in Edinburgh and London.

The outcome of this cannot be predicted with certainty, and the problems have been well documented in Gavin McCrone’s balanced and excellent book on the economics of Scottish independence.

Whatever government gets a mandate in the first election of the independent state will have to work within those negotiated parameters.

Who knows what policies it might have to pursue? Who knows, too, what will be the attitude of the 440,000 Conservative voters in Scotland, at the last general election, to a shift to the right in England.

Their votes will be important in the independence poll; the prospect of the return of a Conservative government in London might enthuse them to reject independence in exactly the opposite way to what Henry McLeish predicts.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court


Henry McLeish would have done us all a favour if he had focused his views on the future of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Scottish separatism.

His singular thesis of any value in this over-long piece of political theatre, which is neither vaporous nor left-wing alarmist as so much else is in his laborious discourse, is contained in the sentence: “Labour has to reconnect with the electors and show willingness to transform a tired and dated Union and set out a new direction for a modern, federated, flexible and fairer one.”

Even out of this turgidity the only clue to precise principle and advice is his use of the word “federated”.

A federation is a state of being joined by a treaty or an alliance.

The question is: by what other logical term would one describe the 1707 Act of Union?

We are, therefore, thankful to learn that Henry McLeish has not joined the ranks of the Scottish separatists, who, out of a concoction of anti-
English virulence and Quixotic economics, are prepared to disrupt the United Kingdom of Great Britain, bound as it is organically by ties of kinship, centuries-old traditions and common interest.

Alastair Harper


by Dunfermline

It’s not just Nigel Farage who could turn people so against Westminster politics that they vote for Scottish independence, as Henry McLeish warns.

There is a danger also that the whole tenor of Westminster politics, from the millionaire elitism of the Cabinet to the invisibility of Labour leader Ed Miliband and the coalition sell-out by the Cleggistas, will persuade people that the politics of Holyrood can only be preferable.

Martin Hillman

Cheyne Street