Mandate debate

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Colin Hamilton (Letters, 13 January) is gracious in conceding that I do have a point in drawing attention to the fact that a poll indicated that a majority of the electorate in Scotland would like to see a debate on independence between the Prime Minister of the UK and the First Minister of Scotland.

He himself makes a very valid point when he refers to the diversity of polls proliferating around the independence debate. This brings to mind the statement attributed to Mark Twain describing the pronouncements of another Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli: “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

I think this indicates precisely why none of us are wise to set undue store at this stage by what the polls are telling us – even unionists who have declared that the contest is all over bar the shouting.

Mr Hamilton ends his letter by saying the SNP only gained 45 per cent of the votes cast in a 50 per cent turnout.

This is accurate, but it seems odd for supporters of the Union to take solace from a vote which showed that 45 per cent of the turnout who were motivated to get off their backsides and vote voted for the SNP, while the supporters of the Union, knowing that the provision of an independence referendum was the cornerstone of the SNP manifesto, stayed at home in their droves.

This resulted in a crushing majority for the SNP, which was not supposed to be feasible under the devolution settlement.

In that respect, I would respectfully say to Mr Hamilton that Alex Salmond has more of a mandate to speak for the Scottish electorate than the leader of the Parliament in Westminster, who constantly intervenes in the debate while lacking the courage to face Mr Salmond.

Might it be the fact that Mr Cameron’s mandate in Scotland amounts to one MP has something to do with it?

Douglas Turner

Derby Street

Edinburgh