Readers' Letters: A modest proposal on state of independence

On the reasonable assumption that the Supreme Court will either decline to make a ruling or rule that the Scottish Government does not have the authority to hold an independence referendum, we are faced with the next General Election becoming a so called “de facto referendum”.

In a first past the post system and with the vote split between the four credible parties who will field candidates in Scotland in that election, the SNP can expect to have the largest number of MPs elected but on a share of the vote well below 50 per cent. Thus there would be no demonstrable majority support for independence and the MPs elected will have no mandate to promote it.

They will therefore continue to manufacture grievances and promote division just as their predecessors have done since 2015. This is a depressing prospect. If Scotland is to emerge from this sterile political stalemate a different approach is required.

A referendum is properly used to confirm a perceived move in public opinion. So, rather than seeking a bare majority for independence of 50 per cent plus one, I suggest that the SNP should seek to (1) govern well in Scotland within the current constitutional arrangements; (2) work constructively with other parties at Westminster to the benefit of the Scottish electorate; and (3) set out realistic and substantive proposals for an independent Scotland, demonstrating why this would be in Scotland’s best interests. The aim would be to build support for them and for their case.

A softly, softly approach might be best route to Scottish independence, suggests reader (Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

In parallel with implementing this approach, agree with the Westminster government that a further referendum on independence will take place when there has been evidence of support for independence being sustained at 60 per cent or above for a period of a year.

Sadly, I fear this approach will be a non-starter. I suspect, rather, that there will be continued unsubstantiated rhetoric and spin, all issues will be considered through the binary constitutional filter and elected representatives will march with flags and make speeches about “freedom”. As a result, the debate will move no further forward and Scotland will become even more deeply divided.

George Rennie, Inverness

Brexit damage

John Birkett’s defence of Brexit (Letters, 1 July) was shot down by the publication of the UK’s trade performance, which this year fell to its worst level since records began, heaping more pressure on sterling in international currency markets.

The country’s current account deficit was calculated at 8.3 per cent of gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2022, a deterioration from an average of 2.6 per cent across all of 2021. It was the worst figure on record since quarterly balance of payments data was first published in 1955.

There has been a marked decline in exports since Brexit and as Scotland exports more per head than England, Brexit damages Scotland’s economy more than the rest of the UK.

1955 was, of course, the last time the Tories won a de facto mandate from the people of Scotland to do anything in Scotland.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Flagging up

The Battle of Athelstaneford (“Home of Scotland's flag flying high after £100,000 lift”, 30 June) is probably a legend, as no academic historian appears to mention it. There is no mention of such a battle in 832 in any contemporary document, whether English, Scottish or Irish, though the Chronicle of the Canons of Huntingdon does mention that in 834, “the Scots fought with the Picts… and thus Alpin, king of the Scots, was the conqueror".

If there is any truth in it, the likelihood is that the “army” facing Oengus, King of the Picts, was probably the local “fyrd” of armed, leading local men and their followers defending their land. Perhaps a local “ealdorman” (a senior official) called Athelstan was defeated there. However, Athelstan was not King of Northumbria in 832.

If a battle took place there, the Pictish/Scottish army was the aggressor, as it was well within Northumbrian territory, of which Lothian was then part. If Oengus was leading an army of Picts and Scots in 832, he was merely doing what kings of Scotia did at that time; they attacked their neighbours regularly. It is how Malcolm Canmore died, for example, on his fifth attack against Norman-ruled England more than 150 years later.

The story of the Saltire and the Battle of Athelstaneford is a myth, in all likelihood, rather like King Arthur's battles.

It was probably based on Roman Emperor Constantine’s vision of a cross in the sky before the Milvian Bridge battle, which he won. To celebrate it is to celebrate aggression.

Moreover, surely the £100,000 award by Historic Environment Scotland to the Flag Heritage Centre should go to a historic site, as its name implies, not to one based on myth?

Andrew H N Gray, Edinburgh

You say potato

A new strain of potatoes, containing as much vitamin C as lemons, has been developed by Scottish scientists at the James Hutton Institute, formerly the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), in Dundee.

Crops of this potentially valuable and nutritious strain could be grown in the UK within five years.

However, because the techniques used involve “gene editing”, the SNP Government has said it will not allow such crops to be grown in Scotland.

This ruling is in spite of researchers at the University of Edinburgh saying that Scotland “will be left behind if it does not embrace it”.

Last week, on June 27 at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, said: "The Scottish farmers want it, The National Farmers' Union want it, Scottish food producers want it".

Why should the results of this game-changing research work, carried out by Scottish scientists in Scotland, be rejected by a Scottish parliament elected by “the people of Scotland”?

Does our First Minister, along with her cohort of SNP and Green ministers, realise that they are blocking better nourishment in a hungry world – or do they know something that our skilled Scottish scientists do not know?

(Dr) Alison Innes, Stracht, Aberdeenshire

War profits

I am saddened, but not surprised, that it appears, according to public media reports, that our Holyrood SNP (and Green?) government have taken a slice off our fragile public service spending to contribute it to the Ukraine war chest.

Of course Ukraine should be able to get the arms it needs to defend itself from the illegal invasion by the new Czar Vladimir Putin's Russian imperialist invasion.

However, it would make more sense if this was taken from our war industry companies' wild excess profits from trading in the latest murderous weapons.

Or is that too much like a so-called super tax on the oil companies?

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

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Migrants tragedy

The death of 53 illegal immigrants in a lorry in San Antonio, Texas, is, sadly, not a unique event. Very similar tragedies have happened in Mozambique in 2020 with 64 dead Ethiopians, in Essex in 2019 with 39 Vietnamese killed, in Austria in 2015 with 71 fatalities and in Dover in 2000 when 58 Chinese citizens died.

A moment’s thought would tell us that throwing open the borders is not the answer to these tragedies. Already the USA and Britain have high sustained rates of legal immigration. Ending restrictions would lead to movements of people on a vastly greater scale overwhelming our public services, undermining our economies and destroying social cohesion.

More fundamentally, neither the British nor the American public would consent to such a policy.

Nor is increasing the already high level of legal migration the answer, as the demand would still vastly exceed the supply. Criminal networks can make tens of thousand per illegal migrant, smuggling them into the UK. Prostitution and other forced labour is part of their business model.

The only other possible solution is enforcement. If we consistently detained and rapidly removed those who entered Britain illegally the flows and the tragedies would soon stop, as would the associated modern slavery. Until that happens the virtue signalling, the tragedies and the exploitation will continue.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife

Mad world

The more time that goes by, the more convinced I am that I live in a complete madhouse. The majority of Scots know the difference between a man and a woman. They know when a man is dressed like a woman and that men cannot have babies. However, a small group with a warped idea of reality have decided to impose their adolescent idiocy on the rest of us and to force us to accept their juvenile attitudes to gender. Most women object to being vilified by men who want to pretend to be women and the Scottish Government are failing to support them in this, which tells me all I need to know about them, including from their inability to accept political reality in the shape of defeat in the independence referendum, but these are two sides of the same coin.

When I read Mark Boyle's letter yesterday saying that Scottish Government staff must be given compulsory indoctrination using something called the “Trans Language Primer” which (apparently) calls everyone who is LBGTQ+ "quiltbags", I almost spat out my cornflakes. Not only that. Normal women who live in the real world are called FARTS – "feminism appropriating ridiculous transphobe", which would include your mother and mine. How childish, yet logical for such a deluded bunch. For a tiny minority, these gender activists are being given far too much attention. If the SNP want to retain even a vestige of respect from the Scottish population, they should realise that it is time to put these people back in their box.

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

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