Readers' Letters: Alba's referendum referendum is just pie in the sky

The defection of Ash Regan from the SNP to Alba has given that distinctly crackpot new party an opportunity to introduce legislation at Holyrood (your report, 30 November). Ms Regan’s choice is to propose a pre-referendum referendum. That is, Scots would be asked whether they think Holyrood should have the power to legislate for and negotiate secession from the UK.
Ash Regan, formerly with the SNP, now sits as an Alba MSP (Picture: Getty)Ash Regan, formerly with the SNP, now sits as an Alba MSP (Picture: Getty)
Ash Regan, formerly with the SNP, now sits as an Alba MSP (Picture: Getty)

Ms Regan is aware of the Supreme Court’s judgment last year that Holyrood has no locus in constitutional matters, as per the Scotland Act 1998. Her aim appears to be to appeal to Scots over the head of Supreme Court judges.

This would test the mettle of the parliament’s officers, including the Green Party Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone. How could she and her colleagues allow debate and enactment of a measure that has been declared ultra vires by the Supreme Court? Even if they did – and their track record suggests it is possible – what difference would it make? Would local government officials play their organisational part in an illegal referendum, nominating returning officers and providing appropriate premises? Probably some would and some would not, so that only a very partial result would be obtained. There would be nothing for Westminster to “negotiate” with Holyrood about.

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Never one to shrink from the limelight, Alex Salmond claims he had such a plan oven ready for the eventuality that David Cameron refused him a referendum in 2014. It would have been pie in the sky then, and now, especially with the Supreme Court ruling, it is beyond absurd.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Mitigate damage

John McLellan (Perspective, 28 November) highlights the great unsaid of the Scottish Government's Just Transition/Net Zero policies: Scotland only causes 0.1 per cent of global warming and unless we believe the cosy, complacent, arrogant myth that by setting an example to the world we can accelerate the move from carbon energy, the fact is that tax-funded subsidies, legislation to force behaviour, community or gigantic wind projects, coloured wheelie bins and £33 billion-worth of heat pumps won't make a blind bit of difference in terms of the impact of global warming and climate change coming to the UK and Scotland.

In fact, it could put us at a competitive and security disadvantage when the main culprits, China and India, pull ahead courtesy of their lower cost base or while we struggle to deal with predicted impacts such as coastal erosion and floods (which may mean moving whole towns), hurricane damage and the inevitable mass migration to more temperate countries by people fleeing drought, famine, strife and loss of arable land.

In short, the climate change mitigation we need to think about and act upon is how to deal with the damage and threats it will create.

Perhaps our climate change experts and politicians should have a read of an excellent, frightening OECD report entitled “Strengthening resilience for a changing climate” which discusses these issues – and resilience – in great detail.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

​Net losses

Your 30 November Editorial is very apposite in suggesting COP28 “risks descent into farcical greenwashing”. It is time for politicians to admit that the UK and other industrialised countries cannot achieve net zero by 2050. For the UK to achieve this goal will require the establishment of a national energy authority with powers to plan and finance energy infrastructure on a massive scale.

Without increasing nuclear electricity-generating capacity to provide output of 50GW by 2050 the task will not come close to being achieved. The UK Government have failed to build any nuclear plants in the past 30 years, and although Hinkley Point is nearly complete it is too little and too late.

We know that Scotland’s First Minister will attend the COP28 summit. He is not supporting nuclear energy and if Scotland don’t build nuclear energy-generating plants with an output of approximately 5GW by 2050, net zero will definitely not be achievable.

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Your final paragraph is correct in saying there may be hope that if this COP28 turns into a farce it could “prompt an outcry that forces the world to finally come to its senses.” I am not so optimistic.

C Scott, Edinburgh

In circles

I am reliably informed that 70.000 delegates are expected at COP28 this week. The aim of the event is to fast track energy transition and slash emissions. I wonder if it is possible to calculate how much energy is consumed and hot air (greenhouse gases) produced by those travelling to and taking part in this jamboree! An AI algorithm could almost certainly come up with some sort of answer. Next question. How much energy and hot air is required to ensure the AI computer maintains a cool head? Is this an example of a circular economy?

S R Wild, Edinburgh

Big zero

UK ministers have called the SNP-Green plans to block all new nuclear developments in Scotland “bonkers”. They are again calling on the First Minister to reconsider his party's knee-jerk reaction to the idea as part of a fossil fuel free package to counter climate change. Latest polls are most encouraging for those who see nuclear power as helping solve the fossil fuel crisis.

The fact that investing in the latest nuclear plant could provide clean energy seems to matter little if you belong to the dogma-ridden sectors of the SNP and Greens. They prefer to enter into savage net zero commitments which, as always, will hit the poorest most.

Why do they not put aside the anti-nuclear, almost religious, cant and dogma and instead put the people of this country first – they have the clean answer to our energy problems in the palms of their hands and will not grasp it. It seems the FM prefers meaningless and uninvited carbon-guzzling trips to the latest COP meeting with his band of hangers-on, where they may persuade someone to pose with them for a selfie.

Methinks “bonkers” is too kind a description for what they are doing to us.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Reform NHS

If media reports are to be believed, it seems that the NHS in Scotland is on its last legs. BMA Scotland considers that the NHS won't make it to its centenary in 2048, while the management team in NHS Forth Valley are deemed dysfunctional and subject to special measures. Personally, I have received great treatment from the doctors and nurses within NHS Forth Valley, they are obviously doing their best within a working environment which is far from ideal and shouldn't be tolerated.

While it would appear that the current problems within the NHS have presented the Scottish Government with an opportunity to bring about much-needed reforms, it seems that the Health Secretary is more concerned about saving his credibility and job, while his boss jets off to Dubai to save the world from, among other things, aircraft emissions. Nothing will change.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Democracy danger

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While I enjoyed John Birkett’s letter (30 November), there is a danger in refusing to deal with governments of whom we disapprove by unilaterally branding them “terrorist” or “gangsters”. Struan Stevenson (Perspective, 29 November) is right to say how vile the behaviour of some organisations is, but I doubt the benefit of resolution is to be found in their isolation.

Henry McLeish (Perspective, same day) hits the nail on the head in describing the Tory Party’s shift to the further right, and its accepting of the amorality which commenced with Boris Johnson as justifiable in achieving objectives. No matter how obnoxious we judge the behaviour of an organisation, intolerance (Rishi Sunak’s boorish dismissal of the Greek premier comes to mind) and the copying of its methods as an excuse for action must surely put our whole concept of democracy in danger.

H A N McKenzie, Edinburgh

Pumping for info

Could we please have honest, unbiased, answers about heat pump insulations? How noisy are they close to a neighbour's house? How much cooler do they make the air surrounding them? To operate efficiently, will some older houses need to be re-piped with wider pipes – involving pulling carpets up and installing new radiators? Having had quotations twice, firms, having given “unfavourable”, “theoretical” answers, suddenly indicated it would be “all right” without the changes! It is a big expense if the system will not operate without expensive alterations, unless the Scottish Government intends to cover such changes!

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian


Patrick Harvie has extended the date of scrapping perfectly serviceable gas or oil boilers from 2025 to 2028. He is also considering fining Scots who refuse to install a heat pump. Some people think an air-sourced heat pump means you are getting heating "free" from the air. Not so. A heat pump consumes electricity to work. A typical heat pump will consume 16kw per hour in this cold weather, be on 24/7 and cost, with its huge 300 litre storage tank, over £8,000 – plus fitting, plus refitting your entire central heating system. Do the maths. And in addition to that you will need an immersion heater to heat hot water above the safe level 0f 60C to avoid Legionnaires' disease.

Meanwhile, all our reliable gas and coal generation plants are to be closed. Where will electricity come from to power these things on a windless day?

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

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