Readers' Letters: Appeasement of SNP will make things worse

Sir Keir Starmer’s plans for “new powers” for Holyrood are not the answer to any constitutional questions. We have heard all this before. Many will recall being told all those years ago by Labour that devolution would “kill nationalism stone dead”.

How did that work out? Labour MP Tam Dalyell and many others forecast the result of devolution in graphic detail and every single thing they forecast would happen, did happen. Devolution killed Labour in Scotland and it is only now recovering.

The problem is that the SNP have no interest, none whatsoever, in a well-run and thriving Scotland. Much the opposite. They have only one aim – look at the “de facto referendum” plans, for example, and any well-meant proposals by Labour – or the Tories or Lib Dems – will be utilised in the greater battle as they see it and then mocked and ignored, as has happened time after time after time.

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So, forget about more SNP appeasement; as it did in 1938, it only worsens matters.

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Serious doubt

Imagine that a courier service had promised to deliver something to you eight years ago, then claimed it had been delivered, and now this week (without even admitting that they had failed the first time around), tell you that they really might, now, get it to you, at some point in the future.Welcome to Gordon Brown’s devolution deliveries, where the various constitutional goodies that were promised to us so solemnly back in 2014 will now be “consulted upon”, with a view to making them happen at some unspecified time in years to come (subject to that consultation, of course).Is he, and his Labour Party, serious?

C Hegarty, North Berwick, East Lothian

Fight on record

There are some interesting ideas in Gordon Brown's report on the future of the UK, notably the abolition of the House of Lords. In relation to Scotland, particularly interesting is the proposal to give further borrowing powers to the Scottish Government. The SNP constantly complain that they do not have full access to the economic “levers” but when pressed the only lever they ever come up with is borrowing. Increasing the current borrowing limit of £600 million may well be worth trying even if only to see what a mess an SNP government might get us into.

I am concerned, however, at the suggestion that “Mr Brown appeared to back the idea that the next general election would be a test of the independence question” (Scotsman, December 5). A route map to a referendum was spelled out by Nicola Sturgeon in 2015. If the polls consistently show 60 per cent in favour of independence for a year or more then the case for a Section 30 order is solid. Labour should agree to that, park the issue and fight the election on the abysmal record in office of the SNP – which is, of course, the last thing the SNP want to do.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Beyond naive

Albert Einstein told us that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. It’s happening again. The Labour Party that created our flawed devolution settlement wants further constitutional change.

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We already have an overmighty executive at Holyrood without the kind of checks and balances that there are at Westminster – for example, the robust select committees which put our poodles to shame. Not content with that, we have had two further Scotland Acts since that of 1997 – those in 2012 and 2016, enacted by Conservative governments, which have given the SNP government extra powers, including some over income tax.These it has used to tinker with rates and bands so that tax revenues will soon be £1.5 billion a year lower than if Scotland had had no tax-raising powers, as Professor John McLaren has shown.

Why is Labour so anxious to devolve even more power to a regime at Holyrood that fails at everything it touches and that operates in deep secrecy?

The list of failures is long, through Prestwick, BiFab, Gupta, Scotwind, the Scottish not-for-profit energy company that never was but cost us tens of thousands nevertheless. The apogee of failure can be seen in two recent issues: the tortuous and distinctly dodgy ferries saga; and the botched “independent” Census. Has Labour not got the message that giving Holyrood more powers under the current dispensation is a recipe for disaster?

Reforms are needed: more authority for the excellent Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, who investigates as far as the utterly opaque SNP system at Holyrood permits; beefed up parliamentary committees with strong powers to interrogate ministers and hold them to account. Methods of accountability are required that demand loyalty to the system that is supposed to serve the Scottish people, rather than the current convention of loyalty to the political regime in power.

Wake up Keir Starmer, Gordon Brown, Anas Sarwar! Either you know that the Scottish devolved system has been distorted and manipulated by the current incumbents, or else you are beyond naïve.

Do not afford the SNP any more power that they would only misuse.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Losers’ game

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Is there any way in which Gordon Brown can be put out to pasture permanently? No sooner has the SNP been put back in its box then he pops up with another crazy plan to make a mess of the Union in pursuit of what? I don't really know, but Nicola Sturgeon must be delighted to have had Mr Brown pull the stake out of her heart.

Mr Brown seems to think that tinkering with the Union (I can think of much more evocative terms than “tinkering with”, by the way) will somehow persuade Scots whose critical powers are so atrophied that they vote SNP to vote Labour. By all means, vote Labour rather then SNP, but please, do not even look at the plans being proposed.

Messrs Brown and Starmer want to give SNP ministers the right to “join international agreements and bodies such as Erasmus, Unesco and the Nordic Council” (your report, December 5). If you do that, they will simply say, “we want more” and “we still want independence”. You can't out-SNP the SNP. Does he still not understand that?

Creating a second elected chamber at Westminster will simply throw a cat among the pigeons and cause endless chaos as the new chamber competes with the Commons to be top dog!

I am sure that my despair is reflected across the whole UK. Perhaps someone can persuade the Supreme Court to make Mr Brown illegal?

Andrew H N Gray, Edinburgh

Poor case

So what guarantees do we have with independence? Precious few, I would suggest.

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In its ongoing crusade for Scotland to become independent from the 315 year-old Union of Parliaments, the SNP has come up with very few answers supporting any case for such a traumatic event.

Firstly, let us take a look at the Scottish economy: Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are £52 billion (60 per cent); to the EU, £16bn (19 per cent); and to the rest of the world, £18bn (21 per cent).

Then let us consider the questions relating to a Central Bank – and to currency. It is very unlikely that the Westminster Parliament would allow an independent Scotland to have access to the Bank of England as a Central Bank, any formal currency union with the remaining part of the UK as part of a Sterling Zone or use of the Pound Sterling.

It really does strike me that the SNP has certainly not got much of a case for its dream of an independent Scotland. Indeed I would suggest that they should be jolly grateful that the rest of the UK is there to lend them support politically – and economically.

Robert I G Scott, Northfield, Ceres, Fife

Lack of respect

“Integrity, professionalism and accountability” was the promise of Rishi Sunak on entering 10 Downing Street. Setting aside his dubious choices of cabinet ministers, if he is indeed a man of principle then he could immediately demonstrate this by now granting a Section 30 Order.

A poll showing majority support in Scotland for the Scottish Government to hold an independence referendum next year has been quickly followed by a poll also showing majority support for this action across the UK. The Scottish Government already has a democratic parliamentary mandate to hold such a referendum and with both the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine relatively “stabilised” the only remaining excuse, albeit a poor one given it is bad decisions of the UK Government that have substantially caused the crisis, is the rampant increase in the cost of living. However, if there is any legitimacy at all in such thinking, surely it is up to the people of Scotland to decide whether or not their day-to-day concerns are best served by having the most fundamental governmental decisions made for them at a distant Westminster.

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To any sincere democrat it should not be acceptable for a Prime Minister with no personal mandate leading a political party with no direct mandate in Scotland to deny the democratic mandate of the proportionately elected Scottish Government. Continuing to parrot “now is not the time” or to make reference to the previous referendum held in significantly different circumstances (polls show support for independence has doubled since Scotland has been taken out of the European Union and the UK Government has lost any credibility that it perhaps had for sound economic management) is not only showing a lack of integrity, professionalism and accountability, but a basic lack of respect for all the people of Scotland.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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