But that is hardly surprising, given that the BBC gave its leader five days per week free publicity for 14 months; that Blair/Brown’s devolution unwisely allowed it to lower the already too-low voting age of 18 to include children of 16; that Westminster’s Barnett formula gives it extra funding largesse not available to poorer parts of England and enabled them to claim undeserved credit; that Cameron ludicrously gave momentum to Salmond/Sturgeon by handing them all the critical elements of the 2014 referendum terms; that Labour and the Lib Dems refused to adopt any form of a united front against secession; that all the pro-UK parties gave more publicity to rejecting a second indyref than to hammer the SNP’s abject governmental failures (even on Sturgeon’s own terms) on education, care homes, the NHS, drug addiction, ferries, the “named person” plan etc; and that too many voters fell for her flawed claim that Scotland’s Covid numbers are far superior to England’s, while some even seem blissfully unaware that Holyrood has total responsibility for, inter alia, Scotland’s schools and health services.
Nor did Ruth Davidson’s resignation as Conservative leader help, leaving Scotland’s second party almost rudderless for too long, and with two leadership changes, far too close to the election.
John Birkett, Horseleys Park, St Andrews, Fife
Gordon Ballantyne (Letters, 11 May) writes that “a 50 per cent + 1 outcome is no way to decide an important issue” should an independence referendum be held, only illustrating the instinctive, knee-jerk colonial mentality of unionists to suppress democracy in Scotland – it is OK for there to be one rule for the UK but another rule for Scotland.
May I remind Mr Ballantyne that the UK government proceeded with the advisory Brexit referendum result on a narrow UK vote of 51 per cent in favour of leaving the EU despite it being voted against by two of the four non-English nations and 62 per cent of Scots. Mr Ballantyne’s view of Scotland is that it should know its place in the pecking order of the UK and just do whatever it is told to by an elitist Tory English government we did not elect. Top marks for hypocrisy. No wonder support for the assertion of Scottish sovereignty is rising.
Mairianna Clyde, Merchiston Crescent, Edinburgh
The SNP have been returned as the largest party after the Scottish Parliamentary elections. It is presumed they will form a working relationship with the Green Party although it may be best if they proceed out of the pandemic with a cross party agreement in the shorter term.
There has been much talk of another referendum, however, with the votes cast for the SNP totalling some 1,086,848 this only amounts to 25 per cent of the electorally registered voters namely 4,280,785. If you add in the votes cast for the Green Party in the constituencies, the figure rises to 1,142,785 (list votes excluded, as you will only have one vote in a referendum).
In the 2014 referendum, the Yes votes totalled 1,617,989. Armed with these figures, you can extrapolate the pro-independence vote from 5 May Scottish election results on a turnout of 63 per cent against 84 per cent for the 2014 referendum. You arrive at a figure of 1,522,780 – 95,000 short of the 2014 'Yes' figure.
I would aver that the SNP, with only the support of 25 per cent of the registered electoral voter roll, do not have a mandate for a referendum. It would be folly of them to go down this road. If they do it may well be their Flodden Field.
Archie Burleigh, Meigle, Skelmorlie, North Ayrshire
It’s a mandate
I am struck by the claim that there is not a mandate to call a second independence referendum, given that by itself the SNP does not command an overall majority.
To initially highlight the scale of the SNP victory, the party achieved 47.7 per cent of the constituency vote in these elections, the highest share by any party since Labour’s win in the 1966 UK general election, when it achieved 48.0 per cent of the vote, including 49.8 per cent in Scotland. The SNP now holds an amazing 85 per cent of the constituencies in Scotland, smashing the 63 per cent of seats won by Tony Blair in Labour’s 1997 landslide victory. Don’t forget, Prime Minister David Cameron enacted a referendum on Brexit with a paltry 36.1 per cent of the vote and this was enacted by Boris Johnson with a mere 43.6 per cent of the vote.
The Scottish Parliament now has a pro-independence majority of 15 (64 SNP MSPs plus 8 Greens), matching that of the 2011 election which resulted in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. In that year the SNP achieved 45.4 per cent of the vote on a turnout of just over half the electorate, considerably less than the 64.2 per cent turnout achieved in the 2021 elections.
People can disagree on how the UK Government should respond to demands from a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, but the party- political composition of that majority is of no constitutional significance and shouldn’t in any way influence the decision.
Alex Orr, Marchmont Road, Edinburgh
Independence would require further reductions in public services or increased taxation. Joining the EU also imposes border separation from England. No sane business leader would attempt to promote a multi-billion pound project without a financial plan which was continually updated. This would be accompanied by ongoing risk analysis
The plan relieves Westminster of financial responsibilities Amusingly, it also enhances England’s position for inward investment, including relocations from Scotland for improved world trading and lower taxes. This is a mixture of fantasy and madness of Napoleonic proportion which the electorate will reject.
J H R Hampson, Fairview House, Kinnesswood, Kinross
A simple plan?
With the election of a majority of MSPs on a manifesto pledge to hold an independence referendum, debate has now focused on how one may or should be held. Many, including the UK Government, argue that a referendum can only be lawfully held under a “Section 30" order (which is hence presumably in the gift of the UK Government). However, this over-complicates what should be – in legal terms – quite a straightforward process. As far as the UK Parliament is concerned, Scottish independence would be implemented by cancelling the list of reserved powers, so granting full legislative authority to the Scottish Parliament. Presumably this would occur in parallel with termination of the UK’s power to legislate for Scotland (as was done for Canada in 1982). The question is therefore what the Scottish Parliament has to do in order to request this action by the UK Parliament.
Holding an independence referendum is one way in which the Scottish Parliament could justify a request for the repatriation of sovereign powers. It is also conceivable that a majority in the Scottish Parliament could simply request the transfer of all reserved powers (presumably, though not necessarily, on the basis of a manifesto pledge to do so), without holding an independence referendum. Indeed, the Concordat between the Welsh Assembly Cabinet and the Wales Office specifically provides for this scenario: “The Assembly is free to request the UK Government to introduce primary legislation at any time. Such requests will be considered in the context of the parliamentary timetable for the prospective legislative programme.” There is no mention of referendums, or of Section 30 orders consenting to referendums.
Unless and until "referendums" become a reserved matter, there is no need for Westminster to consent to the mechanism (ie an independence referendum) that the Scottish Parliament uses as a basis for deciding whether or not to request Westminster to transfer sovereign powers. Westminster approval is, of course, necessary in order to act on any request from the Scottish Parliament to transfer reserved powers. However, that is not a legal issue but an entirely political issue, which everyone will have to decide on its political merits if and when the time comes.
The law should be a neutral arbiter, and it is unfortunate that it is being distorted here to defend specific interests, when we could be using it as an instrument for resolving the current constitutional debate once and for all.
Thomas Roberts, Wester Coates Gardens, Edinburgh
Sir David Attenborough warned of the "crippling problems" the world faces because of climate change (your report, 10 May). A Lancet paper in 2012 identified that reductions in population growth could reduce global emissions by 40 per cent or more in the long term. In 2014 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that population growth continued to be the most important driver of increases in CO2 emissions. In 2019 the IPCC said that population growth was a key impediment to limiting global warming. The charity Population Matters said that population growth is a key factor driving catastrophic climate change. Sir David is a patron. There are 7.9 billion people on the planet and numbers are estimated to rise to 10.9bn by 2,100. Population growth generates more greenhouse gasses. Climate action is pointless without population action. COP26 president-designate, Conservative MP Alok Sharma said: "Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity". He must therefore insist the first item on the COP26 agenda this November is population numbers.
Clark Cross, Springfield Road, Linlithgow
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