Readers' letters: Opposing sides must get out of their echo chambers and start listening

I am tired of hearing the two sides of the debate, Unionists and independence supporters, each talking to themselves in an echo chamber. All they hear are their own arguments. They are not listening to one another, nor are they listening to the people.

Whatever your view on independence it is clear that Scotland is split down the middle. This is unhealthy. What is required is the establishment of an independent body to identify the reasons for this unhappiness and seek ways how best to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

This would involve the politicians on both sides being prepared to take the findings of the committee on board and being committed to implementing the recommendations. That may involve reforming the Westminster parliament or it may involve Scotland becoming independent. Either way it would have to be accepted by all parties and their goodwill is essential for a successful implementation.

To all politicians I say: stop telling the people what they want. Listen to what the people are telling you and address the obvious unhappiness that is dividing our land. If this newsaper has the will perhaps it could be an enabling influence for this to happen. That, of course, would mean columnists would have to stop slinging mud at the opposition. Would they know how to do that?

The opposing sides in the independence debate need to engage with each other, a reader argues

Angus H Shaw, Cupar, Fife

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Vote on a vote

The Scottish Government’s scheme to bring about another independence referendum has not met with universal approval which is unsurprising and, to some extent, understandable.

As an alternative might I suggest we take a page from the rule book of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee regarding a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister? As we saw recently this involves, in the first instance, individual members giving written notice of their desire for such a vote. If a sufficient number indicate such a desire, a ballot is held.

The current governing party in the UK could hardly object to following one of their own procedures. Furthermore, it should be acceptable both to those who are opposed to a referendum and those eager to see a clear route to one. It should even find favour with the apparently substantial number who follow the young St Augustine in praying, “Make me virtuous, O Lord – but not yet”.

As to details, the Electoral Commission would seem to be the obvious body to conduct the operation. It would decide on the form of notification, check those received against the voters’ rolls, and keep a tally. What proportion of the total electorate would need to vote for a referendum would be needed to trigger one would have to be decided; I would suggest 40 per cent to take account of the level of non-voters on even a high turnout. Surely something acceptable to all parties could be devised.

S Beck, Edinburgh

No self-respect

I vividly remember the 1990s battles to end apartheid in South Africa, and the marches for self-determination of the majority black population, permanently locked out of power, on our TV screens night after night. I admired their courage and their self-belief, their desire to shape their own future and their steadfast belief that they could.

At the same time there was a broad-based, non-party political campaign for a Scottish Assembly in Scotland which was met with the same deranged outrage and dreary specious arguments as fill these letters pages from die-hard Tory Unionists unwilling to see the injustice of a people, the Scots, chained to a dangerous far-right wing UK government which they did not vote for that undermines their interests, and over which they have no influence.

I remember leafleting one stair in Bruntsfield after the fourth Conservative general election election victory in a row in 1992 with an innocuous leaflet politely arguing for some weak form of “home rule” for Scotland, and being accosted by a furious old woman shouting, “Take this filth away! We can’t have a parliament in Scotland! We don’t have the brains! Everybody with brains goes to England! Don’t you know that?” and I thought of those South Africans marching in their rags. Who told them they didn’t have the brains to run themselves? And I realised then that their political consciousness had evolved whilst ours had regressed. Since when was self-determination “filth”? What happened to self-respect? Three centuries of an unequal union has given us the minds of supine, subject peoples, content like cattle to be ruled and exploited by others who do not have our best interests at heart.

The greatest argument for independence is existential. To live our own lives by our own hands and by our own values. Because life is precious, too precious not to live your own life.

Mairianna Clyde, Edinburgh

Latin lesson

Nicola Sturgeon stressed in her recent statement that any independence referendum must be “based on law”. She went on to announce her "plan” to frame the next UK election as a “de facto” referendum. The Latin and legal term equivalent to “based on law” is de iure. The opposite to that is de facto. A de iure referendum would be “based on law”. A de facto one would not. You would think the First Minister, a lawyer by trade, might know this – and I'm sure she does. But this is politics and the contradiction is typical of the SNP's agility in ignoring the facts and attempting to be be all things to all people.

Brian Wilson (Scotsman, 2 July) described Ms Sturgeon's latest gambit as "student politics”. In one sense it is. Even if the SNP returns a majority of votes – or perhaps seats according to John Swinney – I doubt if even SNP supporters would seriously consider this had any validity whatsoever as a referendum. But in other ways it is politics of the SNP low-cunning variety. Surely even SNP diehards realise that the Scottish public are bound to waken up at some point and get back to voting based on the record of the incumbent government. And if and when they do the SNP will be out on their ears. By presenting the poll, therefore, as a one-issue election explicitly and not as usual surreptitiously they will deflect attention away from their catastrophic performance in government.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

False legacy

As the dust settles on Nicola Sturgeon's latest UK break-up wheeze, it's clear it's all about her avoiding defeat and thus resigning. Essentially she's creating a false legacy – ahead of moving to an international third sector role.

We all know there'll be no referendum next year and her scheme to make the 2024 general election a de facto referendum is risible. But it will look like she's tried, and she'll claim success based on meaningless results, even though Scotland won't be independent. Sturgeon will drift off to a highly-paid quango role, head held high – hopefully never to be seen again.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Time’s up, Andy

There comes a time in every professional sportsperson’s life when it is time to hang up the boots, gloves, golf clubs or racket. That time has come I fear for Andy Murray.

He should go now while his stature remains high and his superlative accomplishments are fresh in everyone’s mind. We who revere him do not want to see the tennis equivalent of an old and punch-drunk boxer being beaten by relative nobodies, battling on long after he should have retired.

It hurts me in particular to see him struggle as he is not only a world class player – and how many of those does Scotland produce – but he shares my own love of Hibernian FC.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Drew’s drams

The passing of Hearts legend Drew Busby (Scotsman, 2 July) will have saddened many Hearts fans of a certain age. He was the sort of player opposing fans hated but his own fans loved. As Alan Partridge might say, he had a left foot like a traction engine and although lacking the skill of his striking partner, the speedier Donald Ford, they formed a lethal partnership.

My favourite memory of Drew Busby goes back to season ’77-’78, very different footballing times. The good people at Bell’s Whisky had offered a case of their finest product to any player who scored a hat trick that season and on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve fixture against the unfortunate Arbroath at Gayfield, both Busby and Willie Gibson scored hat tricks in a thumping 7-0 Hearts’ win.

It was unreported whether Drew Busby shared his bounty with his teammates but I like to think he did.

D Mitchell, Edinburgh

Street of shame

Travelling on a Lothan bus from the West End to Frederick Street, I was astonished at the number of vacant retail properties displaying “to let” signs. I think that there must have been at least ten on this short stretch of Princes Street.

What was also striking was the poor quality of several of the shops that were open. Princes Street, which was once one of the finest shopping streets in the world, is now but a pale shadow of its impressive past and a very poor advertisement for Scotland’s capital city. How on earth has it come to this?

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh

Dolly the spud

Alison Innes's letter (Scotsman, 2 July) about the SNP's head in the sand attitude to genetic crops, even Scottish ones, is another example of how our scientific prowess and reputation is being, literally, frittered away on the altar of virtue signalling and ignorance.

It lools like "Dolly the Spud" will never be a familiar face on our supermarket shelves or dinner tables.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

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