Readers' letters: Political leaders’ fates are not cut and dried

As the Queen's Jubilee celebrations start slowly to fade into memory, it was poignant that John McLellan should focus on the immediate future of two of her most prominent ministers (Scotsman, 4 June). Indeed, it is not inconceivable that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could both step down by the end of this year.

Speculation continues about how many letters of no confidence in the former have been delivered to Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee in Westminster.

It is worth recalling that a challenge to Mrs Thatcher by a so-called "stalking horse” in 1989, though widely unsuccessful, proved to be the beginning of the end for the Iron Lady It is worth recalling also that suggestions that she was the only leader capable of leading the Conservatives to victory proved illusory. Her successor, John Major, won an election in 1992 with the biggest vote for his party since the Second World War. Dispensing with Mr Johnson's services may not prove to be a party act of self- destruction that so many suggest.

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The First Minister's situation is wholly different. She faces the unrealistic challenge of delivering a legally watertight referendum on independence by the autumn of next year. She may well encourage her civil servants and party advisers to produce a prospectus for autonomy later this year.

What gems of innovation it might contain is a matter of conjecture. Its production, however, might be a suitable point for her to step aside. The case for fresh leadership and a fresh pair of eyes can easily be made to the Scottish public after more than 15 years at the top of the political scene north of the border.

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A new leader and cabinet can easily make the case for a delay to the timetable, pushing the case for a vote back to 2025 if not later. Those who cannot stand the thought of further delay should ponder the situation after another failed Yes campaign or a downright refusal by a new Westminster government to bring about another poll.

Politics is often a choice between the unpalatable and the disastrous.

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Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

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Republican UK

All democracies are factually republics and all citizens loyal to democracy are republicans at heart. So are all monarchs if they love democracy.

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By consent of the public some of the best democracies in the world have a head of state who is not appointed by democratic process and has some traditional trappings like a crown. Try telling the people of Japan that their head of state is in some way an affront to democracy.

The history of the British Isles displays a strong link between monarchy and democracy. The crowned dynasty which could live with democracy was the one which survived. Ireland went a different path, essentially to obtain home rule.

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Hilariously, Britain's 17th century republican experiment ended because no hereditary successor who was also a soldier remained available. The real power was military and the office of Lord Protector was illogically assumed to be a family possession.

The restoration of an elected parliament led directly to the restoration of a king. Britain dropped her Shogun dynasty in the 17th century much as Japan did in the 19th century.

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The essential is democratic government, not the style and selection of a head of state. Who would you rather have had for the last 70 years? President Putin?

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland

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Cause to celebrate

Leah Gunn Barrett brings up the £1 billion cost of the Jubilee (Letters, 4 June) in order to be as disparaging as possible.

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According to Radio 4’s More or Less, the £1bn is at the top end of estimates of the amount spent by individuals on parties, sausage rolls and memorabilia. I believe government spending is significantly less (I heard around £25 million, not far removed from Kate Forbes‘ allocation for Indyref2).

Perhaps Leah Gunn Barrett should be a little less curmudgeonly and accept that people can spend their own money to enjoy as they wish, especially when there is little else to celebrate.

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Dr Michael Voice, Alyth, Perth and Kinross

Clowning around

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Leah Gunn Barrett (Letters, 4 June) gleefully quotes The Irish Times: "Having a monarchy next door is like having a neighbour who's really into clowns… for the Irish, it's like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown."

Speaking as a former reader of that particular newspaper, journalistic standards have clearly fallen if nowadays it publishes such puerile, vindictive gabage. Even south of the Irish border, most people respect Queen Elizabeth, whatever those draped in sour green flags would have you believe.

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During the royal wedding in 1981, streets were quiet as people stayed home to watch the event, provoking public outrage from "patriots”. It is also doubtful that this article would go down well with some of Ireland's EU partners, seven of whom have retained their constitutional monarchies, each one of them “a modern, advanced nation”, as Ms Gunn Barrett might put it.

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

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The 45 again

I generally read Leah Gunn Barrett’s letters with a mix of amusement and pity. Seldom, if ever, do I agree with her views. However in her letter of 4 June she has managed to say something that I fully agree with.

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It’s not the sentiment of the letter – that’s nonsense – but it’s the arithmetic that resonates. She says that if only 45 per cent of Scots support a cause (the monarchy, in this case) then we should ditch it. Remind me, was 45 per cent not the percentage of Scots who supported Independence?

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

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Real policy

With Nicola Sturgeon celebrating the Jubilee at the heart of the British establishment in London, many have been surprised by her enthusiasm for the Queen and the institution of monarchy. Opinion polls show a significant number of her separatist supporters are republicans – so why is Sturgeon seemingly so out of step?

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The answer is, I suspect, that she is not. The ever-pragmatic Sturgeon, who freely admits her overarching raison d’être is separating Scotland from the rest of the UK, realises many pro-UK supporters back the monarchy – the SNP won't win over independence waverers with the kind of republican rhetoric we hear from Sturgeon's political partners, the Greens.

But, in the unlikely event Scotland were ever to leave the UK, surely Sturgeon and the nationalist hierarchy would all too swiftly become upfront about their republican leanings?

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Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Biblical irony

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At the service in St Paul's celebrating the Queen's Jubilee, the following passage from Philippians was read: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure...”

Is it possible to think of anyone less qualified to read these words in public than Boris Johnson?

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David Hamill East Linton, East Lothian

Panic measures

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With the recent nonsense announcement regarding the reintroduction of imperial measures, we now also revert to a more correct Brexit slogan. Rather than “Take back control”, it is “Tory control: taking us all backwards”.

This joker of a Prime Minister, and the dead meat policies he randomly scatters about, are no longer a laughing matter. We can only all look forward to the outcome of the by-elections later this month.

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Iain MacDonald, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Progressive faith

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Andrew HN Gray claims that modern Christianity is a product of the Enlightenment and is itself “modern, liberal and progressive… [leaving]… humanism looking rather pointless” (Letters, 1 June).

His argument has a lot of holes. Firstly, the Enlightenment emphasised reason and individualism rather than tradition, undermining the tenets of the Church. It's roots lay in the humanism (sic) of the Renaissance and it led to rational and empirical methods of discovering truth by scientific methods.

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In particular it allowed the Bible to be accessible to the laity in their own language. This led to criticism by deists who propounded a natural religion without revelation or miracles. Furthermore, astronomy destroyed the Biblical cosmology while geology destroyed the Biblical creation account and ridiculed the chronology of the Old Testament. So is Mr Gray's Christianity one where most of the Bible is of doubtful veracity?

Nietzsche regarded Christianity as "decadent”. It is certainly in decline in progressive and enlightened countries. More and more people, in the UK anyway, reject religion, especially Christianity. Perhaps Christianity is now so “liberal” that one can believe anything. Is that “progressive”? It appears that it is Christianity, not humanism, that is “pointless”.

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Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

The big idea

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The idea of underwater tunnels linking the Scottish Islands to each other is a lovely one, and, as the wondrous creation of a tunnel network in the Faroe Islands – a thing of beauty as well as practicality – proves, well within the capability of engineering, and of course Scotlands engineers are the best in the world.

But, with the fallout of the CalMac fiasco still reverberating around the land, is it really wise to trust the current First Minister and her cohorts with another multi-billion pound “Great Big Idea” funded by the already punitively high taxes of the hard-pressed Scots?

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Ian McNicholas, Ebbw Vale, Wales

Write to The Scotsman

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