Readers' Letters: Proposed referendum changes make sense

There is increasing speculation that Liz Truss will introduce legislation to increase the proportion of people who would need to vote for independence for any referendum result to be implemented.

Before our political and media establishment explode with outrage and indignation, we should consider two things. Firstly, even the smallest village hall committee in Scotland will have a two-thirds requirement for constitutional change within its rules, because people understand intuitively that significant and possibly controversial change brought about by a 50 per cent + 1 vote is capable of tearing an organisation apart. Setting the bar at a higher level means that change is only implemented if there is a genuine demand for it, and the clarity brought about by the higher threshold invariably means that the argument is then put to bed.

Secondly, a two-thirds majority would have prevented Brexit, something which the SNP and others said they wanted to prevent.

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If such a change is to be considered, then it needs to apply to all significant constitutional change across the United Kingdom, including any changes that a UK government might want to implement, for example, to the Scotland Act. It shouldn’t just apply to Scotland.

Liz Truss wants to change rules on referendums (Picture: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
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In the meantime, perhaps Ms Sturgeon can tell us why her own party rules require a two-thirds majority, but 50 per cent + 1 is good enough for the rest of us?

I also look forward to Ms Truss changing the Yes/No options to Leave/Remain, something which the Electoral Commission deemed to be a more neutral question, and fairer to both sides, and while she is at it, a second confirmatory vote on any negotiated outcome should be a key part of any process as well.

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Taken together, these three changes would bring greater clarity and transparency to any future vote, and ensure that if Scotland did vote to leave, then the outcome would be more likely to be accepted, and therefore, more likely to be successful.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

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Pot, kettle

Following reports that Liz Truss might introduce legislation requiring a higher vote threshold for a Scottish independence victory than a simple majority, Nicola Sturgeon accuses her of gerrymandering.What? This from Nicola Sturgeon who has spent years in breach of the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement in which she formally agreed to respect the outcome of the 2014 referendum. The constitution is, as per the Scotland Act, reserved to Westminster and yet Sturgeon apparently uses Holyrood, almost daily, as a soapbox from which to campaign for another UK break-up vote.Leaving aside for a moment whether a simple majority is adequate to decide the fate of a nation, Sturgeon, before rushing to criticise Truss, should reflect on how she has seemingly used her tenure as First Minister to manipulate legislative boundaries not for the benefit of her exclusively domestic remit, but to pursue her party's principal objective: separating Scotland from the rest of the UK.

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Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

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Hardly free

I must take exception to Elizabeth Scott’s claim that personal and nursing care is free in Scotland (Letters, 3 September). I can assure her that they are not. In Scotland we get a contribution of £87.10 where it can be established that nursing care is required based on a person's health and £193.50 for personal care. That all adds up to £280.60 per week, which is a drop in the ocean to the charges care home residents are expected to pay if they have assets above £29,750.

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W Marshall, Stirling

Festival flop

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I am surprised by the lack of comment in your columns about the festival announced by Theresa May in 2018 as a worthy successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851 and called the “Festival of Brexit” by Jacob Rees-Mogg. £120 million of taxpayers’ funds was committed to it and 66 million visitors were expected. It was blighted by its title and reinvented as “Unboxed”, a celebration of British creativity and arts in an expected 110 projects mounted throughout the Kingdom. This concept, described by the responsible Whitehall Department as “vague and shape-shifting”, has fallen far short of expected interest, with attendance at less than 250,000, and is now being seen as an outrageous waste of money.

Scotland has, however, seen something from it. One project, “Dandelion”, was designed to distribute “Growing Cubes” to our schools and another was to celebrate Paisley’s cultural tradition by a Sound and Light show against the background of the Cathedral. Unfortunately, the organisers forgot that the most important feature of it should have been taking full credit for Paisley’s role in Liz Truss’s formative years.

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We hear a great deal about misdirected expenditures by the Scottish Government. I look forward to reading the complaints directed at Westminster for this piece of jingoistic folly.

James Scott, Edinburgh

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Out of the box

Would a mayoral system in the City of Edinburgh have helped to bring a speedier solution to the refuse collection dispute? I understand Stephen Jardine's frustration with the approach Cosla has taken over the matter in the last months (Perspective, 3 September).

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Much would depend on the communication skills and industrial relations expertise of the civic office holder, to say nothing of the financial constraints under which he or she may operate. The parallel Mr Jardine draws with the approach of Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Sadiq Khan in London is not really appropriate. The former presides over an authority with a population of about 2.7 million (about half that of Scotland). He can take advantage of the economies of scale Edinburgh, with about a half a million people, would be struggling to provide. Indeed, the introduction of a mayoral system here might require adjustments to local government boundaries to create larger units. Does anyone really want that degree of upheaval?

The welcome success of the negotiations does provide another problem. To what extent should First Minister Nicola Sturgeon become directly involved in discussions? She bowed, understandably, to pressure from those who suggested she should spend as much time on this as she has in presentations at the Edinburgh Festival. But a precedent has now been set. Every union negotiator, faced with what they see as employer intransigence, will be pleading for her to step forward. We have not seen that type of intervention since the days of the Labour government in the 1970s. The old-fashioned “beer and sandwiches” approach may seem out of step for a modern administration. Ms Sturgeon may have set a hare running which might be very difficult to control.

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Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

SNP success

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A great big "thank you" to the SNP for their terrific input into a Scottish success story, namely the Edinburgh Festival. When people come to Edinburgh, what is the first thing they will do? They will find somewhere to stay, of course. However, the intervention of the SNP into the private rental sector, which is the mainstay of many a private pension plan, means that thousands of Scots – and I can think of one or two solid SNP voters in that number – will no longer be able to let to holidaymakers thanks to the requirements for re-licensing. Those people will be much poorer. Making the people of Scotland poorer is the main outcome of the SNP's one and only policy.

A change of use will be required for the owners to let their flats to foreign and other British tourists. Many neighbours of such properties will object to the change of use and many owners are already giving up the struggle.

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Not only that, those of us who planned to buy property to let to young (and older) people to rent before they embark on buying somewhere of their own are avoiding doing so. After all, if the tenant can withhold rent and the landlord has few, if any, forms of redress, then why should they let?

Thus, an entire stratum of Scottish investment is going to vanish. Young people and tourists will have nowhere to stay. What could be better for Scottish society and the Edinburgh Festival? Has the SNP thought of twinning with North Korea?

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Andrew H N Gray, Edinburgh

Dangerous blades

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Mike McKinnell needs to get out a bit more and travel further afield if he thinks the extent of wind farm development is extreme in West Lothian, which has a density of 0.154 wind turbines per km2 (Letters, 2 September). East Renfrewshire, for example, is much worse affected, with 1.144 turbines per km2 (Scottish Government figures, 2021). What he is seeing is only the tip of the iceberg, with many more in the planning system. Highland, Dumfries & Galloway, Borders and Argyll & Bute are currently being targeted due to so many other areas such as South Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire and South Ayrshire being already full to the brim with these useless and environmentally devastating contraptions.

Mr McKinnell is certainly right that most people have no idea about the number of wind farms in their area, or the rest of Scotland for that matter, because the majority live in towns and cities and rarely see them, let alone have to live with them looming menacingly over their homes, but that will change. As suitable sites for wind farms become more difficult to find it will result in them being pushed ever closer to more densely populated areas. That’s when the people who have waxed lyrical about “clean green energy” to date, will suddenly see them in a different light and start doing some research of their own instead of believing the green fairy tale that is being force fed to them by the Scottish Government and wind farm developers.

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Aileen Jackson, Uplawmoor, East Renfrewshire

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