Readers' letters: Scotland's changing democratic face post-independence

Polling experts at Ballot Box Scotland predict that post-independence politics will see democracy re-configured (Conor Matchett, Scotsman, 30 July).

Nicola Sturgeon speaks on Scottish independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon speaks on Scottish independence. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Having delivered independence, the SNP will lose it raison d’être, thereby creating space for the emergence of new parties, alignments between fringes of existing parties and reformed PR.

This is conjecture for the Scotsman’s podcast (How to be an Independent Country: Scotland’s Choices), but Ballot Box Scotland draws on evidence from post-communist democratic Lithuania and New Zealand’s proportional representation which gave a platform to small parties, including the Greens.

Voting since the Devolution referendum in 1997; the SNP’s epic membership surge in 2014; its near clean-sweep of Westminster seats in 2015; the collapse, revival, and on-going relapse of the Scottish Tories; and Greens joining the Scottish Government in 2021 indicate that, beyond conjecture, the Scottish electorate is already creating the post-independence politics it wants.

100,000 people joined the SNP in 2014, not for the nitty-gritty of branch politics nor to run for office but because independence was temporarily denied: they hadn’t received the alleged SNP memo saying this was a once-in-a-generation choice.

Fifty percent of the electorate and a far higher proportion of young people see an independent country as a birthright, not as a one-off event. Debates and conversations, votes for - and criticisms of - the SNP are forces shaping an independent future.

Compare appetites for change with Prime Ministerial contender Liz Truss’s proposal to embed the status quo not just south of the Tweed, but south of the Wash.

All pupils with top A level grades will be invited to selection interviews, not at the university of their choice but at Oxford and Cambridge.

Leaving aside the practicalities, what does that say about ‘levelling up’ in the UK? Where’s the respect for university excellence across the four nations? How does this proposal challenge the elitism and deference which entrench Westminster as a private members’ club?

If installed as PM Liz Truss could be in post for 20 years, long enough for those plucked from northern deprivation (as she sees her education at a good school in a leafy Leeds suburb) to have been shoehorned into safe Westminster seats.

As Oxbridge graduates they become the pool from which future Prime Ministers will be drawn, ad infinitum. Is there an alternative? Yes.

Dr Geraldine Prince, North Berwick

Peak SNP reached

It is looking increasingly clear that the peak of power held by the SNP has been reached and it is now on a downhill slope.

Nicola Sturgeon's ministers are presiding over a debilitating shambles in health, education,the emergency services, transport and the economy.

The reason her ministers are not being sacked is because Ms Sturgeon simply has no replacements. The best she can do is reshuffle the pack yet again, but that means ministers who failed before simply ending up back at their original departments.

She cannot bring in "fresh" faces as they will not be as loyal as the present ones so the constant rate of failures will not stop.

It is very likely that the current push for independence has been forced on Nicola Sturgeon to try to cover over these widening failures in her government.

Ms Sturgeon's oft quoted opinion poll leads look to be very vulnerable and her independence plans look increasingly threadbare.

How much longer Ms Sturgeon can hold on for and what the future will bring for SNP unity is now the issue, not independence.

Gerald Edwards Glasgow

It all depends

The antonym of independence is dependence. Who wants to be classed as a ‘subsidy Jock’? I for one do not.

If, as we are led to believe, Scotland is costing the English taxpayer so much (£15bn/annum?), why are they not throwing us our independence papers over Hadrian’s wall?

Were Scotland to vote for independence, it would be the richest country ever to do so - bar none. Pre-pandemic, Scotland’s GDP per head was on a par with England’s and in some years was actually higher.

We are bombarded with the “Better Together” dictum, which begs the question – better for whom? I would argue, better for the coercive, controlling Westminster which treats Scotland like a colonial appendage draining us of our wealth of natural resources and talent.

Why does Scotland/UK not have a sovereign oil wealth fund similar to Norway’s £1trillion? I’d settle for a per population share of that (£83bn).

Currently we are seeing long queues of cars and lorries in Kent, yet this laissez-faire, dysfunctional London government tries to put the blame on the French.

Brexit, which is English independence in all but name, has put a hard border, not only down the middle of the Irish Sea, but also down the middle of the English channel.

Scotland needs to re-establish its ferry routes to the Low Countries to bypass this bottleneck and damage to our trade with Europe.

Westminster is not running a benevolent fund for indigent Scots! Where is our self-esteem? Where is our self-respect? Scotland and England can live as good neighbours, in charge of our own affairs, as is normal with neighbours.

DW Lowden, Aberdeen

Locking in the past

The suggestion that the SNP would collapse if Scotland attained independence (Scotsman, 30 July) was one of the key messages that the Yes campaign put forward in 2014, the purpose being to give some encouragement to Labour voters here.

That a so-called polling expert/ Green party activist should do so now again can easily be recognised as part of a pro-indy campaign, not as independent insight.

Politicians will not give up power easily. If the SNP did win a vote in future, they will want to shape a new country, they will see opportunities for themselves, and their voters will continue to vote for them.

If you look at the Republic of Ireland, the two main parties today reflect the two sides of their constitutional divide during and after the Civil War.

Imagine Scotland’s politics in 100 years’ time being dominated by the same parties and arguments that we see today. How depressing would that be?

And yet, it would be entirely likely, especially if the result was close. And contrary to the suggestion put forwards, the economic challenges would be so intense that people will inevitably look to preserve their own situations as best they can, and politics will veer to the right.

The Tartan Tories will surge. For proof of that, the two main Irish parties are both centre right, not centre left. Scotland will be the same.

If people want rid of the SNP, then don’t vote for them. It is not difficult to understand.

You can have another party now without waiting for the pretend referendum which the SNP have no real intention of bringing forwards anyway.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy

NHS planning

I thank John Birkett for his kind words and for reminding us that the gestation period of the NHS was far longer than the human one (Letters, 30 July).

My grandfather was a nurse in a publicly funded health service that was free for all - mental hospitals, as they were then called.

In 1920 he travelled to New York on a liner accompanying a very paranoid American patient back home to prevent him becoming a long-term burden on the rates.

As minister of health in the Churchill/Atlee coalition government Sir Henry Willink did have a health service plan; it didn't include hospitals.

Willink is not remembered for his scheme. His name has become a byword for disastrous planning. In 1955 he chaired a committee which concluded that too many doctors were being trained.

Current problems in the NHS show that accurate medical workforce planning still eludes us.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Secular concerns

The National Secular Society has urged the Scottish Government to take care when outsourcing services to religious groups whose inability to resist a bit of additional preaching can put vulnerable people at greater risk.

This is particularly true as some conservative religious attitudes towards women’s equality, contraception and abortion are unhelpful when it comes to tackling violence against women and girls. (VAWG)

Many faith-based groups offer community services that operate according to high ethical standards and do not proselytise. Unfortunately many others that do not.

The Scottish Government must prioritise the safety of service users when subcontracting to faith organisations.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

Switched off

One rare silver lining from the pandemic was that Scottish Football fans were able to access their club's match on a live stream eg on an Ipad.

It is understandable that, due to contractual obligations with the major broadcasters, the SPFL has had to remove that concession from Premiership clubs. However, it is indefensible clubs in the lower divisions are being similarly disadvantaged.

There is a handful of clubs outwith the top tier with travelling supports larger than half the Premiership. I am not willing to travel 155 miles to watch Dunfermline at Peterhead but would gladly pay £12 twice a season to the "Blue Toun" coffers to watch on a screen. During the pandemic some smaller clubs doubled their attendance income thanks to the virtual Gate!

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing

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