Scotsman Letters: Blackford gets real over chances of Indyref2

A more rumbustious, if humourless and repetitive, critic in the House of Commons of prime minister Boris Johnson than SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford can scarcely be imagined. His verbal assaults on his integrity over “Partygate” and calls for resignation have been consistent.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has seen Ian Blackford change his tune on Indyref2, says reader (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has seen Ian Blackford change his tune on Indyref2, says reader (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Now the Ukraine crisis has forced him not just into a more equivocal approach to the prime minister's future (your report, March 7), he appears to suggest that the Holyrood government's plan for an independence referendum next year might have to be put on hold. In many ways this might save the SNP hierarchy and party members from themselves. A plan that has not yet been fully thought out, and is almost certain to be rejected by both government and Labour opposition at Westminster, need not now go forward for a number of years. Mr Blackford's political task is to restrain that more vocal section of his support who would plunge headlong into chaos.

In some ways he is letting Boris Johnson off lightly. Even when British forces were marshalling in the Middle East as part of an Allied effort to remove Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in November 1990, the Conservatives changed their leader and prime minister. I do not recall any claims of treachery or disloyalty in wartime about Michael Heseltine's challenge to Margaret Thatcher.

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It is difficult to understand why Mr Blackford thinks Mr Johnson is a suitable person to guide Britain through the Ukraine conflict when he was so critical over his performance over the Covid one. If he feels the Prime Minister's insight and sense of history is good enough to ensure our defence in the coming months, he should say so. It might win him plaudits for statesmanship and lose him some diehard supporters. In any event, he will tread a complex path over this and the shelving of a referendum over that time.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

SNP exposed

The war in Europe has another casualty, that of Scottish independence. Ian Blackford has more or less admitted this so Nicola Sturgeon's long promised referendum in 2023 is now is severe doubt.

Once this date is “lost”, so is the cause. The world has changed dramatically in recent days and independence is now a quantum leap more risky a venture than it has ever been. Coupled with the SNP/Green stance on possession of nuclear weapons the position on independence leaves Scotland extremely exposed in so many ways as to be a non-starter.

The comfort zone of European Union membership is unlikely to welcome a Scotland which has removed a large part of its nuclear umbrella via Nato. Nicola Sturgeon's position is now extremely exposed, as is the alliance between the SNP and the Greens. The “fallout” might not be radioactive but it will be equally destructive.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Halfway there

So, Ian Blackford has admitted there will not be a second independence referendum "by the end of 2023”. That is remarkable, but not as remarkable as the fact that I could have told him that last year and the year before that. After all, as he knows, both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon signed the Edinburgh Agreement to respect the outcome of the “once in a lifetime” 2014 referendum. He and his party cannot wriggle out of that.

However, Mr Blackford and his party are still wedded to the nonsensical policy of getting rid of our nuclear deterrent. Despite the Ukraine, which got rid of its own nuclear weapons after the end of the Cold War, now being attacked by heavy Russian forces, neither he nor his party seem to understand basic human nature. Bullies attack the weak and defenceless, or at least those they perceive to be such. Mr Putin, however, has miscalculated on that score. A highly motivated man (or woman) with a modern rifle is lethal when attacked on his or her home turf by a conscript. There are millions of motivated Ukrainians and many fewer Russian conscripts.

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Putin is making the same mistake as Hitler, whose actions he is copying. The Germans flattened Stalingrad and the Russians made it into a graveyard for the Wehrmacht. Now Putin is doing the same with Ukrainian cities. He knows that his own fate depends upon him winning, and winning soon.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

No compassion

Alexander McKay (Letters, March 7) should ponder the “bigger picture” before he writes another letter essentially criticising those who support Scotland’s right to self-determination. Rather than hypocritically employing derogatory and thus divisive language, reflecting the irony of which he accuses others, he should question his own continuing support for a UK Government that so far has managed to grant only 50 visas for Ukrainian refugees while Poland alone has already allowed nearly one million people fleeing this catastrophic Russian invasion of Ukraine to cross its border.

The lack of compassion exhibited by this UK Government towards all refugees, especially by Priti Patel, who as Home Secretary should be leading by example, is not only disappointing but shocking. How about some constructive ideas from Mr McKay on improving UK immigration policy, and in particular how we in Scotland can build an immigration system of which the vast majority in our country would be proud.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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Ian Blackford hints at possible delay to SNP's Scottish independence referendum ...

True colours

Even by Alexander McKay's standards, trying to suggest the Scottish National Party is more divisive than the Orange Order is beyond all satire. The fact is Labour has once more shown its true colours by standing the former Scottish Grand Master as a council candidate: quick to accuse everyone else of bigotry, but happy to pander to it from electoral expediency at the drop of a sash. Plus ça change!

At the 1973 West Bromwich by-election result, the winning Labour candidate, Betty Boothroyd, condemned in her victory speech the National Front, which shocked all by finishing third on 16 per cent. Its candidate retorted that a constituency Labour councillor had run a youth club debarring non-white children since the Sixties, so if anyone was to blame for creating a local racist electorate it was Labour.

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Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Good from bad

Sometimes a crisis can have beneficial outcomes. People are startled out of their comfort zone and begin to understand the realities of life, rather than living inside a cotton-wool padded nursery. It is in that knowledge that we are beginning to understand that our heat and light, the energy used by our industries, such as they are, comes from somewhere. Luckily for us, we are less dependent upon Russian gas than most of Europe, but we still import some.

The fact that the Government is looking to open up new gas and oil fields in the North Sea, despite opposition from the SNP, is good news. With any luck, Shell will now rethink its involvement in the Cambo Field. We need energy security now more than ever. Expensive energy, in part resulting from the push for expensive, intermittent “green” energy has caused British manufacturing to be needlessly expensive. Now, if, as seems possible, fracking will be reconsidered, we can stop our reliance on foreign gas and oil for the next 50 years or more.

The result will be a return of prosperity to the north-east – and not before time.

Dave Anderson, Aberdeen

Sweeteners

Alex Irwin, senior solicitor in the Renewable Energy Team at Davidson, Chalmers Stewart LLP, waxes lyrical about Community Benefit Schemes (Friends of The Scotsman, March 7, “Renewable Energy Projects can be transformational for communities across country”).

She writes: “Community Benefit Schemes have been popular with developers who want to provide additional advantages to the local community.” I read this as meaning that very few communities will willingly accept a wind farm on their doorstep unless there is a sweetener attached so offering a pittance to the community (in comparison to their anticipated profits) is a simple way for developers to generate some support.

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Even then it is usually only communities who are lucky enough to be out of sight and hearing of the proposed wind farm, but close enough to receive the “benefit”, which are likely to support the development, not those who will have to live in its shadow.

There have been a few successful shared ownership schemes but who can forget the disaster that was Neilston Community Wind Farm, a joint venture between a community and a commercial developer which lasted just four years before being sold to a London investment company due to “difficulties managing the variations in income in light of the fixed interest loans they took out”. Once the loans were paid off, the Neilston community received only a fifth of what they were originally expecting.

The neighbouring village of Uplawmoor, where the wind farm was actually sited, despite huge opposition from that community, received no financial benefit and has now been left with industrial turbines degrading their landscape, noise and visual blight for a further 21 years.

Perhaps that’s why so-called Shared Community Ownership Schemes have not been as popular as hoped for by some policy makers. Some things are never forgotten.

Aileen Jackson, Uplawmoor, East Renfrewshire

Burning questions

The application to build a 900MW gas fired station at Peterhead gave no details over where the fossil fuel to operate the plant will be sourced. Surely the First Minister should inform consumers as to whether the supply will be obtained from either the Cambo oil field or from the Russian Nord 1 pipeline.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway

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