What’s the Labour Party for in Scotland?

As someone who has criticised Better Together’s negativity until now, I welcome shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander’s attempt to bring a more positive tone to the independence debate (your report, 23 April)

It gave us an insight, however, into why the No campaign has hitherto focused on its tried and tested fear tactics.

Much as I enjoyed Mr Alexander’s lengthy heather and glen-filled meanderings about his Scottish identity, ultimately I was left disappointed by a complete lack of substance.

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His central point appeared to be that solidarity does not stop at the Border. Since I have spent much of my life seeking to tackle global poverty, I wholeheartedly agree with him. But there was no explanation as to why independence would end our interest in the well-being of those outside Scotland.

Perhaps he is suggesting that Scotland can exert a progressive influence on the rest of the UK by propelling Labour to a UK majority.

But he – as Labour’s election strategist – must know that the last time Scottish votes made any difference to Labour’s ability to form a government at Westminster was one of the two general elections of 1974.

Labour’s prospects in rUK do not rely on us.

In his rose-tinted description of Labour he also ignores the fact that it is now unrecognisable from the party that many of us in Scotland grew up supporting. Such is the rightward drift of UK politics that – in order to be electable at Westminster – Labour has had to embrace stances on issues such as immigration, welfare, Trident and privatisation of which Margaret Thatcher would be proud.

Whatever Labour stands for these days, its ambition is limited to tinkering at the edges of a trickle-down, market-led economy, rather than creating the fairer, more equal society to which many in Scotland aspire.

C Hegarty

Glenorchy Road

North Berwick

The electoral diminishment of Labour in Scotland, and similarly elsewhere in the UK, is fundamentally due to it adopting Thatcherite politics that it lacked the training for.

There was a heady success with Tony Blair in 1997 which was partly due to a Tory government being past its sell-by date and shredded by internal wrangling.

Having abandoned its traditional policies and its grass-roots sustenance from trade union funding, working men’s clubs and suchlike historical ties, Labour became hoodwinked by Blair’s election win and ever since has stumbled about in a no-man’s political landscape.

This detachment has been sharpened in Scotland by the SNP, which has a multi-option scope that a fumbling, stumbling Labour movement has been unable to match.

The SNP correctly projects that in the UK political context Labour has surrendered its traditional appeal – it has taken up residence in Toryland.

There is no prospect of it implementing or championing causes for the downtrodden or the losers even should it achieve UK electoral success. It has said goodbye to the big idea of a fairer society.

Meantime, a bulging House of Lords is quite full of the bulging tummies and egos of peers from what once were “the champions of the poorer classes”.

Ensconced there in ermine in a place that once was anathema to campaigning Labour Party activists.

Ian Johnstone

Forman Drive