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Herald Letters: Wanted: a senate to oversee the Scottish government

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THE use of Scottish Government resources and money in party-political pursuance of independence raises the most fundamental issue; that any future independence referendum requires respect for democracy and the electorate.

That should require we be provided with balanced and moderated information and assessment of the many social, financial, commercial and cultural factors.

For the 2014 referendum, the SNP Government prepared and published, at public expense, their 650-page White Paper, Scotland’s Future, presenting purely their case for independence. We, otherwise, got only a few pamphlets and leaflets presenting the case for remaining in the UK.

The Hunter Foundation specifically published online an attempt at balanced analysis of 16 major areas relevant to our future. The two sides did not see fit to advertise and distribute this to the electorate, nor to use it as a model for informing the electorate.


The SNP continue to seek election to the Scottish Parliament and to exercise their right to form a government. Ms Sturgeon takes the position, title and salary of First Minister of a devolved assembly, and should be required to act as such. Independence is not the business of a devolved assembly; it is party-political issue to be pursued at party expense outwith the parliament.

It is, indeed, well beyond time that many of the actions and expenditures of the SNP Scottish government should be looked at more critically and that we have some small apolitical senate or supervisory committee seen to be monitoring and controlling what is being done in terms of probity, respect for the electorate, and integrity in the functions of government and use of the public purse.
Norman Dryden, Edinburgh

The FM, not waving but drowning

G.R. Weir (letters, November 29) demands that any new independence referendum should be conducted on a basis of 50% + 1 of those voting. This, he tells us, is because it is the British Way Of Doing Things – and because it has been such a big success in delivering Brexit.

Some of us respectfully beg to differ.

There are examples both great and small (the USA and the SNP itself, respectively) of organisations demanding that constitutional changes require a two-thirds vote. Likewise, there are better examples around the world of successful once-and-for-all referendums than Brexit, and these have generally required a super-majority or a double majority.

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In these respects, I am much encouraged by what Nicola Sturgeon had to say on the subject at the end of her Not Waving But Drowning speech after the Supreme Court ruling.

She told us that her democratic event should prove (to quote) “majority support beyond doubt.” This standard clearly cannot be met by a simple majority of those voting, unless there is a North Korean-style 100% turnout. Later, in his BBC Newsnight interview, her SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown spoke of “50% + 1 of the electorate” – not 50% + 1 of those voting.

One supposes that these matters will be debated in a free and democratic way at Ms Sturgeon’s SNP Special Conference in the New Year. We can only hope that her party members will support their leader and her deputy in their belief that the British Way is not the best way, and that there are examples from all round the world where super-majorities and double majorities are required for major constitutional changes.

As nationalists say in so many other cases: if it works in other countries, why not in Scotland?
Peter A. Russell, Jordanhill, Glasgow

Sturgeon let herself be carried away

I ENJOYED Mark Smith’s opinion column (“Anti-democratic Scots? You talking to me, First Minister?”, November 28) and I feel that anyone with a reasonable attitude and a willingness to calmly consider the facts he would be hard-pressed to disagree with his points.

Whilst I feel that our First Minister has to be admired in many ways, I suspect that she allowed herself to be carried away by the strength of feeling of her supporters as she addressed them outside Holyrood.

In fact, it appeared like she was a leader of a protest group, intent on whipping up the crowd for an attack upon the gates of the establishment. She is in a privileged position as First Minister of Scotland and as such she should consider the words that she is using as they affect all Scots, whether they seek independence or not.

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Rather than being carried away with the feelings of those who agree totally with her rhetoric, she would do better to consider those Scots whose views don’t align so closely with hers and who democratically express them, and attempt to win them over by using vocabulary which is accurate and non-divisive. She is the First Minister of Scotland, not the SNP.
Willie Ferguson, Irvine

SNP should take blinkers off

WE’VE had the unanimous result from the Supreme Court, which the First Minister rejects. No surprise there, then.

Now, because there is no right of appeal,we now have a different approach from the SNP : that this whole ruling was undemocratic and Scotland’s democracy was not taken into account.

The SNP under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon are stating that nothing will stand in the way of stopping them, by whatever means, from pursuing the dream of independence.

So I ask, why did the SNP go through all these legal shenanigans, the cost of which was paid for by the taxpayer, to totally reject the legally binding result?

I wait with anticipation to learn what other route will be taken before the next election if the democracy argument fails.

It’s about time they started governing our country instead of having this blinkered view of independence, and deal with the ongoing problems – namely, striking nurses, rail workers and teachers.
Neil Stewart, Balfron

Fact-checking would aid debate

IT was, I suppose, inevitable that the Supreme Court would come under attack from nationalists aggrieved at its recent decision.

Your correspondent Peter Dryburgh (letters, November 25) expresses surprise and disappointment that Lord Reed “resorted to comparing Quebec with Scotland”. This comparison, he says, “is regularly invoked by opponents of Scottish independence but is utterly spurious.”

What Mr Dryburgh fails to mention, however, is that it was those notorious “opponents of Scottish independence”, the SNP, which itself introduced reference to Quebec in its submission to the Supreme Court.

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So it is perhaps not altogether surprising that Lord Reed felt compelled to deal with this issue in his judgment.

And then Frances McKie (letters, November 28) refers to the Scotland Act 1998, and the establishment of the Supreme Court as evidence of Westminster politicians feeling “free to meddle with the unwritten British constitution whenever they feel like it”.

Since the 1998 Act established the Holyrood Parliament, does this mean that Mrs McKie thinks that devolution should never have been allowed to take place?

She goes on to state that this meddling “included endowing that same Supreme Court with final jurisdiction over our separate Scottish legal system, including the Court of Session itself”.

This is completely misleading – the Supreme Court is essentially a rebranding of the old Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which has long been the court of final appeal for Scottish civil cases.

He refers to Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of Parliament, but ironically for Mrs McKie, it was that same Supreme Court that safeguarded the constitution by ruling that it was unlawful.

Mrs McKie then makes the inaccurate statement that the British Empire (in which enterprise, Scots have probably been disproportionately the most active) has never peacefully surrendered any colony, finally reaching the absurd conclusion that Scotland is a colony of the country of which it is an integral part.

If those of a nationalist persuasion who regularly write to these pages were occasionally to check their facts, perhaps the continuing debate over Scotland’s future would be more constructive.
Robert Murray, Glasgow

My takeaway on the Yes movement

IF this is the ‘Yes’ movement galvanised and heading to “new heights”, then God help them.

I’ve seen more dynamism, hope, intelligent debate and realistic thinking while queuing for a steak-bake.
David Bone, Girvan, South Ayrshire


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.

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