WITH all respect to the Wee Ginger Dug, I found it very alarming that in his latest column calling for a second independence referendum “before 2021” (In the Year of the Dug, let’s decide our own future, The National, February 21) he justifies this view on the grounds that “the ballot should be framed as giving Scotland its opportunity to have a vote on the outcome of Brexit”.

This observation may be factually correct, but it is surely unwise to assume that it could go anywhere near giving us any kind of guarantee of a successful outcome, as it would inevitably confuse two separate issues: the question of Scottish independence – on which the vast majority of your readers are apparently united – and the question of permanent EU membership – on which the broad Yes movement as well as the SNP itself is seriously divided, as your letters pages regularly confirm.

So we are in danger of setting ourselves up to allow our Unionist opponents to re-frame the indy question to that of: “to which single market and customs union do you wish to belong – the UK single market or the EU single market (when most of our current external business is conducted with the former single market)?” And while we can still of course argue, as we did in 2014, that we would prefer to be in both single markets, in the immediate post-Brexit situation this may no longer be possible, as in any case that decision will not be exclusively ours to make.

Moreover, while it is true that in the 2016 EU referendum a majority of the Scottish electorate voted to Remain in the EU, as many as a million Scots voted against this proposition. So what is the strategy for persuading these Leave voters to change their minds, not just on the EU but on independence? Or do we just forget about them as in our view they are not worth bothering about?

Ian O Bayne

MERCY Corps does great work in trying to alleviate suffering in Syria, mostly funded by grants from governments which, like the UK, are happy to spill Syrian blood in their efforts to butcher and dismember it. But in its Wages of War report referenced in your story (Syria report reveals horrors, The National, February 22), it gets the origin of the current bloodbath quite wrong, by stating: “Anti-government demonstrations began in March of 2011, as part of the Arab Spring. But the peaceful protests quickly escalated after the government’s violent crackdown, and armed opposition groups began fighting back.”

That is certainly the version which has come to be accepted in public discourse in the West, but it is false.

The anti-government protests of March 2011 were small-scale, but violent from the start, and they were not part of the Arab Spring, which was a series of mass democratic uprisings against oppression, countered most notably by our ally Saudi Arabia beheading its leaders and sending its army into our ally Bahrain to crush the movement there, all with our blessing.

In Syria it was the opposite of the Arab Spring. As acknowledged by Western reporters on the ground, the government was popular and had widespread support. The country was attacked by a vicious triumvirate comprising a) an anti-democratic Sunni sectarian movement armed, funded, trained and directed by the West and the Gulf monarchies, and which regarded the Ba’athist government as infidels, b) the West, implacably opposed to the Ba’athist principles of pan-Arabism, freedom from foreign domination, and socialism, and c) the Gulf monarchies, which sought to bring it down for all of those reasons.

Syria has been targeted relentlessly since the 1950s. The depraved policy of the UK and its allies, chiefly of course the USA, has not managed to destroy the government and take the place over for business, but has succeeded in the lesser goal of inflicting on its people an unspeakable weight of torment.

Mercy Corps must carry on with its work in Syria, but should not misconceive the very reason why it has to be there.

Alan Crocket

AS one of the (very) few readers of this newspaper still alive who attended Billy Grahams west of Scotland campaign at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall in 1955, perhaps I could fill in Martin Hannan’s otherwise excellent article on the subject (How Billy Graham’s crusade changed Scotland, The National, February 22).

The campaign was only ten years after a devastating European war and it is useful to remember it in that context. It was several years before the Boeing 747 was developed and Billy Graham and his entourage travelled here on the RMS Queen Elizabeth. I always remember how cold they always were as there was “central heating nowhere”. The Kelvin Hall auditorium was packed every night for six weeks on end. The crowd arrived there by bus, tram or train and there was barely a motor car in sight. I recall most of the women wore hats and skirts. The choir were several hundred people from local churches all wearing white tops. At the end of the service when Billy Graham was calling people forward and would sing Just As I Am in undertones, a considerable amount of people actually came forward. It was mesmeric.

I went off Graham quite a bit when he blest the first President Bush’s gulf war, but then if you scratched the surface he was right-wing politically.

The world will indeed miss Billy Graham, as will Scotland, as he changed our culture and indeed history considerably. It may be slightly the incorrect thing to say in the context, but may he rest in peace.

Alan Clayton
Westfield, Strachur