WELL done Julie Hepburn! No, I’m not referring to her outstanding runner-up result in the SNP deputy leadership contest, but to her article in Saturday’s National (Don’t forget we need to win over Tory voters to independence, July 7). Tory voters shouldn’t be ignored, and we’ve got lots of them here in the north-east, quite a few of whom have previously voted SNP.

The north-east is a dynamic, business-focussed part of Scotland that for a variety of reasons has always tended to gang its ain gait. It’s surprisingly diverse too, with not just North Sea oil and gas, farming and fishing, but also a strong industrial and manufacturing legacy, and a surprisingly cosmopolitan population.

Over the past 50 years we’ve had lots of new blood come in, adding not just to our cultural diversity but also to our skills and knowledge base. Historically, except for the former Labour bastion of Aberdeen North, the Tories dominated the area until the SNP started to break through, and the LibDems won Gordon.

What marked the SNP’s recent decline here was probably its change of leadership, and the subsequent loss of Alex Salmond’s influence in government as a champion of the north-east. Add to that doubts about future infrastructure spending, especially the vital faster rail link to the south, and folk sometimes think we are now the “forgotten corner”.

Much of what the current Tory government is doing is odious, and their perpetual fudge on Brexit is severely damaging our economy, with even worse in prospect. Their representatives here, amazingly, appear to want a hard Brexit. So, from a north-east perspective, it’s time for a second referendum not indyref2 but on Europe.

We’ve seen enough Tory and Labour ineptitude. It’s time for some bold and decisive leadership from Nicola Sturgeon in support of a second UK referendum on Brexit alternatives. A second referendum on reclaiming our hijacked Scottish sovereignty can follow, but Scotland’s place is in Europe and maintaining that has to be the top priority.

Bryan Stuart
Insch, Aberdeenshire

JULIE Hepburn is spot on, in contrast to the nonsense espoused in Wee Ginger Dug’s piece earlier in the week about what being Scottish means. It has been established ad nauseam that the range of Scottish views is little different from people in other Western democracies when it comes to matters like immigration, inequality, paying more tax etc. This is not changed by the modern liberal elite decrying conservative views on these issues as merely “populist” (was there ever a more arrogant dismissal of what people – dare I say real people – think than that term?) A sense of nationhood is a subtle matter, clearly beyond canine understanding, which has nothing at all to do with subscribing to some imagined Magna Carta of sound left-wing doctrines.

Where I differ from Julie is in her concession that after independence Scots might still feel “British”. British perhaps meant something in the 19th century, but five minutes of chat with an ordinary English person should convince any Scot that nowadays Britain is merely an alternate for England in the English mind – they assume they are the British.

They may express affection for Scotland but there is often little respect, coupled with encyclopaedic ignorance of our history and achievements; and the “equal partners” notion will get as big a laugh from them as it did during the Scottish independence campaign.

If independence is not about rescuing Scotland from its slide into being a mere cultural and political appendage of England then I am not sure what the point is. After independence some thought will have to be given to how to de-Anglicise the nation in many areas, reversing the impact of the British Brainwashing Corporation over so many years.

Alan Oliver
Brightons, Falkirk

IN 1998 a number of interesting events occurred. The Scotland Act determined that in the event of matters reserved to Brussels being subsequently repatriated, responsibility for their future management would revert directly to the devolved assemblies or governments of the UK. It is certain that in 1998 no EU In/Out referendum was contemplated and it was assumed the terms of the act would need no activation.

Secondly, the then Labour government under Mr Blair engineered the transfer of coastal waters between St Andrews and Berwick, from Scottish jurisdiction to that of the UK, effectively achieving that those areas would therefore become “English” under the control of Westminster.

It cannot be argued successfully that a country which does not have responsibility for its own economic affairs, its legislature and its judiciary will achieve its full potential of success across the board, on behalf of the population who elected it. To the foregoing could be added immigration.

Is it not part of the remit of the Secretary of State for Scotland to function in the best interests of Scotland as a whole? How then does our man propose to apply himself to achieve those best interests in relation particularly to the foregoing occurrences?

They are after all matters now in high relief resulting from June 2016, especially those concerning agriculture and fisheries, which have both been handled by Westminster in a manner contrary to the stated intention and principles of our Secretary of State.

It is in reality, based on his record, likely that he will do absolutely nothing approaching defending the rights of Scotland, his sole interest being to follow his servile loyalty to Westminster and await his reward of ermine.

Also in reality, if his office were to be abandoned tomorrow we in Scotland would be no worse off – yet a further example of the uselessness of the Westminster system. No matter of legislation nor amendment raised by our truly Scottish MPs, excluding the 12 Conservative pretenders, has had the support of our Secretary of State. Calling time on the system is long overdue!

J Hamilton