TODAY a petition to Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Europe and External Affairs, signed by thousands of concerned Scottish citizens on the 38 Degrees website ( will be handed in to Holyrood.

The petition calls on the SNP Government to oppose the controversial EU-USA mega trade deal TTIP. This comes after a Europe-wide petition against TTIP attracted 3.2 million signatures, including 500,000 signatures from the UK, in just one year. Six Scottish councils, four in the last month alone, have passed motions opposing TTIP, as did Scottish Labour at its autumn conference.

The Scotland Against TTIP coalition, which represents tens of thousands of citizens across Scotland, is adding its voice to those calling on the SNP and the Scottish Government to oppose TTIP and other similar deals, such as the Canada-EU agreement CETA, in their entirety.

These are not trade deals in the sense that most people would recognise. Both are part of a new wave of deals set to hand power to multinational corporations on a scale not seen before. Corporations will be able to sue governments if they make public policy decisions, such as banning fracking, which business could argue would harm profits. And while these deals threaten to lower standards which currently protect people, public services and the environment, there is little evidence that they will bring the promised benefits of growth and jobs.

The strength of public opinion against TTIP and CETA grows daily. It’s vital that the SNP listen to this and oppose these toxic trade deals outright.

Scotland Against TTIP coalition: 38 Degrees; Friends of the Earth Scotland; Global Justice Glasgow; Global Justice Now; Hope Not Hate Glasgow; Nourish Scotland; PCS; Radical Independence Campaign; RMT; St Andrews TTIP Action group; Stop TTIP Aberdeen; Stop TTIP Dundee; Stop TTIP Edinburgh; STUC; The People’s Assembly; UCU; UNISON; Unite the Union; USI; War on Want; Women for Independence

Rise list vote may result in surprises

JIM Sillars is encouraging people to follow his lead and vote SNP for the constituency and Rise for the party vote, saying that the SNP would very likely win all the constituency seats and thus waste their party vote by choosing the SNP (SNP stalwart Sillars calls for radical left group Rise to get list vote in elections, The National, December 4). Jim is perfectly within his rights to put forward this suggestion.

However, a couple of points:

1. Nobody should assume that all the constituency seats will fall into the SNP’s hands, even allowing for the considerable grassroots effort activists make. The hierarchy of the party would certainly back up that stance.

2. The SNP won no fewer than five seats in 2011 on the final round seven of the D’Hondt system and two in round six. Only in Lothian did they not win any list seats at all. That was due in the main to the comparatively low total vote at party level of 39.2 per cent compared with those in other regions, even though it had the biggest percentage of votes. Compare that with the 52.7 per cent in north-east Scotland where it gained a list seat despite winning all 10 constituencies.

However, in all regions the margin of winning or losing a list seat is very tight, especially in the later rounds.

In the aforesaid north east Scotland in 2011, a one per cent reduction in the SNP vote in favour of any other party would have lost them their list MSP. Had Rise been around and taken that small figure from the SNP, it would have led to a Tory seat instead.

In mid Scotland and Fife the figure is 0.3 per cent for a unionist party gain. In central 1.5 per cent and in south of Scotland 0.6 per cent would have achieved the same outcome.

I am suggesting that voting for another party instead of SNP in 2011 could have resulted in a pro-union majority in Holyrood and no referendum.

The implications of the D’Hondt system are quite complex. Perhaps voters thinking of voting Rise in 2016, assuming that it won’t affect the number of pro-independence MSPs, should think long and hard about the possible consequences of doing so. The polls don’t always get it right and there is a majority Tory Government in Westminster to prove that fact. However, people are fully entitled to vote as they wish. The data also make it clear that SNP supporters need to make sure they are registered to vote and turn out in May in the Scottish Parliament elections.

Neil Myles

DENNIS White (Letters, December 5) misses the point that Rise, Scotland’s left alternative, makes so clearly. We cannot wait until a possible future independence to do the correct thing. A major part of the reason we did not win the referendum is that we were not offering our poor something better than London or Brussels if they voted for independence.

One of the main reasons why we did not win the referendum is because we were not offering a clear enough alternative to the neo-liberal economy of Tory, Labour policy and, yes, SNP-implemented cuts.

However it is not just that all the main parliamentary parties, including the SNP, only offered variations on the neo-liberal theme of cuts. After an emergency debate a motion was overwhelmingly passed at the Rise conference that clearly opposed any bombing of the people in Syria.

Norman Lockhart

I HAVE to respond to David McEwan Hill’s article bemoaning the current publicly-subsidised Gourock-Dunoon passenger ferry service operated by Argyll Ferries (Why the Dunoon-Gourock ferry service gives us that sinking feeling, The National, December 2). Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Dunoon and its hinterland is actually very well served by Scotland’s busiest and best vehicle ferry operated by Western Ferries.

Several of Mr Hill’s assertions need challenging. In his opening paragraph, he states that some decades ago CalMac Dunoon route was Europe’s busiest ferry crossing. Not so. There were and are many much much busier. Lisbon’s Cacilheiros Transtejo service carries 100,000 passengers daily. Argyll Ferries average but fourteen souls per crossing, of which only a proportion connect with the train at Gourock. He argues that it is not sensible to put a lifeline service into the hands of a private monopoly. Scotland is almost the only country in Europe in which the state runs ferries and at eye-watering cost. Elsewhere ferries are run efficiently, satisfactorily and at much less cost by independent operators.

Mr Hill argues for new vehicle ferries to operate between Dunoon Pier and Gourock in competition with Western Ferries, thereby destroying Cowal jobs.

The MVA report that he mentions was by no means unequivocal as to the potential profitability of such a venture and no potential operator has emerged willing to take the risk. Furthermore the MVA report could find no evidence for any economic downturn in Dunoon attributable to the withdrawal of the streaker service.

The introduction of vehicle ferries on the Gourock-Dunoon route would, therefore, serve little positive purpose and would in the end, by abstracting from the viability of the Western Ferries service, be damaging to the local economy. Mr Hill suggests that a book should be written on the subject. It has. It’s called Western Ferries: Taking on Giants.

Roy Pedersen

IF Alex Salmond had used the word "turning" instead of "birling", his comments about Hilary Benn’s flamboyant speech would have attracted little attention. This suggests that a word commonly used in Scotland seems to offend the English media and that the objection to Salmond’s comment has been more about vocabulary than anything else. Tam Dalyell used the word "turning", someone else "revolving" and there was little backlash. Likewise "spinning" would have avoided censure. Of course "spinning" is what this sort of thing is all about isn’t it?

Ian Johnstone

Petition urges SNP to oppose trade deal between EU and US