GORDON MacIntyre-Kemp is bang on the money in his recent piece (This is how we convert people to supporting independence, September 20). He advises us not to confuse winning an argument with winning a vote.

There is extensive psychological and statistical evidence to show that behaviour, such as how we vote and how we construct arguments, is driven by beliefs. Generally beliefs come first and attitudes follow. Therefore, to persuade folk of indy, almost any argument, no matter how cogent, is wasted breath unless there are receptive underpinning beliefs.

To see the power of this reality, look at England and Brexit where, despite the mountain of clear objective evidence otherwise, a majority of people still apparently “believe” that their country will be better off under Brexit, even under a catastrophic no deal. This makes no logical sense but beliefs work at an ingrained level.

In gaining more support for indy, how then do we work with beliefs and how do we get folk of all persuasions on board?

In answering the first, there is strong evidence that people respond to self-categorisation and to positive comparisons. This means if “people like us” have a belief profile, then it is easy to go with their grain. Also, telling folk that their group is exhibiting positive behaviour encourages them. For instance sending out the message that 60% of older people recycle their rubbish is more likely to encourage individual pensioners to adopt that behaviour than to antagonise with the message that 40% do not.

All of this means that the grassroots nature of the indy cause is priceless. The existence of self-categorisation groups like “pensioners for independence” sends the clear message to older folk that it is okay to support independence. Similarly, groups like “Rangers supporters for Scottish independence” are hugely welcome. All such groups send the message: “If you’re like us then supporting indy is normal behaviour.”

Seeing the happy crowds of normal folk on AUOB marches is also a vital way of sending the message to the unconverted population that they are welcome to come and join the movement and that supporting indy is a natural order. Equally though, that is why the “Tory Scum Out” banners that sometimes appear at the marches are so damaging. We need to be a welcoming movement for all political shades. What possible reason is there for sending the message that conservatives are not welcome?

Staying with that theme of inclusivity and returning to the need to focus at the belief level, a worthwhile strategy is to send positive messages to different political and demographic groups to demonstrate that indy is wholly consistent with their core beliefs. For instance, Labour voters respond positively to arguments that show an independent Scotland will be a fairer and more equal society. Conservatives are receptive to approaches based on hard work and economic opportunity. Arguments on tolerance and inclusivity appeal to LibDems. All these arguments are truthful and well founded but they appeal to different degrees to different groups depending upon core beliefs.

As Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp notes, the vast majority of political discourse and argument is thus a complete waste of time if the objective is to persuade and change minds. The good news is that the indy movement is already and inherently doing many of the right things because of its grassroots, belief-based nature. We should all remember though that the route to indy lies in empathy, not in criticism.
Raymond Hunter
East Kilbride

IT seems there are still Scottish nationalists of many years’ standing, such as David McEwan Hill, who do not understand the importance of an independent Scotland having its own currency and central bank. Mr Hill (Letters, September 20) accuses Robert Ingram of being “politically dangerously naive” for raising the “currency issue”.

He then goes on to claim “there are numerous currency options available to an independent Scotland”. Not if we are talking about an Independent Scotland, there aren’t. Mr Hill also claims the “currency union” favoured by the Yes campaign in 2014 was only “one of four entirely viable currency options” presented by “four of the world’s most respected economic experts”.

Mr Hill is referring of course to the Fiscal Commission, which included two Nobel Laureates, and which indeed said: “A currency union would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rUK”. However, the two massive caveats which accompanied that statement are NEVER quoted by those independence supporters like Mr Hill who favoured the currency union. They are, “in the immediate aftermath of independence”, and “it will not give Scotland control of the economic levers”. The Fiscal Commission had a great deal more to say about the agreements which would be necessary for a currency union to work. One of the most important conditions was as follows: “A joint fiscal sustainability agreement is established to govern the level of borrowing and debt within the sterling zone.”

John Swinney, as finance secretary at the time, is on record several times agreeing with the conditions laid out by the Fiscal Commission, although the conditions which would have accompanied an agreement on a currency union were never mentioned by the Yes side during the referendum campaign. A closer look at what those conditions would have meant for any government of an “independent Scotland”, will perhaps explain why.

  • The Bank of England would set Scotland's interest rates and control monetary policy, as it does now
  • The Bank of England would set the level of borrowing in Scotland, as it does now
  • The Bank of England would set Scotland's debt management, as it does now
  • The rUK Government, as a consequence of the above, would have indirect control of Scotland's fiscal policy as it does now.

Mr McEwan Hill and those independence supporters who also favour a currency union with rUK have a duty to now explain, rather than simply assert, how that degree of control over the Scottish economy by what will be a “foreign” government can possibly mean independence.

With that lack of control of the Scottish economy, how could any Scottish Government possibly fulfil the promises of the kind being made by the SNP and other supporters of independence? I won’t hold my breath.
Jim Fairlie

WILLIE Rennie’s “worse than a man short” contribution to the future of Scotland in the EU can be roughly summed up as follows: “You’ll have had your indyref then?” Why haven’t Scotland’s SNP led the support for an English people’s vote to reverse the Leave vote in EURef1 and to remain in the EU?

Clearly the SNP, having the third most MPs in Westminster, could assist the voter-spurned LibDem party to make a more significant contribution to the Brexit debate, and it has been pointed out to Mr W Rennie that Scotland, led by an SNP government, has already voted to remain in the EU.

So desperate is Mr W Rennie to save Scotland’s submission to majority English rule that he will not entertain Scotland’s democratic right to be sufficiently materially different to England, even if that means another decade of austerity and uncertainty across all the UK.

But Willie is clearly not alone, and many have irreconcilable faith in the sanctity of being British. It’s not just the “too poor, too wee” apolitical believers, but also those who feel more politically astute, desperately changing parties, desperate to confound the dastardly SNP who have stolen their pristine saltire.

However, there would now appear to be a “Tory Brexit Binary Choice” to make, ie a choice of six options.

1. “Checkers Minus”, which leaves the UK half-in, half-out of the EU, which will incur a decade of wrath from both the pro-Brexit hormonal chlorinator brigade, as well as those seeking to be fully in the EU.

2. “No Deal”, ie the World Trade Organisation year zero option, which will set off a decade of trying to rejoin the EU.

3. “Remain in the EU”, which will ensure a decade of wrath from the wannabe hormonal chlorinator brigade.

4. “Canada Plus”, which will set off a decade of trying to re-join the EU, and a decade of wrath from the wannabe hormonal chlorinator brigade.

5. “Norway Minus”, which will set off a decade of trying to re-join the EU, and a decade of wrath from the wannabe hormonal chlorinator brigade.

6. Any of the above but without Scotland, which will remain in the EU, and then seek to guide the rUK back to the EU.

The populist issue of migration is ignored, and like Hungary there will be a force for “England for the English”, only muted slightly to “Britain for the real British”. Option 6 clearly benefits Scotland and may reduce the lost decade facing the rUK.

The degree of self-determination required for option 6 to fulfil its role both to the people of Scotland and the people of rUK is the question Mr W Rennie should really be asking, but it will have to include Scotland’s Parliament being fully and irreconcilably sovereign within the UK context.
Stephen Tingle
Greater Glasgow

I WAS so delighted to read the article by Sue Palmer in The National on Wednesday (P1s should be learning and playing, not inside doing tests on computers, September 19). At last we’re hearing from someone who knows what’s best for P1 children.

Little children learn so much through practical activities – which for them is playing. As a primary school teacher and also Froebel trained, I had great pleasure watching the children in my P1 classes learning while enjoying themselves.

Activity-based education promotes an enthusiasm for learning and wanting to go to school. It helps children learn how to socialise with other children by participating in joint activities and working things out together, with the teacher on hand to provide help, encouragement, understanding and appropriate language. Children in an interesting classroom environment where there are stimulating materials, activities and opportunities, will want to explore, find out how things work, and then feel happy with their achievements.

It is much healthier for children to be on their feet and moving about than sitting at a table and computer for too long. When the weather is suitable, extending this learning outside is also healthier physically and mentally.

Children all learn at different times – like learning to walk, learning to speak and also learning to read. We are all different and no child should be learning to feel inferior by asking them to do a test they may not yet understand. Surely we want our children to be happy and confident – and with that comes learning. A good P1 teacher will know what each child in his/her class is capable of and what each child needs help with to progress – without any formal testing. A teacher friend told me she thought testing P1s was child abuse. I couldn’t disagree.
Elizabeth MacDonald
Address supplied