INTERESTING article by Lesley Riddoch in The National the other week concerning the launch of Revive – the Coalition for Grouse Moor Reform (Animal activists and land reformers must team up to get results, November 8). As Lesley explained, this is a campaign initiated by conservationists to control the operations of the grouse shooting industry in order to limit or eliminate the environmental damage occasioned by driven grouse shooting.

Lesley did indicate in her article that perhaps better use could be made of our uplands for the benefit of the rural population and I totally agree. The current landscape of much of Scotland – bare hillsides with a patchwork of burnt heather – is totally artificial: the direct result of the grouse industry’s efforts to increase grouse numbers beyond their natural population.

Apart from my concern over the environmental problems, I find it quite intolerable that we allow so much of our land to be maintained in a permanent state of degradation in order to provide a playground for a small group of well-heeled “sportsmen” to slaughter masses of wild birds for fun.

One argument used by this industry to justify their activities is that they contribute around £250 million to the Scottish economy and support 3,000 jobs.

Forestry Commission (Scotland) issued a report in November 2015 indicating that they had contributed just under one billion pounds to the Scottish economy and in doing had supported 25,000 jobs.

Given that we currently have less than 15% of forest cover, we could easily increase this by a factor of three or four and, arguably, increase the revenue by three or four billion pounds with 75,000 to 100,000 extra jobs. Of course, it would take at least 50 years before we could achieve full production from the new forestation, but there would be a gradual increase in revenue and employment until that point –- and it would be money in the bank for succeeding generations.

It’s a “no-brainer” – all we need to do is “persuade “ the current landowners to start planting trees. Perhaps the judicious application of a land tax could help?

True, it is their land – but this is our country.

Alex Rollo

READ MORE: Animal activists and land reformers must team up to get results​

SCOTLAND’S First Minister has been reported as having said that if Westminster refuses to grant permission for the Scottish Parliament to hold a second independence referendum then it may not be possible to overcome that refusal other than to turn the 2021 Holyrood election into a plebiscite on independence. I fear the 2021 option is fraught with danger and would, at best, take us no further forward.

On the July 4 this year, however, with a stroke of political genius, Ian Blackford MP, the Leader of the SNP group at Westminster, managed to get Scotland’s “Claim of Right” endorsed by the House of Commons. This obliged the UK Government to accept the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and their right to choose their own form of government. The United Nations charter enshrines that same right.

In the light of this it would be illogical and immoral of Westminster to forbid our second referendum and it would be weak and contradictory of the Scottish Government to accept such a refusal. Surely if we are to deserve independence we must pursue it with a bold determination. We make ourselves a laughing stock if we say that we will be independent, but only if England allows it. Any refusal on the part of Westminster to accept the holding or the result of a Scottish independence referendum would see the UK condemned in the court of world opinion.

Billy Scobie

READ MORE: Momentum growing for indyref2 as senior SNP figures insist 'now is the time'​

SUSAN Grant makes a good point about now being the perfect time for the Scottish Government to set up a bank to serve those communities being abandoned by the (former) high street banks (Letters, November 30). The practical advantages of this for individuals and small businesses are obvious. Whilst the planned Scottish National Investment Bank is a bold and welcome development, it will benefit big business not individuals. The creation of a Scottish National Bank with a high street presence will also radically alter the debate around independence. This bank should be tasked with preparing to act as Scotland’s central bank post-independence. If Scots were to start shifting assets into a bank which was tasked with preparing for independence, then all financial institutions would have to seriously consider if they could still argue against independence.

Kenny Wright

READ MORE: Letters, November 30

ON page 19 of Thursday’s paper you wrongly identify an ancient still pit as from Dallas Dhu distillery in Forres. This picture actually depicts a still pit recently uncovered at Lindores Abbey Distillery in Newburgh. This discovery is of significant interest not only to the whisky industry but also in the fact that William Wallace took shelter in the Abbey after his famous victory at Black Earnside.

Please send a responsible reporter to accurately report this significant discovery, as shoddy inaccuracies like this just give ammunition to the Unionists.

A disgruntled resident