AS a National subscriber I read with interest your Scotland’s Greatest 20th Century Icon competition and your first “First Round” poll. I do not know who will be included in future run-offs, but I very much hope you do not omit the greatest of them all, John Maclean?

Nobody else comes close. Son of poverty-stricken Gaelic-speaking immigrants from the Highlands and Islands, gains an MA honours degree at Glasgow Uni whilst a full-time primary school teacher, in an age where well-positioned middle-class types struggle to even get into uni, let alone get a masters degree in economics there.

Sets up adult education colleges all over Glasgow, including his Scottish Labour College. Campaigns for social justice. Backs striking low-paid women in Neilston campaigning for trade union recognition. Backs the suffragettes long before most men, even lefty ones. Backs Mary Barbour and her army, but does not dominate them. Backs Ireland’s independence. Opposes World War One and conscription. Gets jailed four times for his beliefs, including five years for “sedition” in brutal Peterhead Prison.

Makes one of the greatest ever speeches from the dock “accusing capitalism”, rather than pleading for mercy. Gets out through popular acclaim, and on December 3 1918 is greeted by what is still the largest ever crowd at a political event in Scotland’s history. Breaks with founders of the Scottish Communist Party over their plans to accept Moscow control, centralist command structures and a “British Road to Socialism”. Calls for an independent Scotland, and a Scottish Workers’ Republic. Ostracised and smeared by party machines, dies in near poverty in 1923. His funeral remains the biggest ever in Scotland’s history.

Maclean is even our heroes’ hero. Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankley, Billy Connolly, Hamish Henderson, Matt McGinn, Margo Macdonald, Jimmy Reid, Peter Mullen and more – near anyone who knows Maclean’s story knows he is “the man”. Scotland’s.

And buried by our political establishments, left, right and centre, Unionist and nationalist. Because he challenges them all. Because he was right. Is right. Not just Scotland’s 20th-century hero. Our 21st-century hero too. I very much hope he makes your shortlist.

Alan Smart

ANENT the kerfuffle about refusal to accept Scottish notes by certain retailers. Many years ago a colleague and I, whilst attending a trade union meeting in London, went into a well-known toy emporium so that he could buy a present for his wee lassie.

He selected a toy and proffered a £20 Royal Bank note, which was refused. Having no time to find another toy shop, he left me there and went to a hole in the wall to obtain Bank of England paper with which to pay. In his absence, I went round the shop, picking up as many of its most expensive articles as I could carry, then, when he had paid, placed them on the counter. The bill was totalled up and came to well over a thousand pounds, which, at that time, had the assistant rubbing her hands at the amount of commission involved. They bagged the articles for me and I apologised for the fact that I only had Scottish currency on me and walked out.

Maybe more people should try that. The looks on the faces are well worth the little time it takes to set them up and knock them over.

Les Hunter

REGARDING the recent correspondence on Mary Queen of Scots, I would suggest you ask your historian to do a piece.

From what I have read she spent eight difficult years in Scotland, arriving from France as the widow of Francis II, when a law banning Roman Catholicism had just been introduced.

Deprived of her monarchical rights and stopped from practising her religion, she fell victim to the ambitions of the various aristocratic and religious factions seeking to control her, at a time when women could still be condemned as witches. After the murder of her husband Lord Darnley and the ensuing events, too many to recount, leading to her imprisonment, escape and defeat in battle by her half brother the Earl of Moray she escaped to England, where despite being in line to the throne she spent 19 years under house arrest. France might have been safer.

Mary had a claim on the English throne through her grandmother Margaret, wife of James IV, which Elizabeth as daughter of Anne Boleyn would have been sensitive about. In England, Sir Ralph Walsingham (who was aware of plotting by Anthony Babington and foreign sympathies for the plight of Mary) counselled against her. However Elizabeth would not sanction her assassination, as in any case Mary was not her subject.

Subsequently deciphered transcripts, from a coded message system operated by a double agent was set up to entrap her, showed that Mary was aware of plans to free her – but a fallacious section was added to say that she approved the assassination of Elizabeth, which was the part used to justify her being put on trial.

Peter Gorrie