REGARDING the excellent article by David Pratt (The neocons of America want war with Iran – and it’s getting closer, May 10). David says it’s “probably pointless to try and get inside the war-mongering mind of Bolton to figure out why he wants war with Iran”. I disagree, and would respectfully submit that we already know what’s on his mind. OIL!

Apart from the early days after the Second World War when the excuse for USA military activity was “bringing freedom and democracy to people oppressed by the Red Menace”, almost all military action has been based on an oil grab.

What an amazing coincidence that the countries involved in being “set free” (Iraq, Libya, Syria etc) have substantial deposits of crude oil. The latest entries to this list are Iran and Venezuela. Good grief! They have oil... what a surprise.

There are many countries in the world with violent, corrupt regimes (some of which are actively supported by the USA) but you won’t find the Washington hawks remotely caring what happens to their populations. They are solely driven by greed. The gaining of and controlling power is only a tool to service their unquenchable greed.

Sadly, this philosophy of life is not restricted to wealthy citizens of the USA. In Russia, it appears the new system they have contains the worst features of capitalism with none of Michael Fry’s cuddly bits (do they really exist?). It’s time for the genuine socialists to counter the fake arguments of Trump and his ilk and push humanitarian policies.

A cynic is one who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Barry Stewart

KENNY Farquharson was right to highlight in his column in The Times this week that the new pro-indy campaign, Voices For Scotland, adopts a respectful tone in its engagement with those who are not currently supportive of independence.

He is incorrect, however, to suggest that this is part of some kind of masterplan along with the SNP.

Voices For Scotland is the new campaigning arm of the Scottish Independence Convention, which has 23 members, one of which is the SNP. It is grassroots-led, non-party-political, and our strategy has been set independently by our board.

To us, the approach is simply common sense. We have full confidence in the compelling arguments in favour of independence, but we recognise that we need to open up two-way, respectful conversations with those who remain to be convinced.

That is in no way a criticism of the way in which the overwhelming majority of grassroots pro-independence campaigners have engaged in the debate thus far. The independence movement of which we are part is positive, inclusive and the biggest asset we have. Its collective persuasive ability has taken Scotland to the brink of independence.

Voices for Scotland hopes to encourage and support more of these conversations, both because it makes for a better debate and because it is how we see independence becoming the normal, natural choice for a substantial majority of us.
Dave Thompson (chair), Aamer Anwar, Audrey Birt, Elaine C Smith, Linda Somerville, Rosemary Hunter (board members), on behalf of Voices for Scotland

I AGREE entirely with Isobel Lindsay (Letters, May 9). No nuclear weapons ever in Scotland, written into an independent Scotland’s constitution.

What we need now however is not a fully fledged constitution for an independent Scotland. This we can carefully build when we get to the place that we have the power to design it and to implement it. What we need now is defining founding principles for that constitution.

I can think of four founding principles right away .

No nuclear weapons in Scotland.

All the land and the waters of Scotland belong to the people of Scotland and are held in trust for them by Scotland’s elected government which will determine use in the national interest.

Scottish armed forces will be exclusively used to defend Scotland and engage otherwise only in agreed peace-keeping duties as determined by the United Nations.

The people of Scotland are sovereign and Scotland’s parliament answers only to its people.

I’m sure there are more.
David McEwan Hill
Sandbank, Argyll

THE forthcoming week (May 13-19) marks Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme, set by the Mental Health Foundation, is raising awareness about body image and how we think and feel about our bodies.

The well-documented statistics on mental health problems as they impact children and young people in Scotland are stark and speak for themselves, with more individuals than ever seeking help. A contributor to this is around the issue of body image.

Studies have found that body dissatisfaction can start as young as six and lead to severe anxiety and depression. A recent report from the Scottish Government noted that many young girls in Scotland report being “unsatisfied with their physical appearance”, often trying to meet the unrealistic standards as seen on social media.

The announcement by the Scottish Government that school pupils are to be coached on how to use social media healthily is therefore to be welcomed.

The cost-advantages of prevention and early intervention programmes such as this when it comes to mental health should not be under-estimated. Educating children and young people on their mental health and wellbeing is critical, building up emotional resilience, Much has clearly been done, but there is still much work to be done to ensure Scotland’s children and young people with dissatisfaction over their body can get the right care, in the right place and at the right time to prevent this issue escalating into a serious mental health disorder.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Tom McGhee, chairman, Spark of Genius; Duncan Dunlop, chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Stuart Jacob, Falkland House School; Niall Kelly, managing director, Young Foundations; Lynn Bell, CEO, LOVE Learning

WOULD your readers know what to do if they saw someone having a seizure? Would they know what was happening and how to help?

One in 100 people in the UK have epilepsy. For National Epilepsy Week (May 20-26) we are encouraging everyone to step up and learn how to keep someone with epilepsy safe when they have a seizure.

Recent statistics reveal that 36% of the public would be unsure or unwilling to help somebody having a seizure. A further 57% admit they have little to no knowledge about epilepsy.

Helping someone who is having a seizure is simpler than people think. Staying with someone, protecting them from further harm, and calling for help if it’s needed, are three vital steps. If in doubt, always call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Epilepsy Action has created first-aid cards that people can order in time for National Epilepsy Week. They fit neatly into a purse or wallet so people can always have information handy. Posters are also readily available to be displayed in public places, such as schools, workplaces or waiting rooms. People can order these free of charge and find out more at Your readers’ support could be life-saving.
Phillip Lee
Chief executive, Epilepsy Action

IN large part, privatisation and political choice, has been paid for by the public, in generally higher charges and poverty, offset to some extent only where the individual citizen is sufficiently nimble with haggling and/or changing suppliers.

What does appear to be rightly exercising the public at the moment is just how many MPs have also been effectively privatised. Whether it’s unbelievably huge fees for speaking engagements, weekly newspaper columns or leaping to the defence of a “fine and upstanding” company being grilled by other MPs, the phrase “bought and paid for” is now more enshrined than ever in how things are done at the Palace of Westminster.

UK Government agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions further disturb the public by subverting their service to the public as a whole, to a service that rewards the sub-rationing of expenditure, as do other UK Government agencies.

So how does Scotland hold the line then reverse this gradual, corrupt but pervasive and effective neoliberal coup? Well, it might start by halting the “right to buy”. It might hold the water privatisation so sought after by ConDemSlab, only privatising the non-domestic arm. So far so good then.

Transport and energy are the more obvious service provisions that could now become social/public enterprises. Perhaps some GPs might consider such an alternative service provision. Then there’s care homes, which really need to be addressed both in availability, quality and cost.

To comprehensively shift from company/institution X having customers/voters, to the public having social enterprise/institution X being their public servant, will require the Scottish Government to have control over procurement and borrowing. Crafting the rules to maintain a level playing field across the EU can be done if sufficient diligence is ensconced within any Scottish Constitution.

This all sounds technical and complex, which it is, but can be summarised in the phrase “Served not Serviced”, which while somewhat nippy would be a good “rule of thumb” starting point, to first regenerate society’s building blocks then create a new fair society founded upon social/public enterprise, and a government’s desire to serve all of its citizens.
Stephen Tingle
Greater Glasgow

WHATEVER your politics, whatever your background, an independent Scotland is surely the only answer.

Holyrood’s values compared to Westminster’s are totally different. Our views and beliefs are totally ignored. Why should we stick with a so called Union that allows the rich to get richer and the poor get poorer?

We know what the Tories represent. Their colours have never changed (for decades they allowed bairns to climb lums!) .

Labour, thanks to Blair, have lost the plot. Lord Foukes, Baroness Liddell, Lord Robertson, Lord McConnell... Socialists? Aye right! (The great Tony Benn would be turning in his grave).

So, let’s follow Nicola’s bid to stop Brexit. Indyref2, independence and then and only then Scotland will have a chance to regain its true identity – a fairer, compassionate society.
Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus