IN the lead-up to the 2014 referendum many Scottish Labour figures came out with the line that they had as much in common with the workers of Durham or Darlington as they did with the workers in Dundee or Dunfermline. It’s a much-repeated trope symbolising the idea that their support for the Union was based not on national lines but on class lines; a shared ethos of socialist communities working together towards a common goal, sharing common experiences against a common foe: uncaring, greedy, grasping Tories.

In the last few years though it’s become apparent that Brexit has made England and Wales rethink their priorities and it’s clear that while Scottish Labour have remained loyal to their southern counterparts, the people of Durham and Darlington have decided that their allegiance is no longer with Labour but with the Tories. Having spent all those years holding a candle for England’s working class, Scottish Labour are now left alone in the dark holding a charred stub with no idea how to get out of the darkness.

Pleas from some factions within the party that they must soften their stance on independence are met with roars of disapproval from the most hardcore British Nationalists in their ranks, some of whom would happily see Holyrood closed down than see the SNP succeed in any aspect. This embittered group are still raging over Labour’s loss of it’s North British fiefdom in 2007; they burn with hatred over their inability to take back control of what they view as rightfully theirs: control of every aspect of Scottish life from community council to Westminster and every carriage of the gravy train which snaked between them all.

These are a people beyond our reach, and we would be foolish to expend our energies trying to win them over. But the Labour Party is more than this small but vocal group. We in the independence movement must reach out to are those who can see the bigger prize; who want a publicly owned health service, joined-up public transport designed with users in mind, not shareholders; people who want an education system to be proud of, who want to get on with building a better Scotland and who are open to that being built by a Labour government in an independent Scotland.

How do we do that though? By exhorting them to change sides, to switch to the SNP? That would be unpalatable to many. To build a new party? That might be option but would mean a complete loss of structure and influence and would put them in competition with the remnants of British Labour. Instead we must encourage them to speak up within the Labour Party and demonstrate that they want to cut their ties with London, stand on their own two feet and change the direction of their party from anti- to pro-independence. This means ridding the party of those who find Scotland run by a UK Tory Government infinitely preferable to a Scotland run independently by Labour. Because those people aren’t socialists, not really. Those are people with no vision and no ambition. If they had any of those characteristics they would seize the chance to protect Scotland and build it into an example which their counterparts in England could point to as evidence that their policies can work. Instead they spend their time opposing everything done by the SNP to prove that those policies don’t work, even when it is exactly what they would do if they had power.

This week their branch leader Richard Leonard has said that his party will be having a swift, evidence-based review of where Labour went wrong, but he has already come to the conclusion that their stance on independence is the correct one. This sounds to me like Mr Leonard has already made up his mind prior to hearing the evidence which renders his consultation, like him, pointless. The rot clearly starts at the top and if Labour is to be encouraged to steer their ship towards independence then a change of captain is obviously needed – only mutiny in the ranks will bring this about. Should they maintain this course they will undoubtedly founder on the rocks, and time will tell if they heed the warnings or head full sail towards their own destruction.
James Cassidy

THANK you for your coverage of the results of the Werritty review (Review’s plan to delay grouse-shoot licensing under fire, The National, December 20).

Although the review contains some valuable suggestions for change, any delay in implementation fails respond to the damage that is being done today by driven grouse shooting. The culling of mountain hares at a rate of around 10% of the population a year must be stopped. The burning of heather, the muirburn, releases CO2 into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change and can make walking in the uplands in the early part of the year a choking experience. Measurement of insecticide and lead residues on grouse entering the food chain must start. If not, the selling of grouse for human consumption must be stopped. Regulations on the use of snares, which under the current regime need only be monitored once every day, must be improved or their use banned. Dumping dead stock in open pits, exposing wildlife to diseases, such as Salmonella and Botulism, a practice which is not open to any other farming practice, must end. All of these activities cannot wait up to five years.

Driven Grouse shooting is a farming, not a conservation, activity and is only economic if the grouse population is maintained at levels way above that which would be possible in a normal ecosystem. This can only achieved by the eradication of competing species, both legally and, in the case of our birds of prey, illegally. Any delay to see if bird of prey numbers rise is unacceptable. Instances of raptor persecution have risen dramatically. The RSPB’s Wildlife Crime Reports show that, of the 1234 incidents in the 30 years since 1989, 1139 were in the last 10 years. In 2018 there were at least 87 persecution incidents, but only one successful conviction. The grouse shooting industry is aware that their response these incidents was being carefully watched and yet rates since 2012 have remained stubbornly high.

The National:

The evidence that driven grouse shooting is a valuable contribution to the upland economy is tenuous at best. A report by Common Weal points out that grouse shooting is “significantly worse than any other reasonably conceivable economic activity”. To delay the introduction of licencing to look at evidence which we already have is unjustified and could be seen as unwillingness to address the powerful interests of our grouse moor owners. The law must be changed soon to ensure our iconic Scottish wildlife is more adequately protected.
Pete Rowberry

READ MORE: Letters: Scotland needs a long-term master plan, not unrealistic five-year goals

ON Tuesday night as we were preparing to go to bed, we had a telephone call from our son alerting us to a documentary by John Pilger about to be aired on STV. As admirers of this award-winning journalist we settled down to watch The Dirty War on the NHS – a documentary examining plans to sell off the National Health Service. What ensued was a high-quality and frightening picture of the planned dismantling of our NHS.

It showed that the sale of the NHS is well under way – beginning in the Thatcher era and continued by both Tory and Labour governments since then. Staff from the NHS, lobbyists, patients, bereaved relatives and politicians contributed to the documentary. The picture portrayed was truly shocking and I would urge people to take time to watch the programme via the internet. Hopefully, the programme will be repeated on television.

People living in Scotland must be made aware of the dangers facing our National Health Service and the only realistic way of achieving this is to unite around a move to take control of our own destiny. What was so shocking in the programme was the stealthy manner in which so many of the functions of the health service have been privatised already. Public/private finance schemes for hospital buildings, treatment of NHS patients in private hospitals, private ambulance services and business management techniques have all contributed to huge profits for investors and poorer – and sometimes dangerous – outcomes for patients.

I realise that the management of the NHS in Scotland is a devolved matter, but we are allocated our money for health in relation to that which is spent in the NHS in England.

The National:

As more of their funds go to private individuals and companies and less to the service of patients in the NHS will we suffer significant financial shortfall in this area? Already there are concerning stories of the huge costs of maintaining the repayments of PPI hospitals in Scotland.

The First Minister is urging all parties to unite around the cause of independence. Our new parliament was created in a deliberate way to try to encourage all parties to work together to ensure the best outcomes for the people of Scotland. The new Tory Government has a majority which can push through plans and policies unwanted and damaging to our people in Scotland. The story of the dismantling of the NHS as portrayed by John Pilger is a warning that we ignore at our peril.
Isobel Gibson

WHAT should the penalty be for lying to fellow MPs in the Commons? Some 60 years back, for Tory Cabinet minister John Profumo, it meant disgrace, quitting all politics and passing the rest of his life in private, unpaid, charity work. Sackcloth and ashes with a vengeance, for the man who lied about his call-girl acquaintance Christine Keeler, a TitBits model as a teenager.

We know times and customs do change in half a century, but in US and UK politics, fake news, vacuous slogans and downright lying are the current modus operandi.

Those who watched the Queen’s Speech pageantry in the House of Lords surely noticed the vacuous phrases this long-reigning lady had to deploy in outlining her Government’s vacuous programme of priorities and pledges.

Back in the Commons debate, Boris Johnson cut down an SNP warning about indyref2 by pronouncing that in 2014 before the original vote “Nicola Sturgeon herself” had called it “once in a generation”. Not true, of course. Way off course. A lie.

So what’s the punishment? Maybe an independent Scotland’s welcome to all who want to live and work here.

In nearly every case, no applications needed in colloquial Gaelic, nor any lie-detector passes from Eton.
Jack Newbigging

EVERY time the Tories repeat their trope about “a once in a generation referendum”, they should be reminded that it was their own David Cameron who promised that only the Tories could guarantee Scotland’s place in the EU and only if they voted No in 2014.

They didn’t keep that promise and we are now leaving the EU against our will, resulting in a complete change of the political landscape here, so “a once in a generation referendum” is no longer a meaningful concept.
Alan Anderson