IT could be Scotland, but it is Finland that tops a UN report of the happiest countries in the world. The populations of both countries are similar, the latitudes are fairly close to each other, but Scotland doesn’t even feature in this happiness report simply because it isn’t, at this point in time, an independent country.

The 2019 report does appear to show that small is happy and also prosperous because the report takes GDP into account among various criteria. Denmark, which again resembles Scotland in population and geographical location, is second listed, with Norway third, Iceland fourth, and Netherlands fifth, the latter probably outnumbering the combined populations of the previous four. The only country south of the equator in the top 10 is New Zealand (eighth), and its population – which includes many migrant Scots – is slightly less than Scotland’s.

READ MORE: Finland celebrates 25 years of membership in the European Union

All of which suggests that Scotland should be in a better place than it is and that the reason for its not being is, apart from its technical exclusion – well the letters pages of The National might offer more than a few clues. Instead of being the 157th country in this 156-countries report, Scotland is host to more food banks than regular high street banks, and has a screed of social problems, not least being substance abuse, which is often regarded as an indicator of the kind of unhappiness that derives from lack of empowerment and non-participation in decision-making, the kind of situation that has been seen in the Australian Aborigine community, the Native American community, and among some Inuit/Eskimo people in the past.

Scotland could indeed be a happier country, but not until its people are in a position to make their own decisions, or, as in the case of Brexit, to see the decisions they do make become tangible realities.

Ian Johnstone

IT is a depressing fact that of the 60-odd countries which have left the British Empire, from the North American colonies in 1783 to New Zealand in the 1980s (NZ had been withdrawing from the Empire peacefully over a period of time), too many former colonies gained independence only after much blood was shed. It took many years of bloody conflict in Northern Ireland before a fragile peace was established; a peace which is now in jeopardy due to Westminster incompetence.

It seems that whenever British hegemony is challenged the automatic response of the establishment is confrontation and aggression. British diplomacy never really learned the art of compromise and negotiation; the reaction was often “send in the gunboats”. And now that Scotland is inexorably moving towards independence we are witnessing the same intransigent attitude. The Unionist parties keep parroting the mantra “Scotland does not want independence or a second referendum”. So instead of intelligently proving their point by allowing, indeed encouraging, indyref2, they resort to character with bone-headed defiance.

So far Scotland has pursued independence in an utterly peaceful and legal manner, and it is my fervent hope that this will continue.

Richard Walthew

I SEE the F word is making an appearance again. G Brown must know a “near federal” system will never work. Westminster cannot abide a devolved parliament at the moment – how would it cope with five or six! It would it never give up all that power. Now Scottish Labour is to consider its position on indy2 just to survive. To late I hope. We don’t want independence by dribs and drabs. Time has come for SNP MPs to sit in the Scottish Parliament and make it legal, equal and permanent. Now all European countries can understand how Scots feel trapped in an UNEQUAL UNION.

Tom Nicholson
via email

I SEE Scottish Labour may now consider indyref 2. To me it’s a no-brainer. Once Scotland becomes a sovereign state again, Scottish Labour as an autonomous party could re-emerge as a major force. Especially if it returned to its founding values and had some decent candidates. However, if they chose a federal approach I feel this would cause confusion and would hold up the whole process and delay our sovereignty. But I suppose we should be grateful the penny is finally beginning to drop. So welcome aboard ... or sort of!

Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus

IF a politician makes a vile homophobic attack on someone, then the public at least have an opportunity at the next election to vote them out. Unless of course they are a member of the House of Lords, as in the case of Lord Maginnis and his recent attack on SNP MP Hannah Bardell. Lord Mcginnis was using threatening language to parliamentary staff and this was witnessed by Hannah Bardell, who raised it with the Speaker in the House of Commons. This then led to Lord Maginnis making homophobic remarks about Ms Bardell.

Under the flawed constitution of the UK, Lord Maginnis can make as many similar remarks as he wants to, in the full knowledge that he will keep his seat in the House of Lords and all the expenses that go with it. Quite rightly Ms Bardell has reported him to the police for his comments, but again this will not remove him from the House of Lords.

Why should we have to put up with a political system that allows this to happen? There will be no serious reform of the Lords, as it’s in the interests of the two main British parties to keep it as it is. If we want to see real reform of our political institutions then we have to be an independent nation, one that makes our own decisions about our future and one which isn’t subject to the views of homophobes and the other political flunkies of the House of Lords.

Cllr Kenny MacLaren