YET again we have sections in Scottish Labour chasing the federalism delusion in the hope it will offer a face-saving position.

It was also a little surprising that Nicola Sturgeon appeared during the election campaign to give some credence to a multi-option referendum.

Federalism is seldom ever raised at UK-level politics even by the Liberal Democrats who are supposed to be committed to it.

It does get the occasional mention in Scotland, usually as a “get-out” by those opposing independence but wanting to appear in some way progressive. What is significant is the lack of proper federal schemes – semi-federal is a favourite term. No-one should be allowed to use the word without being required to say what they mean. There are, of course, many successful federal states but none are demographically like the UK.

There are two basic models. One is a four-nation model. Normally the federal parliament and government would have responsibility for defence, foreign affairs, monetary and much fiscal policy, most trade, industry and employment law policy.The federal parliament can be elected on a population basis. With England having 84% of the population, the position of Scotland would be little different from the present system.

What would be the point? Alternatively the federal parliament could be elected, like the US Senate, with equal representation of all four states. But this would be grossly unfair to the people of England and would not be a stable system.

The other theoretical model would be to divide England into regional legislatures and they would have to be legislatures otherwise the federal parliament would have to make the laws for them on a wide range of functions.

We are nowhere near this in England and no major party is even talking about this. So what is it that Scottish Labour would be proposing?

Devo-max (how is that going to be defined?) or any federal model would leave Scotland without control of foreign affairs, defence, representation in international institutions, monetary policy, much fiscal and trade policy. This would have been a relevant basis for debate in the late 20th century. Scotland has moved on.

Isobel Lindsay

YOU reported that MSP Kenneth Gibson has criticised National Records of Scotland (NRS) over their proposals for the sex question in the 2021 Census (MSPs’ ‘frustration’ revealed over census sex questions, January 10).

NRS proposes to use exactly the same question as in the last Census in 2011: “What is your sex? Female/Male”. And, just as in 2011, NRS proposes guidance aimed at trans people saying they can answer as who they are, even if this doesn’t match their sex on their birth certificate.

Some people have suggested that, instead, trans people should be required in 2021 to answer with the sex on their birth certificate.

NRS’s recent detailed question testing shows that would negatively impact the Census data obtained from trans people. It makes no difference to non-trans people, whose lived sex and birth certificate sex are the same. The term cisgender, used by NRS, simply means non-trans, and is no more intended to be offensive than the term heterosexual, meaning non-LGB.

Changing the Census to require trans people to answer the sex question with the sex on their birth certificate would also prevent direct comparability with the 2011 Census results, and with the 2021 results from the rest of the UK, where the Census will continue with the 2011 approach to the sex question. That comparability is a key Census aim.

This is a matter of great concern for trans people, not least because of the wider debate about their rights currently. An international campaign document was recently circulated to MSPs which calls for trans people to be treated in all circumstances as their original birth certificate sex. That would undermine decades of progress and medical understanding of trans people, would breach UK and European equality and human rights laws, and would make trans people’s lives a misery.

We hope that the Parliament will repeat their pragmatic approach to the sex question that worked well in the Census in 2011, recognising that trans people simply want to get on with their lives, living as the sex they always knew themselves to be.

Tim Hopkins
Director, Equality Network

SCOTTISH independence will never be gifted or come about by default, and it will not come about by Westminster recognising historical decisions.

What I’ve been trying to make clear and what few people seem able to grasp, is that Scotland is still a sovereign nation under the Treaty of Union. If that treaty is broken by either side (which Brexit does on the English side), then Scotland is at liberty to declare independence, because it is both rightful and lawful.

It would then be up to England to prove in an international court of law that they have abided by the treaty when, quite clearly, they haven’t! Another point which seems to escape most people is that Scottish independence = dissolution of the Treaty of Union. I note that one SNP MSP said recently that talk of dissolving the Union was a lot of nonsense and we should be concentrating on a new independence referendum.

However, no matter the route by which we achieve independence, the negotiations with England will essentially come down to dissolving the treaty (re-establishment of the Scottish mint, decommissioning of Trident etc). The SNP already have a mandate and justification for declaring independence, but insist on the “referendum” route.

This is because if Scotland declares independence, everyone would have to stand up to the plate, from judges, to politicians, to academics, to ordinary workers, and work hard to re-establish our nation. This requires boldness, vision, belief and confidence which Nicola Sturgeon does not seem to have, preferring instead to hide behind the prevarication of a Section 30 order.

Solomon Steinbett
Maryhill, Glasgow

WE all have varying views on independence. When it should happen and how we deliver it. But most National readers do agree we are living in sad, depressing times.

Trump, Boris, hate and gun crime, drug-related deaths, the rise of the far-right, psychopaths running governments, global warming, famine, flood, fire, the greed of big business, the privileged tax avoiders, the leaching House of Lords, homelessness, poverty, food banks, austerity, racism, and war.

In Westminster we regularly see SNP demanding Boris to accept and respond fairly to the people of Scotland but to no avail (what’s the point of the Speaker if he doesn’t insist on questions being answered?)

But despite this, to fight our pessimism there is support, therapy and counselling available. Support that was never to the extent that there is now . Support that helps you fight the “down” times.

Support that gives you hope and encouragement that independence will happen. The rallies, the marches, social media, the array of organisations that promote self-determination. For me the best thing has been the emergence of this newspaper. When I purchase it, first I read the headlines, then the National Conversation (my favourite), then my favourite columnists. So all I would like to say thanks to everyone in the paper, and thanks to everyone out there.

One day we will succeed. Have a great 2020 and 21, 22, 23 ...

Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus

IF Alison Johnstone is concerned at increasing traffic in Edinburgh, apparently caused by the Queensferry Crossing, she should perhaps consider why all these people are going there?

Perhaps the Greens should bring forward proposals to reverse the trend towards Edinburgh being the the black hole at the centre of the Scottish universe? Increasing congestion and grossly inflated house prices are just the most obvious symptoms of the move towards our capital city becoming “London-on-Forth”, sucking resources from the surrounding areas, leaving them as little more than dormitories for commuters, and then complaining about how unpleasant it is having all these people coming to their city!

“The commute” is the major cause of congestion on our roads (and on public transport). The negative effects of such a concentration of power and the “good” jobs has been well known from the London example for almost a century now. Why are we still making the same mistakes?

Yes, it would be better if public transport was better, and more widely used, but it needs to be asked – are all these journeys really necessary? There is much talk about empowering communities, but they first need to have a chance to be viable and vibrant, rather than having the life sucked out of them.

Jim Palmer
via email

AN indyRef vote and the fall of House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha? Perhaps 2020 will turn out memorable for good reasons after all.

Dr Peter Storch
Argyll & Bute

I HAVE some sympathy with Stephen Tingle’s letter (Amid the gloom of 2019 there was also plenty to celebrate, January 9), but it is important to point out that the UK Government does not collect the evidence to determine Scotland’s total contribution to the UK economy.

GERS has been described as guesswork masquerading as facts.

It is currently impossible to attribute VAT receipts to their country of origin. The siting of company headquarters in London means that the South East always appears unfairly represented in statistics of wealth generation in the UK.

In spite of this, Scotland is still high in measures of economic activity compared to other parts of the UK. Examples include 60% of UK timber production, 70% of all fish landings, 26% of all renewable energy production and 90% of hydroelectric power.

Most importantly, Scotland is the only UK country to have a significant balance of trade surplus. Given that only 8.4% of the UK population live in Scotland, these are figures to be proud of.

English and pro-Union politicians constantly carp on about the “failures” of services in Scotland, without showing comparable figures for the rest of the UK.

The most recent attack has been on rises in waiting lists in A&E in Scotland. No mention is made that waiting is less than that in England, in spite of those English figures being distorted by the fact that waiting times are counted when the patient is first triaged, not, as in Scotland, when the patient first arrives in hospital.

It is unfair that the patient is not counted as waiting while lying on a trolley or in the back of an ambulance before a doctor or nurse can assess their condition.

The facts show just how healthy the Scottish economy is, but more importantly, how much better it could be if we were in charge of our own future.

Pete Rowberry