THE process to which Pete Wishart refers in his article (Holyrood election is not a de facto vote on indyref2, February 17), the 11-point plan, proposes that if SNP return a majority in the election on May 6, Nicola Sturgeon would formally request a Section 30 order from Boris Johnson, in which Pete “expects the UK Government to participate fully”. Actions to date to thwart independence would gainsay this assumption.

If Boris Johnson refuses a Section 30 order after May 6, this would then trigger an advisory referendum – daring Westminster to challenge it through the courts. Considering what rUK (England in particular) has to lose from Scottish independence, I believe they would challenge it. So, how long would these court wranglings take, at what cost to the tax payers of Scotland and what would be the likelihood of Scotland winning such a case in the Supreme Court? All this matters. As we have seen in recent months, the start of the full dismantling of devolution has begun with Acts being passed at Westminster e.g. the internal market act and the expansion of government by Westminster in Scotland, with “hubs” set up in Glasgow and Edinburgh to be run by an army of civil servants. Since Labour is no friend of Scottish independence, Scottish MPs have been unable to counter such dangerous WM legislation. The urgency to use any forthcoming or previously gained mandates for independence is palpable and won’t wait. Doesn’t a win at the ballot box equate to democratic legitimacy? What’s so bewildering about that?

To push the independence cause years down the road, when the best opportunity to secure independence is by plebiscite now, would be unthinkable. If we were to achieve independence through the election route, Pete reminds us that to obtain international recognition Scotland would need to show that it had pursued a legal and constitutional route “in partnership with the UK”. None of the 48 countries awarded such recognition in recent times, has done so by way of a referendum, but by a free and fair election – legal and constitutional.

Pete suggests that the Unionists would not participate in an election with the possibility of independence as the outcome. By whatever means independence is won, Westminster would be invited to negotiate. Should they choose a non-participatory role, that would be their prerogative, but it could not be argued that Scotland had not “pursued” a partnership. As EU has found to its chagrin, partnership with some parties is unattainable, no matter how hard it is pursued.

What’s next if we win independence by majority at election? You tell us, Pete. What plans are in place to transition to an independent Scotland? How much of the infrastructure is in place? Asking other countries to “come to our rescue”. Is this an admission of unpreparedness? Is Mr Wishart not falling into the “too stupid to run your own affairs” Unionist line? He compares our situation, should we choose the ballot box instead of elusive “pie-in-the-sky” referenda, with that of Catalonia. They are not the same. He speaks of frustration and division, but is not averse to resorting to a few scare tactics of his own. If this final opportunity to grasp independence through the ballot box is denied to Scotland, frustration and division will certainly follow, but not independence any time soon.

The contradictions come thick and fast. What does it mean “we’d be turning the election into a referendum”? An election gives voters the opportunity to choose the kind of country they want to live in and by what government. A vote for SNP is a vote for independence. It’s what the electorate expect. The same flawed logic says that if we ask for a S30 before the election (Plan B), we can “presume” that the UK government will treat that with “derision and contempt”, but to ask for the same S30 after the election he would “expect the UK gov. to participate fully”. Supposedly, an election for independence won on a majority vote will be “rejected and totally ignored” by UK, but a proposal for a referendum dragged through the courts, for many months and costing taxpayers millions, to decide legitimacy with no sure result, will be respected if won in court. UK will ensure it isn’t.

Pete asserts that had the way forward been debated at the 2020 SNP Spring Conference the plebiscite proposal (Plan B) would have been “overwhelmingly rejected by the party”. Here’s the rub. The Yes movement, upon whose votes the SNP depends, needs a proper say in how independence is to be achieved and the movement is much bigger than the SNP hierarchy.

Ann Williamson

by email

“I HAVE noted that, quite rightly, journalists and broadcasters throughout the UK have shown such deep respect to both Professor Linda Bauld and the Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, Devi Sridhar. Their regular appearances on our tv screens and radio imparting their impressive knowledge and insight into all things coronavirus have been invaluable in educating us all about the pandemic.

However, being one of those sad retired people with too much time on their hands, I’ve rarely missed Nicola Sturgeon’s lunchtime coronavirus briefings during the week, I’ve also noted something else. Generally what she says about the virus and how to deal with it, is almost identical to these two esteemed health experts. On hearing the information coming from Nicola’s lips however, the reaction of many of the journalists is totally different. Far from the hushed, reverential and fawning tones of their questions to the two experts, these self same journalists, figuratively speaking of course, throw rotten eggs, tomatoes and even out of date pilchards at our First Minister.

READ MORE: Deconstructing the Unionist myth of an independent Scotland’s deficit

I’ve therefore got a tip for Nicola who no doubt is well sick of getting slapped in the face with smelly rotten pilchards.

It might be a good idea to fork out on good quality face masks of both Linda and Devi and use them on an alternate basis at her briefings. Trying to get their voices right might be trickier, but I’m sure Janey Godley could help out by hiding behind one of the screens behind Nicola and throw her voice accordingly, with Nicola miming along.

Cue the hurling of long-stemmed roses, purple orchids, stargazer lilies and pink tulips from adoring journalists. Independence after this will be a skoosh!

By the way for all you pedants out there that say journalists can’t throw stuff through zoom calls, give me a break, have you never heard of poetic licence?”

Ivor Telfer

Dalgety Bay, Fife

THE Grampian rates assessor, Ian Milton, claims that the tax bill for Balmoral estate has been “adjusted on appeal to reflect the position on the ground” (Queen gets tax bill slashed on Balmoral estate, The National 18 February).

In reality, it appears that Mr Milton has little idea about what is happening on the ground on this estate. Balmoral, along with its neighbours, now has the reputation of being one of the worst estates in Scotland in allowing a huge population of red deer to overgraze thousands of hectares of mountain and moorland.

The natural regeneration of the Old Caledonian pinewood, along with large tracts of montane and arctic alpine vegetation, is being prevented by this overgrazing. In terms of climate change and the management of our uplands this is a ridiculous example of how not to discharge environmental responsibility and it is being set by our own royal family.

For over 20 years Balmoral and its neighbours have been subject to special, voluntary deer control schemes led by successive governments. All have failed. Scottish Natural Heritage told the Scottish Parliament that when such schemes failed they would be replaced by compulsory schemes. This was untrue.

The legislation permitting this has been in place since 1996 and no compulsory scheme has ever been used, least of all on Balmoral, despite the repeated failure of the voluntary schemes. This scandal was exposed just over a year ago in the report to the Scottish Government by their own Deer Working Group.

The report identified one particular area where an investigation by a Scottish Parliamentary Committee was required to examine all that was going wrong. That is the area is owned by Balmoral and its neighbours.

Don’t hold your breathe, nothing further has happened, perhaps because of the usual behind-the-scenes Royal Family lobbying.

When Mr Milton considers the next rates assessment for Balmoral I suggest he increases the bill many fold to take account of the massive amounts of public money that the Deer Commission for Scotland, SNH and NatureScot have wasted, over 20 years, in endless futile attempts to persuade the Royal Family and others to meet their environmental obligations on Balmoral and its neighbours.

Dave Morris


I AM fast going off this Scottish Government that until recently I have supported.

Now Holyrood’s Environment Committee (THe National, February 17) has backed a massive hike from 5p to 10p for single use carrier bags. This is the sort of ill-considered, tinkering legislation that comes from a government that self-identifies as having any sort of real power and is casting about for things to do. In fact very few plastic bags were ‘single use’. They were either re-used for shopping or people used them to line their under-sink bins. With give-away bags gone, people are having to buy plastic bags to line bins. So – not exactly less plastic.

This has been a tax on the poor.

This is a privilege thing. Not everyone can drive to a supermarket and load up big canvas bags to stash in the boot of their cars.

How many of the MSPs who do this have voted for plastic bag price hikes for mere pedestrians? Some people have to physically hump their grocery bags home, and to balance the weight may have to carry three or four plastic bags. People also require a number of bags to carry their separated waste from flats to communal bins.

However much we try to create less waste – which is, indeed, a worthy thing to do – realistically there will still be product wrappings; we are never going back to the days when a white coated grocer would dish out a half pound of biscuits from a big tin box with a pair of tongs and put them in a paper bag.

Do I not care about the environment, then? Well, yes, I do. I have never used a car; and I have for some 30 years been Chairman of an Edinburgh environment group.

Over the years, with others, I have cleaned up many a bag of local litter – single use plastic bags rarely among it. The bigger problem is the big black plastic bags, which are sometimes used to dump rubble and domestic and garden waste in Council woods. Is there to be a tax on each big black bin bag?

And why should the public be paying the grocery giants anything for the indignity of carrying around their bags with advertising on them. We are not hoardings. If it is to be 10p a bag - then it should be a plain bag.

Does the Scottish Government have the will or the power to insist on this? Thought not.

Mrs C Wilson