I ENCOURAGE Neil Morison (Letters, March 11) not to dismiss our second vote. While he is correct that we must not allow this focus to distract us from the importance of maximising the first vote, I’d argue that both are critical. I think we may have come to regard the second vote as some throwaway indication of our preferences but it’s actually much more powerful.

I attended the “Max the Yes” meeting in Inverness on Saturday and was able to make a small contribution. I am not a party member, but it is surely undisputed that the advice that we were given in 2016 of “both votes SNP” was a mistake. In the Highlands & Islands region in 2016 we elected five MSPs from Unionist parties and one each from the Greens and SNP. Because of the strength of the SNP vote in the constituencies, there was no possibility of gaining many more MSPs in the region, so placing the second vote with them was wasted.

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Using the Highlands & Islands data from 2016, if 10% of the SNP second vote had been for the Greens, the sole SNP MSP elected from the list would have instead been Green. If 30% of the SNP second vote had been for the Greens, one of the Tory MSPs would have been Green. Further, if 70% of the SNP second vote had been for the Greens, one of the Labour MSPs would have been Green.

In this way we might have had four independence-seeking MSPs and three Unionists as compared with two and five respectively. Diverting the SNP second vote to a Yes Alliance has the same arithmetical effect, with the Alliance gaining the MSPs rather than the Greens.

Applying this across the country, the increase in independence-seeking MSPs would have been well into double figures, the point made by John Henderson of Linross in his letter on March 3.

We are coming late to the practice of using our second vote tactically; nationally, I’m pretty sure that Unionist voters gave Tories their second vote which allowed their significant increase.

On Saturday those advocating a Yes Alliance acknowledged that they have more work to do on the details, but the principle of using our second vote wisely is certainly correct, though a crucial aspect will be whether the Greens will work with the Yes Alliance. I still need to calculate the effect of sharing the 2016 SNP regional vote between the Greens and a Yes Alliance, since that remains part of the criticism.

It is understandable that the average voter finds this kind of assessment overwhelming, so let’s do the calculations for each region and then tackle the more difficult job of trying to get firm agreement between the political parties on how to give clear advice to the independence-seeking electorate.

John C Hutchison
Fort William

I FIND it quite illuminating and at the same time puzzling that Willie Oswald in his letter of March 9 refers to the SNP “regime”, when it is generally accepted the party is doing a pretty good job for the people of Scotland and gets continuing mandates to remain in government; when it needs the support of members of other parties to get through important legislation such as the Budget; and when it can be outvoted in parliament as with the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation.

Illuminating in that by using the word “regime”, Willie Oswald is revealing the likelihood that deep down he despises the SNP and, like some others I know, wishes an independent Scotland but would prefer if could be achieved without the SNP.

I can only ask such people to put aside their dislike of the SNP and support them until independence is achieved, because without the SNP it is simply not going to happen.

Tom Crozier

WE no longer hear the term “passive smoking” though it was a hot topic 14 years ago. Thankfully, non-smokers no longer have to endure the harmful effects of tobacco smoke in public places.

But we’re all suffering from the effects of “passive boaking”, and it’s going to get a lot worse.

Coronavirus is thought to have originated in an exotic meat market in Wuhan, China. SARS and Ebola also came from animals, possibly bats. But before blaming the Chinese or Congolese for eating exotic animals which create pandemics on the globe, we need to remember that the UK was responsible for unleashing vCJD on the world by feeding parts of animals to herbivores.

Most of us are now familiar with the many negative impacts of livestock farming: the 14% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, the unnecessary use of antibiotics on farm animals, the cancers and heart disease caused by eating red meat, the wanton slaughter of a billion “food animals” every year in the UK alone. But our failure, as a species, to remove animal products from our diet has created the opportunity for Covid-19 to kill thousands of our most vulnerable fellow humans.

In the next few months it seems inevitable that many of us will succumb to this deadly virus. Our ability, as a society, to care for our weakest members may well be stretched to breaking point. There are more, potentially even deadlier microbes lying in wait in the Pandora’s box that we call “livestock animals”. Those of us who continue to kill animals for food are in danger of giving the rest of us “the dry (passive) boak”.

James Boyle

REPORTS in the media highlight panic buying and even hoarding of toilet paper as fear of shortages spreads. There was a time, often in country parts, when newspaper cut into squares and stuck on a nail functioned fairly effectively as toilet paper. The Mail, Express or Telegraph would, to my mind, be eminently suited to this end.

James Stevenson