I’D like to take the opportunity of responding to Paddy Farrington’s letter in Saturday’s edition (Winning hearts and minds must be the Yes campaign’s focus, July 25) and as befits polite discourse, I’ll start with the points of mutual agreement before tackling the counter argument.

It’s easy to agree with his sentiments on the issue of “hearts and minds”, and that “politics is about power and “Section 30 is some way off”.

I certainly agree about the intransigence of the British state, Westminster’s ability to block legal loopholes and that civil disobedience being counterproductive. I hae ma doots that the douce Scottish citizenry, despite their Braveheart heritage, are quite ready for that.

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He writes of “half of the population being unsure” and the need for a “great majority” and “eschewing electoral gimmicks, legal loopholes or unspecified actions”. Unfortunately he doesn’t define what a “great majority” might be.

Obviously 54% can’t be described as anything more than a modest majority but a majority nevertheless. So are we looking at 60% or maybe 75%? Is there a definition wrapped up in the criteria for gold-standard referendums? We came from 28% to 45% in 2014, an increase of 17%, so will 54 + 17 do, ie 71% ? The only difference being that the original increase in support was as the result of an independence campaign which involved pitching arguments and defending arguments in public discourse. Admittedly the recent improvement is attributed to the Scottish Government handling of the pandemic … but that has to be rather special measures, and changing opinion polls by osmosis isn’t a recognised political strategy.

Then there’s the need “for a hard slog and a process that needs to have broad support” and Professor Farrington rails against shortcuts.

My question would be, would either a consultative referendum on a draft constitution or a plebiscite election be such shortcuts? If the latter was good enough for Maggie Thatcher, why is it not good enough for this current ultra-right-wing cabal?

He writes of the need for a potpourri of arguments to win over a disparate number of dissenters. It’s always been accepted on the Yes side that the electorate divides into thirds, one for independence, one against and one undecided. So surely the call for “inclusive democratic argument” need only address the latter sector, as I and many others readily accept that there will always be a significant number of fellow Scots who wish to remain attached to their Britishness.

And what is it that separates the democratic front for independence by glaciation from us in the “bitter old men in a hurry brigade”, to use Prof Farrington’s phrase? Little more than that time-honoured phrase with the international twist – Perfidious Albion, that pejorative epithet usually attributed to French-Spanish playwright Augustin Louis de Ximénes and what became a stock expression in 19th-century France to describe France’s near neighbour.

Let’s not start with Scotland’s oil and the Barnett formula, but we can mention the Blair government’s statutory instrument in the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 with the loss of 6000 square miles of Scottish territory; then there’s the more recent exhortations to vote No to be able to stay in the EU; the Scotland Act and the Sewel convention, which was not worth the paper it was written on and was ditched at its first real test. In more recent times: the EU Withdrawal Bill and Henry VIII clauses necessary to get through the so-called mother of parliaments.

I have no problem identifying as a member of the “bitter old men in a hurry” brigade because of the foregoing, and not least the current white paper on the proposed UK single market, which will return my beloved country to its Victorian status of North Britain or worse, Scotlandshire in the 51st state of the US of A.

I certainly will have no hesitation in setting aside any political niceties to prevent that from happening.

Iain Bruce