I THOUGHT for my last letter submitted prior to Christmas I would like to give a shout-out for those, like me, that write to our favourite newspaper. In an era of rampant social media such a practice must seem so prehistoric to many. When my partner tells any of her friends and family that I do this you can tell they think I’m a bit of a weirdo!

I don’t have a smartphone and have no desire to write narrative on these horrible touch screen devices. My clumsy finger tips just can’t cope with the damned things. I much prefer the satisfying certainty of the keyboard on my laptop which I can batter into submission if particularly irritated about something, annoying the hell out of my partner in the process.

As my political views become stronger and more uncompromising the older I get I wouldn’t dream of entering the wild west which they call social media. I’m afraid having to read trolls with views the polar opposite to mine would leave me in a permanent apoplectic state. Also, I’ve no wish for someone to “like” any comments I make. The only “like” I require is the one I get from time to time from this paper’s editor which means my letter gets published.

Also for some time now I’ve been very suspicious about who are the winners and losers politically since the introduction of social media. Those on the right and far right have had a field day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Farage, Johnson, members of the ERG, Brexit, Trump, Bolsonaro, etc have all come to the fore in the age of social media. I’m convinced that in the highly unlikely event social media overwhelmingly stirred up those on the left and put the UK and US in danger of becoming something akin to Cuba or Venezuela, Silicon Valley would be closed down overnight.

READ MORE Romantic ideals and viable independence strategies are two different things

Naw, I’m more than happy to stick to my unfashionable, “fuddy duddy” ways. I know I’m guilty of longing for a pre-technology era when people went out for meals and actually paid attention to each other without having smartphones to distract them constantly. When I could phone utility companies, government organisations or whatever and didn’t have to wait an eternity for someone to answer. Nowadays recorded messages drum into me my query would be dealt with so much quicker and easier if I had the nous to go online and effectively tell me not to be “so last century”.

Merry Christmas everybody and turn off those damned smartphones all day on Christmas! I know it might turn some of you into quivering, shaking wrecks but you can do it. Remember, no pain no gain!

Ivor Telfer

Dalgety Bay, Fife

IN his letter of December 8 (SNP should set a date and publicly endorse electoral – route Plan B) your correspondent Alan Crocket rightly complains of the complete silence from the Scottish Government decision makers to the clear warnings of the risk of relying solely on a referendum, which they might never get despite all our hopes, and their totally ignoring the safety-net provided by the long established and accepted electoral route to independence. I too ask, why is this the case?

It is all the more concerning that this disquieting silence appears to be endemic among the elected SNP Members at both Holyrood and Westminster. Our concern is also informed by the pro-indy group of which I am a member (the Lanarkshire Forum for Independence) which wrote to everyone of the 120 indy MSPs and MPs (SNP, Greens, Alba) in early August. Our message had a list of 20 questions to which we asked each recipient to respond. We received the grand total of two replies. That is a response rate of 1.7%, which is beyond derisory.

Given that the electors are entitled to know exactly where their parliamentary representatives stand in the bringing about of independence our list of questions was designed to ascertain in a constructive manner what actual processes were being developed and acted on by the respective representatives. It included questions in relation to what involvement or contact do they have with non-party indy groups.

If it turns out a referendum cannot be held, what is the route to independence? Do they rule out using an election as a route, and if so why? What parliamentary group discussions are taking place and what part do elected members and heads of government in Scotland and party leaders play in them? It is more than disappointing that there were only two responses to this genuine attempt to help ginger up the building of a nationwide, cogent campaign that we can all get behind.

The extreme paucity of responses could easily tempt you to wonder if some type of guidance was given not to respond. I sincerely hope that is not the case, because we are all supposed to be on the same side. If we are to have a successful campaign to win for Independence it must be transparent, inclusive and acted on with alacrity.

John Milligan


YOUR support for Catalan independence is a disservice to Scots independence. The cases are quite different: Scotland has been an independent country where the majority supports independence. Neither is true of Catalonia.

The National: Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont Catalonia's deposed leader Carles Puigdemont

And their hero, Puigdemont, is hiding out in Belgium rather than making his case at home, like his more principled colleagues (or Wallace!). Some example.

Catalonia is very good at PR. Catalans complain that they pay too much in taxes – don’t we all – but their rate is the same as the rest of the country. They are just richer – what a shame. And, oops, yes, they ignore the huge amount of Spanish and EU money spent for the Olympics to modernize Barcelona and develop the North-East.

Catalonia has done much to foster the use of Catalan which few spoke 30 years ago – Scotland could learn from that in fostering Gaelic.

But admiration for this positive element does not make the case for supporting a misleading case, and it does nothing for Scottish independence.

Sam Laird


INDULGENCE. I found myself looking up its origins yesterday. Not the festive socialising type that we won’t we doing much of again this year. Rather the older, religious sort where people made down payments now against the time they spent later in Purgatory.

The idea started off well enough with people performing good deeds like pilgrimages and acts of charity, but in the 11th century charity gave way to invasion.Thousands set off for the Crusades, secure in the knowledge that a good show in the Holy Land would shorten their stay in the eternal sauna room – and maybe plunder a useful pick-me-up in the meantime. But with the emergence of commutation round about the same time, when goods or money came to be accepted as a form of “payment”, so indulgences descended to a form of “buy now, pay less later” for the wealthy. Which got me thinking.

When companies look to buy up tracts of Scotland’s land, plant thousands of trees for carbon offset and benefit from Scottish Government grants, what level of scrutiny should the Scottish Government apply to these applications?

To their claims that tree-planting is only a last resort to offset carbon emissions they genuinely cannot reduce. To the impact on local communities of allowing large-scale planting – access, house prices, wildlife. Or should estates, starved of income over the last two years, just be allowed to sell to the highest bidder in order to stay afloat?

It’s a conundrum, but if we don’t get it right, then through the law of unintended consequences these grants may do more harm than good. Communities may lose access to land and lose their young people through inflated house prices. Huge tracts of land may become “quick grow” coniferous deserts. And companies may continue pumping out carbon while assuring shareholders that they are carbon/sin neutral.

Indulgences began life as a well-intentioned incentive for people to behave charitably. Let us hope that grants for tree-planting do not go the same way.

John Gilruth

Dunkeld, Perthshire

AS an SNP Councillor for Strathallan Ward, which includes Dunning in Southern Perthshire, I was intrigued by Robert Anderson’s letter in The National on Thursday.

Yes indeed road maintenance is far from perfect in Scotland, and southern Perthshire is no exception. Alas, we have a Conservative administration in Perth & Kinross Council, including two of its members covering Strathallan with myself.

I could say banging my head off a brick wall when seeking repairs, but to be perfectly frank, officers do their best with the resources made available.

One of the problems with Perthshire is that our villages, including many farm steading developments are now predominantly inhabited by those retired, semi-retired or commuting to work – current working from home rules notwithstanding – rather than engaged in rural employment. The effect is that there is considerably more traffic on rural roads than previously with the result that roads deteriorate faster, not only due to increased traffic, but also due to increased speed as many more are darting to and from work some distance from home.

READ MORE: Scotland's roads are a disgrace when compared to others in Europe

Unlike south of the Border, in Scotland we enjoy particular benefits with our budget – eg free prescriptions for all and baby boxes for all expectant mothers, public transport for the elderly. These are considered priorities ensuring no-one is left behind while freedom to pay for such services remains an option. With limited funds, these are priorities preferential, within reason, to endless road repairs.

So who has the funds to fix our roads?

Westminster does, but has other preferred ways of spending our funds. Yes, Scotland’s funds! Beyond our Barnett formula package, the remaining funds we send to Westminster, the funds which give reason to why Westminster is so desperate to cling on to Scotland are spent as English MPs, by sheer numbers, prefer restoring their rapidly decaying parliament buildings rather than building something appropriate in the Midlands, whatever transport network they choose to serve England and of course the maintenance of a nuclear deterrent base in Central Scotland.

Personally I have never voted Conservative and never shall as the problem of underfunded Scotland, and underfunded northern England for that matter, lies entirely in the hands of those who do vote for the scurrilous party of London-centric parasites that they are.

So Robert, with no idea which way you have voted thus far, I sincerely hope that in the next four months you focus your efforts on fighting off the treachery of this London-based government, and seek representation of our ward by independence-seeking representatives so that when we finally gain independence, we can enjoy the standard of roads we need and can afford.

Tom Gray