IN the absence of the First Minister at FMQs, didn’t the Deputy First Minister play an absolute blinder responding to the predictable NHS questions from the blue and red Tories?

In response to Ross and Sarwar’s histrionics and faux indignation Swinney acquitted himself calmly, only raising his voice to bat down Ross’s banal protestations and redirecting his ire for the SNP to the actions of the masters Ross serves in Westminster.

Watching this session – with the Presiding Officer’s interventions ensuring it was much more civilised than the three-ring circus PMQs has descended to in Westminster – what struck me is the quality and detail of Swinney’s responses, a stark difference to Sunak’s inadequate attention and responses to questions put to him by Starmer and Blackford. In the Commons the Speaker is unwilling, unable or incompetent to enforce proper response, rendering that whole process a futile charade designed to massage the egos of the two principal failing party leaders.

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We all realise there is much needing to be done to bring our NHS up to standard – same too of education and other key policy areas – but the two Scottish Tory parties and their leaders really need to grasp that the only way to improve Scotland’s infrastructure is through the fiscal freedom and autonomy of independence.

While Tweedledee Sarwar and Tweedledum Ross are pontificating about any issue, the elephant in the room is that in the absence of adequate borrowing powers the finite restricted block grant budget necessitates trade-offs.

With NHS staff rejecting the offer on the table, any further increase will mean their pay rises while another’s will be cut, other services will need to be reduced to fund it. Perhaps Scotland’s two political pixies would care to suggest where the axe should fall?

The UK has Scotland right where it wants it. These Tory parties, by railing against the SNP, are doing the devil Westminster’s work in the hope Scots will blame the SNP government and reject independence.

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Except we know full well the fault lies with Westminster, and we’ve shown through many elections that we know by consistently returning SNP government to the point where the Labour and Conservative parties mainly exist through list representation and not constituency votes.

And Swinney was right to lay the source of many problems at Brexit’s door. Not only in the wider economy causing trading difficulties leading to shortages and price hikes, but also with staffing for our agricultural and hospitality sectors, and right through to the very NHS struggling to replace the staff and skills Brexit stripped from them, and contributing to the low-growth economy we now have.

Independence is a no-brainer.

Well done Swinney. Let’s be brave and be free.

Jim Taylor

NOW that it is clear following Sir Keir Starmer’s latest comments that he no longer considers democracy in Scotland important, or even relevant to his personal ambitions for the United Kingdom, will the 40% of Labour Party supporters in Scotland who support self-determination finally act according to their fundamental political principles as espoused by founder Keir Hardie?

While Anas Sarwar masquerades as a “true socialist”, it is obvious that the Labour Party in Scotland is in effect merely the “branch office” of a party primarily serving the interests of the voting public in England.

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It is time for Gordon Brown, Henry McLeish and other prominent long-time servants of the party to wake up to the realisation that no form of genuine federalism is going to happen and the only truly progressive route forward is to work to establish an Independent Labour Party that endorses independence.

Failing to rise above any remaining anti-SNP prejudices will simply invite more party members to join one of the already-established independence-supporting parties, which will likely in turn represent their socialist principles in a first proportionately-representative independent Scottish parliament.

Stan Grodynski
Longniddry, East Lothian

WHERE to start regarding the proposed boundary changes? Well it’s the way the Westminster legislation is defined and the so-called “equalisation” rules the Boundary Commissions have to follow.

They are instructed to consider only numbers, with little flexibility. Proposed constituency sizes have to be within 5% of the core or model size. They have no remit to consider community. In the past they have proposed moving a boundary to include less than a dozen dwellings significantly remote from the main body of a constituency just to satisfy the numbers.

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Further, and the biggest flaw, is that the actual number of people living in any area matters NOT A JOT. They are instructed to consider only VOTERS. That means being on the voters’ register for the constituency you live in. You also have to regularly confirm you are still there. Some countries have life time registration for voting. But not here. That is one significant change I would make when we are free from Westminster: routine lifetime voter registration for ALL adults.

Willie Oswald

AMONGST his many other roles, Mike Blackshaw was a founding member of Stennis Historical Society. As well as providing a meeting venue for us at his Yes Hub, he spent a lot of time trying to advance young people’s awareness of Scotland’s history in relation to the Union.

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In particular, he sent copies of our British Army Cantonment maps to schools throughout Scotland. The maps show the locations of British Army camps and barracks across Scotland for a full decade after Culloden.

Thanks Mike, on behalf of the Society.

David Kennedy
Stennis Historical Society