NOT long after The National started I subscribed, as the style of reporting was, in my opinion, investigative and questioned the status quo in the political establishment.

I also read the sport section, particularly the football reports, and don’t always agree with the views of your reporters. That is healthy, to have an opinion that differs from others and to have a platform to offer my difference of opinion.

However, with regard to recent sports reports in The National, specifically, “VAR Wars: Return of the Statement” by John McGill (December 31), you do not offer any investigative journalism into the continuing error-making, match-changing crass decisions by Scottish referees. I refer to the recent “Old Firm” match at Parkhead, also at Hampden and at the many other stadiums throughout Scotland.

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To make a comparison, I read in a competitor’s publication a full, incident-by-incident, detailed, account of the decisions by the referee concerning the most recent “Old Firm” game. The article detailed each incident, what decision the referee awarded (sometimes even ignoring it completely), then compared their decision to the laws of the game as they currently stand. Not every decision by the referee was considered to be wrong, some were praised as correct, but those “game changers” were, in every single example, so wrong, or never made at all, that it questions the impartiality of the referee, and their ability to apply the rules of football fairly and without bias.

One can only conclude that those currently benefitting from these errors – and it is not every club in the Scottish Premier Division – don’t want VAR as it redresses the balance of fairness and impartiality. VAR is not the cure of all football’s ails, but it does go a long way to addressing the bigotry which haunts our game.

Scottish referees, despite claims to the contrary, have their own agenda – that is now beyond dispute and recent examples abound to support this. Time to bring in VAR, whatever the cost, and bring back fairness and respect to the Scottish game.

Jim Todd

I WAS interested to read George M Mitchell’s letter of December 31 (Scotland has come a long way since ‘King’ John’s days). In my view the role of the once influential National Liberal Party in Scottish politics is too easily overlooked.

It is well known that the National Liberals came into being in the 1930s following the split in the Liberal Party which preceded the collapse of Ramsay McDonald’s Labour government and subsequent formation of the Conservative-controlled national government. During ensuing decades, the National Liberals were to be formidable challengers to the National Party of Scotland, later to become the SNP, and may have even constituted something of a barrier to early progress.

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The oppositional elements of Liberalism had already been effectively underscored in the pre-First World War era, when notable adherents such as Lord Roseberry and RB Haldane sought to retreat from previous commitments to Irish Home Rule, whereas the majority of Liberals continued their support. This endeavour somewhat backfired as support for Irish Home Rule grew ever stronger, culminating in the Irish Home Rule Act of 1914.

Without doubt the advent of the National Liberals was of high significance to the political history of our Scottish nation. They were consistently more robust in Scotland than in England and it seems apparent that political values and principles of north of the Tweed helped foster their successes. In some ways it might be said that they stole the thunder of the emergent SNP through triumphs such the Perth by-election of April 1935, where they took 68.70% of the poll.

Yet at the end of the day the National Liberals were eclipsed by their fundamental failure to engage with the Home Rule aspirations of Scottish voters, and their relationship with the Conservative party at Westminster, into which they became subsumed during the later 1960s. I believe their influence to have been entirely dissimilar in Scotland and England, as demonstrated through the loss of support for the political centre right at the time of convergence. This can be observed in the light of the replacement of National Liberal candidates with Conservatives; in England the consequent loss of support amounted to a fairly marginal 00.70% reduction, whereas in Scotland it stood at 17.30%. Yet another reminder, if it were needed, that Scottish politics was then and is now distinct from our neighbours to the south.

Iain Lappin

IT is good new year’s news that blasphemy is no longer a crime in Ireland. States that execute people for blasphemy can no longer cite the Irish law at the United Nations as a justification. With Scotland leading the world in so many other ways, we must acknowledge this reasoning and abolish our still existing blasphemy law.

Neil Barber
Edinburgh Secular Society