THERE are quite a few ways to respond when someone speaks to you passionately. You can agree so they quieten down. You can match polemic and emotion with the equal and opposite reaction. Or you could quietly reason, explaining your differing viewpoint succinctly and patiently. I like the third way.

London mayor Sadiq Khan made a rather lively little speech to rally the demoralised and numerically shrivelled Scottish Labour troops at their conference (Dugdale forced to step in over Khan's racist jibe, The National, February 27). A conventional broadside at the enemy as they see it – at SNP in particular and Scottish nationalism in general. A totally predictable conference speech which has resulted in a predictable defensive backlash, though quite a few commentators have commendably examined the reality of bigotry and racism in Scotland. Cat Boyd’s column in The National (February 28) provided a fine example.

The best response to the hurtful accusation of narrow nationalism is reflective, logical explanation. The Scottish nationalist movement is a loose grouping of people who mainly, but by no means exclusively, inhabit Scotland. We are drawn from supporters of just about every political party. We welcome all faiths and every ethnic background, we are from all age groups, sexual orientations, levels of ability and layers of society. There are, as I see it, two main aims that draws us together.  The first is a simple wish to democratically remove a layer of government which no longer works for us. The government of Scotland no longer appoints Lords to Westminster. Good for them. When another Scottish independence referendum is announced, I hope that our MPs also immediately return to Scotland to work in the campaign for independence. We fervently wish that their return is not a temporary symbolic gesture but a permanent return. Removal of Westminster rule is, of course, only the first necessary step on Scotland’s independent path in the world’s family of nations.

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The second thing which draws unity into our diverse movement is vision. We foresee a fairer Scotland which is not pursuing failed neo-liberal policies of permanent austerity and ever increasing division. We envision better education for all, not just the lads and lassies sent to the posh schools in our cities; this is because true ability has to be nurtured everywhere. That is a long-standing Scottish tradition which has got a little lost recently. When those children grow up we don’t want them getting top posts because they are speaking with the confident, assured accent that denotes privilege. Simple ability has to be the single criterion.  We want a health service which is funded to help all, but especially those in most need and who are currently being failed. We want to trade with England, Europe and the world, not just the US and a few others. We don’t particularly like borders, particularly those regrettably necessitated by the narrow-minded referendum outcome of June 23 last year to turn our back on half a century of EU membership.  We are most definitely not anti-English and the few who do denigrate our southern neighbours are not in the least representative of the movement. An independent Scotland is about fairness and toleration, not division and racist bigotry.

We want a confident, forward-thinking, ambitious and outward-looking, internationally orientated and welcoming Scotland. In short, we believe in and intend to create a Scotland where someone like Sadiq Khan might be quite happy to live in once his mayoral stint is over. Why not? After all, many former dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporters have been, and continue to be, converted to our movement.

David Crines


Business owners deserve higher living standard

WELL said Michael Fry (Independence is the way to make Scotland a wealthy nation, The National, March 2), who excels among The National’s more mature columnists.

There is a touch of the echo chamber about the letters pages of The National. Many correspondents take it as given that the secret to a happy and prosperous society is ever-increasing public spending funded by borrowing.

The underlying thought pattern is that business is merely a necessary evil, to be treated as a milch cow for tax revenues; employers are always regarded with suspicion; employees by contrast are defenceless, always “hard-working” and entitled to expect an annual pay-rise regardless of the state of the economy or business trading conditions.

The reality is that the number of people employed in the public sector in Scotland is excessive and needs pruning in order to boost the private sector. What is the point of trying to improve education and access to university if there are insufficient real jobs at the end of it all? Or are we content to churn out graduates for employment in The South or Europe?

Local authorities have become self-important and self-serving with tentacles reaching into far too many aspects of life. Their endless squeals about cuts in budgets are interrupted only to announce expensive new ventures that fall well short of necessity, eg, a park above the M8 in Glasgow.

As Michael says, it is absolutely vital that the SNP continues to appeal to a broad range of political views, bearing in mind that surveys of voters in Scotland have confirmed repeatedly that they are a little more left-inclined than in England.

Understandably, the independence movement has attracted left-wingers disillusioned with Labour and who talk as though they see an independent Scotland as the new Cuba. We hear far too much from them.

Their repeated derision of “populist” politicians serves only to expose their view of themselves as the elite who should naturally be running things. “Populist” is ultimately a sneer at ordinary people, akin to Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” – and ordinary people who, whisper it, are really not that keen to stimulate the arrival of many more immigrants.

The reality is that many people in Scotland think that those who take a risk, start a business and make it a success (providing jobs for others in the process) deserve to enjoy a substantially higher standard of living than their employees and should not be resented and over-taxed. Without this shift in emphasis I suspect Project Fear will win again whenever IndyRef2 comes along.

Alan Oliver
Brightons, Stirlingshire


I AM a septuagenarian socialist. I recall waking up to reality in October 1956 during the Suez Canal collusion. At that time I realised many things and recognised many actual aspects such as the end of the Empire, the stupid people in No 10 Downing Street, the omnipotence of US. The latter was when John Foster Dulles told Eden to stop the slaughter of the Egyptians in Sinai. I was a boy, I demonstrated against colonialism then.

Later in life I maintained my beliefs and voted labour while in either Scotland or England. I therefore am not a nationalist by definition, yet I voted Yes for independence in the referendum and to stay in the EU in the most recent referendum.

I questioned myself as to why and the only answer I arrived at is that being a socialist I sought and seek social justice, and then arrived at a conclusion that social justice will not come from London.

Daily, I look up google and select Nicola Sturgeon and read the articles. I was baffled by the venom of certain newspapers towards independence and their treatment of Sturgeon. I then realised it is not Sturgeon that they are attacking, in reality they are attacking my aspirations rather than attacking Sturgeon. Social justice is what they hate.

Those newspapers appear to be shallow and empty as well as anti-humanity. The Telegraph is given free with a bottle of water; you only pay for the water. The Express is a vacuum and, as for The Mail, divorce settlements are its essence.

I actually feel sorry for the journalists who have to work for those newspapers, it must be so demeaning.

Faris S Address