IT is clearer than ever before that this United Kingdom is anything but, and is held together by an elite establishment that fears the loss of power and privilege.

The north/south divide in the regions of England is as strong as ever, and the burning desire for self-determination grows more urgent in Scotland and will not be contained. Plaid Cymru will not be silenced and we can see, as a consequence of recent events, the possible resurgence of a movement for re-unification of Ireland. Running throughout this process is the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the rejection of the belief that “we are all in it together”.

The evidence to the contrary is everywhere to be seen.

Next for me is the realisation that democracy throughout our political systems is failing.

It is blindingly obvious to all but those who will not see that whatever Scotland votes for we end up with what England decides. Hence an enforced Brexit when Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. And yet again a Tory government at Westminster.

At two successive General Elections, Scotland has returned a clear majority of pro-independence MPs and yet ... nothing! At Holyrood, Scotland has returned an independence-supporting government for the past two terms and our Parliament has requested a Section 30 order to promote a new referendum. Westminster’s refusal to oblige is meekly accepted, especially by our Unionist MSPs. Do we not have a right to expect that even they would be outraged at Westminster’s arrogant dismissal of the sovereignty of the Scottish people and their Parliament?

Most worryingly, however, is the apparent caution that seems to typify SNP strategy. The slow and steady approach gives an impression of lack of belief. Our opponents can sense this and use our hesitancy to push their counter arguments. I cannot understand why we did not make more of the fact that, especially in the 2015, but also the 2017 General Election, the majority of Scottish MPs belonged to the SNP. Wasn’t it Margaret Thatcher who said that such a circumstance was a mandate for independence? Did the same not used to be Liberal policy? In both elections one might have been forgiven for thinking that independence was the word that “dare not speak its name”.

Fortunately, the wider Yes/independence movement is full of energy and ideas. Social media is bursting with the passion, enthusiasm, commitment and energy of so many who are desperate to see the fulfilment of their dreams. The National’s own Roadshows are doing much to promote interest and energise the wider movement. If the SNP can harness this and channel it, I am convinced we can recapture the spirit of 2014. How might we do this? In recent weeks your paper has been alive with advice and suggestions for getting the band back on the road.

Not surprisingly, the debate splits into two factions: move to the right or to the left of the political spectrum. One thing seems clear: we must not remain wedded to the middle ground.

A tactical decision is required based on where most votes are likely to be gained. I share the view of some of your writers that there is more to be gained from appealing to urban and industrial centres than rural areas.

The SNP must not only demonstrate competence by getting on top of the Unionist parties’ criticisms of their performance in, for instance, education and the NHS, they must also drive forward with a radical and progressive agenda that will be attractive to the cities and the working classes. There must be many ways of achieving this but for me there are some initial actions that might suggest to the doubters that a free and unchained Scotland could be a very different place than rUK.

The SNP must use what powers it has to achieve the maximum effect. Many were disappointed that the commitment to reform council tax and the valuation system have been quietly shelved and parked. Time to reactivate what could be a popular and appealing measure.

On personal taxation there is a widespread belief that the SNP has missed a trick. The public is up for modest and directed increases in the rates of tax; even Kezia Dugdale seems to have been more on the ball with this than the SNP. Ruth Davidson, on the other hand, was handed a PR bonus when, by twisting the facts, she was able to make her ridiculous claim that Scotland was the most taxed part of Britain, even though there had been no actual tax increase. There is work ongoing to prepare for implementation of the limited welfare powers about to be devolved, and this has to be an opportunity for government to be bold and imaginative but above all to be relevant and compassionate.

There is a vast reservoir of support to be tapped in pushing hard and fast with radical land reforms. Personally, I am disappointed that the message from Conference 2016 has not seen bolder or speedier action and there is a worrying silence on this matter. There is so much anger at the hugely inequitable system of land ownership in Scotland, where half of the land is in the ownership of 500 people and increasingly in foreign ownership. A proper scheme of Registration, Supervision (especially to deter wildlife crime) and taxation of the sporting estates would go far in demonstrating the government's credentials in this area. An outright ban on fracking would also go a long way in gaining approval of the Greens, especially since England appears to be moving towards acceptance of this with all its risks.

There is an appetite for bringing the railways back into public ownership and, although current franchises still have some time to run, there could be preparatory work and feasibilities to be undertaken.

And how about putting forward for discussion the possibility of introducing a universal basic income?

I am sure that others can make suggestions for schemes and activities that will promote a vision of how Scotland can be different and better, prosperous and thriving if only it were free.

I continue to live in hope because "the dream shall never die".

JF Davidson


Quota of Lions from each nation would bring an end to bias 

IN these days of the Haka, the Crimson jersey and the final Test in Auckland it still came as something of a shock when I heard my hospital consultant say: “Like a number of Scots, I shall be supporting the All Blacks.” Wow!

The Lions’ selection was, of course, controversial (“the British and Irish Lions” is such a clumsy mouthful when one simple collective noun will do the trick). Now, Warren Gatland has form when it comes to preferential treatment for the Welsh. It was evident in the Australian tour of recent Lions’ vintage when Scottish noses were severely out of joint. But this time there could be few excuses and certainly little explanation. The acclaimed criterion for selection is “current form” – and rightly so!

Scotland defeated Wales, Ireland and Italy and, more recently, a full-strength Australian side Down Under and yet we’re demeaned by a selection policy which ignored undeniably valid claims. The understandable anger was down played and virtually ignored. Extraordinary!

So, what should be done? Well, how about a mandatory five-player minimum from each nation? And, as we have seen from this tour, the difference in quality in many positions is very small indeed. The sad sight of Scottish supporters in full regalia with no constituent player to cheer on cannot be right!

Now, the Lions’ identity is for sure a funny old mix of Celts and Anglo Saxons and is rightly applauded and admired in these times of ever-growing political choice and awareness for its perceived unity and harmony in a historical context.

However, the singing of a mandatory song from each of the Home Nations is a party piece is not quite enough. “Facts are chiels that winna ding”. Perhaps a small Scottish contingent could enlist the help of The Proclaimers to sing Cap In Hand! Because that is the reality!

Iain Anderson

FOR many years, and in particular since 2010, the belief in Scotland has been that the BBC lacked political impartiality and was in fact the organ of the Tory government. This has been refuted on many occasions, It has now been announced that Ronnie Gibb has been appointed as Theresa May’s director of communications. He has hitherto been head of BBC political programme teams and editor of Daily Politics, Need any more be said about the political bias of the BBC, which has been regularly pointed out and equally regularly denied?

His successor has not been named. Perhaps some real impartial reporting from this media outlet will be forthcoming but that must be a pious hope and unlikely outcome!

John Hamilton

WHAT started as a peaceful protest against the G20 in Hamburg turned violent. Thousands of protesters had gathered with lots of shouting, chanting and waving of placards, but on the whole a peaceful enough rally. It was only when the protesters wished to march into the city centre, the trouble started.

Bringing in the big guns, water cannon, tear gas and riot police with batons and not afraid to use them, was simply police admitting they had lost control of the situation. During the long independence campaign in Scotland, marches and rallies took place across the country. All were well-mannered with the police in attendance, who in the main stayed in the background: you can have a peaceful protest with the police in attendance and in control. A lesson the world can learn from Scotland.

Walter Hamilton
Address supplied

PERHAPS an alert reader can answer this query: Has anyone in Scotland in the last two years come across a positive statement on Scotland, its government, its people, its economy or its prospects from any of the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament? Anything will do: a grudging acceptance that the Scotch whisky industry is a major success or that Scottish salmon is world renowned; a mention that we are leading the world in tidal technology; or that Dundee has a booming video games industry (up 600 per cent since 2010). Anything, please!

While it is their day job to scrutinise the government, does the opposition’s every utterance about Scotland have to be so negative? It’s like watching massed ranks of Rev IM Jollys on an annual day out to the cemetery.

James Mills