DEMOCRACY, democracy, democracy is the way forward on both Scottish independence and Europe.

We must wait to see what the First Minister’s promised paper says (Sturgeon to set out new lifeline to keep Scotland in single market, The National, December 1). A bespoke free-trade deal outside of EFTA and the EU would be the best outcome for both the UK and an independent Scotland, in my opinion – but I’m aware I just have one vote.

My concern here isn’t to argue my position on that. I know that there are many different views within the Yes movement and across Scotland. My concern is democracy ... or to put it another way, our pro-indy watchword: choice.

If a bespoke free-trade deal outside of EU and EFTA structures and rules isn’t secured by the negotiations that are under way by the current UK Government, then a future independent Scotland still must have that open as a democratic possibility for its people to choose, alongside EFTA membership or full EU membership, as and when we transition to independence.

Whatever else is in the paper, I hope the First Minister will reaffirm her previously stated view that, whenever indyref2 comes, it needs to be based on the broad, compelling, democratic and progressive case for independence, and not perceived principally as a referendum by proxy on Scotland’s relationship with the EU or EFTA – important as these questions are.

With Yes voters and potential Yes voters remaining divided on whether an independent Scotland should be in the EU, in EFTA but not the EU, or outside of both of those institutions, that is clearly the strategy to win.

The best way the First Minister can make this crystal clear, and, at the same time, set out a path that gives the people of Scotland full democratic control on both the questions of independence and Europe, is to state unambiguously that, regardless of the nature of the result of the current negotiations, she will call on the SNP, other pro-indy parties and the wider Yes movement to stand in the 2021 Holyrood elections with a leading manifesto commitment to a second Scottish independence referendum in the first year of that Parliament – with a parallel manifesto commitment that the Scottish people will decide for themselves in their own referendum, once we are independent, and based on the situation at the time, what our economic and political relationship with our European neighbours should be.

And please, let’s not go down the negative road of describing or labelling independence as a “lifeboat” or “lifeline”, though I understand for many it may well feel like that from time to time. A feeling I share because of the hard Tory austerity cliff we’ve already fallen off, rather than the proverbial “hard Brexit cliff” that exercises some.

Independence is the normal state of being of a nation, and should be about hope – not portrayed as a desperate measure of escape.
Steve Arnott

READERS won’t be surprised that I thoroughly approve of Tomas O Gallchoir’s sentiments (EU must prove it merits its Nobel Peace Prize by helping Catalonia, The National, December 1). Also that I applaud Yanis Varoufakis’s attempts to democratise the EU by trying to get it to change its mind on “its hypocritical silence over the Spanish police violence in Catalonia”.

I suggest that its hypocrisy predates the Catalonian situation since Mr Gallchoir reported that “Barosso declared that true peace requires that people are confident, at one with their political system and that their basic rights are respected”, yet obviously this philosophy did not apply to Scotland during the independence referendum, nor does it apply to the Catalans.

I noted, too, that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (Brexit deal will have big impact on indyref2, The National, December 1) repeated Jean-Claude Juncker’s quip referring to the divorce bill settlement as “more like the UK refusing to settle its bar bill whilst leaving a party early”, glibly overlooking the obvious riposte that no sensible person simply pays what the barman decides without examining a detailed bill.

I’d like to see the EU’s invoice and, before my usual detractors pounce on what they perceive to be a weakness in my argument, I condemn both the EU and the UK Government for not publishing it.
Lovina Roe

IT is well known to experienced participants in and to observers of building and civil/structural projects that there is a contractual obligation on the principal contractor to remedy at his cost any failure occurring with regard to either workmanship or materials not complying with specifications. It is also necessary that the work required be executed at a time convenient to the client, taking due account of all safety measures. It is inconceivable that the Queensferry Crossing structure has not been inspected regularly and in detail since its opening (FM hits out at Queensferry ‘trust’ jibe, The National, December 1).

The opposition parties have sought to elevate the works required to the carriageway into a major disaster, and that they result from government mismanagement. This is nothing more than a grotesque attempt at political point-scoring. Such actions betray both their ignorance of contractual procedures and worse, their desire to disparage the achievements of the Government.

This is disgraceful. Shameful does not cover their actions at FMQs.
John Hamilton