LESLEY Riddoch’s masterly assessment of the shortcomings of the current SNP administration certainly touched a chord with me (Why I said I might set up a new party to challenge SNP (only after indyref), October 17). She articulated exactly what is wrong with this Government ’s cowardly, indeed two-faced attitude to land ownership, especially in the long-suffering Crofting Counties (or, as some might unkindly call them, Scotland ’s Reservations).

We, a group of Durness crofters, for those a bit hazy of the geography of Scotland at the very top of the map of Scotland (added as information to Holyrood politicians who might not be aware of its existence), are very much unimpressed with their much vaunted target “to return 1,000,000 acres to the communities”. But not, apparently if your community is one of crofters, who have successfully run Keoldale Farm as a Sheepstock Club since 1922 and want to buy it.

Seems fair, do I hear you say? Well, so we thought some years ago. Silly crofters! Not at all! It seems that we don’t fit the parameters of their term “Community” and therefore we can’t be considered for community funding. Were we to invite every Tom, Dick and Harry in the community to join us, we could be awash with cash, but because this is an integral part of our croft lands which we nurtured for almost 100 years and we want to keep it that way, we are refused any help. What the Government seems to want, to fit into their bureaucratic scheme, is, effectively, for us to invite unwanted members into our business (for however marginal crofting is, it’s still a business). How that could be done, given the complexities of crofting law generally, is another matter entirely, but hey, that’s their policy and we don’t fit! You may be the descendants of the people who have survived here for generations, who paid through the nose for the tenancy rights in 1922. And all supposedly under Land Fit For Heroes legislation. Since then it’s been owned by the Government, and while one would have supposed this would be an ideal shoe-in to show their commitment to community ownership, crofting and the indigenous population, don’t you believe it! This lot, who encourage private estates to sell on the one hand, seem as intent as Shylock to hang on at all costs to these long-crofted acres of hill and moor.

The transaction could be done very easily indeed, we have investigated this very thoroughly over the past three years, and had the politicians sufficient belief in really meaning what they profess, and backbone to face down the inertia and obfuscations of their civil servants, it would have been done long ago, but as Lesley so coruscatingly asks: “When will the SNP make the big life-changing impacts on the age old problems that hold Scotland back... I’m sure the SNP will cite myriad projects, commissions and small advances instead. But these aren’t systemic, bold or big enough.” We are, sadly, a tiny example of this lack of real dynamic and sympathetic action.
David Morrison

FURTHER to reading and spending a few hours digesting Lesley Riddoch’s very thought-provoking article in The National regarding Scotland’s government’s level of actions taken to change policies and laws to make a real difference to communities and their citizens on the ground in rural areas all over Scotland, and the lack of the members questioning why our Scottish Government are not tackling major issues regarding land prices and non-development of brown sites head on at their nation conference...

I have to totally agree with Lesley regarding the level of the bar set, and the targets selected to try to make a difference to housing and rural business.

I opened The National today, and what headline pops out: “Government plans charge on single-use drinks cups.”

If Scottish Government’s decisions to tackle this matter can be made this quickly – with a headline-grabbing, vote-winning issue – I have to ask why we are 10 years down the line still looking at no action on very important land ownership matters in rural areas for our young citizens who wish to work and build a life out of town!

Sites lie undeveloped and local citizens cannot get accommodation for staff or themselves in busy tourist areas in rural locations.

This area of discussion does not alter in any way my hunger or belief for Scottish independence, but we must as citizens not be afraid to question or speak our mind at places such as a party conference ... or you just become a cheerleader. And nothing important or difficult to address will happen if left totally to political pathways.
Ian Thomson Gordon

I HAVE been following with interest the debate regarding the Scottish “not proven” verdict and whether this option should be withdrawn from Scots law. I would concur with Donald Anderson (Letters, October 16) that any attempts to do so are politically motivated.

I would argue that if there was an objective review of Scots law without political interference, then the proper conclusion would be a return to the original two options in Scots law of “proven” or “not proven”.

Philosophically this is much more accurate (i.e. just) to the workings of the criminal justice system than “guilty” and “not guilty” verdicts. This is because the word guilty has a dual meaning in that one may be guilty of a moral crime but not necessarily a criminal one. In the former case, guilt is a psychological state of mind and bears no connection to complicity in a criminal sense. The “guilty” and “not guilty” verdicts therefore impede the process of criminal justice by blurring the distinction between moral and criminal guilt, but which has the benefit (to the authorities) of making manipulation of a jury easier. However, it is not a jury’s task to decide the “guilt” of a person, but whether a crime has been committed and that the prosecution has indeed proven this to be the case. This distinction is made clear by the development of forensic science which can prove scientifically (i.e. without doubt) that a crime has been committed and guilt or otherwise plays no part in the determination of the veracity of the crime.

It is intriguing that modern forensic science proves the validity of the original Scots law verdicts of “proven” and “not proven” which were developed long before DNA was even thought of!
Solomon Steinbett
Maryhill, Glasgow

I’M sure the young SNP members ambushed by Radio Five Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake will take great comfort from the article by Shona Craven, “BBC bullies should be ashamed of themselves” (October 18).

Besides offering support and encouragement, Shona makes some valid observations (echoed by Peter Bell elsewhere in the paper) about the wisdom of being prepared for and supported during media interviews, particularly when the interviewees are young and inexperienced.

I speak from personal experience, having been head of media liaison and public affairs at the RSSPCC (now Children 1st) during some challenging times including the Orkney child abuse inquiry.

In dealing with tricky and complex situations, there is no substitute for experience and training in handling hard questions and learning how to move the line of questioning and, where absolutely necessary, blocking unfair questions such as those Laura and Steven were subjected to.

The other observation I would make is how much times have changed with regard to the integrity of the arts of journalism. In my time, with a very few exceptions, I respected the quality and honesty of the journalists I had to deal with and I hope the feeling was mutual. In the context of this situation and article, I would like single out for particular praise the veteran BBC reporter Reevel Alderson. Ever the consummate professional, Reevel always got to the truth and the point, while managing to treat his interviewees with dignity and humanity. Unfortunately, these gentler times seem to have gone.
Douglas Turner

I AM irritated by continuing reference in most of the media that the UK has “ruled out” a Section 30 order. No UK political figure of any significant status has “ruled out” the granting of one and constant repetition of this inaccuracy in the media does not change this. “Now is not the time” is not a “no” and neither is Jeremy Corbyn’s evasive statement “not in the early period of a Labour administration” (following McDonnell’s concession that Labour would not block one). Boris Johnson’s latest suggestion that it was a “once-in-a-generation” event and “I think we should stick to that” is both inaccurate and meaningless. An evasion, in fact, like all the rest.

The UN Charter is unambiguous on the inalienable right of self-determination of all peoples. The UK is an original signatory on that document which is ius cogens. Clarification of that Charter in the 1960s reinforces the point “without interference”. The Scottish Claim of Right of 1989 reinforces the sovereignty of the Scottish people and their right to choose how they are governed and this passed through Westminster unopposed on July 4 last year. Even the Smith Commission in its final paragraphs makes the point that the devolution settlement does not prevent Scotland moving to independence if that is established as the majority desire of the sovereign Scottish people.

A UK Government trying to block an independence referendum for Scotland would be acting illegitimately, illegally, unconstitutionally and anti-democratically and, following recent events in law, have little chance of sustaining that position.

With the Electoral Commission presently considering the precise wording (and any other methods of undermining an inevitable referendum) and the Institute For Government think tank now confirming that a referendum is a right that cannot be denied to Scotland, can we get on with preparing for our battle next year?
Dave McEwan Hill