RIP Les Murray

Who I think I met in a pub in Norwich in the 1970s. He encouraged me to write poetry – above all, not to feel intimidated by those poets we admire, but to feel fellowship in the same struggle for words.

Mr Murray’s Words.

Riding on the central lowlands railway to the east
From the Soccerland end of the bar-bell line to make Haymarket
In past an earlier Murray’s field: this car today is full of
Ring-pulls of Tennants and Red Stripes who have

Brought along with them students and first year workers like
This couple: her next to me and him across from her, still
Linked by the spent cartridges of their last night’s
Hormones and the complicit sparkle of their day out after

I settle in some way similarly with my companion, who I swear
Forty years ago I met once in a pub backroom
In one his medieval knots of roundabouts
By the cathedral of the concrete university city

His are some parched towns and the flooded outback in
The Vernacular Republic; I long to be at that place
But am now fixed, a bluebottle butting inside this carriage
Intersection, an occluded Venn diagram of muscular young hope

Clipped across the sunshine cloud world, on a grenade splashed path
With a cut-out heron, an Asian family picnic on a racing green park,
Random gazing toy cattle, a gable end with its eyes put out,
Slops of spiny broom baby sick on a hill’s old shoulders,

Each harpooned between Bathgate-Livingston North-Uphall
In shattering relief while Mr Murray’s words keep coming
One after another straight and without fail like every polished rail
On the return journey home from Perth to New South Wales.

Wee letter in Herald: People’s Assemblies

IT is a shame that Nicola Sturgeon did not think of setting up Citizens Assemblies immediately after the 2014 referendum, when such bodies could have been instrumental in forging a consensus around the outcome of that vote.

As it is, they may be better late than never, although their success will depend on how representative they are of the population as a whole.

This must mean that they will comprise 55 per cent No voters and 45 per cent Yes voters. Anything else will be a fiddle, plain and simple.

Peter A Russell

Herald letter: in which I reasonably enough agree with Nicola Sturgeon.

IT must surely be obvious to everyone in the UK, as it has been to many in Scotland since 2014, that referendums do not settle issues “once and for all” and cause more division and harm to the body politic than can possibly be justified. However, if they are to be on the scene as a permanent running sore in the UK, it is surely time to improve on their conduct in the light of experience.

I therefore have some sympathy with William Durward (Letters, April 1y) and his proposal that future independence referendums should require a two-thirds majority. This is indeed the requirement of the SNP in its own constitution, as it is in other countries as such as the United States. Likewise, Nicola Sturgeon herself said that she would only call for another referendum when there was sustained support of more than 60 per cent for independence (which is as near as dammit.)

Another way of ensuring a decisive result for a referendum is to require a double majority – that all or a majority of parts of the country need to agree to the proposition. I have agreed with Ms Sturgeon in these pages that the Brexit referendum should have needed such a double majority. I am sure she will agree with me that it is just as reasonable to require that all or a majority of the regions and islands groups of Scotland should be required to vote for a Yes majority.

The danger of proceeding on any other basis would be that No-voting areas such as the Borders and Orkney and Shetland might wish to follow Ms Sturgeon’s own example and say “we didn’t vote for it, so were not having it.” They might then – again following the First Minster’s example – seek respectively to rejoin the UK and become Crown dependencies, like the Bailiewicks of Guernsey and Jersey.

Peter A Russell