Aditya Chakrabortty (Salvaging the union will need imagination – and we’ve lost it, 17 October) paints a grim but probably accurate picture of what will happen to “the idea of Britain” after Brexit. The prospect of Scotland leaving the UK, possibly followed by Wales and a united Ireland not far behind, conjures up a nightmare vision of a rightwing, isolationist England which is deeply unappealing to many who were once proud to be English as well as British and, dare I say, European. But identity works on many levels and, as Aditya points out, nations come and go and are created by people, and similarly destroyed by them.
Within England, regionalism of the sort that is common across Europe – progressive, inclusive and broadly centre-left – has really been “the dog that never barked”. Maybe it’s time for it to do so. The north, whatever the reasons behind it voting leave, is increasingly distanced from London and the south-east. We have far more in common with Scotland and Wales. Maybe in decades to come a progressive northern nation will take its place alongside Scotland, Wales and Ireland. For now, the need for a strong and democratic voice for the north of England has never been more urgent.
Professor Paul Salveson
Bolton, Greater Manchester
• Both Aditya Chakraborrty and Martin Kettle (First, I accepted Brexit. Now it’s clear we must not leave the EU, 17 October) address the risk of the UK falling apart under strain from the Brexit process. An independent Scotland is now inevitable. What is the problem with this – and an independent Wales or a united Ireland for that matter? Scotland is just as viable an economic entity as Denmark (similar population); a united Ireland would end the “border problem” and Wales is a larger entity than Luxembourg. The enabler for this sensible and coherent geographical/social outcome is membership of the EU which could be reformed to reflect the democratic importance of smaller nation states and regions.
This would necessitate much more democratic representation in Brussels, with a Europe-wide elected president. Minority rights would be guaranteed in a new European constitution so that Protestants in Northern Ireland would have security. Eventually secularisation, which has civilised Ireland and Britain, would see barriers to cooperation between Protestants and Catholics consigned to history. The outcome for England within a strengthened EU would be hugely beneficial. England could finally get rid of our nostalgic pretensions rooted in imperial dominance, throw off the succubus of rightwing nationalism, and take our place in the world alongside our European partners.
• Coverage of Scottish politics in London-based papers can often seem out of sync to activists. Zoe Williams’ take on the prospects of Scottish independence (The weakness at the heart of Sturgeon’s plan, 15 October) was a perfect example.
Firstly, Scottish independence is not solely the project of the SNP. Scottish Greens and countless others support the notion, and for a whole host of reasons.
Secondly, and more importantly, with first-past-the-post and more than 800 unelected lords, Westminster still fails to be a democracy in any meaningful sense. Despite promises, Labour has never had any serious plan to reform the Lords or the voting system. Until the main UK parties commit to real reform, there will continue to be a case for Scottish independence.
Third is the issue of nuclear weapons. An independent Scotland would sign up to the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, signed by 79 countries, but notably not by the UK. Threatening every citizen of a nation to keep their rogue leaders in check is no way for a civilisation to behave. The world’s nuclear arsenal could eliminate life on Earth in a matter of hours, faster than even the climate emergency.
Finally, it is frustrating when commentators based in England say the 2014 referendum seemed bitter, because that isn’t how it felt here in Scotland. My own husband and some of my closest friends voted no – but have since changed their minds.
During that campaign everyone was talking about proportional representation, devolved powers and what kind of country they wanted Scotland to be. It was energising and hopeful. I hope we can do it again soon and then start building a greener, fairer, more democratic, nuclear-free Scotland, regardless of who is in control at Westminster.
Co-leader of the Scottish Greens
• “Saving the union will need imagination – and we’ve lost it.” Chakrabortty’s article is outstanding, sharply observed and should be required reading. All of us attending the People’s Vote march this Saturday, myself included, should remember why it is essential to continue the argument. This should not be a time to concede defeat.
Anthony O’ Neill
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