Better-off have most to gain from SNP council tax freeze

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JOHN Swinney (News, 8 ­November) is wrong to cite the council tax freeze as an example of how the SNP have helped the poorest people in Scotland.

If the lowest bands only had been frozen or rebates offered to those on low incomes, this would be the case. As the policy stands, however, it is those who are best off who gain most. Moreover, cash-starved councils are being forced to cut services which the poorest and most vulnerable in society rely on, and thousands of council workers live under threat of losing their jobs.

The supposedly left-wing SNP have introduced not a single wealth redistribution measure and policies such as “free” tuition fees and the cutting of Air Passenger Duty are of most benefit to the better-off. In the run-up to the May election, SNP supporters will no doubt continue to brand Labour as “red Tories”. They should recognise that there is little in Mr Swinney’s thinking that George ­Osborne would balk at.

Dr SJ Clark, Edinburgh

Disputed islands belong to China

RE “SHOWDOWN in the South China Sea” (News, 1 ­November). The South China Sea Islands are China’s territories. Two thousand years ago China discovered and named the islands. Before the 1970s, no country disputed China’s sovereignty over these islands. However, following reports of oil reserves in the South China Sea, some countries wasted no time in grabbing those islands and undertaking land reclamation, impairing China’s legitimate rights over its territories.

With the purpose of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, China exercises great restraint by advocating that concerned countries should solve the disputes through peaceful consultations and negotiations, based on respect to historic facts and in accordance with international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), leading to China and South East Asian countries having established a mechanism for proper handling of disputes surrounding the islands. If any country demands international arbitration for settling these disputes, consensus should be reached between concerned parties, which is a normal procedure of international arbitration and common practice. In 2006, China issued a statement not resorting to international arbitration in this case according to UNCLOS.

As things stand now, the South China Sea remains relatively calm and stable without possibilities of major clashes as freedom of navigation in the area is not impeded. China hopes that concerned countries should work together towards making the South China Sea a sea of peace and co-operation rather than creating tensions and conflicts which will serve no interests of any country.

Mrs Lyu Yanxia, spokeswoman 
for the Chinese Consulate 
General, Edinburgh

Gender balance defies democracy

YOUR editorial (“Back 50-50 drive 100 per cent, 8 November) is an absolute shocker: a bogus principle expressed in language at times verging on sinister. There exists no case for compulsory equality of male and female membership of either parliament or council. The democratic right to present oneself for election extends to every eligible member of the electorate.

You, on the other hand, declare that gender equality would render the Scottish Parliament more “fairly” split. This fallacy finds echo in the claim by Women 50:50 of women being “held back by barriers which there was a duty to remove”. There are no such obstacles, but there will be if they achieve their aim in restricting themselves to 50 per cent. The only stage at which women may currently be unfairly treated is at the local constituency selection process, and it is up to them to put things right at that level.

Your sub-heading “Holyrood needs power to enforce gender balance where political parties have failed” is arrogant misrepresentation of the situation. In what obligation have they failed? Agreement with you, perhaps? The important principle must be that the result arise from freedom, not restriction; in any case, this is a matter for the people, not politicians, to decide.

Robert Dow, Tranent