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One cannot but admire Mr Fraser Grants tenacity in defence of SNP’s economic performance and his attempts to “explain” the mindboggling £14.8 billion Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) deficit they now preside over (letters, 25 August.)

Unfortunately his arguments do not stand up to scrutiny and are indicative of someone “clutching at economic straws”.

First he resorts to usual tired old Nationalist trope that the problem’s down to London Westminster government in holding on to the “main economic levers”. This is a red herring to divert attention away from SNP incompetence with its reliance on oil revenues and inability to diversify .

More perplexing and hypocritical of Mr Grant is his questioning the authenticity of the GERS report with his denigrating statement that “no serious economist would claim it’s accurate”.

Bear in mind this is same report gleefully claimed as “the bible” of economics by SNP when basking in their glory days of gushing oil revenues. Also it is the source of all the cherry picked date used by Mr Sturgeon in her recent scaremongering claim that Brexit could cost Scottish economy £11.2bn.

D Drever

Campbell Drive, Troon, Ayrshire

As the reality of the shocking financial position in which Scotland finds itself unfolds, it is interesting to hear Derek Mackay’s immediate response to the annual deficit of £15bn.

The finance minister does not refer to the almost £3,000 overspend for every man, woman and child in the country and what policies are to be adopted to correct this untenable position. Instead: “If Scotland were independent it would be able to make different choices and pull different economic levers to accelerate growth.” Really?

Is this seriously the best Scotland can do and what are Derek Mackay’s qualifications to be in financial charge of Scotland PLC?

Jimmy Armstrong

Abergeldie Road, Ballater

Derek McKay, Scotland’s finance secretary, has said that Scotland’s £15 billion deficit would not disqualify an “independent” Scotland from joining the EU, citing that the UK’s deficit has not prompted the EU to ask it to leave as his sole defence, utterly ignoring the fact that a deficit of no more than 3 per cent is a mandate of application, not for established current members.

Unfortunately, Mr McKay’s extraordinarily skewed and astonishingly deceitful statement is of course, utterly wrong. To bring an “independent” Scotland’s deficit to an acceptable level for consideration for EU membership would mean that the Scottish Government would need to lower it by at least 6.8 per cent. In other words, they would have to pursue a progressive tax policy on Scottish tax-payers to the tune of £33.64bn.

What is becoming more transparent by the day is how amateurish and lazy the SNP’s rhetoric is becoming, unless of course, Mr McKay is claiming that he alone has the authority to overrule and even overturn EU policy?

Mark Ward

Dalmellington Road, , Glasgow

SNP MP Angus Macneil tweets describing the damning GERS numbers as “p*sh”.

Surely he realise it’s the SNP government’s own data – and that he’s forbidden by party rules to criticise anything Nicola Sturgeon does or says?

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh

I note that your pro-independence correspondent, C Hegarty (Letters, 26 August) at least acknowledges that there are two sides to a balance sheet, and that is a step forward in achieving a more honest debate on GERS and Scottish independence. In terms of tax raised per head, without oil, Scotland and the UK are indeed very similar.

It is the other side of the equation where the problem lies, and C Hegarty is prepared to admit this, saying, “It seems to me that some re-adjustment in public sector spending is likely in the medium term… whether we become independent or not”.

So, independence will see a drop in public spending. The case for independence, agitated for on the back of spending cuts, will result in further cuts of the like we have not yet seen, and affecting the very many people who will no doubt vote for it if we don’t bring some honesty and proper perspective to bear in the debate.

Victor Clements

Taybridge Terrace, Aberfeldy

Pick and choose

It seems that Nicola Sturgeon and her party are allowed to ignore reality in pursuit of a fantasy objective which is unattainable. Not only would the country be bankrupt, if independent, but it would be breaking the democratically-expressed wish of the Scottish people to remain part of the United Kingdom.

It seems that the excuse for this is that a majority of Scots voted for the UK to remain in the EU, despite an overall majority in the UK voting to leave.

Observing the SNP’s logic and considering the result of the vote in the last Scottish election, I assume that I am perfectly within my rights to ignore totally anything and everything enacted by the SNP in the Scottish Parliament because a majority of Scots did not vote for them?

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Russell’s brief

What sort of a challenge does the Scottish Government’s new Brexit minister, Mike Russell, face(your report, 26 August)? The first is the interdepartmental one of keeping favour with other cabinet colleagues who make take a different view of priorities for their area of policy. Ministers charged with an enforcing or monitoring role can sometimes be seen as best superfluous and at worst interfering.

The second is the political one of gauging the public mood in Scotland on the European Union. The majority here for staying in was not as high as many politicians and pundits predicted, and events may create a more sceptical anti European mood.

The third is what priorities the Holyrood government will have when the negotiations start. Should it be the interests of Scottish manufacturing and financial services, or immigration, citizenship and the position of EU nationals living here, or research funding for universities to take but a few examples?

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

Labour pains

It’s hardly surprising that Labour challenger Owen Smith’s praise for Kezia Dugdale’s leadership was met with laughter and jeers from a section of supporters present at the Glasgow hustings (Scotsman 26 August).

Owen Smith then had the cheek to blame Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s disastrous showing in May’s Scottish elections when they were reduced to three constituency MSPs but that, albeit thanks to Tory tactical voting, was actually an improvement on Labour’s sole MP elected in Scotland in 2015.

Owen Smith claims not to be a Blairite but comes across as a shallow PR type of politician. He has previously given interviews supporting PFI together with privatisation in the health service and is a former lobbyist for Pzifer.

He also strongly supported Blair’s city academies, backs Trident renewal, failed to vote against Tory welfare cuts and opposed meaningful powers for the Scottish Parliament during the passage of the recent Scotland Bill.

Most observers believe that the real Labour heavyweights stayed out of the contest knowing that a massive defeat awaits in 2020 as the Tories are currently on course for a 100 plus majority over Labour.

However Labour probably can’t decline much more now than the 0.7 per cent fall in support at Thursday’s Fife Council by election where the SNP share of the vote doubled compared to 2012.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Owen Smith’s call for a second referendum to ratify any deal on exiting the EU can only be an act of desperation born of confusion, or part of a covert plot to impose a hard Brexit.

As we know, once Article 50 is triggered there is a two-year period during which a deal can be struck, failing which a member state exits automatically on WTO terms.

Therefore – by definition – a no vote in a referendum on any deal struck with the EU will inevitably result in the UK’s ejection from the EU with no deal at all.

This has until now been nothing more than a fantasy of the most ardent Eurosceptics. And it is therefore of great concern for a potential future prime minister (however remote the possibility of Labour ever returning to power has now become) to be actively pursuing such an aim.

Thomas Roberts

Wester Coates Gardens, Edinburgh

Burkini ban

It is interesting that in her burkini article (Scottish Perspective, 26 August), Joyce McMillan fails to comment on Nicolas Sakorzy.

The French presidential hopeful, in his bid to come back into mainstream French politics and serve another term, has been slated for suggesting that the “burkini ban” on French beaches should be upheld for, he claims, perfectly sound security reasons. After the extremist horrors in France this past year alone, ultra caution would seem appropriate.

He also pledges to block, for example, such things as the proposals for banning mixed-sex bathing in public swimming pools. Some of his critics have called his views Fascist and a pandering to the far right.

Far from being Fascist, Mr Sakorzy’s tough approach seem to me in the circumstances to be eminently sensible and reasonable.

When zealots on the fringes of a religion think they can dictate morals for a whole society, we are indeed in troubled waters.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh