Fiscal framework

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Douglas Mayer (Letters, 14 November) is not the first to suggest that new devolved tax powers will disappoint because of the consequent reductions in the block grant to Scotland under the Barnett formula. Surely neither he nor anyone really imagined additional tax-raising powers would come to Scotland as some kind of double payment.

The fiscal framework he refers to is intended to make a one-off adjustment to the block grant to ensure the position immediately after tax powers are transferred is no better or worse for Scotland. It will then be up to the Scottish Government to decide if it is going to increase or reduce the new taxes under its control, as it also potentially makes use of wider spending powers.

If it does decide to increase taxes it will be able to use that extra revenue without any further block grant adjustments. There is no mystery or subterfuge here. The SNP leadership will have to decide how much more it wants to spend and on what, and then either fund it through higher taxes or savings from elsewhere.

It appears there are many still determined to think the worst of the new powers. They are certainly right to not consider them as some kind of magic money tree. Any additional revenue will simply come from us, the people of Scotland. It will be for the SNP to justify why they are increasing taxes if that is what they choose to do.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

In selectively quoting Lord Smith’s endorsement of the Scotland bill Keith Howell (Letters, 14 November) and The Scotsman have omitted to say that Lord Smith has made it clear that the fiscal framework has not been agreed and that the powers agreed (such as they are) cannot be implemented until it is. Lord Smith has also made it clear that won’t happen until next year at the earliest.

Meanwhile, people who do know better (like Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale) and others who don’t, including some writing to The Scotsman, keep demanding the Scottish Government uses now the power it does not yet have.

Douglas Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Our role abroad

I see that Andrew H N Gray has noted that “Belgium sells more to India than us” (Letters, 14 November).

As one of the six founding members of the EU they seem to have done this despite the assertions about member states being “unable to sign trade deals” themselves.

The publicity given by the UK and Scottish Governments to their trade missions to China also suggests otherwise.

Like many others, I would share his disappointment with the Prime Minister’s various recent pronouncements though for different reasons.

The speech at the Guildhall may have provided an explanation of our declining status in world trade. Much was taken up by London being the financial capital of the world with it buying and selling more dollars than New York.

Our obsession with the “invisible earnings” of our financial services persists even when their overall contribution is doubtful. The banking crisis and sundry, though massive, subsequent pieces of misbehaviour are useful reminders as are the selling away of important sectors of industry.

Perhaps I fail to realise the importance of trumping Boris Johnson’s London ace in this context.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

SNP achievements

David Donaldson (Letters, 14 November) refers to HMRC irony but that must apply to those Labour MPs who campaigned with Tories during the referendum claiming that the HMRC jobs were only guaranteed if we voted No and as a consequence lost their seats in May.

Mr Donaldson and the other four letter writers attacking the Scottish Government should acknowledge that since the SNP came to power, there are now over 10,000 more staff working in our NHS than in 2007 and waiting times are down, and reported crime is at a 41-year low with 1,000 extra police officers maintained.

The number of full-time college places has increased, a record number of pupils completed Highers this year and thousands of new affordable houses have been built.

We have also seen the abolition of student tuition fees, a massive increase in the provision of free child care, and 500 new schools built or refurbished.

The new Queensferry Crossing is Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project in a generation and the new Borders rail line is the longest new rail link in the UK for 100 years.

There are unprecedented demands on our public services but by any measure the SNP has done much better than previous administrations at Holyrood and that record of delivery has been achieved against the backdrop of a UK recession with a 10 per cent budget cut in real terms over the past five years and the harsh austerity and welfare cuts imposed by the UK Government.

There is no room for complacency but our health and education services are in a far better state than in England under Tory rule and the worst performance is in Wales under Labour control.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Crime figures

Regarding the recent headlines in The Scotsman noting a 20 per cent increase in housebreaking in Edinburgh over the past year (your report, 12 November), it is relevant for me to point out that this also corresponds with a considerable increase in graffiti around the city.

While this may seem insignificant to many, there is a proven connection between the two known as the “Broken Windows” theory.

During the 1980s, New York administrators concentrating mainly on the Broken Windows philosophy turned the city from the US crime and homicide capital to becoming a very safe metropolis.

Traditional thinking suggested this could only be done by extra policing, but New York finally managed this turnaround without extra resources, by recognising that crime is influenced heavily by environmental signals.

Rather like a fashion trend that is contagious, apparently so too is criminal behaviour, and where the signals of acceptable behaviour are as visual as graffiti, the “Broken Windows” theory suggests that graffiti and broken windows will lead to the conclusion that no-one cares.

When no one seems to care and no one is in charge then the premise is that criminals recognise this as an invitation and as a safe place for more crime. (Ref: Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point).

Whether or not this philosophy of cleaning up graffiti would work in Edinburgh could be open to debate, but it is probably worth a try given that the city values its attractiveness to tourists so highly.

Given the latest stellar crime figures for both this year and last, I wonder if the residents of Edinburgh are justified in questioning the policies of our devolved parliament, which seem to be spectacularly ineffective at dealing with basic crime issues on its own doorstep.

Andy Aitken

Garscube Terrace, Edinburgh

Edinburgh trams

When the proposed Edinburgh tram network of three lines was shrunk to single line, it was a pity that the tram link to Leith, Newhaven and Granton was left out in the cold and attention focused on the York Place-Airport 
tramline. North Edinburgh was the area that needed the 
economic regeneration that the tram link could bring.

The route from the city centre to the airport was already well-served by a dedicated airport bus system, taxis and private transport.

The airport bus is probably still quicker than the tram, and more convenient. And not many arrivals to Edinburgh have the Gyle in mind as their first stop.

But don’t let past bad decisions prevent us making better ones. Get the tram down Leith Walk and along to Granton! You never know, people might use it.

(Prof) Paul W Jowitt

President of the Institution of Civil Engineers 2009-10

Belford Mews, Edinburgh

Power failures

I don’t know if Dr Stephen Breslin realised it, or not, when he wrote his article (9 November) on the current dangerous balance between electricity supply and demand, but it illustrates quite clearly the cuckoo-land mentality which our Westminster and Scottish politicians have.

During early evening on 4 November, the National Grid asked several large businesses to reduce their electricity demand as there wasn’t enough in the supply line to allow families to prepare their evening meal.

This is called Demand Side Balancing Reserve. You couldn’t make it up and be believed!

This cost will end up being passed on to the general consumer – you and me.

This, together with the subsidies from more wind farms and the horrendous, crippling costs to come from the outdated Chinese-constructed nuclear power station in the south of England, in the 2020s, will increase electricity costs significantly for everyone.

If this cuckoo-land mentality continues, industry will become a shadow of its current self, with massive job losses.

This is one of the reasons for the present problems with our steel industry. It is worth noting that the electricity costs for the steel industry in Germany and France, and elsewhere, are considerably lower than those for the UK industry.

Why? France’s electricity is mainly nuclear and Germany is moving away from wind generation to coal generation.

(Dr) Gordon Cochrane

Dargai Terrace, Dunblane

Wheat, not barley

Poppies were appropriate for the Picture Gallery (12 November), but Gerrard Jonathan’s photograph showed them in a field of wheat – not “a field of barley”.

The fact that none of the editorial staff recognised that the caption was wrong is, perhaps, indicative of the disjunction between urban and rural life in Scotland today.

James Gilmour

East Parkside, Edinburgh