Migrant benefits

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I hope it does not take a team of economic model builders to connect high levels of working immigrants with the unexpectedly higher tax and national insurance revenues.

Simple common sense probably trumps the Treasury and other institutional experts in this area. Nor should we forget the benefits of the immigrant students. Their multiplier effect in spending to study and to live is undeniable.

It too may have helped to raise the platform on which the Chancellor displayed the nifty footwork commented on recently.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

Corbyn mistake

As many forecast would happen after the election of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party is beginning to disintegrate.

At the source of the problem tearing the party apart is the fundamental difference in view between Labour voters and Labour activists, including the many thousands on the fringes who joined prior to the last 
leader election merely to cast a vote for Mr Corbyn.

Successive general elections have shown the average Labour voter to be a different animal entirely from the posturing and unworldly activists and militants of the far left who exist in the make-believe, fantasy world of extremists everywhere.

In permanent opposition, they can posture and speechify endlessly while others govern as they like – indeed, I fear that the opportunity to posture is the actual goal of many of the Corbyn wing. The fact that Mr Corbyn is apparently a nice chap and that he and many of his supporters mean well is not relevant; so do many in unsavoury movements worldwide.

Labour are unelectable at present and until the Corbyn fever runs its course will remain so. In the meantime, the UK parliament, for different reasons, will join Scotland in being a virtual one party state and the moderate majority of us will continue to be denied representation.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

That portrait

Nicola Sturgeon did at least claim that she would listen to David Cameron’s statement on Syria before rejecting it. Alex Salmond evidently had more important things to do, choosing rather to unveil a portrait of the great man – himself, that is (your report, 27 November).

You would think that the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman might have prioritised an issue that is of fundamental importance to the security of the UK rather than indulge in yet another of his self-aggrandising vanity projects. But then again...

The only question remains: how much did Mr Salmond have to pay to have a picture painted of himself which is as embellished and exaggerated as Mr Salmond’s own depiction of the prospects of an independent Scotland?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Objectivity needed

Surely those of us who have the interests of the Scottish people at heart will support Kezia Dugdale’s call for the creation of a Scottish Office for Budget Responsibility (your report, 27 November) that would be free in reaching its conclusions from the political interests of any party or government.

For instance, the likes of Fraser Grant’s simplistic assertion that “based on our GDP, excluding oil revenues, Scotland is still one of the wealthier nations in Europe...” (Letters, 27 November) does not get us very far.

He must realise that GDP is not necessarily the most accurate measure of a country’s wealth. Last year Professors McLaren and Armstrong of Glasgow University pointed out that the importance of gross national income (GNI), which adjusts for earnings generated in Scotland but flowing out therefrom must be recognised especially in a country such as ours from which much of the earnings from oil and gas, the financial sector, energy and whisky are not retained in Scotland.

The Scottish Government attempted to produce figures for Scottish GNI but the reliability of its figures were effortlessly challenged by McLaren and Armstrong. Hence the need for objectivity.

John Milne

Ardgowan Drive, Uddingston

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney may well be aggrieved by our budget settlement in Scotland, with our supposed six per cent loss in funding, but surely the question is what alternatives are they comparing this with and how does the picture look in the round?

The SNP’s answer to everything is independence. That is their implied alternative.

How would a six per cent cut in day-to-day running expenses compare with a 94 per cent drop in oil revenues, for example?

We can deal with a six per cent drop in government funding if we can make our economy grow and if we can put more money into people’s pockets.

The danger is if we fall behind the rest of the UK in this, and we are already seeing this divergence from the wider UK economy in Scotland. Perhaps we need to start asking why that is, and start concentrating on the priorities.

I was working up in the far north-east recently, with barely a hotel open to go to in the evening. Many of those that were open had their kitchens closed to save costs.

This is all happening now, and yet we are not allowed to mention it, and must be content with the daily dose of anti-Westminster rhetoric.

At some point, the penny will drop about where the real threats lie.

Victor Clements

Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Oil price forecasting produces a range of unprovable forward-looking outcomes.

However, in the case of the Scottish Government, it subsequently produces backward- facing statements which are demonstrably wrong.

John Swinney has declared that the SNP did not mislead the Scots last year in the run-up to the referendum and that “the UK Government’s price predictions were higher”. Which data set is he thinking of?

What actually happened is that members of the independence movement fiercely criticised the UK Office for Business Responsibility for claiming that prices would fall below $100/barrel.

The OBR is the UK Governmental source which, it turns out, actually got the direction of travel right.

In May 2014 (in the Scottish Government’s official bulletin) there were mentioned 22 industry-wide predictions tracked by the UK Government, and ranging from $85 to $115.

The Government appear to have stuck to $110, rising to $115, right up to the date of the referendum.

As Scotland went to the polls to vote on 18 September, 2014, the price of Brent crude was already at $92/barrel.

Opprobrium was dished out to industry expert Sir Ian Wood who advised caution.

I do not think anyone who is serious about financial rectitude can ever again believe such biased nationalist sources.

Peter Smaill

Borthwick, Midlothian

Hydro power

Dr A MacCormick (Letters, 27 November) rightly took issue with Les Reid (Letters, 6 November) about hydro power stations, asking for “numbers”

However, I doubt that the amount generated from such schemes could be doubled –the best sites have all been used up. The last one completed was at Glendoe, with only 100 MW capacity.

As I write (on a Friday afternoon) only 1.94 per cent of the UK electricity demand of 40.6 GW is being met from hydro and Gridwatch notes that “many (hydro) stations deliberately reduce output to get the best renewable subsidy rates”.

Considering the environmental damage done by hydro schemes and in fact all renewable generation, we would be better not to bother with these mediaeval methods.

They are inherently unreliable, causing irregular inputs to the grid and expensive re-engineering of it (such as the Beauly to Denny line).

Central generation is more economic and suited to grid as originally built. Moreover, thermal methods are reliable and predictable.

Generation from coal should be phased out as soon as possible, replaced by gas until we can get more nuclear online.

However, I wonder why the UK is bothering to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when countries like Germany and India are actually going all out for generation from fossil fuels, especially coal.

Why should we play by the rules when others do not?

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Value of Alba

It is (wrongly) alleged that Goring once said: “When I hear the word culture I reach for my gun.” It seems that Gideon (Osborne) has mimicked and paraphrased this in reaching for his scalpel to defund BBC Alba.

The decision by the Chancellor, to cut all UK funding means now that BBC Alba will now be totally reliant on the BBC and the Scottish Government to make up the missing £1 million annually if they wish to continue what has been a remarkable success story to date, with an average viewing figure of 700,000, well in advance of Scotland’s fluent Gaelic population.

BBC Alba is already under-served in terms of funding – receiving only £8m from the BBC and £13.8m from the Scottish Government.

Despite this, it still manages to produce top-class drama such as Bannan, and exemplary coverage on Germany’s treatment of the Syrian refugee crisis as seen this week on Eòrpa.

There’s a Gaelic saying, “Cha bhi fios aire math an tobair gus an tràigh e”, meaning “the value of the well is not known until it has dried up”.

The value of BBC Alba is known, however, and all Scots – whether or not they have the language must ensure that we do not lose this irreplaceable national resource

(Dr) Douglas Chalmers

Senior Lecturer, Media and Journalism

Glasgow Caledonian University