Power struggle

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I fear that the evangelism with which Keith Howell addresses matters surrounding Scotland’s negative prospects under the SNP, and those positive prospects about the new powers coming to Holyrood,may be misplaced. ( Letters, 13 January).

His praise of the new powers is apparently made in the absence of information on their operational details, particularly regarding on income tax – and if he does have inside information, he could perhaps pass it on to Scottish secretary David Mundell who steadfastly refuses to divulge how they would work.

The powers coming in April 2016 are those in the Scotland Act 2012, based on the Calman proposals. Those based upon the Smith proposals will not operate until 2017. The major snag is that we do not know how the fiscal framework, which incorporates Calman and Smith as well as the Barnett formula, will operate.

The assumption is that we would retain the proceeds of any Holyrood income tax increase, without reducing the block grant by an equivalent sum. We have been promised details of the fiscal framework by mid-February – it would have to consolidate both ­Calman and Smith, with Smith indicating the proceeds would reduce the block grant.

So how could Keith Howell, or the SNP, or David Mundell who has challenged the SNP to declare what use they will make of them, reach any decision prior to having the fiscal framework?

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent, Currie, Edinburgh

I was much amused by Douglas Turner’s faux astonishment (Letters, 13 January) at Martin Redfern’s “revelation” that the primary motivation of Nicola Surgeon is to achieve independence – especially so as it followed hard upon Colin Fox’s comment (Letters, January 12) that if Ms Sturgeon doesn’t promise a second ­referendum in her manifesto she will be “telling the nation that the short-term interests of the SNP are more important than the long-term goal of the wider independence movement”.

I do not share all of Mr Fox’s political views. I do, however, respect his honesty in declaring unequivocally that a second referendum will be at the forefront of the Rise campaign. Perhaps it is too much to hope that Ms Sturgeon’s disingenuous shilly-shallying will backfire spectacularly?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Against a background of many responsibilities devolved to the Scottish Parliament, how hypocritical of the SNP to criticise that they can’t vote today on the first application of English votes for English laws. This can only be interpreted that the SNP are indeed campaigning in favour of the Union and disbanding Holyrood.

Mike Grain

MacDonald Green, Thurso, Caithness

In his letter (13 January) Andrew Gray states, inter alia, “The only way for Scotland and the United Kingdom to avoid vanishing into the EU Black Hole, with its vast army of bureaucrats, dutifully run by its supine parliament, enacting legislation ordered by its unelected and unaccountable Commissioners, is to vote to leave.”

Change a few words of Mr Gray’s missive and you would make it read as follows, “The only way for Scotland to avoid vanishing into the UK Black Hole, with its vast army of bureaucrats, dutifully run by its supine parliament, 
enacting legislation ordered by its unelected and unaccountable House of Lords, is to vote to leave.” This sounds very similar to the sort of rhetoric espoused by many Scottish Nationalists.

George Shanks

Orwell Place, Edinburgh

Labour rising

It is disheartening to see so many people behaving as if the Labour Party is on its deathbed. For 40 years or more I voted Liberal and Lib Dem, but I voted Labour in 2010 and 2015.

I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader, although I happened to agree with two or three of his policies. At least he has brought openness and honesty into political life – an example politicians of all parties would do well to follow.

The media do much harm to UK and Scottish politics by concentrating on personalities and greatly exaggerating situations. However, there are many, like myself, who have not given up on the Labour Party (despite the various negative polls) and who long to help provide an effective opposition to both the Tory and SNP governments.

Articles such as Euan McColm’s most recent contribution to The Scotsman, elaborating on Labour’s difficulties, only add to a general media habit of concentrating on personalities and negatives and refusing to see the positives in what Mr Corbyn is offering.

Fortunately, in Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour has a leader who is also open and honest and has a warm character when stating her case. Given a chance, and time to develop a team and clarify policies, there will be a left of centre party to bring benefit to both the UK and Scottish electorates as a real alternative to SNP and Tory rule.

Michael Dickie

Prestwick Road, Ayr

Offensive image

I am sure I am not alone in feeling the distaste with which I looked at the front of yesterday’s Scotsman. I see no need for a full sized close-up picture of the face of serial killer Robert Black, of whom many of us still bear tragic memories. As if that weren’t enough, for some reason, an even closer “study” of his haunting expression accompanies the full story on page 7, below which the tiny child victims are shown.

Such insensitive and offensive journalism is surely unnecessary and makes me wonder very seriously … why?

Olive Bell

Randolph Crescent, Dunbar, East Lothian

Why was it necessary to publish two colour photographs of convicted child murderer Robert Black in yesterday’s Scotsman? I find it offensive and cannot imagine how distressing it must be for the families of the little girls who were his victims.

Christina Webster

Wester Coates Avenue, Edinburgh

Criminal conduct

In 2001 Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, warned Tony Blair it would be a huge mistake to sign Britain up to the flawed International Criminal Court.

The US had already refused, pointing out that the court’s broad autonomy and jurisdiction would lead to politically motivated indictments such as its partisan approach to Israel.

Sir Michael told a parliamentary committee: “A serviceman, carrying out orders he believes to be entirely proper, could find himself in front of the International Criminal Court.”

Our reckless premier waved away these fears, claimed that he had the support of the other service chiefs and signed us up in 2002 – but Boyce’s fears have been fully justified!

To make things worse soldiers must “prove their innocence” before other quasi-legal bodies such as the Iraq Historic Allegations Team and the Iraq Fatality Investigations unit.

Meanwhile dubious agents scour Iraq for new “victims”, receiving money from our ambulance-chasing lawyers and demanding a cut of damages awarded in UK civil courts.

Our soldiers risked being killed or maimed in a brutal, dirty war. Abandoning them to the mercy of rapacious lawyers and their opportunistic clients is a grotesque betrayal.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron,

Howard Place, St Andrews, Fife

Political waste

The best political spectacle this week came courtesy of the Audit committee at Holyrood.

The moral outrage and near bursting of blood vessels came from the discussion of the payout to a college principal of £300,000 from public funds. Is that the same committee who questioned Fiona Hyslop over the use of public funds to pay a private company to run T in the Park? The result of that was precisely nothing. A case of all sound and fury but no action. The real question must be “ Is that committee a good use of public funds? “

Doris MH Duff

Belmont Gardens, Edinburgh

Whiff of Cologne

It has been reported that the New Year’s sexual attacks on women in Cologne were organised in advance.

These large-scale sexual attacks are called taharrush gamea and are said to be a familiar phenomenon in some Arab countries.

Similar attacks took place in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin as well as in Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

Is this one of “the joys of diversity” that we have been urged to embrace?

Clark Cross

Springfield Road

Linlithgow. West Lothian

Aid memoir

Why has Prime Minister David Cameron not put out an appeal to the British people for funds for those poor folk who have lost everything in the recent floods?

The government should hang its head in shame when millions of pounds are given to help countries in crisis abroad when our own broken-hearted people are left to get on with it.

Dorothy Wye

Colinton Mains Road, Edinburgh

Funding gap plea

The £54 million of extra funding for mental health services announced by the Scottish Government is greatly welcomed and comes at a time when services are markedly stretched (13th January 2016).

More work, however, still needs to be done.

We have been campaigning for some time for greater levels of investment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and although the extra funding is a step in the right direction, it is still not enough.

Only 0.45 per cent of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on CAMHS, amounting to 5.56 per cent of the total mental health budget and more than half of our health boards are failing to meet an 18-week waiting time target for treatment for mental health conditions.

We are also witnessing an increasing number of children and young people being sent to non-specialist adult ­paediatric wards for treatment given a shortage of ­specialist beds.

Prevention and early intervention are absolutely crucial and it should be noted that half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21.

As mental health problems exacerbate over time, health boards will face the problem of financing more intensive and expensive treatments for adults, who could have been helped before their conditions worsened.

We urge all the political ­parties in the run-up to the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections in May to highlight the issue of mental health as a key theme in their manifestos.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:

Sophie Pilgrim, Director, Kindred Scotland

Tom McGhee, Managing director, Spark of Genius

Duncan Dunlop Chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland

Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School

Niall Kelly. Managing director, Young Foundations

Walker Street, Edinburgh