Smith’s equality

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The short answer to Raymond Paul’s problem is that we should be no better off or worse off under the Smith proposals. (Shaky framework, Letters, 2 February).

That means increased tax proceeds within the scheme would trigger a similar reduction in the block grant, so we would not benefit from any growth in our economy – that would accrue to the UK exchequer. The whole thing is a funding charade – from Wendy Alexander’s 2007 Calman Commission onwards – aimed solely at making Holyrood more accountable for the money it spends.

We cannot be a wee bit accountable any more than we can be a wee bit pregnant. However, by 14 February, when the final shaky framework decisions are due, we have the option of sending a dozen red roses either to the Westminster government, which does not want to give these powers, or to the Scottish government, which does not wish to receive them!

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent, Currie, Midlothian

Driving a wedge

John Swinney claims he’s trying hard to reach agreement with Westminster over the fiscal framework that accompanies the Scotland Bill. Really?

Remember, the SNP thrives on the politics of grievance. Mr Swinney has whined for years about the generous Barnett Formula - and he’ll bleat “it’s not fair” about what’s now on offer.

Messrs Swinney and Sturgeon hardly care about effectively implementing devolution. What motivates them is driving a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh

EU debate

I doubt if anyone will be holding their breath for John Swinney to announce that he is happy with the outcome of negotiations the SNP are holding with the government over funding the new powers we did not vote for at the referendum.

Of course, the whineometer at Holyrood will be ratcheted up to claim that the government is cheating Scotland out of funding.

The excuse to demand another referendum will be made. The reason for this is clear. The EU referendum, will, inevitably, be lost to the Europhiles like the SNP who love being ruled by Brussels and who have not noticed that it is, in fact, Berlin that calls the shots now.

Since the SNP is devoted to being told what to do by the EU, they will lose the excuse to demand a second referendum to break up the UK. The only excuse they will have is on funding.

They will not be allowed to hold one, of course, and quite rightly so. There would have been no second referendum had we voted for independence in 2014, so, as we have voted for the Union, we won’t have one either.

Fair’s fair, after all and the SNP is very strong on that. Perhaps not quite so keen in this instance, however.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Cynical attacks

The criticism of John Swinney’s draft budget by Labour council leaders is yet another in a long list of cynical, misplaced and increasingly desperate attempts to attack the Scottish National Party, yet Scottish Labour would do well to remember that it is Conservative, and not SNP, policies which have precipitated the challenges currently being faced by local authorities.

Council-run frontline services are under unprecedented pressure protecting those left vulnerable by swingeing Tory cuts to the welfare state. The compound effect of meeting the increasing demands of supporting those at risk, mitigating the impact of policies such as the illegal “Bedroom Tax” and the fact that by 2020, the Scottish budget will be 12.5 per cent lower than when the Conservatives came to power is what is really to blame for the difficulties faced by local authorities, not the council tax freeze.

Labour has become a party categorised by abstention and in-fighting. They have proven themselves either unwilling or incapable of holding the Conservative government to account and have been utterly ineffective in stemming the Tories’ ideologically driven assault on public services.

Cllr Lewis Ritchie

City of Edinburgh Council

Decision time

At last, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney seem to get it (Scotland “could lose billions” under new powers deal, 1 February).

During the daily posturing over reaching agreement on the fiscal framework, they are now effectively telling us that Scotland benefits to the extent of £billions from the safety net of the UK economy.

They want to ensure we do not lose that benefit when the new powers come to Scotland and the necessary adjustments are made to the block grant.

That is fair enough. But these are the same people who just over a year ago were telling us we did not need the UK at all. So which is it? UK good or UK bad?

The SNP cannot seem to make their minds up. They want the benefit of the UK economy continuing to underpin Scotland after the transfer of the new powers. Does that mean all that talk during the referendum debate about of how much better off we would be if we broke away from the UK was just pure rhetoric?

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Planning costs

If the Scottish Government operated a fair, properly funded planning system, local authorities could save many thousands of pounds and be able to spend more money on our vital services.

Planning fees for wind developments in Scotland are around 10 per cent of those in England. A £22,000 fee here would cost around £250,000 south of the Border.

The Scottish Government also refuses to give rural communities the same veto on wind factories that people in England and Wales have. This encourages speculative applications that communities may not want. Councils then have to spend valuable time and money processing complex, inappropriate and unpopular applications.

Highland Council spent £67,000 on just one public inquiry. Reasonable people can do the maths but it appears the Scottish Government can’t. If they refuse to increase planning fees to a realistic level and continue to treat its own rural citizens as irrelevant, then councils will be under pressure to not refuse or object to applications because they cannot afford the inevitable developer appeals and public inquiries.

The Scottish Government happily quote polls that say 70 per cent of people want more wind farms. I challenge them to prove they believe that piece of propaganda and give rural people the final say as to whether they want to host industrial wind factories.

It is time our council tax money was not used to further subsidise multinational wind companies and an unfair planning system.

Lyndsey Ward

Beauly, Inverness-shire

Reliability counts

George Shering (Letter, 2 February) seems to be obsessed with energy leaking into the environment from electricity generation and supports renewables because they merely recycle energy.

He overlooks the defects of renewables, especially wind with its unreliability.

Essentially, electricity supply has to be reliable and stable. For that reason, although the future may be electric, it will not be a renewables future, certainly not for base load.

The energy losses in thermal generation of electricity are inevitable but no danger to the environment (the addition to global warming will be negligible). Mr Shering should note that the energy derived from uranium is energy that would be released anyway over time - we just accelerate it in reactors.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Migrant crisis

The German Economic Institute calculates the cost of feeding, housing and educating the children of the Angela Merkel’s 1.5 million migrants at £40 billion for the next two years.

Tensions are rising in communities in Germany forced to house the violent young men who make up the bulk of these “refugees” and police face a looming break-down of law and order.

The German Chancellor now regrets her unilateral decision to discard the EU’s asylum rule-book and admitted in Mainz that the Europe’s migrant crisis is “clearly out of control”.

Her calamitous intervention not only created chaos in southern Germany and the Balkans – it helped establish “people smuggling” as a new international crime to vie with narcotics.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

On the right road

As the director of the TEV (Tracked Electric Vehicles) Project, a Scotland-based social enterprise designing the roads of the future for electric transport, I’m excited to hear the news of £20 million investment in driverless technology.

While driverless cars can get efficiency gains, it’s mostly from getting closer to the car in front than human drivers can. Many driverless cars, including Google cars which I’ve seen in operation, maintain a greater distance on normal roads than a human driver would, meaning those roads actually lose capacity.

Driverless cars on our TEV highway can convoy closely in complete safety at high speeds because the road is designed for that type of travel. TEV also powers electric and hybrid cars as they drive, addressing environmental issues.

Caroline Jones-Carrick 

Director, TEV Project, Prestwick, Ayrshire