Letters: Windy Rhetoric

BRIAN Wilson’s report on the performance of the Council of Economic Advisers to the Scottish Government (Perspective, 17 October) makes chilling reading. A body which should be guiding government policy with objective economic analysis turns out to be a group of SNP supporters who meet once every six months and provide no critical analysis whatsoever.

They seem to think their job is simply to congratulate the government.

In reality there is a very important role for a Council of Economic Advisers.

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They should be projecting the probable economic outcomes in the medium and long term of current and proposed government policy.

In particular, they could provide practical criteria which would determine the economic conditions which would have to apply before independence could be considered feasible.

Gordon Brown showed us the way to proceed when he was dealing with the debate over entry to the euro. He set clear and specific criteria to be met before the UK would even begin its application to join.

After that, the windy rhetoric in favour of joining the euro blew itself out and the debate was conducted in terms of practicalities as specified by the criteria. It was a simple strategy, but it saved us from making a terrible mistake.

Windy rhetoric would have driven us onto the rocks, just like Greece, but a clear set of practical criteria to be met kept us out of the euro and out of the financial mess of the EU Eurozone.

A Council of Economic Advisers that was fit for purpose could set similar criteria which would tell the Scottish Government whether independence would be feasible or disastrous.

Formulating such criteria would require careful analysis of economic performance and long-term likely outcomes, but certain topics are clearly unavoidable, such as the creation of an independent currency and central bank; the terms on which an indepependent Scotland would join the EU or not; how to deal with the deficit if public spending exceeds tax revenues; the impact on business of a fluctuating electricity supply if we become reliant on wind-powered energy; and the role of the financial services sector in the Scottish economy. And so on.

Providing facts and figures on core issues like those would be a great service, not only to the Scottish Government, but to the people of Scotland who have to live with the results of their policies.

Les Reid

Morton Street, Edinburgh

Depressing state

You could call it ironic, if it wasn’t so serious.

First we have the annual conference of the party in government approving the continuation of the moratorium on shale fracking.

Second we have the sad news of the restructuring of the UK steel industry with the associated significant job losses in Scotland.

Thirdly we have Jim Ratcliffe of Ineos with an offer of investment and 400-plus jobs in a modern 21st-century industry with a future. And the astonishing thing is that the Holyrood government would appear at present to be turning him down.

So Scotland loses out twice: it loses the steel jobs, and it loses the fracking and underground coal gasification jobs as well.

It isn’t often that someone just turns up on your doorstep with an offer of investment and jobs; usually you have to go out there and persuade and lobby industries to invest locally.

Here we have a ready-made opportunity which may well be lost. Firms with money to invest won’t wait forever; eventually they will give up and invest somewhere else. One really wonders what sort of looking-glass world we seem to be living in.

It would be interesting to know, come the May election, how the government will explain to the families who would have had jobs, and the local services which would have benefited from the increased economic activity, just why they apparently prefer people to be unemployed.

John Gordon-Walker

Caistyane Drive, Edinburgh

More Meachers

With the death of Michael Meacher we have lost a politician whose influence on environmental and social issues, over many decades, was of the highest order.

Your obituary (22 October) reflects very well his many achievements, including the securing of right-to-roam legislation in England and Wales soon after the Labour government came to power in 1997.

Meacher’s commitment to public access to the countryside was, however, also extremely influential north of the Border.

It led directly to Donald Dewar deciding that right-to-roam legislation was also required in Scotland and it became an integral part of the arguments for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

So, when we reflect on the success of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 in delivering world-class rights of public access to most of our land and water, we should also raise a glass to Michael Meacher, the politician who led the way.

We need more politicians with the integrity, knowledge and commitment of Meacher.

Today, as the Scottish Government struggles to convince even its own SNP members that it knows where it is going with land reform, there is a need for reflection and reconsideration.

It is depressing that the SNP Government, since it came to power in 2007, has done very little to convince all who enjoy outdoor recreation that it is going in the right direction.

It has failed to stop landowners building estate roads across our wildest hills; excessive populations of red deer still prevent the natural regeneration of most of our native woodlands; electrified deer fences block access, without any public consultation, and landowners demand byelaws to turn responsible citizens into criminals.

What hope is there when our politicians bend over backwards to put such people into positions of power and influence, favouring private interests before public need?

A Michael Meacher in Holyrood would have stopped this nonsense, standing firm in support of right to roam and putting the National Park’s proposed camping byelaws into the 
nearest waste bin many months ago.

Dave Morris

Bishop Terrace, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Police reform

The evidence of detective chief inspector Paul Settle to the House of Commons’ home affairs committee (your report, 22 October) should trouble us all in Scotland.

Mr Settle gave evidence that the case against Lord Brittan “fell at the first hurdle”, but that as a result of an intervention by Tom Watson MP, his superiors in the Metropolitan Police were thrown into a “state of panic” and immediately ordered that the terminally ill peer be questioned.

If an opposition politician can have this effect on such a major police force, how much more susceptible must Police Scotland be to political pressure from the Scottish Government? Of course, some believe that the single police force was created for precisely that reason.

Evidence of the Scottish Government’s authoritarian tendencies and contempt for civil liberties is all too plentiful.

The most egregious example is the Named Person Scheme, under which every family in Scotland is to be spied on and every parent treated as a suspect.

Attempts to abolish corroboration in criminal trials, which has long protected us from miscarriages of justice, are another example.

The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake.

If we value our liberty, we must re-establish regional constabularies, each with its own chief constable and accountable to its own elected police board.

Otto Inglis

Inveralmond Grove, Edinburgh

Capital disgrace

The perfect autumn morning on Thursday showed Edinburgh in all its glory as Britain’s most attractive capital city.

The golden leaves on the trees and the elegant houses of Grange with the backdrop of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat were made for a calendar.

A walk through the Old Town on Sunday, however, gave me a different view of the city.

Parties of tourists were being conducted along the High Street past a building site at the corner of New Street and modern developments which have been accruing in the area since the early 20th century.

The common term to describe these developments is “insensitive”, if not “abhorrent”.

Whereas the upper half of the High Street is vibrant and has wonderful little closes and interesting buildings with only occasional excrescences, the lower half is blighted by appallingly badly designed, down-at-heel buildings which could only be seen as improvements in a context like Cumbernauld or Glenrothes.

Yet, the lower half of the High Street is home to some of the jewels of the city, such as the Tolbooth.

I will not mention the Parliament building, which is surely the biggest misjudgment of any building project in Scotland over the past 20 years.

Added to the way in which the 20th-century architecture lets the city down, the ubiquitous rubbish, general dirt and graffiti sprayed on walls and even an ancient wooden gate must make visitors wonder how we allow the city to be so let down at its very heart.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Flashing cyclists

It’s not pleasant when walking along a shared path or cycleway of an evening to be approached by a cyclist using an excessively bright, rapidly flashing front light.

More consideration should be shown for pedestrians, who can be annoyed and disorientated by these powerful LEDs.

RM Atkinson

Argyll Terrace, Edinburgh