Letwin’s legacy

THE emergence of Oliver Letwin’s advice to Margaret Thatcher brings into question once again the judgment of the current Prime Minister in choosing advisers, aides, press secretaries and ministers. The characters and thinking processes of some of them are, to say the least, questionable.

David Cameron is enjoying a second and so far successful term as Prime Minister, but he must know that he has been incredibly fortunate.

His judgment must be questioned and if there was or had been an opposition leader worthy of the name he would have been brought to full account.

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In both Edinburgh and London, Labour remains in total disarray. We are indeed in the era of a one-party state.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

I see Oliver Letwin has apologised for “any” offence caused by his 1980s memorandum following the rioting in black inner city areas.

If there is anyone who was only partially offended by his choice of words I would be surprised and he also needs to be more careful when choosing the words in his apology. Surely, “the” offence caused would be more appropriate ?

John Rhind

Meadow Lane, Beadnell, Northumberland

Taxing times

Judging by Colin Hamilton’s latest letter (28 December) he seems consumed by increasing income tax here. We have to await the outcome of the fiscal framework discussions, but the English think their taxpayers subsidise us because we cannot pay our way, so they would rebel were we able to increase tax and keep the proceeds.

It would be illogical were we to keep the proceeds under Calman from 2016, but lose them under Smith in 2017 when it comes in. The last thing the Scottish economy needs is a tax increase and that is compatible with Mr Hamilton’s observation about our so-called good deal under Barnett – which is a mirage, as is our so-called public sector austerity. It’s about time he (and they) stopped blaming the Tories for their cuts – Labour spent money it did not have, leaving the £160 billion budget deficit. It took them 13 years to build that up. They have been out of office for only five years, so more time is required to perform the more difficult task of repaying it.

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent, Currie, Midlothian

Own goal on pay

Keddie Law (Letters, 31 December) contrasts the pay of ever-higher paid public servants with what top-class footballers receive.However, the circumstances are different – footballers are privately funded (sometimes by rather tortuous means) whereas the higher salariat are paid from the public purse by”cash-strapped” councils and other public bodies which claim they lack the means to maintain “essential services”.

As The Scotsman’s resident sage, Bill Jamieson, rightly says in his New Year Message (Perspective, 31 December), the cost of government must be cut. The upper salary ranges might be a good place to start.

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Ways and means

Try as I might, I can’t quite grasp the oft-repeated Unionist mantra that universal benefits disproportionately benefit the middle classes as Carole Ford asserts (Letters 31 December).

Putting to one side the prohibitively expensive costs and the invasion of privacy that means-testing would involve, I don’t think Ms Ford’s views on disproportionate effects will impress someone on a state pension having to pay £3 for every return bus or someone on the minimum wage having to work an hour to pay for one prescription item.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all other readers and correspondents, with special thoughts for anyone affected by the floods. Quote of the year must go to Tory MP Liz Truss who said “Our flood defences worked really well up to point at which they failed”. With competence like that…

Douglas Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Economy on edge

The fall in house prices north of the Border, in contrast to a rise in every other part of the United Kingdom, will come as no surprise to anyone aware of the mood in Scotland. Falling house prices can be bad news or good news depending on whether you own a house or aspire to purchase one. But they are a surefire indicator of a lack of confidence in Scotland’s economic future.

On a personal basis, I am aware of individuals who are choosing not to buy in Scotland because of the fear of another referendum, possible independence and the consequent impact on the value of property. This is obviously reflected across Scotland.

We see the immediate flight of 16 per cent of our newly qualified doctors, more than twice the rate in England, and the lack of interest in consultancy posts across Scotland. We are told that our creative industries are handicapped by a lack of senior producers, presumably unwilling to work in an inherently unstable economic situation.

It is time for the SNP to accept that Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom, to lift the permanent threat of a second referendum and get on with creating a vibrant economy which will provide the stability we need.

Carole Ford

Terregles Avenue, Glasgow

The facts of war

I was appalled by the ignorance of Malcolm Parkin’s mean-spirited letter (The Scotsman, 31 December).

I thought that most people knew we were on the winning side of the Second World War but by no stretch did the UK think that “we won the war”. That owed most to the US and Russia, as well as the Commonwealth’s contribution.

As to the thought that “other European countries failed us”, you do not need to be as old as I am to recall their nationals defending this country in the Battle of Britain and giving their lives for us. I also only need look at the war memorials in the small Limousin villages I occasionally visit to see the sacrifices made by the French in two world wars.

I suppose his parting shot about “our scepticism about any union with them” cuts both ways and explains Mr Cameron’s questionably beneficial reforms finding few takers elsewhere in the EU.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

Weather or not

When I watch the weather forecast, I expect to be able to understand it without the need of a pocket calculator, or the intervention of someone kind who has learned to speak Continental.

Telling me that the temperature will be 17 degrees is meaningless in a universe in which Fahrenheit is still the norm for millions like me.

Mention temperatures in the 60s or 70s and I am your man. That is English.

Equally, to tell us that there will be 230mm (millimetres) of rain is fascinating, but meaningless. Like most people, inches mean something, because they are in English.

However, in the interests of completely bamboozling us, I suggest that the BBC et al start giving us the forecast in Italian.

All in the spirit of European togetherness, of course, and to blazes with whether or not we understand a word.

I don’t as it is.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Forget overseas

May I respectfully suggest that one of the better resolutions for 2016 would be for us all to lobby our politicians for Government to take a “sabbatical” from the billions spent on overseas aid, using the money instead for meaningful flood defences in the UK – imagine what £12 billion could achieve! My heart goes out to those poor wretches suffering from flood damage and loss of livelihood – where was the Head of the Environment Agency in their hour of need? Sunbathing abroad and shame on our Prime Minister for not demanding he return immediately!

Also, to lobby our politicians for the immediate halt of subsidies for wind-generated electricity – if wind energy is all it’s cracked up to be (which it isn’t), then the wind industry will not collapse (which it will)… it is as simple as that, pull the rug from under their feet.

Press for the immediate building of relatively low cost and efficient gas-fired power stations, and demand to know why government is spending large sums of money on dirty back-up diesel (of all things) generators.

Our PM opines that the flooding is probably a consequence of climate change (go tell it to the Dutch with their flood defences) and we need windmills and horrendously expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear (fission) power stations to save us all! To which I say, “Heaven help us all.”

Dave Haskell

Brithdir, Cardigan

Harder than ABC

What has happened to the Announcements section in The Scotsman?

“As simple as ABC” is an easy rule to follow but not, apparently, to those responsible for the current display in the paper.

There are already puzzles available in the paper without setting readers further challenges as they look for news of births, marriages and deaths arranged in today’s haphazard “style”.

Alison Bruce

Wester Coates Terrace, Edinburgh

Cycle of strife

​So Edinburgh’s Haymarket railway station is to get a new bike shed – a steal at just £300,000 (The Scotsman, 31 December). No word what Edinburgh Council’s contribution to that sum will be, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the £9 million cost of the proposed two-way cycle lane from Roseburn to Haymarket.

Just 5 per cent of journeys within the city of Edinburgh are made by bicycle. Meanwhile, the 95 per cent of citizens and visitors who use other modes of transport, including their two feet, are to be inconvenienced by the removal of a bus lane and restriction of pavement space to accommodate the new cycleway.

To any city councillor who supports this inane proposal, the message next election time should be clear: On yer bike.

Jim Forbes

Kinellan Road, Edinburgh