No squeeze

Can Douglas Mayer be serious in claiming (Letters August 8) that Audit Scotland and the Audit Commission 'act like a party of opposition'?

The offence, it would appear, is that of fulfilling the role these bodies are entrusted with – to conduct and publish audits of the spending of public organisations in a bid to ensure the public’s money is being spent wisely. When it publishes a report that is critical of the state of our roads Mr Mayer takes umbrage. I wonder if he is in a minority of one?

He then repeats his claim relating to the so-called “Barnett squeeze”.In November 2014 the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported in a detailed analysis that “the substantially slower growth of the Scottish population in the 35 years since the Barnett formula came into use has largely prevented this ‘Barnett squeeze’ from taking place”.

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But perhaps the IFS will be similarly dismissed as a quasi opposition party. Would the opinion of the First Minister and her deputy carry more weight with Mr Mayer? After last year’s fiscal framework negotiations John Swinney rightly congratulated himself on his successful fight to “protect” the Barnett formula. He and Nicola Sturgeon would appear to be firmly of the opinion that the Barnett formula – far from being a millstone around our necks – continues to represent a very good deal for Scotland.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Contrary to the views of Douglas Mayer (Letters to the Editor, 8 August), I do not think that we should be questioning the role of Audit Scotland in setting out in simple and non-party political terms where money is being spent in Scotland, and whether this spending is being effective or not. Their job is to shine a light on issues of public interest, and they do that well.

It is up to governments to pick and choose priorities, and it is right that they be judged on the choices that they make. What we are now coming to realize is that from 2007, the SNP government has chosen to prioritise popular, vote-winning policies at the expense of longer-term investment.

The deceit that we see being played out in Scotland is that the SNP blame others for their inability to make decisions which might turn out to be unpopular. As a government, they are effectively paralysed by the prospect of losing power, and end up doing nothing, which will of course, only hasten that inevitable outcome at some point in the near future. You cannot govern without making choices, and the choices you make are a reflection on you, not on those who might do something else should they have the opportunity to choose.

Victor Clements

Taybridge Terrace, Aberfeldy

Named risks

As the controversy continues concerning the Supreme Court findings on the named person scheme, is it worth pausing to ask a question of significance to the named persons, which thus far does not appear to have been asked, never mind answered.

In assuming the role of a named person, what legal responsibility is taken on and to what extent is the named person exposed to possible litigation?

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Given that most named persons, whether health visitors, teachers or others are taking on the role on behalf of two to three hundred young people, I would imagine that the risk of legal action/litigation is high. It does not stretch the imagination too far to see in the future, adverts on television advising that you might have a claim – please consult us.

I wonder if those potential candidates for named person have been fully trained and advised of their responsibilities and possible exposure to litigation.

I for one, doubt very much if this is the case, having talked to one or two senior teachers, who potentially may be required to assume this role. Do our teachers and public servants really need this unwanted burden in addition to their contracted duties – I say an emphatic No.

Douglas Johnston

Drumbrae Place, Edinburgh

Sins of omission

New figures from the research agency NatCen show that the steady decline of religion in Britain has come to a halt (Decline of religion in Britain ‘has come to halt’, The Scotsman, 8 August 2016).

It is said (by whom is not clear) that this is largely due to the proportion of people saying they are a Christian ‘’of some kind’’ being relatively stable since 2009.

It could also presage an immanent catastrophic decline. I am reminded of a notice I once saw outside a church in Glasgow “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community’’. If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

Doug Clark

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Muir Wood Grove, Currie

Realigning wages

No doubt it’s a “mighty mission” Deirdre Michie has “reviving Aberdeen’s bruised and battered energy sector” (Monday Interview 8 August).

However the strategy of “realigning the cost base” seems inexorably to have antagonised the trade unions.

Already strike action involving a number of rigs has occurred and evidently more have been organised. This is because “realigning the cost base” is a euphemism for changes in pay and conditions, most of which oil workers perceive as deleterious, as every day they do dangerous and challenging jobs.

Unfortunately the factor of industrial relations and the importance of the trade unions isn’t mentioned explicitly.

There is little help Ms Michie can expect from “conventional economics” in dealing with these problems. Arguably she will find diplomacy most useful, even perhaps a re-reading of Macchiavelli’s The Prince.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie

Road to ruin

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Audit Scotland have confirmed what every driver in Scotland knows – that our roads are in a dangerous state of disrepair and not fit for purpose.

This is now a pressing national problem requiring a national solution to resolve and it is time for the Scottish Government to admit to there responsibilities and not pass the buck on to the underfunded local authorities.

If urgent action is not taken then our Scottish roads will soon become that of a third world country.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Bridging gap

Exam results don’t only demonstrate how well a young person can perform academically. Results are also a reflection of their motivation, confidence and self-belief, and can often be a credit to the support system they have at home.

Young people from vulnerable backgrounds are twice as likely as their peers not to gain a Higher qualification and more than half do not believe they can achieve five National Fives. With the attainment gap widening, education under-achievement remains a critical issue across Scotland.

We must ensure that young people who lack the right support at home or are disengaged in education are given more options and opportunities to achieve success.

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This new school year The Prince’s Trust will deliver a new education programme, Achieve, working in partnership with over 110 schools in Scotland. It will support those struggling at school to re-engage in education and offer practical tasters into the world of work to give them real choices and belief in their own potential.

As director of The Prince’s Trust Scotland, I often meet young people as young as 11 years old who have no aspirations for their future. This school year, we must continue to do everything we can to bridge the gap in education by giving more chances to those who need the most support.

Allan Watt

Director, The Prince’s Trust Scotland

Lords above

Surely the publication of David Cameron’s honours list will at last bring about the reform of the House of Lords. This should not be difficult.

The hereditary peers to remain as at present. The others to vote amongst themselves to elect 120, divided into groups of 24, to serve in the House of Lords. After one year the first group of 24 to stand down or offer themselves for re-election.

Each year the process to be repeated until the fifth group which will have served for five years.

Thereafter each group will have served for five years when the time for an election comes round.

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Peers could still be appointed but they would not serve in the House of Lords and could not claim any fees.

This arrangement would drastically cut costs but at the same time would give continuity and an opportunity to introduce new blood.

William W Scott

St Baldred’s Road, North Berwick,

Out of balance

Your news piece (8 August), on the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of civil partnership, does not give a balanced picture of the published analysis of the consultation responses. The government’s analysis outlines the reasons given both by those respondents who opposed making civil partnership available to mixed-sex couples, and (at rather greater length) by those who supported that change.

Your piece quotes significantly from the former reasons, but only quotes briefly from the latter.

We know from our own work that there is demand for civil partnership from some mixed-sex couples who do not wish to marry, just as some same-sex couples continue to prefer civil partnership to marriage. Even if the proportion of mixed-sex couples with that preference was substantially smaller than for same-sex couples, there would still be hundreds of mixed-sex civil partnerships per year.

It is surely wrong, in a country that believes in equality, and now that same-sex couples have equal access to marriage, to continue to deny mixed-sex couples equal access to civil partnership.

Tim Hopkins

Equality Network

Cycle of woe

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As a former international athlete I thought the horrendous accident suffered by Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten was a disgrace to the sport. The International Cycling Union was quick to excuse itself saying:“The Rio 2016 road race was held on a safe and challenging course, carefully designed and extensively tested.”

But former Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman rightly dismissed this absurd and self-serving claim: “Everyone knew it was way past being technical – it was clearly dangerous. The descent was exceptionally treacherous.”

(Rev Dr) John Cameron,

Howard Place, St Andrews