Readers' Letters: Anas Sarwar's plan to force co-operation won't work

Was it by co-incidence or design that Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar's talk to the Fabian Society on the constitution was delivered on the same day as Sir Keir Starmer clarified his party's stance on Brexit (Scotsman, 5 July)?

Either way it seems a recipe for confusion in the voters' minds about Labour's way forward. Mr Sarwar may have some difficulty in persuading his members and supporters in Scotland to adopt a stance in favour of accepting that we are out of the European Union. Perhaps his position on the matter will be more equivocal. But he needs to move carefully if Labour, both north and south of the border, is not to be seen as sorely divided.

Notwithstanding that problem, his proposal for “joint governance councils” to help resolve differences between governments over how devolution works do not appear to have been thought through. The existing intergovernmental liaison arrangements are woefully weak. I do not see how placing a statutory obligation to co-operate will change matters at all. Unwilling parties cannot be forced to co-operate.

Anyone who has sat through a so-called liaison committee at company, local government or voluntary sector level knows the tedium involved – reluctant participants, bland agendas and a general feeling that time could be much better spent elsewhere. Negotiation should take place between strong and well-informed participants who genuinely seek a settlement, not by parties forced together in a formulaic way.

Anas Sarwar has proposed a “legal duty” to make the UK and Scottish governments co-operate

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Apart from that, Mr Sarwar might want to think about the type of co-operation that would occur between a Labour government in Scotland and one in Westminster. Would it mean genuine co-operation or the compliance of a branch office with whatever Labour headquarters in the south wished?

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

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Policy menu

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We have waited long enough for Anas Sarwar to announce a policy for Scottish Labour, but now we have it.

Replace the House of Lords: bold and novel. No deals with the SNP, but the Conservatives are different: nothing new there. No attempt to ameliorate the damage caused by Brexit by reaching an accommodation with the EU: just what Scotland voted for in 2016. A law, and accompanying committees, to require Westminster and the devolved governments to co-operate: tell that to Boris Johnson and the existing joint committees which lie unused.

A rich menu indeed.

James Scott, Edinburgh

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Labour pains

Is Labour wise to reject a possible return to the EU? In terms of winning back the Red Wall the decision makes sense. The negative effects of leaving have not yet become definite, even if the future looks ominous. So committed leavers will take longer to smell the coffee.

There is mileage in Labour's claim that a more balanced approach to implementing Bexit will make a difference.

A sensible approach to the Irish Protocol which does not break international law will reduce the risk of damage to investment in the UK or the diminishing of opportunities for university sciences. Agreeing veterinary standards can reduce trade barriers and will also prevent our farmers being disadvantaged by trade deals which allow other countries lower standards. And a flexible immigration policy will prevent labour shortages, huge loss of crops and restricted manpower for services.

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I don't like the decision but I can lump it. The country's interest and a focus on the spirit of democracy comes first.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

Brexit blow

I was extremely disappointed to hear Sir Keir Starmer declaring that Labour will not reverse Brexit, nor apply for a customs union nor re-entry into the single market.

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How he squares this with the Northern Ireland conundrum, where only a customs union holds the solution to the current deadlock, is a mystery. How he squares this with reducing border paperwork and checks is equally puzzling.

He wants to make Brexit work. Instead he harnesses himself and his party to the current doctrine of all-out, no compromise, no surrender. I want an Opposition that acts like an Opposition. At present, I can see little to distinguish it from our present government.

Trevor Rigg, Edinburgh

Federal solution

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As a proud Scot I can fully understand the desire of many of my compatriots for greater independence. Living with my family near Dundee in the early 1950s I can remember neighbours’ offspring going off on a Saturday morning for elocution lessons. In those days London was the draw and having an English accent was seen by many as desirable.

Time of course has moved on and there is now a real challenge for those who wish to preserve the Union (Blair’s hybrid devolution scheme did not do the trick).

The solution is a generous federal arrangement, rather like the one in Germany. That, I think, would satisfy the majority of Scots.

Andrew McLuskey, Ashford, Middx

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Supreme Court

There seems to be an increasing number of people taking an interest in the minutiae of constitutional legality.

It would be interesting to know if any of them have considered whether or not the creation of a UK Supreme Court in 2009 violated any of the terms of the Acts of Union. On second thoughts, though, probably nobody would take any notice even if they did.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh

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Climate targets

There is little point in The Scotsman running a leader article proclaiming that the “Climate emergency is here” (5 July) when the newspaper fails to highlight that independence results in a decade of austerity as detailed in the SNP Growth Report and hence does not point out that the SNP/Green Alliance pledge to make the next general election a de facto independence campaign results in COP26 targets being set aside for a generation.

Just check the debt figures. Even Patrick Harvie MSP has admitted that only five per cent of the £33 billion Green Transition can be met from the public purse. That leaves households facing the imposition of a £12,000 levy – unless, of course, you are a flat owner when the cost is over £40,000!

Then there is the media silence on who will repay the £150 billion Green Revolution project outlined by the Climate Emergency Response Group which adds a further £60,000 of debt on to householders. Add on the repayment of the £125 billion capital costs of the ScotWind project. Although the cash is being raised in the City of London by the Energy Companies, consumers should be in no doubt that the shareholders will ensure that every penny is repaid with interest – another £50,000 on every household.

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The fact that the SNP/Green alliance are making the next general election a de facto single issue campaign on IndyRef2 means that COP26 targets have slid down their in-trays. The pupils who skipped school to support Greta and students who marched in support of COP26 should heed the words of MP Kenny MacAskill MP when he declared that “independence is irrelevant if we do not save the planet”.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway

Concrete jungle

The new coalition Edinburgh Council has voted to further delay Edinburgh’s City Plan 2030 until the end of this year. The developers must be rubbing their hands as they prepare a slew of applications to build more student hutches and cover the green belt in concrete.

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Graeme Forbes, Ednburgh

Critical condition

For some time now, countless numbers of unwell and ill people have been angry and frustrated, rightly so, with medical and healthcare services both locally and nationally. NHS Scotland should be ashamed of themselves.

Medical clinics and doctors continue to use Covid as a smokescreen to deny patients access to urgently needed treatment. Here in Inverness, a lady who we know was eventually rushed to A&E in Raigmore Hospital, where she was told that – due to the severity of her life-threatening condition – she should have been admitted ten days earlier! During that period her husband was constantly on the phone to the medical practice, only to be informed repeatedly that certain prescribed drugs would suffice – the doctor refused to see her in the clinic. Mercifully, she recovered.

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In recent days we were eye-witnesses to some of these continuing medical debacles. As I was waiting at Tarbert pier, for the departure of the CalMac ferry, on Saturday, 2 July, a passenger became suddenly unwell. A concerned CalMac employee immediately phoned 999 for an ambulance. On refusing to attend the scene of the emergency, a second 999 call was made – but it was a pointless exercise. The operator asked the person who raised the alarm to give a rundown on the patient’s condition, only to be told “it’s not serious enough for an ambulance”. Have I missed something here? Surely when someone becomes seriously unwell an ambulance is bound to respond immediately.

Dr Andrew Naylor, the ever-willing South Harris doctor, didn’t ask how serious the patient was when he arrived at supersonic speed to attend to him.

One wonders whether it was eventually a phone call from the doctor that prompted the ambulance to appear with sirens flashing nearly two hours after the man fell ill.

It is high time that every single entity within the NHS system all over Scotland quickly re-examined the shocking healthcare polices and procedures that are – or are not – in place, which are endangering the lives of patients daily, and at an accelerating pace.

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Donald J Morrison, Inverness, Highland

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