Readers' letters: Devolution has veered off course after first 25 years

The Scottish Parliament is 25 years old - but is it a happy birthday (Picture: Frank Cornfield/ Scottish Parliament is 25 years old - but is it a happy birthday (Picture: Frank Cornfield/
The Scottish Parliament is 25 years old - but is it a happy birthday (Picture: Frank Cornfield/
Twenty-five years is a long time in politics. The generation born with the new Scottish Parliament will never know what life in Scotland was like before. When politics was less polarised and we lived in a much happier, less divided nation, when our education system was working for them.

The optimism which heralded Scottish devolution has proved to have been misplaced. Its architects would surely be very disappointed to observe their creation today. Centralisation of power has led to spectacular diminution of local authorities and to a more unaccountable form of government.

The convoluted voting system has not delivered for the parliament as intended, handing over power to politicians by virtue of a dubious list system, away from the electorate.

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It has recently been suggested by Jim Wallace and Alison Johnstone, the Presiding Officer at Holyrood, that the numbers of elected members be increased (Scotsman, 11 May). Given the huge cost of the parliament in its present form, deflecting funds from much needed front-line services, the opposite view might be more appropriate.

England has ten times the population of Scotland with 533 Westminster MPs. Scotland sends 59 MPs to Westminster. This would seem to be reasonably equitable. In addition, Scotland has 129 MSPs. It does not take a mathematician to work out that Scotland has more than it’s fair share of elected representatives with its incumbent army of administrators and hangers-on.

Now, during this landmark anniversary year, it is surely time to examine the past quarter of a century, to find where things veered away from the original concept for devolution in ScotlandAn independent inquiry should be called for, such as that chaired by Lord Wheatley to reform local government in the 1970s. This with a view to curbing some of the growing excesses and ensuring a more cohesive and accountable devolved Scottish Parliament than exists today.

Jane Ball, Cardrona, Scottish Borders

Value for money

You report that Alison Johnstone, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament said that after 25 years and an increased workload the Scottish Parliament should consider increasing the number of MSPs.

Our MSPs past and present have been paid far more than their ability deserves and on top of that they receive eye-watering expenses and a gold-plated pension scheme from Scottish taxpayers, many of whom struggle to pay the bills.

MSPs’ salaries start at £72,192 and rise to £176,780 for the First Minister. The Scottish Government has squandered enough of our taxes over the last 25 years so if MSPs want additional MSPs then they should reduce their salaries to pay for them.

Clark Cross, Livingston, West Lothian

Wightman ignored

Your report covering the paper issued by Murdo Fraser MSP on the subject of Holyrood reform (Scotsman, 13 May) demonstrates that politicians never include the voter in their reform plans as they ignore a pledge given by all parties prior to the May 2021 election. This pledge was to enact the draft Wightman bill to enshrine European-style safeguards for local councils into Scots Law.

By devolving financial and political powers out of Edinburgh and down to local voters over the length and breadth of Scotland it would be feasible to reduce the number of MSPs at Holyrood whilst restoring democracy at a local level.

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Anyone doubting such a project should note that Edinburgh and the Forth were awarded Green Port status whilst it was refused for Glasgow and the Clyde. Hopefully West of Scotland voters will remember such decisions made by the SNP/Green alliance at the next Westminster and Holyrood elections.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

All in proportion

I read Brian Wilson’s article on Holyrood and proportional representation (Scotsman, 11 May) with interest but note the failure to refer to the Italian experience – four different types of PR since 1923.

In the election before the last one (I think), I noted that the SNP did not do well in South-East Scotland Westminster-style seats, but did well on the regional lists. I concluded that there should be a single national list with a predetermined threshold number of votes to qualify for a seat – i.e. the number of members elected could vary depending upon the overall electoral turnout. All votes for the winners in the Westminster-style seats should be excluded and the losing votes in contiguous seats would be aggregated. There would be a predetermined number of votes per list seat required to qualify for a list candidate’s election. For smaller parties seat linkages would be different.

I also consider that we should revert to the four-year cycle with provision that in the event of a successful no confidence vote after two years then the cycle should start again with a new election two months after such a vote.

Increasing the number of MSPs would be expensive and in these straitened times unjustified.

Alasdair HM Adam, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

On your bikes

I see 47 Yes for Independence motorbikers were roaring around Moffat and the Borders over the weekend. Shhhh! Don't let Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater hear – they'll surely want to ban them, meaning there will be yet more trouble in separatist paradise.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Free by… when?

One of the new First Minister’s first projections after taking office was that the break-up of the UK could be achieved “within five years”.

Is this a sign of things to come? I thought the faithful would have tired of preposterous predictions after all these years in which none, not one, has materialised – I can remember clearly the “Free by 93” line of 30-plus years ago.

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Around the same time as this ultra-optimistic claim was made, the latest set of authoritative polls were issued showing the number of nationalist MPs by the end of this year, post-election, to be a mere fraction of what they are today. Carrying this projection forward for five years there is likely to at best a handful of diehard nationalists left in Holyrood and Westminster.

Could not one of his Spad Army have advised him that this was definitely not the time for bold fantasy predictions?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Trade sanctions

While I oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s repression of the Turkish and Kurdish people, I applaud the decision to stop trading with Israel because of the mass murder of the Palestine people.

A few million pounds or dollars of trade might not, of itself, make a huge difference to Israel given the billions of dollars of support from the United States, but it is an example of what is possible.

If other countries followed this example it would soon be a significant consideration for the Israel government, especially if it included the supply of bombs, bombers, guns and munitions and the purchase of weapons and other goods produced in Israel and the occupied territories.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Court delays

Regarding Chief Constable Jo Farrell’s comments on court delays (Scotsman, 13 May), let’s not forget that in 2013 then SNP Justice Secretary Kenny Mackaskill closed ten Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland for no good reason.

The closure of Haddington Sheriff Court in particular was carried out despite a well-argued case by local solicitors, which made it obvious that this was being done out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Keeping them open would have lightened the load for criminal courts. What was really galling was that Mr Mackaskill himself was a solicitor in private practice before entering politics.

David Elder, Haddington, East Lothian

Nul points

After watching Saturday Night's Eurovision Song Contest, having done so for the last 43 years originally with my parents as a child and then as an adult, the morality of the contest has declined rapidly.

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The UK entry was overtly sexual and completely inappropriate for young children watching, and in my opinion deserved its zero points from the public. As for Ireland, a guidance warning was given out before the performance because it was so demonic.

What happened to the Eurovision Song Contest being about music and fun for all the family?

Gordon Kennedy, Perth, Perth and Kinross

Take notes

I may have missed it, but I don't know if the Eurovision panto had a “trigger warning” beforehand. If it didn’t, it should have.

How can this programme possibly be considered family viewing? The performers were a total disgrace. The Irish contribution would scare the living daylights out of any normal child under ten and the commentary by Graham Norton made me wish that we could return to the dry wit of another Irishmen, now sadly dead, who was his predecessor.

I can’t help but agree with another of your contributors who mocked the show and who said that the only bit of the whole thing worth watching is the scoring, when the politics are blatant, although the awarding of “nul points” to the UK effort by the public was well-deserved. I don't know who the performer is, but is this really the best we can do?

John Fraser, Glasgow

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