Readers' letters: 'Efficiency' savings means cuts to university funding

The Education Secretary, Jenny Gilruth, has denied that her plans to prioritise early learning would lead to university cuts (Scotsman,16 August). But her denial was less than fulsome, and her use of the “efficiency” word has an ominous ring.

History tells us that an “efficiency saving” is in practice a cut, and it is far from obvious, for example, how university medical schools with less money could train the number of doctors that they produce today without compromising quality. Perhaps they could get an efficiency gain by doing less medical research!

As a former medical school dean, for me it is horribly reminiscent of hard times under Thatcher, when Scottish university funding came directly from the Treasury in London. John Major devolved it to Edinburgh. It looks as though all that has happened since is that universities have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has vowed to focus tight budgets on helping the Covid generation in schools and nurseries (Picture: oksix - Secretary Jenny Gilruth has vowed to focus tight budgets on helping the Covid generation in schools and nurseries (Picture: oksix -
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has vowed to focus tight budgets on helping the Covid generation in schools and nurseries (Picture: oksix -

Spending priorities

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Your leader “Covid’s damging legacy for our children” (16 August) raises the important question about prioritising finances in the public sector. Given we are repeatedly told by the SNP government that there is no new money to finance pay deals this results in a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario with key services losing out.

To assist the education wage settlement there was a £46m cut in funding for colleges and universities. The inflation-busting 17.5 per cent increase over two years for junior doctors is set to cost Scottish taxpayers a cool £61m in lost services from an already ailing NHS which was on its knees last winter with several health boards warning that they were at breaking point.

In his statement the Health Secretary was quick to draw comparison with the rest of the UK where settlements have still to be negotiated. He did not, however, leave us any the wiser on where the NHS cuts will fall. Liz Smith, the Tory shadow Finance and Economy minister, while welcoming the settlement, declined to draw parallels with the position in England where negotiations are still to get started between unions and the Tory government. By omitting to challenge where the extra money is coming from she let the SNP off the hook.

While Jenny Gilruth is right to be really worried about the impact on youngsters’ education as a result of Covid, surely the overriding priority is getting our less resilient healthcare system back to at least pre-Covid levels of performance, otherwise our life expectancy will continue to fall and more will fall victim to long-term illnesses.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Fiscal straitjacket

The publication of the latest GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue for Scotland) figures has triggered the now traditional annual feeding frenzy (Scotsman, 16 August).

A black hole in Scotland’s finances is heralded by unionist politicians as validating the continuation of the Union. In fact, it supports the case for precisely the opposite.

The killer phrase for me from the GERS report is: “The report is designed to allow users to understand and analyse Scotland’s fiscal position under different scenarios within the current constitutional framework.”

GERS is therefore a measure of the public finances, under the current Union, hardly the greatest endorsement for how the economy has been managed on the UK’s watch. Major economic levers required to stimulate economic growth are reserved to Westminster.

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It is indeed a bizarre scenario when politicians from unionist parties actively gloat and support a Union that has mismanaged the economy so appallingly.

GERS is a set of figures, based on a measure of guesswork that indicate very little, except highlighting the negatives of the current Union. It has little bearing on the finances of an independent Scotland.

The point of independence is not to do everything in the same way but to move away from this one-size-fits-all fiscal straitjacket to a tailored approach that prioritises stimulating economic growth.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

GERS propaganda

Scarcely does the ink dry on the GERS figures each year before Scottish separatists are out of the traps spreading propaganda to try to discredit the figures. Some simply say they are wrong – without countervailing evidence – while others disparage them and their makers. They are based on “London” figures, allegedly, although the GERS methodology was revised by pro-independence economists, Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, some 15 years ago. Nationalists claim that the figures are skewed to discredit Scotland, perhaps unaware that what they are doing is calling the government’s statisticians either incompetent or dishonest, or both.

The strangest thing is that this is one policy on which party and state in Scotland are out of kilter. Scottish ministers (reluctantly) cannot dispute the authoritative nature of the GERS, yet the party, the SNP, instructs its members and followers to claim that the GERS is wrong, manipulated by pro-UK forces and irrelevant to their projected separate Scotland.

The GERS does not give the full financial picture for a secessionist Scotland, not least because in that eventuality the gap between revenue and expenditure would not be made good by HM Treasury. But it does give an illustration of where an iScotland would be on day one. That is why separatists are so desperate to discredit the GERS: its problem is that it tells them the truth.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Geography quiz

Will Government Expenditure and Revenue (GER) Northern Ireland 2023, GER Wales 2023 and GER England 2023 be published? If so, when? If not, why not?

E Campbell, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire

Numbers game

It’s tempting to dig out GERS letters from past years to avoid rehashing the reasons why this set of “accounts” is given the slightest credence in Scotland. They are made up numbers with no basis in reality and are another example of the lies the UK Government spews about Scotland to keep us locked in its death grip.

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Because if Scotland stays in the Union, what remains of our wealth will be siphoned off, our population will fall further and our national identity, embodied in our languages and culture, will continue to erode.

GERS Day is like a broken record. The obedient colonial administration that is the Scottish Government persists in publishing this rubbish each August, giving the unionist media another stick with which to beat us.

Meanwhile, the prosperity of our Nordic neighbours is a constant reminder of what Scotland could be if only we had the confidence and will to break free.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

More ’Gers content

Oh to be in Scotland, listening to “our” media outlets gnashing their teeth at their English counterparts talking “excessively” about the Lionesses reaching the Women's World Cup finals, before returning to spend another 52 weeks playing their favourite broken record of “Rangers, Rangers, Rangers, Rangers...”.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Taymouth plans

Murdo Fraser’s article on local support for the development of Taymouth Castle (Scotsman, 16 August) omits some facts.

The strapline used in marketing the Taymouth Castle and Glen Lyon project is “Scotland is a playground”. A number of different companies are connected to the project and have applied for different planning permissions without it being clear that they are all connected to the main company and the same project.

The main company involved advertises having “communities” all over the world, and some if not all of these are “closed” with access only for wealthy Americans who have bought houses on them and for local workers. They boast that everything is provided inside the community so that people staying there will never need to go outside to shop and therefore local businesses are unlikely to profit from the community.

Some locally elected committees don’t always allow public access to meetings, although they should, so sometimes locals don’t know what is being planned.

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However, this is not just a local problem – the establishment of such communities anywhere in Scotland must be of concern to all Scots and those who love Scotland. They may provide jobs for some locals but place restrictions not only on visitors but also locals.

Margaret MacIver, A uchmore, Stirling

Verse luck

Returning this month to Edinburgh, where I was brought up and later produced plays at the official Festival, l recalled the glorious summer sunshine from the fifties and sixties. But I also remembered these lines about the Athens of the North:

Some talk of Ionesco

And some of Harold Pinter.

But if you think this town

Is culture’s crown

You should come here in the winter.

Can anyone tell me who wrote them?

Iain Mackintosh, Clapham, London

Nursed to health

Clark Cross takes a typically dour view of Scottish nurses moving away from Scotland for work (Letters, 16 August).

There is a happier side to this. A few weeks ago I required a minor medical procedure. The Scottish nurse who performed it was truly delightful!

Ian McNicholas, Ebbw Vale, Wales



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