Readers' Letters: Government wastes cash as hospitality burns

With a fanfare, the SNP administration announced that it had found monies to compensate the hospitality sector after that same SNP administration had decreed a quasi-lockdown over Christmas and New Year because of a predicted “tsunami” of Covid cases.

John Swinney has been unable to say exactly when the cash grants for struggling firms will be paid (Picture: Fraser Bremner /Getty)
John Swinney has been unable to say exactly when the cash grants for struggling firms will be paid (Picture: Fraser Bremner /Getty)

In January, businesses complained that there was no sign of the money, and that they had bills to pay. Deputy First Minister John Swinney assured them that payment would be made but had been delayed by the relevant office staff being on holiday over the not very festive period. Now, 57 days after the shutdown, the hospitality sector still awaits its money. It is not only that bar and restaurant proprietors have their staff to pay and bills for supplies that went to waste. They also have to pay multifarious suppliers’ bills, as well as HMRC. That contrasts with payments of over £3 million of pandemic “thank you” payments that have been made to higher paid council staff in Scotland.

The hospitality sector has already suffered grievously during 2020 and 2021, through the major lockdowns. Why is the SNP administration spending money on inessentials – such as foreign “hubs” and referendum preparation – while denying an important sector of our economy the money that it had promised?

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Unmask pupils

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Have Scottish secondary schoolchildren been forgotten? As a teacher I have been constantly amazed that pupils since August 2020 have, with little complaint, adhered to all the safety requirements that have been asked of them. Masks, social distancing, hand sanitising, desk cleaning, “bubbles”, excessive ventilation leading to very cold classrooms and all break and lunchtimes outside despite the weather. Yet despite this compliance they have still not been given any light at the end of the tunnel as to when these restrictions will end.

Masks are a real barrier to effective communication. I smile when I am teaching as I want pupils to trust me, enjoy my lessons and mirror this enjoyment. Unfortunately, my pupils cannot see my smile and I cannot see their enjoyment or anxiety. I use questioning as an effective learning tool but, frustratingly, I spend much of the lesson asking pupils to repeat themselves as I cannot hear their muffled replies. Why bother answering a question when you have to repeat your answer numerous times?

Interpreting facial emotions is a very important life skill for children to learn. Yet inside secondary schools pupils have been deprived of seeing the expressions of their peers and teachers. I think this is hugely damaging to their development and it has gone on too long.

It is estimated that 15 per cent of all children will have some kind of hearing loss ranging from slight to severe. We will never know how many of our secondary children have missed out on vital information in the classroom because they are struggling to hear or lipread. It makes me very sad to think many will have suffered in silence.

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Covid has had a largely negative impact on children. It is about time some normality was brought back into their lives.

Samantha Peck, Blairgowrie, Perth & Kinross

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Long division

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In his laudable efforts to qualify as a future stand-up comic, Brian Monteith makes fun of the First Minister, forgetting that the essence of comedy is often to laugh at the inadequacies of people, including oneself. The serious point that Brian Monteith, as well as the pro and anti independence correspondents make is that the question of pensions would have to be settled should the partnership which is the UK be dissolved.

The dissolution of the partnership would involve a liquidation (if only nominal) of all the partnership’s assets and liabilities. The commitment to pay pensions is one of the liabilities and this would have to be allocated according to the stake-holding of the existing partners; which at present we can assume Scotland’s to be between 8 per cent and 9 per cent. This aspect of liabilities would run alongside a proportional acceptance of the National Debt. These would be counterbalanced by the allocation of the nominal value of the assets. Brian Monteith mentions the role of the RAF and Royal Navy, but forgets to mention that Scotland at present has a stakeholding in the armed forces including its warships, jet fighters and missile systems. There are other assets to consider: the Prime minister’s country retreat at Chequers, the British Ambassador’s residence in France; the value of government buildings in Whitehall and Edinburgh, as well as Bute House and 10 Downing Street.

The question of the divvying out of the value of assets should provide Brian Monteith with several more humorous column inches.

(Dr) Francis Roberts, Edinburgh

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Pension plan

Readers should understand three things about pensions in an independent Scotland. First, the UK Government has a legal obligation to pay pensions regardless of where one lives, stating on their website: “You can claim State Pension abroad if you’ve paid enough UK National Insurance contributions to qualify.” Also, the UK Government has stated there will be “no barriers to holding British and Scottish citizenship.” Even if Scots don’t choose dual citizenship, they’ll still be entitled to their UK Government pension.

Second, Scotland will be negotiating from a position of strength when dividing state assets and liabilities. The UK Government has conceded Scotland won’t be liable for the £200 billion UK debt as it won’t be the successor state. Scotland produces over 80 per cent of UK oil and gas, the majority of renewable electricity and has 90 per cent of the UK’s fresh water, so it’s in the UK’s interests to negotiate in good faith.

Third, after the transition period, the Scottish Government will guarantee all state pensions that will be paid in the new Scottish currency and will have the power to directly increase pensions payments, which it doesn’t have as a UK region. Scots who have contributed enough through NI to the UK Treasury would still receive UK Government state pension payments.

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With independence, Scots will have a democratically elected government that answers to them, not a distant foreign government they didn’t vote for that ignores and marginalises them. Who should they trust more?

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Peddling myth

Gill Turner peddles the myth that UK citizens living abroad continue to receive their pensions therefore Scots in an independent Scotland would do so as well (Letters, 7 February). This is, of course, a false comparison that cannot withstand the lightest of scrutiny. Expats may live overseas, but they remain British nationals. People living in an independent Scotland would not be so.

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Donald Lewis, East Lothian

Off to where?

May I point out to Gill Turner that those persons she refers to claiming their UK pension in Spain and France now live there. Which part of England is she considering?

Lewis Finnie, Edinburgh

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Bridge of size

It seems the ego of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos knows no bounds. An article about his Dutch-built yacht tells us there are plans to partially dismantle a historic bridge in the city of Rotterdam so that his new toy can get to the North Sea (your report, 3 February).

Someone somewhere should have a word in his ear and bring him down to earth a little bit by explaining, “Sorry Jeff, we build your yacht to suit the world we all live in, not the world we all live in to suit your yacht.”

Also, by downsizing would he not be improving his carbon footprint by using less materials and energy? Just a thought.

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J Moore, Glasgow

Taking le Mick

While Scots face rocketing energy prices our gas, oil and wind power are being squirrelled away by big multinationals and sold back to us for obscene profits.

This 54 per cent energy price increase that Scottish consumers and businesses are being asked to pay compares to only 4 per cent for French customers. I'm sure if our “Auld allies” faced this rip-off they would be on the streets.

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Jo Bloomfield, Edinburgh

Go federal

Are we never to have the opportunity to stay in the UK, have more say in our own affairs and leave Boris Johnson to an English Parliament?Has the time for a federal system really passed?

Margot Kerr, Inverness

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Doubting

Despite recent announcements from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as to when Indyref 2 might be held, I wonder when she will admit that she doesn’t really want either Indyref 2, or indeed, independence.If another referendum is held and the result is the same as the last one then the First Minister’s political career, at least in Scotland, is likely to be over. She may of course have already lined up an attractive alternative position, perhaps in the EU, given her enthusiasm for Scotland to join it.

A vote for independence would also be undesirable for the First Minister as she must be aware that it will have disastrous implications for Scotland’s economy. The Scottish Government would then be under pressure to run the country efficiently without financial support from the UK Government and without being able to blame others at every turn when something inevitably goes wrong.

Far better to continue pandering to the SNP faithful by promising Indyref 2 within some indefinite timescale and continue a policy of grievance towards the UK Government.

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Gordon Lawson, Dornoch, Sutherland

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