Readers' Letters: Heartbroken at injustice of partying premier

I am disappointed that this week’s Sue Gray report was not even more condemnatory than it was!

My family and I stuck to every rule thrown at us (including not being able to visit our son in ICU) and yet at the very highest level of Government, rules were broken willy nilly. We met our daughter on garden seats in the snow at New Year; we had a takeaway meal with our other daughter in the garage with the door open and swathed in blankets; and despite family only living ten minutes away, we didn't see them for months. It has all taken a huge toll on us as a family and for most of the general population who were likewise rule-abiding.

I can't be the only person incandescent with rage at the inadequacy of the Met police investigation into gatherings. Every single person at every single one of the gatherings should have been fined, as the emergency laws dictated.

My heart is broken at what we went through in all of this and justice has neither been done, nor been seen to have been done.

Boris Johnson laughing in 2019, but has the Sue Gray report wiped the smile off his face? (Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jean Dewar, Juniper Green, Edinburgh

Pure deflection

No, it is not “time to move on”. We are perfectly capable of dealing with more than one serious issue at a time (Russia attacking Ukraine, the cost of living, climate change and a host of others) without adopting the despicable tendency to deflect interest from one serious matter (Partygate) in order to avoid any unwanted interest which might shame, or even incriminate, whoever is involved. “Sorry!” seems to be the easiest word (with apologies to Sir Elton John).

Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife

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So, moving on…

It turns out that senior leadership's handling of No.10’s culture of ignoring their own Covid lockdown rules, drinking into the wee small hours, karaoke and abusing the “help” was to blame. So there is clearly nothing to see here and a glib apology from Boris Johnson is all that’s required. So we must all “move on”.

Well, let’s move on to the £4.3 billion in fraudulent Covid loans apparently written off by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, or we could move on to the £37bn of taxpayers’ money wasted on a useless Test and Trace system, or we could move on to billions of pounds of PPE contracts awarded to “politically connected” companies, or we could move on to the highest rate of taxes imposed since the 1940s, or we could move on to the highest energy bills in living memory which the government refuses to cap.

Of course, there are a number of other issues we could move on to but that's enough to be getting on with at the moment. Which would you prefer to give a glib apology for first, Boris?

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D Mitchell, Edinburgh

Free for all

I am now considering going out onto the street and punching a total stranger on the nose. I will then say, “I’m sorry. I apologise. I’m deeply humbled. I accept full responsibility. Lessons have been learned. A £50 fine? That seems a bit steep. Oh well, never mind, here you are. Can we now forget all about this?”

Michael Grey, Edinburgh

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Tea, Ern?

The last scene of the 1965 comedy film The Intelligence Men features a lavish reception, with people chatting and laughing while eating chicken legs and drinking champagne. A bemused Eric Morecambe shambles in, saying “I'd heard there was a party.” “Party?” replies Ernie Wise, chomping his chicken, “Oh no, there's no party.”It struck a chord, somehow.

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews, Fife

Fishy Sturgeon

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The First Minister’s refusal to appear before the Scottish Affairs Committee and answer questions is illuminating and can be fairly described as cowardice. Is she afraid of facing some tough, non-filtered, non-vetted questions? It certainly appears so. Those that she is used to in Scotland are exactly the opposite. At FMQs, some questions from her own side are clearly read out verbatim and presumably as the SNP spinners had prepared, even to the ridiculous stage of getting lines mixed up.

Those from the Opposition that survive are given obfuscated and prevaricated replies, usually accompanied by flashes of temper and snide asides at someone having the temerity to question her at all. The Presiding Officer appears never to intervene and ask for a straight answer. Is it any wonder the FM does not want to face real questions at Westminster where there would be no hiding place? The image of a large fish in a very small pond comes to mind.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

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Suddenly shy?

To the surprise of Peter Wishart, SNP MP, Nicola Sturgeon has declined an invitation to appear before the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster to discuss welfare, education and renewable energy. Why? She was certainly happy to touch on such matters in Washington recently, and she's usually not reticent to seize an opportunity for media attention. Maybe these days she believes she's simply too grand to appear before a Westminster committee? Of course, many of us know her track record in these areas is far from strong – perhaps she's keen to avoid the scrutiny of MPs who know what they're talking about?

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Dial unmoved

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In the week in which Nicola Sturgeon becomes the longest-reigning Scottish First Minister, journalists attempt to assess her achievements. As usual, the baby box features, in spite of its mere tokenism. The Finns, who introduced baby boxes in the 1930s, made them part of an integrated agenda for maternal and neo-natal care that is not present in Scotland. Rumour has it that many Scottish baby boxes ended up in charity shops.

Also mentioned are measures to address period poverty, a subject introduced and championed by Labour MSP Monica Lennon. Ms Sturgeon’s leadership during the pandemic is mentioned, in spite of Scotland’s poor record and the fact that she mostly copied what was happening in England. There are mentions for the freebies that Scots receive, regardless of their wealth.

But, on the issue that transcends all others for Ms Sturgeon, taking Scotland out of the UK, a new YouGov poll shows that she has not moved the dial at all. The figures remain at 45 per cent for and 55 per cent against leaving – exactly the same as in 2014. After all the advantages she has had – government power, Brexit, Boris, Covid, parties, cost of living crisis – Ms Sturgeon has made no progress in persuading Scots that they would be better off outside the UK. Because they wouldn’t.

Her project has failed, like so many of her policies in the devolved areas that are her remit, and she should accept that and attend to the many difficult issues facing Scots. But she won’t, because she is not a governing leader: she is the leader of an agitprop campaigning party that doesn’t know how to govern. And many Scots have noticed that.

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Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Poor record

Alex Salmond’s very perceptive remarks about Nicola Sturgeon, describing her as using independence “as a shield for problems of policy delivery” have been ignored by SNP acolytes.

Mr Salmond cited the ferries failure, ScotRail’s cuts to services and the Census debacle. But he could have added more to that list – declining educational standards, cuts to council funding, the growth in the army of spin doctors, failure to meet A&E waiting times targets, record drugs deaths, the ten-month police inquiry into the missing £600,000 of SNP members' donations, the obfuscation and denial of Freedom of Information requests, the child guardian imbroglio and the centralisation of power.

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Alex Salmond took the SNP from a pressure group to a party of government, and showed competence as First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon has been living off Mr Salmond's political capital, jetting off to meet foreign politicians and burnish her personality cult for the unthinking party faithful. No wonder Mr Salmond has warned that “the political winds will start to blow in an entirely different direction”.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

Thinking gap

I agree with Laura Preston (Letters, 24 May) that there is no sound reason to assume that the interests of poorer children will be best served by closing the “attainment gap” in literacy and numeracy. Nor is this possible. Poverty is only one of many reasons for differences which often exist between siblings. Health, diet, exercise, family background and housing have far more efect on attainments than does schooling.

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If relative poverty is the main cause, surely the right course to close the gap would be to eliminate it. We don’t expect the NHS to cure everyone and eliminate differences in health. Why, then, assume that schools can do this for education?

In truth, governments have very limited power to affect outcomes in either field. Nicola Sturgeon was foolish to make the promise she did. Moreover, in so doing she showed a very narrow idea of what constitutes “education”. I know of no country where all pupils have similar levels of attainment in any subject and never saw that anywhere I taught. Moreover, much of what is learned to pass exams is soon forgotten. Only a tiny percentage of what adults know was learned in schools. Literacy and numeracy abilities can be improved later in life if there is a wish to do so – I learned Indonesian at the age of 60.

People learn in a variety of ways so a “one size fits all” approach never works. The way to improve literacy is to read frequently but today few children read books, magazines or newspapers – only phone texts. It is naive to suppose that more classroom time spent on literacy will greatly change this.

Alan Harper, Perth

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