Readers' letters: Highland communities have been let down by the SNP

I write in support of Murdo Fraser’s comments (Scotsman, 19 April) about how badly let down our Highland communities have been by the current SNP administration.

One area that he doesn’t mention, which adds greatly to the woes faced in some parts of the Highlands such as Caithness and Skye, is the redesign of health services.

In Skye this has involved the closing down of essential services in the only township and main population centre on Skye – Portree – and being placed some 30 miles in a village away from where the majority of people live, work and visit.

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For obvious reasons this model of healthcare is imposing huge additional social costs onto the local community, businesses and the tens of thousands of tourists who visit Skye every year, not to mention the huge public safety issues it raises. For obvious reasons such a model does not exist in any of our other large island communities.

A reader is critical of the redesign of health services in SkyeA reader is critical of the redesign of health services in Skye
A reader is critical of the redesign of health services in Skye

However, what is most damaging to the SNP is that this redesign is in breach of its own statutory legislation which is based in turn on the UK government’s ‘Green Book’. Although this has been brought to our MSP’s and MP’s attention they have done nothing substantive to halt this shocking state of affairs and harrowing evidence of a system that is dysfunctional and a danger to the wider public remains unaddressed.

Had health not been a devolved matter in Scotland then I am in little doubt that being able to bring this debacle to wider scrutiny within Westminster would have led to a very different outcome to what locals and visitors are having to endure in Skye and beyond today.

​Prof Ronald MacDonald OBE, Portree, Highland

Who to trust

History will tell Highlanders not to put their trust in Westminster or the Tories. They remember the Tory feudal landlords that ruled the roost and caused massive depopulation which only recovered after devolution. Westminster closed the rail lines while the SNP introduced the Road Equivalent Tariff which has transformed tourism in the islands.

Brexit has greatly damaged the shellfish export industry while rural farmers now struggle to get seasonal workers.

Much of Highland infrastructure was supported by the EU structural funds and Westminster promised its UK Shared Prosperity Fund would replace in full all EU funding lost to Scotland after Brexit. By the end of 2022 it had only allocated £212 million to Scotland over a three-year period, when EU funding would have been worth around £549m over three years – a shortfall of £337m.

Westminster has received hundreds of billions from North Sea Oil but reinvested little in Scotland, far less in the Highlands, and you only have to visit the fantastic roads, bridges and ferry networks in rural Norway to see what we are missing under Westminster control of our economy while paying inflated energy costs through Ofgem and the UK’s National Grid’s pricing structure.

The SNP’s Just Transition Secretary Mairi McAllan has committed to visits to coastal and island communities in the coming months to hear directly from those affected by the proposed protected marine areas which is designed to stop trawlers dredging the seabed and destroying the ecosystem for future generations.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Valuable tartan

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Tartan Week is an excellent way to promote Scotland abroad as, after the EU, the United States is Scotland’s biggest overseas trading market and that is why successive Scottish governments have been huge supporters of Tartan Day (Fiona Garwood, Letters, 19 April).

Although only a fraction of independent Ireland’s inward investment, last year’s Scotland’s FDI projects were up 14 per cent compared to 2020 and second to only London in the UK.

Therefore, it’s outrageous that the UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverley has written to UK overseas officials urging them that all Scottish Government trips must be reported to the UK Government, with all contacts authorised by the Foreign Office and all meetings having a UK Government official sitting in.

As for Tartan Day being an SNP “jolly”, it should be noted that Westminster muscled in this year with Ian Murray and Douglas Ross among others in attendance. Bizarrely, they were pictured holding a banner with a large Union flag and declaring “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Obviously, Unionist politicians are completely oblivious to the fact Tartan Week is always held on the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath on Scottish independence on 6 April 1320 that inspired the authors of the American Declaration of independence in 1776.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Bloated Lords

Until I read Willie Sullivan’s article (Scotsman, 19 April) I had no idea that the UK’s unelected House of Lords is one of the world's largest legislative chambers, second only to China’s massive National People's Congress. This is totally absurd.

It’s ridiculous that outgoing Prime Ministers such as Boris Johnson and Liz Truss should be able to nominate additional peers to this already bloated and out-of-touch institution without the electorate being able to have any say in the matter.

While there are some talented people within the Lords, many are there through cronyism and privilege, entirely out of keeping in a democracy.

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Should Keir Starmer manage to scrap the Lords and bring in an elected chamber he may well have earned his knighthood, but based on past experience and forgotten promises, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirling

Working together

Reading Christine Jardine’s piece (Scotsman, 17 April) reminded me that at the start of the Scottish Parliament both Holyrood and Westminster governments worked together as envisaged in the Scotland Act for the betterment of our people.

Sadly in recent years that has not been the case. Surely the disasters of Brexit have taught us that nations should stick together, and the sooner we get back to that practice the better.

Lord (David) Steel of Aikwood, Selkirk, Scottish Borders

Why the fuss?

Recently our media has been full of some reports that when looked at cannot be accepted as life-changing or even interesting.

We have been subjected to endless coverage about the SNP and their accounts. Both Mr Murrell and Mr Beattie have been arrested and released without charge. Goodness only knows how the press/media know of these arrests and one can only assume they have very fast footwork after receiving the telephone call from a helpful Constabulary.

We are lectured about the resignation of the accountants Johnston Carmichael. So what! Accountants such as Johnston Carmichael resign their agency on a near daily basis. In my experience, normally over fees and as they are entitled to a have a lien on the client’s files, this would explain the six-month time delay before settlement of, say, a disputed account.

Let us hope that this will not turn into another Rangers Football Club fiasco where, I am sure everyone remembers, dozens of people were arrested, charged and prosecuted, only to achieve the most humiliating result of multi-million payouts from the taxpayers’ purse and endless apologies from the Constabulary, the Lord Advocate, et al.

Surely a reliable firm of accountants can be found to assist and complete such a simple task and we could all earn a rest from this boring episode.

Michael Campbell, Conon-Bridge, Highland

Bottling it

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Humza Yousaf, the fledgling First Minister, has gone against the wishes of Green Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater and delayed the Deposit Return Scheme until 1 March 2024. (Scotsman, 19 April).

Ms Slater refused to listen to informed warnings and was adamant that the scheme would be bulldozed through on 16 August 2023. Will she now resign and give up her ministerial salary of £94,821 and go back to £64,470, or are her Green beliefs financially flexible?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Lack of vision

Humza Yousaf delivered his vision for Scotland lacking in any fresh ideas that might inspire an insipid economy and an electorate waiting for the next SNP arrest. What we got was the same as usual.

Progressive taxation translating into higher taxes that would impact what is already a fragile economy and people’s pockets. Surely inappropriate tax rises at this time? Scotland is crying out for a fresh start and any political party that can offer a positive vision delivered through enterprising policy initiatives will be the beneficiary. Humza Yousaf singularly failed in his “offer” to the electorate.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Absent workers

There would seem to be the potential for a lot of empty SNP benches in Holyrood in the coming weeks, what with Nicola Sturgeon and Colin Beattie continuing the trend started by Derek MacKay.

While it must be convenient to be able to work from home, do these people not have a duty to represent the people who voted for them – as well as those that didn’t (though this does not seem to apply to the SNP)?

If they are too embarrassed to turn up for work then surely it would be the honourable thing to acknowledge that their credibility is finished and move over for someone willing to take on the responsibility?

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

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