While Edinburgh’s streets represent a rubbish dump, our esteemed First Minister prioritises her third appearance of the Fringe. Three times she has pontificated on stage saying much about nothing but revelling in the attention.
But on the same day, the sort of attention she does not want is demonstrated by the release of the damning GERS report showing an extra £2,200 per head of the Scottish population being spent in Scotland as part of the UK. Rather than hearing from the First Minister on a Fringe stage, we should have heard from her about the GERS report instead of “honest” John Swinney fronting it up just before he blames COSLA and anyone else for the disgraceful state of our capital city.
What further SNP incompetence will drag the First Minister away from the bright lights of the stage and her adoring fans to actually get on with the day job she was elected to carry out?
Richard Allison, Edinburgh
Beyond a joke
I see our shy, retiring First Minister appeared on the Fringe again on Wednesday. This coincided with my receiving a Scotsman newsletters email with two quotes from the event. “I don't want to be the kind of politician who clings on to office” and “I consider myself British as well as Scottish”. What a pity the event didn't occur in time for the announcement of the best jokes on the Fringe.
Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh
Surely it must now be clear to everyone in local or in the Scottish Government that the ongoing bin strike is now a public health issue/emergency and that it must be addressed? Where are the voices of, for example, Jason Leitch, which we heard so stridently during the pandemic?
Jim Park, Edinburgh
I am struck by Edinburgh council’s attitude to the rat population in the city despite very high council tax rates paid by its citizens. Councils are not obliged to provide a service dealing with vermin. Some councils provide a free service, some charge a nominal amount and some just don’t care, which seems to be the case in Edinburgh, which leaves its citizens to deal with a communal problem.
Given Scotland’s claim to care about the environment more than most countries, it seems contradictory to ignore such a serious environmental problem. The current bin strike will clearly contribute to a rise in the rat population and infestation of drains and buildings. Is money spent wisely? Are vanity projects given priority over basic services?
Marjory Brydon, Darlington, Co Durham
Nicola Sturgeon says her assumption is she will stand again at the next Holyrood election. The First Minister also claims she wants a new independence referendum to be held in October next year. If she genuinely believes that an independence referendum will be held next October and she thinks the Independence side can win it, why would she be focused on the Holyrood election in 2026?
George Shanks, Edinburgh
The publication of the latest GERS figures has triggered the traditional feeding frenzy. A black hole in Scotland’s finances is heralded by Unionist politicians as validating the continuation of their beloved Union.
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 still currently reserved to Westminster.
It is indeed a bizarre scenario when politicians from Unionist parties, who should be ashamed at the situation, 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 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 as it has been done within the current constitutional framework, but to move away from this one-size-fits-all fiscal straitjacket to a tailored approach that prioritises stimulating economic growth.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh
The SNP spin machine embarks on its annual rev up to full throttle to greet the arrival of the latest GERS figures. At least John Swinney did not resort to the pathetic claims that the figures were inaccurate or that the whole process is Tory rigged (Scotsman, August 25). Instead he attempted to paint the figures as some sort of good news by homing in on one statistic to claim that Scotland's deficit dropped at a faster rate than that of the UK – if you exclude oil revenues, that is! Never mind that the deficit is a whopping £23.8 billion!
In his Perspective article, economist John McLaren described Mr Swinney's press release most accurately in scientific terminology as “guff”.
Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh
Wind and water
May I add to the article by John McLaren by pointing out that the reason Norway can export almost all its oil and gas, thus topping the KMPG Net Zero readiness Index, is because Norwegian Hydro Plant can supply the majority of the country's energy demand. Indeed, Norway has so much hydropower that there has been a 1,400 MW sub-sea cable laid from their Kvilldal power station to the north of England.
Scotland can never match such a performance as wind energy is so unreliable and even the new Seagreen plant only operates at a load factor of around 40 per cent. The result is that, over a year, Seagreen operates at full load for the equivalent of three days a week, then sits idle for the remaining four days, which leads to the question: “what keeps the lights on in Scotland when the wind fails to blow?”
The current option adopted by Holyrood is to replace Hunterston B with a 900MW gas-fired power station at Peterhead, but that escalates energy costs as Scotland is thus operating a two-tier system by running wind farms with gas-fired back-up and, as it is the cost of gas that has led to the current cost of-living crisis, the burden on household budgets will increase instead of falling, as additional wind farms are brought onto the system. It’s surely time for a debate on current energy costs and policy in Scotland.
Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway
The last time I heard Welsh being spoken was on Cardiff railway station. Family members were arguing; as their dispute deepened, they moved from English to Welsh. Jill Stephenson is right, torpid Holyrood debates would be enlivened if this example was followed regarding our native tongues (Letters,25 August).
But there is a problem. When I was a member of the BBC Broadcasting Council for Scotland, I suggested much more air time for Scots. The management response was fine in principle, but the organisation didn't want to start a war between Lallans and Doric.
Like many, I await with interest the publication of the report of the Covid Public Inquiry. Will the recently announced “formal support” for Scots mean it will be in Scots as well as in English?
Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen
Close to home
Boris Johnson blames the Russian invasion of Ukraine for increased living costs in Britain. There is some truth in that, especially concerning energy bills. But can he think of anything that might have emboldened the dictator of Russia for an opportunist attack on a peaceful neighbour? Like a six-year campaign of lies aimed at damaging the European project of peace and security and separating Britain from her most immediate friends and partners?Can he imagine how entranced Kremlin theorists and planners were to see him acting out their desire of a century, a campaign of destruction against western Europe and her strength?Does he know of any other misfortunes and sabotage which have crushed British exports and British economic production? Covid certainly, and far more destructively, Brexit.
Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland
Last Saturday's Hibs v Rangers football match provided more drama and entertainment than anything on offer at the Edinburgh Festival. However, BBC Scotland's Sportscene vilified the poor referee from start to finish.
The programme had no balance and we were treated to an unedifying spectacle of opprobrium heaped on the man which was reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials!
I have often thought that refereeing is not an exact science and is subjective at best. What these so called “experts” don't realise is that they are making it harder for people to take refereeing up. Already there is a dearth of referees officiating at school football matches on a Saturday morning and BBC Scotland, which unless I am very much mistaken, is a public funded body, must take their share of the blame for that.
G Hunter, Edinburgh
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