Readers' Letters: Independent ear needed for council whistle-blowers

Edinburgh Council's struggle to cope with a string of scandals and malpractice over more than 20 years continues (“Dissenting voices are being silenced”, 12 February ). Whistle-blowers, who should be a valuable help in dealing with malpractice, have lost confidence in the ability of local leadership to deal with the corrosive impact of conduct crying out to be exposed.

Edinburgh conservative councillor Cameron Rose wants change for whistleblowers (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Edinburgh conservative councillor Cameron Rose wants change for whistleblowers (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

Responsibility for highlighting contraventions of the rule of law, injustice and maladministration is vested, at least partially, in the statutory post of monitoring officer, which chief executives are required to designate. The appointment is, however, an internal one, with line responsibility to the chief executive.

In almost 15 years of observing a succession of courageous people putting their head above the parapet to report malpractice, it is deeply disappointing to note that seldom do they end up with confidence that the system welcomed their courage, or even delivered justice. The independence whichwhistle-blowers crave in the investigation of their disclosures deserves better.

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The time has come to consider changing the legislation to enable the appointment of external monitoring officers free from the social networks and internal pressures of local authorities.

Cameron Rose, Conservative Councillor for Southside & Newington

Limited view

I do wish your Scottish nationalist correspondents would get their facts right. Mary Thomas (Letters, 12 February) repeats the usual SNP canard that “the UK has the worst state pension in Western Europe”. As the Ferret Fact Service tells us, comparing pensions across a range of countries is difficult and not particularly helpful, because there are so many permutations of state, private, mandatory and voluntary pensions. The OECD, which reports on pension provision across a range of countries every year, compares countries by the “pension replacement rate” which considers how much a pensioner would receive relative to their salary when working. The OECD’s 2021 report shows that the UK’s pensions payout as a percentage of average wages is, at 58.1 per cent, in the middle of the table, with Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland all lower down the table. Yes, that list includes the nationalists’ beloved Norway.

Ms Thomas further mentions that in 2020-21 Scots paid £11.5 billion in National Insurance and received £8.5bn in pensions. National Insurance was originally, in the 1940s, intended to cover other benefits, including unemployment benefit. Ms Thomas’ figures tell us nothing useful if she does not add to them the amounts paid in Scotland for the range of benefits now offered. Then we might arrive at a clearer picture of economic and financial matters in a separate Scotland, not forgetting that Scotland would, on Scexit, lose the £12bn or more extra that we receive every year from HM Treasury just for being in the UK.

Professor James Mitchell tells us that the Scottish Government can’t “get away all the time with the argument that it’s someone else’s fault. You have it in your power to do a lot. Let’s see if you can get on with it”. But that would shoot the SNP’s fox. With no workable policies for a separate Scotland, all nationalists like Ms Thomas can do is try to persuade Scots that they would be better off out of the UK. They have produced nothing to indicate that that would be the case, because they can’t.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

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Clear image

Reading SNP MSP Christine Grahame’s defence of public broadcasting by the BBC from the attack by Tory Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries provided unexpected enjoyment (Perspective, 11 February).

More specifically, it was easy to identify and obtain serendipity from Ms Grahame’s memory of “sitting as a family, next to the one source of heat in the house, listening to the radio” or of preparing and eating Sunday lunch while requests on Two Way Family Favourites were shared.

Likewise, her description of viewing television in its early days of production evoked nostalgia.

It was gratifying to learn that Ms Grahame, unlike many of her vociferously critical, fellow Scottish Independence supporters, believes that even now the BBC is “doing a good job”. Could it be that despite the efforts of Nadine Dorries the BBC is still needed as a public broadcasting service and, in Scotland, can avoid becoming just an SNP propaganda machine!

Sally Gordon-Walker, Edinburgh

Rosy picture

In the 2014 referendum campaign, an army of SNP supporters marched on the BBC Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, accusing them of political bias. Subsequently, the BBC caved in to them and in Scotland we now have not one, but three BBC channels for the SNP to project their Nationalist ideology, namely BBC One Scotland, the BBC Scotland Channel and BBC Alba, more than any other region in the UK.

No wonder, then, that SNP MSP Christine Grahame rails against Nadine Dorries. Why would you want to cut off the hand that feeds you? One that gave her leader a daily slot for nearly two years under the guise of a “Covid Briefing”. Strange, though, that a “Scottish” Nationalist is a big supporter of the “British” Broadcasting Corporation. I dread to think how petty and parochial broadcasting would be if the SNP got complete control.

George M Primrose, Uddingston, Glasgow

Ludicrous idea

Whilst I find it highly amusing to see an arch nationalist like Gill Turner (Letters, 11 February) desperate to retain her UK citizenship to cling onto the UK state pension, she misses the salient point regarding the whole "who will fund our pensions?" debate. That being that nobody, least of all Nicola Sturgeon, has any idea how it will be funded and that it is open for negotiation after independence. Why would anyone vote for such insecurity and risk involving one of life's most important financial investments. Surely we need to know exactly who is funding pensions, and what currency they will be paid in, prior to deciding whether to vote for independence or not. Using pensions as a "bargaining chip", as suggested by Ms Turner, is possibly the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard around the whole independence debate.

John McSweeny, Edinburgh

Lost morality

A whiff of Munich” is how Ben Wallace, the UK Defence Secretary, compares the West’s response to the threat of war in Ukraine to the UK’s policy of appeasement before the Second World War. That was seen as a failure to stand up to another dictator’s aggression and protect our freedom and democracy built on a moral foundation.

We have come full circle, making pathetic attempts to appease Putin by negotiating on his terms while he brings together the largest army Europe has seen since the Second World War, powerful enough to subdue the whole of Europe. Dictators will press on for more until they get exactly what they want. Instead of appeasing Putin, the West should have been ramping up sanctions where it hurts to show they are serious about opposing his aggression.

Whether it is Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump or Boris Johnson, we can’t trust anything these leaders say. At one time leaders set an example, a moral compass to follow, particularly when times were hard. All that has changed, however, and polls still show Johnson’s approval rating at about 25 per cent, proving how many have either fallen into political apathy or will support anyone who protects their parochial interests.

It is not surprising that we have got to this point, taking our democracy and freedoms for granted, and here in the UK growing to accept leaders who lack any moral backbone. Many had thought we had put the Russian Bear to bed in the 1990s with Mr Gorbachev, but instead it and a resurgent China are bullying a West weakened by division, weak leadership and a lack of moral fibre, their dictatorships triumphing over democracy. An advance from the East seems likely unless the West once again comes together with a resolve built on moral authority, but with a weak leader like Johnson it’s a case of the diplomatic mute leading the deaf.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Poll tax on wheels

The SNP-dominated Scottish Government skilfully passed the toxic Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) over to councils. This will become law in April unless a motion to annul is laid in the Scottish Parliament by 21 February. Cash-strapped employers will have to pass this levy onto their workers. Jobs are at risk. Nottingham was the only council to introduce this tax at £428-a-year per space. There is no top limit for Scotland.

The public can fight back on 5 May when the council elections are held. At present there are 431 SNP councillors, 276 Conservatives and 262 Labour. A vote for any SNP candidate is a vote for WPL. Everyone eligible can show disapproval by voting for any party other than the SNP, stopping this poll tax on wheels.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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