Readers' Letters: It's time for John Swinney to back Scotland's universities

It is reasonable to expect that John Swinney's door will soon be chapped by the Principal of Edinburgh University bearing a big sack over his shoulder full of legitimate grievances and asking him, not only as an alumnus, but as First Minister, to reverse the disastrous policies of the SNP governments of Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, ones which have dealt harshly with the Universities and Colleges, as well summarised by Calum Ross (“University sector ‘at risk’ due to funding gap”, 6 May).

The SNP has adopted Scandinavian policies regarding student fees, in conjunction with US institutional funding levels, a combination that has particularly disadvantaged Scottish students, not only jeopardising their futures but betraying a historical tradition that has served the world well, one of valuing universities for their work and supporting them appropriately.

After all, many decades before the foundation of Edinburgh, in 1583, Scotland already had three universities; Denmark had one, Sweden had one, and Norway and Finland had none.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Should John Swinney do more for Scotland's universities? Picture: Chris Radburn/PA WireShould John Swinney do more for Scotland's universities? Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Should John Swinney do more for Scotland's universities? Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Missed opportunity

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I've lost count of the number of times John Swinney has recited his “unite the party, focus on delivery, social justice, economy, public services, people of Scotland, work with other parties, gain trust, make the case for indy” mantra this past week, giving the impression that the last item, the case for indy, would naturally follow from success in the other eight.

If only Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon had believed and done that on 19 September, or 14 November 2014 when she took over, they could have transformed Scotland to the point where in 2024 we'd either be gagging for separation because we'd pulled miles ahead of the UK, or wanting to remain, because we'd done it within the UK.

Either way the referendum result would not be a disaster for either camp.

But, as has often been said, the nationalists preferred to build a case that relied a lot on grievance and proved unable to run the place well, get on with their rivals, rebuild the already shaky 2014 case, or have any succession plan for talented people when the 2007 generation left the stage.

So now very few people believe a word they say. And no wonder when we now have a retread with no-tread in charge.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

All together now?

So, John Swinney, in effect, wants the opposition to assist in his drive for separation (your report, 6 May). Is that so that he can have someone to blame when it all goes terribly wrong?

Bruce Proctor, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire


We are asked to believe that as First Minister of Scotland John Swinney will “return the SNP to governing from the mainstream”.

This from the man who has been instrumental in framing Scottish National Party policy for more than15 years and was at Nicola Sturgeon’s side at all times during her toxic and disastrous tenure as First Minister of Scotland.

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This from the man who backed and voted for the Hate Crime Bill and the shocking legislation that was going to be the Gender Reform Bill.

This from the man who will have to cosy up to the most non-mainstream party, the Scottish Greens, as an SNP administration without the Greens’ support is simply not tenable.

It is nothing short of ludicrous to suggest that John Swinney believes in “governing from the mainstream” – and frankly he knows that to be the case.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

One rule...

Remember John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon and numerous other SNP MSPs and MPs loudly demanding a general election – we were told “in the interests of democracy” – when Boris Johnson and Liz Truss stood down, since only around 175,000 Tory party members could choose the new prime minister?

Admittedly, Humza Yousaf won by a narrow margin in a mud-slinging contest, though again, only amongst party members. Yet Sturgeon became First Minister without a single vote being cast, not even among SNP members, and it seems the same will happen this week with Swinney.

And why am I not surprised that everyone in the SNP establishment seems wholly comfortable with the Swinney coronation process?

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Perhaps, perhaps

Perhaps instead of questioning how independence would lift the aspirations of the people of Scotland, Jill Stephenson (Letters, 6 May) might wish to consider why people “down south” do not appear confident in England becoming an independent country.

Perhaps they do not wish to have nuclear submarines moored next to their most populous city.

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Perhaps they still wish to control the huge oil and gas resources yet remaining in the Scottish sector of the North Sea (resources that over decades have yielded hundreds of billions of pounds to prop up the UK economy).

Perhaps they wish to continue to benefit from Scotland’s leading progress towards net zero in terms of renewable energy generation (massive tidal generation still to come) and measures such as extensive tree-planting and future carbon sequestration.

Perhaps they do not wish to see public services deteriorate even further and the enormous UK debt of almost three trillion pounds rise higher due to missing advantageous infrastructure investment (Scotland now only having 3.5 per cent of UK Government spending, the lowest percentage since devolution 25 years ago).

Perhaps they do not wish to lose direct access to the personnel who have been called upon to lead their academic, commercial and military ventures in pursuit of the UK’s global ambitions, or who in the past have tragically, and disproportionately, given their lives on foreign battlefields.

Perhaps they do not wish to face up to the dire legacy of imperialist plunder and exploitation that has contributed, and still contributes, to the growing tide of refugees around the world.

Perhaps they are simply scared of constitutional change and are not even ready to listen to OECD advice that the focus in education should not be on narrow exam targets but on the holistic development of young people to enable the building of an ambitious, healthy, happy, prosperous, democratic, socially just and egalitarian society.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian


Mary Thomas (Letters, 4 May) threw in the claim of the Scottish Child Payment having lifted 100,000 children out of poverty that has been bandied about this weekend ad nauseum. This is utter nonsense and it is disingenuous of supporters and members of the SNP to claim that it is true.

The Fraser of Allander Institute looked into the impact of the £20 per week uplift for the latest figures available on child poverty (2022/2023) and found that it was making no significant difference. The Scottish Government have four targets on child poverty: relative poverty, absolute poverty, low income and material deprivation, and persistent poverty. Three out of the four targets are showing an increase rather than a decrease. The only one showing any movement in the right direction was absolute poverty, which measures low living standards relative to 2010/11, and it was a minute decrease.

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Each measure is important in its own way, and getting children out of poverty should be a priority for any government. However if you are not honest with the electorate and yourself, you will never have any success.

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Moray

900 potholes

So, Edinburgh City Council is prepared to spend £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on a self-congratulatory occasion to mark 900 years of burgh status (your report, 6 May).

How about using that amount to fix the disgraceful roads – maybe pock-marked dirt tracks were acceptable 900 years ago, but not in a city competing for tourists against the world’s best destinations.

Steven Robertson, Musselburgh, East Lothian

Protect wildlife

Your story “Scotlands most famous bird of prey found dead by police” (6 May), highlights the need for more wildlife protection. The lack of funding for police wildlife protection officers means that many offences do not receive the resources needed to fully investigate and bring perpetrators to trial. Only four such officers exist in Scotland, each covering thousands of square miles.

Wildlife crime, according to the police, is becoming more widespread in Scotland. Recent high-profile cases involving birds of prey include the conviction of men from Berwick for stealing peregrine falcons from the Scottish Borders for sale in the Middle East, the confirmed shooting of a golden eagle in the Borders and now the potential killing of an osprey, Scotland’s highest profile bird of prey, near the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve at Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld.

It’s difficult to contemplate what goes through the minds of those that kill a bird of prey. It’s important those killing or stealing protected species or their eggs are caught and sentenced appropriately otherwise years of work by dedicated conservationists, often unpaid volunteers, to restore Scotland’s wildlife will be severely compromised.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

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