Readers' Letters: Labour needs clear message on UK economy

Can Labour simply rely on disaffection with the behaviour of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in order to win a majority at a general election?

I see that Lord Mandelson has called for the party to develop new policies to “turn the intellectual tide” rather than a reliance on exploiting Mr Johnson's self-imposed problems (your report, 9 June). When more or less in charge of his party's policy and public projection, the peer would always stress the importance of the simple message that voters can relate to. Certainly, a call to restore honesty and probity to public life may have an effect. But Labour needs to find urgently a distinct message on how it might run the economy. The days when Labour alone stood for state intervention to solve problems have been overturned by the events of the last two years. Rishi Sunak will go down in history as the most interventionist Chancellor in history.

The setting out of new policies in the run up to its party conference in Liverpool in the autumn needs to be approached with caution. The party overloaded its last election campaign in 2019 with too many scarcely credible policies, ranging from the extension of broadband to total compensation for those women affected by changes to the state pension age. Now it needs to answer a few highly relevant questions. How will the cost-of-living measures introduced by the current government be refined and developed? What is the party's approach to business and enterprise and the balance of private/public expenditure? What is its core message on taxation and efficiency in government? Can it clear up once and for all its position on the UK constitution? These may sound like seminar questions, but answering them in plain and effective language is the key to winning over the swing voters so vital to electoral success.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Lord Mandelson's time as Labour's Director of Communications popularised the term 'spin doctor' (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)Lord Mandelson's time as Labour's Director of Communications popularised the term 'spin doctor' (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Lord Mandelson's time as Labour's Director of Communications popularised the term 'spin doctor' (Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Bogged down

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I was pleased to read in The Scotsman (9 June) that at last the preservation of peat bogs is moving up the agenda and the Flow Country could become a world heritage site. Peat cutting in the Highlands should be controlled. Not only is the peat being cut but it is being burned, adding more carbon into the atmosphere.Islanders should have to purchase a license to cut peat. This should level what I pay for my fuel and they get for free…

Alastair Paisley, Edinburgh

Scotland choked

The only leather that is hampering the Scottish Government is the choke-lead of being financially tethered to Westminster’s whims (David Millar, Letters, 10 June). The UK news is full of stories of “eat or heat?” These have now been joined by stories of people in England who are not picking up prescriptions because of the cost. Meanwhile, the UK Government adopts a non-means tested measure to prop up the energy crisis, which sees second (and third and fourth) home owners cashing in on fuel payments.We are indeed governed by the most incompetent government in memory, but it sits at Westminster, not Holyrood.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh

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Let prefabs sprout

The reason I finally decided that Boris Johnson should go was his budget, which had more to do with blunting Labour and appeasing his core voters than solving the cost of living crisis. His new ploy of enabling benefit claimants to buy their social housing is still avoiding the biggest cause of the cost of living crisis: the cost of a decent home. How can a benefit claimant afford a mortgage, and who will fund the subsidised price?

This country needs millions of cheap, well-built flat pack council houses, like the prefabs of the 1950s, in estates that are safe, family-friendly neighbourhoods. Unfortunately I can't see our leaders having the imagination, drive, empathy or ability to make this happen.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Road to nowhere

Some 20 years ago, my wife and I bought a business in Argyll and lived there for around five years, frequently having to take the long diversion route via Dalmally, when the A83 was closed. I’m therefore astounded that 20 years down the line, residents and businesses alike in Argyll and further up the West Highlands are not up in arms about the latest SNP announcement that they don’t have the funding to develop an alternative route. Strange, though, that the many SNP MPs, MSPs and councillors who represent the people of this area, including some of their bigwigs like Messrs Ian Blackford and Mike Russell, become suddenly dumb when this issue is raised.So why is there a shortfall in funds? Could it be that the SNP have their capital spending priorities all wrong or has all the money been spent setting up pseudo-foreign embassies, shoring up failing shipyards and airports, buying votes with myriad freebies, with minimal means testing, that SNP supporting correspondents love to trot out, never mind the millions on another referendum.A country with Scotland’s physical geography requires connectivity and linked transport systems by land, sea and air if it is to prosper both economically and socially. Trips to Nordic or Alpine countries with similar or even more demanding physical geographies demonstrate that it can be done. Until the Scottish Government grasps this nettle and works with the UK Government to improve the situation, Scotland will always be on a road to nowhere. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could happen as quickly as the current Transport Secretary can talk!

George M Primrose, Uddingston, Glasgow

Runway risk

Having failed to meet their own greenhouse gas targets for the last three years, the SNP Government now appears to be resisting recommendations from its own climate advisers (the Climate Change Committee), particularly in respect of aviation.

Considering that it is less than two years since it was pledged (to great fanfare) that Scotland would reach Carbon Net Zero by 2045, and so lead the way on the environment, this news is likely to embolden those who claimed the pledge was little more than virtue signalling.

Responding to such criticism, the SNP Government has claimed that it is “working with the aviation industry to reduce the environmental impact of air travel” and “in the short-term sustainable aviation fuels can cut emissions”. Unfortunately, this is meaningless. The current fleet has over 20 years to run and, as yet, no manufacturer even has carbon neutral alternatives on the design book. Moreover, not only are Sustainable Aviation Fuels a long way off, but their production emits carbon and even the greenest formula envisaged will still contain 50 per cent kerosene.

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Yet there is one clear way in which, for Scotland, headway can be made. And that is for the SNP government to withdraw its anomalous support for the expansion of Heathrow Airport; not just because Heathrow is hundreds of miles away and draws direct flights away from Scotland, but because its expansion would significantly fetter Scotland’s ability to meet its own climate targets.

Analysis has shown that Heathrow expansion would create an additional 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in Scotland by 2040, through an additional 605,000 return trips between Scottish airports and Heathrow.

I hope the SNP Government will not resist this piece of analysis, as they appear to be resisting some of the recommendations from the Climate Change Committee. After all, it is their own analysis. Surely, they would not forsake it if they were serious about their greenhouse pledge?

Paul McGuinness, Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition, Teddington, Middlesex

Bin Barnett

Elizabeth Buchan-Hepburn lists all the freebies Scots get as part of the United Kingdom (Letters, 9 June). She omits to mention that, thanks to the Barnett Formula, Scotland receives £32bn per annum from The Treasury to pay for these give-aways, many of which are really policies to buy votes.

In a Scotsman article last month Conor Marlborough wrote about the Barnett Formula: "The formula, which is more of a convention rather than a legal obligation, was only intended to be a temporary solution to settle arguments over spending in the late 1970s". That was 40 years ago. It's time for change. It's not ethical that English taxpayers pay for Scottish largesse.

The Scottish Government has the power to raise taxes to pay for its profligacy, so why shouldn't it? Scrapping the Barnett Formula would treat Liverpudlians the same as Glaswegians. The SNP are always in favour of equality, so how could they argue against that? Another solution would be for the UK government to revise the distribution of the £2,200 per man, woman and child subsidy that every Scot gets so that £1,000 of that is paid directly into Scots' bank accounts, with the SNP government having either to make up the shortfall by taxation or cut its profligate spending.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Lauder, Berwickshire

Top marks

I was delighted to see that Dunoon Grammar School has been shortlisted for Education World's best schools award for community collaboration. Being shortlisted for its work on a wide range of projects at local, national and international levels is a great accolade and shows what a talented headteacher, dedicated staff and energised pupils can achieve. Leading politicians like Lord George Robertson, the late John Smith and journalist Brian Wilson have passed through its doors and I was fortunate to spend my formative years there under the respected and dedicated headmaster, “Ossie” Brown. Amidst a Scottish education system in the doldrums, Dunoon Grammar School provides a beacon of hope for ultimate future improvement if our politicians allow it to happen.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

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