Readers' Letters: MSPs should stop wasting time on things outside their remit

The SNP at Westminster has proposed a motion demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. This cannot be much more than virtue signalling, with neither Hamas nor Israel likely to pay it any heed. Nevertheless, Westminster is the seat of our sovereign government and is the place to discuss foreign policy issues. The same cannot be said for Holyrood, yet SNP ministers want to hold a vote there on a ceasefire next week (Scotsman, 15 November). This isn’t even virtue signalling. It is a naked attempt to embarrass the Labour Party, which is divided on the issue of a ceasefire.
Several of Anas Sarwar's Scottish Labour MSPs plan to back a Gaza ceasefire call next week (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Several of Anas Sarwar's Scottish Labour MSPs plan to back a Gaza ceasefire call next week (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Several of Anas Sarwar's Scottish Labour MSPs plan to back a Gaza ceasefire call next week (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

You would think a devolved legislature that sits for only three days a week might, given the various domestic crises that there have been recently, have quite enough to do without trying to grandstand on foreign policy issues that are not within its remit. But addressing the problems in the NHS, in Scottish schools and as a result of flood damage, for example, appears to be too humdrum for SNP ministers. There has been no urgency, for example, about bringing relief to those in the northeast who suffered horribly during the recent floods, yet there is time to debate Gaza and spare cash to disburse a few hundred thousand pounds to it.

Isn’t it time Holyrood buckled down to the problems on its doorstep and abided by the remit decreed for it in the Scotland Act 1998? We know the SNP deliberately encroaches on matters outside its competence, to push the boundaries of its powers, to pretend that Scotland is a sovereign polity. It is beyond time this stopped.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Useful Braverman

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Suella Braverman's recent tantrums may actually have helped the Prime Minister. By slating the police and failing to ban the Gaza demonstration she inadvertently highlighted the UK commitment to free speech, exposed the disturbing rise in anti-semitism, and enabled the Met to demonstrate British policing at its best. Her letter to Rishi Sunak, especially about immigration, reminded us that she failed to deliver the Rwanda scheme under two Prime Ministers and delivering it will be a long haul, as it will be for Germany, Italy, Austria and Denmark, four democracies also pondering how to get a treaty ensuring the safety of deportees and compliance with international law.

In reality she’s become the PM’s “useful idiot”, an upmarket Nadine Dorries on the back benches.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

No loyalty

Suella Braverman's letter to the Prime Minister reminds one of the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. Using the personal pronoun “I” 26 times she vindictively undermines the Prime Minister and her party. Her letter underlines the correctness of Mr Sunak's decision to sack her and scotches any chance of her return to firstline politics, because to her loyalty means nothing.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

Talk is sheep

Former SNP MP Angus MacNeil's view that his sheep show more independence of thought than some SNP politicians suggested that he and these excellent sheep are also possessed of a strong sense of humour. Angus is well off out of a party which is daily falling further apart as we watch.

He says he saw the former First Minister becoming “more and more intolerant of anyone else’s view”. That there was “no testing out of arguments with Nicola, which is why I think she was caught out latterly”.

“Caught out”? That must be a candidate for understatement of the year.

Doug Morrison, Cranbrook, Kent


Stephen Flynn MP, the SNP leader in Westminster, used the word “transparency” when being interviewed on his call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Transparency? From an SNP member? Such as the Ferguson ferry fiasco? Such as Humza Yousaf's dates referring to disclosure on the Covid enquiry? Such as Michael Matheson's £11,000 Morocco holiday iPad bill? Such as Nicola Sturgeon's “I cannot recollect...” during the Alex Salmond affair?

Have these SNP politicians no shame?

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

Sunak maths

Remember Rishi Sunak’s proposal to make numeracy “a central objective of the education system?” Maybe that’s because his own education was deficient in that regard.

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Rishi Sunak doesn’t seem to understand that inflation isn’t a measure of the absolute increase in prices, but a percentage rate compared to the previous year. What this means is that a fall in inflation doesn’t equate to a fall in prices, but merely a fall in their rate of increase. For prices to actually fall, deflation needs to occur.

Furthermore, Sunak can’t claim credit for cooling inflation. The Bank of England’s interest rate hikes didn’t cause it to fall. Inflation was going to fall regardless because it was caused by external supply side shocks – the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict. The Bank’s policies worsened the cost of living crisis, loaded people with unsustainable levels of debt and have unleashed a torrent of business insolvencies, leaving the UK teetering on the brink of recession.

Instead of the years of Tory mismanagement and blatant incompetence, the UK economy needed real wage increases, higher public sector investment and low interest rates to stimulate economic growth.

Unfortunately, Labour is promising more of the same failed policies. It’s past time for Scotland to leave the Union.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Be patient

I agree with Fraser Grant (Letters, 14 November) when he says WhatsApp messages about Covid are a sideshow. By far the most important reason for having Covid inquiries is to establish which virus controls worked and which didn't, thus getting us better prepared for the next pandemic, which could start at any time.

As for Scotland doing better in controlling Covid than the rest of the UK, mortality rates were not significantly different, even if at the start of the pandemic genome sequencing showed that returning travellers from Europe and the rest of the world (200,000 every day in March 2020) imported more than 1,000 virus lineages into the UK, London having the most and rural Aberdeenshire the fewest. Unfortunately, Scottish care home residents, just like those in Sweden and the rest of the world, did not escape the malignant effects of the virus.

As the only scientist to chair a public inquiry (into E.coli O157 in Wales) I suggest that it would be wise to await the publication of the findings of the Covid public inquiries before making assertions that lockdowns controlled the virus, that lives were saved by Nicola Sturgeon's press conferences, and that a better-staffed NHS led to fewer Covid cases.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Holy shared

We were concerned to read about imminent church closures throughout the country (your report, 11 November). Citing failing architectural infrastructure and plummeting attendance figures, church leaders have recommended “fresh expressions of mission in communities”.

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Is the need to support some of these ancient and beautiful buildings served by this further emphasis on Christian belief?

It would seem that already many churches are used by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and recovering drug addicts, in addition to Scouts and Brownies.

Might a solution be to further share the buildings: Christians on Sundays, LGBT drop-in centres on Mondays, yoga classes on Tuesdays, Kids’ rock band rehearsal spaces on Thursday etc?

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

Church lifeline

I have read the letters about the proposed closure of up to 700 churches by the Church of Scotland with a degree of horror. That is not purely from the religious point-of-view, but also from the community perspective.

When the Church of Scotland established these churches, they were more than just a place of worship. They were a focal point for the community. Small, rural communities, especially, still need a focal point in so many ways. Think of access to banking/Post Office/shop/business centre/police hub/general services hub etc.

A church can offer a home to all these things in an informal setting. Since the banks are such huge money-making enterprises and are in debt to us (the community), the Government can make this mandatory throughout the country, as it affects everywhere from Land's End to John O'Groats.

The banks could pay a small amount communally, so one office represents every bank and the Post Office, offering a cashpoint and advising on loans, overdrafts etc.

A general store, spaces for small businesses to work (think how many people run businesses from coffee shops) and a focal point for the community could be offered at peppercorn rent with the burden borne by the big businesses. If six banks paid £10,000 each per branch, it would cost them a mere £3 million each for 300 churches. Peanuts to them, but £18 million support to rural communities. Something similar could work in the cities too.

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This could be a lifeline to rural communities and encourage enterprise and social life. The churches could then still be available for services on Sundays.

Over to you, Alister Jack.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

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