MPs and MSPs are elected to represent their constituencies, so it would appear that if the mood in a constituency with an SNP MSP is contrary to that of Nicola Sturgeon (the only opinion that matters?), then tough. What is the point of having such an MP or MSP if the only line they are allowed to take is that of one misguided person? At least Westminster leader Stephen Flynn seems to have some backbone and some regard for conscience-based opinion. Somerville and others are pointless puppets.
Ken Currie, Edinburgh
Unfair to FM
How does one remain a principled politician in Scotland today, especially if as leader of the primary independence party you are subjected to an incessant barrage of negative media coverage? While Labour and Lib Dem leaders Anas Sarwar and Alex Cole-Hamilton have been allowed to duck for cover from the media storm generated over the incarceration of transgender persons and deliberate conflation with the blocked GR Reform (Scotland) Bill, Nicola Sturgeon has even been vilified by some purporting to support independence.
The overriding humanitarian principle that all persons should be allowed to live their lives as they wish, providing the lives of others are not adversely affected through doing so, is an ideal we should all be fighting to achieve and secure in a future fair and truly egalitarian society. Following the Westminster example and politically procrastinating on difficult issues such as GR reform is not the way forward for any country, never mind a country striving for self-determination.
Fortunately for Scotland, the general public have not been blinded to the misinformation, sleaze and corruption around Westminster and have persistently voted for a party and leadership in Scotland that, while far from perfect, has respected and honoured the public’s trust in fighting for the best futures for all of Scotland’s citizens, not just a privileged few. I trust the people of Scotland to continue to vote for politicians who honestly endeavour to honour their stated principles and not those politicians who deviously attempt to mask their own overriding self-interest regardless of the principles they profess.
Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian
Reader David Donaldson is correct but even he might have understated the cost of public sector pensions (Letters, 2 February). The Schools Minister in England, Nick Gibb, has written that local authorities pay 23 per cent of their classroom teachers’ salaries (which he says are £39,500 on average) into their defined-benefit pension scheme.
In October 2021 the IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) published a paper showing that the government’s reported headline cost (30.4 per cent of salaries) of public sector pensions is “based on an arbitrary assumption of investment returns (ie a discretionary interest rate)” whereas the “true cost, declared deep in its pension accounts, was 62.2 per cent or a difference of £57 billion”.
In 2015 the director of resources in Coventry City warned that by 2019 council pensions would cost no less than one-third of our council tax. That has probably not changed significantly since then; and as Mr Donaldson wrote, the total net public sector unfunded pensions liability is around £2 trillion, similar to our official national debt and close to our annual GDP. Including the £5tn of unfunded state pension obligations gives a total of over £7tn, and rising with longer lifespans, or over £100,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK, to be paid by our children and grandchildren and theirs.
That is one reason why after Covid declined and Vladimir Putin waged war, the prime minister – whether Johnson, Truss or Sunak – in anticipation of the foreseeable wage claims, should have spoken to the nation to make clear how precarious the state of the UK is, and has been since the 2008 bankers’ debacle, to try to pre-empt at least the more excessive demands.
It is also why, as was obvious even well before 2008, all public sector pension schemes should have had their accrued benefits to date crystalised, and from then been converted into defined contribution schemes like the great majority of the private sector has had to do. Likewise, all benefits, holidays, sick pay and pension entitlements should be on-the-table in current negotiations; for example, why not trade off higher wage settlements now for immediate changes to unfunded pension schemes?
John Birkett, St Andrews
I was amazed to read Neil Anderson’s diatribe about the absence of news presenters with regional accents on BBC national news programmes (Letters, 6 February). If one thing has been noticeable over the years it is the prominence of Scottish voices on BBC news programmes, not perhaps as newsreaders but certainly as presenters and correspondents. These have included James Naughtie’s long stint on The World at One, Gavin Esler and Kirsty Wark on Newsnight and Allan Little, Laura Bicker and Quentin Somerville as foreign correspondents. Adam Fleming is the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent. Nick Eardley and David Wallace Lockhart bring their distinctive accents to the political correspondents’ team. Laura Kuenssberg has a prime and prestigious slot as successor to Andrew Marr on Sunday mornings. Sarah Smith also has a prestigious post as BBC North America correspondent. The peerless Andrew Neil has his own political comment programme. No doubt I have omitted other relevant voices.
By restricting his complaint to newsreaders, Mr Anderson skews the question with a very narrow focus. In any case, each of the regions has its own separate bulletins with its own newsreaders with regional accents. To suggest Scottish voices are missing from BBC programmes demonstrates a certain deafness on Mr Anderson’s part.
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh
It’s nonsense to claim that paying public sector workers enough to live on is inflationary (Martin O’Gorman, Letters, 6 February). The current bout of inflation is due to the external shock of the Ukraine war as well as private energy company profiteering from that war. It’s not due to excess demand at home.In fact, inflation-matching pay rises pay for themselves because the government taxes the money back and workers will be spending their wages into the economy, not saving them as the wealthy do. And the money for these pay rises can be easily created – the Bank of England is after all the Government’s bank and it can create all the money that is needed. It just chooses not to do so, which is a gross dereliction of duty.
The UK government’s refusal to adequately pay workers and the Bank of England’s bizarre mission to crush the economy with its absurd interest rate hikes are what’s killing the economy and human beings.
Neoliberal ideology, the Tories’ and now Labour’s creed, serves the kleptocratic elites, not the public. The goal is to crush people to increase profits for their corporate masters and to decimate public services so they can sell them off to the highest bidder and further enrich themselves. Let’s call this what it is – class warfare. If Scotland wants to save itself, it must get out of the UK.
Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh
Foreign interference in Scottish democracy is not conspiracy theory, it is a fact. US corporation Facebook abuses its power to influence, skew and restrict debate on one of the hottest political topics: transgenderism.
While newspapers publish a wide range of viewpoints, Facebook censors gender critical content and, worse, threatens to delete the accounts of those it sees as heretics.
The Scottish Family Party's policy is to repeal the 2004 Gender Recognition Act because, in fact, a man can't become a woman and a woman can't become a man. The Facebook inquisition regards this view as “hate speech”.
For the duration of the 2021 Scottish election campaign, Facebook said that it was restricting the Scottish Family Party's page. Once the election passed, our page was restored. At one point, when people clicked to Like our page, a message from Facebook popped up asking them, “Are you sure?”
There's little hope of the Scottish Government addressing the issue as Facebook is acting as an ally to them, and an enemy to their foes. US corporations must not be allowed to strangle Scottish democracy by filtering political content through their own chronic biases.
Richard Lucas, Scottish Family Party, Glasgow
While agreeing wholeheartedly with Susan Dalgety’s views on 16 or 17-year-old MSPs (Perspective, 4 February), I was surprised that her ideas about what further education students should be studying, rather than canvassing for votes, were so far out of date. Scottish further education colleges were instructed to abandon City and Guilds qualifications in the mid to late-1980s when it was decided that Scottish students should be awarded certificates issued in Scotland.
Given only one year’s notice of the change, appropriate college lecturers were seconded to work with bodies such as SCOTVEC and SCOTBEC, forerunners of the SQA, to produce a completely new modular curriculum and devise suitable test materials. It is greatly to their credit that the colleges met the tight timetable and a relatively smooth transition ensued. I doubt any other sector of the education spectrum would have been capable of such an accomplishment.
Bill Greenock, Netherlee, East Renfrewshire
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