Readers' Letters: Robison's budget flies in face of reality

Enough is enough! Shona Robison has claimed the SNP Budget and the parlous state of Scotland’s finances can be attributed to two factors – Brexit and Westminster.
Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf and Finance Secretary Shona Robison before she delivered the Scottish Government's Budget  (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP)Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf and Finance Secretary Shona Robison before she delivered the Scottish Government's Budget  (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP)
Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf and Finance Secretary Shona Robison before she delivered the Scottish Government's Budget (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP)

Government involves making choices. The Finance Secretary cannot merely blame underfunding from Westminster when it was the First Minister's choice – and decision – to announce the headline-grabbing Council Tax freeze without thought as to how it could be responsibly funded.

Likewise the NHS settlements where the SNP wish to claim responsibility for preventing the occurrence of strikes but reject criticism that they ignored any funding implications. Instead, the introduction of a higher tax band will do more to act as a disincentive to potential job seekers to relocate to Scotland than it will to filling the funding black hole.

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On every issue and on every occasion the SNP fail to accept any responsibility either for the choices they have taken on funding or the improvement to services, eg NHS and education, which they have singularly failed to achieve.

Preoccupation with independence lies behind every decision taken and every utterance made. Surely Scotland deserves better than this.

Derek Stevenson, Edinburgh

Taxing spin

It is standard fare for Scottish nationalists, like Alex Orr (Letters, 19 December), to boast about how many more freebies we get in Scotland than in England. It doesn’t matter how often they are told 89 per cent of prescriptions in England are dispensed without charge, or how local authorities in England provide free bus travel for pensioners – and in London free Tube travel as well – they trot out the same myths.

As for free university fees, these are for the limited number of Scottish students who are accepted into Scottish universities, where the majority of places are reserved for full fee-paying foreigners. The middle classes, who are most likely to be affected by the new tax band in Ms Robison’s budget, see their offspring discriminated against so that those from poorer backgrounds with lower entrance grades can be accommodated.

Nationalists give the impression that English students pay fees. In fact, they repay the amount of their fees in instalments after they have graduated and are earning £27,295. They do not pay fees up front. The scandal is that Scottish students who are excluded from Scottish universities because places are capped are not permitted to pay fees to obtain a place there. They go to England, or abroad, and probably do not return to work in Scotland. Another triumph for the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Black hole

Alex Orr makes some very valid points about living in Scotland under the SNP/Greens government. He mentions free university tuition, free bus passes, free prescriptions, lower water charges and council taxes.

However, he fails to mention that all of the above (and more) have contributed to the £1.5 billion funding black hole that we have. He also mistakenly says “most Scottish taxpayers pay less income tax than their English neighbours”. The median annual salary in Scotland is £29,675 while those earning over £27,850 pay more income tax than those in England.

As the saying goes, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

Jim Houston, Edinburgh

Magical thinking

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I was amused to read Alex Orr’s letter, amused to see that he still believes the “magic money tree” planted by Nicola Sturgeon is still bearing fruit. FREE prescriptions, FREE education, FREE bus travel all provided by that bountiful tree in the back garden at Holyrood? Aye Alex.

Bruce Proctor, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Heat is on

Readers might be interested in some up-to-date data on the costs of fulfilling Patrick Harvie's Christmas wishlist.

After speaking with someone living nearby who was eligible for the ECO4 grant scheme (in essence, 100 per cent funding for solar panels and an air source heat pump installation), we decided to see what might be available to us. We are pensioners, with modest income and modest savings. Because we are not in receipt of benefits and not deemed to be in fuel poverty, we are not eligible for the ECO4 scheme. We are, however, eligible for grants and interest-free loans via Home Energy Scotland.

Our house is a modest three-bedroom detached, built in 2008, EPC grade C and currently heated primarily by a kerosene boiler. We approached a reputable installer of green heating systems and had the house surveyed. The survey threw up three issues which would add to the costs of conversion: the need for 11 larger radiators (a fairly common problem, I believe), a requirement for new radiator pipework (currently too small bore for the heat pump) and a need to ground mount ten solar panels because of our dormer-style roof.

The total cost for replacing our current set-up with an air source heat pump and hot water tank, ten 435W solar panels and 9.5 kWh battery storage came in at £32,350. The maximum grant we could claim is £11,500, so we would be faced with funding a shortfall of £20,850, to be made good either from savings, a loan or some combination of savings and loan.

This is a considerable sum to find, even after allowing for some degree of reduction of our electricity costs through the use of solar/battery. Simply put, I'm sorry, Mr Harvie, but our current options simply don't stack up, particularly at our time of life.

I'm not sure what we will do in the event of compulsory heating replacement. Perhaps the ghost of Christmas yet to come will foresee an element of civil disobedience?

Paul Marsden, Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

Scottish Scrooge

Christmas is nearly upon us and our First Minister is cast as compassionless Scrooge in the seasonal Scottish farce as he allows others to profit from exploiting his rural citizens.Scrooge is first taken on a journey by The Ghost of Scotland Past where he is shown the heather-clad hills, moors and mountains. He views the abundance of wildlife. The majestic stags, shy red squirrels, secretive wildcats and soaring eagles in areas of breathtaking natural beauty. He watches his communities contentedly and peacefully going about their lives.“Bah Humbug” he says as he is led away by The Ghost of Scotland Present to where he sees the beginning of the end of rural Scotland – thousands of turbines and pylons speared into pristine landscapes. Scrooge gazes at the environmental vandalism before him and is absurdly pleased at the huge consumer burdening profits made by the corporate giants.

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The Ghost of Scotland Yet to Come appears, hoping to make Scrooge understand that his misguided ways will lead to the ruination of Scotland’s world-renowned natural environment. He tells him he holds the future of his communities in his hands and that he alone can protect them from the seemingly unstoppable invasion by Big Energy.

Scrooge sees the criss-crossing of transmission lines, monster fizzing pylons built to connect to turbines four times their height with flashing lights and swooshing blades dominating everywhere he turns. He sees the sprawling noisy substations bearing down on rural communities and the sadness in the eyes of his own people as many walk away from the Scotland they once loved and tried to protect.

The Ghost of Scotland Yet to Come turns to Scrooge and says: “Our mountains and glens are not renewable, nor are our moors and communities. The industrial wind turbines you are encouraging are not for the benefit of the people of Scotland. Why would anyone sanction the destruction of such beauty and distress of their own citizens for the profit of others?”

Will Scrooge’s hard heart be softened? Will he listen to the voices pleading for protection of their communities and treasured environment from ruthless multinationals?

Don’t hold your breath, but it is Christmas and if you stay strong and work together, dreams really can come true.

Lyndsey Ward, Beauly, Highland

Feeling blue

The SNP has repeatedly slashed Police Scotland budgets, and now we learn more police stations are to close. Oh well, never mind, we can console ourselves that Operation Branchform has survived SNP cuts and is ongoing.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Mixed blessings

The Church of England and now the Catholic Church have recently allowed blessings for same-sex couples, though these are packed with caveats to be sure that they are absolutely not confused with marriage. They must not be tied to any specific Catholic celebration or religious service, and even clothing and gestures reserved for marriage ceremonies are strictly prohibited. Sadly many gay believers, desperate for any church approval of their relationships, are all too keen to lick up the crumbs of this begrudging largesse.

CofE associate priests Catherine Bond and Jane Pearce nervously said of their recent blessing in Felixstowe, Suffolk, “No we won’t have flowers, it mustn’t look like a wedding.”

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Is this a step in the right direction or a further underscoring of the religious second-class status of gay relationships? Surely if religious groups are privileged to solemnise marriages recognised by the State they should not be entitled, in defiance of equality legislation, to decide which marriages they like or dislike?

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

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