Readers' Letters: Scotsman investigation of quangos reveals shocking truths

The Scotsman, in an exclusive investigation by Martyn McLaughlin, exposes the “eye-watering” salaries given to quango heads (7 May). A copy of this outstanding article should be given to every MSP. The Scotsman's investigation disclosed that the salaries paid breached the level set out in Scotland's national public sector pay strategy.

That the total cost of the salaries received by heads of 117 bodies hit £14.1 million is a scandal of gigantic proportions. Why do we need 117 quangos? These horrific salary levels at a time when local authorities have been starved of money until the pips squeak? These quango heads also get gold-plated pension schemes and huge payoffs for loss of office. Many flit from one quango job to another.

The detailed analysis by Mr McLaughlin of the obscene salary levels reminds me of the expression “snouts in the trough”. The rise in quangos under the Scottish Government has been meteoric, so it is time to wield the axe and reduce both the numbers of quangos, the numbers of the excessively paid staff and, of course, their magnificent, mega-expensive, accommodation.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Alex Plant, chief executive of Scottish Water, on a salary band of 290,000 and £295,000, is just one of the quango heads receiving eye-watering salariesAlex Plant, chief executive of Scottish Water, on a salary band of 290,000 and £295,000, is just one of the quango heads receiving eye-watering salaries
Alex Plant, chief executive of Scottish Water, on a salary band of 290,000 and £295,000, is just one of the quango heads receiving eye-watering salaries


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Interesting material in The Scotsman on the cost of quangos, taxpayer funded of course. This on top of John Swinney's speech the other day, when on being asked about the poor treatment of local councils by the SNP, he trotted out the old excuse about “Westminster austerity”, ie, Scotland is not being given enough cash by London.

Westminster austerity? Well, there seems to be money for quangos. We know that public expenditure per head is higher in Scotland. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that SNP freebies cost £2 billion a year. There is money for SNP favourite policies!

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Bring on bonfire

I am not surprised some of the quango bosses in Scotland are receiving six-figure remuneration packages in excess of the Scottish Government's national public sector pay strategy despite having differing degrees of success in fulfilling their functions. They seem to be a law unto themselves, with little accountability and ministerial control. I seem to remember in the dim and distant past, then First Minister Alex Salmond promising a “bonfire” of the quangos. This came to nothing.

It's perhaps understandable that ministers are happy to allow other bodies to run and be accountable for public services as this allows our politicians to escape personal responsibility, and deflect criticism for mismanagement, but it's hardly democratic.

Despite the criticism being made, it's unlikely that anything will change as it's convenient to preserve the status quo.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Wind of change

The recent resurrection of John Swinney as leader of the SNP and his, ultimately, unopposed appointment as First Minister should come as no surprise to those of us who have withered under this shambles of a government for too many years.

Mr Swinney states that he will pull the party back together and do his best for Scotland. If his track record is anything to go by, his best efforts will fall well short of the mark. Scottish education used to have a strong reputation but during Mr Swinney’s time as Education Minister he presided over some of the most damaging and ridiculous decisions, causing lasting impact to the young people of Scotland. These decisions and the wider self-serving actions of the SNP government, against the backdrop of a relentless pursuit of independence above all else, do nothing to serve the best interests of those of us who love Scotland as our homeland.

Scotland, and its people, deserve better and our young people deserve an apology for the shameless and continued decline in educational standards, no matter how the government chooses to massage the statistics. There is a wind of change sweeping the UK. The SNP should take note as it will soon catch up with them too.

Alistair Wylie, Barrhead, East Renfrewshire

Support councils

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Professor James Mitchell points out (Scotsman, 6 May) that “the Scottish Government has become a power hoarder, a policy that has absolutely undermined local councils in Scotland.” Why, then, is the First Minister and his Cabinet reneging on the SNP promise, given in December 2020 by then MSP Aileen Campbell, that support would be given in this session at Holyrood to ensure the draft bill to give local councils European-style safeguards and incorporate the European Charter of Local Self-Government into Scots law?

In addition, why did the new First Minister complain about the UK Brexit deal when, firstly, the SNP refused to vote at Westminster in 2019 for the UK to remain part of the EU Customs Union, and, secondly, if Brian Monteith’s claim in the Scotsman (Perspective, 6 May) is correct, that the UK is the fourth largest exporter in the world now it is out with the EU ?

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Call out evil

It is sad to see that so many in Israel endorse what is going on in Gaza.

They accuse outsiders of antisemitism while failing to understand the depth of anger and resentment that has fuelled Palestinian hostility to Israel.

They fail, too, to appreciate the appalling death toll that the war has wrought on Palestinians in Gaza, the shocking destruction and what can only be described as collective punishment and revenge.

It does the Israeli government no credit to talk tirelessly of antisemitism in a knee-jerk reaction to the slightest criticism of its actions.

Hamas is widely considered a terrorist organisation and its actions last October more than justify the accusation, but there are state actors, too, there is state terrorism and we shouldn't be afraid to call it out.

Trevor Rigg, Edinburgh

Jobs for the AIs

Chris Elwell-Sutton’s article on artificial intelligence ignores one of the biggest potential dangers in the deployment of AI (6 May). The benefits are undeniable, and are well illustrated by the article in the same edition about its assistance in the diagnosis of breast cancer, and there are many similar opportunities for its beneficial use. The risk which too many advocates avoid mentioning is that of widespread unemployment if companies realise how easy it is to replace many of their first-level staff by AI bots. This step has already been taken by an enterprise in India, where there is no realistic employee protection.

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Previous major technological advances have taken decades, even centuries, to supersede human workers, or at least open up new job opportunities. AI could wipe out huge numbers of basic jobs in a decade. What plans are being considered to alleviate the social and economic effects of proliferation of AI in commerce?

John Wade, Newington, Edinburgh

Careless talk

Being a Scottish newspaper, these columns have long debated the inexplicable decision by David Cameron, in 2013, to have an in/out referendum on the EU. It was a catastrophic decision whose repercussions are being felt today.

Some regard him as a game-playing tactician and the ennobled Foreign Secretary is still at it today. Did he think the British public had taken its eyes off the ball – what with English local elections/the Scottish constitutional crisis/Gaza – last week when he promised Ukraine £3 billion each year but then went further, saying Ukraine had the right to use British weapons against Russian territory? Did Rishi Sunak actually rubber stamp that?

It is hardly surprising that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called it a dangerous statement. The incoming UK Labour Government must rescind it immediately. Until now it has been accepted that weapons such as the long-range Storm Shadow should only be used within Ukraine itself, and they, clearly, have been used against Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Significantly, the US has warned Ukraine to desist from striking oil refineries in Russia. There is already considerable concern and incredulity at the remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said that Russian troops having broken through Ukrainian lines meant France would have to legitimately consider sending ground troops. There is little doubt that Russia is preparing for a summer offensive. We must not get involved in a hybrid war with Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelensky needs to accept the invitation by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to attend peace talks. The Chinese Peace plan of President Xi Jinping and Wang Yi offers a basis.

Ukraine cannot win a war against a super power with an arsenal of 5,580 nuclear weapons, however much military hardware the West may send them.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Waking up

I think the tide has turned on “wokeism”. The Cass Review, using evidence-based science and logic as argument, has turned the tide, or at least halted it.

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Better still, the NHS has given up on some of their new definitions. It's a start and sanity is beginning to prevail once more. No more “chest-feeding” for babies. As was asked recently on TV: “Would you as a patient be happier if the surgeon for your upcoming serious operation had been chosen to balance NHS diversity demands or by his or her skill and experience?”

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

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