Recent Scotsman reports have confirmed a prevailing culture of secrecy which is not there by accident. We learned how in February a freedom of information (FOI) request in relation to care home deaths continued to be blocked until after the election by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) following an intervention by the Cabinet Secretary.
We later read that another FOI request revealed, after the First Minister had appeared on TV rejecting suggestions that the “death rate” from Covid in care homes in Scotland was higher than in England, that the Scottish Government had been sent a bulletin a week earlier by the NRS stating that 46 per cent of Covid deaths had taken place in Scottish care homes compared to 28 per cent in England and Wales.
It was also revealed that a “communications framework” obliges Public Health Scotland to “risk manage” communications which “could be interpreted as a critique of Scottish Government policy”.
Yesterday’s Scotsman also reports that police are investigating allegations of fraud in relation to the £600,000 missing from the SNP coffers. Despite various resignations by SNP figures on the grounds that sufficient financial information was not being made available, Nicola Sturgeon continued to claim that all was “transparent”. Ironically, a treasurer recruited to introduce more transparency into SNP finances quit because of – yes, a lack of transparency!
A lack of transparency is not a failure of the SNP. It's a success. They have turned it into an art form.
Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh
Is this a clue?
So the police are to investigate SNP finances – whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, this does not look very good. It seems that funds set aside for another referendum were spent elsewhere, which is not the action of a party that thinks another referendum is imminent, nor important!
William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian
Jim Sillars is right to query why Professor Hugh Pennington is not an official adviser to the Scottish Government (Letters, 13 July).
On a number of occasions in your columns he has rebutted the premature or misleading comparisons of Scotland’s and England’s Covid statistics frequently aired by some of your correspondents, who should now follow Clement Attlee’s words to Harold Laski, his party chairman, that “a period of silence on your part would now be welcome”. They know who they are!
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
The observation from Jim Sillars that Prof Pennington is absent from the Scottish Government’s body of scientific advisers is interesting. He’s both eminently qualified, hugely respected and an excellent communicator on both paper and television. With Scotland being Europe’s Covid capital the existing team could certainly use a few star substitutes.
Perhaps if our professor gave an assurance not to talk Unionist politics on the pitch then he’d be shifted off the bench?
Calum Miller, Prestonpans, East Lothian
Jag at 17
The vaccinations to protect against Covid are now being offered to all adults over 18. As students from Scottish schools typically start university a year earlier than those in the rest of the UK, at the age of 17, should they not also be offered the vaccine now? Hopefully we would then avoid some of the angst and chaos that we witnessed last year when students arrived at universities in September, and the number of cases soared.
Sally Cheseldine, Balerno, Edinburgh
A British hero
Well done to Marcus Rashford for his firm assertion that he "will never apologise" for who he is or where he comes from. He has nothing to apologise for. He is a decent man who has never done any wrong and has been blessed with an exceptional talent for playing football.
The abuse that he and Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have been subjected to highlights an issue that has been going on for decades, racist abuse in football. Shouldn't certain people who claim to be opposed to racism, instead of endlessly kicking the dead carcass of slavery, be confronting the living monster of racism in football and making their voices heard in putting an end to it?
Robert Kelly, Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire
Give us a UK team
The Prime Minister is keen for the United Kingdom to co-host the World Cup in 2030 with Ireland. A great prospect, but there is a problem. Normally the host country receives automatic entry but it seems unlikely FIFA would allow England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to all enter individually.It has always been an anomaly that the component parts of the United Kingdom compete at international football as separate entities. There is a solution. It is time for the UK to compete at international football as one nation. It would be a world beating team and who knows, together, we may even be the winners next time.
(Dr) Bruce Halliday, Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway
The Cairngorms are to be congratulated on their £12.5 million grant from the Heritage Horizons Lottery Fund but spare a thought for those who worked so hard on the shortlisted bid to secure the future of William Adam’s Mavisbank House, a masterpiece of both Scottish and British architecture.
The decline of Mavisbank over half a century has been agonising to watch and Save Britain's Heritage is proud to have pledged £500 to cover the costs of Scottish campaigners who won a reprieve in the Sheriff’s Court from immediate demolition in the late 1970s. Those valiantly promoting the Mavisbank Lottery bid, led by the Landmark Trust, secured an agreement to institute Compulsory Purchase proceedings on this agonisingly neglected house, crucially backed by both the local authority Midlothian Council and Historic Environment Scotland.
These proceedings are vital and must continue. Despite this setback it is as important as ever to secure the future of this most lovely of Palladian villas, complete with baroque flourishes so characteristic of William Adam, father of Robert and James, all among the very greatest talents of their age.
Marcus Binney, Executive President, Save Britain’s Heritage, London
Beyond refusing new drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and his inauguration day gesture of cancelling the Canada-US Keystone XL pipeline, President Joe Biden’s climate strategy has been prudent and realistic. He is supported by Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history, who rightly states that “Gas and oil production will continue well into the future and we believe that is the reality of our economy and the world we’re living in”.
Scotland could be “inexpensive-energy” independent – indeed a net exporter – if fracking were allowed. This would promote our economy and help restore the social contract undermined by Utopian green policies. Biden is simply accepting the reality of the situation that for billions of people, for the time being, there is no replacement for fossil fuel. Pious green legislation is facile.
One day we’ll find a substitute but, until then, we need petroleum and all its many by-products.
(Dr) John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife
Rather than acceding to the Jamaican government’s demands for reparations for slavery, we should remind them that by pioneering the industrial revolution Britain fatally undermined the economic basis of slavery throughout the world.
Also, with the profits of our industry we were able to finance the Royal Navy to spend decades suppressing the seaborne slave trade, and then were able to free all the slaves in the British empire without economic dislocation or civil war.
Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife
At long last it has dawned on our Prime Minister that the money we give in foreign aid has to be borrowed, as we run a deficit economy. Those MPs who object to the sensible reduction of this aid would presumably go on borrowing until we could borrow no more, and become even more bankrupt than we already are. That is the calibre of some of those who are elected to serve our interests. Remember that at the next election.
Malcolm Parkin, Kinross, Perth & Kinross
I was hoping some kind of compromise could have been reached between the UK government and the Labour opposition on Foreign Aid; as it is, the cuts have gone through. This is a hard one for me and, I am pretty certain, for others.
The basic principle of the better-off helping the poorer countries is, I feel instinctively, right. Yet we must remind ourselves that India and Pakistan – both major recipients of UK Aid – have enormous and horrendously expensive nuclear arsenals. Does supplying UK Aid not free these government from the burden of looking after their own poor and allow the money to be used where the donors would rather it was not?
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh
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