Readers' Letters: SNP response to Budget rings rather hollow

Wednesday showed the problem with preparing your reply to the Budget before actually hearing it being announced in the Commons. After hearing of the biggest spending rise for Scotland since Devolution it seem rather hollow of the SNP to keep up the pretence that it will leave Scotland “short-changed and millions of families worse off”.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes didn't reckon much to Wednesday's Budget. (Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty Images)
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes didn't reckon much to Wednesday's Budget. (Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty Images)

An extra, repeat extra, £4.6 billion annually over three years is a substantial increase in anyone’s eyes so there is no basis to the argument that we are being shortchanged. Given it is up to the SNP to decide how to waste – sorry, spend this – there is no excuse for any family to be worse off.

As for undermining Devolution with the levelling-up monies, at least we know some of the extras will be well spent. And in a final surprise that I can’t recall ever seeing in my lifetime, the price of a pint might actually go down. I’ll drink to that.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

Twist in the tale

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“Please, can I have some more.” No matter how much money the UK Chancellor puts in Scotland’s sporran, it’s never enough. Do the nationalists expect the EU to be more generous? I suspect it might be less than enthusiastic about granting membership to another country with its bowl held out. Constant whingeing about UK neglect doesn’t do Scotland any favours.

Rodney Pinder, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Wasted cash

So SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes predictably claims the additional £4.6bn per year the UK Budget brings to Scotland isn't enough. A wee suggestion for Forbes: stop opening costly Scottish consuls around the world that duplicate the comprehensive global network of British embassies. They're a pointless flag-waving gesture presumably designed in part to keep onside dyed-in-the-wool nationalists, increasingly impatient with Nicola Sturgeon's failure to deliver even Indyref2, let alone independence. If Forbes scratches her head awhile, surely she'll come up with a better way to spend British taxpayer cash?

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Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Over-promising

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has tried to be all things to all men. In his budget he gave a nod to the environmentally concerned with extra duties on long haul flights while also nodding to hardpressed motorists and domestic aviation with money for roads and reduced taxes on fuel.

He promised money for levelling up while aiming optimistically to bring the deficit down in just a few years.

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But the “be all things to all men” aim can boomerang. Given inflation of four per cent, a continued hit to exports and transport costs because of Covid and Brexit, along with huge home heating costs and with cuts in universal credit, the levelling up plan looks extremely optimistic. But that is all the capacity he had to give to the levellers, given his need to nod furiously to the fiscal conservative tradition and the rich lobbyists.

And in this mix we see the total dishonesty of being all things to all men. Sure it may be possible to use the press to help him cover up for years but the issues are too urgent to be finessed away for long. Giving a few northern cities better transport links won't cut it for the towns in the red wall North. An assumption that private firms will fill the hole in the environmental plan seems optimistic even as we see the climate deteriorate around the world. When politicians over promise the disillusionment that follows can be enormous. Questions become heated eventually as the integrity of politicians is on the line. Who knows where that leads?

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

Greener than thou

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During the Budget debate, Ian Blackford lambasted the Westminster government for what he called ‘’climate hypocrisy,’’ by axing taxes on short haul flights. It is reassuring to see his irony by-pass has been a complete success. Mr Blackford, the self-portrayed ‘’humble crofter,’’ recently published shots of himself taking ownership of a new, giant, no doubt gas-guzzling, Range Rover. Maybe he needs it to check on his humble croft’s stock.

Either way, it is hypocrisy of a level that makes the Westminster government’s actions appear super-green.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Out-thought

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I’m surprised Kenny MacAskill gave the relegated Acorn project as an example of Tory “contempt” for Scotland as he, along with 21 SNP MPs, signed the Climate & Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill this time last year.The CEE Bill was sponsored by Extinction Rebellion and rejected Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for energy generation. It was no friend of Scotland or the Acorn project, but hey, all the cool climate kids were on board.Meanwhile, the canny Nothern English MPs were pressing their intellectually honest case for CCS with cabinet ministers. Our nationalist MPs were out-thought and outmanoeuvred, but are unlikely to learn any lessons when Brexit excuses their every failure.

Calum Miller, Prestonpans, East Lothian

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Chew on this

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COP26 will doubtless see livestock production systems come under further scrutiny. Most of the hype relating to greenhouse gas emissions from this sector of the industry originated from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation's report in 2006, ominously entitled Agriculture's Long Shadow. It attributed 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions to farmed livestock. Lead author Henning Steinfeld's core message for reducing emissions, when translated into plain language, states that livestock farming should be based on intensive, high input systems rather than traditional husbandry that is mutually beneficial to the long term health of soil microbiology and animal welfare.

Ironically in some respects, the report was eagerly seized upon by the supporters of the green and vegan movements and the media. The 18 per cent figure has been repeated so often that it has been accepted as true, when in fact it has been shown to have been arrived at through highly selective and distorted use of data. A more rational assessment from the Food Climate Research Network puts the figure at nearer 12 per cent. Viewed from a global perspective, the UK is responsible for just 1.1 per cent of total emissions, meaning the impact of our livestock is vanishingly small.

Ruminants always have been, and still are, a natural part of the carbon cycle. Countless millions of wild animals, from buffalo to deer, once roamed the planet's grasslands. Many of their domesticated descendants are now the main management tool that allows grasslands to capture and store carbon. Their manure percolates into the soil where worms and bacterial action make the nutrients available to the plants as soil organic carbon, resulting in increased organic matter. Strangely, although the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees that grasslands store more carbon than temperate forests and as much as tropical forests, they persist in pointing an illogical finger of blame at livestock farming.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

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Dying to save us

The rhetoric on global warming is heating up in the run-up to COP26. We are told almost daily that renewables will save the planet, but several years ago numerous scientific studies stated that millions of birds and bats are killed annually by wind turbine blades. Now my attention has been drawn to a study by Christian Voigt published in January. He estimates that 1.2 trillion insects are killed by German onshore wind turbines annually. The indirect effect of this will be fewer insects for birds and bats to eat, and reduced pollination of plants.

It seems we have to destroy the planet to save the planet.

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

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Ferry interesting

Under a Freedom of Information request I understand that in respect of Tim Hair, a Director of Ferguson Marine, the following payments were made on his behalf, not subject to either PAYE or NI: 21 days, December 2020 – £52,147; 14 days, January 2021 – £59,891; 20 days, June 2021 – £49,778; 22 days, July 2021 – £86,477. At a rate of £2,850 per day plus reasonable expenses, can anyone break down these outrageous payments?

Transport Minister Graeme Dey was appointed some five months ago and has apparently not yet met Mr Hair face to face. The Transport Minister appears more interested in discussing with Transport Scotland the space taken up by camper vans and the too-low charges for that space on the ferries!

Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Mr Dey certainly appears chained to Edinburgh, while boats 801 and 802 remain static and uncompleted in the Ferguson Marine boatyard. Perhaps Mr Dey could just close Ferguson Marine and gift the two boats – if they can float – to the Royal Navy for target practice and look to Norway for further secondhand ferries at £5 million each.

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Let’s hope, in the meantime, that not all of the just-announced £4.6bn block grant will be spent “maintaining jobs” at Ferguson Marine.

Robin Jack, Edinburgh

Triple threat

The UK State Pension is the meanest in the developed world and is set plunge in real terms as food and energy prices rage out of control. The decision to scrap the triple lock will cost pensioners £500 a year in lost income and we are the most exposed to food and energy costs.

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We’ll get an increase of three per cent next April but the Bank of England expects inflation to hit four per cent and analysts expect it to be nearer six per cent. The cynicism behind a “triple lock” promise until it was really needed to ease appalling fuel poverty among the elderly is deplorable.

(Rev) Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

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