Readers' Letters: Spare us the pie in the sky dreams, Mr Yousaf

Humza Yousaf's speech at the SNP conference was high in aspirational content but very low in factual detail.
Readers suggest Humza Yousaf's council tax freeze would be a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other (Picture: Adobe)Readers suggest Humza Yousaf's council tax freeze would be a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other (Picture: Adobe)
Readers suggest Humza Yousaf's council tax freeze would be a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other (Picture: Adobe)

Two leading items on his wishlist were a council tax freeze and the Scottish Government issuing bonds to fund capital spending (something the Scottish Government has had the power to do for many years).

On the council tax freeze (which Mr Yousaf conveniently forgot to mention to Cosla or his Green partners) he was asked how this would be funded but he could not provide any details. The Fraser of Allander Institute estimates that this shortfall could be more than £400 million.

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On the issuing of bonds, the Scottish Government were unable to say how much would be borrowed or give any details as to how the scheme would work.

More pie in the sky dreams from the SNP.

Jim Houston, Edinburgh

Cynical move

Humza Yousaf’s unilateral decision to freeze council tax next year will have drastic implications for Scottish local authorities. His desperate attempt to please the delegates at the SNP conference is a kick in the teeth to Cosla and the council workers currently taking industrial action for a decent pay rise.

Only four months ago the First Minister, his deputy and the Scottish Government’s Minister for Local Government put their names to a partnership agreement with Cosla which “signified a shared vision for a more collaborative approach to delivering shared priorities for the people of Scotland”. That “historic partnership agreement” must have slipped Humza Yousaf’s mind when he alone decided to make his council tax freeze announcement.

For 16 years Scottish councils have been struggling to balance their budgets and maintain services after the double whammy of austerity and a nine-year council tax freeze from 2007 to 2016.

The First Minister might have thought that another freeze would improve his personal poll ratings but I can’t see it being popular with SNP councillors facing the wrath of a public whose local services will be decimated as a consequence of this decision. The SNP promised to abolish the council tax in 2007 but in government they have cynically used it to underfund and undermine Scotland’s councils for their own political ends.

Brian Weddell, Prestonpans, East Lothian

High cost

The announcements by Humza Yousaf over a £417 million U-turn on council tax, a £300m increase in the NHS budget and £500m extra cash for the renewable sector only adds to the existing £1 billion black hole in the SNP’s 2024/2025 budget. If the Finance Secretary plans to make the half million higher and top rate taxpayers cover the total debt then that will be an annual tax increase of around £4,000 a year to those in these tax bands. Not a good policy, impacting on junior doctors, police officers and teachers during a cost-of living crisis. It will be an even harsher policy if introduced just prior to a Westminster election and will be used by all opposition parties prior to the May 2026 election.

Add on the impact of higher energy costs over the winter and the SNP face major financial difficulties in the preparation of their 2024/2025 budget.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Bonded labour

One cannot disagree with the contribution of Gordon Presly (Letters,19 October) and his summation of the First Minister’s economic and commercial illiteracy relating to the freezing of council tax. I would simply add further to his conclusion by referencing Humza Yousaf’s desire to issue Scottish Bonds to the international markets.

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What a ludicrous proposal as it is highly likely Scotland would then borrow money from the international markets at a higher debt interest rate than that which could be achieved by the UK Treasury borrowing on our behalf! The simple question to be put to Humza Yousaf is: “Why has the Scottish Government not issued a Scottish Bond previously?” I hope even Mr Yousaf would be economically literate enough to provide the obvious answer but I will not hold my breath!

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Short memories

In March, Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer proposed a council tax freeze in England “to help the 99 per cent of working people facing a rise in their council tax”, using the windfall profits from Scotland’s North Sea, and higher council taxes was a central plank of Labour’s Rutherglen by- election campaign. So, there are a lot of double standards and some very short memories around.

The SNP’s council tax freeze between 2007 and 2011 was fully funded by the Scottish Government and, in fact, the independent Scottish Parliament Research Centre concluded that the funding resulted in local authorities receiving more income than they would have by increasing rates by the RPI (Scotsman, 22 September 2015). Also, following the end of council tax freeze, bands were readjusted in favour of lower bands A-D.

In 2020, the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded that the Conservative Party’s council tax freeze, beginning in 2010, resulted in those in the middle of the income distribution becoming the biggest beneficiaries in proportional terms, while those at the very bottom were mostly or entirely insulated as a result of council tax relief.

Everyone agrees that council tax needs to be reformed and an up-to-date property revaluation needs to take place, but politically this can only be introduced at the start of a parliamentary term.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Cash strapped

So, the SNP announces a council tax freeze for next year, to help with the cost of living, which, on the face of it, sounds good. However, there are several problems here.

It is well known that councils are strapped for cash, and if they cannot raise taxes, where will the shortfall come from?. Also, the better off pay more in council tax, so will a freeze not benefit the rich more? That does not sound very social democratic to me. Or could it be an election is in the offing?

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Catch troll

MP Lisa Cameron, who committed the crime of the century by defecting from the SNP to the Conservatives, has received a death threat and has had to leave her house. I assume Humza Yousaf will set the wheels in motion with the police by having them find out who made the death threat and have them prosecuted.

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Some SNP supporters really do stoop to the gutter when things aren’t pleasing them. I think the genuine supporters of independence are many but if the lunatic element ever have their way Scotland will be worse off for it.

Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

Remember Ukraine

Understandably overshadowed by the Middle East terrorist attacks on Israel, Ukraine is still fighting for its very existence against a constantly whingeing Russia which seems not to realise Marquis of Queensbury Rules cannot be applied in this, a war of Putin’s making.

The Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, protested against the use of US-supplied long range missiles directed by Ukraine at Russian air bases within the country; nine military helicopters destroyed. “The consequences of supplying these weapons,“ said Antonov “will be serious”,Does Antonov think the US and the western nations are going to sit back and watch Ukraine pulverised by the Russian aggressors?

Clearly the myopically challenged ambassador chooses to overlook the 22,000 Ukrainian civilian casualties, the six million who have fled their homes and country, and the 16 million requiring humanitarian help. There have been around 130,000 Ukrainian military deaths and an estimated 100,000 wounded. Roughly 200,000 Russian soldiers have died.

Ambassador Antonov threatens consequences. What greater consequences could there be than 350,000 humans now dead who would still be alive today had arch terrorist Vladimir Putin not invaded Ukraine.This does not diminish, in any way, the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, with almost 1,500 murdered; around 200 taken hostage.It is simply a reminder that the Ukrainian people in their thousands have been facing death every day and have been since 24th February 2022

Doug Morrison, Cranbrook Kent

Wait for truth

Regardless of what version of war propaganda we believe it is obvious that complete truth will not be available for a long time. While the visit of Joe Biden as President of the USA might appear good publicity it does not address any of the causes of the war in Israel/Palestine.

It is more significant that each and every year for the last ten years the state of Israel has received three billion dollars of economic subsidy and military support from the USA.

Norman Lockhart, Innerleithen, Scottish Borders

Don’t know why...

With regard to Andrew Gray’s letter concerning the naming of UK storms (19 October), surely this is just another unwanted example of creeping Americanisation. Why do storms need to be named at all? What was wrong with “it will be very wet and windy”? Or, continuing on the Americanisation theme, it will be “incredibly wet and windy”.

David Edgar, Symington, Biggar

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