Reader's Letters: Sturgeon’s anti-poverty legacy must continue

Whatever people’s views of her wider legacy there should be no doubt Nicola Sturgeon made huge progress putting in place the building blocks needed to end child poverty in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon's successor as First Minister must work to end child poverty in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/WPA pool/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon's successor as First Minister must work to end child poverty in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon's successor as First Minister must work to end child poverty in Scotland (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/WPA pool/Getty Images)

As The Scotsman editorial of March 24 highlighted, the latest official poverty statistics are a stark reminder that an utterly unacceptable one in four of our children remain locked in poverty, but they pre-date the impact of recent Scottish government policies – not least the roll out and increases to the Scottish child payment.

From securing unanimous Holyrood support for the Child Poverty Act to introducing and increasing the value of the Scottish child payment, Sturgeon has shown real commitment on child poverty. As a result of Scottish tax and benefit policies the Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes that “amongst the poorest 30 per cent of households, those with children will see their incomes boosted by around a sizeable £2,000 a year” compared to families in England and Wales. Encouragingly, forecasts suggest the interim target to reduce child poverty in Scotland to less than 18 per cent by 2024 is within reach, despite child poverty rising across the rest of the UK.

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Behind these statistics are families now able to put food on the table without the indignity of relying on foodbanks, children able to join their friends in activities previously denied them and struggling parents whose financial worries have lessened and mental health improved. The extra cash support provided by the Scottish child payment has been spent on nappies and other essentials.

The new First Minister needs to not just safeguard but build on this precious legacy. Rising costs are still outstripping additional Holyrood supports. Whilst significantly better off than those elsewhere in the UK, Scotland’s lowest income families are still making impossible choices between feeding the meter, shopping for food or getting into debt. In a rich country this cannot be right. The new First Minister’s mission must be not just to reduce child poverty in Scotland, but to end it once and for all.

John Dickie, Director, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland,Glasgow

Deficit fears

Whoever becomes the next First Minister will be forced to address the serious problem of Scotland's deficit. Despite Scotland's economy currently being propped up by what many experts believe is a short(ish) term spike in oil and gas prices, the deficit is nevertheless running at 12.3 per cent of GDP, more than double that of the UK as a whole. As Kate Forbes' own figures show, it would 15.7 per cent, if excluding volatile North Sea income.

The Sturgeon years have been characterised by universal benefits. Scotland, of course, pays income tax at a higher rate than everywhere else in the UK but arguably not high enough to maintain current public service levels. Westminster prefers to target according to need rather than applying benefits universally – arguably not the best way to attract middle-class voters but more fiscally prudent.

You could say, so what? Most countries run huge deficits, so why not Scotland? One reason is that a key SNP hook to attract voters to the notion of Scexit is to claim that we'd join the EU with ease. Yet the EU requires new members to run a deficit not in excess of 3 per cent – Scotland's is more than 400 per cent higher. Some countries within the EU run deficits of more than 3 per cent (though rarely as high as 12.3 per cent), but the key difference is that such countries are already in the EU, not applying to join.

It seems that Humza Yousaf, Emma Forbes or Ash Regan will face the massive challenge of significantly reducing the deficit by a combination of (somehow) rapidly growing income derived from the onshore economy, increasing income tax or slashing public services, if they are ever going to be able to claim, with a semblance of credibility, that an independent Scotland could join the EU. Such is Sturgeon's legacy.

Martin Redfern, Melrose

Railway woes

​I was interested to read Alistair Dalton’s Inside Transport column on March 24 on the new station at Inverness Airport.

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As a railway fan, I was excited to be using it having returned from Bristol. It was disappointing to see no signage at the airport and I had to rely on the lift towers at the station to guide me. I paid £17.10 for a single ticket to Keith, and was disgusted to find standing room only as what should have been a four-car set was reduced to two.

Surely having so many standing passengers is a safety issue apart from the discomfort. Some people would probably have to stand all the way to Aberdeen.

What a poor welcome for business people and tourists on possibly their first visit to Scotland. If we want to encourage more people onto the trains we have to do much better than this. I contacted ScotRail and have had a generic reply which didn't address my specific points and have contacted Scotgov but don't expect anything better.

Lorna Sherriff, Dufftown

Gays in Uganda

​Many in the international community paint Uganda's recent bill containing the harshest laws in the world on homosexuality as a cultural/religious issue that other nations have no place in. A patronising and sloppily ignorant view.

It is equally inaccurate to say that nations have no influence. The UKhas many tools at its disposal if the will is there. Ugandan President President Yoweri Museveni will notice travel bans, personal sanctions, loss of trade deals and investment. We have ambassadors to expel and recall. We also, as a nation of people of fair play and tolerance, have a moral backbone if the UK Government will take heed.

The bill is grave enough by stating that “aggravated” homosexual acts will be punishable by death, but seeing as the powers in Uganda 'redefine' supposedly criminal acts, we will have to accept that whoever and whatever law enforcement chooses to define is in the remit of this charge.

Religion and culture do not promote death, but for the people in a position of power to use as their instrument and vehicle. Historically and presently, this imported political Christianity is fuelling – with American zealots' money –-persecution of a minority group. Neighbours, family and friends must inform authorities on homosexuals. You need never have loved or acted on your feelings: the fact that you were born will mean imprisonment.

English Anglican Christians who did not follow their Scottish counterparts in equal marriage supposedly have their hearts broken and much to fear by a blessing for gay and lesbian newly-weds. It would be timely for the UK to look to the deteriorating climates of Uganda and Kenya for fear and broken hearts, but also for the astounding bravery of Ugandan politicians, local campaign groups and individuals. The cruelty of those who do not understand peace.

Madeleine Fitch, Norfolk

SNP ‘talent’

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There seems to be a consensus, within and beyond the SNP, that the party itself as well as the ruling regime requires a “clear-out”.

We know little about the shadowy figures who have been Peter Murrell’s lieutenants in the party, apart from senior people like Ross Colquhoun and junior apparatchiks like Olaf Stando, who propagate the party’s myths and fairytales on social media. Changing the guard at SNP HQ may mean sacrificing experience for a new broom.

It is, I suppose, much the same in the administration at Holyrood. Would cabinet ministers who have openly supported Humza Yousaf serve under Kate Forbes? Would Mr Yousaf even offer Ms Forbes a place? Looking around the SNP parliamentarians at both Holyrood and Westminster, there is little sign of the ’talent’ that Nicola Sturgeon claimed was available. At Holyrood, all we have heard is slavish devotion to the Sturgeon cause and the sound of obedient applause when she or one of her ministers speaks.

Who is there of any actual ability to staff a new government in a time of change? The recycling of persons such as Shona Robison, Angela Constance, Michael Matheson, Keith Brown and Shirley-Anne Somerville suggests that there is not much choice on offer

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Doubts over EVs

Controversy has been provoked by the German government's changed stance on outlawing, from 2035, internal combustion engines (ICE) for cars. Despite the Greens' fury, the electric car (EV’s) problems of battery charging, fire risks, high prices new and low selling-on values prompt the new EU policy.

EVs are not "green" once manufacturing, their lithium batteries and extra electricity needs are considered. Given these dire drawbacks of EVs, they may not now be judged suitable fully to replace ICE cars.

Moreover, carbon dioxide's imminent exoneration as the "villain" of climate change will likely make decarbonisation avoidable. The future of "compulsory" EVs is now in grave doubt.

Charles Wardrop, Perth

All in the genes?

The repeated and simplistic claim that poverty causes a shorter life is thoroughly disproved by the Benedictine monks in their abbeys and by the number of OAPs who, despite living in deprived areas all their days, nevertheless make old bones. These exceptions test the assumed rule to its breaking-point.

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The fallacy is also shown by those rich people who do die early. The absence or presence of wealth does not, on its own, account for the age of decease. Of far greater importance is genetics and the use/abuse of resources, and lifestyles.

Tim Flynn, Garvald, East Lothian

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