Readers' Letters: Sturgeon’s legacy is far from cut and dried

It is no surprise that Brian Wilson could find little to applaud in terms of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's 14-year tenure in various posts in government (Scotsman, 11 September). But he might at least have been a bit more detailed in terms of modern history.

Columnist Brian Wilson delivered a typically scathing assessment of Nicola Sturgeon in Saturday's Scotsman
Columnist Brian Wilson delivered a typically scathing assessment of Nicola Sturgeon in Saturday's Scotsman

Firstly, there can be little argument that she had played a key role in transforming the SNP from a party of protest to a serious contender for power. Her achievements during the Covid crisis have been criticised from time to time, but largely praised for her communication skills and endurance. To this might be added her political skill in handling the swine flu situation more than a decade ago.

She helped introduce free prescriptions for all adults in a gradual way, thus ending a longstanding controversy over health charges. Other aspects of universal provision – free eye tests, free tuition for students domiciled in Scotland, the continuation of free personal care and concessionary travel for pensioners – are part of her legacy too. Her negotiations with the coalition government in the early years of the last decade helped secure agreed terms on which an independence referendum would be held in 2014.

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Like all governments, the SNP administration is open to the charge of too much promise and too little delivery. This is certainly true about education and the “named person” legislation. Many of the problems created might have been eased by a more mature approach to rhetoric and the achievement of objectives. But Ms Sturgeon has played her part in ensuring that the SNP is not just associated with striving for independence. The everyday concerns of voters such as a decent income and access to services have been given prominence too.

I suspect that Ms Sturgeon may decide to stand down some months after next year's local elections. If so, her time in office will be appraised much more generously than Brian Wilson is prepared to admit.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Pragmatic Tories

An interesting article by John McLellan (Scotsman 11 September), on whether Boris Johnson is being “unconservative” with his rise in national Insurance.

You can argue that he is because he is raising tax, but you can also argue that he isn't because he is being fiscally conservative in trying to balance the books, ie, there are "no free meals” (incidentally he deserves credit for at least trying to fix social care, where others have fled).

The party did go through a period of economic neoliberalism for about 30 years or so, but the financial crash of 2008 helped put paid to that. It is one of the world's oldest political parties, because, at heart, it was always anti-ideological; pragmatism was always at its centre, and long may this continue.

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Where’s the plan?

I had a smile at former Royal Marine Keith Brown encouraging SNP supporters to convince doubters that Scottish independence will be good for them (Scotsman, 10 September): “Our task is to convince those who do not yet support our cause” etc. Now, in his earlier employment by the Navy, he would not think of participating in an action without a plan. I would have thought that to convince doubters, you need a persuasive plan that reaches beyond “Braveheart”.

We got The Sustainable Growth Commission report released in 2016 and written by no less than SNP economist Andrew Wilson. That plan received a cool reception from the SNP hierarchy because austerity was mentioned. Keith Brown was then "parachuted in" to develop a new independence plan, but then he was moved again, this time to Justice, before the plan was released. It is still lying in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. I wonder why.

Unanswered question: how are the SNP supporters to persuade doubters about how well Scotland would function under independence without a plan addressing such important questions as how to manage the substantial structural deficits in the budget and trade balance as well as currency, trade agreements and a host of many other critical issues? I think that an appeal to the heart will not be sufficient.

John Peter, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire

Back to the ’50s

Listening to Alyn Smith MP, over the weekend describe the current goings-on in the Palace of Westminster was depressing. Whilst many readers may consider Mr Smyth’s view biased, one cannot dispute the facts.

Brexit was supposed ensure a surge in UK output: not so. Brexit would not, as Remainers predicted, result in material shortages: I think we can all see that has not been achieved. Brexit would not result in people shortages in critical health care services, but it sure has, as recent reports suggest doctors are heading for breakdown. Admittedly Covid is also driving this, but EU care workers not returning to a country that does not appear to want them is not a clever, thought through plan.

Being an ex-MEP, Mr Smyth commented on how the EU performs line-by-line scrutiny of trade deals, a professional planned activity in contrast to the UK negotiating team where they seem to have all of the attributes of a “Barrow Boy” – a bit of a chancer, I suspect he meant.

It seems that Johnson has picked a team of ministers who could well have come from the 1950s, and they want to drag us all back to that post-Word War II period where our fathers and mothers were just glad to get the war over and a “we won” buzz was circulating, even though we were still on rations

I wonder if in 2022 the UK will declare an emergency and issue Ration Books along with Covid Passports?

Alistair Ballantyne, Birkhill, Angus

People traffickers

Even when France gets promised an extra £54 million to double its coastal policing patrols, record numbers of migrants were reported as landing on UK shores, in part helped by good weather conditions.

The French were adept at getting good deals while the UK was part of the EU and little seems to have changed – not that Priti Patel is likely to go down as one of our most effective Home Secretaries.

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What might be more effective in the longer term would be stepping up both the role and resources of Interpol and producing greater police co-operation towards tracking down the people traffickers who make their money by exploitation both before the migrants leave France, which they must have entered in the first place, and after they have arrived here.

Jim Craigen, Edinburgh

Blind eye

"These things happen" was the reply from the Scottish Government who did not spot Janey Godley’s racist tweets before hiring her at our expense (Scotsman, 11 September).

Did they also not spot her simple description of Donald Trump (beginning with a “c”) that would see her arrested if she used the same for our First Minister (and many of us are tempted), or simply turn a blind eye?

Our First Minister also failed to notice her new Green ministers’ unacceptable seemingly anti-Semitic views. Is there one rule for confirmed independence supporters and another rule for those of us who are concerned about Scotland’s future?

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

Nuclear option

Joyce McMillan's article (Scotsman, 10 September) was well thought out and gave a balanced view which raised concerns about western democracies not being able to take the decisions necessary to tackle global warming.

I would suggest that one reason the UK does not take the decisions needed is that it does not fully grasp the enormity of the challenge.

It is generally accepted that we must transition to electrification in all sectors which presently use fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest. There is no credible plan, if there is a plan at all, which will get anywhere near net zero carbon emissions by that date.

Joyce includes a comment on the Scottish Government's approach to global warming which in part says, "Yet the very existence of a document like the Scottish programme for government – which so clearly grasps the problems...” I see no evidence that the Scottish Government have a plan to electrify our economy at low cost with low carbon dioxide emissions and at the same time provide security of supply and resilience in the system.

The SNP and Green Party will have to embrace nuclear energy before they can be taken seriously. It is impossible to envisage a future where we can decarbonise the electricity power grid affordably without increasing our nuclear capacity by a significant amount.

C Scott, Edinburgh

Ed’s Waterloo

At the risk of being presumptious, with the first Abba single in 40 years barely scraping the top ten whereas the latest cheese on toast offering from Ed Sheeran enjoys its eleventh week at No.1, therein lies definitive proof that today's generation wouldn't know a decent tune if it kicked them in the behind.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Need for speed

It was wonderful to see famous cyclists riding through our stunning Borders scenery on the Tour of Britain.

Sadly, the experience was severely spoiled by the completely irresponsible behaviour of the accompanying police motorcyclists.

They were quite clearly using the opportunity of traffic-free roads to behave in just the same way as the kind of motorcycle speedsters that we all hate and that they are employed to control.

I am very pleased to report that the motorcycle stewards were complying with the speed limit.

Jim Sutherland, Lauder, Scottish Borders

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