Readers' Letters: Time to end Scottish Parliament experiment

After 14 years of one-party rule it seems to me that the experiment should be over. Educational standards have fallen; policing is a joke for most areas; poverty is increasing; economic growth is down; NHS Scotland is not funded properly. The list is almost endless and a fanatical pursuit of independence by the SNP has split the country.

Is it time to redefine the responsibilities of the UK government? (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)
Is it time to redefine the responsibilities of the UK government? (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)

All governments – including Westminster – have been pulling powers to the centre for years, although England is trying to delegate powers to mayors. Scotland on the other hand, is still at it. Think police, planning, power generation, etc.

Powers should be vested in more local arrangements. Reincarnate burgh, county, town and city councils and let them be responsible for raising local taxes, be they domestic or business rates. Possibly even a local tax ring-fenced for a specific purpose, locally agreed to.

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For economies of scale, councils could join with adjacent ones for specific purposes. This already happens in Tayside where Tayside Contracts work covers Angus, Dundee, and Perth and Kinross councils.

The UK Government should look after just the things that are done on a national scale: defence, foreign affairs, major infrastructure such as motorways etc and then we could be rid of Holyrood and its lobby fodder politicians and have an effective Scottish Office with career civil servants who do not have constantly to be looking over their shoulders!

At the same time we should be rid of 16 year-olds having the vote. In fact, why not raise the voting age to 21? This is the age at which most young people have some real experience of life. Aspirants to be a councillor at local level should be at least 25. In the hope that MPs might have a bit more experience than just party politics, they should be at least 35.

Westminster has a revising chamber in the House of Lords but that place is vastly overcrowded and is crying out for reform and a reduction in numbers.

Would we really need so many MPs in the Commons if a lot more powers were devolved? Perhaps there should be no more MPs than there are seats for them in the chamber.

John A Dorward, Brechin Road, Arbroath

Seize the day

How depressing to read the results of a recent Oxford University research programme that has shown that to increase vaccine uptake, personal benefits rather than benefits to the community/society should be emphasised.

Evidence, if any more was required, that Thatcher's children – and indeed, grandchildren, are still with us. The Tory mantra of “no such thing as society” is clearly still to the fore.

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It is probably too late for this to be rolled back in the UK, as witnessed by voting patterns and attitude surveys. However, the people in Scotland, by the same measures, have shown that they are on a very different path and that only with independence can we unshackle ourselves from this corrosive right-wing mindset.

The reasons for independence are stacking up. Let us seize the moment before we too are sucked in.

Brian Kelly, Langwill Place, Edinburgh

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Life of parties

Our political parties are sadly lacking in imagination.

On the major question of the day – Scottish Independence – three of our main parties, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems, have nothing to offer except blanket opposition to Indyref 2.Why should the Labour stance be purely negative? Why not adopt a principled positive position in favour of some form of home rule short of full independence?

It has long been suspected that devo-plus, or possibly a type of federal system, would command widespread support in Scotland.It would benefit Labour to make this case. The eminent Labour politician Donald Dewar, father of the Scottish Parliament, once said that “devolution is not an event but a process”.As the country seems evenly split on the issue, a compromise such as devo-plus might provide an appropriate solution.

A federal system, perhaps a federation of the British Isles, including a United Ireland, might one day answer many problems.

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The same criticism, that of no policy except opposition to a referendum, applies to the Liberal Democrats, despite its former longstanding support for home rule.As for the Conservative party, once more we have nothing but opposition to a referendum.

The refusal of the UK government to budge on this issue is clearly not sustainable in the long run. Their parrot-like claim that another referendum would be divisive is unhelpful. It might be divisive for a few weeks, but the interminable wrangling over the issue of independence, which we have endured for decades, is far more divisive. The time has come to lance the boil by offering a legal referendum, perhaps with certain conditions.

The first could be to set the bar higher than a simple majority for any constitutional change to occur – perhaps a two-thirds majority of those voting.

Secondly, the referendum should be accompanied by a prospectus giving an idea of how the initial stages of independence might work, regarding, for example, the type of currency, the defence arrangements and border controls with England, and the prospects for rejoining the EU.These suggestions might hopefully lead to a useful discussion rather than the endless repetition of the same old arguments that we have for so long been subjected to.(Dr) John Slee, Hopetoun Terrace, Gullane

Poor value MPs

It’s time to call time on the regular Perspective column by Kenny MacAskill (13 May).

In an article this week on the Wings Over Scotland blog, he and his Alba Party colleague Neale Hanvey state that they will no longer attend Westminster as a matter of course. They merely promise to vote “when appropriate” on issues as they arise.As if having an absentee MP who lived in Speyside during the pandemic while claiming to represent East Lothian wasn’t bad enough, his constituents now have an MP that is absent from the day job as well. Mr MacAskill no longer represents, nor appears to care, about the interests of the constituency he duped into voting for him. It’s time for him to stand down so voters can elect an MP to represent them effectively.

And it is time for The Scotsman to axe the column and instead provide a platform to a harder working politician.

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Simon Francis, West Holmes Gardens, Musselburgh

Must do better

I am very disappointed, but not surprised, to read in the paper this morning that “Scotland has the worst UK schools”! The nation falls below the UK average in all areas ranked in the UK Prosperity Index, the Legatum Institute found.What a great pity this table of results for all schools in Scotland was not published before the local elections!The table makes very interesting but disappointing reading. I hope Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney reads it!

Ebyth Morton, Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

PR message

Murdo Fraser claims the Tories stopped the SNP achieving an overall majority, therefore scuppering Indyref 2 (“Scottish Tory s uccess stalled drive for a second Independence referendum”, Perspective, 12 May ). Where Mr Fraser’s bizarre claim falls to the ground is the fact that it was our democratic proportional representation (PR) voting system which stopped the SNP’s overall majority rather than some sort of unlikely Tory popularity resurgence.

Clearly there was some tactical voting going on amongst unionists where voters from other parties held their noses and voted Tory in a few seats, but this was only a minor part of the story. Without PR the Tories would have a meagre five seats at Holyrood. If Mr Fraser believes it was because of his party’s popularity he’s sadly deluded.

It should also be pointed out that Mr Fraser’s UK Tory Party does not support PR, in truth they are actively hostile towards it, as with such a system the Westminster Tories would not have anything like the large majority they presently hold. So it’s OK for Scotland and the other devolved nations but not, of course, for the UK. Mr Fraser can also thank PR for guaranteeing him a political living as in at least seven elections over the years he has failed to win a single one under the first-past-the-post system his own party is so fond of.

Like so many other things, hypocrisy runs through the Tory Party like the lettering through Blackpool rock.

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D Mitchell, Coates Place, Edinburgh

Is this democracy?

In matters of true democratic behaviour by political parties in Scotland: Is it democratic for a political party to continue trumpeting its single ideology based upon pure emotion and denigration of other parties and individuals that do not espouse the same idealism?.

Is it democratic for a political party to deliberately refuse to provide Scotland's voters with any factual detail whatsoever to support their ideology and to avoid at all costs to provide the consequences of implementing that ideology ?

Is it democratic for a political party to promote a form of idolatry for the party leader?

There seems to be a movement developing in Scotland on the basis of " I'm more Scottish than you, because I vote for independence”.

That sentiment is not helped by the fact that we now give the vote to our schoolchildren – t his generation of voters have as yet little experience of life's realities and, so far as I know, Scotland's schools are not required to teach political science to 16 year-olds.

It is a disturbing train of events.

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Derek Farmer, Knightsward Farm, Anstruther

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