It's certainly not “morally repugnant” for people of all income levels to be able to keep more of their hard-earned money rather than hand it to government (your report, 27 September). A truly progressive tax system does see those who earn more, pay more. That's fair and is what we have in the UK. The idea of almost half that income being handed to government is the only thing that is repugnant given their proven failure to use that money wisely.
Higher earners should pay more tax and handing over 40p of each £1 earned feels about the right limit that should apply. Taxation shouldn't only go in an upwards direction. The balance should always be that you're working more for you and your family than to bolster the coffers of those in government. Especially when they have such a strong track record of wasting the contribution that taxpayers make.
J Lewis, Edinburgh
It is a gross false equivalence to argue that there is an equivalence between the policies of Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Truss (Scotsman, 27 September). The trickle-down idea and prescription at the heart of the Truss policies has been tried and failed for most of the last 40 years. The moderately redistributive and activist government ideas at the heart of the Corbyn proposals have never been systematically tried.
Ironically, class war ideology and interests are much more clearly embedded in the Truss agenda than in Corbyn’s economic and social policies. However, the deeper problem with the Truss-Corbyn false equivalence is the implication policy solutions for today's productivity, sustainability, inequality and poverty challenges will be found by a return to the centre. The evidence from years of centrist governments is that such policies are always too little, too late. The scope, scale and pace of change required from business and government as usual always falls short.
Hope springs eternal, however – it is evident that as we stumble through the 21st century we still await the leadership, policies and action required to make a real difference on productivity, sustainability and equity.
Stewart Sweeney, Adelaide, South Australia
Bad all over
Stan Grodynski comments quite rightly on the fact that the UK is in a very bad place at the moment due to recent increases in inflation, the cost of living and the spiralling price of energy (Letters 27 September). Of course, it's all down to Westminster and the Tories. What he omits to mention is that every country in Western Europe is suffering from the very same problems. Even Germany, the “powerhouse of Europe”.
He should perhaps take into account the fact that two years of Covid followed by the criminal actions of Vladimir Putin have played some part in bringing about our current unfortunate situation. It's so much easier, though, to blame Westminster and the Union. As to his ridiculous attempt to compare Scotland to Malta, well, enough said!
D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian
When Anas Sarwar bellows, “We will not make any bargains with the SNP. Never!” he seems to think it is news. Indeed it may be to his boss, Keir Starmer, who is reported to be about to promise that “Labour would let Scotland shape its own future”. But the reality we live with is that Scottish Labour and Conservatives have voted together for the same candidate in so many Scottish elections now that they might as well sit together as the Scottish Con/Lab Party, which is exactly what the UK Labour and Conservative Parties are becoming at Westminster. The problem there is not that their policies vary much, but finding seating room on the same side of the House would be difficult.
If the Conservative or Labour Party had any radical ideas to change the lives of ordinary people for the better, it might be worth listening. As it is, the only star on the Scottish horizon is the hope of independence to make use of our resources to benefit ourselves.
Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh
A recent YouGov poll showed a 17 per cent lead for Labour over the Conservatives in the aftermath of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's “fiscal event”. Do Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his colleagues have the vision and determination to ensure that this gain can be sustained over the two years or so to the next general election? One problem has been highlighted by shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray. It is the party's entirely confusing position on the constitution (your report, 27 September).
It awaits former prime minister Gordon Brown's recommendations on the matter. We can only assume it will be a further refinement on the so-called “Vow” produced shortly before the 2014 independence referendum. Its emphasis on more and more powers for the Scottish parliament, within the framework of the United Kingdom, has never been wholly fulfilled. Labour's challenge will be to produce a credible programme that can excite voters more than the prospect of a move towards independence. It will need to overcome the hesitancy among senior spokespersons that Mr Murray mentioned in his interview.
On top of all this, however, is its need to convince voters that it can control public expenditure. It is in the curious position of having to confront a Conservative government that is one of the most interventionist in economic history. It has failed to convince even many of its own supporters that it has the measures to control inflation and promote growth. But that does not mean Labour can simply sit back and hope that it can come to power simply by default. The people it needs to win over will want to know that it can be stringent, if necessary, with the public finances. That work needs to start now if it is to become a credible force.
Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife
Up the poll
Public opinion polls are nowadays merely propaganda. Once upon a time polls were conducted in the street with a clipboard – not any more. The polling companies then moved to telephone polling because it was faster and cheaper. Now the polling companies are internet-based, which is even faster and cheaper still. The problem is that internet respondents are a self-selecting group. People sign up to polling companies and so the original “random sample” has been lost. Research has shown that some people of strong political convictions sign up to a lot of polling companies, thereby distorting the results. Likewise, campaign groups can get their members to sign up in large numbers, creating an unbalanced respondent group which does not represent the general public.
In their book Twilight of the Polls, Christopher Prosser and Jonathan Mellon study the problematic worth of internet-based polls and conclude that using self-selecting respondents is completely unreliable. No amount of statistical manipulation of the respondent base can ever escape from the distortion caused by self-selection. There is no way to transform a self-selected group into a random sample of the general public.
Angus Robertson, minister in the SNP government, has confirmed the unreliability of polls by his actions. He has set up a polling company, Progress Scotland, which has as its declared aim the advancement of the independence cause. Clearly that polling company is not interested in the impartial collection of sociological data. Its purpose is to generate results which will advance the separatist cause. We could not ask for a better illustration of the critical view that polling is now propaganda!
Les Reid, Edinburgh
Gordon Brown was praised in 1997 for making the Bank of England “independent” of political control while mandating it to limit inflation to “only” 2 per cent per annum. But the effect was to reduce the weapons a government needs to manage a modern economy – fiscal and monetary. The current fall in sterling’s value versus the US dollar (not so different from the Euro, Yen or Swedish Krona) had begun long before last week’s “mini-budget”, and is widely blamed on the Bank’s misreading of the pent-up inflationary effects of the Covid lockdowns, which it naively expected to be temporary and at a manageable level.
Those effects have now been greatly exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, where again the Bank’s reaction was too slow and too little. So the government gets blamed for what is primarily the Bank’s fault.
The Bank was also myopic in its attitude to the ludicrously low, unprecedented and unsustainable interest rates of the past 14 years, which have penalised savers (who number far more than borrowers), increased house prices excessively while we failed to build enough new houses, and led a whole generation of property buyers into an unreal world of effectively free money.
In 25 years, the pound has lost half of its 1997 value at around the mandated 2 per cent per year – certainly better than in the preceding 25 though for much of that period militant trade union bosses could hold the country to ransom – but still pretty abysmal for savers.
Moreover, much of that reduced inflation rate arose not from the Bank’s brilliance but from transferring our productive capacity to China, which has certainly not proved an unalloyed success and will cause many more problems from now on.
So I wonder whether the Bank has been any more competent than governments would have been had they retained control over their monetary levers.
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
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