Readers' Letters: Whatever happened to kindness in politics?

The shocking death of Sir David Amess, the kindest of men, is the most awful heartache for his family and a tragedy for our democracy. It is genuinely appalling that an elected representative who was simply trying to do his duty for his constituents should have been murdered in this way.

There were calls for more kindness in politics after the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

What, if anything, can we learn from this? Clearly we cannot ensure that MPs or MSPs are one hundred per cent safe all the time and it is very difficult to protect them against the the actions of a terrorist extremist. However, in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox there was a call for a kinder sort of politics. That never happened and just recently Iain Duncan Smith said that he had never known politics to be so toxic.

It could be argued that politicians themselves are at least partly to blame for this. We are assured that behind the scenes politicians of all persuasions co-operate and work well with one another on various projects and that for many of them friendships transcend the political divide. The problem is, that is not how the general public sees it. They see the mockery and the jeering bearpit that is the House of Commons, where insults are regularly traded and speakers frequently shouted down, their opinions rarely heard. They see political programmes on which politicians consistently refuse to see any merit in their opponents' arguments, no matter how worthwhile their points may be, and they see varying degrees of dishonesty. That is the cue that the public takes and that level of unreasonableness leads directly to the polarisation of views. No wonder the political scene has become so toxic.

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David Hamill, East Linton, East Lothian

Protect MPs

Many headlines have asked "Should MPs still be able to meet the public?” The question really is whether the public should still be allowed to meet MPs. The public does not have the right to possibly endanger anyone's life, irrespective of how pressing a constituent feels their concern is. Bank tellers often guarded themselves behind glass in the past – surely an MP’s life is worth just as much?

Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife

Let’s pipe down

We have probably all noted the descent in the standards of debate by nationalists in the Scottish parliament to that of antagonistic and puerile cat fights when backed into a corner, as a smokescreen for giving proper answers when none are forthcoming.

Unfortunately this is now reflected in The Scotsman newspaper’s Perspective and Letters to the Editor columns as Nationalist apologists seek to wage war on commentators who disagree with their point of view in the same puerile manner. The newspaper should be above this descent into cat fights.

M Forbes, Edinburgh

Rail silly

Although it may seem obvious to Margot Kerr that we cut the number of lorries on our roads (Letters, 18 October), a suggestion for which she gives us no justification, she overlooks the economics, realities and practicalities of industrial and retail businesses.

Formerly more efficient, transport by rail still needed “iron horse” three-wheelers for rail station to factory or door deliveries of materials and goods. A resumption of predominantly rail transport, given the nowadays many fewer lines, would delay deliveries and increase costs.

Who would benefit from that?

Charles Wardrop, Perth

Like Ireland?

In Scotland the nationalists’ clamour for a referendum, a mere seven years after their 2014 defeat, appears to be bolstered by referring to the Good Friday Agreement by which Tony Blair and the Labour Party achieved peace in Northern Ireland.

It’s interesting that the nationalists, when questioned about the definition of “a generation”, refer to a part of the text of the Good Friday Agreement stating seven years as the minimum period between Irish unity referendums.

It is perhaps appropriate, 100 years since the start of negotiations on the 1921 Anglo Irish Treaty, to draw the attention of Scottish nationalists to a section of Article 12 of that document: “...a Commission consisting of three Persons, one to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland and one who shall be Chairman to be appointed by the British Government shall determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland…”. I believe the status of Tyrone and Fermanagh were in question.

If applied to present-day Scotland, an independent Scotland would consist merely of Dundee, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire. These were the only council areas to vote for secession in 2014.

The rest of us could then relax and not worry about Scotland’s massive annual fiscal and trade deficits.

James Quinn, Lanark

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Expect whitewash

In his loyal defence and exoneration of the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic (Letters, 18 October) Fraser Grant goes on to proudly announce that the first Covid public enquiry in the UK will be held up here.Perhaps I have become cynical in my later years but I suspect this will result in another bucket of whitewash, though if I’m wrong Nicola Sturgeon will, as usual, scarper away from responsibility as fast as her size 5 Nikes can take her.

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth

Brownwash?

The BBC’s documentary The New Labour Revolution makes a better job of rehabilitating Gordon Brown than it does Tony Blair. The latter’s calamitous political mistakes are easily understood by the general public whereas the lasting damage done to our economy by the former are more difficult to explain and were quietly airbrushed from the series. Brown’s decision to give the Bank of England operational independence was lauded but his decision to remove its responsibility for supervising the UK’s commercial lenders was overlooked. Yet it was handing responsibility to the toothless, incompetent Financial Services Authority which sowed the seeds of the 2007-08 financial crisis.

In addition, nothing was said of his abolition of the tax credit which our pension funds could reclaim on dividends paid by UK companies. This deprived the funds of a cumulative £150 billion and wrecked final-salary pensions in the private sector which had been, prior to the Brown era, Europe’s best-funded occupational pensions system.

(Dr) John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Get smart

Steuart Campbell (Letters, 18 October) states that he can find no useful information on his recently installed Smart Meter. I find mine extremely useful as it contains the only clock in the house which is accurate. The other useful addition is that I no longer have to go out in the cold and the rain to unlock the box for the gas meter, crouch down with failing eyesight and take a reading, then unlock the integral garage and grope my way, with a torch, past my classic car to read the electric meter.

Every cloud has its silver lining.

J Lindsay Walls, Edinburgh

Which party?

Hypocrisy is an intrinsic feature of Joyce McMillan’s journalism. However, her latest diatribe scaled new heights (Perspective, 15 October). She accuses the Conservative Party of "wrapping itself in cultural signals", "creeping authoritarianism", "conflict-mongering" and "retro-patriotism".

Let's consider carefully which other UK political party also clearly exhibits these traits. And which devolved separatist administration also "starves local services of cash for essential services"?

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Russian to gas

The Russian Ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, says his country is ready to come to the rescue of the UK's gas supply. If ever there was a reason for this country to get real about the transition to Net Zero and stand up to the zealots who would rather have Putin's boot on our throat than a sensible plan, this was it. I'd like to place a small bet that, after COP26, UK public opinion will swing in favour of onshore gas production.

By then energy shortages and price rises will be taking effect, we'll have seen how the biggest polluters – especially Russia, China and India – are leaving the heavy lifting to countries like us, and it will be clear that renewables are no answer in the short term.

US energy prices are amongst the lowest in the world due to their investment in fracking for shale gas, 800,000 tons of which are imported annually to Grangemouth, a town that sits on top of a potentially huge gas field.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven. Kincardineshire

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