Readers Letters: Where is the levelling up we were promised?

The UK Government is generous if you have spare cash to invest. £20,000 each year can be stashed away in an ISA (Individual Savings Account), dividends and capital gains free from tax, pure profit.

Is Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak doing enough to help Britain's poorest citizens? (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
Is Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak doing enough to help Britain's poorest citizens? (Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Or perhaps you are considering a SIPP? All taxpayers can reclaim the tax on the income they put into a self-invested personal pension. If you are a higher rate tax payer, that’s a cool 40 per cent on top added by Westminster, taken from the tax receipts of the country. Then there is Lisa, a lifetime individual savings account to encourage first-time home buyers, a Tory obsession, where £4,000 each year is matched by a £1,000 bonus from the state.

Meanwhile, Universal Credit lost its £20 per week uplift, at a time when the price of energy and food bills has become a punitive burden. Annually, that uplift to those who have nothing to spare matches the bonus paid out to those who have £4,000 in the bank. Where is the fairness, the equality, the levelling up that we have been promised by the UK Government?

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Frances Scott, Edinburgh

Step up, Sunak

If ever we needed Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to step up and assist struggling families it is now, as we await tomorrow’s Spring Statement.

A very worrying forecast is that inflation will hit 8 per cent by June, coupled with the worrying projection that energy bills are about to increase by £700 in April for those connected to the National Grid, with even worse increases for those in rural areas with no access to the Grid. Petrol is at an all-time high, and National Insurance increases are just around the corner. So the Chancellor has some tough decisions to make, but they are decisions that are required if the country is to avoid financial meltdown.

First priority should be a windfall tax on the energy companies who are making millions in profits at our expense, it is immoral.

Second, we have had ten years of austerity, with benefit increases capped at 3.1 per cent this year, whereas here in Scotland devolved benefits will see increases of 6 per cent, something the Chancellor must at least equal regarding reserved benefits to Westminster.

Another proposal for the Chancellor on Benefits would be to reinstate the £20/wk uplift to Universal Credit.

Third, petrol currently realises 60p/ltr in Fuel Tax/Duty, something that could be reduced by the Chancellor; after all, transport is the nucleus around which the remainder revolves, resulting in wide-ranging benefits for households.

Finally, the imminent National Insurance rise, which is a tax on jobs, could be softened by increasing the threshold before one pays National Insurance.

There is desperation in the country at large, households are crying out for assistance, so the questions are, will the Chancellor step up and what are the Chancellor’s priorities, and will those priorities meet the needs of struggling households?

Catriona C Clark, Banknock, Falkirk

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Contemptible

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comparison of Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion with UK citizens choosing to vote for Brexit was contemptible but hardly unexpected. In a speech at the Tory spring conference in Blackpool on Saturday, he said Britons, like Ukrainians, had the instinct “to choose freedom” and cited the 2016 vote to leave the EU as a “recent example”.

The people of Ukraine are fighting for their lives, and to draw a parallel with voting to leave the European Union is disgraceful and an insult to those people. Ironically, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants his nation to join the EU.

Voting in a free and fair referendum isn't in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion and Johnson should withdraw his contemptible comments and apologise.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Crass comparison

As one of the two thirds of Scots who voted Remain in the Brexit referendum, I take grave exception to columnist Brian Monteith’s claim that I am suffering from the wittily conjured “Brexit Derangement Syndrome” (Perspective, 21 March) for wincing with embarrassment at the Prime Minister’s crass drawing of a parallel between Ukraine’s battle for survival against Russia with England and Wales’ vote to exit the EU.

It was as preposterous and ill judged as the attempt by senior SNP figures to portray England as the same “elephant on the border” to Scotland as was Russia bordering the Ukraine. There is no doubt that the UK’s exit from the EU fuelled Putin’s belief that Europe, and indeed the west, had never been more divided and the time was right to attack.

Thankfully, his war crimes seem to have backfired and actually united Europe and the west. Unfortunately for Scotland there are real parallels between the dishonest campaign which achieved Brexit and the SNP’s misleading promises of the “land of milk and honey” that awaits Scottish independence.

Kit Fraser, Dunbar, East Lothian

Price of Brexit

Brian Monteith tries to defend the indefensible, the idea that Boris’ Kremlin-funded Brexit campaign equates with Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion. Did Brian miss the fact that Ukraine desperately wants to join the EU and has asked that its application be fast-tracked? Or that 62 per cent of Scots voted to stay in the EU, a material change since the 2014 referendum?

He derisively calls the 48 per cent of UK citizens who voted to Remain “bitter lemon jelly”. Does Brian not realise that the sacking of 800 P&O employees happened because of Brexit? French and Dutch P&O workers weren’t sacked because they are under EU protection. The price of freedom?

Does Brian not comprehend that Brexit will deliver a 4 per cent permanent hit to UK GDP? The long-term damage from Covid is predicted to be just half of that, 2 per cent. Even before the Ukraine war, higher taxes, food and energy prices and shortages were a reality. Now energy prices will rise to even more astronomic levels, plunging millions more into poverty. The price of freedom?

The Australia trade deal will deliver a 0.01 per cent bump to GDP while trade with the EU will plunge by 15 per cent, costing the UK economy £32 billion. That’s money that could have funded social care and cushioned the blow from inflation and interest rate increases. The price of freedom?

Brexit is making the UK poorer but the ruling class richer, which was always its goal. The only positive to emerge from this debacle will be the restoration of Scottish independence.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Stability needed

The war in Ukraine has shaken the world, even shaken some in Russia, although they are prevented from voicing concerns.

Whilst Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, their infrastructure being devastated and shocking atrocities being enacted by a bully and thug, what do we have in Scotland? We have a nationalist socialist regime which has systematically ruined virtually every aspect of life in Scotland and misspent millions, led by a narrow-minded separatist and her cohorts whose life has been dedicated to destroying the United Kingdom at all cost.

For Nicola Sturgeon to pursue the break-up of the UK when the world potentially faces World War 3 is shocking in the extreme and shows exactly where her priorities lie.

This is especially true as she has no economic, financial, social or military plans for a successful independent Scotland. Thankfully, despite potential exclusion, there are some in her ranks who are starting to question Ms Sturgeon’s policies and actions, especially where the Greens are concerned.

The people of Scotland must walk away from this political ideology to give our children and grandchildren a stable future.

Douglas Cowe, Kingseat, Aberdeenshire

Mixed messages

It would be funny if it were not quite absurd, how SNP politicians tie themselves in knots regarding their attitude towards the UK. Bradford, Southampton, Wrexham and County Durham have been chosen as the final candidates in the competition to be named the UK City of Culture for 2025. Stirling SNP MP Alyn Smith, along with the city’s SNP MSP and SNP council leader, was seen holding a banner backing Stirling for the title. Mmmm, wouldn’t Scotland have to be part of the UK in 2025 for Stirling to be capable of holding that title? Is it any wonder that no Scottish cities were chosen?

Talk about giving out mixed messages. While their boss, Nicola Sturgeon, insists that a referendum will be held in 2023 (yes, I know), several of her politicians clearly believe that Stirling will still be part of the UK two years later.

If this is how a panel advising on the choice of a City of Culture Award reacts, is it any wonder that businesses are wary of investing here, not knowing what the future holds? Business needs stability and the SNP offer them none. All this talk of separation and referendums does Scotland no good.

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Banff

Suspicious mind

The world may be turned on its head right now, but in Scotland some things never change.Another weekend, another mysterious Rangers penalty in a domestic match whenever they're behind and look like they've zero chance of equalising – and right after half time too!By Jove, it's almost as if someone's had a wee word with the match officials about the wee darlings feeling tired after their midweek game and needed a wee extra “chance”.

And Scottish football wonders why so many of today's youngsters prefer following English clubs on telly instead?

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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