Readers' Letters: Who believes Swinney can’t find NHS cash?

John Swinney is adamant: there is no more money for pay rises. He said this prior to Nicola Sturgeon finding more cash to stop the bin strikes in summer. Does this mean Mr Swinney is daring NHS staff to strike as the latest NHS pay offer has already been rejected? Is there genuinely no more money or is he going to pass the baton to Nicola Sturgeon once again?

The SNP government is stuttering. There is no cohesion any more and how can it justify no more money for nurses when it is always promoting itself by telling the world that Scotland's nursing staff are the best paid in the UK? With the teachers waiting in the wings and the RMT already in combat mode the SNP government is looking insecure and the Greens are not rushing to its aid.

Hard times lie ahead for Nicola Sturgeon once she returns from her taxpayer-funded trip to Sharm-el-Sheik. At least the Scottish Government's international trip fund still has the money for her and other SNP ministers.

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Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has told NHS workers fighting for pay increases he has 'nowhere else to go' to fund an increased offer (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Tax the land

Had the Scottish Government acted decisively and made creative use of the devolved tax powers for which the SNP and Greens fought so hard, it might have averted the worst of the budget deficit that John Swinney is now trying to deal with (“Raid on health budget to fund NHS pay deals”, 3 November).

In 2021 Holyrood’s own Social Justice and Fairness Commission strongly recommended a shift to Land Value Taxation (LVT) as part of a package to replace council tax, business rates and Land and Business Transaction Tax. In early 2022 the Scottish Land Commission urged the valuation of all land as part of a cadastral system, yet the Scottish Government has shown no inclination to tap this huge source of public revenue. LVT has the potential to enable swingeing cuts to income tax which, unlike the UK’s disastrous September mini-Budget, would be fully costed and funded.

While taxes on work and enterprise inevitably have a negative effect on the very economic activity we wish to encourage, LVT is economically non-distortive. This point has been made by two Nobel prize-winning economists who were on the Scottish Government’s erstwhile Council of Economic Advisers, Joseph Stiglitz and the late James Mirrlees.

Land cannot be hidden, disguised or moved offshore, so LVT would be virtually impossible to avoid or evade. Unlike oil or gas, it will never dry up or become obsolete or unfashionable. Land values are publicly generated as a measure of public demand for particular locations, and further enhanced by publicly funded services and infrastructure. They should be returned to the public purse as a prime source of revenue.

The Scottish Government must recognise the crucial link between tax reform and land reform and use its devolved powers in the public interest.

John Digney, Buchlyvie, Stirling

Smell the coffee

It was ironic in the extreme to note that on the day we heard of the forthcoming savage cuts being imposed upon the Scottish NHS, Education, and much else, Angus Robertson of the SNP is pictured on his latest jolly with his entourage in Spain. A photograph with some minor Spanish functionary who no doubt cursed his bad luck in being landed with the job, nothing whatsoever gained, a couple of nights in a top hotel, fine food and then fly back to freezing Scotland, a new sizeable hole in available taxpayer-supplied cash. It’s all right for some.

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As well as overseas jaunts and pretend embassies, in the latest round of swingeing cuts there was no mention of the tens of millions put by for the referendum fund. These budgets apparently are sacrosanct. When will Scots wake up and smell the coffee?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Feminist issues?

Regardless of the fact that foreign policy is a reserved issue, that is, it is not within Holyrood’s remit, Nicola Sturgeon proposes to launch a “feminist foreign policy”. It seems that this will include opposition to nuclear weapons.

Ms Sturgeon apparently consulted various experts on this subject. But perhaps she should have consulted Ukrainian women on their view of nuclear weapons. She might have asked if they regretted Ukraine’s relinquishing of its substantial nuclear arsenal in 1994 as part of the Treaty of Budapest which guaranteed Ukrainian territorial sovereignty – signed by, among others, the Russian government.

Naivety should not be a part of anyone’s foreign policy.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Wasted trip

Nicola Sturgeon is heading off to Egypt for COP27 to no doubt tell world representatives how wonderful she is, how wonderful the SNP is and to shake as many hands as possible.

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She will probably also impress upon the assembly of low-ranking politicians how the SNP will achieve its target for zero emissions five years before England, although many experts have said “no chance”. I wonder if she’ll mention the emissions from her return flights to Egypt and back. One major beneficiary of her trip will be her photo album, with the addition of another tranche of selfies. It’s just a pity that her jolly to the sun will be of no benefit to Scotland whatsoever.

Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

Go figures

Mary Thomas is probably still reeling from Hugh Pennington's letter (3 November) demonstrating that the Barnett Formula benefits the (fully devolved) Scottish NHS more than England's. I am afraid that I must add to her miseries with something she will not like: facts.

Ms Thomas claims that “Brexit... resulted in EU staff leaving” the NHS in Scotland (Letters, 2 November). National Records of Scotland figures show that 7.4 per cent of people in Scotland in 2021 were born outside the UK and of those 58 per cent were born in the EU, which is quite a healthy percentage. England and Wales are home to a cool 10 million people who were not born in the UK. Of those, 3.6 million (36 per cent) were born in the EU. Thus, there are more EU citizens living in Scotland as a proportion of the total population than elsewhere in the UK.

Numbers of many EU nationalities in the UK have greatly increased over recent years: Germans, 94,000 in 2008, 135,000 now; Poles 579,000 in 2011, 743,000 now; Spanish 185,000 in 2021, 206,000 now. Her claim about Brexit causing EU citizens working for the NHS in Scotland to leave holds no water. If EU citizens in Scotland who work for the NHS are leaving, perhaps it is because they are NHS employees.

If so, then it is more of a comment on the SNP-run Scottish NHS than anything to do with Brexit.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Hold cracks

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I have followed UK politics for over 60 years. During that time, Westminster has had its share of ups and downs but one thing has always impressed and reassured me – irrespective of political party – is that there have always been MPs with the guts to stand up and be counted when their own party has pursued a line of policy which they felt to be inherently wrong or mistaken. This has occurred many times since the 1950s and, on several occasions, such rebellions have actually led to the resignation or removal of party leaders. Boris Johnson was by no means the first to go under similar circumstances. No party has been exempt.

Until last week's mini-rebellion by SNP MSPs, this is something we have never seen in Holyrood and it is refreshing to believe that the unhealthy hold that Nicola Sturgeon seems to have over her MSPs is starting to show its cracks.

D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian

Trouble ahead

The idea that Scotland’s separate economy and lack of central bank, as well as having no previous borrowing history to reassure markets, wouldn’t mean we would be at a real disadvantage if Independence comes is “magical thinking” which would affect all of us who don’t have enough money to cushion its consequences.It was obvious from Liz Truss’s experience of trying to borrow to spend – even in an economy with a secure central bank and a proven history – that international markets have no sentimental attachments but make totally logical decisions.How much worse would it be for untried newly separate Scotland outside the UK market as well as the EU?

W Miller, Glasgow

Face facts?

As face masks offer as much protection from flu and Covid-19 as a string vest does a cloudburst, a think tank’s suggestion of “pandemic-style” solutions to problems with the NHS which were exacerbated by "pandemic-style" impositions is not helpful (Scotsman Online, 3 November).

Improving face-to-face access to GPs would be a very constructive start to addressing Scotland's health problems. That might be facilitated by reducing the administrative burden on GP practices and centrally identifying the most effective treatments for conditions irrespective of how profitable they are for manufacturers.

Hamish Hossick, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Oil to play for

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Oil companies produce the stuff only because they have customers to pay for it. I suggest a more powerful methodology for anti-oil protesters, one which would be less harmful to the rights of others. Simply lead the way by rejecting for your personal use any item which has oil associated with its production and/or distribution for at least one week – everything from food and clothing to electronic gadgetry, bottled water, bicycles... even medical care. After that week, if you're still alive, you may just begin to have a more informed, grown-up approach.

A McCormick, Terregles, Dumfries

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