Readers' Letters: Why are MSPs setting up commissions to do their jobs?

I am at a loss to understand what the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood actually does.
MSPs at Holyrood are shirking their responsibilities, reckons reader (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)MSPs at Holyrood are shirking their responsibilities, reckons reader (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
MSPs at Holyrood are shirking their responsibilities, reckons reader (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

It is in the process of outsourcing to “commissioners” functions one might expect parliamentary committees to deal with. I can understand why there would be an information commissioner, responsible for freedom of information, and also a public services ombudsman, as well as the Auditor General, who is pretty much the only person capable of holding government to account – albeit within a restricted remit. But why would we need more commissions, for victims, patient safety, older people, wellbeing and sustainable development? What would a commissioner for older people actually do? Would he or she be able to prevent councils from rearranging road surfaces and street furniture in such a way that they make streets more perilous for the elderly and infirm?

As if these aren’t enough, commissioners are now proposed for, among other things, future generations, women, LGBT conversion practices.

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All of these would cost us millions of pounds, at a time when Scotland is predicted to be facing a £1 billion black hole in the public finances, with cuts to public services and possibly tax rises for those who actually pay income tax likely. Why can our politicians, with the armies of civil servants who support them, not consider these matters in committee, calling in expert witnesses as required?

I do not consent to my taxes being spent on unnecessary commissioners to absolve MSPs of the need to do their job.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Splashing cash

News headlines on 2 October 2023: Hospitals spend £1 billion on paper record storage; £120 million to tart up British Embassy in USA; SNP spends £134m on advisers at Holyrood; SNP spend £400m and counting on two ferries; Westminster spend £120bn on HS2 white elephant; and there are 6 million people working in the public sector plus the numerous quangos.

Is it any wonder the people of these British Islands are buckling under the strain of ever increasing taxes? We vote them into power and they splash the cash as if it were their own to spend. Time for a clear-out of the thousands of politicians who build empires as their existential proof, when in fact 75 per cent are superfluous. As that modern day philosopher Billy Connolly mused, anyone who aspires to politics should be automatically barred from that arena.

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

Not so perfect

An interesting review of Rory Stewart's book by Joyce McMillan (Scotsman Magazine, 30 September), in which he has many interesting things to say about the poor state of UK politics, many widely shared. As usual, Joyce manages to drag Independence into it, telling us how many are turning to Independence to escape said faults.

She speaks of the abuse of executive power in the UK – and what, pray, have we been seeing at Holyrood all these years? Like many of her ilk, she seems to think all is well in Scotland. Indeed, Westminster can teach us a thing or two, eg, the committee system is far superior in London.

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Hope lies ahead

As in the Eighties the Tory mentality just weakens the UK with every year they are in power. The Proclaimers identified the consequence of Tory rule back then with Letter from America. Yet the mistaken lesson many Scots learned was to vote SNP. Well, the SNP years have brought us no closer to Independence than we were in the Eighties. Perhaps it's time we stopped throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It is the Tory mentality that throws the baby out in every era. The priorities of tax cuts for the better off and austerity for the rest of us are still there. And good governing takes a back seat to Neoliberal dogma. With the UK population being so conservative Labour can only gingerly suggest the changes needed. To gradually foster change we need Labour candidates to succeed in Scotland. If you don't check out what Labour is offering you will have more of the same. Hope lies in Rutherglen.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

Green for go

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Against all the odds the agreement between the SNP and the Greens at Holyrood has brought certainty and helped greatly in passing government budgets and governing effectively on all the issues of the day, while promoting independence.

At this critical time with by-elections pending and a general election next year, the forthcoming SNP conference should be one where “unity of purpose" is paramount. It’s therefore utterly counter productive to lose the active and articulate independence campaigner, Angus MacNeil MP, along with the sincere but somewhat confused Fergus Ewing MSP – it’s never good practice to vote against your own party in office!

Against all other items of government business, however worthy the Greens may think them, concentration must now be focused on combatting fuel and food poverty, alleviating the cost of living crisis, and instilling confidence in a nation starved of hope. Only when Scotland, as a fully independent country, in control of its many assets and economic and social levers, will progress, success and happiness be attained for all its people.

Grant Frazer, Newtonmore, Highland

Disaster is here

Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross is wrong to suggest Humza Yousaf could lead Scotland to disaster. He is already leading Scotland to disaster, seemingly beguiled by two Green zealots whom he clearly lacks the ability to influence and control. The seeds of the destruction of the country's public services were sown long ago by Nicola Sturgeon, and Humza Yousaf is trying to follow a similar route in the hope of achieving some sort of “Independence” at the expense of more pressing issues – £400 million plus for two ferries, chaos in the health and education sectors and a non-existent justice system hardly seem to be solid foundations on which to build the independent state the nationalists crave.

Yet the nationalists moan about the free money being given to some areas in Scotland by Westminster which would not have come from any other source. It may be a political move but will the recipients who will benefit really care?

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Where’s my card?

Now that we are into October, does anyone know if this Independence referendum on 19 October is still taking place? I would normally expect some sort of polling card through my door by now, so am wondering what is going on.

Then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last year that we would be having another one, and no-one that I can see has cancelled this or announced otherwise. It would be good to know what the official position is as, like many people, I wouldn’t like to miss out on making my opinion on the matter count again.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Wrong course

Anything at all that will reduce the drug deaths curse suffered by Scotland is welcome. There have been so many young lives lost needlessly it is difficult to contemplate. If the supervised “shooting gallery” in Glasgow can help lessen the horror, then we all should welcome it.

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But one factor irks me. Won’t this development signal to the next generation of possible addicts, the youngsters of today, that this way of life is acceptable? That you can shoot up in a safe place and will be helped and need not fear punishment for breaking the law? That this could be the thin edge of the wedge for more addiction and heartbreak? It has certainly not worked in places like some parts of California, where addicts in various states of suffering from the effects of drugs have taken over parts of cities and towns.

My head tells me intensifying education for the young and treatment and rehab for addicts would have been a better course to have taken.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Cruising pays way

In “Tourist tax on cruise ship passengers visiting islands and other parts of Scotland is absolutely justified” (Perspective, 28 September), Kenny MacAskill ignores the economic contribution that cruise calls make to various communities across Scotland as well as the choices itinerary planners make regularly. Any additional costs and operational challenges are factored into setting which areas cruise ships will visit and ports have invested in infrastructure, with the support of communities which rely on tourist revenues. Planning permission has been granted for these schemes, so the impact of visitor numbers has already been considered and agreed by local authorities and other bodies. Cruise ship passengers are also highly likely to revisit locations they have sailed to previously so we need to be mindful of policies such as a tax that could put future spend in question.

It is perfectly justified to argue local authorities need more funding. However, this is best allocated through general funding from central government sources or the traditional ways councils raise funds. Cruise lines, passengers and other tourists, such as Mr MacAskill on his visit to Lewis, spend money on local services and purchases, which are already taxed. Making a special case of cruise passengers not only could stifle a sector which Scotland is growing successfully, it also sends the wrong message about the country being welcoming and attractive to visit.

Richard Ballantyne OBE, Chief Executive, British Ports Association, London

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