Readers' Letters: Why did Cummings have so much power?

The testimony of Dominic Cummings to a committee of MPs made fascinating viewing and should be a source of immense embarrassment and humiliation to Boris Johnson, highlighting his quite shocking indifference last year to the impending pandemic.

Former No.10 special adviser Dominic Cummings arrives at Portcullis House in London before his grilling by MPs yesterday (Picture: Getty Images)

The most astounding aspect of Cummings’ testimony, however, is the absolute power that this man possessed within government and No 10. It seems Johnson depended completely on his unelected adviser and one wonders what ministers such as Matt Hancock and Priti Patel were doing as catastrophe approached.

Covid was, without doubt, a situation no government had ever faced previously but their lack of any plan, any urgency or even any acknowledgement that it could be disastrous, and Johnson’s complete dependence on Cummings rather than his, albeit, less than able ministers, confirms that this hapless government and Prime Minister are not, and never have been, fit for purpose.

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D Mitchell, Coates Place, Edinburgh

Catfishing?

I totally disagree with the comment from Mary Thomas (“Tories betray Scottish farmers with trade deal”, Letters, 26 May). The impetus for cheap food comes from Scottish consumers, brainwashed for years by the nation's supermarkets. If there was no demand for cheap imported food, no imports would happen.So why not begin by criticising our supermarket bosses on their policies and strategies related to labelling and a lack of support for Scottish produce, in favour of importing neverending cheap food from abroad?

I was in a local supermarket this week looking at their fish counter. I noticed a pack of fillets from a fish I have never heard of, labelled, basa. At first I thought it was sea-bass, but investigation showed that this basa is a catfish that lives in the waters of China and SE Asia. Why import this into Scotland when we have such a variety of fresh local fish available to us year round? Are we also going to blame the Tories for such obtuse supermarket practices ?

The job of government is primarily to defend and extend the UK economy and that gives rise to trade negotiation on a global basis now that we have left the EU and are not constrained by EU rules, the application of which varies widely between EU member states.

The Government is not directly in charge of Britain's food supplies. That responsibility belongs to UK supermarkets.

Derek Farmer, Knightsward Farm, Anstruther, Fife

End stalemate

Setting out her government’s immediate priorities, Nicola Sturgeon goes on to promise years of further discord for Scotland (“Recovery the focus of first 100 days in office”, 26 May).

The result of the 6 May Scottish elections, along with subsequent polling on attitudes regarding the SNP’s mandate, tell us much about what 14 years of SNP rule have achieved. While the SNP leadership’s overriding ambition has been to try to convince Scotland to turn its back on the rest of the UK, ironically that is not what it is has secured. Instead, it has above all else, turned half of Scotland against the other half, leaving us deeply divided.

As if trying to recover from all the health and economic impacts of Covid is not a big enough challenge for us, the current Scottish Government merely promises us a future where the only thing we can be sure of is that we will face yet more uncertainty and division as it pursues another independence referendum.

Arguably, the pandemic has tested us all individually and collectively more than any other period of recent history. At such a time, our leaders should seek broad agreement across the political spectrum for a way forward to unlock the stalemate we find ourselves in. Proposing an approach that merely satisfies half of Scotland simply offers us more of the same.

Keith Howell, West Linton, Scottish Borders

Manifest lies?

Please forgive my ignorance on how Scottish politics works nowadays, but I thought that it was the case that parties presented their manifestos to the electorate for them to choose who they wanted to represent them for the next five years based on them. This appears not to be the SNP way, as we see with the radical plans now laid out by the SNP less than a month after being elected.

In their manifesto they mentioned holding Citizens’ Assemblies to discuss decriminalising drugs, reforming council tax. There was no mention of abolishing council tax. Perhaps we could hear instead of when we will all be receiving our free dental care, free bicycles, free laptops, free school meals and all the other free items for which we, the taxpayer, will be footing the bill.

Jane Lax, Aberlour

Choose Scottish

"It's a sad fact that many of those who support the Union seem to think the best way to counter independence is to scream from the rooftops that it's all about hating the English. It's not". These are not my words, but the comments of Math Campbell-Sturgess, the founder of English Scots for Yes, who speaks very eloquently about his experiences as a new Scot – an English Scot – and how positively he and other new Scots, such as Asian Scots, have been accepted on the premise that if you live and work in Scotland, you can choose to be accepted as a Scot.Like Brian Bannatyne Scott (Letters, 26 May), I've grown weary of defending what it's like to be a supporter of independence with extended family and friends throughout England who are very dear to me; but the aftermath of one extraordinary silly tweet made by an SNP member, which is reflected in letters to these pages, seems to indicate that Mr Campbell-Sturgess is correct, with one in particular illustrating his point. Most of the letters stick to the fact that the daft comment made referred to hating the UK. However, David Hollingdale chooses to distort the comments to say that the individual concerned has "expressed hatred of the English". He talks in disparaging terms about the apology which followed the original comments. He may wish to consider whether an apology of his own may now be appropriate.

Gill Turner, Derby Street, Edinburgh

Bile, actually

I read with disbelief the latter from Brian Bannatyne Scott defending the “silly tweet” put out by an SNP councillor. If a unionist had said something similar about Scotland, all hell would have broken loose. He thinks the tweet harmless, but many of us recognise the anti-English-bile and prejudice behind it, usually hidden behind a mask of SNP respectability. He obviously lives in a more genteel part of the world!

William Ballantine, Dean Road, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Bank robbery?

When thinking of the time and debate spent on Brexit and Scotland’s independence to give more power to the people, why is Government and HM Treasury not clamping down on the usually US-based Private Equity Companies now fleecing the UK economy at our longer-term expense? So much for sovereignty when more and more companies end up in foreign hands. Indeed, how much are our banks here assisting in the process by extending loans for their borrowing?

Too much secrecy surrounds this growing sector of the economy which borrows to grow rich and asset strips for profit to move on elsewhere at the expense of our jobs and pension funds, and with tax advantages for their owners who also enjoy large dividends before selling on. It is high time Government and Treasury showed some backbone by tackling these economic predators who are growing in number at public expense and causing long-term harm to our employment and economy.

Jim Craigen, Downie Grove, Edinburgh

Held back

While it is good to read about the Leith renewable hub and the jobs it will bring (your report, 26 May), it seems to me that the wind turbine parts will come in by sea, probably from Denmark, then once assembled they'll be lifted onto an installation vessel for transfer to an offshore site.

Scotland is ideally placed to be leading the way on green energy but we are being held back by the policies of the UK government. Not only has it announced cuts of support for renewables, our electricity consumers and green energy companies are levied the highest grid transmission charges in Europe.

The Renewable UK report “Charging the Wrong Way” shows that billions of pounds of green infrastructure investment are being jeopardised by GB regulations which favour EU energy imports and discriminates against Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.

Energy policy is reserved to Westminster and Ofgem charges Scottish Highlands and Islands £7.36 per Mwh to connect to the National Grid and £4.70 in lowland Scotland. The figure in England is 49 pence per MWh and the transmission charges for other western European countries range from zero in most countries up to £1.36 in Norway.

Norway and Denmark have invested in state-owned hydrogen and wind power companies that are actually manufacturing the green energy products of the future while Scotland can’t fully capitalise on our renewable potential as part of the UK.

Fraser Grant, Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Stopping Scexit

How wonderful to read David Clark's letter from British Columbia (24 May). I came to the same conclusion – ie the basic need for an English Parliament – some months ago.

I have been unable to convince anyone on this side of the Atlantic that that is the only true way to bring about a Federal UK and prevent "Scexit"!

Margot Kerr, Drummond Place, Inverness

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