Readers' Letters: Why did politicians 'need' training to answer Covid questions?

May I offer the administration running Scotland at the moment, with respect, some good advice? We have learned that they paid a team of outside legal advisers, at who knows what cost, to coach politicians and officials appearing at the UK Covid Inquiry. Among those apparently coached were Jason Leitch and Ken Thomson, major figures in the Covid period.
Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director for Scotland, leaves the UK Covid Inquiry at EICC on 23 January (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director for Scotland, leaves the UK Covid Inquiry at EICC on 23 January (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director for Scotland, leaves the UK Covid Inquiry at EICC on 23 January (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The news of this should have shocked us to the core. In truth, it barely raises a shrug, so used have we become to the SNP's way of doing things. Such is the state of our affairs these days that it barely raises more than a feeling of resigned disdain. It is a measure that was pretty much par for course in SNP Scotland. This is the depth into which we have now sunk.

It would have been infinitely better and cheaper for those facing questioning to be told: “Just tell the honest truth when questioned; no more, no less.” That way their tarnished image and aura of cover-ups and other shenanigans would have been eased, at least a little.

Just another day in Scotland under the SNP.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Finance dunces

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Am I alone in wondering if the time has come to offer SNP leaders courses in financial viability? We would have billions to spend on hospitals etc, if we weren’t squandering vast sums weekly on non-existent ferries. We would have additional revenue to tackle homelessness if we put an end to expensive training courses for those giving witness at the Covid Inquiry and ceased the practice of having an inquiry every time someone suggests money spent is not being utilised to best effect.

We might avoid the impending disaster of the ill-conceived freeze on council tax if we could explain that unless the increased money to pay for the freeze is built into the yearly costs, then next year councils will face next year’s inflation element plus the difference between the 2023/24 and 24/25 “realistic” budget. Most councils appear to operate on an “it’ll be all right on the night” principle, instead of rigorously keeping track of over and under-spending on a monthly basis as the former Strathclyde did. In times of increasing pressures on household income, we can no longer sustain such incompetence.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Locals dismissed

Having been brought up in Liberton in Edinburgh and lived in various locations in the city, I moved to the Borders 25 years ago.

As an outdoors person from a very early age I have always had an appreciation of the beauty of my surroundings, so it was with a sense of rage I read the report on wind farms in the borders (“Borderers fear wind farms are ‘engulfing’ their communities”, 1 March). It is now the norm when an application is made for a wind farm that the locals generally protest, the local community councils protest and on occasion, Scottish Borders Council (SBC) do likewise. This should, in a normal democratic society, be more than sufficient to stop – or certainly downgrade – the planned farm.

However, living in a nation run by a secretive government which cannot even spell “democracy”, which will follow its own agenda and to hell with everyone else, these proposals are almost always approved. The article states: “SBC planning committee will consider its response to the application at a meeting next week, but is being advised to offer no objection.”

Who is doing this advising, I wonder? Could it be the green-tailed dog in Holyrood? Perhaps we should lobby one of the companies to submit plans for Arthur’s Seat and the Crags, a perfect place for them as the wind always seems to blow there.

The Borders are a beautiful part of Scotland, still a pretty well-hidden gem, and are already awash with these 200m high monstrosities. Enough is enough unless, of course, the cities and surrounding areas take their share.

Pentland Hills, anyone?

David Millar, Lauder, Scottish Borders

Indy support

Support for independence reached 45 per cent in 2014 with the benefit of a campaign before the referendum. Despite the many challenges faced by the SNP, polling in 2024 indicates an increase to a solid 50 per cent.

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Among younger people, those with fairly recent experience of the Scottish education system, the polls suggest a higher level of independence support, around 62 per cent. Across all aged under 65 it is around 57 per cent. The other side of this is the age-profile of union supporters: four out of ten are over 65.

Despite constant criticism and negativity about the Scottish Government the polling evidence hardly suggests that this strangely gleeful catastrophising about ferries, WhatsApps and iPads is having any impact on the basic question of independence.

I suspect Westminster knows that the underlying shift in opinion won’t go away and that another independence referendum would be lost decisively. Hence we no longer have “now is not the time’ but a straight denial of any democratic choice, ever.It’s reminiscent of the arrogance and short-sightedness which stood in the way of former colonies, denying and obstructing, eventually deploying dirty tricks and state-approved repression and violence. It never ended well and it never saved the Empire.

Robert Farquharson, Edinburgh

Only answer

It may come as a surprise to some of the regular contributors to these pages, but the Scottish Government cannot perform miracles and without independence cannot substantially grow the economy while the UK economy is stagnant, if not relatively going backwards. Every publicly funded group across the country is crying out for more money but the Scottish Government cannot wave a magic wand to make more money suddenly appear, especially given the financial straitjacket in which it has to operate and its highly restricted borrowing powers.

In 2014 we were told Scotland would prosper by staying in the UK even though our oil, according to Better Together politicians, would soon run out. We were also told we would remain in the EU without a hint of the Brexit catastrophe that was to befall a country with a historically European outlook. In 2024 we have not only lost trade and substantial European funding but have seen a Tory government in London choosing pet political projects as vehicles for the tiny UK infrastructure investment that has been made in Scotland (HS2 will now struggle to get far beyond Birmingham, never mind reach “Northern Britain”).

It is no coincidence that public services in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are in crisis, from the NHS struggling to treat patients promptly to local councils struggling to fill potholes. Neither Labour nor the Tories are committed to the fundamental change necessary that only independence can deliver.

Stan Grodynski, Cairnsmore, East Lothian

Don’t fight back

I had to read one particular sentence in your 1 March editorial, “Nuclear threats must not influence West’s policy”, three times to be sure I had read it correctly. You write: “As utterly terrifying as it is, the bleak logic of deterrence must be maintained: if Putin uses nuclear weapons Nato will respond in kind.” There is no logic – just insanity. Vladimir Putin spoke of using tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons which would have an impact on both combatants and civilians as well as the environment. Radiation knows no frontiers – as we saw after Chernobyl, countries miles away can be affected.

By “responding in kind”, that is, escalating, large swathes of Europe would become uninhabitable. And were we to escalate further, to strategic nuclear weapons, ie Trident, we would very possibly end life on earth as we know it for Putin would no doubt respond similarly.

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We are living through a period of near annihilation of the Palestinian people; “conventional” weapons themselves are now so powerful their impact can almost match that of small battlefield nuclear weapons. The Ukrainian situation has dragged on for two years – only history will reveal how that really started.

When will any of our leaders have the guts to stop this monstrous folly?

Marjorie Ellis Thompson, Edinburgh

I’m with Trump

The attacks on shipping passing through the Red Sea, one of the world's busiest, most important trade routes, has to be stopped. However, since the countries of Europe are most affected, why is it only UK and USA who are in the Red Sea doing something to stop these attacks, risking lives and ships at great expense, while the rest of Europe does nothing ? Why must we always be the mugs?

I am no fan of Donald Trump, but he is right in accusing Europe of not paying their fair share into Nato to fund their own defence.

Bill McKenzie, Penicuik, Midlothian

Save planet

Ian Moir (Letters, 1 March) uses data about the cost of consuming power to try and challenge a comment about the cost of generating power – a false comparison which does not counter the assertion that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels for electricity generation . Not only that, Mr Moir ignores the wider respective costs and benefits of each form of generation. Burning fossil fuels increases global temperatures; that brings flood, drought and fire as well as an onward march to ever more catastrophic environmental tipping points. Renewables offer the possibility of a liveable planet for us, our children and future generations. No contest really.

Tom Ballantine, Edinburgh

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