Readers' Letters: Will Gray report reveal all in black and white​​​​​​​?

Readers, prepare yourselves to be spun as the Johnson team in Westminster announces a raft of new policy initiatives including Operation Save Big Dog and Operation Red Meat. These two programmes are being rolled out to invigorate the UK Government in its Global Britain aspirations. Believe that if you can swallow another whopper.

Demonstrators protest near the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions last week (Picture: Getty)
Demonstrators protest near the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions last week (Picture: Getty)

It is highly likely that these policy initiatives were developed last year, and are being rolled out now as a smoke and mirrors defensive action, to protect the Johnson organisation.

Operation Red Meat describes the additional actions targeting the illegal immigrants crossing the channel seeking sanctuary and peace in the UK. This is to keep his ERG supporters onside, particularly since last year’s immigrant influx was huge, and government initiatives didn’t work.

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Operation Save Big Dog is a plan to throw Downing Street officials under the proverbial bus, for allowing the frolicking that took place in No.10 during the Covid lockdown. After all, surely a civil servant should have intervened and told a government minister that they should not be encouraging socialising within the building... aye, right. Priti Patel’s bullying history and Johnson’s previous behaviour shows that government ministers wield tremendous power. Standing up in public and criticising their decisions and behaviour will break one or more Civil Service code, leading to the risk of job loss, or a move to some far-off embassy.

So, with the Johnson coat on a shoogly peg, I wait to see the goings on and doings in black and white in Professor Sue Gray’s upcoming report.

Alistair Ballantyne, Birkhill, Angus

Party or HR issue?

There is perhaps one aspect of “Party-gate” that requires more detailed scrutiny. The Prime Minister's defence is that he thought the event in the garden at 10 Downing Street on the evening of 20 May was a workplace meeting and not a party. If all those attending the event in Downing Street on the evening in question were working and not having a party then they were, by definition, consuming alcohol in the workplace.

There are some occupations where consumption of alcohol while at work not only results in summary dismissal but also criminal prosecution. The Human Resources departments of all major employers have policies to deal with this subject. Therefore, it is to be hoped that Sue Gray's enquiry will specifically determine if those drinking at the event in question were contravening the Civil Service Drug and Alcohol Misuse Policy by doing so. In addition, as the Prime Minister was the most senior person present at the event, by not immediately calling a halt to the proceedings he too could be in contravention of the relevant HR policy in force at that time.

(Dr) Michael J Laggan, Glenfarg, Perth & Kinross

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Pandemic trauma

It is heartbreaking to know that not only have more than 10,000 people died after a positive Covid test, but that so many people have been, and will continue to be, grieving from those deaths. ("Covid Scotland: Ministers unlawfully kept second wave death and case predictions secret”, 16 January). Throughout the pandemic, the number of people also dying from a terminal illness such as heart failure, dementia, cancer and many other conditions has continued as it has done in previous years, but there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people dying at home during Covid-19. Despite the best efforts of health and social care teams, we are concerned that many terminally ill people and family carers may not have received some or all of the care and support they needed in their final months, days or hours. This is extremely worrying.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to investigating end of life care in its public Covid-19 inquiry is welcome, and necessary, so lessons can be learned for future palliative and end of life care provision, including bereavement support. This is especially so given 10,000 more people are projected to be dying with palliative care needs by 2040, with two thirds of all deaths expected to be in community settings in 20 years’ time as well.

For many, the deep trauma of losing loved ones during the pandemic is still very real.

Ellie Wagstaff, Policy Manager, Marie Curie, Edinburgh

Best for Boris

The weary years since the vote to leave the EU have amply shown the relaxed approach of diehard Brexiters to economic and political reality.But I’m intrigued by Tim Flinn’s identification of the Prime Minister as a Remainer (Letters, 17 January).He did draft two newspaper articles prior to the referendum – one favouring Remain, the other giving the argument for Leave.But only the latter was published and Johnson’s real conviction on the European question was that backing Leave was his best route to the top job.In putting his superficial charisma at the service of the campaign for Brexit in 2016, it’s probable he was the key to its success. Some Remainer!

Anthony O’Donnell, Edinburgh

No saviour

Allan Sutherland is clutching at straws if he thinks Rishi Sunak will revive the fortunes of the Union (Letters, 17 January) as he broke the Tory promise on the triple lock for state pensions that will deprive our elderly citizens of £520 in 2022, while hiking National Insurance contributions for employers and employees.

It is Rishi Sunak’s UK budget that is cutting the Scottish Government’s funding by 5.2 per cent compared to 2021-22, as confirmed by the Scottish Fiscal Commission, yet local authorities are receiving a cash increase of £855 million – although this is largely negated by escalating inflation caused by the UK government’s failures on Brexit, soaring energy prices and its disastrous handling of Covid.

Even with higher bills, Scottish council tax payers will remain much better off than in England or under Labour-run Wales. In Scotland the average Band D Council Tax bill is currently £590 lower than in England and £423 lower than Wales. Also, the average water bill is £33 lower in Scotland and the income tax bill for median waged employees is £14 lower in Scotland under our more progressive system.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

BBC values

The foundations on which the BBC were built 100 years ago are cracking. Their original mission statement to inform, educate, entertain and inspire has been an undoubted success. However, in spite of their protestations to the contrary, these vows – which over the decades have gained global respect and admiration – are being dishonoured and eroded by increasing levels of bias and political correctness.

This is evidenced in a 2018 Executive Committee directive. Buried in their 29-page Code of Conduct there was reference to the need for relevant staff to attend an hour-long course in order to attain “knowledgeable” status when reporting on the emotive subject of climate change. Further contradictory instructions also advised against “false balance” and that “to achieve impartiality you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change”.

The recent BBC2 documentary Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich may have entertained many viewers but it singularly failed in every other department. Behind all the glitz and glamour and hedonistic lifestyles of thousands of millionaires, this convenient hypocritical marriage of Arab enterprise and western capitalism, lie unsavoury topics that the ruling elite did not want aired. To construct stable skyscrapers that have mushroomed out of the barren desert sands, truly staggering volumes of concrete and steel have been used. Dubai is also heavily reliant on a massive desalination plant for its water. All this is highly damaging to the environment. This mirage of prosperity endows the residents with the dubious distinction of having the largest carbon footprint on the planet.

Last, but certainly not least, the vast, vital army of underpaid immigrant domestic servants and construction workers whose passports are frequently confiscated and who live in overcrowded squalour were neither seen or heard.

For an organisation that is so vocal on climate, environmental and human rights issues this amounted to another disgraceful BBC dereliction of duty.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Bobby benefactor

The article on Greyfriars Bobby in The Scotsman (14 January) makes no mention of the interesting history of the memorial itself, sculpted by William Brodie, and donated to the city in 1884 by Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts.

Angela was the great granddaughter of John Coutts, a merchant based in Parliament Square in Edinburgh who became Lord Provost in 1744. He founded the first private bank in the city and became progenitor of the Coutts banking dynasty.

Two of his sons, James and Thomas, became bankers in London. Thomas Coutts and Co in the Strand became highly successful with many wealthy clients. Thomas married Susannah Starkie in 1763 and they had three beautiful daughters who married aristocratic husbands. Susannah died of dementia after 52 years of marriage and within a month Thomas married an actress, Harriot Mellon, who was 42 years his junior.

Thomas died in 1822 leaving his fortune and a half share in his bank to Harriot who, having no children, decided to leave her estate to her step-niece, Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became the wealthiest heiress in the kingdom when Harriot died in 1832.

Angela devoted her long life (1814-1906) to charitable purposes including animal welfare, hence, no doubt, her interest in Greyfriars Bobby. She was created a baroness by Queen Victoria and received many other honours, including Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.

John Chalmers, Edinburgh

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