Scotland enters the race to second last place - Readers' letters

One of the most common tools used by independence supporters when faced with examples of SNP incompetence at Holyrood is to point at something the Conservatives at Westminster did wrong.

The row over the ferries under construction at Ferguson Marine continues
The row over the ferries under construction at Ferguson Marine continues

So, references to the inability to build a ferry will evoke mentions of HS2 while a long list of the money on various projects will lead to an equally long list of similar missuses of public funds by the Tories.

The interesting thing is this line of thinking seem to imply that it is OK for the SNP to make these kinds of mistakes because the Conservatives make them too. Alternatively, these mistakes are only unacceptable when it is the Conservatives, Westminster or a Conservative government at Westminster making them.

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This is especially ironic when one considers the other frequent argument of the SNP and their supporters: comparing Scotland to [insert country with a similar population or smaller here]. They never seem to want to compare the situation with Scottish ferries with the Denmark ferry service or compare the education systems of Scotland and Norway.

I may be missing something but I thought the point of independence was the Scottish Government was more competent than the UK one, not competing for second last place.

John Shanks, Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire

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Word games

Nicola Sturgeon describes the construction of ferries as “unsatisfactory” (Scotsman, 29 March)! Clearly she doesn't understand the meaning of the word “euphemism”. The Scottish Parliament's Rural Economy and Connectivity committee described it as "catastrophic failure". Which description is nearer the mark?

SNP apologists similarly wish to rewrite the English language. Mary Thomas (Letters, 29 March) claims that the problem was not the procurement process which met “international standards”. A crucial part of this process was the ability of the prospective shipyard to provide a full builder refund guarantee which was a "mandatory” requirement of the contract. The SNP waived this clause!

I would be interested to hear their and Ms Thomas’s definition of the word “mandatory”. What is the point of a process – no matter how world leading it may have been – if a mandatory clause is breached at square one? Nor can any amount of whataboutery diminish the culpability of the SNP in this or other debacles. However calamitous Boris Johnson's governance may be it does not make the SNP's failures any less “unsatisfactory”.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Carrier costs

Mary Thomas (Letters, 29 March) is right to draw attention to the costs of the two ships in the UK’s aircraft carrier programme, and the relative lack of public comment on this programme. It has huge further costs – and delays. The carriers need new Lightning II jets, a new airborne radar system (“Crowsnest”), and at least one destroyer, an anti-submarine warfare frigate and support and resupply ships.

The UK’s National Audit Office report “Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment” was published on 26 June 2020. At that date the Ministry of Defence had ordered 48 jets out of an intended 138, spent £6 billion out of an approved project budget for jets of £10.5bn, and received 18 jets. But the MoD had “not yet made funding available for enough Lightning II jets to sustain Carrier Strike operations over its life”. Crowsnest was 18 months late, and full capability was not expected until May 2023. The MoD had been “slow to develop the solid support ships which are crucial to operating a carrier strike support group”, and had only one available out of the three required at full operating capability.

The NAO’s conclusion that the MoD “will not achieve value for money from its investment to date unless it provides clarity on its future ambitions; develops its understanding of future development and operating costs; and ensures cross-command coherence and collaboration” should concern taxpayers in Scotland.

E Campbell, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire

Local democracy

What are the forthcoming local elections actually about? Already the Scottish Conservatives, in their call for the withdrawal of three pro-independence Labour candidates in Edinburgh, seem to suggest it is a test on whether there is support for another referendum on the matter (Scotsman, 29 March).

I cannot comment on how active Ross McKenzie, Richard Parker and Katrina Faccenda are on the things that might be relevant in the coming poll. No doubt some voters will see it simply as a test of the parties' national popularity. But their ability to deliver on housing, recycling, transport, schools, social work, the promotion of the city on the international stage, effective fiscal scrutiny, among many other municipal issues, must count for something too.

All parties should be mature enough to tolerate a minority view whilst their leaders make it clear what their overall policy objectives are. Conservatives have put up with very strong adherents of the free market while in practice supporting the mixed economy. If the Liberal Democrats were to insist on strong adherence to the party line, they would be bereft of candidates. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar ought to have the political guile to manage a degree of internal dissent on his party's stance on the constitution.

It is a pity that these things get such a high priority when we decide who should represent us on councils. My impression is that local democracy has suffered badly in the two years of the pandemic, with councillors much less visible and officials sometimes showing scant regard for accountability. Its revival will depend very much on how candidates can relate to voters’ real aspirations and needs in the coming weeks.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Wind power

A group of 14 green activist organisations including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Green Alliance have called on the UK government to “unblock” onshore wind development whilst acknowledging that decision-making should be given to local communities.

Onshore wind development is not “blocked” by any stretch of the imagination in Scotland – the very opposite – but if these Green organisations truly believe that decision-making should be left to local communities then they should be saying as much to the Scottish Government.

Local communities in Scotland may be consulted on onshore windfarms but it is nothing more than a tick-box exercise as no matter what we say or how much evidence we produce as to why consent should not be granted for a wind farm, it will be ignored by Scottish Ministers on nearly every occasion.

Maybe these organisations would like to have a word with the Minister for Finance, Planning and Community Wealth who is being consulted on the Scotland Against Spin Petition to the Scottish Parliament at this very moment. It calls for, amongst other things, to “Increase the ability of communities to influence planning decisions for onshore windfarms”.

Even if policy is relaxed in England, consent will still only be granted if there is community support, a vastly much fairer system than in Scotland where rural communities are considered to be nothing more than “barriers to deployment” according to the recent Scottish Government Onshore Wind Policy Statement.

Aileen Jackson, Uplawmoor, East Renfrewshire

Apology expected

In the light of events elsewhere, the time has come to demand an apology from Italy for the Roman Occupation of Scotland 71-211 ;and an apology from Norway,Denmark and Sweden for the Viking occupation of Scotland 793-1263.

That done, we can discuss reparations.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Another freedom

Frances Scott lists SNP “freedoms”; they are all aspirations (Letters, 28 March).

It is reasonable to link the likelihood of their delivery to SNP past performance. As a New Scot who came from London via the USA to work at the UK-funded Medical Research Council Institute of Virology in Glasgow I watched the rise of the SNP with interest; “It’s Scotland's Oil” posters were powerful.

But for me the biggest test it faced was addressing the “Glasgow Effect”, the miserably short life expectancy suffered by its citizens, the worst in the UK.

But despite the SNP having full control of the levers of health policy for all the years it has been in power, the effect has not diminished, It has got worse. “Freedom to fail” should be added to Frances Scott's list of SNP freebies.

Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen

Status quo

It would seem not even proportionally Watergate-level events in Scottish politics are shifting support for the parties presently in power and making very bad decisions that affect us all. With this level of apathy and a diehard support, it looks like a long period of as you were is in store.

The local elections polls appear to be indicating little or no shift. Not that it will make any difference to the outcome of any break-up-the-UK referendum, were one to be imposed on the majority, who resolutely have indicated they do not want it and whose support appears to be increasing. This is the one occasion where those opposing the break-up of the UK party show a united front. The nationalist side will lose it, whatever the case.

Methinks those at present running the coalition are more than aware of this and wish to spin the present state out as long as possible, ferry and other fiascos notwithstanding. They are guaranteed eye-watering salaries and expenses and constant exposure and very little or no media criticism. Who would want to give all that up?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

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