Scotland Office ‘nothing but a propaganda unit’ – Letters

UK government is playing petty political games, says a reader

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack (Picture: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland Secretary Alister Jack (Picture: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

You would think that during the Covid pandemic, the UK government would stop playing petty political games. The Scottish Affairs Committee, which is the only opportunity MPs from Scotland have to scrutinise how the UK government deals with Scotland, met last week for the first time since December’s general election when we elected 48 SNP MPs, six Tory MPs and just one Labour MP. Yet thanks to Tory gerrymandering, the Scottish Affairs Committee has only three SNP MPs, with five Tories and two Labour and four do not even represent Scottish constituencies.

Victor Clements complains about mixed messages (Letters, 18 May), but this is not helped when the Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, refuses to put the Scottish Government’s advice on his website. Instead he is using the PM’s advice for England. He also broke ministerial guidelines when he posted an article on the Scotland Office’s website criticising the SNP government and insisted that Scotland must leave the coronavirus lockdown in “lockstep” with the rest of the UK while lavishing praise on the Scottish Tory leader. Also, the official UK Government Scotland Twitter account was caught liking a tweet which claims Scotland will go “cap in hand” to Westminster if the economy crashes.

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The UK Government in Scotland / Scotland Office is now mainly a propaganda unit, with staff numbers increasing from five in 2010 to 71 and costing taxpayers £9 million a year. Another saving we could make in future.

Fraser Grant, Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

R we OK?

Via the Cabinet Office website, I recently posed a question for the UK government’s scientific advisers to be answered at the daily televised press conference. It was not one of the questions selected. This is perhaps not surprising, given that Michael Gove is the Minister for the Cabinet Office and responsible for selecting those questions to be broadcast.

As someone who lives just south of the Border and is faced with increasingly conflicting advice and regulations, may I repeat my question through your columns in the hope of getting an answer?

Essentially, how long will it take for any rise in the R number to be detected following the recent easements in England and Wales? Then, how long will it take to identify the particular easement that has triggered the rise? And, in the intervening time, how many resultant and additional infections will have occurred leading to how many arguably unnecessary, deaths?

John Rhind, Meadow Lane, Beadnell, Northumberland

Imagined risks

Oban councillor Roddy McCuish wants to put the Army on the Border to stop people getting into Scotland (your report, 18 May). Apparently he looked at local supermarket car parks in Oban and knew that they were “not all people from Oban and the surrounding areas”. While on his daily exercise he also saw “a lot of strangers and strange cars”. Now Oban and the Isle of Mull must have a population in excess of 10,000 and to have instant recall of all the locals and what cars they drive is very impressive, even for a morally vigilant Oban town councillor. Heightened anxiety about Covid-19 triggered by judgmental opinions such as this rather than rational reporting of facts is now sadly commonplace in Scotland. It is not wrong to be worried but if we just calmed down a bit we would be better placed to understand the real, rather than imagined, risks.

Alan Black, Camus Avenue, Edinburgh

Unfair attacks

Those trying to make political capital over the Covid outbreak at the Nike conference on 26-27 January should appreciate that anyone attending would not be displaying any symptoms until 1 March at the very earliest and the fact is that Scotland had no positive tests before 1 March and no one is a case without a positive test. As she stated over a week ago, our First Minister was only aware of the cases on 2 March and it turns out that Public Health England were part of the Incident Management Team provided with full details surrounding the circumstances of the infections. Several delegates returned to England, but the UK public wasn’t told about this and Sage continued to advise that it was safe to go to mass gatherings.

Test and contact tracing is only as good as the information supplied by the person affected and if they don’t mention, for example, hiring a kilt, then there is no reason to contact any kilt shop. Also,on 29 April the Labour First Minister of Wales said there would be “no value” in providing coronavirus tests to everybody in care homes.

It is clear from the statistics that Covid patients in hospital here have a much better chance of survival than down south and the number of care home deaths are in line with the European average. Last week, Sir David Nabarro from the World Health Organisation praised the Scottish Government’s approach to Covid.

Mary Thomas, Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

Testing times

Once again Scotland is behind on testing at care homes, in terms of both staff and patients. The Cabinet Secretary is always behind with these suggestions. Testing and tracing is essential if we are to beat this Coronavirus.

Michael Baird, Dornoch Road, Bonar Bridge

Gratitude is good

Speaking live on the BBC on Friday morning, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, stated that he was “very appreciative” of the support that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has given Wales during the coronavirus crisis.

Would that our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, acknowedged the vital help Scotland has received too. Of course, she won’t because the SNP narrative is that the Union is all bad and independence all good and in fact she says Scotland needs “more fiscal powers” from Westminster.

Why should the UK government devolve even more powers to Holyrood when the SNP has plunged Scotland into a financial mire?

The Auditor General for Scotland has reported that Scotland’s NHS is “financially unsustainable” but our Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, is silent on that matter as well as on others.

Indeed, given that the crisis we are experiencing just now is as much a financial crisis as a health one, we would expect her to show some visibility and direction which so far has been sadly lacking.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Lauder

Remote control

Scots are anxious about returning to work (“Anxious Scots may shun return to public transport”, 16 May) but it may not be solely from fears of viral infection. Many people are waking up to the fact that they were applying mid-20th century working practices to a 21st-century economy.

They now see how much money and time they were spending commuting to work, dressing for work and eating at work. Those who pondered about how they could remain disciplined while working from home realise that it is the same amount of discipline required to sit in a traffic jam for their one hour commute for decades of their lives.

Hopefully this pandemic will shift Scottish working practices to a more asynchronous, distributed and remote normal.

Tom Walker, Fountain Place, Loanhead

Gnashing of teeth

I have just had an e-mail from my Edinburgh dentist who is not allowed to return to work as he says the UK is one of only five countries across the world which deem dentists as “non-essential”.

How can anyone say that? Anyone who has had toothache knows they are essential. We must put pressure on the government to let them return to their much-needed, and indeed, urgent, work now.

Mary Brown, Taynuilt, Argyll

Building safety

There is no doubt, coming out the lockdown presents a huge logistic problem. I hope further consideration is given to the building industry and road construction. Building is an industry that has more rules and regulations than most when it comes to safety.

For example, before you are allowed entry to a building site or construction site as an employee or delivery person one requires an induction safety. Workers are supplied with PPE consisting of high vis jackets, hard hats, goggles, ear muffs, glove and,boots.

This is an industry in which safety is paramount, risk assessment is carried out continually. With all the controls in place, introducing one more regulation on social distancing should not be too difficult

With regards to road construction sites, consider that the bulk of the work is carried out with diggers, bulldozers, loading shovels etc. Where the operators are isolated on the machine, there is concern.

Ian Tennant, Hyndford Bridge, Lanark

Football sane

Regarding yesterday’s Sports pages reprinting the article “The Beautiful Game” by Hugh McIlvanney, please keep trawling your archives for some snippets and reports of yesteryear, they are keeping us sane.

These stories take us back to a time we remember well. My husband was just a young footballer playing for Douglas Water Thistle but he was also a member of The Muirkirk Rangers supporters club. He had travelled with the supporters club to see Eintracht Frankfurt play Rangers at Ibrox. The score was Rangers 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 6; the aggregate score was 12 for Eintract, 4 for Rangers. So with a packed bus the Rangers fans left Muirkirk expecting a big Eintract defeat of Real Madrid; as usual the Rangers fans thought that anyone who beat the Gers would be the outright winners.

How wrong they were, but what they did see was one of the best games of football they had ever witnessed, with Puskas and Di Stefano two of the best players they had ever seen.

To think that the Rangers fans in the mining villages of Ayrshire would witness such a spectacle was unbelievable, it was the talk of the pits for many years.

Margaret Wallace, Broomfield Avenue, Cumnock

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