Scotsman Letters: Bloated bureaucracy stops economic growth

Top of the First Minister’s to-do list this week was an apology to ancient witches. Hocus-pocus in the 16th century has already trumped the promised “laser focus” on delivery of the Economic Strategy.
Was Nicola Sturgeon right to apologise to long-dead people for sins committed against them by other long-dead people? (Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool/Getty Images)Was Nicola Sturgeon right to apologise to long-dead people for sins committed against them by other long-dead people? (Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool/Getty Images)
Was Nicola Sturgeon right to apologise to long-dead people for sins committed against them by other long-dead people? (Picture: Jane Barlow - Pool/Getty Images)

A politically decadent whiff of deja vu floats in the air, last smelt in the weeks preceding the Covid pandemic. Then the Scottish Health Minister was welcoming the rugby hordes to Murrayfield hospitality, with “Stay Safe” adverts plastered over the stadium. Now, our First Minister gaily hires more spin-doctors than Duncan Bannatyne has spin-bikes, just when the Scottish standard of living faces threat of extinction.This is the time for the Scottish Government to chop its lardy muffin top. The girth of our bloated bureaucracy needs to shrink in defence of the real economy. Falling taxes can help steady wage packets under stress from rising prices. We need to move quickly on from saving the NHS to saving the workers.I’m not calling for any cut in services, quite the opposite. We live in a digital age with endless opportunities for rationalisation and automation across the public sector. This isn’t happening currently because the coffers are awash with public money and it’s easier just to hire another body than innovate.

It’s time, also, to admit that Scottish Enterprise has morphed into a middle-class jobs club. If it disappeared tomorrow, no genuine business would notice. A better economic return would be had by investing our money in transport, ports and educational projects. The days of bureaucrats playing Dragon’s Den with public money must come to an end.

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Putin has pushed the cosy certainty of yesterday oot the proverbial windae, with European oil and gas shortages looming into view. English politicians get the urgency of the situation. They are busy refocusing energy policy around modular nuclear and indigenous fossil fuels.Holyrood is lagging events and must prioritise energy security above all else.

Our MSPs can get ahead of the situation by changing their ill-considered position on both the Cambo oil field and fracking. Scots can do more than await the arrival of refugees, we should be sending desperately needed surplus gas to Europe.

Calum Miller, Prestonpans, East Lothian

Who’s sorry now?

Nicola Sturgeon has issued an apology “on behalf of the Scottish Government" to all those Scots persecuted and killed as witches under the Witchcraft Act of 1563. Will she follow that up by seeking an apology from the Norwegian government for the hurt and emotional damage caused by that country’s expedition against Scotland culminating in the Battle of Largs in 1263? She may also like to seek an apology from Italy for the loss of life and suffering caused to Scots by the Roman invasion and occupation of parts of Scotland from AD 83.

George Rennie, Inverness

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Nicola Sturgeon gives formal apology to those persecuted under Witchcraft Act as...

Spell of madness?

If anything exemplifies the failure of our politicians to prioritise realities, it is surely this daft apology from the First Minister re: “witches”.

We have all gone slightly mad in the UK, becoming ever more introspective and focusing on trivialities and gossip which are very far removed from the real issues facing UK, Europe and the world generally. Please, all of you constituency representatives at Holyrood, learn from what is happening in Ukraine, abandon partisan politics and make a real effort to manage the future of Scotland, the UK and our European neighbours.

Derek Farmer, Anstruther, Fife

Help refugees

Instead of criticising the UK's admittedly tardy refugee policy, engaging in a “handbags at dawn” spat with JK Rowling over her lamentable Gender Recognition Act – and apologising to “witches”, why doesn't Nicola Sturgeon adopt and champion the UK's refugee sponsorship scheme whereby churches, councils and community groups can take responsibility for refugees, galvanising Scots politicians and people into making this work?

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire


For many people who voted to leave the EU, it was purely about limiting the number of migrants coming into the UK. It now seems the Tory government is more interested in not upsetting their Brexiteer supporters than showing even a modicum of humanitarian feeling for those fleeing the war zone. Not content to be out on a limb with the rest of Europe, Boris Johnson’s government is also out on a limb when it comes to basic human decency. The behaviour of the Conservative government with regards to Ukrainian refugees is nothing short of barbaric and an absolute embarrassment in relation to the rest of the world.

D Mitchell, Edinburgh

Rallying cry

What parallels can be drawn between Winston Churchill's wartime rhetoric and Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky's video link address to the House of Commons (your report, March 9)? Whilst the former's much parodied speech about fighting on the beaches, landing grounds, in the hills and streets etc did stir emotions, it's important to remember that he did qualify his remarks. Churchill did not believe for a moment that this island would be taken over in the summer of 1940. But if it was, “the Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might steps forth to the liberation of the old”.

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Those last words were clearly a coded plea for the United States to provide more than simply moral support and equipment for the war effort. President Roosevelt, chastened by memories of the First World War, and facing an election In November of that year, was holding back. In a famous speech he told supporters, “I will say it again and again and again! Your boys will not get involved in any more foreign wars”. It took another 18 months and the monstrous attack on Pearl Harbor for his country to become fully engaged. A new international order today means that the United States will only become fully engaged if there is a direct threat to a Nato ally. Neil Anderson eloquently posed the dilemma (Letters, same day). If there is a direct threat to any of the surrounding allies – particularly Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – will the US be prepared to protect them, by force if necessary?

President Zelensky's speech was met with the most widespread sympathy. That had to be qualified by the knowledge that Nato will not intervene directly to protect his country's freedom. That option should not exist if a member of the Alliance is directly attacked. We should want Ukraine's freedom to be upheld, but be prepared to defend it if actual Allies come under attack.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Out of touch

I wonder how people feel about Britain's failure to provide any support to the exhausted Ukrainian refugees? Does it matter that Priti Patel misled Parliament repeatedly with claims that the UK was proactively involved? Surely nobody expects this government to be capable of providing exact accurate information on anything these days.

Boris Johnson can perhaps be thrown some slack. His literary mind quickly addresses problems by announcing “ten thousand saw I at a glance”. Precise detail was never his strong point.

But persistent lying and refusing to resign when found out, breaks with all previous British constitutional conventions. Does that matter? Were these conventions developed over time for a reason – to enforce some degree of integrity, to make government accountable, to reduce public cynicism for politicians, and to make demands of our leaders that they have a basic degree of caring about what happens to people?

How much caring does this government show in its response to Ukrainian refugees? How much caring will it show tomorrow when the country becomes engulfed in a cost of living crisis?

Somehow Boris Johnson has been out of touch with the wisdom that enshrined the importance of telling truth to Parliament which by and large previous administrations complied with. There is a danger, therefore, that all government ministers, when they appear in public, become subject to public cynicism. There is a danger that the public come to think that this administration has eroded the spirit of democracy. When that happens the Tory party will have reached the point of no return and their fate at the next election will be sealed.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

Hung up on

Before 2025 all landline telephones will be disconnected and customers moved to “digital voice”. This means that instead of your phone using a secure line running underground in cables it will be replaced with a new phone connected to the internet via a router.

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Before your landline is disconnected BT will send you a new router and a phone with instructions on how to connect the phone to the internet. Our landline phones will then become junk. In BT's guide to digital voice they say: "You won’t be able to call 999 (or any other numbers) from this phone if there’s a power cut or you have a problem with your broadband connection. So make sure you’ve got another way to call for help in an emergency". During Storm Arwen the only phone we could use was the BT land line into the master socket using a simple cabled handset. The digital (portable) phones were down, as were all the mobile networks – for two days. If we were on “digital voice” we would have been unable to phone 999 or any other number at all.

Digital voice is making communications less safe and secure. As with electricity supply the powers that be seen bent on making things worse.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

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