Scotsman Letters: Taxpayers in Scotland getting far better value

Alexander McKay should be careful what he wishes for (Letters, April 29). During the last non-SNP Holyrood administration, Labour increased council tax in Edinburgh by 60 percent due to the lack of central government support.
Scotland benefits from free prescriptions, free eye tests and free personal care for all who need itScotland benefits from free prescriptions, free eye tests and free personal care for all who need it
Scotland benefits from free prescriptions, free eye tests and free personal care for all who need it

The Labour/ Lib Dem coalition only built six council houses in Scotland during their eight years of power, were intent on closing hospitals and our health boards and education authorities are still paying millions a year for Labour’s very expensive PFI method of finance because Gordon Brown wanted government borrowing off the UK balance sheet.

This at a time when the Scottish Executive returned £1.5 billion to the UK Government because they couldn’t spend it in time.

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Taxpayers in Scotland get far better value than elsewhere in the UK. On average we pay £590 a year less council tax than in Tory-run England, and £423 less than in Labour-run Wales.

Unlike the rest of the UK, we in Scotland benefit from free tuition, free prescriptions, free eye tests, free bus travel for under-22s, free personal care to all who need it, expanded free early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours, free sanitary products, expanded free school meals, the Baby Box to give our children the best start in life and the unique Child Payment that has lifted many families out of poverty.

Douglas Ross’s speech to Scottish Tory conference mentioned the SNP 45 times, almost once a minute, Conservatives 18 times, Rishi Sunak just twice but no mention whatsoever of poverty.

Despite the Brexit disaster, which Scotland didn't vote for, the UK parties have given up on re-joining the EU and only independence will protect our Scottish Parliament thus making it more accountable to the people of Scotland.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Our destiny?

While the rest of the independence movement "looks forward" to an era where Scottish sovereignty, governance, culture and democracy are revitalised in the wake of the SNP implosion and poverty fully addressed with a plan for the future, our First Minister is quoted as saying he is "looking forward” to seeing the Stone of Destiny placed under the Coronation Chair of the Hammer of the Scots.

Does this continuity First Minister have any concept of the import of his words and deeds! Does he have any grasp of the power of symbolism in human affairs? Does he have any grounding in the history and culture pertaining to the theft of this lump of sanctified granite and its place in the collective Scottish consciousness and unconscious here and abroad?

The visual of his march of subsidiarity behind a man sporting a union insignia emblazoned tabard will probably be used at a future date as the closing scene in a feature film entitled The end of an Auld Sang … The demise of the SNP final days.

The ancestors, the current citizens of Scotland, young and old, of all colours, creeds and politics who entertain the notion of national dignity will be nauseated by the scene of Humza Yousaf "looking forward " to more of the same.

(Dr) Andrew Docherty, Melrose

Tactical voting

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A lot has been said lately about tactical voting. The best examples of it working were the 2021 Holyrood election when the Greens won eight seats with only 34k first preference votes and in the 2017 general election when the SNP lost 21 seats due to a combination of social media anti-SNP campaign and the Conservative "We're the party of the Union" message.

It failed in 2019 when the SNP astutely downplayed independence, demonised Brexit and Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn sank Labour. The Holyrood 2021 campaign featuring tactical voting billboards, ad vans and social media promotions cost Nicola Sturgeon the three or four seats that necessitated the Green coalition and fuelled her demise.

And a few weeks ago anti-SNP tactical voting in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dunblane council by-elections lost them seats to Labour, Lib Dems and Tories.

The upcoming elections will provide different challenges for tactical voters. A possible Rutherglen by-election should produce a spontaneous pro-Labour-supporting tactical vote pile-on.

The General Election won't be about independence, Brexit or Boris. The strength and appeal of the Labour and Conservative UK leaders and policies will be key and a "Just don't vote Humza" tactical voting campaign would definitely work.

But what if Humza Yousaf is gone and Kate Forbes "does a Rishi"? This was perhaps in Michael Gove's mind last weekend. He predicted an SNP "rebrand" as "Scotland's party".

How better to do this than ditch Humza Yousaf and elect Kate Forbes and the SNP "good guys" and capitalise on her appeal across the constitutional divide, especially those underwhelmed and frustrated by Scottish Labour and Conservatives?

Forbes’s traditionalism would neuter the Conservatives’ recently acquired "we're the party to protect women's rights" mantra and Labour would struggle to reverse out of it's pro-gender recognition reforms cul-de-sac and win back the “lost voters” they’re depending on.

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I trust pro-UK leaders and strategists are already war-gaming this scenario and adjusting their themes and manifestos accordingly.

Alan Sutherland, Stonehaven

Care for our soil

Anent my letter ten days ago (Letters, April 21) and subsequent emails and conversations that resulted, satellite photos show an increasingly green planet as natural growth is stimulated by global warming and higher atmospheric CO2 to protect itself – all as predicted by the late Dr Jim Lovelock in his Gaia theory.

Whether or not such increasing sequestration of human-generated excess greenhouse gas will be enough to rescue humanity from a mass heat death remains to be seen.

However, all our futures are also in the hands of enlightened farmers who drill rather than plough; sow cover crops rather than leave bare fields; increase the soil’s fertility and protect its carbon-absorbing micro microbiology and worms by using natural composts and manures rather than harmful and increasingly expensive fertilisers and other biocides; and who buck the trend for ever more heavyweight, soil-compacting, powerful, gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting, high status and very high-priced machinery and farm and personal vehicles.

Small is beautiful! That all of this can be done well, and managed without any state subsidy is shown in the freely available online heart-warming and very informative prize-winning documentary Kiss the Ground. Compulsory viewing for all of us, farmers or not.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Alert system farce

I wonder if the latest Emergency Alert System farce was, in fact, a marketing ploy (do I hear the sound of Money, Money by Abba playing in the background?) to upgrade our mobile phones – my mobile uses 3G and I understand only 4G and 5G phones received the alert – that’s if they were in luck! As Hardy might have said to Laurel, “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into, Stanley.”

The system appears as effective and reliable as weather-dependent wind and solar farms – not forgetting that smart meters currently rely on 2G and 3G mobile signals to function, and mobile operators plan to pull the plug on them.

When these signals are turned off, the meters will be no better than the traditional devices they replaced as existing smart meters cannot handle 4G or 5G communication technology.

Dave Haskell, Brithdir, Cardigan

Colonialism query

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Sudan became a republic in 1956, having been given independence from the consortium of Egypt and UK that previously controlled the country.

Today we see in Sudan yet another Islamist autocracy creating havoc and murdering and displacing its own people. This is the latest occurrence of atrocities in an Islamist state, following on from Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iran.

To all these people expressing opinion that the western democracies should apologise for "colonialism", may I ask the question: Do current events in post-independence autocracies support your theories?

Even in India, at the time of independence in 1947, we witnessed the creation of Pakistan, instigated by the UK, complying with pressure to provide a separate state for Moslems, and yet today we see constant skirmishing between Moslems and Hindus over philosophical issues of culture and influence in what used to be "British India".

Does the repetition of Islamist atrocities and repression not suggest that European "colonialism" was nowhere near as bad, by comparison, as what we have been witnessing? And is there not a case to be questioning the culture of these Islamist republics that allow such events to occur ?

Derek Farmer, Anstruther

Peace in Ukraine

Rather than continuing to destroy every blade of grass in the disputed areas of Ukraine it would seem sensible to consider alternatives.

The Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine could be made into a United Nations-governed neutral state for an agreed 20 years. This would be overseen by, say China and India, which both have commercial reasons to stop the present conflict.

The neutral states’ purpose would be in part to stop partisan reprisals between its own citizens and residency would have to be limited to those who can claim a birthright to prevent colonisation by stealth.

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It is nationalism that fuels this conflict. Nationalism is just a bigger version of my grandchildren claiming “this is mine”. The conflict must be stopped, or else nobody’s grandchildren will have a future.

Ken Carew, Dumfries

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