SNP tax '˜tweaks'

THE Love Council Tax letter from William Mathers (5 March) strongly supported the Scottish Government 'tweak' to the existing council tax bands.

Next year, this “tweak” will mean a £333, 24 per cent increase in my council tax payments, assuming the council tax will not rise when the freeze is lifted.

Another SNP “tweak” my children can look forward to is the imminent Land Transaction Tax on the sale of my home when I die. I estimate that the leap from 5 per cent to 10 per cent in Scotland will raise £50,000 for the taxman. If I lived in England by the way it would only raise £25,000.

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Possibly, I did the wrong thing during my full 45 year working life by scrimping and saving from my fully taxed earnings to invest in a decent home for my family and at the same time leave my children a valuable inheritance and always accepting paying a fair higher council tax as a result.

Despite the endorsement of Mr Mathers, the bricks and mortar council tax system is widely acknowledged as a completely out dated and clearly unfair method of only helping to fund about 20 per cent of council services. The longstanding and clear SNP pre election promises to scrap it have never materialised. Central income taxing has to be the common sense way forward, in my view, to fund all council services.

As this 82 year-old fixed pension single occupant widower has now concluded, this grossly unfair “tweaking” will now cost the SNP my vote at the forthcoming election.

William Fenton

Coast Road, Longniddry

Fracking facts

So Scottish Labour has pledged to ban fracking (News, 4 March).

Is that with scientific support or in spite of it? Ineos is right; extraction is safe and this is a once in a generation opportunity to secure jobs and much-needed investment. But it will also secure gas supplies against interruption. At present, although some gas comes from UK gas fields, much is imported from countries which could restrict or stop supplies. Ineos will import it from the USA, presumably from fracking there.

If Labour is concerned about the safety of fracking, consider the safety of not having secure gas supplies. While gas is an environmentally-damaging fossil fuel, which we need to stop using as soon as possible, it’s less damaging than coal. Burning coal should cease immediately and we should replace it by gas in the short term until we find another gas such as hydrogen to heat our buildings and fuel road vehicles.

Fracking would enable us to undertake this transition; banning fracking only makes things worse.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale pledged an outright ban on fracking in the lead up to the Holyrood election campaign followed quickly by the Liberal Democrat leaders who undemocratically overturned their members’ decision to lift the current moratorium.

America and Canada has supplies for at least a century and will use it to generate electricity with half the CO2 emissions of coal.

By using shale gas America has reduced its emissions, the only country in the world to have done so. The world is awash with shale gas deposits and Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Europe, China, North America and India will exploit them.

Scotland is facing blackouts, especially with the Longannet power station closure and our reliance on fickle wind turbines.

Kezia Dugdale recently pressed the Scottish Government on blackouts, yet she deliberately ignores that shale gas electrical plants would keep the lights on.

The SNP already has a moratorium in place but watch this space after the May elections when the SNP dominated government meet with Ineos at Grangemouth and announce that after taking scientific advice the fracking process can go ahead.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Nicola Sturgeon has told Kezia Dugdale that fracking “ain’t gonna happen”. Does she mean irrespective of the conclusions and evidence of the report she has commissioned?

If it is the latter then Patrick Harvie is quite right to demand that the FM cancels the investigation, because what is the point of commissioning a report which will be ignored if it concludes that fracking is environmentally safe and economically viable?

Nicola Sturgeon’s actions are the usual mainstream politics that all parties use: postpone a decision until after the election and prevaricate to your back teeth in the meantime.

Patrick Harvie’s actions are more sinister: in a democracy where decisions should be taken on the basis of good evidence and arguments, I suspect his desire to close down debate is driven by a fear that the report will come out in favour, and the whole “green” house of cards will collapse.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Price of hatred

Is the Republican Party in the USA paying the price for condoning hatred?

Long before the 2008 election of Barack Obama there was a movement of hatred directed against him by a powerful minority within the GOP.

This movement has continued their strategy of hatred ever since. The rise of the Tea Party and the ‘Birther’ campaign are only two of the many instances of this campaign of hatred that has brought the GOP to its current crisis of leadership where Donald Trump, an unabashed populist, is the likely Republican candidate for the presidency.

If there are any lessons to be gained for us all whether we aspire to political power, social change or family harmony surely this tragic drama offers much.

When we demonise our adversaries or any others with whom we choose to disagree with we run the risk of polluting our minds and hearts with the poison of terminal hatred and infecting others who fall under our influence.

On our own doorstep we have witnessed and continue to witness what happens when we ascribe demon like qualities to ‘the other’ whether we are promoting a yes or a no in a referendum.

Whatever happens in the upcoming American election and the European referendum surely we need to stand back and recognise this.

One of the many concerns that arise from the current outbreak of public vitriol is that such a strategy, once legitimised, takes us further downwards into a spiral of moral decline.

We reap what we sow.

Gavin Cargill

Edinburgh Road, Linlithgow

Impossible task

Your leader on arts funding rightly highlighted another example of the gap between SNP rhetoric and what is actually delivered (‘Hyslop’s message about arts funding is muddled’, 5 March). As the SNP’s culture minister, Ms Hyslop sought to convey a positive message about her government’s approach to the arts, but the reality is increasingly that this sector is being hit hard with significant cuts across key elements of creative and cultural Scotland.

This can only get worse as the deep cuts in council funding flow through to hit a wide range of services provided locally. As much as we might all agree that arts provide a critical contribution to the quality of life of Scotland, it is hard for councils to prioritise the arts ahead of, for example, their support for the numerous third sector projects provided across Scotland in support of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The SNP government has pushed our councils into an impossible position. The shame of it is that Ms Hyslop and her colleagues do not have the courage to recognise the impact of their decisions, but rather stick religiously to the SNP line that everything is fine other than whatever they blame on Westminster.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

The missing link

I’d like to back Dr Allen Armstrong’s suggestion that any savings left over from building the Queensferry Crossing be invested in improving the Fife network, as it is high time that some money was spent on rail services on the north side of the Forth, to match the amount being invested to the south of it (Letters, 5 March).

There can be no doubt that the people living in the communities which would be served by a re-opened Levenmouth branch, Newburgh station or Forth Rail Link would benefit greatly from the resulting enhanced connectivity.

The case of St Andrews is somewhat different, though no less valid. The town is primarily a destination, and an international one to boot. St Andrews could be described as Scotland’s Oxbridge, Canterbury and Wimbledon all rolled into one and considering that just one of these factors could be said to justify a rail connection, the fact that St Andrews ticks all three boxes makes the case overwhelming. Indeed, as it is likely that a St Andrews service would operate at a profit, it could help subsidise the other improvements.

Jane Ann Liston

Convenor, StARLink (St Andrews Rail Link) campaign

Whitehill Terrace, St Andrews