The practice of government must change - Readers' Letters

Can we hope for a review of the process of the management of government, particularly including the award of UK government contracts, after yet another lobbying scandal has uncovered manifest failures?

Should the length of service in office for any one politician be limited?
Should the length of service in office for any one politician be limited?

Such a review should include the role of elected politicians, not only in the initial risk assessments and tenders made before any contracts are agreed, but through the aftermath of contract implementation.

The Holyrood government made some progress in making it a criminal offence for paid politicians to take payments from outside their employment for lobbying, but this is apparently not so in Westminster. Whatever, there are still clearly loopholes in the risk assessment and process of contract awards and government expenditure incurred, at both Westminster and Holyrood.

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Overcoming particular conflicts of interest, when skills and knowledge need to be maintained for those who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, IT specialists and others, should be allowed. Respective elected politicians can then legitimately undertake and be paid for the regular annual training and practice required by their professional bodies.

Such a rationale is strengthened if the length of service in office of any one politician is limited to two terms of government or a ten years maximum. If the UK is to have vibrant and active parliaments, the regular refreshing and turnover of members should help to avoid the entrenchment of career politicians which has for too long militated against transparency and fair dealing in the award of contracts.

Clearly major changes in the practice of government are needed. Dare we hope they will happen?

Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh

Jury duty

It has been well said that anyone wishing to be a politician thereby debars themselves. The psychologist Alfred Adler showed that even politicians entering with entirely noble notions about serving the community all too often succumb to the temptation of serving themselves instead or as well.

The remedy is obvious: rather than elections with all their problems of safe seats for life and party machinations, we instead select our MPs as we do our juries. That way ready, willing and able people of proven probity and decency can be seconded from their home constituency and normal work for say two parliamentary terms to protect and promote the national benefit.

This proposal also opens the way for our brightest and best who, to our detriment, otherwise appear to eschew grubby politics. We can all suggest what might be the real motives of those who object to such a reform.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Sin no more?

Alexander McKay (Letters, 9 November) tells us that other parties have had their share of sinners. He cites Margaret Ferrier of the SNP, as breaking of Covid rules. He then quotes the Bible – “let he or she without sin cast the first stone” – without giving the crucial last part of the quote: "Go and sin no more.” The Tory response to Mr Paterson’s “sin” was to give a different message, that is: “Go and sin as much as you wish.”

I believe that Nicola Sturgeon’s response to Ms Ferrier’s "sin” was rather different: "It's hard to express just how angry I feel on behalf of people across the country making hard sacrifices every day to help beat Covid. The rules apply to everyone and they’re in place to keep people safe. [Ian Blackford] is right to suspend the whip.” Ms Ferrier was immediately suspended from the SNP. The Labour Party has also suspended an MP who was recently found guilty of harassment.

Dr Francis Roberts, Edinburgh

In praise of Ruth

I felt abused recently when a senior Labour Party man, unfamiliar with our country’s recent political machinations, tried the democracy-denying trope on me that our independence mandate was “divisive”.

I informed him that his argument was wholly owned by Ruth Davidson and had been since the 2015 Scotlandshire elections, and used to garner Labour and Liberal Democrat ‘bitter together’ votes for the Conservative/UKIP/Brexit Party. Typically Labour, he was trying on this second-hand Tory rag, after years of wear and tear, in order to see if it fitted (it appears on the BBC regularly to fleg the bairns).

This episode, however, reminded me of how much I have missed Ruth! And how, like the proverbial broken clock, she was correct! Twice!

Firstly, internet gambling is an evil which should be taxed out of existence, and secondly, Boris Johnston is a political farce (with and without the “f”).

Ian Hiddleston, Dundee

Body heat

The idea of utilising body heat from nightclubbers (Scotsman, 9 November) is almost as old as civilisation.

In the not so distant past animals and humans shared accommodation because of the quite significant contribution of the body heat of the former to the comfort of the latter. Burns' cottage at Alloway is our most well-known example of this but next time you see the still quite common sight of a farm house with byres/stables built on at the sides you will know the reason.

Academic studies on the methodology of precise measurement of animal heat production to my knowledge go back at least a century.

Dr A McCormick, Terregles, Dumfries and Galloway

No Brexit dividend

It was intriguing, but not unexpected, to note that all of Boris Johnson’s new post-Brexit trade deals put together will have an economic benefit of just £3 to £7 per person over the next 15 years, according to the government’s own figures.

Analysis by top academics at the University of Sussex UK Trade Policy Observatory have highlighted that the tiny economic boost – amounting to just 0.01 to 0.02 per cent of GDP, and less than 50p per person a year – is dwarfed by the economic hit from leaving the EU, which the government estimates at four per cent of GDP over the same period. The analysis suggests that the much-trumpeted free trade agreements (FTAs) “barely scratch the surface of the UK’s challenge to make up the GDP lost by leaving the EU”.

Mr Johnson has boasted of the deals creating a “new dawn” and representing “global Britain at its best” – but just two of the dozens announced since the UK left the EU are expected to have any measurable economic impact at all.

Official estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility point to a Brexit loss of more than £1,250 per person over the coming years – more than 178 times the most optimistic prediction for the benefits from the trade deals.

The dream of a so-called “Brexit dividend” has turned into the economic nightmare many of us have been warning of for years.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

Greta’s message

Greta Thunberg is to be congratulated on raising the profile of pressing environmental issues, particularly amongst young people.

Given her performance in Glasgow I understand what she is against but I am much less clear on what she is for. Put another way, I understand what she wants us to stop doing, but I have to admit I am less clear on what she wants us all to start doing.

Now is the time to capitalise on the momentum created to convert the rhetoric she is so keen to call out into clearly identified and practical actions that can be taken to address the climate crisis that confronts us, young and old.

By way of an example of the power of positive action by young people I would highlight an inspirational initiative based in Falkirk called Fuel Change that I have recently become involved in. This is a social enterprise that seeks to engage and empower young people to realise their potential to help fight the climate crisis. Part of this initiative poses a series of broad environmental challenges that teams come together to work on to generate implementable solutions.

The commitment and enthusiasm of the participants (mainly apprentices) is clearly demonstrated by the fact that they work on this in their own time whilst still carrying on with their day jobs and further education.

Hundreds of people have now participated in Fuel Change challenges and they have already identified innovative opportunities that will have undoubted positive benefits to society as a whole. Surely this is the way forward.

RP Tooze, St Andrews, Fife

Polluter pays

Why did Jamie Livingstone fail to point out in his article (Scotsman, 9 November) that the First Minister will not come out against the Cambo Oil Field before the COP26 summit ends as the SNP/Green coaition has not opposed the planning application for a 900MW gas fired power station at Peterhead to replace the electricity generated by Hunterston B. Indeed if the coaliton maintains its energy policy then there will be a second application for a 1,300MW plant to replace Torness Power Station by the end of the decade.

These units require massive quantities of fossil fuel, hence it is a choice between obtaining supplies from the Cambo field or buying gas from the Russian Nord2 project.

However, what Mr Livingstone could have addressed is why the SNP/Green coalition does not insist on the “polluter pays” principle and demand that the plant operator funds the Acorn Project to capture the CO2 emitted and deposit the gas below the North Sea.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Dame Nicola

May I suggest that Her Majesty the Queen considers bestowing an early honour of a damehood on our First Minister for services to self-promotion. After all, the pantomime season will be with us soon.

Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh

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