Readers' Letters: Opposition fails to hold Sturgeon to account

This week I had the misfortune to watch Scottish Parliament TV in the hope that I might receive some enlightenment from the First Minister on the reasons for the shambles surrounding the introduction of Scottish vaccination app and its harmful effect on the hospitality industry. and also an explanation as to why the same computer system was sending elderly Edinburgh City residents to the far-flung reaches of East and West Lothian for their flu vaccinations, and residents in those regions into the city for the same vaccinations. These latter instances have already been aired on several occasions in these columns, as has the inadequacy of the telephone helpline.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gets away with not addressing concerns, says reader (Picture: Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images)

Also an explanation as to why the same computer system was sending elderly Edinburgh City residents to the far-flung reaches of East and West Lothian for their flu vaccinations, and residents in those regions into the city for the same vaccinations. These latter instances have already been aired on several occasions in these columns, as has the inadequacy of the telephone helpline.

As we have been told relentlessly by Ms Sturgeon over the last 18 months, we are “in the midst of a global pandemic” and one can only commend the fortitude and patience of the long-suffering NHS staff in remaining endlessly polite and helpful in trying to cope in the face of the total organisational shambles perpetrated by the SNP Government. When this incompetence is accompanied by smirking smugness and endless self-promotion it becomes unforgivable. Needless to say, the session in the Parliament did not add in any way to the sum total of human knowledge, being the usual circus of perfectly reasonable questions from all the opposition parties receiving no substantive answers from the First Minister, but only snide personal insults against the questioners. No change there then.

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However, the piece de resistance from the First Minister was that she achieved a hat trick in not answering the question raised. Ross Greer raised a really important point about the fund set aside to improve the ventilation in schools, asking how much had been spent already and what work had actually been done. One would have expected that, given how much the education of our children has suffered due to pandemic forced closures, the First Minister would have been only too happy to deal with the question. Instead she read a prepared answer about helping small businesses. No wonder even Ross Greer looked bemused.

As I could not believe what I was hearing I replayed the question and answer and there was no doubt that the answer did not address any part of Mr Greer's question.

What was even more concerning was that no MSP queried the meaningless answer nor raised a point of order. Surely Scotland deserves better governance than that provided by the SNP on autopilot and the failure of all the opposition parties to really hold them to account .

John Donald, Edinburgh

Shameful

It is only 12 months since Angus Robertson, now an MSP and, rather ironically, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, made the shameful argument that the deaths of older people may well be of benefit to the Independence cause as c55,000 deaths in the older generation supporting the Union would be replaced by c55,000 16-year-olds able to vote, and likely to do so for Independence.

If those comments were not contemptible in themselves, we now have the First Minister displaying similar pitiful sentiments with her comments noting that “looking at the demographics of the support for Independence, I’ve probably got time on my side as well”. It is clear what she means. These are abhorrent comments and one can only hope that in the most unlikely event of a second referendum any time soon, the older generation will be galvanised to get out and vote in support of the Union. Indeed both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Robertson might also be underestimating the will of the younger generation and find this younger generation will understand the economic folly of Independence. Ms Sturgeon and Mr Robertson should hang their heads in shame.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Licence to print

Re: your editorial “Universal Credit cut hits the poorest” (6 October), the change will affect 4.4 million families throughout England, Scotland and Wales, 40 per cent of whom are already in jobs, making it more difficult to make ends meet against an increasing cost-of-living spiral, exacerbated by a National Insurance increase affecting employees and employers and National Debt close to 100 per cent of GDP.

To win votes, leading politicians employ simple rhetoric/soundbites. One former PM Margaret Thatcher declared “the state has no source of money other than the money people earn themselves”. Another, Theresa May, said “there is no magic money tree”. These are half-truths at best and downright misleading at worst.

Both statements ignore the fact that the Treasury creates currency as and when required, e.g. Quantitative Easing, now well over £750 billion since the financial crash. The latest excuse from PM Boris Johnson and the Chancellor is “its a global problem”, when referring to HGV driver and other shortages, and the Pandora papers’ revelations. The UK Government, unlike a household, doesn’t earn money it prints it. A key but unarguable fact is that our currency, the pound sterling, is created by the Treasury and disbursed by the Bank of England, the central bank of the UK, and no one else – legally.

The British public is now conditioned to think government must tax more to spend more, i.e. tax and/or borrow money from us before it can spend. In reality, the UK government never collects enough tax revenue to meet expenditure, as a rule, leading to annual deficits. Running a deficit isn’t only normal, but the norm for most countries like ours. The £6bn UC uplift is a drop in the proverbial.

DW Lowden, Mannofield, Aberdeen

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Energy Holy Grail

I have to take issue with Tim Flinn's perspective on energy issues (Letters, 6 October). He criticises Clark Cross for pointing out the simple but uncomfortable reality that the electricity generated by renewables (primarily wind) singularly fails to deliver a regular reliable service to industrial and domestic consumers. It should be abundantly clear to anyone who does not see the world through green-tinted spectacles that for the foreseeable future the reality is that we must remain largely reliant on fossil fuels in order to allow modern and developing economies to function.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention but the current obsessions with all things electric powered by intermittent energy are nothing better than stopgap measures. As fossil fuel use is gradually scaled back over the decades, more rational technological advances will fill the vacuum. Thus it could well be with nuclear power. The disposal of radioactive waste has long been an emotive issue and the nuclear industry is working on practical solutions that could both minimise radioactive waste as well as provide high density energy with a much greater degree of safety. Meanwhile, the International Experimental Nuclear Reactor in southern France – a co-operative venture involving 35 nations – is working on massive technological advances to replicate the awesome power of the sun by fusing the atom, as opposed to splitting it, as is currently the case. This would be humankind's Holy Grail, providing limitless zero carbon energy with minimal short term radioactive waste.

With COP26 just around the corner it is baffling to learn that the Government declines to allow representatives of the nuclear industry to take part in any discussions when the hot topic of the day is focused on net zero carbon emissions.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Berwickshire

Get real

Tim Flinn wrongly accuses regular correspondent Clark Cross of mocking “renewable green energy” whilst he “lauds fossil and nuclear”.Like most of your correspondents who know something about the subject of energy, it’s not so much that they mock renewable energy, but rather the absurd claims made for it by a combination of vested interests and poorly informed environmental worriers.In Mr Flinn’s case, the same can be said of his suggestion that finite fossil and nuclear fuels are in danger of running out any time soon. The truth is that there are sufficient reserves of these fuels to last for many, many decades to come, which is maybe just as well for the proponents of renewables because not only are these materials essential for the production of every aspect of wind farm construction, but are, of course, necessary to provide base load generation for the frequent occasions when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.The renewables industry perpetuates the falsehood that we have “enough renewable generation for x zillion homes” but as they well know, their false claims refer to installed capacity, not actual power generated.Mr Flinn asks Clark Cross what he intends to use when the finite fuels run out. I’m sure Mr Cross would agree that that particular threat is not imminent, but without them, the threat of power cuts is not only likely but certain, particularly when we consider that during last month, which was not atypical, renewables contributed a decidedly unspectacular 18 per cent of requirement to the National Grid.

Alan Thomson, Strontian, Highland

Stats proof

I wonder if Mary Thomas (Letters, 7 October) and others who trumpet Scotland’s superior records on Covid death rates, jabs etc compared to our neighbour could embellish their assertions with a few cast-iron irrefutable statistics? After all, they should have that info readily at hand – or is their case as leaky as a rusty bucket?

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

All together now?

It made my day to read Gill Turner (Letters, 8 October), a proud separatist, describing East Lothian as a “little corner of Scotland” whilst using an article about England to support her case about farming shortages.

Lewis Finne, Edinburgh

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