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Correcting the record and a 'stairheid rammy' at Holyrood

I was very surprised to read your report about Alex Salmond's retrospective amendments to the Official Record of proceedings in the Scottish Parliament ("'Tipp-Ex cover-up' barb at Salmond over SNP errors", The Herald, November 22).

You say he stated in Parliament "about 18,000 people" work in renewable energy in Scotland, then quietly changed that figure in the Record to 11,000.

I believe Hansard, the official record at Westminster, can't be altered retrospectively. If a Minister or MP makes a mistake they can make another statement to correct it, but they can't go back and pretend they said something entirely different. The same rule applies to all the rest of us, who have to live with what we have said, much as we sometimes wish we had said something else.

The First Minister's correction of the false figure he gave to Parliament looks rather shabby. It follows the misleading remarks he made about legal advice regarding an independent Scotland's position in Europe, and his claim he was giving "as exact an answer as anyone has ever given to Parliament" when in fact he was claiming the reduction in college funding was an increase.

Surely it's a case of three strikes and you're out, First Minister.

Doug Maughan,

52 Menteith View, Dunblane.

While Alex Salmond's latest numerical error may be embarrassing, it is a slip up and as such hardly significant to say the number of green jobs was only 11,000 and not the mistaken 18,000.

What was significant was the fact that three of the six reported errors by the Government this year were related to renewable energy policy: Minister for Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse) re carbon dioxide emissions, Minister for Energy (Fergus Ewing) re Mitsibushi's involvement in Dundee and now the Fist Minister's incorrect green job numbers. Not one but three ministers got it wrong.

Even more significant on the green jobs is Mr Salmond's claim back in April 2011 when, speaking on a campaign visit to Steel Engineering Ltd in Renfrew, he said: "By 2020, our target is to have 130,000 jobs in the low carbon sector." It would appear that, back then, he was one zero digit too many.

Bob Hamilton,

55 Halbeath Road, Dunfermline.

Watching First Minister's Questions live from Holyrood on Thursday was a deeply depressing experience. Where have all our high hopes gone for a non-confrontational chamber, with brief intelligent contributions seeking information, the chance for backbenchers to bring forward urgent constituency concerns and for the Parliament to hold the First Minister and his Government's policies to account?

Instead we had what could only be described as a "stairheid rammy", full of long-winded mini-speeches before getting round to asking a question, bitter and nasty personal accusations of deliberate lying and deceit, and much shouting of insults from the baying mobs behind the frontbenches.

In fact, 27 of the 30 minutes available were taken up by the three opposition party leaders and the responses, leaving little time for other MSPs to be heard, except as background noise. Is this what our long-wished-for Parliament has descended to?

Of course the tone was set by the questioning from the opposition leaders, giving the First Minister the excuse to respond in like vein. The actual subject was the relatively trivial matter of two or three wrong figures read out from a briefing paper, for which the necessary apologies had already been offered. But the clear underlying feeling I discerned was of deep personal animosity bordering on hatred, and that is no way for our elected representatives to behave, especially in front of live TV cameras. It's high time they all grew up.

Iain AD Mann,

7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.

Iain Macwhirter's fine article on the prosperity of Norway and how an independent Scotland might still, despite the years of squandered oil wealth on this side of the North Sea, aspire to emulate the outstanding qualities of Norwegian society says it all, as far as I am concerned, on the question of Scottish independence ("Face reality: We could be as prosperous as Norway", The Herald, November 22).

Instead of arguments about whether independence will or will not allow a separate Scottish state to preserve the so-called benefits of our dysfunctional UK society, we should instead be completely focused on how we can build a better, more egalitarian society along the lines of Norway. That can never be achieved within the UK.

Robert Sim,

31 Norstane, Lerwick.

Sandy Gemmill's question about the two islands of New Zealand is not really apposite or helpful in advancing the debate (Letters, November 23).

Can he say when either of those islands ever had its own separate monarchy, parliament, national church, legal system, literary tradition or language?

Papua New Guinea actually shares an island with Indonesia, as does Haiti and The Dominican Republic, but nobody thinks they should merge. So why, just because the two halves of New Zealand are one country, does that means the United Kingdom must stick together for all eternity?

While I'm on the subject, after independence it would be inaccurate to call the remainder The United Kingdom because only one of the kingdoms would remain; that is, England, because Wales is a principality and Northern Ireland a province. So, unless we let them have the Kingdom of Fife, a new name would have to be found. Fortuitously, your columnist, Rab McNeil has hit on it: Englandshire.

David C Purdie,

12 Mayburn Vale,

Loanhead, Midlothian.

Mary McCabe claims an independent Scotland would have voted for the Tories only twice since 1885 (Letters, November 22). It is inaccurate to make such a hypothetical claim, as far as it is measured by the winning percentage of the vote on the day.

In my web article, "Scotland gets the Government it Wants at Westminster, Two out of Three Times", I list the 18 General Elections since July 5, 1945. Using the winning percentage votes as detailed in House of Commons Library documents, I show that Scotland voted for the Conservatives in 1951, 1955 and 1959.

Moreover, based on this measurement, Scotland got the government it voted for 12 times, or two-thirds of the time, since 1945. The same number of times, it happens, as England.

Alistair McConnachie,

268 Bath Street, Glasgow.

There is something incomprehensible going on among the three Unionist parties. They were instrumental in promulgating the Calman Commission and they have stood shoulder to shoulder in support of its proposals. Indeed, until the famous signing took place, it was reasonable for us to assume that, if there was a No vote, these proposals would click into place – after all, they are embedded in the Scotland Act 2012, ready for introduction in 2016, and they were designed to forestall independence.

So, in these circumstances, it is difficult to discern why each party should, meantime, have to set in motion its own commission to consider the way ahead as an alternative to independence. The ink was barely dry on the signing when the Liberal Democrats published their federal solution, covering the components of the UK. But with them all now co-operating under the devo plus banner they are really confusing the issue.

There is no prospect of any meeting of minds across the parties. That means we, the voters, would be faced with at least three options, in addition to Calman. The options are constitutional matters, ie about the structures within which the system operates, and not about party politics. But the Liberal Democrats' vehicle for approval is stated to be the 2015 General Election, not the 2016 Holyrood election.

That is not acceptable. If we are to have constitutional rectitude, any serious proposals require to be approved by the Scottish people in a referendum. Isn't it a pity that for reasons of constitutional opportunism their ideas were not available in time to be addressed in the context of the forthcoming referendum?

Douglas R Mayer,

76 Thomson Crescent, Currie.

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