THE Scottish Election campaign 2016 has centred a great deal on the new tax-raising powers the Scottish Parliament will receive in 2017.

Central to the Labour Party’s platform and confirmed at its manifesto launch is its intention to use the new tax-raising powers to fight austerity and stop the pending cuts to services and benefits (“Dugdale offers a ‘simple, honest tax plan’”, The Herald, April 28). Its pitch is that this is a radical move and that by increasing tax for everyone who earns more than £20,000 it is using the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect the people of Scotland from the cuts introduced by the Conservative Government at Westminster.

Does anyone in the Labour Party see the incongruity of this policy? In 2014 the Labour Party campaigned for a No vote in the independence referendum, along with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and succeeded in ensuring that the UK stayed together. In 2015 a Conservative Government was elected in the UK General Election which has subsequently introduced swinging cuts to benefits and services. The Labour Party’s solution to this problem in Scotland is to use the new tax-raising powers to increase taxes to mitigate the cuts and maintain benefits and services at their current level. This could be seen as the Scottish taxpayer having to pay a premium for being Better Together.

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Greig Ingram,

8 Helensburgh Drive, Glasgow.

IT is understandable that political parties who are contesting the forthcoming Holyrood election are urging their supporters to use both votes for their party. Every party wants to maximise their chances of electoral success. But we should be concerned when SNP member Hugh Kerr tells us that he may face “expulsion” from the party for casting his constituency (first) vote for the SNP but his regional list (second) vote for the Greens (Letters, April 27). No political party that supports the founding principles of the Scottish Parliament, with its commitment to diversity, consensus and transparency should be criticising anyone in the electorate who chooses to support different parties with their two votes.

Mr Kerr is in good company. Election guru Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University has explained that, with current polls predicting a majority SNP government will be secured through the constituency vote alone, a second vote for the SNP is a “wasted” vote in most regions as it will not lead to the election of further SNP MSPs. This situation may encourage many SNP members to follow Mr Kerr and vote for another independence-supporting party with their regional list vote.

Mr Kerr is voting Green to strengthen the Parliament’s commitment to land reform. In doing this he is reflecting the criticism levelled at the Scottish Government during the land reform debate at the SNP conference last autumn. Sadly, the First Minister seems to have learnt nothing from that conference defeat, still going on bended knee to appease landowners who want to build more roads into our hills, while burning, overgrazing and eroding soils as though there is no tomorrow. As the deer, sheep and grouse nibble away, preventing tree regeneration and vegetation recovery, the consequences of the next rainstorm are felt below, with water pouring off the hills to flood towns and villages near and far away. Elsewhere, as landowners seek new ways to keep people off their land, the First Minister approves camping by-laws, a draconian measure designed to criminalise innocent citizens who are out in the great outdoors enjoying the fresh air.

Welcome to Scotland, 2016, where the Government has taken us back to the bad old days of the Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 which first made camping a criminal offence, until it was repealed in 2003. Why do we allow so few, who own most of our land, to do so much damage to everyone else? Yes, real land reform progress in the next Parliament will depend on the presence of a large number of Green MSPs. They will be put there by SNP supporters and others who have used their second vote wisely, knowing that an SNP Government alone will not deliver effective land reform.

Dave Morris,

2 Bishop Terrace, Kinnesswood, Kinross.

I WILL be both votes SNP (Letters, April 27 & 28), because in the Scottish elections of 2011 the SNP secured 69 seats, 53 constituency and 16 regional, making a total of 69. Without the SNP votes on the regional paper second vote, there would not have been an SNP government, and there would not have been a referendum on independence.

To split the the vote is dangerous and could cost the SNP the chance to have an historic third term in office and delay another referendum.

To vote Solidarity or Rise would be a wasted vote as at present they do not get enough coverage and have very little political clout. Scottish Labour is just a branch office of London’s head office, and because of this, should we believe anything that Kezia Dugdale says?

The Tories want to bring in prescription charges of £8 per item and £1,500 per year in student education fees. Lib- Dems under Willie Rennie along with the Greens want to put up Income Tax, this would give Scotland a higher rate from the rest of the UK.

So for me and the 115,000 SNP members it must be both votes SNP.

Robert McCaw,

6 Hamilton Crescent, Renfrew.

AS a matter of principle I will cast my vote for the regional list candidates before I vote for the constituency candidates. Despite comments from Willie Douglas and Hugh Kerr (Letters, April 27 & 28) the regional vote should not be seen as a second vote. In my case it will be the constituency vote which will be the second vote. Indeed in Lothian, for all but the SNP, it is the regional list vote that is likely to be the most keenly contested.

Sandy Gemmill,

40 Warriston Gardens, Edinburgh.

ONE significant issue facing Scotland has been conspicuously absent from political debates and speeches during the Holyrood election campaign.

Scotland’s economy is widely recognised as being is a parlous state as evidenced by rising unemployment, reduced investment and business closures, so why is this central issue not being given a higher profile by politicians?

So far in this election campaign we witness politicians competing with one another to increase public spending and then squabbling about which tax rates should be increased to pay for this increased spending. Increased tax rates have a negative impact on economic growth. Surely a much better, long-term solution would be to seek ways to improve the overall economy thereby building taxation income to fund better public services from an expanding economic base?

This latter solution would expand the size of the economy cake providing a more prosperous future for all, rather than making us all poorer by trying to find new ways to divide up an ever smaller cake.

GM Lindsay,

Whinfield Gardens, Kinross.

WHILE I don't begrudge the newborn to our land of milk and honey their SNP baby box I admit to feeling somewhat peeved at missing out on Nicola Sturgeon's largesse with the omission of an Oldie box for seniors.

( SNP's baby box is lazy way to win votes, April 28 ).

A nicely packaged pair of slippers and a wee malt miniature might have got my vote.

R Russell Smith,

96 Milton Road, Kilbirnie.