It ill-behoves Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy to lecture Scotland’s First Minister on the need to make cuts in public spending (“Murphy tells Salmond to get ready for spending squeeze”, The Herald, December 21). For months the Scottish Government has been warning of the reduced block grant coming over the next few years and has announced a draft budget in these terms, while until recently Mr Murphy’s leader was still promising more public investment and accusing the Tories of wanting cuts. He should remember that the situation we are all in today is due largely to his own government’s profligacy in the good years, and its gross mismanagement of the nation’s economic and financial affairs.

Mr Murphy should cut out the political posturing which impresses no-one, and stop behaving as London’s colonial governor in Scotland. Instead, as Scotland’s man in the cabinet, he should use what influence he has to persuade the Treasury to release some of the millions due to Scotland it is petulantly withholding, such as the fossil fuels levy. He might also plead the case for renewed advance borrowing for major capital projects, and for Scotland to have borrowing powers of its own as every local authority in Scotland already has.

Such actions would make a positive contribution in helping Scotland to come through the recession and aid economic recovery. He might set an example at home by giving up his own palatial head office in Dover House, which serves little purpose and is an extra cost charged to Scotland.

Iain A D Mann, Glasgow.


Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, has decided Christmas is the time for the Scottish Government to go on a diet. The Conservatives have been arguing for months that the British and Scottish Governments must recognise there will be less money to spend, and that savings will have to be made. It would have been better if Mr Murphy’s conversion had come earlier. Instead we are left with a credit hangover that will last long after Boxing Day.

As shadow Chancellor George Osborne stated in his response to the Pre-Budget Report, Labour has not only left the economy in a poor state but has failed to come up with a credible plan to get us out of it. Meanwhile, at Holyrood, the Scottish Conservatives have proposed nearly £250m of savings. Yet Mr Salmond has rejected every option. We have on the one hand a British Government that has brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and on the other a Scottish Government that claims an independent Scotland would have somehow been exempt from the problems.

What Scotland needs is for all politicians to start to level with the public. The Conservatives have been open and honest about the savings we believe can be made that protect front-line services and the less well-off. Let’s have a meaningful discussion about our choices.

David Mundell MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, House of Commons, London.


when the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland talked about the “vast, vast, vast amount of waste inside the public sector bodies”, I did not notice mention of what his party ever did to reduce it. Now why could that be? I did hear him quoted as saying: “Alex Salmond’s government is going to have to go on a bit of a diet” -- sounds like a serious case of having to clean up the mess Labour is leaving behind it.

As for “the size of the Scottish budget will be decided in Scotland” … pah! The only way that will happen is when all taxes and revenues raised in Scotland remain here and are spent here, which is why independence is as good a solution to this argument as it has ever been.

Andrew C Wilson, Howwood, Renfrewshire.


We can cut emissions by reducing our imports from polluters


As world leaders jet back to their countries after their £130m summit in Copenhagen, the recriminations have started over which countries have reneged on promises to bring about a meaningful agreement to counter global warming. If the predictions of a catastrophe are true, then the world has been badly let down by our leaders.

Gordon Brown will no doubt seek to impose further financial penalties upon the UK public to show that Britain is doing its bit in cutting emissions.

However, if he wants to be a credible and effective statesman, he should persuade his fellow European colleagues to start a process whereby imports from the world’s biggest polluters are reduced, thus decreasing emissions. It might start a trade war, but if the future of the planet is at stake, so what.

Bob MacDougall, Stirlingshire.


So Scottish ministers have chosen to allow the new Aberdeen bypass to be built. Alex Salmond and Stewart Stevenson have just returned from the Copenhagen climate change talks where they sanctimoniously lectured the rest of the world on how Scotland is leading the way in combating climate change.

What hypocrisy. This carbon-busting mega-road will make it impossible for these same ministers to meet the targets set out in the recent Scottish Climate Change Act. The government’s own figures show that the new bypass will bring about a 9% increase in emissions of carbon dioxide by 2026. The hundreds of millions of pounds to be spent on this road would be better invested in public transport improvements and low-carbon transport technologies.

Of course, the new road just happens to be being built in and around the constituencies of both of these ministers. Perhaps the transport problems of the north-east were not their first consideration in giving it the nod.

Stan Blackley, Edinburgh.


There has been much comment on the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate conference, and much recrimination -- especially our own PM’s “it wasn’t my fault” podcast -- and much is being said about the consequences of the talks’ failure, but not enough has focused on what is, in my view, a truly momentous public and political tipping point in international relations.

What we saw in Copenhagen was the first demonstration of true and appropriate political weight on the world stage by India, Brazil, South Africa and, of course, China, basically saying to the US and -- to a lesser extent -- the EU that they will no longer be dictated to. One may argue about their decisions and the context in which they took them, but that is another issue.

I think it is difficult to over-emphasise the significance of this. It means that the concept of the “project for the new American century” which has been the political philosophy that governed the Bush administration -- and remains, albeit slightly attenuated, in place, with all its overtones of Pax Americana across the globe -- is now facing a very real challenge.

It will be fascinating to see how this is “spun” by the US, the EU and the UK government, but truly I think we really are -- as in the Chinese proverb -- living in even more “interesting times”.

Patrick McNally, Ayr.


Thank you for a superb letters page (The Herald, December 21), with contributions on the economy, the need to save our newspapers and reshaping Scotland.

However, the most important were those on the climate change talks in Copen­hagen. This may have been the last real chance to save the world but politicians fudged it again. Where do we go from here? Perhaps the campaigning Herald and its clever correspondents, on its enlarged letters page, can save the world.

Dr Donald J C Cameron, Fochabers.


Victim of attack has also become a victim of the legal system, contrary to natural justice


Munir Hussain’s 30-month jail sentence is the most recent example, among many, of victims of crime going on also to become the victims of the legal system. In this case, he was punished for taking action against knife-wielding burglars holding his family hostage and threatening to kill them.

Let us hope that this is not a by-product of advocacy versus justice or the psycho­babble surrounding criminal motivation.

It would appear that those who ignore the law by their premeditated criminal actions are seen by the public to benefit from the law’s protective functions, while the victims are then punished by the law in addition to suffering the horrors of the original attack.

In what way can this be seen as a deterrent to criminal activity, or be viewed in relation to natural justice or even the status and integrity of the legal system itself?

Indeed, will public pressure generated by this perceived imbalance eventually lead to future legislation which debars those who blatantly flout our legal system from entitlement to protection by it?

George Devlin, Glasgow.


There has been discussion recently on whether a man was unjustly imprisoned because he attacked an intruder whom he was chasing from his house.

One judicial view was that at the time of the attack the danger from the intruder was past, and so the attack went beyond reasonable force.

I would put an argument in the householder’s favour: that the intruder had been inside the house, and his retreat was only temporary. Now, having cased the house from the inside, he would be in a much better position to make a further and more successful illicit entry. Violence from the householder would be a significant deterrent to subsequent intrusion.

That was the justification for the attack on the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano during the Falklands war, even though it was sailing away from, and had left, the war zone.

An easy and safe solution for criminals who may fear the retaliatory wrath of their victims: do not make a criminal invasion of someone else’s property.

Chris Parton, Uddingston.


Toothless Iraq inquiry is no threat to Blair


So Tony Blair reckons he is a “social entrepreneur” (“Blair brands himself a ‘social entrepreneur’ ”, The Herald, December 21). I think the troops and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan may suggest another description: “psychopathic entrepreneur” may be closer to the mark.

A psychopath is one who uses charm, manipulation, intimidation and violence to control others and satisfy their own needs. They are identified by a lack of remorse, shame or guilt and are enabled by a willingness to say anything without concern for accuracy or truth.

Mr Blair has admitted he would have found another way to attack Iraq if he had been unable to persuade parliament into war. He abused his position as PM for his own ends.

Mr Blair has the blood of thousands on his hands and yet struts the world stage. His remark that “it’s not true that nobody likes me … reading the papers in Britain you’d end up thinking I’d lost three elections rather than won them” shows how deluded he is; he cannot understand why we find him so repugnant.

Blair, Straw, Bush and Cheney should be in jail. Sadly, the current inquiry into Iraq is toothless and Mr Blair knows it.

Donald MacDonald, Inverness-shire.


Christmas number one illustrates obsolete business models of the music corporations


There are half a million reasons why Rage Against The Machine are at number one in the charts this Christmas, but beneath the cacophony is a message for Peter Mandelson.

For years, the music industry has resisted the desire of fans and attempted to suppress legitimate trade in portable music files. It sought to impose unnecessarily high prices and “Digital Rights Management” on consumers, with the aim of preventing the transfer of music between different playback devices. While foisting bland TV pop on the nation, the music corporations complain that file-sharers are killing music.

The UK government has responded by proposing that internet connections should be severed if these companies allege copyright infringement -- without bothering about court appearances, trials or natural justice.

Yet Rage Against The Machine sit atop the charts after hundreds of thousands of people paid money to download sensibly-priced, uncrippled music files from legitimate traders; something that has only become possible recently.

Music corporations have suffered because they insisted on clinging to an obsolete business model and fighting against consumers instead of catering to them. Their decline is mostly self-inflicted, not the result of file-sharing.

The message for the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is that the government should stop taking the music industry’s side against consumers and instead leave the market to sort itself out. People will buy products when they are offered what they want at a price they are prepared to pay.

Dr Geraint Bevan, Glasgow.


Policing the rail system


I was surprised to read your headline “Rail police chief is in favour of one force” (The Herald, December 17) and feel my comments, made several weeks ago and in relation to other matters, were taken out of context.

The point being made at the time was that the unique nature of British Transport Police allows our officers seamlessly to police the country’s rail network across not only police force boundaries but national boundaries. The number of forces required to police Scotland remains a matter for the chief constables and the Scottish Government.

Andy Trotter, Chief Constable, British Transport Police, 90 Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow.


What would be SNP plans for air bases?


In reply to the letter from Iain A D Mann (Letters, December 17) regarding proposed defence cuts, we may not like what they had to say but the government made clear its plans for the future of Moray’s two RAF bases. The SNP, on the other hand, has stubbornly refused to reveal its plans, despite repeated calls in local newspapers to do so.

Despite being SNP defence spokesman at Westminster, Moray MP Angus Robertson has declined the opportunity to provide detailed explanation of what is to happen to the two establishments in an independent Scotland. Locally, rumour is rife and many believe Mr Robertson’s uncharacteristic silence is a sign the SNP has no plans.

As a councillor, I am only too well aware that the RAF bases are critical to the Moray economy, providing annual funding of more than £100m. With a General Election imminent, Moray electors need, and deserve, the facts. Therefore, I ask Mr Robertson to reveal what are his party’s intentions for RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth. We need to know how many aircraft, and of what types, and how many service personnel, his party intends to deploy in Moray.

Iain Young, Conservative councillor, Moray Council, Briar Cottage, Findhorn.