I DOUBT if Andrew McKie's assurance that the Westminster Government isn't being callous over meals, just inept, will comfort and cheer hungry children in England and their despairing parents ("UK Government isn’t being callous over meals, just inept", The Herald, October 27). And what on earth must be passing through the minds of the sons and daughters of England's former miners, who voted for Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party less than a year ago only to find themselves cynically duped and betrayed again? Sadly, they've found out the hard way that you can never trust a Tory.

It is all very well for Mr McKie to claim that Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, had "the good luck" to miss the vote in the Commons, but he fails to mention that the other five of Scotland's Tory MPs did vote against providing vulnerable children in England with free meals during the school holidays.

However, Mr McKie is right when he points out that it is alarming that the Tory Government "seems not to have the common sense to see huge great bear traps that are right in front of it". Whether it is its policies on hungry children, the EU, or chopping and changing its strategy over the coronavirus, the Tories lurch from one crisis to the next, and English voters, lagging behind, must look with envious eyes towards the sensible and compassionate governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

FOR obvious reasons, some of your correspondents (Letters, October 27) are keen to repeat the same simple Yes/No question asked in 2014 in any second independence referendum, this despite the Electoral Commission’s advice that there is an inherent bias in favour of the positivity of Yes against the negativity of No. Recognition of this potential bias led to the Remain/ Leave question in the referendum on EU membership .

Whilst dismissing or ignoring the Electoral Commission’s advice as presumably somehow irrelevant and definitely unhelpful to their cause, no doubt they still consider themselves to be democrats seeking a fair outcome. If so, perhaps they would care to share their view of an equally simple but potentially biased Yes/No question along the lines of “Should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom?". This question does benefit also from not being tainted by any misleading reference to “independence” as the alternative to being part of the UK is apparently to switch dependency to that consequential on being part of the EU .

If there is ever to be any Indyref2, it is not obvious that the fairest question to be asked should call for a simple remain/leave answer as in the EU referendum?

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.

THE coronavirus pandemic has revealed the dangers of the Conservative obsession with privatisation and of the shortcomings of the private sector compared with the professionalism of the NHS staff.

The situation is exacerbated by the Government opening itself to legitimate questioning about its procedures in relation to the awarding of coronavirus-related contracts to Conservative friends and donors.

Philip Rycroft, who served as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union from 2017 to 2019, asserted that the best responses to Covid-19 were from nations which have seen “more devolution of power and responsibility and obligations to the local level”.

He called for “proper devolution of power and responsibility to the appropriate level in England, as well as to the devolved parts of the UK” to preserve the Union and to build more effective public services. Furthermore I quote Gordon Brown: “the whole United Kingdom will have to change fundamentally - from top to bottom - if our regions are to feel at home and if Scotland is to remain within it”.

In relation to the specific matter of Scotland’s place in the UK I suggest that the unionists who really care about the Union listen to Cambridge University Professor Helen Thompson arguing that “we must find our collective way to a settlement that allows for Anglo-Scottish divergence without leading to constitutional crisis”. Of course, the problem is too many of these unionists follow blindly Boris Johnson’s resentment of such divergence as there already is.

John Milne, Uddingston.

DAVID Bol’s exposure of Professor Mark Priestly’s analysis of the exam results scandal ("Swinney ‘allowed exams row to fester’ amid parents’ backlash", The Herald, October 26) again raised the question: do we Scots live in a democracy any more?

Mr Bol wrote that Prof Priestly found that Mr Swinney had asked officials on August 6 to “do lots of digging in the stats to show how young people from deprived backgrounds had not been disadvantaged by the results”. Readers will recall that the hapless Education Secretary was forced to do a U-turn some time later because all the evidence was to the contrary. Just as concerning was the evidence that parents, worried out of their minds, wrote letters to Mr Swinney questioning his fitness to do the job.

I can hardly believe that these same concerned Scots were not writing letters to newspapers expressing the same opinion. I do not recall a single one being published. My own attempts to draw attention to comparisons of more affluent areas in Scotland with shocking results in excellent schools in Coatbridge and Airdrie were simply spiked. I wrote to several newspapers .

I hold no candle for Andrew Neil, whose political views are well known. However, he proved to be objective, fair, and prescient in countless television interviews. Surely he had a point when even he appealed to the Scottish media to show some backbone in questioning the record of the SNP as its incompetence and duplicity goes largely unchallenged?

The public are entitled to know more about why our rates of infection and deaths from Covid are still among the highest in the developed world. Similarly, they are entitled to see journalistic forensic examinations of the care home scandals, the debacle over ferry contracts, the decimation of Scottish local government, and the abuse of taxpayers’ money to pursue a man judged by the law to be innocent for the purposes apparently of personal aggrandisement. That this is not happening is cause for deepest concern.

Tom Clarke, former Labour MP, Coatbridge.

IT was, I thought, common knowledge that there was no state pension "pot’’ and that pension payments were made from incoming National Insurance contributions and taxes. But time and time again, Scottish nationalists infer there is some mythical giant piggy bank somewhere holding all the contributions made over the years.

Pensions and benefits are paid to UK citizens from incoming contributions. If the contributions suddenly and catastrophically drop, for example if five million of the 65 million covered decide to break off and go it alone, then of course there will be a price to pay. The new five million entity would have to pay for the pensions and benefits of their own old and vulnerable and the burden would not be shared across 65 million.

It is serious misleading to suggest that somehow pensions and benefits in a broken-off Scotland could be maintained without severe economic pain.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh EH6.

Read more: Letters: The Yes/No question was clear and should be used again