LIKE most council tax payers in Scotland, I was relieved to discover that this year’s tax would be frozen at current levels for the period 2021/22 ("Council tax frozen as Scots feel the heat of Covid costs", The Herald January 29. This came as no surprise however as lo and behold there is an election just around the corner and the move is clearly a political ploy to curry favour with the electorate on behalf of the SNP.

I well remember the last council tax freeze which ended in 2017 with a whopping one-off increase of £394.57 per annum for band G homes with pro rata increases in other bands. This increase was catastrophic for the population in general and for pensioners in particular and falling into the latter category, I see no point in postponing the fateful day, much preferring no freeze and a gradual rise over time.

So, my message to fellow council tax payers is to squirrel plenty of money away in anticipation of a double-digit rise for the next tax period. This year’s budget also proposes awarding extra funding to local councils in order to assist with the tax freeze, however it was not mentioned by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes during her presentation that this extra funding is only available due to support from Westminster.

It is also rather ironic that on a day when the SNP Government was announcing what was nothing short of a politically-motivated budget, it was accusing the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of using similar tactics during his visit to Scotland, when in fact he was on a legitimate mission to support our wonderful scientists, NHS workers and the Army and to thank them for their valiant efforts in their fight against Covid-19.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.


AS Scotland’s chattering classes brace themselves for Nicola Sturgeon’s imminent evidence to the Scottish Parliament inquiry into her Government's handling of complaints against Alex Salmond, she stands accused of "misleading Parliament", allegedly breaching the Ministerial Code, a misdeed which, if found guilty, would see her face demands to resign. But surely this whole sordid case, a typically-overblown Scottish political "talk of the steamie" stramash, demands a degree of perspective and comparison.

It’s hardly surprising Boris Johnson was circumspect in his answer to a question during last week’s Scottish sojourn as to whether he thought Nicola Sturgeon should resign if found to have misled the Scottish Parliament.

Why, because most weeks at Prime Minister's Questions he performs a masterclass in misleading the Westminster Parliament; here are just three examples, courtesy of Hansard.

On October 23, 2019, Mr Johnson asserted there would be "No checks" between Northern Ireland and Britain after Brexit, a claim at variance with both his Brexit and Northern Ireland Secretaries and his December 2020 EU Brexit treaty.

He then told Parliament on January 15, 2020, “there is no threat to the Erasmus scheme,” but, 12 months later, for the UK, Erasmus is toast.

Later that year, following a question on a report on race relations, Labour MP David Lammy described Mr Johnson’s answer, namely, "Sixteen of the Lammy recommendations have been implemented. A further 17 are in progress" as “a catalogue of falsehoods.”

These are material falsehoods affecting people and businesses yet clearly not hanging offences, thus the First Minister’s forgetfulness – or little white lie – must surely be judged to the same standard, ideally with a sincere apology of the sort Boris Johnson is incapable of offering.

Mike Wilson, Longniddry.


JACOB Rees-Mogg is quite right in calling Nicola Sturgeon "Moanalot" ("Boris: Sturgeon’s not so secret political weapon", The Herald, January 29). We are getting tired of her continual party political broadcasts on the TV.

Boris Johnson was quite in order to check and see for himself the Lighthouse laboratories' manufacturing of the coronavirus vaccine. It is important that we roll this vaccine out as quickly as possible. We need to up the vaccination to 24/7 to get anything like the number of people vaccinated.

We are just a week away from the Scottish Government's target of vaccinating all 80-year-olds. This is not happening in the central belt as I speak, with numerous people of that age group who have neither had a letter nor a phone call to attend for vaccination.

Michael Baird, Bonar Bridge.


SO, let’s get this straight. Peter A Russell (Letters, January 29) is contending that in spite of a score of opinion polls showing a majority in favour of independence, and strongly indicating that the SNP will be returned to power for a fourth consecutive term in May, that nevertheless the people of Scotland won’t be allowed an independence referendum, even if they have democratically voted to have one. That suggests to me that Scotland is not in a union, it is in a prison.

Time to get out of jail.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


NICOLA Sturgeon has created a huge problem for herself by promising to be "open and transparent" with vaccination figures deemed commercially sensitive by Westminster ("Sturgeon to publish vaccine supply figures – against wishes of Westminster", The Herald, January 29). At the same time she is being far less "open and transparent" about her knowledge regarding the Alex Salmond inquiry.

It would seem she is happy to sabotage Westminster, ignoring any fallout that may occur for Scottish people wanting the vaccine, in order to curry favour with Europe. The intent is clear but the actuality may result in further emnity from England and less trust from Europe. The desire for a successful independence depends hugely on good relations being maintained between Scotland, England and the European Union. Ms Sturgeon's tactics threaten to create exactly the opposite.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow G77.


FRASER Grant (Letters, January 28) in response to mine of the previous day misses the point of my letter, which was that the UK was much quicker than Europe at approving and purchasing vaccines for Covid. Indeed, should Germany prevail, no vaccines would be exported out of Europe till the needs of Europe were met, placing lives at further risk around the world, including those in Scotland.

Independence supporters wear rose-tinted glasses when it comes to Europe and are incapable of recognising any positive action by the UK Government in case it undermines the nationalist cause.

Bill Eadie, Giffnock.


I WRITE as a stamp collector who has just received a Royal Mail First Day Cover celebrating British achievements. I note that the design of the miniature sheet and cover are emblazoned with the words "United Kingdom, A celebration".

Is this not a blatant piece of philatelic propaganda, given that the issue date occurred before the forthcoming May elections to the Scottish Parliament, which is being regarded as an indication of the Scottish people's acceptance, or otherwise, of independence? I note that the stamps will be on sale at Post Offices for some considerable time before the election.

Margaret MH Lyth, Uddingston.


I MUST confess to having tired of our universities regularly pleading poverty and as I expected, they are seemingly at it again during a pandemic which has financially spared no one in the country expect perhaps firms like supermarkets, online distributors and convenience food outlets (“Universities count cost of Covid with £132m losses”, The Herald, January 27).

The fact that about £32 million of the accounting loss was funds returned to students who understandably did not use their student accommodation is surely no more than what would be expected. The Scottish Government provides our universities with £1 billion every year. I would not have thought it beyond Higher Education's undoubted capability to act with financial foresight rather prompter than either the UK or Holyrood governments did in realising the certain impact of a global pandemic, very early on.

Considering that many established alumni of Scottish universities are now fat cats who have spent their lives feeding off a piece of parchment with the name of a Scottish university at the top, perhaps they should consider it to be payback time. Rather than put a bequest in a will perhaps such successful people could provide the means to alleviate the claimed loss while they live.

Apparently a Scottish Government spokesperson has indicated that it has provided our universities with an additional £110m to give targeted support during the pandemic. It may be that there is a timely need for a post-pandemic review of how our universities are funded. The recognised funding gap in our colleges has been widening and perhaps the relative imbalance between HE and FE should be addressed.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.