ROBIN Gilmour (Letters, March 2) can’t recall anything positive from devolution and wants to end it. Devolution is a UK remedy for the democratic deficit Scotland faces in the Union. Westminster controls the size of the Holyrood budget and the Scottish Government has only limited taxing powers and no borrowing powers.

And yet, despite these handicaps, the Scottish Government has achieved much. We benefit from free university tuition, subsidised childcare and a child payment that will lift 30,000 children from poverty, free prescriptions, council tax that averages £500 less than England, free personal and nursing care, free bus travel for the disabled, over-60s and soon for all under-19s, and a more progressive income tax so that 54 per cent pay less than elsewhere in the UK. Scotland’s health service is the top UK performer and we have more GPs, nurses and midwives, nearly twice as many hospital beds, and an A&E attendance that is the lowest in the UK. Scotland’s response to Covid has resulted in a 40% lower infection rate, 20% lower death rate, and, of late, a 50% lower care home death rate.

I agree with Mr Gilmour that devolution should end, to be replaced by the restoration of Scottish independence. We can then begin building a fairer, more sustainable, prosperous and outward-looking nation that meets the needs and reflects the aspirations of our people.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.


ROBIN Gilmour is correct when he says Scottish devolution has been a "non-productive and extremely expensive talking-shop parliament".

On average MSPs cost taxpayers at least £190,000 each for their offices, salaries and expenses. There are 129 MSPs with a basic salary of £81,932. The First Minister gets £157,861 and ministers £94,821. These are salaries that these people would never earn in real life.

It will also be remembered that the estimate to build the Scottish Parliament would "only cost" £40 million and open in 2001. It eventually opened in 2004 at a cost of £414 million and suffered from ongoing repair costs. There are also more than 1,000 staff and civil servants.

The Scottish Government is keen on referendums so, as Mr Gilmour suggests, we need one on whether Scottish taxpayers still want devolution.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.


YOUR report on the poll showing a drop in SNP support in the upcoming elections ("SNP on course for narrow majority", The Herald, March 2), points to the truth in the American adage that "incumbency is a bitch".

The SNP faces the prospect of a proportion of the electorate voting with their feet – by staying away from the polling station. Additionally, it will be intriguing to find out if there is a tier effect – voters in areas under tougher restrictions deciding that if they can't go to the pub, they'll follow Government advice and just stay home. What are the odds on a coalition emerging out of May's elections?

Alistair Richardson, Stirling.

* I NOTE the results of the latest Survation opinion poll in relation to the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections, in which the SNP is predicted to secure a majority of five. In most countries with a democratic form of government, the record in office of the incumbent administration would largely influence the voters at an election. The results of the recent poll referred to would suggest that Scotland represents something of an aberration in that respect. It would appear that, come what may, many of the supporters of Nicola Sturgeon, like those of Donald Trump, seem to believe that their leaders can do no wrong.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


TO see what is happening in Scotland and to Scotland recently is a national humiliation inflicted by the very party whose catchphrase, "Stronger for Scotland", could be referring to a pungent vintage cheese riddled with holes and few people would know the difference.

The former and present First Ministers' unedifying behaviours have demeaned the highest office in our land to that of a pre-title fight punch-up.

In the relatively short space of time since devolution we see our country and society riven and wrecked by a one-dimensional party whose only, single, sole, solitary raison d'etre is to do precisely that after 14 years in power.

It seems the First Minister need only utter the word "Tory" or "English" before, during or after a sentence to set off a large swathe of torch and pitchfork demonstrations and marches that Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from.

To hear the First Minister make a personal attack during a supposedly Covid-only update on Alex Salmond, accusing him of a "scorched earth policy, on the altar of his ego" only further demeans the Office of the First Minister of Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond may deserve each other. Scotland deserves neither of them.

Allan Thompson, Bearsden.


SOMEWHAT surprisingly I find myself ever so slightly agreeing with Councillor Alex Gallagher (Letters, March 1). I too am increasingly concerned regarding the performance of the current Scottish Government. I was particularly taken by Councillor Gallagher's final remarks, "isn't it time for Scotland to be governed by politicians who are focused on the real issues?"

Does Councillor Gallagher know of any within the current ranks of Scottish politicians and if so would he be so kind as to inform Herald readers of those he thinks would perform better than the current SNP administration?

John S Milligan, Kilmarnock.


IN a sleight of hand worthy of Paul Daniels, the First Minister has decreed that secondary school pupils can return to school a full month earlier than previously planned. If anyone noticed a marked change in the data in the last couple of days, enough to precipitate this sudden change, then they kept it very quiet.

This announcement is further evidence that every decision Nicola Sturgeon makes is for political expediency rather than the wellbeing of the people of Scotland. The polls are moving against the SNP, so throwing the schools open is a gambit to try to shore up its support. If it were a serious response to the science, she could have pointed out what has changed in the last week and then entered into a serious discussion with teacher organisations to plan a smooth return to school.

Ms Sturgeon has informed teachers that as frontline workers they can accommodate the difficulties. That difficulty would be teaching live children in class while simultaneously providing online material for those at home – with less than two weeks to prepare while working fulltime at home.

This is not leadership; this is a panic move to preserve her position. Teachers have been thrown under the bus on the altar of saving the First Minister's job.

Carole Ford, Former secondary headteacher, Glasgow.

* WHY is the current inquiry referred to as the Salmond inquiry. Surely it is the Sturgeon inquiry?

John Dunlop, Ayr.

* WE have a granddaughter aged 12 who lives in deepest rural England and is mad keen on horses. She spends every moment of her waking hours with her beloved horses and has over time become quite adept at mucking out stables.

Owing to the coronavirus we haven’t seen her for many months. When next she is able to visit Scotland, which we hope is soon, I have suggested she brings her shovel, as our stables here are in a bit of a mess.

William F Stewart, Kirkintilloch.


THE UK's slashing of its aid pledge to war-torn Yemen for a second time has condemned thousands of children to starvation ("Anger over cash cuts to aid for Yemen", The Herald, March 2).

Yemen’s brutal conflict has seen four million people displaced and thousands of children killed by famine and disease – the sick irony of all this being that while the UK is cutting aid, it is continuing to license the sale of billions of pounds of arms to Saudi Arabia. It is also the lead country at the UN, the so-called “penholder”, on Yemen. The ring-fenced aid is less than half the £200 million originally pledged in 2019, which was slashed to £160 million and now stands at £87 million.

Cutting aid by more than half for the greatest humanitarian crisis on earth, in the middle of a global pandemic, is disgraceful. It also breaks a key pledge in the Tory manifesto that it would maintain overseas aid at 0.7 per cent of national income, which has now been slashed to 0.5%.

The UK is in fact the only G7 country to cut aid this year, while other G7 countries are ramping up their humanitarian support. It should urgently put this issue to a vote in the House of Commons before it cuts any more lifesaving projects which are clearly in Britain’s national interest.

Despite all the talk of global Britain, it is abandoning its moral obligations, pulling us further away from our allies and stepping back just as the US steps up.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.

Read more: Why is it only Scottish ministers who are expected to resign?