I READ the article by London-dwelling George Foulkes ("Devolution should change to work for whole of UK", The Herald, March 5) with some interest. I wonder if he did the same before submitting it.

Devolution in Scotland and Wales is working reasonably well, but is still not satisfying for most people. Northern Ireland has to contend with the consequences of a UK Government which put Brexit ahead of its constitutional duties. In Scotland our public services tend to be better staffed and remunerated than in England: our waiting times statistics much better: private provision (started in England by Labour’s Market Testing) largely squeezed out. There is little demand to return police and fire services to a regional level: would Lord Foulkes dismantle the Met for borough control?

Those who wish Scotland to be self-governing do so for the international normalcy of democratic autonomy: Brexit is just an example of his “primacy of the directly-elected Commons” in action, which is an odd thing for someone who signed the Claim of Right to reference. Lord Foulkes offers no roadmap or timetable for his proposed “UK Constitutional Convention” other than vaguest of notions of a federal or quasi-federal system. How could it even be established when England’s most popular party is not interested, indeed is hollowing out the devolved settlement right now? Federalism is a fraudulent prospectus, every bit as much as the “Boris Bridge”.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

AS an expat returning to Scotland from England after 32 years, I have tried to understand the independence debate. I understand the emotional pull of independence but baulk at the willingness of clever people I have talked to who accept the decade or more of financial pain it will involve.

Two articles leapt of the Herald pages on Friday (March 5). They are Lord Foulkes's analysis of devolution and the report of Mark Drakeford's call for a new Union of consenting partner nations ("Welsh First Minister says Union is ‘over’ and new devolution deal is needed). Unionists are desperate for a constructive plan for an alternative to independence. Another negative scaremongering campaign will not do. The problem I see is not with the easily-defined Celtic nations but a lopsided London-centric England. How will it be federalised so that a balance can be struck?

John Murdoch, Innellan, near Dunoon.


STRAIGHT out of the Eddie George (former governor of the Bank Of England) way of thinking, Peter A Russell (Letters,March 4) says the wealthy regions of London and south-east of England are essential to Scotland’s ability to continue dispensing the “free stuff that Scotland enjoys under devolution”. This is the Westminster way which harvests and cherry-picks Scotland’s resources at will and then returns scraps, thereby perpetuating a system not dissimilar to that in Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. The people of Scotland now think otherwise.

There can be no better example than North Sea oil in the 1970s, where Westminster, not content with the vast revenue from oil, which was disgracefully kept hidden from Scotland on purpose, wanted the administrative jobs too. Britoil was set up in Glasgow but it was quickly moved lock, stock and barrel to London. Glasgow was a long way off after all, and far better all round to control it from London where they knew what they were about. To compound things, long before devolution came along and despite the oil bonanza, successive Westminster governments failed to re-invest and modernise Scottish industry and oversaw its wholesale destruction. Generations of our young people had to head south for work, creating an elderly age demographic which is now held against us given the huge costs of elderly care.

Leah Gunn Barrett (Letters, March 3) says the Scottish Government has no borrowing powers and is taken to task by Mr Russell, who says otherwise. Strictly speaking the Scottish Government does have some borrowing powers but they are of limited means and cannot be regarded as the normal borrowing powers of government. Capped at £450 million per annum with an overall cap of £3 billion for all capital expenditure, it is forecast that total Scottish Government borrowings at the end of 2021 will be £1.9bn or 1.26% of Scottish GDP estimated at £157bn (Norway £291bn). In June 2020 the Financial Times reported UK Government borrowing would exceed 100 per cent of GDP. Scotland’s finances are often based on estimates and guesstimates and one can only marvel at the accuracy with which unionists are able to predict financial Armageddon with pinpoint accuracy should Scotland become independent.

In the event of Scottish independence, on the Scottish side of the table we will have oil, gas, water, forestry, electricity, financial service, most of UK fish, whisky, food, deep water facilities (Trident cannot be moved overnight), strategic location in the North Atlantic, educated population with huge land areas for expansion and a long history of development and innovation with an international outlook. I believe these items will prove valuable in the negotiations for creating a successful independent Scotland under our own control whilst also accommodating our immediate neighbours.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.


OH to be a history/politics PhD student about five years from now. There is a bewildering choice of topics for theses in Scottish parliamentary affairs. Everything is up for grabs: a review of policy development over 10 years? No chance. Co-operation across the Chamber? Even less chance. Impartial independent assessment of socio/economic issues? Too hard to spell. And so it goes on.

Now think back to the 1960s and 70s. No Holyrood Parliament but a cohort of Scottish politicians who offered talent and integrity: John Smith, Donald Dewar, Alick Buchanan-Smith, Jo Grimond, Dick Mabon and others. The 21st century on the other hand, has thrown up, among others, Douglas Ross, Jackie Baillie, Willie Rennie, Alex Salmond and Ruth Davidson.

Scottish politics? Try not to laugh but if you must, think of Westminster.

Joe McLaughlin, Clarkston.


IN the past 10 years of government, the SNP has cut money to local councils by £1.5 billion. Desperately-needed services are now cut to the bone. Food bank uptake has risen by more than 400 per cent in past 10 years. One in three Scottish children are living in poverty.

The number of teachers has been cut by 4,000, and Scotland has dropped from eighth in the international education league to 23rd. And job prospects were not improved for Scots when the SNP cut part-time college training courses.

A chaotic plan in 2019 to devolve childcare services caused delays in delivering attendance allowances, carers allowance and disability allowance until 2022. An Audit Scotland report on this says: “The Scottish Government does not have a clear understanding of the key things needed to deliver all these benefits”.

Not one aspect of public services works well now, and it is children, the poorest, and most vulnerable who are suffering the most from this incompetence.

Scotland has just got £1.2 billion in extra support. The SNP Government needs to add it to the £2.7 billion unspent, and provide support for individuals, workers, low-income families and desperately struggling small businesses.

The SNP is the party of austerity in Scotland.

Anne Wimberley, Edinburgh.


ANYONE who is uncertain about who to support at the Scottish election should read the recent excellent article by Neil Mackay "I no longer recognise the corrupted Yes movement", The Herald, March 2). Mr Mackay is a self-confessed supporter of independence but is clearly incensed by the behaviour of a strong and damaging faction within the SNP – “a shadow on the Yes movement’s soul”.

“Divisive, ugliness and hate.” “Hatemongers.” “Mutating into something disturbing.” “Anti-English sentiment.” “Paranoid style.” Denial of truth and facts.” “Intimidation, harassment, bullying.” “Violence-laced rhetoric." These are some of the damning statements Mr Mackay directs at this Yes faction and states: “The SNP has allowed this splinter to fester within the broader Yes movement to a point where it’s starting to rot. Blame lies within the party ... the cause and responsibility lie with the SNP’s mishandling of the broader Yes movement.”

He goes on: “If and when the time comes for a second referendum, the Yes movement must stand unified for decency and respect.” This is a damning indictment on supporters of separation by a supporter of separation and anyone unsure about where to put their X in May should heed his words very carefully.

Douglas Cowe, Newmachar.