REPEATEDLY Boris Johnston and his ministers have been found by independent inquiries and courts of law to have either broken the Ministerial Code, misled the House or acted unlawfully; all of which have serious consequences in relation to people's trust and reassurance in politicians and government. In a time when the UK Government has a considerable level of control over people’s lives and livelihoods, surely their work demands far more accountability and scrutiny.

There are democratic instruments in place supposed to ensure that the officials leading this country do so in the best interest of the people; this Government has clearly demonstrated that this is no longer the case. There has been minister after minister exonerated for very clear and direct breaches of the Ministerial Code, advisor of said code resigning over the Government’s handling of breaches back in November, 2020. How can it be that a code so respected by previous governments in the past is now being ripped up and rewritten by the people it’s there to regulate?

Opposition parties bicker, squabble and spin stories in every direction until the news cycle is over. Surely, it’s in the best interest of every opposition party to work together and build a coalition on the issue and get the controversy under control; that’s if they actually even care. The Ministerial Code and Nolan Principles should be passed into law; this would increase accountability and scrutiny of the Prime Minister and ministers. Currently their work (to a certain extent) is going on unchecked. When the Nolan Principles were brought in by John Major back in 1995 to restore public confidence in politicians and government, ministers would "fall on their sword" in order to protect the integrity of these principles. Nowadays I am no longer shocked at the behaviours of the Prime Minister and ministers, bullying of civil servants, unlawful prorogation of Parliament, illegal Covid-19 contracts, PPE shortages, breaching of Covid-19 restrictions et al. Ministers in previous administrations have resigned over a lot less.

We need these rules passed into law to stop this dictator-style Government; I cannot put enough emphasis on the need for checks and balances. Over the last year, Boris Johnson and his ministers have set a very dangerous precedent, creating a hostile environment for civil servants while shaking up the Whitehall machine.

Think to yourself: would you get away with this sort of behaviour in your place of employment? If not, then why are these elected officials getting away with it?

Joss Gow, Alloway.


THE daily mantra from Douglas Ross and allies about “a referendum in the middle of a pandemic” is verging on a fixation. It would probably be two years before a referendum was held, and if the vote was positive, another two years before Scotland would be self-governing. So not in the middle of a pandemic; unlike Brexit which was carried out, and whose economic and reputational damage is still to play out.

But Scotland is split on independence and Boris Johnson denying Scots a vote to resolve the issue will hardly help. Lord Dunlop has come up with a plan to help administer Scotland better, as if we were a newly-discovered territory ("The United Kingdom is a shared endeavour for all", The Herald, April 2). He should have concentrated on sharing sovereignty within these islands, if he wants to counter centrifugal forces for self-government. The Tory Party (and Government) have become increasingly “nativist” and England-centric in recent years; wishing to “take back control” and exert that control over the rest of us. Lord Dunlop is a prime example: never elected as a legislator; lived down south for decades, yet has more influence on policy than the elected governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Nor has Mr Johnson proved himself capable of collaboration with others, whether in Europe or the UK.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


THERE was once a time Scots would be rightly proud of our place in the world by proclaiming "Wha's like us? Damn few an' they're a' deid" when foreign nationals asked where we came from. Famous names of men and women of principles and integrity tripped off the tongue as we claimed bragging rights. But now?

Since the SNP's rise to power, we have become the sick man of Europe all over again, rising obesity, drugs, child poverty and food bank problems all worse than 14 years ago. Education figures sliding down the comparison tables, shipbuilding quietly rusting, closed NHS hospitals and missed targets have become the norm while our economy stagnates and the Holyrood inquiry becomes our latest embarrassment.

The static noise and interference surrounding the Alex Sturgeon/Nicola Salmond debacle drowns out the opposition's scrutiny of these failed policies.

Circus owner PT Barnum once said that "there is no such thing as bad publicity". It seems to be the case for SNP and Scotland, but for all the wrong reasons. There is only so much they can blame on a Tory bogeyman.

Allan Thompson, Bearsden.


THE report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities ("PM Johnson welcomes controversial race report as top aide quits", The Herald, April 2) is disappointing. It concluded there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK. Either the commission didn’t do its research, or its report was written to please its political masters. After all, it gets the Government off the hook: if there’s no racism, there’s nothing to tackle.

I agree the phrase “institutional racism” has been overused since it appeared in Lord Macpherson’s report on the Metropolitan Police investigation of the brutal, racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. However, there are still many organisations in the UK that can be described accurately as institutionally racist.

I retired just over a year ago after a 30-year career flying for the UK’s national flag carrier. A well-paid job, with unrivalled opportunities to explore the world, and one to which many young people aspire. Yet only about one per cent of the airline’s pilots are from ethnic minorities, despite them comprising 40% of the population around the airline’s base at Heathrow. It’s disingenuous in my view to pretend that racism doesn’t play some part in the disparity.

Racist language in my workplace, the aircraft cockpit, was common. I used to describe it as a canteen culture: one where a relatively small number of pilots used grossly racist language, without challenge. And they weren’t challenged by the great majority who disapproved because the language was accepted as the norm; because those using the offensive language were usually older, more senior pilots; and because neither the management team nor the union was interested in doing anything about it.

To give an example without using language unfit for publication: when I was a first officer, a captain I flew with told me he didn’t like Indian women, he thought they were dirty. When I complained, I was told by a manager that awkward people like me would have “difficulties” when we were assessed by the training department, and both my chief pilot and the chair of my section of the union told me that racism is normal.

That’s why this was institutional racism; the racists were allowed to spout their bile unhindered by those above them. As Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary at Holyrood, said about another wrong: to permit is to promote. Unacceptable behaviour happens in most workplaces, and in too many cases senior managers simply look the other way.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


THE recent report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities will no doubt be talked about for years, but what struck me most about it are the numerous incongruities. To date, there have been at least six such, or similar, reports, so why call this one "The" Report? Why not simply call it "a", or even better, "another" report? Also, while we are told that there were "10 of us" on the commission, I counted nine, with two co-optees – three of whom have been adorned with CBEs and three with MBEs. To give further credibility, however, all, with one exception, are "from ethnic minority backgrounds" – demonstrating that it is possible to skew representation when it is desirable to do so.

Poetry is truly alive, however, because "Yes, there are still some ‘snowy white peaks’ at the very top … But some of that snow is melting". And the evidence is "the greater presence of ethnic minorities in the current government and opposition … Chancellor of the Exchequer, Attorney General, Business Secretary and Home Secretary". Someone needs to explain to the commissioners that it is like saying that the British working class has nothing to worry about because the Prime Minister is, like them, white.

Equally irritating was the statement that we may need a "lexicon of well-known British words which are Indian of origin". Apart from the fact there is one already (the 1886 Hobson-Jobson glossary), I think we should tackle the fact that the English language is possibly the one language that has the most obnoxious racist slangs (a point made by Salman Rushdie in his book Imaginary Homelands, in 1983).

The worst is the suggestion (which some historians have been busy promoting), that notwithstanding the world-wide atrocities of the British Empire, it was worth it because "there is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain". Implying that they should be grateful for small mercies perhaps?

As with Brexit, though, it is exceptionalism all over again, England/Britain being "a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world". Anyway, time for me now to read beyond page 9 …

Patrice Fabien, Glasgow.


LAST Saturday (March 27) you published an article, “We need to talk about God”. Certainly, Easter is a good time to talk about God. First of all, free speech is paramount and no one need worry about defending God. As CS Lewis said, “I would as soon defend a lion”. However, the topic of God is surely worth serious consideration.

Mainstream Christianity makes a unique claim, namely there is a transcendent God who not only created the universe but finally entered into our world as a person, Jesus, who in turn lived, died on a cross and rose again. That is the Easter message. Such belief has transformed countless lives, arguably usually for the better.

Now secularists may dismiss all that, albeit hopefully not without serious consideration of the evidence, but as Chuck Colson said, “if we are wrong perhaps we have missed a few things but if they are wrong they have missed the whole show”. Yes, by all means let’s talk about God.

Professor J Spence, Airdrie.


MY thanks to Thelma Edwards (Letters, April 2) for giving me fresh ammunition in my response to domestic disapproval. Henceforth I will refer “she who must be obeyed” to the words of psychiatrist Thomas Szasz (1920- 2012), who wisely said: “A child becomes an adult when he realises that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”

I trust my courage will be rewarded and peace will break out.

Russell Smith, Largs.

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