TORY spokesman Donald Cameron whines about the civil service carrying out its proper function in preparing for the delivery of an electoral commitment and now the policy of an elected government at a cost of £700,000 ("SNP ministers tasked £700,000-a-year civil servants team to redraw indy plans", The Herald, January 29). Oddly, I have seen no comment made by Mr Cameron on the £900,000 squandered on the question of the “Boris Bridge” to Northern Ireland (any person on the street could have told them it was a dud – for free), or the £500,000 spent by the Tory Foreign Secretary on a private, rather than a scheduled, flight to Australia.

How about, as Lord Agnew put it, the “desperately inadequate” guardianship of the Covid loan scheme, by the Tory Government, which has led to losses of some £17 billion of taxpayers' money, of which at least £5bn was down to fraud? Lord Agnew could not stand the stench and quit; good for him.

There is a similar lack of context and perspective on council tax rises, which in England and Wales have been rising substantially for years – yet all of a sudden both Labour and Tory parties are opposed, but only for Scotland?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

* SO now we know that civil servants are working on a prospectus for a referendum that will put the separatist case in detail. Civil servants are paid by the public purse, that is, the taxpayer, and should act in the interests of all of the people. Therefore it seems only fair that there should also be civil servants working on the competing case.

Taxpayers should get their money’s worth, with the same amount of time and money spent on compiling a case demonstrating the pitfalls of Scotland leaving the UK as is being spent on the case for leaving. Anything else is a denial of justice and democracy.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


ANOTHER day, another lie. Or who knows, maybe The Big Dog really had no involvement in freeing the Kabul canines, maybe he was working flat out to capture all extant PMs for his “ I’m Prime Minister and you’re not” party/work event ("Johnson ‘did authorise’ animal rescue from Kabul", The Herald, January 27)? Maybe the “rhubarb" he refers to is not a cartoon dog but a dessert option.

Leaving aside whether party planning is in his skill set and was an appropriate use of his time and hitherto hidden organisational genius, there is a more serious issue. It is trust.

I confess that whenever I hear anything he utters I automatically think it must be untrue – either a straightforward lie or what he, in an interview with Eddie Mair, called “sandpapering" of facts, or some other dissemblance or deceit designed to mislead. I cannot be alone in this scepticism. It bodes very ill for future consensual governance – even of the fledgling Greater Little England, let alone the Rebellious Scots. At least we have a tantalising glimpse of light and a blessed hope of freeing ourselves from the shambolic banana monarchy that is the UK and claiming a modest place in the world as an honest and equal nation.

Grant McKechnie, Glasgow.


LABOUR Councillor Alex Gallagher (Letters, January 29) is dismissive of the rioting in the streets which greeted the Act of Union and the positive opinion polls and views of what he describes as "some officials" in Europe, but in repeatedly peppering his letter with the assertion that "we don't need a referendum", he ignores the fact that during last year's Scottish Parliament election campaign Nicola Sturgeon could not have been clearer when she promised voters that when the pandemic was over there would be a referendum on Scotland's future, and it was on that commitment that the SNP was overwhelmingly re-elected to govern for a fourth consecutive term, winning the largest share of the popular vote and the largest number of constituency seats in any Scottish Parliament election. That suggests that the voters do think we need a referendum.

I agree that the upcoming local government elections are indeed very important, but unlike Councillor Gallagher, I have confidence in the ability of Scotland's voters to weigh up all the issues for themselves without being distracted by anything, and while I hate to rub salt into his wounds, I must point out that last May Labour had its worst ever result and the lowest share of the vote in both constituency and list votes for either Westminster or Holyrood since 1910.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


RUSSELL Leadbetter’s "Remember when…Teddy Taylor retained his Cathcart seat" feature (The Herald, January 28), brought back memories of being brought up in Glasgow, where my interest in politics was kindled. The picture made reference to the 1970 General Election when Conservative Teddy Taylor retained his seat. In this act alone, Mr Taylor and one other Conservative (in Hillhead) denied a clean sweep for the Labour Party in the city of Glasgow. Labour secured 11 of the 13 constituencies, the SNP was nowhere to be seen.

This was the pattern of elections in Glasgow in 1970 and onward. However, the 1980s brought in the brief appearance of the Social Democratic Party and the decline of the Conservatives. How things have changed today; none of those parties has any elected MP in Scotland’s largest city, in their place the emergence of the SNP.

This has not only been evident in Glasgow, it is largely the case throughout the country. Labour only has one MP in the country, Conservatives only six, the LibDems have four, Alba has two (albeit elected under the SNP banner) and the SNP has 45. Scottish opinion has certainly moved on and with the emergence of the Holyrood Parliament, this trend can only get stronger.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


IT would appear that a number of potential "back channels" between the United States and Russia have not yet been approached in the present crisis over Ukraine. The Cold War may be in the past, but in the early 1980s Professor John Erickson's Edinburgh Conversations kept dialogue alive.

Angela Merkel made a point of maintaining dialogue with Vladimir Putin; George W Bush "looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul", so he might have some insights. At least he could advise Mr Putin that the capture of Baghdad was quick, but controlling Iraq – of similar size and population to Ukraine – has proved elusive, to put it mildly. What about Donald Trump, and all his un-minuted dialogues with the Russian leader? At least The Donald didn't start any wars overseas. How about Boris Johnson's ennobled chum Lord Lebedev, or Roman Abramovitch? Would they fall victims of any economic freeze on Russian assets abroad?

Russia and Ukraine's history through the 20th century has several unhappy episodes, most notably under Stalin. Ukraine's capital Kiev ("mother of Russian cities") is much older than Moscow or Petersburg; this did not prevent the starvation of Ukraine in the early 1930s. After Stalin, it was Khrushchev, a Ukrainian, who declared the Crimea to be part of Ukraine, then a satellite republic of the USSR; since 1990 relations between Ukraine and Russia have been tense.

There is a precedent to the present Putin-inspired stand-off: in December 1981 I found myself stranded in Poland, as the government there closed all borders to prevent a threatened Russian invasion to disband the Solidarity trade union. The Polish state then tried to tame the grass-roots drive for independence, but only postponed the march of history. I suspect that any Russian armed intervention –their imperial remedy for rebellious former provinces – will only impoverish both countries. Never forget that the Chernobyl plant, whose explosion in 1986 hastened the demise of the USSR, lies between Kiev and the Belarus/Russian borders; design and construction of its protective sarcophagus involved pan-European technical co-operation.

Graeme Orr, Neilston.


JAMES Watson (Letters, January 25) seems not to have actually read the how the changes to the Highway Code affect cyclists. The new version does no more than clarify the current rules and advice to cyclists as has been taught by Bikeabilty for many years now. Cyclists are advised to take the centre of the lane in situations where an overtake would be unsafe, such as the road narrowing for a pedestrian refuge, passing junctions or parked cars or preparing for a right turn.

As for licensing, it is a fact that most adult cyclists do have a driving licence and many of them will have cars and drive regularly. If cyclists were to be licensed, at what age would that start? Most people start cycling at a very young age, so would children need some kind of licence to play on their bikes? Studies have shown that cyclists actually make better drivers due to their vulnerability and corresponding increased awareness of risks on the road.

Boyd Johnston, Paisley.


BORIS Johnson is reported as having dismissed allegations that he personally authorised the evacuation of dozens of animals from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as "total rhubarb". Poor old rhubarb, resident in many a domestic garden, much enjoyed by many when featuring in a pie. Now it is to be categorised as a synonym for "piffle", at least in the vocabulary according to Mr Johnson.

I say that because some years ago he derided another allegation against him about an affair as an "inverted pyramid of piffle". I am left wondering whether or not his recent effort at exaggerated and colourful dismissal involving the transport of animals will prove to have a higher level of veracity than his earlier one about an affair.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

* IN December 2018 a regular contributor to your Letters Pages wrote about the rhubarb crowns that were thrusting up in his garden. He was enjoying seeing them appearing. Now Boris Johnson is accusing people of hearing "total rhubarb".

I remember, a few years ago hearing a programme on BBC Radio 4 about the "rhubarb sheds of Yorkshire" and that it is possible to hear the rhubarb growing. Maybe all the folks down in Westminster, who claim to have heard about the PM authorising the rescue of all those animals, had really been wandering too close to the Yorkshire rhubarb sheds?

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.

Read more: We can't let local elections be hijacked by Indy agitators