THERE was a time when local elections were about local issues. True, these issues did not elicit much interest or enthusiasm, with about 30 per cent of those entitled to vote turning out in the 1960s and 1970s. By 2017, that figure had risen to 46.9%, a rise of 7.3% on 2012. It seemed that the previous three years of referendum, General Election and Scottish election had not so much wearied voters as accustomed them to voting.

The General Election held a month after the 2017 local elections saw a small decline from 2015 in the Scottish turnout of 4.7% to 66.4%. Pollsters would be able to tell us whether any of this indicated a merging of local and national issues in voters’ minds. Now, in 2022, that seems to have been effected, with the SNP’s campaign bus featuring the national political leader in Scotland telling us to send the national political leader in the UK "a message". Neither of these people is a candidate in the election on May 5.

Yet what irks most of us in our daily round is a catalogue of omissions and failures at local level. Refuse collection failures and the dire state of the roads, where we play pothole roulette, as well as general public scruffiness, give our public spaces an unkempt look. There was a time when council teams kept roadsides weed-free and when roads were pretty regularly repaired. This is but one example of a decline in public services. No doubt one could say something similar about social care. The reason for all of this is that council budgets have been progressively – well, there’s nothing "progressive" about it – cut over the last decade and more. In 2018, the Accounts Commission reported that, between 2010/11 and 2018/19, the Scottish Government had cut councils’ budgets by 9.6% in real terms. Between 2009 and 2017, according to Audit Scotland, council staff numbers had fallen by 31,000. Yet at the same time the budget received by the Scottish Government from HM Treasury was the same in 2017 as it had been in 2010, in real terms. The money not spent on councils has been spent on vanity projects and issues that are reserved, not devolved.

There are two strands to the council story. One is that the SNP Government has increasingly reduced council funding and centralised functions and authority, and so perhaps it is legitimate for national political figures to be answerable to voters at local level. On the other hand, councils, such as Edinburgh’s, have wantonly spent their reduced resources on madcap traffic schemes and on considering renaming streets to reflect the Scottish colonial past. So it does matter which local candidates we vote for on May 5.

Still, it should be a no-brainer that the party that one does not vote for is the one that has starved councils of cash.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

* TURNOUT at the local elections on May 5 may well be affected by continuing Covid concerns. East Renfrewshire Council recorded a highest ward turnout of 60% in 2017. I would suggest this will not be bettered next month. Disappointing.

The apparent lack of candidates canvassing and leaflet drop deliveries suggest an indifference by contestants. Some political parties appear to think a party leaflet with a name on it suffices. Such disdain must be challenged whereby commitment and personal views of the candidate (not party ideology) is disclosed. Thereby, the real meaning of local is restored to these forthcoming elections.

Allan C Steele, Giffnock.


LESLEY Riddoch ("Attractions of the Middle Way are just an illusion", The Herald, April 18) tells us that in 2104 the Tories gave "a pledge to stay in Europe". On the contrary, it was known at the time that if they were returned as the party of government there would be an In/Out referendum in EU membership. This was well-flagged up, including in the SNP Scottish Government's White Paper, Scotland's Future aka "Fraudulent Costs" (anag.) So the possibility of Brexit was priced into our votes as Scotland successfully decided against leaving the UK.

Part of that decision may have been on the basis that we were told by the European Commission that to leave the UK would mean that we would leave the EU at the same time. This proves two things. One is that Ms Riddoch's memory is betraying her. And the other is that there was no safe vote for EU membership in 2014, and, as that was the case, that the calculated lesser risk was to vote No.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.


WHY did we vote No in 2014? What possessed us? The threat of Brexit? Check. The threat of a cost of living crisis? Check. Chaos at our borders, ruining trade with the Continent? Check. Politicians so venal that honour and morality have disappeared under a mantle of self-interest? Check.

Luckily, next year there will be a second chance to say Yes, to seize the opportunities on offer and to shape our country, Scotland. It is no coincidence that the unicorn is the symbol of Scotland, purity and innocence, as well as strength and power. It is also the symbol of the holy grail of business, so let’s turn ourselves into the country equivalent, a thriving, industrious success story. We have renewable energy resources, ample land for self-sufficiency, and a well-educated work force. Everything is in place for Scots to determine their own destiny.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh.


THE response from Jacob Rees-Mogg to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticism ("Patel was warned Rwanda migrant plan may not have desired ‘deterrent effect’", The Herald, April 18) of Government plans to deport asylum seekers, "illegal immigrants" according to the Home Secretary despite their never having been convicted of anything, 4,000 miles to Rwanda, is inhumane. Speaking on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, he claimed that the policy is "almost an Easter story of redemption" and is designed as an attack on people smugglers.

To attempt, at Easter of all times, to equate casting out people desperate enough to risk their lives to reach these shores with their "redemption" is revolting, contemptuous and almost blasphemous. I would like to draw the attention of the Right "Honourable" member to a saying he might hear one day: "So long as you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me."

TJ Dowds, Cumbernauld.

* IF Priti Patel’s pretty awful Rwandan transportation plan is actually aimed at the traffickers rather than the trafficked as Lord Snooty suggested, why don’t the authorities just catch the evil traffickers and send them to sunny Rwanda?

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


I AM a simple surveyor and have no background in law or history but it seems clear to me that mankind has framed law to protect property rather than person, and poverty or fear was no excuse for theft, for which sentencing had no comparison to assault or even murder.

How long ago was it that Britain sent debtors and minor criminals to the “colonies”? The theft of a loaf of bread for a starving family went hand in hand with a trip to Botany Bay.

History ought to have changed our views but it is clear that the opposite is true and we are now to send poor, frightened people to Rwanda. Shall we chain them, rip the seats out and have them sit on the floor? Perhaps if some die on the journey or shortly after then so what?

I cannot stand this impotence I feel at having never voted Tory, I am stuck with this dreadful stain on our morality.

History will judge us and not in a good way.

Ken Mackay, Glasgow.


GORDON Bannatyne (Letters, April 16) seems to excuse Boris Johnson et al drinking at work because they were stressed at the time. As a recently-retired paramedic after 43 years' service I can tell him there were quite a few occasions when I felt stressed while doing my job. Had I taken alcohol to relieve that stress I would quite rightly have been sacked and possibly seen the inside of a jail cell.

If our politicians of today can't stand the heat then maybe they should get out the kitchen. Incidentally, why are they allowed to drink at their other place of work, the House of Commons? An argument for another day perhaps?

Shaun Murphy, Kilbirnie.

Read more: An independent Scotland will not make the London mistake