THE comments made by Stephen Boyle, Scotland’s Auditor General, to a Holyrood committee investigating the ferries construction fiasco are quite extraordinary ("Public finance watchdog warns over ‘lack of ferry transparency’", The Herald, April 22). Ultimately they reveal real frustration at being unable to ascertain all the facts, highlighted by his comment that “we were not able to review what we consider to be all the relevant evidence”. Further he comments that “lessons learned feels too glib to describe the circumstances before us as the ferries are two and a half times over budget and years late”.

What an appalling indictment of the whole procurement process offered up by SNP ministers and the lame offer from the First Minister that “lessons will be learned”. It is the public purse that is paying for these “lessons” and the SNP's record demonstrates that it played truant from any learning classes.

The ferries fiasco is nothing short of negligence on an industrial scale costing the hard-pressed taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds that could have been better spent on our failing NHS and education services. It is now clear, following the comments made by Mr Boyle, that a full public inquiry must be held in order to hold these ineffective and incompetent ministers to account. They then might just learn the lesson or, in hope, do not get their grubby paws on the public purse again.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.


STRUAN Stevenson ("It is no wonder voters despair over ineptitude of SNP", The Herald, April 21) unsurprisingly paints a very bleak picture of what an independent Scotland would be like under the SNP and Greens. It would be interesting to know his views on what an independent Scotland would be like under his beloved Tories; or does he think that, after independence, they would inevitably take their cue from Longfellow and "fold their tents like the Arabs and silently steal away"?

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.


SCOTLAND has to balance its books every year. The deficit Struan Stevenson refers to is in the GERS report, where all kinds of UK costs which don’t benefit Scotland are written down such as HS2, London’s Crossrail (estimated at £19 billion), the Trident nuclear submarines (around £2.4bn per annum and with costs increasing). Then there is Brexit, which is damaging the whole UK economy, in particular Scottish exports.

Boris Johnson is in real trouble over this. He is about to announce a fourth delay in goods imported form the EU – so imports are in a mess as well. Scotland has been short-changed in EU replacement funding by about £151 million. The Scottish Government’s overall budget is roughly the same now as it was in 2010/11. The Fraser of Allander Institute has said, of the money Scotland actually has control over, that the budget is smaller than in 2010/11 by about five per cent.

So Scotland is being dragged down by being in the large, mismanaged and undemocratic UK. Similar countries in Europe like Denmark and Ireland are in a good state economically, by contrast. Ireland’s per capita GDP is higher than that of the UK.

Pol Yates, Edinburgh.


I WRITE in response to Anas Sarwar's dictat regarding council alliances ("Sarwar should not ‘dictate no SNP deals’, insists Labour council boss", The Herald, April 21).

As a former councillor and leader of Clackmannanshire Council I became increasingly frustrated by the control from Labour Party headquarters.

Working in partnership with other local elected representatives should be about serving local communities, so I have every sympathy for Councillor Elaine Murray in Dumfries & Galloway.

The "Aberdeen City Nine" are still in limbo and are still excluded from the Labour Party. It is my understanding that the Aberdeen City coalition has had positive outcomes for the good folk of Aberdeen.

With the proportional representation process of voting in Scotland, and following the local government elections on May 5, I am certain that there will be more councils who will decide to negotiate a way of working together in the best interests of the electorate.

Teresa McNally, Alloa.


THE way the SNP is introducing its new taxes on motorists it will soon be cheaper to buy a car than it is to run it ("Stop this car crash of anti-motorist measures", The Herald, April 22). The latest initiatives to sicken drivers include road tolls and charges for driving into Edinburgh or Glasgow. These are obviously a sop to Patrick Harvie, who sold his party to the SNP in return for a modicum of power in Holyrood.

I always compare the SNP to a window with too many people looking at the glass without looking through it to see what’s on the other side.

Ian Balloch, Grangemouth.


Is it wrong for the Scottish NHS to poach staff from poorer countries?

Is it wrong for the Scottish NHS to "poach" staff from poorer countries?



HEALTH Secretary Humza Yousaf this week proudly announced that "Scotland's hospitals have hired 191 nurses from countries including India and the Philippines and hundreds of support staff to help the NHS through 'unprecedented challenges'” ("Scotland’s hospitals receive massive recruitment boost, claims Yousaf", The Herald, April 20). He said that agreements are in place with recruitment agencies to hire a further 203 nurses, and more than 1,000 support staff.

My view is that our past history of "poaching" staff for the Scottish NHS from countries that desperately need these same staff to work in their own hospitals and health services is a shameful, immoral practice, only made possible by attracting these personnel with the lure of better salaries than their home countries can afford. We have therefore been part of a culture that has denuded other much needier nations' requirements for health workers to staff their own health services ... shame on us.

Meanwhile, in the past 15 years or so, we have drastically reduced our intake of trainee nurses and prospective doctors to our own universities. This is a short-sighted time-bomb of a policy, strongly opposed by our senior nursing colleagues, which has been slowly exploding over the years, and has now been brought into sharper relief by Covid.

We need an NHS that is free of partisan political interference and competition ... one that every politician of every party is committed to fully support, fund, and take forward, and to go for it wholeheartedly. This is a very long-term process, and will take between 15-20 years to build up. That should not deter us; we need to recognise there is no easy nor quick answer.

And us "ordinary" people need to face up to the fact that a well-staffed and run NHS needs adequate funding and be prepared to contribute whatever it takes.

We are all in this together, and co-operation, not competition, is the way we must choose to take. I would plead with our politicians to cease their endless point-scoring and ceaseless confrontational partisan arguing, and step up to the mark for once. Make our NHS in Scotland once again a service that is meeting the needs of its patients. Please start by being honest with us, the people of Scotland, and listen carefully without preconceived ideas to those working at the front line of caring, for they know what is needed, and get on with it, please.

Alasdair Fyfe, Glasgow.


HERE in the Western Isles we are developing an ever-larger problem of incursions by deer. I am guessing the same might be true of other parts of Scotland, too.

I am unsure what has caused it but might guess at fewer folk around over the last three springs, due to Covid. Fewer parties going out shooting and less regularly, for the same reason?

I have been a vegetarian for half my life and am always loath to urge bloodshed but I, like many friends and colleagues, have spent years planting trees and shrubs to try to transform this generally tree-less landscape and find it heart-rending to see them eaten and broken. Planting trees here is a labour-intensive, labour of love; nurturing them against all the efforts of storms and gales, let alone animals, is not for the faint-hearted.

Where I live, at the head of Loch Leurbost, seven miles south of Stornoway and on the east side of the Isle of Lewis, we never saw any deer at all prior to spring/summer of 2020. You would see them on the main roads occasionally and in remote places, but never within these villages. Now colleagues and friends regularly report that their hard-won efforts in garden or croft have been decimated by a deer incursion.

This morning, I had hinds and young stags come right up to my house. They know no fear; we chased them off only at tea-time last night. They graze the grass which if they stuck to that might be OK. They eat and break trees and shrubs which, as outlined, have taken time, money and not-inconsiderable expense to get to grow. I, for one, have had several Woodland Trust "landowner packs" and planted them out, as well as other trees, larches for example, that I've bought and/or been given.

There are other problems associated with these invasions: these animals are dripping with ticks, which then cover the croft and are brought into the house on the coats of dogs. Unlike sheep, they do not get "dipped" and there is nothing to stop the tick population also expanding. I know of at least one colleague who faced serious and life-threatening illness due to Lyme Disease (which is tick-borne).

Secondly, deer are a menace on the roads, due to their high numbers. They can appear in quite large herds, out of nowhere and be upon a car or van before the driver has even noticed. They can cause widespread damage, often breaking the windscreen – but more seriously this could result in a fatality to the driver or passenger.

There needs to be some sort of concerted plan in Scotland, and certainly in these islands, to address this problem. It isn't just going to go away; the only threat to deer is people with guns, otherwise their populations will carry on expanding, as they have been doing.

Stephanie Sargent (Ms), North Lochs, Isle of Lewis.


TO anyone who has been following recent correspondence on the enrichment of a beloved compost heap (Letters, April 19, 20 & 21), and is the lucky owner of one of “man’s best friends”, there is of course a regular daily source of free and fresh liquid fertiliser.

To those in the know, it is referred to as “K9P”.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

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