THESE are seriously worrying times. We have a deeply-flawed Prime Minister quite prepared to abuse his powers to retain his hold on office. Breaking the law and defying conventions seem to matter not a jot to Boris Johnson, indeed he seems to think that the legitimate concerns of others are of no consequence as he desperately clings on to power. He rejoices in his own cleverness at avoiding serious questioning.

By failing to investigate some of the worst Partygate incidents involving the Prime Minister and his wife ("Pressure mounting on PM over claims of wife’s lockdown party", The Herald, May 31), it looks suspiciously as though both Sue Gray and the Metropolitan Police have been leant on by Downing Street. Mr Johnson is now planning to amend the Ministerial Code to his advantage. This is a flagrant abuse of power and damaging to our democracy. Worryingly, it appears to me that there are some senior civil servants at the heart of government prepared to abandon the long-standing traditions of honesty, loyalty and dedication to public service. It is shameful that Tory MPs are quite blatantly putting party before the best interests of the country.

And so apparently we are "moving on" from Partygate. I despair. I almost threw a cushion at the television listening to Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking in glowing terms of Mr Johnson as "an excellent leader of the country".The Prime Minister’s record tells a different story. Brexit, Covid, a faltering economy, rising inflation, Afghanistan, Rwanda, the plight of refugees from Ukraine, rising crime rates, passports, visas, failing hospital trusts, response times for the emergency services, food banks and fuel bills. I could go on. Factor in cronyism and incompetence and the charge sheet grows ever longer. There seems to be no overall strategic plan for the Government to deal with the difficulties confronting us. The international reputation of the UK is being trashed. Family and friends overseas look on with a mixture of despair, sorrow, anger and sadness.

I wish that in place of selfishness and self-interest, Mr Johnson had reflected on the words of the resolute English king, Alfred the Great, who shortly before his death in 899 wrote: “What I set out to do was to virtuously and justly administer the authority given me … It has always been my wish to leave to those who come after me my memory in good works.”

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.


THEY are all at it. Why do the Opposition parties continue to play along with the charade taking place in Westminster? Why do they sit on their hands while a coterie of self-serving toadies allows an obviously-unfit Prime Minister to remain in office by ignoring behaviour and transgressions that should have seen him sacked in any other workplace?

Why don’t they bring the institution to a shuddering halt just as the DUP has done at Stormont by collectively boycotting Westminster? Jobsworths the lot of them. It’s all a pantomime, and a third-rate one at that.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


JANE Lax (Letters, May 31) writes that “if taxes are raised, those with the means will find ways to avoid it”. However, perhaps we should ask how much is involved.

The figures involved are hardly huge. Those earning less than £15,000 actually gain by being in Scotland, though only £20.85. Even on £33,000 additional tax is £57.57, though £3,167.57 more would be paid by anyone lucky enough to be earning £200,000.

However, Ms Lax might care to consider the other side of this issue. Are those on £200,000 but claiming to live furth of Scotland happy to claim their free prescriptions, or send their kids to Scottish universities without paying fees? Or do they only have a problem with the first part of “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs”?

Most seriously she attempts to deflect from two critical facts. First, that the Scottish Government operates on a budget which is partly fixed (block grant) topped up by increasing tax – mainly income tax. Any increase in income tax would obviously delight certain elements of political opinion. The Scottish Government has no power over other high-earning taxes such as Corporation Tax or National Insurance, which are reserved to Westminster. Moreover, it cannot borrow in the way that Rishi Sunak can, illustrated by an IMF report which found the UK Government’s borrowing of 12.5 per cent of GDP in 2020 was, other than for the US, the highest among the G7 relative to size of economy.

Secondly, there is no consideration of the conflicted attitude that the UK has had over tax and spend at least since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Tax is bad, increasing tax is a violation, but we still expect high quality public services having underfunded the public sector all that time through tax reduction. This is the debate that we should be having in Scotland. How much income are we prepared to forego to the state, so that when we have to turn to public services, we know they will be there for us and we know they will be high quality?

Ms Lax’s contribution is both wrong-headed and wrongly directed.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


LESS than seven per cent of Scots pay more tax on their income than they would in England, thanks to the Scottish Government’s tax rates. Jane Lax may be one of them, but most Scots, 93% of them, are thankful for a progressive tax system that allows them to keep more of their hard-earned money.

And Scottish taxation only applies to wages and pension income. All income from savings and dividends goes directly to the UK Government, along with National Insurance contributions and VAT. Nearly 70% of the taxes raised in Scotland go directly to Westminster, 30% are retained in Scotland where council tax tends to be lower and there are many other financial benefits to living here. Even the rich 7% must appreciate the benefits of being in a country where health and well-being for all is the focus of the economy.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh.

* JANE Lax's views on the ignorance of Scottish Finance Secretaries who think they are wiser than they are were well explained by Socrates, who wrote: "So I withdrew and thought to myself: 'I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know'".

Socrates died in 399BC. Nuff said.

David Miller, Milngavie.


IT'S a sobering statistic that more than 4,000 hospital beds have been cut by the Scottish Government over the last 12 years ("Patients ‘in danger’ as 4,200 NHS beds cut over 12 years", The Herald, May 31). At a time when the population is ageing and likely to need more medical intervention, it's hard to understand why the politicians have allowed this to happen.

The malaise affecting the health service covers not only beds but extends to a lack of GPs, a slow-responding ambulance service, chronic waiting times at A&E and ends up with a care sector unable to facilitate the release of cured patients from hospital. The Covid pandemic has brought matters to a head but the seeds of destruction of an efficient health care system were sown long before Covid started.

As Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon didn't help matters by cutting nurses' training places and successive health secretaries have failed to get to grips with the emerging problems. The inaction of the present incumbent, Humza Yousaf, and the need for Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to fill a financial £3.5 billion black hole means that sticking plasters will continue to be placed over the gaping wounds which appear in an NHS struggling to stay afloat. I am sorry for the overworked staff and the sick requiring to wait months for treatment.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.


IAN Blackford MP has been using his Twitter account to let us all know that he is in Cuba for his holidays. Certainly wouldn't grudge him that. Everyone needs a break from the croft sometimes. However, if he wanted to see a nation with crumbling infrastructure and an inflated public sector ruled by a single party with disastrously socialistic policies led by a long-serving leader who has mismanaged the economy, he could have stayed in Scotland.

However, I do hope he is picking up some tips from the Cuban authorities on how to run a world-beating health service.

David Bone, Girvan.

Read more: Was this mess really what we voted for when we said yes to devolution?