UP until a few weeks ago we were still being asked to believe that education, specifically closing the attainment gap between rich and poor children in Scotland, was the defining mission and the No 1 priority of the Nicola Sturgeon regime. Yesterday SNP Finance Minister Kate Forbes announced swingeing cuts to almost all sections of the public sector including education ("Public sector facing ‘brutal’ cuts as Forbes calls for reset of budgets", The Herald, June 1), but she still managed to find £20 million for a futile attempt at a referendum on so-called “independence” in 2023.

The SNP spends a lot of time claiming to be a “progressive” force in Scottish politics, but if anything shows you the SNP's real priorities that's it: cut education for our most deserving children but somehow find millions for a pointless constitutional exercise of dubious legality of which, on past form, it will refuse to recognise the result if it doesn't go its way.

There may be many ways to explain this stance, but “progressive” is the last word anyone would use to describe a party that abandons our children, and the whole public sector, to cuts and decline, but which chooses to fund the division and grievance of a futile constitutional gesture. Surely, after 15 years of obsession with constitutional politics, it is time for Scots to wake up to the SNP's serial failings and to put the country back on a path to addressing our real problems through proper, grown-up, politics. A decent community-focused politics could address the attainment gap and so much more, but it is increasingly evident we will never get that from the SNP.

Alex Gallagher, Largs.


SO Kate Forbes's way out of the mess created by overspending (ferries, hospitals, bridge to name a few) is to cut local council jobs.

The local tax payers who already pay more to the SNP than if they worked in England will suffer. Perhaps Ms Forbes should try some blue sky thinking which would tackle overspend in the Parliament first. For example: a) get rid of the seven people each being paid fortunes to come up with a strategy for Indyref 2; b) close all the Scottish "embassies" in Europe; c) cancel the use of chaffeured cars and make MSPs, including Cabinet ministers, use public transport; d) get rid of the lawyers who gave advice against the trial for Alex Salmond, Rangers executives etc as no-one listens to their advice; e) cancel all trips abroad for all MSPs.

With the army of advisors the SNP is paying perhaps they could also come up with ideas. If not, I am sure my fellow readers could come up with others.

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale.


THE SNP issues frequent complaints about Westminster not taking the cost of living crisis seriously. Now we hear from Kate Forbes that her party has set aside £20 million for Indyref2. This is before we have even heard if the drive for independence is a competent one, before we have heard much of the detail and before we know what legal advice has been given.

The SNP is simply out of control. Fifteen years in power and it now closely resembles the Labour Party when last in office: not hearing what is happening in the real world and seemingly not caring either. With a summer of genuine discontent on the horizon the SNP /Green alliance is about to find itself in deep trouble with only itself to blame.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


UNDER devolution, any Scottish government would face impossible budget choices when high UK inflation, caused by Westminster policies, effectively means a reduced block grant. The reliance on income tax, as the only alternative source to plug the shortfall, is undermined if the UK decides to reduce income tax rather than spend its way out of austerity. The Scottish Government has to balance its books every year and cannot print money or run up a national debt of £2,700 billion, or £43,000 per head, as in the UK.

Scotland needs massive investment to take advantage of our vast renewable resources which has not been forthcoming from Westminster despite the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast of £12 billion taxation revenues from Scotland’s North Sea this year. And that was before the £5bn windfall tax.

In an interview on May 5, James Anderson, the former head of Baillie Gifford Fund Management, said that Scotland could succeed in tackling its lack of scale in the industries of the future by borrowing £10bn and gearing this up to a £20bn investment pot with backing from the private sector financiers.

Scotland outperforms the rest of the UK and Europe in attracting foreign investment that created 10,000 jobs in the last year, highlighting Scotland’s strength in high-value, high-growth industries like digital, clean technology and life sciences as an attractive location with a highly educated workforce thanks to good business networks and Scottish Government agencies’ support.

Without the normal fiscal powers of independence to unleash Scotland’s full potential, we will be held back and can’t maintain the best public services in the UK we have come to enjoy or mitigate the devastating UK Government austerity that has caused lower life expectancy.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.


ALL governments, no doubt, would like all taxpayers to do the honourable thing and pay their dues.

Not everybody does of course: it was recently estimated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s wife, Akshata Murthy, legally avoided paying up to £20 million in tax over several years by claiming “non-dom” status.

Jane Lax (Letters, May 31), says that Scottish taxpayers have apparently turned out to be just as keen to avoid paying tax as their counterparts in England. Ms Lax, no doubt to the consternation of HMRC, helpfully listed other legal methods of avoiding UK taxes. Apparently many people throughout the UK have already followed these routes: last September, HMRC estimated that the financial loss to the UK in 2019-20 from such legal tax avoidance was £1.5 billion; illegal tax evasion cost the London Government £5.5bn. Such estimates surely put the Scottish Government’s £200m problem in perspective.

Ms Lax’s criticism of the Scottish Government seems to be that it should stop trying do things differently; it should accept the predictions of the Laffer Curve, accept the inevitability of tax avoidance and evasion and revert to a tax system which suits the demands of the wealthiest members of our society, including their right to avoid paying very much tax at all – a system already well-established which has been further developed and exploited during the last 10 years of Tory government in London.

But all governments need revenues: the UK National Debt currently stands at more than 103% of GDP and the London Government has just penalised the most vulnerable families throughout the UK by increasing National Insurance Rates – to help, it claims, the NHS.

I hope the Scottish Government will continue to strive for better than such unfair distribution of wealth. Scotland could for instance be more like Norway, where tax records for absolutely everyone are open to all. We will be better placed to do so only once we have full independence.

Frances McKie, Evanton.

* ALASDAIR Galloway (Letters, June 1) states that under the Scottish tax system individuals earning £33,000 pay £57.57 extra and Frances Scott (Letters, June 1) states that less than 7% of Scots pay more tax than they would in England. I find it hard to believe that less than 7% of Scots earn more than £33k. If that is the case then the Scottish economy is in a real mess. I wish any Scottish finance secretary the best of luck trying to sort this out.

Eric Gardner, Glasgow.


I WRING my hands in despair at the latest from Downing Street as Boris Johnson and his chumocracy turn Britain into a banana republic. I agree with David J Crawford (Letters, June 1): the opposition should boycott Westminster, and bring an end to this farce. The only positive aspect of this pantomime is that the Prime Minister is a recruiting tool for independence.

Margaret Forbes, Blanefield.


I AM always rather amused at the tennis match of correspondence that appears in your Letters Pages.

On Friday last I attended a private function, a celebratory dinner.

The principal speaker was an MP, who for 25 minutes gave a very eloquent and erudite account of a day in the life of an MP, explaining the machinations of the archaic establishment that is the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster.

Listening intently, I quickly came to the conclusion that on November 5, 1605 a certain Mr Fawkes had probably the right idea.

Dan Edgar, Rothesay.

Read more: How much more of this abuse of power must we take?