WATCHING the recent Conservative hustings I sometimes wonder who advises Liz Truss before she opens her mouth. Her latest wheeze is to announce that she will hold the SNP to account over its alleged failures in health, education and transport. Once again that might not be the smartest of moves.

Starting with education, the English exam results last week showed a marked increase in the attainment gap between the richer south-east and the poorer north-east, whereas the Scottish results announced a week earlier showed the attainment gap here narrowing.

As for healthcare, the BBC fact-checked the claim of 40 new hospitals being built by 2030. At £500 million a pop this would equate to £20 billion and as new money there would be a significant benefit to Scotland via the Barnett consequentials. However, the actual figure allocated turns out to be only £3.5 billion and it covers existing hospital projects whose funding was in place before the announcement.

This includes the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital due to open in 2018 at a cost of £350m but currently running five years late and at a revised cost of £988m. Alongside it is the Royal Liverpool University Hospital due to be completed in 2017 at a cost of £335m but currently also running five years late and with a new estimated cost of over £1billion.

Contrast the above with the QEUH hospital in Glasgow, opened in 2015 five weeks early and £30m below the original budget.

Moving on to transport, we can compare the building of stations for Crossrail to the recent rebuilding of Glasgow Queen Street station, which was delivered on time and close to the £120m budget. In London the Queen Elizabeth line (Crossrail) is still unfinished four years after it was due to be completed and is currently a whopping £4.1bn over the original £14.8bn budget.

Part of the above overspend can be found in the station costs, with Bond Street originally budgeted at £111m but still unfinished (four years after its anticipated completion date) and currently costing in excess of £660m. Paddington is finished but was delivered late and at a cost of £649m as against its budgeted cost of £147mn. Last but not least there is Whitechapel station, which had a £114m budget at contract award but was also delivered late and at a revised cost (2021) of a staggering £831m.

By these measures the Scottish Government is outperforming its UK counterpart in the very areas Ms Truss wants to examine in detail. Yet given the headlines in the Scottish press you’d think it was the opposite. In no Scottish newspaper – with the exception of your own Ian McConnell – is there really any detailed scrutiny of the gross procurement incompetence that is the hallmark of Westminster governance. If you ask me it looks like we’re getting a bargain with the two ferries.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.


NICK Ruane (Letters, August 19) writes “we are reminded that independence transcends everything”. May I remind him, and his cohort who constantly complain that the SNP is spending too much money on the campaign for independence, that the Scottish National Party was founded in the 1930s with the express purpose of fighting for independence. Nothing more, nothing less. It has never hidden its raison d’etre, it has never said there was any other purpose for its existence. The people who have voted in an SNP government over the last 15 years have voted it in precisely because that is exactly what they want, nothing more, nothing less.

In 1997 there was a democratic election for the restoration of the Scottish Parliament. We now have a Westminster government which is forcing bills through to remove our democratic right to have our own parliament, to remove our devolved powers. It is removing our right to protest, thus interfering with our human rights. We have been left without a functioning UK government at this time of crisis. We will not be governed until at least the beginning of September. If the people who want the SNP to back off because “this is not the time”, want something to happen, why don’t they campaign for a government of national unity”? That is what we had during the Second World War, because, guess what, we were in a situation of chaos.

There is nothing democratic about only the members of the Tory Party electing our next Prime Minister. So, unionist supporters, if you want to complain about anything, why don’t you complain about the fact that we don’t live in a democracy, and do something about it, instead of complaining about the same thing over and over again? Because, guess what, independence supporters will continue to vote in an SNP government until we get what we have been voting for – independence.

I write as somebody who voted against independence in 2014. Guess why I changed my mind?

Margaret Forbes, Blanefield.


ROSEMARY Goring just cannot resist getting Brexit into her discussion of the Roman Empire and the empires of today (“Lessons the Romans in Scotland can teach Putin and co”, The Herald, August 17). Wake up, Ms Goring, Brexiters know that the British Empire is history.

After the USA, China and Russia, another empire is appearing, one which probably won’t last long, fortunately. Ms Goring will see that this new one is also obsessed with its "own inviolable borders", as we see close at hand on the frontier between the empire and the UK on the island of Ireland. It covers much of the territory of the Roman Empire, and more to boot. Like Rome, it has imposed its currency on most of its inhabitants.

It wants to create an army of imperial (sorry, EU) legions, but can’t quite manage it, for now.

It has been successful in imposing its mostly alien legal system on all. St Paul had to go to Rome for final justice; today Europeans must go to Argentoratum (Strasbourg) for the same purpose.

The new empire has its own elite group, not from Latium but from Germania with a few Gaulish hangers-on, who pull all the imperial strings. It is not as obviously bloody as the Roman empire, but no less brutal in imposing discipline by economic and fiscal means, as we have seen in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

John Burton, Thornhill.


I NOTE that ScotRail has announced it is to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to transform its trains into a green zero-emission fleet. It is planning to buy 150 new electric, battery or hydrogen-powered trains to replace two-thirds of its fleet over the next 13 years.

There is, however, scant hope for the public using Calmac services that a similar sum will be found to replace the ageing fleet that is currently in service. Indeed this reinforces the article by George Thorley ("Devolution has created a new democratic deficit", The Herald, August 18) that the devolution deficit simply results in Holyrood cash for the central belt with only crumbs being provided for rural Scotland. Just ask Scots living in Durness, Braemar or Lochgilphead about the standard of rail service being provided by Holyrood for rural Scotland.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.


I NOTE that doctors are the latest to threaten strike action in response to a pay offer well below inflation ("Doctors in strike threat as 78% back action over pay award", The Herald August 19).

Unarguably, health workers deserve to be rewarded, not least for dealing with the pandemic and its continuing consequential impact. But it is interesting to note that the current 4.5 per cent offer to doctors would increase the starting salary for a junior doctor in Scotland by £1,191 (to £27,653), and the basic pay for a newly-qualified consultant by £3,939 (to £91,473). So a 4.5% increase provides a differential increase of 330% between these two examples.

No doubt the lifestyle cost of some of those with higher salaries may be their justification for a proportionately higher demand but I suspect the majority of us would question the fairness. My point is not to criticise doctors or any other worker but to question why both sides of most pay disputes appear fixated by percentage increases.

It is clearly evident that the basic cost of living takes up a disproportionately greater share for those on low income. A loaf of bread and a pint of milk cost the same whether you are on minimum pay or a company boss. If levelling up means anything, surely it would be fairer that pay increases are more even for everyone, especially in these inflationary and financially pressed


David Bruce, Troon.