REGARDING the latest GERS publication: a reminder that no devolved Scottish government has ever "overspent" on devolved responsibilities. And that 37 per cent of spending and 74% of revenue in the GERS figures are reserved by the UK Government. The Scottish Government has no control over that.

As a result: Scotland – as part of the UK – is (apparently) performing much worse than other western European countries of similar size but with fewer natural resources. That aside, last week's GERS figures showed that Westminster is fully reliant on Scotland's natural resources to keep it afloat, rather than the other way around.

Independence supporters love the fact that GERS repeatedly proves that the union with Westminster isn't working for Scotland – and we thank the annual reports that remind us that this is the case.

And, of course, this gives our future, independent, Scottish government – whoever we choose to elect – a pretty low base to be measured against and, unless it were daft enough to continue to run Scotland's economy as poorly as it's run by Westminster, it can only do better.

Ian Waugh, Dumfries & Galloway Indy Hub, Dumfries.


BOB McDougall (Letters, August 21) claims it is an “embarrassment for Scotland that the accounts of the abuse heaped upon BBC reporter James Cook and others outside the Tory leadership hustings in Perth should have reached the world stage”, and I would agree with him that it’s not good. I would also agree that politicians need to “look in the mirror” (as your headline says), but just not in the way he suggests.

In particular, perhaps a degree of perspective is required? Was “abuse” really “heaped” upon Mr Cook? OK, he was called a “traitor” as well as a “liar”, and while such language makes no positive contribution to any debate, I would hazard a guess that Mr Cook has heard these words before without much upset.

But perhaps what is really needed is to put this into a wider context to nail the proposition that this is somehow unique to the Scottish independence movement and debate.

David Bailey notes in “Decade of Dissent”, “protest tactics [are] becoming more commonplace and familiar, and as democracy has arguably become less open to popular input”. This latter point is particularly important, given the constitutional and legal changes that have been made, and are being made by the present Westminster Government to insulate itself from social and political conflict (for example the Elections Act, and reports that it wants to limit Judicial Review). However, by isolating itself in this way it makes government less open and at the same time makes society less democratic.

It is also important to note, given the abuse heaped on the independence movement so joyfully by our opponents, that the protest at Perth was organised by Perth Against Racism, and attended by anti-racists, trade unionists, welfare campaigners, climate change activists as well as pro-independence supporters, some of whom were expelled from the SNP long ago. All of these groups, I think it's fair to say, have cause for serious complaint against the current Conservative Government.

Politicians need to consider the consequences of putting themselves apart from, and above contemporary political debate in society. Restricting any formal voice for the community can only lead to government being an increasingly direct target of a range of popular struggles, demands, and discontent.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


HAVING read the latest CMAL submission to the Public Audit Committee regarding the ferries saga ("New report shows CMAL’s concerns over Ferguson Marine contract", August 21), I can only say it raises more questions than answers. For instance, CMAL states that FMEL assumed that an email between Derek Mackay MSP and Stuart McMillan MSP saying that alternatives to a full refund guarantee could be considered, was a "green light for them to go down that route" (para 3.5).

First, Derek Mackay has no right to interfere in an independent procurement exercise in this fashion, especially when it seems designed to clearly favour one bidder. That’s a clear breach of the EU procurement rules under which the contract operated and may indeed be a breach of the Ministerial Code. Secondly, there is the question as to how that information got conveyed to FMEL whilst the procuring authority (CMAL) was left completely in the dark, especially when it could compromise the whole tender process.

Next there is the assertion by CMAL that FMEL was unable to give the name of a bank despite the contract requiring “the provision of refund guarantees" by "a first class international bank", and that “the FMEL bid was unqualified in this respect and no indication was given that this conventional form of security was unavailable”.

The agreed contract as published on the Scottish Government (SG) website has the name of FMEL’s financial guarantor blacked out. A bank or agency had therefore been cited by FMEL. This must have been accepted by CMAL and checked for validity otherwise the bid would be non-compliant. But this guarantee was allegedly suddenly withdrawn by the bank after FMEL was named as preferred bidder. That doesn’t square with FMEL’s assertion that it was never available.

Equally puzzling is the claim that the Scottish ministers “instructed” CMAL to award the contract to FMEL. CMAL sought approval from the SG to name FMEL as preferred bidder but highlighted concerns about the lack of a full refund guarantee. To remedy this the CMAL board sought a letter of comfort from the SG as insurance against its financial exposure due to the lack of such a guarantee (para 4.6). This was agreed to by Transport Scotland on behalf of the SG. So how does that become an approval forced upon CMAL when it was CMAL which made the recommendation to the SG to nominate FMEL as preferred bidder ?

More worrying is that negotiations were started with FMEL after FMEL had advised it could not fulfill the bid requirements despite having been named preferred bidder. Under those circumstances the procuring authority has to stop and offer the same concession to the other bidders. However, that would leave CMAL 100% exposed financially so it was not an option. The only course open was to start the tender again. But that didn’t happen. Instead CMAL chose to continue with FMEL whilst assuring the SG that it was confident any legal challenge could be defended. Why has that legal advice has not been published?

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

IN relation to public sector pay demands, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is quite right to proclaim that "there isn't a bottomless pit of money". However, the converse appears to be true when it comes to channelling seemingly unlimited public funds into matters much closer to her heart than the cost of living crisis for families. Unquestioned financing of independence issues; Calmac ferry building; pretend embassies abroad and extended census times are to name but a few.
With that in mind, Scottish workers, particularly those on low incomes, are entitled to ask for just and fair pay settlements to keep them and their families above the bread line. Awards should certainly be on a par with their counterparts south of the Border or even better if independence is to count for anything.
The hands of councils are obviously tied by the restrictions and underfunding from the Scottish Government. With John Swinney wringing his hands and being "deeply concerned" and Ms Sturgeon appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, it seems the cost of living issue is not being pursued as urgently as it should be by those responsible for representing the people of Scotland.
Bob MacDougall, Kippen.


I AGREE with Otto Inglis (Letters, August 21) that striking should be confined to history. I am confident that, once asset-stripping, socially-disconnected management, government mendacity and corporate greed are confined to history, the demise of striking will follow automatically.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

• OTTO Inglis seems to think that in a modern society, strikes should not be allowed. What he does not do is suggest what sanction employees should have when a dispute with an employer cannot be resolved.

Mr Inglis seems to think that nowadays workers are protected by “health and safety and employment law”. If he was paying attention, he would know that the contestants in the Tory leadership contest are promising "deregulation" in these areas. He also seems to think that strikes are largely confined to public and quasi-public sector organisations. He gives “the railways” as an example. He should know that “the railways” were privatised by John Major’s government. ScotRail, LNER and Network Rail have since been taken back into public ownership but the majority of rail organisations currently taking part in industrial action are privately owned.

So I eagerly await Mr Inglis' proposals on how to avoid industrial action.

Douglas Morton, Lanark.


MICHAEL Sheridan(Letters, August 21) offers a five-paragraph apologia for colocoides impuntatus but neglects the role played by the midge in liberating Caledonia from the Romans who never settled in any permanency north of Antonine’s Wall. Even Hadrian’s Wall was built only when the only semi-permanent Roman settlement at Trimontium (near Melrose) had to be given up. Tacitus in his account of the Roman advance, led by Agricola, and victory over Calgacus at Mons Graupius in AD83 gives no account of the real reason for the Roman retreat after their victory, which was because the Roman legionnaires could not tolerate the constant attacks of the wee beasties. "See, Gov," they pleaded to Agricola (who was Governor of Britannia), "we can’t tolerate these midges any more. We must retreat. Better to go back to Tromontium where there aren’t any midges."

Tacitus could not record this exchange in his annals, for to do so would have disclosed that the might of Rome had been defeated not by Pictish savages but by colocoides impuntatus.

Alexandra MacRae, Letham, Angus.