SIR Keir Starmer’s disastrous interview on BBC’s Sunday Show ("Yousaf criticises Labour on NHS staff", The Herald, November 7) should have ended any hopes Labour has of adding to its solitary Westminster MP from Scotland.

Rehashing Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” mantra, Sir Keir told viewers “we’re recruiting too many people from overseas into, for example, the health service” and “freedom of movement is not returning” as Labour turned its back on even a partial return to Europe. Brexit is a major reason that the UK is facing severe recession and falling living standards yet Labour and the LibDems persist in pandering to Little Englander Brexiters.

He showed that he lives in a North London bubble when he attacked Scotland’s A&E waiting lists, seemingly oblivious to Labour’s much worse record in Wales, which is 50 per cent higher. Part of the UK-wide NHS problem is delayed discharges caused by a shortage of staff in social work and care settings yet Labour says we have too many foreigners working in the NHS.

To cap it all, Sir Keir confirmed Labour’s opposition to the Scottish Parliament’s democratic mandate to hold a referendum on our constitutional future. Like the Tories and LibDems, Labour refuses to set out a democratic road map for Scotland’s return to self-government.
Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

• THE Labour Party has probably never been in a better position to retrieve some of the seats it once held in large parts of Scotland. Opinion polls are good in the UK and support could spread north of the Border.

But it won't, thanks to a party leader who appears to understand the Scots and this country even less than any Tory Prime Minister of recent times.

Sir Keir Starmer's fumbling performance on BBC Scotland's Sunday Show with an excellent Martin Geissler will ensure the SNP will continue to dominate, even though its policies and practices are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The Labour leader's dogged refusal to shift stance on two major policy planks – Brexit and the democratic right for a vote on Scottish independence – is a guaranteed vote loser.

Lesley Riddoch ("Who exactly does 'no surrender' Starmer think he is?", The Herald, November 7) was spot on when she asked: what planet is Sir Keir on?

Labour's Scottish leader Anas Sarwar would be wise to jump ship and set up a new party to cater for those who used to vote Labour but now can't.
Andy Stenton, Glasgow

Climate fight kills off indy

KEVIN McKenna, in his critique of the political scene in Scotland ("Westminster is not broken but Scottish politics definitely is", The Herald, November 7), states that "only a second referendum can break this sense of stagnation in Scottish politics. Any outcome would be better than this". However, in an interview last week with Peter MacMahon of Border TV, Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, claimed that "this is the year which marks the cusp of the independence movement" as the 2024 election will not be a single-issue campaign in Scotland but a referendum over the Tory handling of the cost of living crisis.

This, then, gives rise to an alternative solution to that given by Mr McKenna in that the dash to Egypt by the First Minister is an indication that the SNP now accepts that "independence is irrelevant until we, in Scotland, do our bit to fix the climate".

The decade of austerity after independence results in extending the cost of living crisis until at least 2040, meaning Scots have to decide whether saving the planet must be given precedence over Indyref2 until the hundreds of billions of pounds of debt arising from a Green Revolution have been repaid.
Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

Referendum now sorely needed

KEVIN McKenna, in his continuing criticism of the Scottish Government under the control of the SNP, offers the only real alternative, given the opposition parties appear collectively to be unable to land any significant blows on the current SNP/Green administration.

Many in the unionist camp tend to complain that a referendum can only be held "once in a generation" but quite evidently, the issue of Scottish independence has not gone away and it will not go away no matter how many letters are sent to The Herald.

I welcome Mr McKenna's eminently sensible suggestion of having a second independence referendum as soon as possible in order to break the current stagnation and constitutional log-jam. If the case for Westminster rule is so strong, what do the unionists have to fear?
Alec Oattes, Ayr

A question of priorities

LET us just remind ourselves that our Scottish politicians are paid reasonably well to solve problems on our behalf. In recent times it was even known for politicians to return early from a holiday to deal with a crisis. Nowadays, in Scotland, we are witnessing politicians who are doing the exact opposite and leaving crises behind to go on foreign expeditions with no real leverage when they are there. Meantime back in Scotland we are experiencing very real problems with our NHS, youths basically rioting on the streets, many public services being threatened by strike action and Glasgow City Council with a £120m shortfall.

No money is the linkage here yet there is time and money for both Nicola Sturgeon and Glasgow City SNP leader, Susan Aitken, to fly to Egypt, with entourage, at public expense.
Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Questions over refund guarantee

KEITH Howell in his letter (November 7) on the ferries fiasco claims that there is ambiguity in Nicola Sturgeon’s argument (given in evidence) that there was nothing improper in relation to the Government’s awarding of the ferry contract, but that she still had concerns over the serious issues raised by the BBC Disclosure programme.

To unpack this it’s worth noting that the BBC reporter merely speculated that the specification had been illegally relayed to FMEL by CMAL. But when Jim McColl was interviewed on camera he categorically denied this, as did CMAL after the programme was broadcast. So the basis of the BBC’s "evidence" collapses somewhat.

Both organisations employed the same naval architect to prepare the specifications, but the BBC declined to interview them to ascertain whether or not they had indeed simply done a "cut and paste" without the knowledge of either CMAL or FMEL. This would have explained what happened. But it would also have rendered the programme’s claim of collusion as bogus.

Changing the specification and cost after being named preferred bidder is not that unusual if it is instructed by the client body post-award. However, altering the prior requirement for a full refund guarantee after choosing a preferred bidder would only be legal if all bidders were offered this option. That didn’t happen and we’ve yet to find out why.

On the basis of legal advice it had received CMAL stated on October 8, 2015 that it “would robustly defend its position” if challenged on this in court. That’s highly dubious. The big question then is why this legal advice has not been released into the public domain by CMAL. It’s a key document if you are defending claims of rigging the contract.

Equally, Jim McColl’s assertion that a full refund guarantee was never on offer begs the question as to why he wrote to Erik Ostergaard of CMAL on March 24, 2018 seeking changes to “ the issuance of the two Refund Guarantees”. These were supplied for each boat by marine insurer HCCI as agreed on November 16, 2016. Yet in the contract award document dated October 16, 2015 the name of FMEL’s guarantor has been redacted. Why?
Robert Menzies, Falkirk

• GOOD luck to the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee ("Islanders look at taking over running of ferries". The Herald, November 3). It's high time Calmac had competition. It has for far too long been backward-looking with no competition to shake its up. Its old-fashioned outlook regarding the safety of catamarans has no basis in fact, as they are used successfully worldwide in conditions much more severe than the west coast of Scotland. The Pentland Firth is not exactly a mill pond and the catamaran service there has served Orkney well.

Catamarans are faster and more efficient; the nonsense of safety concerns is exactly that. One of the fastest round the world sailing records was held by a catamaran – a journey which includes rounding Cape Horn where the roughest seas in the world can be encountered.

The Scottish Government ferry debacle has maybe been the catalyst for a change and all power to the MIFC in trying to obtain a reliable ferry service, something which is sadly lacking on the west coast.
Ian Smith, Symington


Read more letters: What price the ferries failure compared to the UK's fiascos?


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