IT would seem to be a case of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" given the report that Boris Johnson has nominated his old pal and ally Scottish Secretary Alister Jack for a peerage ("Demands for by-election as Scottish Secretary tipped for a move to the Lords", The Herald, November 9). Mr Jack will doubtless be heaving a sigh of relief, given that he faced the loss of his Dumfries and Galloway constituency at the next General Election, but it will go down like a stone in Scotland.

Apparently, Mr Jack will delay his arrival in the Lords until after the election in order to escape the embarrassment of his seat being lost in a by-election, but he can look forward to joining hundreds of other peers, all unelected, including Baroness Ruth Davidson, and to being able to claim hundreds of pounds for every day he attends the House, along with other perks such as subsidised dining facilities. All this while people in Mr Jack's constituency and across Scotland struggle to feed their families and are scared to switch on their heating; something Mr Jack, with a reported fortune of £20 million, will never need to worry about.

Mr Jack stuck to Mr Johnson's side and supported him during his premiership, even though he was fully aware of Mr Johnson's unpopularity in Scotland, and he did not lift a finger to save Scotland from a hard Brexit, even though he knew Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. The invisible man of Scottish politics is now getting his reward for being a loyal crony of a Prime Minister his country decisively rejected at the ballot box. Has the man no shame?
Ruth Marr, Stirling

• ELEVATION to the House of Lords is a direct negation of democracy. Delaying this elevation for years, simply to avoid humiliating by-elections, is a double negation of democracy. Recall petitions should be applicable in cases like this. It would surely be a delicious irony for Alister Jack to be defenestrated by a recall referendum of his constituents.
GR Weir, Ochiltree

Liz Truss v Nicola Sturgeon

JILL Stephenson (Letters, November 9) claims that Liz Truss was right in her judgment that Nicola Sturgeon is an attention-seeker.

Liz Truss lasted seven weeks as PM, the shortest time in history. Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister for eight years. That reveals all we need to know about the judgment of Liz Truss.
David Clark, Tarbolton

• I SEE Nicola Sturgeon has promised £5 million to nations suffering from climate change ("Sturgeon promises £5m to nations hit by climate chaos", The Herald, November 8). I'm just wondering if she’ll pay that out after Scotland’s children have got their free bikes.
Michael Watson, Glasgow

Keir Starmer's doublethink

WILLIE Young (Letters, November 9) thinks Sir Keir Starmer was “excellent” in his BBC interview with Martin Geissler last Sunday. In contrast, I agree with Lesley Riddoch (“Who exactly does ‘no surrender’ Starmer think he is?”, The Herald, November 7), who was scathing about Sir Keir’s performance under brisk and probing questioning from Mr Geissler; I wondered whether Scottish hospitality the night before might have been weighing on him.

Two key responses from Sir Keir stood out. The first was regarding the scenario where the Supreme Court rules that an independence referendum would be legal if a majority of MSPs vote for one. Sir Keir said he would still oppose the holding of a referendum. So he believes in democracy and the law, but only when they deliver the results he wants.

Sir Keir also argued repetitively that a border between Scotland and England would harm efforts to tackle climate change and support for Ukraine; but he also said he was content with there being a border between the UK and the rest of Europe. That is classic doublethink, worthy of Orwell himself. Sir Keir is clearly an intelligent man, and it’s sad to see him tie himself in such knots in his attempt to win the keys to No 10.
Doug Maughan, Dunblane

Holyrood's thick skins

WHAT a pity the Gavin Williamson affair wasn’t in Holyrood ("Sir Gavin Williamson resigns from Cabinet following bullying allegations", The Herald, November 9). He would probably have shouted at the unfortunate civil servant “Awa and bile yer heid” instead of “slit your throat” and “jump out of the window”. This would probably have passed unnoticed and not been reported to anyone.
Nigel Dewar Gibb, Glasgow

Devolution comes at too high a price

PRIOR to the Scotland Act of 1998 and the Scottish Parliament being established in 1999, the running and interests of the country were served perfectly adequately by its local councils, its MPs at Westminster and the Scottish Secretary of State.

Since then, a Parliament building has been built at huge expense. Positions have been created for 129 MSPs which include a First Minister and a number of ministerial positions. Each MSP earns £66,662 per annum with generous expense accounts, and of course senior positions include a higher salary – for example, the First Minister earns £163,229 per year, the Presiding Officer £116,759 and ministers £98,045. There is also the availability of chauffeur-driven cars for these senior members.

In terms of expenses, according to the Scottish Government’s own website the total expenditure of MSPs for the financial year 2020/21was a staggering £17.288 million. The total cost of the devolution project is eye-watering and this added level of bureaucracy is in addition to retaining the 59 MPs at Westminster. In many cases boundaries and responsibilities of MPs and MSPs overlap and in the case of my own constituency prior to the 2019 election, both representatives would appear together at certain functions and at Christmas 2017 my family even received a card signed jointly by my MP and MSP.

The current situation might be tolerable if the SNP Government at Holyrood, in power for the most part of devolution, could claim major successes in running the country, however without a second chamber to scrutinise legislation, this is just not the case, as its well-documented list of failures will testify and highlighted once again by Kevin McKenna (“Westminster is not broken but Scottish politics definitely is”, The Herald November 7). So, for the sake of financial expediency at this time of economic crisis why don’t we scrap the devolution project all together, re-establish the status quo prior to 1998 and return Scotland to a more sustainable and practical footing?
Christopher H Jones, Giffnock

The end of consensus

NEIL Mackay presents a very pessimistic picture of politics and political debate both nationally and internationally ("The dark lessons America's mid-term elections can teach Scotland", The Herald, November 8). His solution is to argue that "you can still meet on safe middle ground as a place to discuss how we can improve the country".

In the 1960s there was a term commonly used to describe this centre ground, "Butskellism". It referred to the similarity in policy between the prominent Conservative politician R.A.B. Butler and the then Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell. It was common too to speak of the "post-war consensus", a commitment by both major parties to maintain a mixed economy, full employment and a welfare state.

This consensus was broken from the right by the policies of the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher. Unemployment was now a "price worth paying" for economic revival. Free markets and liberating the City of London was the way forward.

Since then the country has lurched from one economic crisis to another and social and economic inequality has deepened to such an extent social stability itself is now precarious. This is the result of a social and economic system which is broken. It is not the result of Corbynism, the public sector, trade union power but rampant greed and short-termism. To its shame the Labour Government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did little or nothing to alter this. The "financial crash" of 2008 was the result of unrestrained free markets in the financial sector.

Mr Brown, Alastair Darling and Ed Balls were in charge of the Treasury at the time. Why do people vote Labour if not to be protected from the worst excesses of out of control markets? Ian Murray, Brian Wilson et al should bear this in mind when they say we need a Labour government.

This crisis is a crisis of a social and economic system which is almost impossible to understand. This might explain its resilience. Which party has a serious analysis of it? It is not, as Mr Mackay suggests, about "culture wars" or "woke v "unwoke".
Brian Harvey, Hamilton


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