IT was surreal to see Nicola Sturgeon smiling and shaking hands with a man whom she avowedly detests, as a Tory, namely the Prime Minister ("Talking the talk", The Herald, November 11 and "Sturgeon tells Sunak she is ‘ready and willing’ to negotiate Indyref2 process", The Herald, November 11).

Ms Sturgeon spoiled the impression with her intemperate complaints about and demands of the PM. It was embarrassing to see her talking about the UK Government’s "lack of respect bordering on contempt" for the devolved nations, when the devolved nations are the ones that receive better funding than the English regions, and when politicians of all parties tiptoe around the sensitivities of the devolved administrations.

It is evident that Ms Sturgeon regards herself as the equal of the PM, when in fact she is not the leader of a sovereign state: she is a regional leader within the UK. Her attitudes reached the proportions of farce when she said that only a "significant change in attitude from the UK Government" could improve relations between her regime and the UK Government. She means, of course, that relations would improve only if the UK Government gave in to her unreasonable demands, most obviously for a referendum but also for "additional resources from Westminster".

The SNP’s case for leaving the UK has always been based on the false premise that Scotland would be financially better off if it did. We have now seen a succession of SNP ministers – John Swinney, Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon – demanding more money from the UK Treasury, beyond what Scots can raise themselves and beyond all the extra money that the Treasury has provided Holyrood with over the last couple of years, in the Covid crisis. So much for Scots being better off on their own. It was always a myth, but now it is one that SNP ministers openly admit. Their members and supporters should take note.

As for the "deep political disagreements" Ms Sturgeon identifies between herself and Mr Sunak, it seems never to have occurred to her that perhaps she should bring something to the table: that she should have something to offer. She could, for example, give His Majesty’s Government the choice of framing a referendum question, deciding on whether there should be a supermajority, choosing the composition of the electorate. After all, this is a matter not only for Scotland but for the whole of the UK.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


AS teachers in Scotland now vote to strike ("Pandemic-hit pupils to miss more school as teachers strike", The Herald, November 11), Deputy First Minister John Swinney says there's no more money to fund public sector pay rises – and predictably blames Westminster. Sure, times are tough across the UK and beyond, but how about Mr Swinney reflects on precisely how the SNP administration has chosen to spend taxpayer cash for the past 15 years?

The nationalists' focus has been on the provision of universal, not targeted, needs-based, spending; the opposite of Westminster's approach. The provision of a raft of universal benefits/handouts/"freebies" has been a vote-winning SNP tactic – yet it means money has long-term been squandered by spending on those not necessarily in need.

While not the only reason why Scotland is currently experiencing a severe financial crisis, this SNP approach has contributed to the current emergency. The tragic consequence is that the less well-off in Scotland are now at enhanced risk of suffering serious hardship.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.


THE news that Labour members of North Ayrshire Council are demanding a police investigation into the ferries scandal ("North Ayrshire Council adds to calls for police to investigate ferries scandal", The Herald, November 10) is as bizarre as it gets given the lack of evidence they offer up to justify this.

To demonstrate the paucity of understanding of procurement matters within the Labour Party it is perhaps worth quoting Labour’s shadow transport secretary Neil Bibby during the parliamentary debate held on September 28, where he stated that “Scottish Labour’s ambition is to modernise the Calmac fleet, with a fair share of new ferries being built on the lower Clyde”. In other words, he will be directing orders to FMEL irrespective of bids from abroad that might be both cheaper and of higher quality. That’s an astonishing statement given that a contracting authority must “treat relevant economic operators equally and without discrimination”.

Labour’s disregard for the rules was further exemplified by former minister Brian Wilson’s article on the ferry contract ("SNP’S ferries fiasco has sunk hopes of shipbuilding on Clyde", The Herald, November 1) in which he claimed that “successive governments quietly supported the Ferguson yard for decades, ensuring it got its share of public sector orders”. That’s another extraordinary statement, because he is in effect admitting that Labour policy was to rig contract awards for political purposes.

Mr. Wilson’s latest assertion ("Holyrood dice are loaded against those seeking the truth", The Herald, November 8) that the First Minister attending a ferry launch whilst contract negotiations were still ongoing was a meaningless PR stunt and that it “would reflect an astonishing level of failure” by both herself and those surrounding her caused me some wry amusement.

Back in 2004 I was working as project architect on the designs for the new West of Scotland Cancer Centre when I received a fax advising me that the then Labour Health Secretary Malcolm Chisholm would be attending site imminently for a turf-cutting ceremony. This came out of the blue and was clearly a PR exercise to publicise the arrival of a badly-needed facility.

I immediately pointed out to the NHS project manager that we didn’t yet have planning permission and that delicate negotiations were still ongoing. I warned that if planning permission was refused then the plans could be referred to the Scottish ministers for a decision. However the actions of the Health Secretary would clearly compromise the Government’s duty to be impartial. As such it would constitute a clear breach of the Ministerial Code on Mr Chisholm’s part.

Unsurprisingly the ceremony was hurriedly postponed until consent was achieved. What puzzled me was why I as the architect was having to point this out to those civil servants who are paid to prevent such breaches occurring. Would Mr Wilson agree that this was also “an astonishing level of failure”?

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.


INITIATED by Professor Ken Muir’s report “Putting Learners at the Centre”, there is apparently a national discussion currently in progress on the future of Scottish education. It might benefit from detailed comparisons with other countries’ systems.

My wife’s Dutch nephew in the second-highest state-school stream in the Netherlands studies Dutch, French, Information Science (wider than IT), Citizenship and Music – all taught in Dutch, unsurprisingly. All primary pupils learn how to read musical notation whether or not they have any playing ability.

He also studies English, History, Geography, Mathematics, European International Orientation, Religion, and Art & Design – all taught in English. He is 12 years old.

Of course I appreciate that all Dutch children, after cycling out of their mother’s womb, then learn basic English almost immediately from many of their TV cartoons and other programmes. But I also recall my own criticism 65 years ago at a respected Edinburgh private school of how foreign language teaching gave far too much emphasis to correct grammar rather than to basic conversational skills; and the UK has clearly gone downhill since then.

John Birkett, St Andrews.


THE big issue for me with Alistair Jack’s peerage (“SNP demand Rishi Sunak replace ‘Baron-in-waiting’ Alister Jack at Scotland Office as peerage beckons”, The Herald, November 10 and Letters, November 10) is nothing to do with whether or not he prefers it to remain active in the House of Commons. It is how in the first place an honour could be bestowed by Boris Johnson, a man with little or no honour of his own.

Ni Holmes, St Andrews.

• FURTHER to R Russell Smith’s letter (November 10) re Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, this fine poem was of course penned by Thomas Gray. Another of the verses from the poem is particularly apt given the current state of politics in the UK:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,

And all that beauty all that wealth e’er gave,

Awaits alike the inevitable hour,

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Jim Dunlop, Largs.


THE correspondence about pulleys and winterdykes (Letters, November 9, 10 & 11) has rekindled memories of such means and methods of drying wet washing. I recall a grandparent remarking that on visiting a friend they "couldn't see the fire for weet claithes", said garments being draped over winterdykes fronting the living-room coal fireplace steaming away nicely with a mixture of aromas.

I myself purchased one some years ago, reliving my childhood somewhat. On purchasing same, when I inquired of the sales lady if they had "winterdykes" I was met with a blank silence. They had them, but not by that description, but an interesting discussion followed enlightening the sales lady with a discourse on bygone domestic practices.

As for wringers, mangles, heating flat irons on a coal fire, all part of the weekly washday, another tale to be told.

John Macnab, Falkirk.

Connor Swindells and Alfie Allen in the BBC series SAS Rogue Heroes . Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Kudos/Robert Viglasky

Connor Swindells and Alfie Allen in the BBC series SAS Rogue Heroes . Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Kudos/Robert Viglasky


I HAVE watched the first four episodes of SAS Rogue Heroes on BBC1, but no more. The book is excellent, the TV programme is appalling.

My father was in 1 SAS and served in France on Operation Gain. He knew many of the men depicted in the series, particularly David Stirling and Paddy Mayne. They were not anywhere near like the caricatures as shown, brave but not psychopaths.

I and others are extremely disappointed in this appalling show.

Michael Watson, Glasgow.

• YOUR recent features on The Crown ("The Crown loses some of its sparkle but keeps sharp edge", The Herald, November 8 and "Jewels in the Crown", The Herald, November 9) prompt me to wonder why, if tyrants can really find lookalikes with which to confuse would-be assassins, film-makers can rarely get actors who look remotely like the well-known people they are supposed to be portraying. Surely they could do better by a combination of judicious casting and appropriate application of makeup.

Robin Dow, Rothesay.