WE await the Autumn Statement on Thursday with bated breath ("Chancellor in stark warning: Taxes must rise for everyone", The Herald, November 14). We simply cannot hear more of the same. We need progressive taxation, where those on higher earnings shoulder more of the burden.

This statement should be all about reaching out, targeting spending on those in need and following the example here in Scotland of progressive taxation and the Scottish Child Payment.

At the beginning of this momentous week, a good start came forth from Scotland with an increase today (November 14) in the Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week to every eligible child. Added to this the criteria for inclusion for this benefit has been extended. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank describes the extended rollout and increase as "a watershed moment in tackling poverty in Scotland and that the rest of the UK should take note".

The Conservative Government has much to answer for regarding the cost of living crisis. Jeremy Hunt must prioritise towards those who really need help.
Catriona C Clark, Falkirk

• WHEN it comes to this Thursday's statement we are all in for some medicine to stop the rot, and boy does this Government know how to dispense it.

Jeremy Hunt is merciless and still despised after his time as Health Secretary. He delivers pain with that manic grin on his face, the perfect man for this week's big announcement. Rishi Sunak, the ex-Chancellor and this month's PM, loves a bit of financial number-crunching; remember how determined he was to take that £20 from our poorest. God help us all.

On Thursday the Tories will do what they do best and have been dishing out for the past 12 years – austerity and misery. This perma-crisis Government rolls on relentlessly and will inflict pain for as long as it remains in power.
Paul Morrison, Glasgow

Consider the dire state of the UK

WITH the imminent announcement by the Chancellor of what will inevitably be a punishing Budget statement, it is perhaps timely for those of your correspondents who are routinely critical of the performance of the Scottish Government to reflect on the current tragic state of the UK.

Without wishing in any way to gloss over the mistakes made by the Holyrood administration, these are marginal when compared to the appalling mess that this country now finds itself in. The UK economy has crashed. The UK National Debt is spiralling out of control and now stands at £2.33 trillion, which represents a staggering 98.6 per cent of GDP. Interest rates are rising as is inflation with the inevitable knock-on effects to the cost of living and on mortgages.

Thousands are being driven to food banks and will be struggling to heat their homes this winter. Meanwhile the gap between the richest and the poorest continues to grow. The years of Tory austerity continue to cause damage and, with further cuts in public spending being flagged up in advance of Mr Hunt’s statement, things can only get worse.

There is not one single English public service that is performing better than it was in 2010. The NHS is in crisis with even longer waiting lists than are being experienced here in scotland while several health trusts are under investigation for the needless deaths of many babies; the care service is on the point of collapse with hundreds of hospital patients unable to be discharged while the beleaguered police service is now having to deal with the scandal of a flawed recruitment procedure.

By its own admission the Westminster Government has admitted that the immigration system is broken. While thousands of migrants wait to be processed various sectors of the UK economy are desperately short of labour. I could go on.

We have the misfortune to have experienced successive Tory governments characterised by incompetence, cronyism, stubbornness, stupidity and the arrogance of some to consider their actions to be above the law. Worryingly the Tory Party that claimed to be the party of "care and compassion" is now no more. It has been hijacked by the right-wing zealots of the self-styled European Research Group who masterminded the disaster that is Brexit. Our international reputation as a country of fairness and dependability is in tatters.

Appeals to the claimed benefits of the Union now ring hollow. References to past glories of the United Kingdom will not feed your family nor heat your home. We can surely do better than this.
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh

The challenge facing the NHS

DAVID J Crawford (Letters, November 15) points out that NHS priorities are wrong but somehow blames that on the UK: in fact those priorities for Scotland are wholly set by Holyrood. And if it is funding that he is concerned about, one can only wonder how the NHS of an independent Scotland would manage when the £10 billion-plus that we receive from the rest of the UK is removed from the equation.

However, there is a further and indeed more profound point to be made about NHS funding and staffing. During the period of investment and expansion of the NHS which took place under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the recruitment of staff took place under the regime of a labour market that was open to large-scale recruitment from EU countries, above all from the new member states of central and eastern Europe. This appeared to be advantageous all round in that we could get inexpensive qualified staff without the trouble of training them, and the EU citizens could follow the advice of their governments to come to the UK to "earn, learn and return".

Now many of those staff have returned, both in the natural way of things and due to Brexit, and there is an increasing appreciation of the flaws in the system: we have too few trained staff; we do not pay them enough; and the countries we might recruit from are likely to need the personnel in question more than we do, especially as these are now more likely to be in developing world.

Like other areas of the UK economy, including manufacturing, the NHS now faces the challenge of moving away from the open labour market model. This will require investment in recruitment and training, and in salaries and conditions of service that will retain staff to develop rewarding and happy careers in the NHS.

Again, this challenge is also faced by industry, where similar investment will be required to increase skills and productivity. In short, we need to move at last from a model based on the flexibility of not very good jobs to one based on the stability of better jobs. And in the case of the NHS, our care services and all other public services, we must be prepared to pay extra for that transition; likewise, companies and entrepreneurs must be prepared to pay for training and the wages and conditions needed to transform their own sectors.

Finally, no-one should deceive themselves regarding the chimera of an independent Scotland in the EU. The practical truth is that it is one of the functions of the small member states of the EU to provide cheap labour for the larger ones. Scotland would be one of those small countries, and it is more likely that our trained NHS staff (and workers of other industries) would be off to better-paid and more rewarding jobs in Germany, France or the Netherlands, rather than our NHS and companies being propped up again as they have been by EU nationals.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow

We must wait for England

DUNCAN Sooman (Letters, November 14) takes John Swinney to task for “defending [the Scottish Government’s] position by stating that it’s worse in England”. Mr Sooman’s view, that this is a “standard response becoming tediously boring”, is a fine example of what former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee used to call during Watergate, “a non-denial denial”. Mr Sooman’s point could not even be said to be substantive criticism.

This would be all the more so if Mr Swinney’s explanation was true, which, Mary Thomas (Letters, November 14) helpfully demonstrates, it is. Ms Thomas points out that nurses in Scotland are paid 10 per cent more than in England, and have had a higher pay offer, which the RCN has already rejected.

However, with regard to this pay claim, the Scottish Government has said that there is no more money to offer a still higher rise, because it operates on a fixed budget and cannot borrow (unlike Westminster) to make a higher pay offer. However, if/when there is a settlement of the nurses’ (and indeed the several other public sector workers’) dispute in England, then that additional English expenditure will be reflected in an increase in the Block Grant. But first we have to wait for settlement in England for the nurses’ dispute to be resolved here.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton


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