AT last, an article by Guy Stenhouse that I can actually agree with, at least in some respects ("The grown-ups are back in charge – Sturgeon take note", The Herald, November 16).

However, he also writes: "We think it is okay for public debt to be roughly on a par with the size of our economy when it is in fact not okay at all. Without financial resilience future crises cannot be faced successfully."

Strangely enough, when I purchased my first house in 1973 I borrowed a sum roughly equal to three times my economy, with a promise to pay it back over 25 years. As the value of my initial investment increased over the following 50 years I eventually purchased my last house with no borrowed money, in fact, I was able to bank a surplus sum; the "resilience" mentioned by Mr Stenhouse was taken care of by inflation and an increase in my own personal productivity. At no time along the way did I stop feeding my children or not ensure that they were educated and that they had suitable healthcare, clothing and recreation. I didn't do this alone, of course, I did these things collectively with others by not dodging my taxes and always voting for political parties who asked me to pay more tax.

Mr Stenhouse's apparent belief in an increase in taxation is, I think, a departure for him, and his desire to see more investment in infrastructure is to be welcomed, but his and other Tories' obsession with paying back debt more quickly than is necessary is precisely the reason that we are in a fix now. The 2010 Tory/LibDem coalition demanded that the poorest carry the burden of the City of London's reckless behaviour, wanting no doubt to ensure that there was enough cash in hand to prepare for the next City-led emergency; it's ironic then that the next threat came from a biological source and a Russian megalomaniac, rather than reckless lending and lax regulation.

That Mr Stenhouse celebrates the fact that the financial markets "have forced a change both of course and of government" is hardly a ringing recommendation for more Tory government and I fear that he is going to be disappointed by Thursday's mini-budget, which in all likelihood will throttle spending on education and infrastructure, of which health care is probably the most important part. It looks like we'll be making the same mistakes as in 2010; I hope I'm wrong.

John Jamieson, Ayr.


ELIZABETH Scott (Letters, November 16) is both right and wrong on the subject of benefits in Scotland. University education, prescriptions and other benefits, however, aren't free: we pay for them via taxation.

It is a measure not only of our Government – of which I am regularly scathing – but our electorate, that we voluntarily chose to fund these benefits. She is correct in that no Westminster government would allow this situation to continue. This says as much about the southern electorate as it does the government they choose to elect.

Steve Brennan, Coatbridge.


THE problems with GPs and the NHS are well known ("GP surgeries at tipping point as demand exceeds capacity", The Herald, November 15). What is missing is the reason for this demand.

The Scottish Government has abandoned closing the attainment gap. It has also presided over some of the worst poverty in Europe and some of the poorest health outcomes too. Even Nicola Sturgeon's own constituency has the highest child poverty rate in Britain at 69%. Life expectancy is falling and drug and alcohol deaths are at record levels.

The root cause is an inability to deal successfully with these issues. A lot of money has been wasted on vanity projects and buying up "assets" like airports, shipyards and train services. Whilst all of this is happening our Government seems fixated on removing "women" from society and pushing for an uncosted independence that cannot possibly help.

Nicola Sturgeon's last line of defence is always to insist that people voted for her Government. Would she care to put this to that test now?

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


WHAT a sorry state Scotland's administration is in under the current SNP/Green coalition. It seems that not a day goes by without major problems arising in just about all key areas – health, education, public transport including west coast ferries, Police Scotland, even in local authority services.

The sheer incompetence of the Scottish Government in dealing with problem areas is quite incomprehensible. Why on earth it was were ever voted in beggars belief. Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues are good at posing and grandstanding, but that sadly is the sheer extent of their talent.

Scotland's economy is in a disastrous state in just about every sector, and would be even worse without the huge level of subsidisation extended to it by the Westminster Exchequer per the Barnett formula. Many other small countries struggle to merely exist, but as an integral part of the UK, Scotland enjoys the benefits of being part of a strong economy – so why does the SNP spend so much time and effort in trying to break up the 300-year-old Union?

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.


IN a few days the World Cup will start in Qatar, with the England and Wales football teams proudly representing their countries. In 1978 Scotland had qualified for the World Cup in Argentina, but the Labour Party was adamant that Scotland should pull out of the tournament. No such pretend outrage this time from Labour.

In fact, the Welsh First Minister and his Economy Minister will both be attending some games, to highlight Wales as a “distinct nation”. In many ways Mark Drakeford is how the Scottish Labour Party used to portray itself; out and proud of its national identity and fighting the nation's corner. That Scottish Labour Party is long gone (if it ever existed) replaced by bland yes-men whose sole nodding-donkey concern is for the Union (not the European one).

Mr Drakeford is also commissioning a wide-ranging, nothing-ruled-out study into the constitutional future of his country, another no-go area for Anas Sarwar and Co. Why doesn't Scottish Labour just drop the “Scottish” part of its name, as it is an obvious encumbrance to it and an embarrassment to the rest of us?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


I REALLY do wonder if Alan Sutherland (Letters, November 16) has fully thought through the implications of his “we’ve all gone soft” thesis?

In his schooldays (and my own), “the UK spent 2% of GDP on education. It’s now around 8.5%”. But then a teacher would be teaching to 40-something children, sitting in serried ranks before them, chanting back some piece of knowledge such as the “times table”, or individually trying to read some piece of literature that often meant little to them, or just sitting listening. And if you didn’t listen … well, justice could be swift and often severe. Now there will seldom be more than 30 in a classroom, and the philosophy is “getting it right for every child”, individually not 40-something at a time.

Of course, there are issues with education – aren’t there always? However, I would much rather our country grappled with those than returned to the education system that Mr Sutherland and I experienced.

He bemoans that “1.2m are registered unemployed and available for work – and there are 1.2m unfilled job vacancies”, as though the fault is with the former, when perhaps some consideration could be given to the cause being a market failure, that the jobs are in the wrong place? Unlike education, “the market” continues to show little regard to the needs of the community. One of the problems with the UK is that three regions dominate economic growth – London, the South-East and East (about as far north as Lincoln), all of them substantially overcrowded already. Ironically, Mr Sutherland calls for more “economic growth and productivity”, yet the likelihood is that if this came about, many of the new jobs would be located there, rather than where there are available workers. And what would even just the economic cost be of relocating the 1.2 million unemployed to where there are jobs, never mind their social dislocation?

Giving up the gains of the past to address today’s problems would be regressive. As in education, modern life poses issues, but a better course of action is to address these, rather than retreat.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

Read more: No wonder we're in this mess. We've all gone soft