AFTER a lifetime criticising the Tories, it feels strange writing this; but I think Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement is reasonable overall ("UK facing record fall in incomes", The Herald, November 18). The decision to uprate benefits by inflation was particularly welcome, and cutting the point at which the top rate of income tax kicks in to £125,140 was a remarkable turnaround after Kwasi Kwarteng’s proud boast during his Budget statement that he was abolishing the 45% rate altogether.

Much has been made of the fact that the UK’s “tax burden” will be higher than at any time since the 1940s. Tax isn’t a burden, it’s the fee we pay to live in a decent society with good public services for all. It’s right that those who, often by a quirk of fate, have and earn more should pay more tax than those who have been less fortunate in life.

The UK’s public services are patchy, at best. The basic reasons for that are simple: governments don’t invest enough in them and we the people don’t vote for political parties that advocate better public services and the higher taxes needed to fund them.

The biggest disappointment in Mr Hunt’s statement was the absence of a commitment to return the UK’s international aid budget to the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income. Gordon Brown took the UK to that level, but it was cut to 0.5% in November 2020 by Rishi Sunak. It’s now been revealed that about a third of that reduced funding is spent here in the UK on, for example, helping Ukrainian refugees. Vital as that expenditure is, it shouldn’t be supplanting spending on the desperate crises in the likes of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Difficult as things are for many in the UK, there are hundreds of millions around the world who are a sight worse off and they mustn’t be forgotten.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

• JEREMY Hunt has defended resisting moves to force super-rich people who live in the UK but pay no tax on their offshore income to do so. These people are only resident here in the UK because of the society we “not-so-rich” people create and fund by paying tax on all our income. If they don’t want to pay tax on all their income like the rest of us mugs then perhaps they should go and live where their loot is stashed and take the Chancellor with them.

David Crawford, Glasgow.


WE are already in recession and the Chancellor's Autumn Statement will do little more than paper over the cracks. But those cracks will still be there, threatening to become gaping holes.

The next two years are going to be economically excruciating.

With inflation surging, wages losing their value, savings depreciating as the economic downturn takes its inevitable toll with food and fuel prices rocketing, the future looks bleak with hard times ahead.

Not only will people be forced to tighten their belts and cut out the little luxuries which brighten their lives but they will also have to resort to woolly jumpers and hot water bottles to keep out the bitter cold of a hard winter.

Restaurants and cafes will feel the pinch with rising prices deterring footfall, bringing closures in the wake while cinemas and theatres could end up closing their doors.

Life expectancy and employment will plunge.

And all because of the disastrous embracing of Brexit and the reckless gamble on growth by Liz Truss, bookending the ravages of Covid and Putin's war, all of which compound the errors of the party which once prided itself upon its reputation for fiscal soundness but opted for a monetarist ideology instead.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


ANDY Maciver ("The way to save the NHS is to allow it to be changed", The Herald, November 18) is right in that the NHS is in need of reform, but this will need more money, as analysis by the Health Foundation found the UK has underfunded the NHS by £40 billion a year over the past decade compared to the EU average, meaning £4bn a year less for Scotland’s NHS compared to our EU neighbours.

The Autumn Statement revealed that between 2022 and 2028 the UK is expected to raise £20bn a year from Scotland’s oil and gas that we were told in 2014 was running out within five years. Meanwhile the UK National Debt is projected to rise sharply from 84.3 per cent of GDP last year to a 63-year high of 97.6% in 2025/26 and will be factored into GERS to show that Scotland is a subsidy junkie.

Jeremy Hunt confirmed spending £700 million towards building the Sizewell C nuclear power plant and the UK could pay billions more if the Chinese pull out. This is not needed in an energy-rich Scotland and means higher energy bills when compared to cheaper renewable electricity.

Banks are making big windfall profits on a massive £950bn of reserves held at the Bank of England, as a result of increases to the bank rate, yet Jeremy Hunt cut the Bank Corporation Tax Surcharge from 8% to 3%.

Brexit has meant increased food prices and data from the OBR and the European Commission confirms that the UK faces the sharpest decline in GDP in Europe by some margin. Yet neither Tories nor Labour mentions Brexit or failed energy policy as a major factor in the UK facing years of recession. Only independence can change this direction of travel.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.


FORMER Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has asserted that the UK’s economy fell from 90% of Germany’s pre-2016 to under 70% now. But other experts such as Roger Bootle of Capital Economics have argued that this is totally misleading as it ignores the exchange rate difference over that period which always makes “inter-country comparisons perilous”.

He also points out that on a constant price basis, the UK economy grew from 2016 slightly faster than Germany’s and at about the same rate as Spain and much faster than Italy. It is inexcusable for someone like Mr Carney to broadcast a GDP fall of over 20% in only six years, and entirely due to Brexit.

Our inflation rate is below the EU’s, and our debt to GDP ratio of 96% is lower than all others in the G7 apart from Germany’s 70%, while France, Canada, USA and Italy range from 113% to 151% and Japan’s is 266%.

Also, the often-quoted GDP per head in Ireland being so much higher than the UK’s is also distorted by Ireland’s low corporation tax effect which has encouraged numerous companies to register there despite producing nothing there. The more realistic Gross National Income per head is about the same in each country.

Finally, to join EFTA as many advise would mean accepting free movement of EU citizens into the UK, mainly into the far more congested England. However desirable that may be, it would not be the Brexit voted for by England, or by more than one million Scots, in 2016.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

• MANY members of the BBC'S Question Time audience in the beautiful village of Snape (November 17) clearly agreed with Ian Blackford's withering comments about the ongoing damage of Brexit. It must have been depressing therefore to have the door slammed shut in their faces when Labour's Jonathan Ashworth confirmed again what we all knew anyway, that the Labour Party's policy is to keep the UK out of the EU.

At least in Scotland voters will have a choice and an opportunity denied to voters in England who have the bleak prospect of being stuck between a rock and a hard place with either one Brexit party or another. Which twin is the Tory?

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


GORDON Casely (Letters, November 17) is right that "Cairngorm Mountain" is tautologous nonsense. He has, however, fallen for the other half of Highland and Island Enterprise's marketing speak quoted in Martin Williams's otherwise excellent article on the soaring cost of the funicular repairs ("Costs of Cairngorm [sic] railway spiral ahead of 2023 opening", The Herald, November 16). "Cairn" means a heap of stones in Gaelic, an apt description for the mountain whose name is Cairn Gorm, not Cairngorm.

Sadly HIE has shown as little respect for Gaelic culture at Cairn Gorm as it has for the mountain environment. This it has repeatedly dug up at enormous financial cost for a number of ill-conceived projects and with no regard to the risks. Having sacrificed most of the ski lifts at Cairn Gorm for the funicular railway, if HIE is allowed to keep going one day the whole heap of stones may just slide down into Glen More below.

None of this is the fault of the Scottish minister now responsible for HIE, Ivan McKee, who has inherited a massive financial hole from his predecessor, Fergus Ewing. Mr McKee, however, should now have been in post long enough to realise he now needs to instigate a process to put an end to HIE's disastrous tenure and transfer the land at Cairn Gorm to new owners. Insisting HIE started to call the mountain by its proper name would be a sign of good intentions.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow.

Is our schools system geared up to discourage masculine traits in boys? Picture: Getty

Is our schools system geared up to discourage masculine traits in boys? Picture: Getty


CATRIONA Stewart is wrong: a feminist education system does not benefit boys ("Boy troubles? How feminism is the solution to male woes", The Herald, November 18). In fact, let's be more specific: Scotland's feminist education system is harming boys.

How exactly is routinely denigrating typically masculine traits and glorifying typically feminine traits supposed to benefit boys?

Boys are told they their natural competitiveness and assertiveness are somehow "toxic". Whole schools are skewed towards a more feelings-centred therapeutic ethos that alienates boys.

Instead of valuing the complementary characteristics of boys and girls, feminist theory demands that all be squeezed into an androgynous mould. Boys are most valued and celebrated when they act in ways more typical of girls (and vice versa).

Scottish schools, in general, are geared to honour and inculcate female-typical characteristics, while demonising and suppressing male-typical characteristics. Girls are constantly told that they are special and can achieve great things. The implied message to boys is that they are inferior, but, if they imbibe enough feminist theory and suppress their natural masculinity, they can at least be tolerated.

The alternative? Provide an education free from feminist theory, that caters for the whole range of pupils, valuing a spectrum of character traits and interests. While feminists should be free to discuss their divisive battle-of-the-sexes ideologies in university seminar rooms, they should not have been allowed to commandeer the education system of a nation.

Richard Lucas, Leader, Scottish Family Party, Glasgow.