AS the year draws to a close I wonder what future commentators on British political history will make of 2022? Given the shocking state of affairs that we find ourselves in, I suspect that it will be a mixture of disbelief and dismay.

If ever evidence was needed to confirm that the UK was in freefall, then we need look no further than the state of our failing economy; the soaring cost of living; high inflation; our much-vaunted public services under the cosh; a level of strikes not seen since the 1970s; the punishing costs of Brexit and the damage being done to our once-proud reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

At a time of such crisis what the country desperately needs is a Government that can demonstrate leadership, courage and clear thinking. It is our misfortune to have at Westminster a Government characterised by incompetence, inexperience, cronyism, a lack of moral compass and an inability to really grasp the misery that is being inflicted on many thousands of our fellow citizens.

For a country that is supposedly one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it beggars belief that there are now more than 2,000 food banks operating in the UK. It is as though we are back to Victorian times when it was only charity that held the country together.

Regrettably there is no magic wand for Holyrood – though I cannot understand why there is a continuing delay in the implementation of a tourist tax. The major financial decisions remain in the firm grasp of Westminster and a Government determined to toughen it out in the shelter of their privileged bunker.

There needs to be a determination to tackle our woefully weak tax regulations and bring the UK into line with the more enlightened tax regimes of countries such as Denmark. It is scandalous that nothing has been done to draw a halt to wealthy organisations and individuals shifting their money to overseas trusts and to Crown Dependencies.

On top of this, some 68,000 individuals are avoiding paying UK tax by claiming non-domiciled status. To claim, as some do, that tightening up the UK’s tax regulations would drive wealth overseas is patently false, as their wealth is moving overseas anyway.

Other measures that should be taken as a matter of urgency would be to end the charitable status of our fee-paying public schools and to drastically tighten up the regulations governing charities in the UK.

While I fully support the generous assistance to those deserving charities that are engaged in essential humanitarian work, I fail to see the rationale in these tough economic times for the Treasury to be paying out millions to theatres, museums, concert halls, galleries and particularly to the stately homes of some of the wealthiest members of society. Even the King is a beneficiary, as visitors to Holyrood Palace and the Queen’s Gallery are encouraged to Gift Aid their entrance fee. Time for a rethink but sadly not from this UK Government.
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh

• FOR the life of me, I cannot understand these strikes which are inconveniencing just about everyone.

If people don’t like the conditions they work under, or indeed the pay they receive, then they should keep on working but in the meantime look for another job.

It’s not difficult ... I did it twice.
A Morrison, Glasgow

• ONCE again the Christmas number one slot in the music charts has been claimed by LadBaby. This year’s offering is a reworking of the Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas? with the line “Feed the world” being replaced by “Feed the UK”. Is any more evidence required to show that we have become a third-world country?
Brian Johnston, Torrance

UK should affirm devolution role

I THINK the UK Government should use its powers to look over the gender reform legislation, decide whether it impacts cross-UK legislation, and if it does, decide what to do about it. The issue is how to do this without prompting the SNP and Greens to turn it into another "power grab/we need independence now" grievance, or if they do, make sure the eggs are all over Nicola Sturgeon's face, not Rishi Sunak's.

So far the new UK administration has been measured, matter of fact, polite and pragmatic in its approach to Scottish affairs, and the gender issue could be an opportunity to enlighten people on the rules of devolution and the UK's role, especially since this legislation highlighted the lack of scrutiny an upper chamber would provide.

It would also be tapping into the widespread concern about the legislation, as evidenced by the very effective campaign groups, polls that suggest 75% of Scots are against it, demonstrations and wide coverage.

Whether or not it decides to somehow stop the bill is not the issue, affirming the role, process and limits of devolution across all areas, including spending and external relations, is.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven

Robertson is out of order

THE SNP’s Angus Robertson has on social media compared Nelson Mandela’s eventual triumph in South Africa with his SNP’s own efforts in forcing through the Gender Bill. I am not sure if the late Mr Mandela would appreciate the comparison.

However, when everyone has stopped laughing at the audacity of his remarks, may we suggest that Mr Robertson gets his Air Miles account – already in overload – up and running again and visits some far-off place for another junket, say to open another multi-million-pound pretend embassy, whenever serious politics are being discussed.
Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

• ANGUS Robertson may consider the gender cause comparable to that of Nelson Mandela's fight against apartheid. I might be wrong but I doubt that neither Mr Robertson nor Nicola Sturgeon would be willing to spend a week in jail for their cause, unlike Mandela, who was a man of principle and served a 27-year prison sentence for his.
Jean Johnston, Helensburgh

Churchillian response

FROM a little gem of a Christmas present, The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, a postscript to the changed role of regularly- agitated Ian Blackford ("Bye, bye Blackford: a generational shift for the Westminster SNP, The Herald, December 29): "The Honourable Gentleman should really not generate more indignation than he can conveniently contain."
R Russell Smith, Largs

9M UK abortions in 55 years

PETER Dryburgh (Letters, December 27) makes an important point about spontaneous abortions occurring in about 20 per cent of pregnancies. Indeed they are more frequently called miscarriages by those who suffer them. (I cannot say I have heard them referred to as an "Act of God.) The definition of miscarriage is the "unplanned expulsion of the foetus (baby) from the womb". Therefore medically it is referred to as a "spontaneous abortion" because it happens without any intentional planning or medical intervention.

A planned abortion, on the other hand, is a deliberate, intentional expulsion of the foetus (baby) from the womb which the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) is concerned about – protecting the right to life of the unborn who are at risk of being medically or surgically expelled from the womb.

Public Health Scotland published figures to show that 13,815 planned abortions took place in Scotland in 2020. More than nine million abortions have occurred in the UK since 1967.
Irene Munro, Conon Bridge

Religion and a lack of morality

FIGURES derived from an in-person attendance survey conducted by the Church of England reveal that last year the average Sunday church attendance was 509,200 across the country – less than one per cent of the population. This data comes just weeks after the Office for National Statistics revealed that Christians now account for less than half (46.2 per cent) of England and Wales' population.

While religion has the power to inspire adherents to do good and often does, history is replete with examples of religion-inspired violence and mayhem. Where was morality in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Year War and the Indo-Pak partition? Was morality hiding in Ahmedabad and Godhra in 2003 and in New York in September 2011?

And what holds back the moral sense amidst the ongoing Middle East violence or made it look the other way during the pogrom in Bosnia, the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and the horrors of the Holocaust? What does the world-wide exposés of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests say about the efficacy of religion to inspire moral good?
Doug Clark, Currie

Read more letters: If only MSPs had got their facts right in gender debate


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