RECENT aggressive and downright nasty language in Parliament has been rightly criticised, but may I also appeal for less of the same in our press? Allan Sutherland (Herald letters, October 2) accuses the SNP government of being a “grim nationalist cult trying to bully, con, fantasise and Brexitise us out of the UK”.

He refers to its “ongoing destruction of day-to-day and strategic public administration”and to “its duplicity, incompetence and lack of vision or plan”.

As a person with no political party affiliation, I do not recognise these characteristics in any of the people in Holyrood with whom I have been in contact. They have been rational, honest, hardworking and, yes, idealistic, but with a realistic view of what can be achieved in a Scotland given the chance to manage her own future. They is nothing of a cult or duplicity about them.

Mr Sutherland’s views were compounded by the Scottish Conservatives’ political broadcast, which was devoted entirely to banning a second independence referendum. There was not a word about what the Scottish Tories would do if put in power - not a single policy, plan or promise for Scotland.

Could I plead for Mr Sutherland to moderate his language and to argue his case with his opponents using reason and not insult?

Neither he nor the Conservatives who organised their political broadcast have done their party any favours. All they will do is convince voters that it is the Tories, not the SNP, who are obsessed with independence to the exclusion of any other policy or need. That won’t win an election or even any seats - they may well lose them instead.

Tom Smith



REFERRING to “the scandalous decline in education”, and “our self-inflicted poor health”, Allan Sutherland is quick to point to the fact that both are devolved to Holyrood, almost as if being devolved is some sort of magic bullet that should instantly resolve such problems.

However, it is clear that he has a very constrained perspective on devolution, such that he can invite us all to pass over that the decisions of the Scottish Government in any area of their responsibility, can only be understood within the limitations of spending decisions taken at Westminster.

Yes, devolution allows that, for instance, where there has been an increase in spending by Westminster (usually in England, given devolution to Wales and Northern Ireland) on a devolved matter, the consequential increase in Scottish funding can be spent in other ways, but the quantum of spend in Scotland is not determined here.

The Scottish budget is a function of spending decisions taken by the Westminster government. While Chancellor Javid has announced increases in spending, the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that this would not reverse the Westminster austerity we have “enjoyed” since 2010.

Moreover, decisions taken at Westminster are hardly taken by parties that enjoy widespread Scottish support. After the 2010 election there were 12 MPs elected in Scotland for parties in government, and 11 of them were Liberal Democrats. In 2015 that number was reduced to one, as the LibDems were no longer in coalition with the Conservatives. In 2017 there were 13 Conservatives elected in Scotland, but if you consider just over 20 per cent of MPs elected to reflect “widespread support” that is up to you.

Mr Sutherland will disagree, but how reasonable is it to berate the Scottish Government for all the perceived faults in health and education when, while they have discretion on relative spends between different areas, ultimately their quantum of spend is decided elsewhere by a party of limited support in Scotland?

Of course he could come back with the ‘generosity’ of the Barnett formula, but as Jim Cuthbert has pointed out, if we had inherited our own tax revenues we would have been £150 billion better off, taking into account all UK government spending in Scotland as well as our share of debt interest and defence spending. In any event Scotland too pays tax, and if there is borrowing, we are charged to service this.

I suspect we can locate Mr Sutherland’s problem in that, as he says, “Scotland remaining in the UK is a thousand times more important to me than the UK leaving the EU and I will vote for any party or combination of parties who have the arguments and energy to achieve that, most importantly by winning the 2021 Holyrood election.” Evidence and reasoning are among the early victims of such perception, where evidence is subordinate to opinion and attitude. Mr Sutherland’s letter is a prime example of such consequences.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton