OF course Kevin McKenna is right to say that those on all sides of the Derek Mackay resignation should have our human compassion ("Despite all his folly it is only human to feel pity for Mackay", The Herald, February 8). But sympathy for Mr Mackay's personal problems mustn't blind us to the fact that he was a dreadful Finance Secretary. In Mr Mackay's absence his budget speech was read by his young deputy Katy Forbes. Ms Forbes read with such clarity that, in the course of an hour, she went from relative obscurity to a contender for leadership of her party (what that says about the paucity of talent in the SNP is a subject worthy of some thought by the way). By comparison with Ms Forbes's delivery of the text, the budget itself is a real pea-souper. As I write teams of finance experts in institutions across Scotland are struggling to find some clarity in the fog of Mr Mackay's numbers.

Ms Forbes's speech made no mention of the fact that the SNP's income tax rise has resulted in less money being available to spend, not more. Or that the benefits powers demanded by the SNP could well result in a huge hole in future budgets. If I could use an example closer to my own heart, Ms Forbes declared that local authorities would have £500 million added to their core budget. But an examination of the actual budget numbers reveals that the Scottish Government has loaded £595m of Scottish Government spending commitments on to councils. In reality the Mackay/Forbes budget has delivered a £95m (1.3 per cent) cut to councils' core budget. There is also a £117m cut to capital budgets which will have an impact on councils' ability to invest in their communities in future.

Local services have been decimated under a succession of SNP budgets to the extent that vital services are now under serious threat. Prior to the budget, Cosla said it needed £500m addition to core council budgets, above and beyond the Scottish Government's ring-fenced demands, just to stand still. Instead we have a £95 cut to core budgets and further cut to capital. Promoting Ms Forbes to leadership contender on the quality of her diction is all very well, but the clarity of diction was not matched by fiscal honesty. And out here in the real world the Mackay/Forbes budget has done nothing to improve the dire state of local authority finances or the life chances of my constituents or indeed anyone who uses local authority services. Which, let's face it, is all of us.

Alex Gallagher, Labour Councillor, North Ayrshire Council, Largs.

MARK Smith ("The Mackay scandal won’t damage the SNP one little bit", The Herald, February 10) provided a reality check to those who think the Mackay scandal means it's game over for the SNP. It is certainly game over for Indyref2 any time soon, but that was clear from Nicola Sturgeon's speech a week earlier.

But last week confirmed the SNP is no saintlier than other parties to a few more of the millions of Scots who, through lack of interest or serious reporting, especially on the TV news, are blissfully unaware of what's going on in Scotland.

Hopefully it has galvanised opposition politicians. They know they must find a way to win the 2021 Holyrood elections otherwise we will have five more years of this dismal Government and another referendum

The SNP is winning because there is no better offer. Hopefully the policy debates in Conservative leadership hustings won't stop and they develop an election-winning strategy, and hopefully the LibDems and Labour will follow suit.

The signs aren't encouraging. Elsewhere I read that Willie Rennie will support the SNP budget if it takes Indyref spending out. If it's there at all, it's around £15 million, peanuts in a budget of £37bn. Surely it would be better to demand the scrapping of vote-buying wastes of money such as the annual £9m on baby boxes and £200m on a Welfare Agency that replicates what the DWP does for a fraction of the cost?

The opposition also trails in the social media stakes. Last week the SNP was No.1 in Scottish political Facebook pages with 319k "likes", with Labour in 9th with 29k, Conservatives 10th on 28k and LibDems at 21 (5k "likes").

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.