A WISE man once said that only two things are certain in life … death and taxes.

Not much you can do about the former, but the latter are sadly a necessary evil if society wants services to be provided by a central body on behalf of everyone. As such it doesn’t seem unreasonable that different legislative bodies would want to set different levels of taxation depending on how much they needed, or valued, public services.

The Tory drive for ever-reducing taxes is at best naïve and at worst cynical. It is sold on the idea that people have more of their own money to spend how they wish and that services will arise in the private sector to meet a given need. That is fine in a few circumstances but the idea that private individuals can fund or provide a library or, more topically, a municipal golf course, is frankly ridiculous. So the services are lost through cuts in the money available to local government, to the detriment to the physical or intellectual wellbeing of the citizens. Sadly though, is not just those nice-to-have services that are suffering. Given the child poverty and the use of food banks in Scotland there is clearly a need to continue the work started by the Scottish Government in changing our approach to taxation.

That the Tory Government in London can see the level of taxation in Scotland as an issue is frankly ridiculous. And more importantly its drive for ever-decreasing taxes, and hence consequent reductions in services, affects less well-off people more by the simple fact that those are the people who don’t have the amounts of money to pay for alternatives to what were previously public services. For the UK Government to also delay the budget to March such that it is impossible for devolved governments to properly budget, and potentially in Scotland reduce the level of taxation on the people already in poverty or using food banks, is just beyond cynical and to be utterly deplored.

Rab Mungall, Dunfermline.

THERE are not many independent bodies in Scotland to scrutinise Government performance, but the Scottish Parliament Information Centre survives. Its judgment on the SNP’s tax regime is that "for around half of Scottish taxpayers, income tax devolution has meant higher bills, but no additional spending power for the Scottish Government" ("‘Little to show’ for £650m of extra tax", The Herald, February 11). That isn’t entirely true.

The Scottish Government is able to adjust spending to devote more to those pet projects that it favours, at the expense of those that are a lower priority for it. Consider, for example, its spending on foreign policy, an area which is, of course, reserved to Westminster. In the three years from 2018 to 2021, the budget allocation for it will have risen by £9 million, from £17m to £26m, including an extra £2m in the budget for next year. So Nicola Sturgeon’s trip to Brussels this week, and many more such fruitless missions, are more important than spending on health and education, transport and policing. These devolved responsibilities are what the Scottish budget should be spent on, rather than issues that are reserved, such as foreign policy and foreign aid. But devolved issues have a disadvantage: they don’t allow Ms Sturgeon and her associates to grandstand on the international stage.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.