ALL governments make mistakes and the Conservatives have squandered £100 billion of taxpayers' cash in four years according to a Best for Britain report which compiled a round-up of “crony contracts”, “duff deals” and “outrageous outgoings”.

Objectively, Neil Mackay ("Arrogant SNP has scoffed and sneered its way to defeat", The Herald, November 28) should acknowledge that under the SNP, Scotland has the best public services in the UK. Under Michael Matheson’s stewardship only Scotland’s NHS avoided damaging strikes and it remains the best-performing in the UK with more dentists, doctors, nurses and hospital beds per head of population than in Tory England or Labour-run Wales. Last week he announced an additional 153 trainee doctor posts created next year in what will be the largest annual expansion on record.

Under the SNP, we have 300 police officers per 100,000 compared to 242 in England and Wales. Scotland invests more per person in education and over 1,000 schools have been built or upgraded. We have more teachers per pupil and they are better paid. The number of Higher passes is at a record level since devolution began, and the number of Advanced Higher passes is at its highest since they were introduced in 2001. Also, the percentage of school leavers going on to education, training or employment has significantly increased under the SNP.

The gap between those from the most deprived and least deprived areas has narrowed, and is now at a record low. Thanks to the SNP Government’s actions, it has reduced by two-thirds compared to 2009/10 and the £25 a week Scottish Child Payment is widely recognised as a game-changer in tackling poverty. However, with the full powers of a normal country, we could do so much better.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.

We can bank on Labour to fail

NEIL Mackay’s weekly jeremiads on the SNP and its imminent doom are always splendidly written, but he consistently overlooks two important facts: predictions based on statistics are no more certain than predictions based on configurations of the heavenly bodies; and there is no such thing as “political inevitability”.

That the Tories will lose next year’s Westminster elections seems very likely; but it will be the Tories who lose and not Labour that “wins” in any positive sense. Labour has neither achieved nor even promised anything to make it it a credible party of government, and it will (probably) drift into power for no other reason than that the Tories’ record is so atrocious that they would lose, or deserve to lose, to Mr Mackay’s nearest Cub pack. And if it does turn out that the SNP loses a batch of its Westminster seats to Labour, this will (I predict) make a Labour comeback in the subsequent Holyrood election not more but less likely; for the simple reason that in the interval between the two elections Keir Starmer’s government and Scotland’s Labour MPs will have shown themselves as useless and as irrelevant to Scotland’s needs and aspirations as they have always been.

There is no denying that the political scene at present is so bleak as to invite jeremiads from all sides. The hope for Scotland is in independence; and the SNP, even in its present dishevelled state, is the only party by which this can be achieved. An independence-supporting columnist like Mr Mackay would be better employed in calling on the SNP to get its act together than in predicting its collapse.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen.

Read more: How the SNP paved its own path to electoral defeat

Devolve benefits to Holyrood

SCOTTISH Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Sommerville is right not to be impressed by the recent announcement concerning work assessment and possible benefit sanctions intimated by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement ("‘Deeply concerning': SNP minister warns UK Government over rule changes", The Herald, November 27). The changes intimated could leave claimants with no income, no "safety net" and ultimately no roof over their heads if benefits are removed as intimated.

This approach by the UK Government contrasts to the approach taken by the SNP in Holyrood where fairness, dignity and respect are at the heart of Social Security Scotland. In Holyrood claimants are assessed and those with long-term conditions that ultimately make work impossible are given a lifetime award to benefits with no recall for annual or biannual reassessment, thus reducing stress and anxiety. Ms Sommerville is speaking out for thousands in Scotland who still have the injustice of depending on Westminster for their benefits; those benefits and other social security benefits including pensions should all be devolved to Holyrood. Ten benefits are administered under Social Security Scotland, seven of which are completely new ones, including the game-changing Scottish Child Payment.

The Conservatives have demonstrated time and time again that no notice is taken of those who through no fault of their own are unwell and unable to work. One point the Chancellor highlighted was denying claimants who cannot find employment access to free medication, an appalling suggestion and one we should not hear the likes of in a civilised society. Thankfully this suggestion will not have any bearing in Scotland where prescriptions are free at the point of need.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

Eye-watering cost of the Lords

ALL of Scotland is aware of the cost overruns and delays to the ferries being built on the Clyde. Your report ("Taxpayers 'robbed' by ferries fiasco", The Herald, November 25) resurrects Lord Robertson from political obscurity for his take on all things "CalMac" and the ensuing problems for the Scottish Government and the previously reputable Ferguson shipyard. This was dutifully picked up by BBC Scotland news that day.

What we don't hear enough about is Scottish taxpayers' contributions towards the upkeep and expenses claimed by him and the other 800-plus unelected members of the second chamber at Westminster. I think we can be certain the costs will be eye-watering figures.

As an aside, viewers who watched the recent BBC Scotland series Island Crossings saw an excellent insight into CalMac's operations, challenges and featuring many good news stories.

John Macleod, Milngavie.

Read more: SNP can't blame Westminster for infrastructure woes

Politicians need help

STRANGELY I find myself agreeing in part with Jane Lax (Letters, November 27) but not in its entirety. Her phrase "it has the tools, it just doesn't know how to use them" is not exclusively attributable to the SNP. I think all politicians when in power are faced with decisions and situations far outwith their skills and remit. You only have to look at the scientific experts' evidence last week at the Covid Inquiry to see how the Westminster Government was completely at sea (no pun intended) over the science of the pandemic.

What are we to do about it? A change of government will not necessarily bring skills to the desk that will solve the ills. If you look at HS2, for instance, why is the Westminster Government cancelling it at massive cancellation costs? In my opinion (and I could be miles out here), but as a retired "buildings" rather than a "civils" quantity surveyor, civil engineering projects, while using major sums of money, do not bring the spread or depth of jobs that building projects do and the Government sees its commitment to 43 new hospitals as being able to bring more jobs in a wider ratio than building a rail line.

As to building a couple of ferries I think the SNP was drawn in by Ferguson Marine - "of course we can build them" - and that is the nub of the problem. Who does a politician ask, bearing in mind where the buck stops?

I could write a book on well-intentioned but hopeless political prods throughout my career. Maybe I should but it won't solve the issues.

Ken Mackay, Glasgow.

The Herald: XL Bully dogs will not be banned in ScotlandXL Bully dogs will not be banned in Scotland (Image: PA)

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Folly of dog division

SCOTTISH ministers have turned down a request from the UK Government to comply with a crackdown on XL Bully dogs which is being fast-tracked into law south of the Border ("Scotland facing 'influx' of XL bully dogs after ban in England", The Herald, November 28). Typical of the SNP/Green Government, they have always to disagree with the UK Government and moan or do things differently.

Since 2021 there have been 11 confirmed deaths and three suspected deaths caused by these dogs and far too many injuries, most serious. The UK should quickly pass legislation so that should an XL Bully dog in Scotland kill or injure someone then Scottish ministers would be subject to prosecution for ignoring an obvious danger when they had every opportunity to follow Westminster and protect the public.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.