THE Scottish Government Budget is a disaster which has been a long time in the making, and one which should come as no surprise (“Fears as Robison targets high earners in tax sting”, The Herald, December 20).

For years, some of us have been warning of the consequences of having a government that is fixated on one unattainable goal - independence - at the expense of sound economic policy, efficient public administration and generally serving the interest of the whole population rather than that of nationalists alone.

One only has to look at the First Ministers that the SNP has delivered: Alex Salmond - a clever man but by his own admission, a rather less than good one; the absurdly over-rated mediocrity and complete failure that was Nicola Sturgeon; and now Humza Yousaf, who provides incontrovertible proof that an expensive private education cannot buy brains or common sense. Almost unbelievably, the ranks below FM are even worse, as demonstrated by the examples of Michael "Morocco-bound" Matheson and the utterly feeble and clueless Shona Robison.

Independence is a dead duck, and with it, the SNP bubble has burst. Thank goodness for that, and hopefully we will be rid of it soon.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

Such cynical misdirection

FOR the purposes of her Scottish Budget presentation, Shona Robison put her Finance Secretary role to one side and focused instead on delivering a cynical performance of misdirection that befitted her standing as the SNP’s Deputy First Minister.

A Finance Secretary worthy of the title would have left us in no doubt as to who exactly would be picking up the tab of higher taxes, and which specific public services would most feel the pain of cuts. There was after all a huge £1.5 billion hole to be filled.

Yet in Deputy First Minister guise, Ms Robison chose simply to talk about what she thought sounded good. All the inconvenient detail could be left to experts to extract from the briefing papers released with the Budget. This would leave plenty of time in Ms Robison’s speech for her to try to blame the Tories for 16 years of SNP economic mismanagement. Equally she highlighted the £82 million of extra tax she hoped to raise from the new headline advanced tax band and raising the top rate of tax, taking time to list all the various roles that would not have to pay this tax including senior police officers, nurses, firemen and so on. Yet while she mentioned the freezing of the £43,663 threshold for the higher rate 42% band of tax, she did not clarify that this would bring over 60,000 middle-income earners into this band and raise an extra £307m of tax. No doubt many of those paying this would be on the list of people Ms Robison was so keen to point out would not pay tax due to her new advanced tax band.

On budget cuts we got a long list of the areas that the Deputy First Minister wanted to highlight for having inflation-matching increases. Only in the detail notes to the Budget did she reveal the real bad news of a range of deep cuts in critical areas such as the £200m cut to the housing budget. Over the coming days, leading figures in the front line of local government, the NHS, education, police and so on, will doubtless reveal their assessment of how supposed "inflation-matching" increases will actually leave them millions of pounds short of what they would really need to maintain services.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

Read more: Michelle Mone case shows why UK must act over tax loopholes

A broken contract

IT came as no surprise that this utterly incompetent SNP administration would call on wealth and job creators to pay more income tax in an attempt to cover its maladministration across all aspects of public policy. Our once-world-leading education system, the NHS and public transport have been plunged into crises entirely of the Government’s making and so the people are called to bail it out.

We hear little now of “progressive” taxation, instead replaced by the “social contract” between the Government and the people and this “social contract” therefore allows, for example, free tuition and free prescriptions. However the “contract” fails spectacularly to mention the hundreds of millions of pounds wasted on ferry procurement and wasteful court cases trying to save poor policy to name but two. Regretfully the people have no power to sue this unfit government for breaches of this “contract” but they do have the power to throw the incompetents out of office at the first opportunity. I hope they exercise that power.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

The Herald: The Ferguson Marine ferries are still a bone of contentionThe Ferguson Marine ferries are still a bone of contention (Image: PA)

Paying for their ineptitude

SHONA Robison doesn't seem to realise the mess the Scottish budget is in. Instead of reining in unnecessary spending to fill the black hole of a £1.5 billion deficit, she has decided on increasing expenditure. Spending for arts and culture up £15.8 million, £358m splurged on "clean" heating systems, £49m for the circular economy and £1bn on social security. How will that balance the deficit of £1.5bn?

I don't think Ms Robison knows what a billion or even a million looks like. From 1974, a billion in the UK has been a thousand million. If you were to spend a pound a second it would take you 31 years to spend a billion, and 46 years to spend the £1.5bn the SNP Government has rung up.

Remember this is our money - taxpayers' money- that we are talking about. The 39% of Scots according to the Scottish Government who do not pay income tax at all won't mind. The rest of us will have to pay for the burden of the SNP's ineptitude.

William Loneskie, Lauder.

Where to start with job cuts

SHONA Robison stated that public bodies would need to cut back staff. I would suggest she leads by example.

The SNP has nearly doubled the number of civil service staff in the last few years, so I would suggest she starts by getting rid of the "independence department", then follows it with the staff who support the Greens to write their flawed paperwork followed by the lawyers whose advice they never take when pursuing court cases.

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale.

Read more: It is a myth that Scots pay more tax than the English

Over to the opposition

CONSERVATIVE MSPs and their supporters have expressed their shock at the new advanced tax rate, the increase in the top rate, the freeze in the higher rate threshold, and the below-inflation increases in the intermediate rate threshold. They point to the Laffer curve argument that high marginal tax rates discourage work, or at least encourage people to take money out of their taxed pay and pay into pensions instead.

Will the Conservative or Labour party table an amendment to the Budget removing the £144 million funding for the council tax freeze, and reinstating the £170m of proposed council tax increases on the largest 25% of houses? This could fund reversing some £314m of income tax increases as a declaration of how they intend to work together in government after the next Scottish election. Or when forced to make the choice, do they prefer higher income tax and lower council tax after all?

Alan Ritchie, Glasgow.

An attempt at fairness

I FOUND the almost universally-harsh response to the Scottish Budget to be rather disappointing in the general failure to at least recognise the Budget's intention to deliver a degree of fairness: "those with the broadest shoulders should bear the heaviest burden".

One line of attack by commentators was that too many high earners could be driven from Scotland, so negating the purpose of the tax rise. But this previously-used argument has been overstated, for as has been admitted, current statistics show that there has been a trend towards positive net inward migration to Scotland from other parts of the UK.

It must be true that that taxation of wealth rather than taxation of income is a fairer process but the late 1980s history of how resistance to domestic rate rises led to the poll tax demonstrates the difficulty of achieving that desirable outcome.

Surely it's time for political parties and pundits to go beyond carping and outline better alternative revenue-raising approaches.

Dick Webster, Kingussie.

Tories focus on self-interest

THE award for jaw-dropping letter of the year must surely go to Alexander McKay for his incredible assertion (Letters, December 20) that the Tories' rat-like abandonment of the sinking ship Baroness Mone "makes the SNP look worse than ever" because the party stood by a decent man who made an honest mistake.

As is usual with the Tories, self-interest is all they care about. Lady Mone is an embarrassing skeleton in their House of Lords cupboard and they just want to stop her rattling in their direction.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.