I'M hearing and reading about cuts to local services, the local services that make life bearable in these dreadful economic times, run by local councils, with councillors having to vote to cut finance for libraries, leisure facilities, parks, Christmas trees, street cleaning, road repairs, arts, school support staff for pupils with additional needs (30-40% of pupils, apparently), social work; the list goes on, almost endlessly ("Cosla rejects minister’s claim Budget cash is enough to fund council tax freeze", The Herald, December 22).

Councillors, it's time to say "No". Without adequate funding from the Government, local democracy has become meaningless.

I would seriously suggest that all councillors, from all parties or none, should resign.

The answer is with the Government; either give us real local democracy, of which Scotland used to be rightly proud, or continue to enforce control of the cash from Edinburgh, blaming councils and councillors for the ongoing impoverishment of our shared social services and public spaces.

There has been quite a rash of strikes this year. It's time, councillors, to hit the street. Everybody out.

AJ Clarence, Prestwick.

Advantage of the Nordic states

I HAVE waited a few days to let the anticipated furore over the latest SNP Budget die down before taking to the keyboard. As expected some of the usual suspects, Peter A Russell, Keith Howell, Richard Allison, and William Loneskie were first out of the blocks with their tropes (Letters, December 21), though they didn't tell us anything we couldn't have guessed at. Today John Gilligan (Letters, December 22) at least came up with an angle I could agree with, at least in part.).

Mr Gilligan tells us that on occasions in his life, he has been in the fortunate position of paying taxes at a higher rate, and he didn't resent it. I have been in that fortunate position too; on one occasion I even had to employ an accountant to fill in my tax return, and I remember him telling me "that will pay for a teacher or a nurse", and I remember how pleased I was at that.

Mr Gilligan then goes on to compare Scotland with Scandinavian countries, their high levels of taxation, accompanied by their much higher quality of services and infrastructure compared to Scotland's; he's right about that too, but then heaps all of the blame for that situation on the shoulders of one of our two governments, and the junior partner to boot.

Mr Gilligan fails to point out one important advantage that Scandinavian countries have over Scotland; they don't have a senior partner giving them an allowance to spend, interfering with their priorities, and even resenting their existence.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

Read more: High taxes would be fine if they were being spent wisely

Expect no relief from austerity

TO begin on a note of festive agreement, Peter A Russell is quite right that the recent Scottish Budget “has been a long time in the making”. This is because the Scottish Government is in a position similar to that of English local authorities declaring themselves bankrupt, as the resources provided under Westminster’s favoured policy of austerity are increasingly inadequate to pay for the services they must deliver by law. Likewise, the revenue provided to the Scottish Government by Westminster is insufficient to meet Scotland’s needs, with borrowing powers at least as inadequate.

Scottish Government policies are at odds with Westminster’s dominant policy of austerity. There, the Bank of England view dominates, that austerity, tax cuts for the wealthy and a reduced public sector, are necessary to defeat inflation. Even Labour is signed up to this as it proposes more powers for the Bank of England, a significant advocate of austerity, as well as a balanced government budget which even the Conservatives don’t propose.

Therefore, having used every trick, raided every reserve, the Scottish Government has finally run out of road. It has no discretion because, with limited powers to vary income tax and no powers over other large-earning taxes such as National Insurance and Corporation Tax, its revenue is essentially what Westminster would spend in Scotland were it not for devolution. Scottish Government spending is, therefore, limited by decisions about spending in England, taken by a government that Scotland did not elect.

Next year’s General Election will therefore bring no relief. No matter the outcome, austerity will still be the dominant economic paradigm, with no possibility of an alternative, equity-driven, higher spending policy being implemented.

However, Mr Russell sees no need to consider technicalities such as these, preferring mudslinging more typical of such as X (formerly Twitter). So it’s important to remind readers of Michael "Morocco-bound" Matheson”, and that Alex Salmond could have been “a better man” (actually that was his advocate Gordon Jackson), and certainly about Humza Yoursaf’s private education, though not that Anas Sarwar attended the same school at much the same time.

Serious debate deserves better. However, turning to such invective indicates a debate that has been lost.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

A poisoned chalice?

SHONA Robison has attracted many brickbats for the content of the Budget recently presented to the Scottish Parliament. She was elected to that Parliament in 1999. Before then she had graduated MA in Social Sciences and thereafter worked in a local authority social work department.

I wonder whether or not she at any point then ever envisaged that she would become the person deemed most fit, within the ranks of the SNP elected to Holyrood, to be in charge of Scotland’s national finances and, as a result, responsible for presenting budgets. I also wonder whether or not there are times when she wishes that she had stuck with social work.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

Please, stop the clapping

EARLIER this week I watched the live TV broadcast of Shona Robison delivering the Scottish Government Budget proposals. That was not a good choice of daytime viewing.

Putting aside the content of the speech and the monotone delivery, I was astounded at the frequent references to the UK Government as being responsible for Scotland’s fiscal problems. I was also struck by the puerile responses by Ms Robison to legitimate criticism of the Budget from the Tory and Labour spokespersons.

However, the overwhelming issue that disturbed me was the partisan clapping of MSPs following even the most asinine remarks of party colleagues.

Clapping and banging of desks should not be allowed in a serious legislative assembly. (Sarcastic laughter is permissible, perhaps even compulsory.)

James Quinn, Lanark.

The Herald: Would Margaret Thatcher's principles serve Scotland well?Would Margaret Thatcher's principles serve Scotland well? (Image: PA)

We need more Thatcherism

PETER Scott writes that continuing attacks on free education will lead to the final victory of Thatcherism (Letters, December 20). May I remind him of the great lady's words at the Conservative Party conference in 1983: "We have a duty to make sure that every penny piece we raise in taxation is spent wisely and well."

Margaret Thatcher's success was in part due to her homely understanding of a simple but profound truth: that the money spent by the government is fundamentally not public money; it is, fundamentally, the taxpayers' money.

But it has long been known that this Holyrood administration has, to put it charitably, a careless disregard when it comes to the handling of the taxpayer's money. Now, inevitably, that same entitled arrogance has spread to its hangers-on ("Water watchdog uses public funds to settle unpaid taxes", The Herald, December 22). A textbook example of monkey see: monkey do.

And this begs a very simple but serious question: how much more of this is going on? Scotland, more than ever, could do with some good, common sense Thatcherism.

Graeme Arnott, Stewarton.

Read more: Assisted dying: a better option is properly funded hospices

Education is not free

PETER Scott is bang on with his assessment on the provision of higher education in Scotland but I must challenge him on the use of the word “free”. Higher education is not free in Scotland. We pay for it. What’s more, we decided to pay for it and elected the politicians who promised to deliver it.

He is further correct that Margaret Thatcher would never have sanctioned it. Neither, I believe, would the near-billionaire Rishi Sunak.

Steve Brennan, Coatbridge.

We need balance in dying debate

I AGREE with Neil Mackay that we can all aspire to know dignity and comfort as we approach the end of life ("Esther Rantzen deserves a humane death. As do we all", The Herald, December 21). Sadly, the horrific experience he relates about his father-in-law was very different.He clearly assumes that a medically assisted death would provide a good alternative, but he’s wrong. Wrong for several reasons.

First, while maintaining agency and choice is important, autonomy is not a trump card amongst the principles of medical ethics. International experience has shown just how dangerous it can be for those who are vulnerable or who struggle with disability. Experience in Oregon (which is held up as a model for possible Scottish legislation) demonstrates that the main reasons people request an assisted death relate to such issues as not wishing to be a burden. Pain virtually never features as a reason and good palliative care offers excellent symptom control.

Secondly, safeguards are, I’m afraid, nothing of the kind. Consider the protections introduced in Canada with the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation in 2016. They are virtually all dissolved and in practical terms assisted suicide is frequently offered to individuals unable to access medical, psychological or even social care.

Mr Mackay opines that the barrier to a change in the law is "organised religion". I have never considered that such an argument should dictate public policy. Legalising assisted suicide is unnecessary and would change the nature of medical practice forever. Physicians are trained to relieve suffering and protect life. Prescribing lethal drugs has no place in healthcare.

Finally, what about dignity? Self-administering a concoction of poisons regularly fails to lead to the peaceful, dignified demise that proponents of assisted suicide would like to sell us. At least 15% of patients experience profound nausea, vomiting and pain, related to the drugs. To imagine otherwise is simply naive.

By all means let’s have a debate, but we need all the facts and we need a sense of balance. Politicians have consistently rowed back from legislating for assisted suicide because when they realise exactly what the implications are, they have been wise enough to recommend that our efforts ought to be directed to improving access to quality palliative care instead.

David J Galloway, Former President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

• HAVING watched both my parents suffering unnecessarily protracted and unpleasant deaths I firmly support assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

The only difference I see between palliative care for those who are dying and assisted suicide is the time interval involved in both processes. I believe it is the innate right of any mentally competent person in that situation to be able to make that basic decision and it is symptomatic of the arrogance of a section of society who believe that their opinion trumps that of others that they would prevent an individual at the end of life determining how and when it would end.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.