I REFER to Andy Maciver's article regarding the remuneration of MSPs ("Want better MSPs? Pay them more", The Herald, January 5). His view that we have poor quality elected representatives because they are not paid enough and therefore not attracting the "right" types, is fundamentally flawed. Democracy is about having elected representatives who want to be elected through a desire to influence the direction of government and not about building a highly rewarding career. The current salary arrangements are more than enough and should actually be reduced to nearer the median level of pay in the UK.

At the moment we have elected members who are making decisions and following the party line with more than an eye on retaining their lucrative salary and conditions.

By reducing their remuneration to societal averages and limiting their elected terms to two we would be encouraging a more selfless candidate to occupy these privileged positions and not the self-seekers we currently have. Doubling or increasing their payments would make this self-interest more embedded in the system, further reinforcing poor policy decision-making.

Elected representation should not be a career but a short-term honour bestowed on conscientious individuals by us, the electorate. I would contend that those who would serve under these new conditions would be more greatly respected than is currently the case with our politicians.

Don Ferguson, Kirkintilloch.

• I AM composing my first letter of 2024 having first scooped my jaw off the floor after reading Andy Maciver's ridiculous column about our supposedly underpaid and under-motivated Parliamentary representatives.

The key word in that last sentence is "representatives", as it is my understanding that we still live in a representative democracy, if only theoretically. One of the substantial weaknesses of our current system of democracy is that the parliamentarians who are charged with the responsibility of making decisions which impact on the living standards of millions of people already do so from a position of comparative wealth, living, as they do, on an income of some three to four times that of the average constituent, even before expenses and pensions are taken into account. While no reasonable person would argue that public servants should live in penury, if the potential parliamentarians of the future are not prepared to commit themselves to the principle of public service at an acceptable going rate and if they would rather find ways to maximise their incomes elsewhere, then, frankly, they are of little use to the public and have no business standing for election in the first place.

David Gray, Glasgow.

Read more: How to improve Holyrood: double the salaries of MSPs

Wealthier does not mean better

ANDY Maciver suggests that if we want better MSPs we should pay them more. I disagree.

Paying a higher salary is no guarantee that people with better skills or talents would be attracted to the job. Fred Goodwin is the perfect example of a highly-paid professional whose incompetence cost the taxpayer billions. Nick Leeson was another highly-paid professional whose recklessness caused his employer to lose over a billion. There are other more recent examples but I’ll leave that to the imagination of the reader. Perhaps I’m naive but I always believed that once upon a time many, if not most, politicians chose to become involved in politics due to a genuine belief in their cause and that they might actually change things for the better.

Sadly I now think that almost all politicians of whatever political hue see it as nothing more than a career. Paying them more will only make the situation worse, not better.

David Clark, Tarbolton.

Follow the Swedish model

BY referring to the great qualities of Alistair Darling in an article suggesting that politicians should be paid much higher salaries, Andy Maciver obviously sees no irony. Alistair Darling was widely respected because of his dedication and integrity. He was not in politics to make a lot of money.

Attempts to justify enormous salaries in industry, banks and other enterprises regularly state that "we need to get the best people". Recent experience of banking and other financial disasters, failed businesses, and huge fines levied on large accounting organisations for incompetence suggest that this policy is a failure.

Perhaps Mr Maciver should consider the employment conditions of Swedish MPs. They do not get official cars or drivers and use public transport. They do not get expenses for constituency travel. They live in state-owned apartments in Stockholm and do not receive allowances for second homes. Their tax returns are freely available like everyone else's.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

Spare a thought for York

WE learn that Prince Andrew has again attracted seriously damaging allegations and comment as a result of material emerging from a case in the US linked to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal ("Duke faces new storm as court papers on Epstein are released", The Herald, January 5). No doubt King Charles is having to seriously address the question of how the impact on the Royal Family can be lessened. The effects on Andrew’s own immediate family must be difficult to gauge, even in the face of all his denials.

Others considering how to mitigate the effects of all the damaging reports from the USA would include, one would think, the cathedral city of York. Why would the citizens of that famous and historic city wish to be saddled with a Duke who has been associated now for years with scandal as a result of his ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein? After all, the title is stated to be one of nobility.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

Read more: We need Kate Forbes to rescue Scottish politics from stalemate

The purpose of an FAI

“POLMONT YOI death inquiry to begin amid immunity anger” (The Herald, January 5) makes an attention-grabbing headline. It seeks to emphasise the deep-set frustration of the families of Katie Allan and William Lindsey who died in prison at the operation of Crown immunity. This has meant that there can be no criminal prosecution of the Scottish Prison Service in relation to alleged failures that contributed to their deaths.

The headline is arguably unhelpful as it seems to conflate criminal responsibility with the purpose (and outcome) of the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI). It raises unrealistic expectations as to what the FAI can achieve. The FAI cannot resolve that issue of Crown immunity.

The article seeks to highlight that the mandatory FAI which must take place is about to start, some six years after their deaths. That is a justified concern to flag as FAIs should be held as soon as possible to ensure to explore publicly the circumstances of such deaths and ensure lessons are learnt to avoid the recurrence of such deaths.

An FAI is held when instructed by the Lord Advocate, Head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and confusingly, too, the Scottish criminal prosecution service. The FAI is instructed under the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016. Had a public inquiry been instructed by the Government, an alternative form of an inquiry, it could have had a much wider remit, as with the two current Covid-19 inquiries.

This mandatory FAI relating to a death in custody will conclude when the judge issues the determination. It will make mandatory findings as to the time, place and cause of death. It focuses on findings which the judge may make relating to any precautions, systemic defects or other facts could reasonably have been taken and had they been taken might realistically have resulted in the deaths being avoided.

Crucially, the determination is not admissible in evidence in any other proceeding, either criminal or civil. Furthermore, under Section 1 (4), it is not the purpose of the FAI to establish civil or criminal liability. This means that the issue of Crown immunity cannot be explored within the framework of the FAI.

The holding of the FAI is essential to highlight any failures that contributed to their tragic deaths. It can make recommendations that may seek to avoid a repetition of such deaths in the future.

The focus of the article should have been on the purpose of FAI in what it can and should achieve while recognising the background of the families’ distress. That would have allowed the public to understand the important role of a FAI in the Scottish justice system.

Gillian Mawdsley, Glasgow.

On the to-doo list

RESPECT for Duncan Ferguson, former Rangers and Scotland striker, and now manager at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Once described as the "hard man" of Scottish football, he's been sent off twice in six games as manager and has to watch his side take on Ayr United today from the stand.

But in a wonderfully candid press conference ("'The rules are the rules. I have to educate myself': Ferguson defends Scottish refs", The Herald, January 5) Big Dunc showed he has mellowed and admitted he shouldn't have approached the referees in two games the way he did.

"I have to educate myself, " he said. "It is a tough job to be a referee isn't it?"

The most recent red card means he'll have no contact with his team during the game at Ayr and have to rely on his assistants trackside to make the decisions. "I haven't got a clue how to use a walkie-talkie," he confessed.

Can I suggest he might revert to one of his favourite pastimes and use a pigeon to take messages to the bench?

Andy Stenton, Glasgow.

The Herald: Donald Caskie, aka the Tartan PimpernelDonald Caskie, aka the Tartan Pimpernel (Image: Newsquest)

Mentor to the Pimpernel

DONALD Caskie, the Tartan Pimpernel, has been figuring in The Herald recently ("Remember when... We honoured the Tartan Pimpernel", The Herald, December 28, and Letters, December 29). In his autobiography he wrote: "Miss Jessie Marshall is one of the persons to whom I shall be indebted throughout life and eternity, for she gave me the language which was the means of my work in Paris."

Jessie Marshall was my father's aunt who taught French in Bowmore, Islay. Caskie tells us that that as a schoolboy he "stormed" at her: "Why must I study this wretched language? It's no use to a Scotsman. I hate it."

She replied: "French is a great and wonderful language and you will be grateful for it some day, Donald." And he was, as she told many of her later pupils.

In her old age, she regaled me with accounts of this as she supervised my French homework in Glasgow in the 1960s. My gratitude was merely for a decent pass in Higher French, but her memory and legacy live on through so many lives which would otherwise have been lost.

She appeared on Caskie's This is Your Life presented by Eamonn Andrews.

Marilyn Copland, Glasgow.

Milking it

IT is suggested that the speedy return of the three ships the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta, in 1493 (Letters, January 5) from the New World was due to the fuel used by the crews. They were said to go to work on "A Pinta milk a day".


R Johnston, Newton Mearns.