I AM surprised that Neil Mackay ("I don't think there's a genuine left-winger in the SNP", January 21) should believe that Mick Lynch "has become a symbol of hope for the Left", given Jeremy Corbyn's treatment by Sir Keir Starmer and the right-wingers in his party.

Young people in their thousands, others who may not have voted Labour before he became leader of the Labour Party, did so because he seemed to offer the hope of an almost Christian-like ideology of fairness. Yes, he was almost a Messianic figure, prompting chants of "Oh Jeremy Corbyn!" at music festivals: yet he has been cast into the political wilderness.

What does Mick Lynch have to offer? Well, according to Professor Gregor Gall, "Lynch is a master of 'sharp power', meaning the art of being manipulative". Why, then, should the professor be surprised that Mr Lynch's machinations have resulted in a "startling" drop in union membership?

Perhaps it's because his union's activities have infuriated the general public. We have watched him on TV bulletins calling on his members to strike with the result that trains stop working over holiday periods so that families can't meet to celebrate Christmas or to holiday together - and the timing of these strikes is carefully timed to cause maximum disruption to the travelling public.

Mr Lynch's influence has spread to many other work sectors, causing the same anger and frustration experienced by rail users. It's possible that the drop in union membership is linked to these factors. Perhaps Prof Gall, because "he knows the Left intimately", might offer them a different way to resuscitate: use your intelligence to think of different ways to apply pressure on employers and stop disrupting the lives of ordinary people because we're sick of being regarded as collateral damage in the Left's plans to gain power.

Mick Lynch is a symbol of No Hope to the general public.

Lovina Roe, Perth.

Read more: Why should SNP expect rUK to cover for its mistakes?

Who will lead drive for justice?

ALL credit to you for publishing Professor Gregor Gall's views on the Left in Scotland. Very interesting for an old leftie to have such an article to peruse.

I suppose one of the first questions the article raises is what do we mean by "the Left"? One of the pertinent issues about the Scottish National Party is how it changed after 2014 with a huge influx of Labour Party members, a few Communists and a number of others of left-wing inclination who were of no party.

I think this is what confuses many academic discussions about the strength of the Left in Scotland. As a communist, the 2014 independence campaign was the closest thing I have ever seen to a home-grown revolution, with many of the best events driven by the grassroots. If you are a researcher trying to quantify how left-wing a country is, it is difficult if this elusive political spirit is not captured within the confines of political parties or trade unions.

What was also very interesting to me was that Prof Gall paid no attention to Scotland's newest political party, Alba.This is a party of about 7,000 people, many of whom left the SNP because of the inertia of the SNP leadership on independence and because of its bizarre position on sex and gender issues.This is a party committed to social equity and independence.

What I have always found strange about the Labour Party in Scotland was its lack of interest in Scotland's money-making enterprises and where the money went to. As a life-long socialist my credo has always been "follow the money'", so it surprised me when I discovered that the Labour Party of late had no interest in changing the direction of Scottish money to London and the South East. Is this lack of interest perhaps part of Prof Gall's quest?

Prof Alf Baird has written a fine book, Doun Hauden ("oppressed" in Scots), which details carefully the way that Westminster (English) hegemony of Scottish politics, language, culture, education and economic life has reduced Scotland to an English colony. The 1707 Treaty of Union that guaranteed parity of esteem and trading between Scotland and England has been breached many times.

Which section of Scottish society will pick up the baton for Scottish justice and human rights in the International Court of Justice?

Maggie Chetty, Glasgow.

The Herald: Nicola Sturgeon delivering one of her daily Covid briefingsNicola Sturgeon delivering one of her daily Covid briefings (Image: Scottish Government)

The halo is slipping

THE Covid Inquiry may still be ongoing but the revelations slowly emerging show a very different picture to the appearances of control and stability portrayed by Nicola Sturgeon during her daily Covid briefing sessions to the Scottish people.

Thought of as a "goddess" by many of the party faithful, a view still shared by some, her behind-the-scenes handling of the pandemic, including the deleting of WhatsApp messages and allegations that the crisis was used as a way to further independence, challenges that impression of her.

The shortage of official records available to the inquiry may mean that the true circumstances surrounding the Scottish Government's handling of the pandemic will never be known and signals a betrayal of the relatives of those who died in care homes. Nothing is ever what it seems and that is true of the actions of politicians.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.

Tourist tax must not be delayed

I NOTE from my records that I first wrote to The Herald in December 2018 suggesting the speedy introduction of a Scottish tourist tax. It is astonishing that here we are in 2024 still in discussion ("Scot Gov considers tourist tax based on cost of visitors’ rooms", January 21) with perhaps 2026 as the earliest when the tourist tax might be introduced. I accept that the pandemic inevitably delayed earlier implementation but surely the time could have been profitably spent researching the experience of other European cities and deciding whether it was best to have a fixed charge for an overnight stay or a graded charge depending on the accommodation used by the visitor.

You report that there is still opposition from representatives of the hospitality sector with claims that such a tax would discourage visitors from coming to Scotland. I just simply cannot accept this as an argument. A tourist tax is routinely applied to visitors’ accommodation bills throughout Europe and beyond. In some countries it is a standard charge while in others it depends on the standard of accommodation. From this month, the tourist tax in Paris is €5.20 per person per night when staying at a three-star hotel, and €8.13 per night where a person is staying at a four-star hotel. In the Netherlands, there is a flat-rate tax of €3 per person per night Visitors will continue to flock to Scotland in very large numbers. VisitScotland reports that in 2022 a total of 3.2 million visits were made to Scotland by international visitors, staying for 29.7m nights. With now some 16m visitor nights per year in Edinburgh, such a modest charge, equivalent to the cost of a cup of coffee, would raise some £30m annually for the city. At a time when public services have been under such strain and faced with the grim prospect of yet more cuts to come, surely now is the time to add to the funds available to our local authorities. Visitors expect to find decent public services: empty litter bins, clean streets, accessible public toilets and welcoming tourist attractions. The whole of Scotland would benefit considerably. We simply cannot afford to continue to delay the introduction of a tourist tax.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

Read more: WhatsApp is a sideshow. We should focus on the facts

Saudi dream is crumbling

THE Saudi soccer enterprise to woo high-calibre footballers with cartloads of cash to join its league started with a bang. Managers, big-name footballers and young stars with potential jumped on to that bandwagon, hypnotised by the financial rewards on offer.

It has not taken long for the reality of the situation to outstrip the dream.

Lack of atmosphere, drab desert surroundings and restrictive ways of living dampened the enthusiasm and left disillusionment in its wake. It began to dawn on the players that bags of money were no substitute for the glory, glitz and glamour of European football.

Though many of those who fell for the Saudi spiel and the salaries beyond avarice may have gone there to boost their retirement pensions, the cracks have begun to appear.

What looks like a trickle with the departure from Saudi of Jota, a young starlet who had hoped to boost his bank account considerably and to learn his trade alongside legendary players, Jordan Henderson, who longed again for the excitement of European football with its attendant publicity, and Karim Benzema, who knew that he still had much to offer at the highest levels of the game, could soon become a flood, leaving the Saudi enterprise in tatters and looking like a retirement home for those hoping for some easily-earned cash.

The lesson to be learned here is that, while the financial rewards are important in such a short career, achievement at the highest level tops all that.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

Our two big problems

TREVOR Rigg (Letters, January 21) is correct to think that the world would be a better place with a reduced population. But the basic problem is our inability to co-exist without strife, and that is entirely down to politics and religion. If those could be abolished that would make people peaceful and happier.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.

A healthy situation

I WAS advised I needed an MRI scan on my neck but I was told it could be four to six weeks before I got an appointment.

Imagine my surprise when getting a phone call offering me one within three days.

It just goes to show its not all doom and gloom with NHS waiting times.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.