THE Scottish Ministerial Code and the Scottish Civil Service Code really matter. They provide important protections in our democracy against abuses of power. Yet as we have seen demonstrated during the UK Covid Inquiry sessions in Edinburgh, breaches of these codes have become commonplace in the way that the Scottish Government conducts itself. To be clear, there is no defence under either of these codes to justify breaches on the basis of doing what you were told or that you were acting on the basis of a policy that purported to enable a breach of the codes of conduct.

The most obvious example in the current context is how witnesses to the Covid Inquiry have claimed that deletions of WhatsApp messages were in line with the Scottish Government’s social media policy. Again, to be clear, any minister or civil servant who participated in the development or use of a policy knowing that it would seek to circumvent the requirements of a judge-led public inquiry would themselves be in breach of their Codes of Conduct. Equally, any minister or civil servant who participated in Gold Command meetings during the Covid crisis in the knowledge that there would be no minutes taken of those meetings were also in breach of their Codes of Conduct, particularly knowing that there would be a public inquiry into the very matters discussed at those meetings.

Sadly, ignoring the requirements of the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Code has becoming such a feature of the SNP approach to government that the Codes have in practice been rendered all but meaningless. From the involvement of civil servants in producing misleading information in the production of the 2013 Scotland’s Future White Paper, through the widespread attempts over the intervening years to undermine Freedom of Information requests, and the casual relationship with the truth demonstrated by Scottish ministers in statements made in the Holyrood chamber or in response to its committee inquiries, the Scottish Government has encouraged the view that normal rules of conduct do not apply to it. That the First Minister and the most senior Scottish civil servant are the primary people who would need to refer themselves and senior colleagues for independent review of potential breaches of the codes, is clearly unhelpful in the pursuit of the truth. This is particularly the case if they are themselves arguably in breach of the Codes of Conduct or have already given a free pass to others who demonstrably have a case to answer. The codes of conduct for Scottish ministers and civil servants provide critical checks and balances of those in power. When will we get back to applying the codes properly and returning them to their rightful status as important protections of our democracy?

Keith Howell, West Linton.

Read more: Be thankful for what Sturgeon didn't do: behave like Johnson

Civil service heads should roll

SAY what you will about British government ministers over the last 50 years, it is inconceivable that their meetings, official conversations, and decisions would not have been routinely minuted. We have the professionalism of the British civil service to thank for the fact that records necessary for competent government are kept.

By contrast, the Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon regarded minutes as an optional extra. Each day seems to bring fresh revelations about its capricious handling of Covid: “Gold Command” meetings not minuted; the Finance Secretary sometimes kept out of the loop; decisions made on WhatsApp; and the then First Minister among others routinely deleting their WhatsApp messages.

Nor is this something new that came with the Covid crisis. The same sort of misbehaviour was at the root of the ferries procurement disaster. Minutes don’t exist to tell us who in the Scottish Government made key decisions, and in particular why a construction bond was not purchased to protect the public finances if the yard building the ships was to go bust, which of course is exactly what happened.

This pathological culture of contempt for the processes of government would surely not have been possible without the abject failure of senior civil servants in Edinburgh. When the SNP Government is finally replaced, there will have to be a thorough purge of those civil servants who have gone along with this reckless maladministration.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife.

Frustrated by Boris Johnson

NICOLA Sturgeon has stated that all her deleted messages only referred to comments leading up to decisions which were recorded and kept on record. The messages which were retained by recipients and presented later demonstrate this. We may not like her language and, whilst we may have thought it, we might not have put it in print.

What this does demonstrate is that she was frustrated by Boris Johnson’s attitude and incompetence, not to mention that of lickspittles like the Scottish Secretary and Michael Gove. In fact, at the inquiry in London, more than one government advisor described Mr Johnson as inadequate and dithering.

We must not forget the initial near-panic of what was a new situation, lockdowns affecting not just hospitals, nursing homes and schools but basic needs such as shopping for essentials and keeping households safe. Some expedient decisions by both governments had serious consequences but delays due to Downing Street dithering (between drinks parties) did us no favours. Countries that did not have such lockdowns seemed to manage better at first but now have more Long Covid cases.

The ongoing inquiry seeks the truth, yet much of the public, the media and politicians with an eye on an imminent election are having orgasms about deleted, perhaps inconsequential, emails. Let us not forget a government leadership that has been like a game of musical chairs by a party in our southern neighbourhood which voted for it on the Brexit bandwagon (and for which it is still in denial).

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.

The big lesson of Covid: next time, listen to the experts

Following protocol

AS I watch the coverage of the Covid Inquiry from Edinburgh I'm recognising the approach taken by the Scottish Government as it seems to mirror that adopted by the uniformed and emergency services: a small team directs the establishment's strategic plan and operational responses.

I can understand the anger demonstrated by protesters who have lost loved ones. I don't think this anger will ever be calmed by logical explanations, delayed apologies and a media focus on irrelevant online banter.

Allan McDougall, Neilston.

Never mind the facts

I WAS delighted to see the launch of the new paper by Angus Robertson on "Culture in an Independent Scotland" ("Independent Scotland would set up new public service broadcaster", heraldscotland, February 2). But I was also perhaps a little puzzled as (if I might put it modestly) the MD of a major player in the cultural sector in terms of publishing that I had not heard of this paper. Nor indeed do I know anyone who was consulted or asked about it.

But there we are: a petty consideration when we have such soaring aspiration. How much better that we don’t let the reality of cultural homogenisation, mediocrity and stagnation under this administration get in the way. The culture ministry is the only ministry in the Scottish Government which runs an off-licence in Edinburgh Castle. It used to be a bookshop but selling drink was more important than supporting Scottish culture. Facts indeed are awkward things best suppressed in our pursuit of nirvana.

It seems to me however that the nationalists are missing a trick with these papers. They lack ambition. After all when the conclusion is preordained ("All this would be possible if only we were independent") and the facts irrelevant, then one has the intellectual freedom to explore any narrative one likes.

Nuclear fusion? Climate crisis? Interstellar travel? World poverty? Solved at a stroke. Come on Angus, raise the game.

Hugh Andrew, Managing Director, Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh.

The Herald: The Scottish Government yesterday launched a paper on culture in an independent ScotlandThe Scottish Government yesterday launched a paper on culture in an independent Scotland (Image: Newsquest)

The search for knowledge

IF facing a health challenge, be it personal or as a national leader, many of us arm ourselves with knowledge: seeking expert advice within that field, either via articles or by appointment. As a carer, it is something I find myself doing frequently. In the matter of respiratory infections such as Covid or even existing severe lung conditions I have never considered consulting either a gynaecologist or dentist, even if they were the Chief Medical Officers.

Jean Johnston, Helensburgh.

Give us our fair share

I READ in the New York Times recently that projects in England are being delayed by a lack of infrastructure to bring “cheap electricity” from Scotland. Scotland produces some of Europe’s cheapest electricity but we are paying the highest charges anywhere in Europe.

People like Roz Foyer ("Highlands needs action, not talk", The Herald, February 2) need to understand that if the Highlands (and the rest of us), had electricity at cost, plus say 10%, from our own renewables then industry would flock here and good jobs would be plentiful.

There is also tidal power just waiting for development just off the coast. Scotland has some of the best sites in the world for harnessing tidal energy, but the Scottish Tory and Labour parties are thirled to spending vast sums of money only on nuclear power, which might be required for England but Scotland’s requirements (as a large-scale exporter of electricity) are different. For example, in Utah, a vast storage facility is being built to store hydrogen produced from excess renewables, and then being burned to produce power later. Scotland has depleted offshore oil and gas fields which could store hydrogen without the development costs of the Utah plant. All we need is a fair share of the moneys going to nuclear south of the Border.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Breeding ground for bacteria

BBC Scotland News had an article on its evening news bulletin (February 1)) about the unsurprisingly-low uptake of the incredibly costly heat pumps but it then cut to an organisation educating insulators of buildings. The enthusiastic young lady highlighted the items covered in the syllabus including "ensuring the airtightness of buildings". This means that bacteria and bugs are captive in stale air in moisture retained in a warm atmosphere, ideal for their breeding and inhalation.

It is no wonder that asthma and other related diseases are on the increase. Energy efficiency is one thing, but human health must surely over-ride it.

Peter Wright, West Kilbride.

A matter of class

I WAS intrigued by Jane Ann Liston's letter (January 26) about class.

As I am 94, my childhood was long ago, before the war. Nobody then talked about class, but they did talk about "rich people" and "poor people".

I met few rich people, but learned to identify them by their speech. They sounded English, as heard on the BBC, above all dropping the final "r" so that "motor" became "mota".

Poor people dropped "t" from inside a word, saying "mo-or". They still do. Recently I heard "antihistamine" without the two "t"s; difficult to do.

Anyway, it was then easy to spot poor people. Their children got out to play on Sundays, and their mothers called you "hen".

Moyna Gardner, Glasgow.