KATE Forbes ("Forbes criticises approach to tax", The Herald, February 5) ought to know that disunity and political self-serving never ever got a party election success.

Surely she can put aside her slight at failing in the last leadership bid and put her ambition on hold during an exceptionally important election year with far more at stake than single issues?

The new wave of politicians we've seen so evident in the Tory Party who see political profile for themselves as first and foremost in any media foray is surely not something we want to become a regular feature of Scottish politics.

Amanda Baker, Edinburgh.

Scotland Office role subverted

IT was good to see how many of your correspondents were disgusted by the churlish and mean-minded comments made by Alister Jack at the Covid Inquiry (Letters, February 5) and it is interesting to note how widely they have been reported. During the same session, he admitted that he had deleted all his emails but, strangely, this has received much less publicity.

The office of Secretary of State for Scotland was created to provide Scotland with a representative voice at Westminster and several early secretaries fulfilled that function honourably.

Unfortunately, successive governments have subverted the position until it is now more akin to the role of Governor General and serves as a tool for the manipulation of Scottish affairs by Westminster.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

The Herald: Alister JackAlister Jack (Image: Gerry)

Blocking access to the truth

THANKS to James McEnaney for providing such eye-opening revelations on the use of Freedom of Information requests (“A wall of silence in effort to investigate SNP education plan", The Herald, February 3). It is clear that the current Scottish Government has developed an active approach to frustrate attempts to access information that should be publicly available. This is more akin to insurance companies having departments to reject claims out of hand, rather than the transparent government that FoI legislation was intended to provide.

The SNP Minister for Parliamentary Business, George Adam, was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland’s GMS show today. He rather glibly dismissed questions over WhatsApp message deletions and criticisms of how the Scottish Government routinely responds to FoI requests. He repeated the Nicola Sturgeon line of how he and his colleagues retain what they consider is relevant and important before deleting messages, completely ignoring the critical issue of how it should be for others, in the case of Covid, a judge and lawyers appointed to the inquiry, to decide what is relevant or not. Equally, as the minister quoted figures of the high proportion of FoI requests that are now responded to within the timescales specified under FoI rules, he failed to properly address how this was being achieved by widespread use of redaction and exemptions. As James McEnaney explained using the example of the SNP’s curious reluctance to talk about the Centre for Teaching Excellence announced by the Education Secretary at last year’s SNP conference, these redactions and exemptions can be challenged, but this further runs the clock out and often results in alternate reasons given for not providing what was asked for.

It is no wonder Scottish Information Commissioner David Hamilton finds he so often has to question the Scottish Government’s approach to dealing with information requests (“Probe over SNP informal messaging”, The Herald, February 5). It seems journalists, members of the public, or even a judge-led public inquiry are forced to have to wade through this Scottish Government's blatant attempts to side-step proper access to potentially inconvenient truths.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

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HAVING read with interest James McEnaney's Big Read, what struck me most other than the groan about yet another SNP initiative was the sheer stupidity of the title Centre of Teaching Excellence.

The universally acknowledged failure of the Curriculum For Excellence should have indicated that it might have been wiser to drop the word excellence from further schemes especially in the same field, but then the SNP and wisdom are not synonymous.

Margie Currie, Blackwaterfoot, Arran.

Read more: We should be grateful we had Nicola Sturgeon at the helm

Sturgeon saw an opportunity

ONCE again Ruth Marr (Letters, February 2) comes to the aid of Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation. She seems convinced that the former First Minister navigated her way through the Covid pandemic with aplomb, when in fact her daily briefings contained information which merely mirrored that of Westminster, but with tweaks here and there to appear different for the sake of it.

Ms Sturgeon made just as many mistakes in her handling of the pandemic as her colleagues in the south, however her complete and utter subjugation of her fellow Scottish Cabinet members meant it was her way or the highway.

Whilst I accept that she must have had the national interest at heart, it was also patently obvious that Ms Sturgeon saw an opportunity to politicise the situation and elevate the cause of the SNP by appearing almost daily on our television screens. She also stretches the truth with her assertion that the case for independence was absent from her mind during this period, considering her ambition for an independent Scotland is sacrosanct.

Turning to Ms Marr’s comments about Boris Johnson, I agree that some of his remarks were crass and that Downing Street parties should never have been allowed under his watch. However he has paid for his misdemeanours with his job, unlike some members of the SNP, one of whom remains in a Cabinet post having lied to Holyrood and the general public.

Christopher H Jones, Giffnock.

Holyrood and its civil servants

P DAVIDSON (Letters, February 5) asks: "Since Holyrood does not choose and appoint its own civil servants but has to accept those members of the British civil service appointed by Westminster to work for the Scottish Government, perhaps he would like to explain why the same British civil service is so punctilious and competent at Westminster but so inefficient and unprofessional at Holyrood?"

I can answer that from the Schedule of Principal Terms and Conditions of Appointment: "Your employer is the Scottish Ministers, as agent of, and acting on behalf, the Crown. As a Crown employee you are part of the UK Civil Service. Scottish Ministers have delegated authority to exercise the statutory functions of an employer for staff in the Scottish Government."

Holyrood chooses and appoints its own civil servants under that delegated authority. It also has authority for disciplinary action and should have reacted as such when the "plausible deniability" term was used and lack of minutes for Gold meetings were not taken, never mind retained.

Peter Wright, West Kilbride.

Read more: We must get back to properly applying codes of conduct

Interesting times ahead

MARK Smith ("Political change is definitely coming", The Herald, February 5) asserts that people like him (middle class and middle age), are “largely suspicious of Scottish nationalism and always have been”. In this, he seems to have missed the switch of Tory votes and seats to the SNP from Galloway to Angus in the 1970s.

I agree with him that change is in the air, but we have no idea what it will entail, either for Scotland or the UK. Labour is led by a man who reminds me of Emmanuel Macron in France, a chameleon whose daily transpositions invites distrust. In Scotland Labour is on the rise, driven by strong media support, but this is largely vacuous party promotion rather than policy exposition. The SNP is in ebb-flow as the party ex-leader faces vituperation, but whose worst deed was to do exactly the same as the pandemic leadership in England and Wales (excusing Mark Drakeford).

How will this end? A change of government at Westminster certainly, but also perhaps a historic coalition between the three “British” parties at Holyrood at the next election? We live in interesting times.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

That's it for centuries

THE SNP is currently in a state of implosion. Most of its key figures have either gone or are about to quit the hustings. Just who will replace stalwarts like Alex Salmond, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon in the quest for an independent Scotland? Certainly not politicians of, for instance, Humza Yousaf's experience or capability.

The dream of Scottish independence has died, but might return again in another few hundred years with another kindling of the Bannockburn spirit.

Since it is inevitable that the political scene in Scotland is going to enter a new phase following this year's General Election, and even more dramatically after the Holyrood poll in 2026, we Scots should prepare for many changes to our advantage at both Holyrood and local government level.

Let us hope that the Scottish Parliament will revert to what was envisaged by its Labour/Liberal Democrat founders back in 1999 following the passing of the Scotland Act 1998 in Westminster.

Robert IG Scott, Ceres, Fife.