THE issue of cuts to public services and local councils affects everyone from children to pensioners. It is crucial that we understand that the blame for these savage cuts lies squarely with the SNP Scottish Government. It can’t point the finger of blame at Westminster as the real-terms cuts to councils are three times the reduction in the Scottish block grant.

Analysis by the politically neutral Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that in real terms, the planned increase in council budgets was only 1.6% which is massively eroded by unavoidable increased costs and wage rises. This lack of funding from the SNP Government is what is causing council spending cuts.

SNP minister Mairi McAllan has naively blamed previous Labour governments for using PFI schemes to build schools and hospitals for the pressure on council budgets but fails to acknowledge that the SNP Government still finances many projects using PFI under the sneakily-changed names of Scottish Futures Trust and HubCo.

When the library, community hall, playgroup and golf course are closed, remember that the SNP Government is to blame.

James Quinn, Lanark.

Failure lies in Holyrood

AS one who is occasionally published in The Herald complaining about the Scottish Government I think it only fair to respond to Archie Hamilton's letter (February 6).

There are areas of Westminster policy which are horrendous, not least of which is removal from the single market and the enduring incompetence of the Tory Government.

I write however to a Scottish paper on issues directly affecting me. Spending in Scotland is mainly the preserve of Holyrood and the failure to deliver on policy commitments lies squarely with the SNP and the Greens. The Scottish Government pledges to improve services but consistently fails to deliver, affordable and social housing targets being the latest reported example in today's paper. In reality it is no different from the Tory government, over promising and under delivering.

When it gets things right in Scotland I will write about the UK Government. No doubt ardent SNP supporters will say it is lack of funding from Westminster that is the problem but the Scottish Government sets the priorities for its spending and has to be held to account accordingly.

Bill Eadie, Giffnock.

Read more: Now we know how important the monarchy is to the nation

We will not be fooled

HOW I long for this SNP-Green administration to grow up and begin to tell the truth. Why do we have to go through these verbal wringers? We know the increase in the SNP tax on alcohol has made no difference whatsoever to problem drinkers' consumption, which we were told was the reason for the new tax in the first place. We must wonder why we have to go through the nonsense of proclaiming the latest proposed increase to be for the same reason ("Retailers urge SNP to shelve tax plan", The Herald, February 6).

Why not have the courage to admit it is for more pretend embassies and SNP-Green ministers' luxury jaunts overseas and perhaps if anything is left over a tad towards the SNP ferries' deficit? In the meantime, the problem drinking crisis will no doubt be getting worse.

Does the SNP really think the voters are that stupid?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.

UK is failing us on pensions

A CLEAR sign that a state is failing is when it raises the pension age, especially when life expectancy is falling. It means the state is not meeting its primary responsibility to protect its people and ensure their health and wellbeing. By this measure alone, the UK is failing.

From May 2026, the UK retirement age will increase from 66 to 67 and then to 68 from 2044. There’s talk it may need to rise to 71 ("State pension could rise to 71 soon, experts claim" heraldscotland, February 5). Just half of adults in England and Wales are healthy and able to work at the age of 70. Most suffer from preventable illnesses because they are not receiving the health care they need in order to lead productive lives. Per capita health spending has fallen in real terms and over the last decade the UK spent a fifth less than its European neighbours.

A decade of Tory austerity stalled live expectancy and then in 2020/21 it fell due to Covid.

In addition, there’s an unexplained increase in excess deaths amongst working aged people. In Scotland in 2021, excess deaths were 12% above average. UK-wide in 2023, they were 13% higher among the 50-64 age group. Worryingly, the UK actuarial body reported that 2022 excess deaths were three times higher for those aged 20-44 than those aged 75-84. As more people die early, life expectancy will fall further.

The Government should urgently investigate the reasons for these excess deaths. It should also dramatically increase health spending to compensate for years of underfunding if the UK workforce is to be fit and productive. Health spending is a good investment. Each pound spent on healthcare generates £4 of economic activity.

Unfortunately, Keir Starmer’s English Labour is hell-bent on following its fictional fiscal rules, so no more spending. As a result, the UK’s health and economy will continue to decline. That’s a pretty good reason for Scotland to end the Union.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

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Could Johnson make a comeback?

BORIS Johnson may have paid for his misdemeanours with his job (Christopher H Jones, Letters, February 6) but meantime he is earning millions of pounds through public speaking, newspaper articles and more.

I am sure that whilst making enough to keep his large and extended family in a very comfortable lifestyle, he will be planning a political comeback once the Labour Party wins the next General Election and probably loses the next. If his mentor Donald Trump, despite criminal investigations and possible convictions, can make a comeback, why should a long-forgotten Partygate become an obstacle?

Malcolm Rankin, Seamill.

The Herald: Jacob Rees-MoggJacob Rees-Mogg (Image: PA)

Pomposity personified?

IS the Jacob Rees-Mogg who addressed the meeting of the "Popular Conservatives" aka the Oxymoron Party and who said we've had more than enough of "pompous preening politicians who have been in power far too long" ("Kwarteng to step down as MP", The Herald, February 7) related in any way to Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset and holder of several government and Cabinet posts in the Conservative government that has been in power since 2010?

John McArthur, Glasgow.

Read more: Kate Forbes needs to put her personal ambition on hold

Scrap LPG plan for Glen Sannox

THE Scottish Government must scrap the plans to make Arran’s much-delayed new ferry the Glen Sannox run on LPG as well as on conventional marine fuel. Delays to the supply of the special pipework needed for the LPG are given as the reason for the latest delay and associated cost increase ("‘Emerging risk’ over green fuel to mean more delays for new ferries", The Herald, February 3). This might be justified if the LPG system was genuinely the green option, but it now seems that LPG is far from being that.

You report that the European Federation for Transport and Environment believe that the ferry engines chosen are the worst for methane greenhouse gas leakage. It says that using LPG as a marine fuel goes against the Global Methane Pledge. Put simply, the benefit of the reduced CO2 output from an LPG engine is more than wiped out by the damage caused by leakage of methane a far more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2.

This means that continuing to fit out the Glen Sannox for LPG will be throwing good money after bad with no environmental benefit. Surely ministers must now instruct CMAL and Fergusons to concentrate on getting the vessel into service running on conventional fuel, if necessary fitting extra ballast or fuel tanks to compensate for the weight of missing LPG equipment.

Such a move would remove the risk of further delays as the LPG systems are tested and commissioned. LPG tanks and refuelling plant at Ardrossan and/or Troon would not be needed. Road tankers would not have to bring LPG all the way from the south-east of England. And, if the LPG equipment installation on the Glen Rosa is far behind that on the Glen Sannox, it should provide an actual cost saving on the massively over-budget contract.

While ministers will have to act fast to scrap the LPG plans, in the longer-term Holyrood’s Transport Committee should investigate why the Government ever set off down the dual fuel ferries path. This has cost us, the taxpayers, a fortune. It has also left Arran struggling with an inadequate ferry service, and has trashed the reputation of a once well respected shipyard.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.