IT is clear that Sir Keir Starmer, followed with unremitting, stolid complicity by Rachel Reeves and the rest of his Shadow Cabinet, has some time ago, sold the soul of the Labour Party. Like Faustus and his servants, in mindless pursuit of power, they have put themselves and their policies in hock to the precise causes of UK economic, social and political failure.

He has already given a blanket assurance to the City of London that their dodgy deals, offshore "activities", bankers' bonuses and shadowy oligarchs will continue untroubled by a Labour Westminster government; Benjamin Netanyahu's genocidal destruction of Gaza, including hospitals, refugee camps and over 11,000 murdered children has proceeded unchallenged, and no doubt encouraged, by his desperate subservience to the "Westminster line" on Israeli war crimes; he has, long ago, submitted wholesale to the far-right, racist Brexit which has destroyed so many aspects of the UK economy, especially food businesses in Scotland; he has endorsed existing privatisations within vital public services like health, transport, water and energy and accepts the horrors of the privatised “care industry", promising there will be no reversal of Thatcherism from Labour.

Today, on the same day that we are told the world has now reached the crucial warming mark of 1.5C, Keir Starmer withdrew his promise of £28 billion investment in "green initiatives" ("Starmer to ditch £28bn Green spending vow", heraldscotland, February 8). Quite apart from perplexed (and flooded) Tory constituencies around the Severn and the Thames, the rest of the world, especially younger people, must be wondering who is pulling this horribly meaningless Labour leader's strings.

Mephistopheles did, in his own way, try to warn Faustus against grasping power by selling his soul. Like Faustus, Sir Keir doesn't get it either: whatever he does now, it's clear that now that he has submitted to the banks, the hedge funds, the oil companies and the racists, all the usual Westminster corruption will still be in charge once, as he hopes, he has conned the right-wing electorate in south-east England to give him and his team power. Furthermore, like Faustus, he clearly doesn’t understand (or worse he doesn’t care) that, having signed up to these other devilish masters, his attempts to exercise that "power" must be puny, pointless and very probably risible: he will be directed as they see fit.

I am hoping from the bottom of my heart that the Scottish electorate, particularly our young people, see the danger in time.

Frances McKie, Evanton.

Read more: Blame the SNP if your library or playgroup is closing

Shredding of a manifesto

WILL it not be fascinating to compare the pledges that Sir Keir Starmer will make at the next election to those pledges he made during the Labour leadership election in 2020? In just four years, his proposed General Election manifesto will not include leadership pledges such as a Green New Deal, higher tax rates for top earners, the nationalisation of rail, mail, water and energy, the scrapping of tuition fees and finally he will not thank his “friend” Jeremy Corbyn as he did in 2020. The Labour manifesto will offer slim pickings indeed.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

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Taking Scots for granted

NO ONE is surprised that Labour has had yet another U-turn and abandoned its commitment to spending £28 billion a year on green investments to boost the economy as fiscal rules override Labour’s lack of radical policies. However, it can’t blame fiscal rules for scrapping promises to abolish the House of Lords or strengthening devolution or capping child benefits but not bankers’ bonuses. Labour can’t grow the economy as it remains opposed to rejoining the EU and freedom of movement.

Labour has nothing new to offer Scotland. It could protect Holyrood from future Tory power grabs by devolving powers such as immigration, which is hurting Scotland’s economy and making it much harder to attract overseas workers to fill employment gaps, not least in the hospitality and agricultural sectors.

If Labour really believed in democracy, it would grant Holyrood the powers to hold a referendum on Scotland’s future as well as devolving employment law and broadcasting to suit our particular needs.

Labour is guilty of taking Scotland for granted as it has failed to promise that our only oil refinery will continue at Grangemouth or financially support the proposed Rosyth ferry connection to Europe which will save on unnecessary road travel to ports down south.

The latest STV /Ipsos poll showing support for independence at 53 per cent and the SNP on course to take 40 seats at the Westminster election, compared to Labour’s 12 ("Labour ‘narrow gap in Scotland’", The Herald, February 8), should act as a wake-up call. This poll also showed that the SNP was the most trusted party on the economy, health, education and cost of living.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.

The Herald: Michael Matheson resigned as Health Secretary yesterdayMichael Matheson resigned as Health Secretary yesterday (Image: PA)

This was not the honourable thing

MICHAEL Matheson has resigned as Health Secretary, months after we all became aware that he expected the taxpayer to pick up an £11k tab for his iPad expenses while on holiday ("Michael Matheson quits as health secretary", heraldscotland, February 8).

Some may say about time, others might say he’s done the right thing. They would however be wrong. He’s not done the honourable thing, which would have been to resign as an MSP. He claims not to have known that his sons used his iPad as a hotspot to watch the football. You can believe that if you wish but there is no denying that he lied to journalists when asked if the £11k charge was for personal use.

Other MSPs have resigned for less: Labour’s Wendy Alexander for a donation from a non-resident of £950 and Henry McLeish resigned for undeclared income from subletting part of his office. These individuals did the honourable thing and did not drag the issue out in the hope it would be forgotten.

It should also be noted that Humza Yousaf has supported his colleague throughout this, describing Mr Matheson as a man of honesty and integrity. What poor judgment by the First Minister to believe that someone who lied to him is a man of honour. Mr Matheson has shown throughout this sorry affair that he was desperate to save his own skin, even blaming his children in front of parliament. There is no integrity in that.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.

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

Rebuilding our prisons

TOM Gordon's assertions regarding the prisons estate ("It’s criminal that our prison system is in such a state", The Herald, February 7) seem less than fair.

The problems associated with existing and projected prison accommodation places being inadequate are not new; they were identified as far back as 2002 following a review of Scottish prisons. The review led to a massive prison rebuilding/refurbishment programme to replace prisons, many of which dated from the early 1900s: for example, Low Moss Prison was rebuilt and opened in 2007.

Mr Gordon's assertion that "the Government has failed miserably to build. Prisons make ferries look good" is, in my opinion, unfair and a gross misrepresentation of the very significant progress made by the SPS and the current Government to improve the prison estate and to provide increased prisoner accommodation numbers.

The 2022/23 Audit Commission report identifies that 35% of the current prison population are held within prisons identified for improvement/replacement, including Barlinnie, meaning that 65% of the prison population are held in perfectly adequate prison accommodation.

Mr Gordon also states that "SNP ministers knew in 2008 that the system was decrepit and they failed to fix it and so 16 years later the same predictable problems have come back to haunt them. It's criminal". Mr Gordon also highlights in his article that the need for a modernisation and revamp of the prison estate was identified in Cabinet papers in the SNP's first year in power in 2008. Presumably he didn't expect the SNP Government to solve all of the prison estate property and prison numbers problems in its first full year in power. Perhaps he did.

The reality is that in 2008 the SPS/Scottish Government had already commenced their revamp of the prison estate and have continued that progress with rebuilds of numerous other prisons in Scotland including Shotts, Polmont, Stirling and Glenochil.

There can be no argument against the need to rebuild the remainder of the prison estate as soon as possible, however, it must be done within the financial limitations currently being experienced by the existing SNP or any future Scottish Government.

John S Milligan, Kilmarnock.