LORD George Foulkes argues that “there must be “appropriate consequences” if Scottish ministers were shown to have spent money in areas reserved to Westminster” ("Why we must rein in SNP abuse of taxpayers' money", heraldscotland, February 21). In particular he is concerned spending on what he describes as “embassies”, the nine offices in Europe and North America, paid for from the Scottish Government’s international and European relations budget of £35 million in the coming financial year. As a benchmark, the £35m expenditure complained of is a tiny part of the Scottish Government budget of £59,706 million in the coming financial year.

Given its miniscule size, to the point of disappearing, we might ask why Lord Foulkes and his two supporters, Baroness Goldie and Lord Wallace, are so exercised by this spending which in terms of quantum is utterly insignificant.

Such matters as economic development, the environment, planning, sport and the arts and tourism appear in the list of devolved matters. All of them have an international dimension, extending beyond trade, an issue which particularly seems to irk Lord Foulkes, and currently dealt with by Scottish Council Development and Industry offices (international trade being a matter retained at Westminster in any case). There does therefore seem to be a case for arguing that Scottish Government spending is lawful. However, here Lord Foulkes makes clear just what his aim is when he writes that if “spending on overseas offices and other matters were deemed to be within Holyrood’s powers … the legal loopholes must be tightened”.

So, there we have the truth. If Scottish Government spending is beyond its powers then it can be stopped, but if it does have the necessary powers then these must “be tightened”. Heads Westminster wins, tails it still wins.

Does this not point clearly to the fear of a unionist cabal to keep the Scottish Government a secret and the Scottish polity a carefully guarded secret? Internationally their aim seems to be for Scottish politicians and the Scottish Parliament and Government to operate furth of the UK only ever as a region of the UK.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

Read more: A unionist Labour Party will never win back Scotland

FM knows no shame

INTERVIEWED on STV's Scotland Tonight (February 20), Humza Yousaf set out his stall for the coming General Election and it was quite a performance. Here was the political equivalent of an actor determined to stick to his script, never tempted into facing up to reality and the part he and his party have played in it. He wants us to blame Westminster for everything that has gone wrong. After 17 years of the SNP in power he pretends the inept Government that he leads has done a good job in all the critical public services that we see struggling to deliver the basics that we all so depend upon.

For our First Minister, political spin has become his language of choice, so he can blatantly claim he has increased funding for local authorities when Cosla and everyone else knows the opposite is the case. Then, as a crowning insult to the people of Scotland he repeats the cynical sleight of hand whereby a slight majority of taxpayers paying a near-meaningless £20 less tax a year allows him to falsely claim we are paying less tax than in the rest of the UK despite everyone earning £28,000 and over having to pay significantly more tax for the at-times-shocking outcomes he and his party have presided over.

As our continuity First Minister, Mr Yousaf has sought to outdo what went before, giving doctors a pay rise before knowing how he would pay for it, and then announcing a freeze on council tax in full knowledge that he would not be able to afford to properly recompense local authorities for the shortfall in their funding. He claims the halting of NHS Scotland’s key capital projects and the slashing of locally provided services are not linked to his actions, but rather the fault of the big bad wolf down south. This political performance we are all having to endure swings wildly from farce to pantomime, with a lead actor who simply knows no shame.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

• I NOTICE that in your Politics page Humza Yousaf has paid fulsome tribute to Michael Matheson ("FM’S warm tribute to ex-health secretary ahead of iPad probe’s publication", The Herald, February 21). Was your writer hinting at the oft-forgotten meaning, insincere?

Mark Bratchpiece, Motherwell.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf speaking on the Scottish economy at the University of Glasgow yesterday

Leaving UK would be costly

I SEE Neil Mackay’s latest tactic is to ridicule the opposition to his precious secessionism (“Unionist m’luds and m’lady should learn to play fair”, The Herald, February 20). Well, I suppose anyone in public life, like the lords and lady he lambasts, is fair game. He isn’t the only separatist to accuse pro-UK people of running scared; "you can smell the fear" is a common nationalist jibe. What he doesn’t address is what these people are actually afraid of.

What naïve and unreflective nationalists don’t get is that the prospect of leaving the UK is scary. Seeing one’s own, and everyone else in Scotland’s, standard of living threatened in the way that secession would do, is indeed something to be very apprehensive about.

Why are independence supporters like Mr Mackay so gung-ho about losing the many benefits that we enjoy from being in the UK? Probably because they have bought into SNP’s and other separatists’ lies about Scotland subsidising the rest of the UK, when that is utter nonsense. Scotland receives annually at least an extra £2,000 per person more from HM Treasury than is paid for the average UK citizen. Imagine where our NHS and other services would be without that? No thanks, Mr Mackay.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

It's time for an SBC

NONE of us is surprised that the lightweight, underfunded BBC Scotland The Nine news programme has been scrapped ("BBC Scotland ditches The Nine news show in schedule shake-up", The Herald, February 21), as it was always designed to fail when put up against peak TV viewing audiences.

Following its coverage of the 2014 referendum campaign, BBC Scotland lost a substantial number of its natural audience and now Reporting Scotland has less than half of STV’s News at Six viewers. Of course, broadcasters must hold governments to account but BBC Scotland invariably follows a London unionist agenda on its current affairs output and you don’t witness the same politicisation of every issue on BBC London or on BBC Wales.

There was a call for a Scotland at Six, an international angle to Scottish news, extinguished in double-quick time by BBC London, though the pilot programme was adjudged excellent.

The only way BBC Scotland can redeem itself is to have a one-hour in-depth Scottish Six news programme and start holding opposition leaders to account. Viewers in Scotland rarely get comparisons with the performance of the Westminster Government or with Labour in Wales, and there is little information on the economic performance of Scotland’s independent near neighbours of a similar size.

It’s time for a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation. In Ireland the public broadcaster RTE has four free-to-air TV channels plus 10 radio channels. RTE only pays £22.5 million a year to get the pick of the BBC’s best TV programmes while ignoring the dross and the licence is free for over-70s.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh.

Read more: MPs must reflect the British people's wishes on Gaza

In defence of Ukraine

ANENT Ian MitcheIl's letter (February 20): it's disappointing to read Russian propaganda on the Letters Pages this far into a war of Russian imperialist aggression, 10 years after its illegal annexation of Crimea and unprovoked invasion and occupation of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and two years after its unprovoked invasion of the rest of Ukraine began.

The central fallacy of the letter is illustrated by the fact Russia has been assaulting Avdiivka for 24 months, advancing 5-6 miles in that time; this is not an army triumphantly laying all before it but a hollow Potemkin force, readily rebuffed by Ukraine until the cessation of arms shipments from the US in October last year.

The average age of the army is due to most volunteers or draftees being those with existing military experience and as a result there are few under 25, but the forces in the field are not outnumbered and certainly not by 4:1. The fact so few younger Ukrainians have been conscripted suggests that Ukraine has a good deal left to draw upon, although the political difficulty of further conscription should not be dismissed.

The Minsk agreements were violated as much by Russia as they were Ukraine and were predicated on the patent falsehood that Russia was a peacebroker rather than the aggressor and invader; had Putin not embarked on a war of imperialist conquest and illegal annexation in 2014 none of this bloodshed would have happened, including the disgusting act of Russian state terrorism that was the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

David Bradshaw, Helensburgh.