MICHAEL Marra ("‘Income tax is plugging the hole left behind by SNP failure to grow the Scots economy’", March 3) admits that people in Scotland (indeed the entire UK) continue to struggle in “the shadow of a Tory Government that crashed the economy. Mortgages up, rents up, energy bills up, fuel costs up, the price of the weekly shop up”. However, of these five economic problems, all of them are either policy areas that have not been devolved (interest rates and hence mortgages; energy bills, fuel costs and prices in the shops) and/or are not uniquely Scottish but, in the case of rents, a problem throughout the UK.

He also asserts that it is “economically and fiscally illiterate” to assume that “income tax can be used to plug the hole left by the SNP’s failure to grow the economy”. Which tax would Mr Marra suggest? Other big-earning taxes, such as Corporation Tax, National Insurance and VAT, remain retained at Westminster. It is not in the Scottish Government’s power to do anything about those.

Of course, Mr Marra’s real target is “the SNP’s failure to grow the economy”. However, having been part of the integrated UK economy for the last 300 years, it is no surprise that Scottish economic growth usually follows the UK as a whole. This is particularly so when “fiscal, economic and monetary policy, including the issue and circulation of money, taxes and excise duties, government borrowing and lending, control over United Kingdom public expenditure, the exchange rate and the Bank of England” are retained at Westminster, unless specifically devolved (such as partially devolved income tax powers).

Most concerning of all though is his argument that “this Labour Party will not make unfunded spending commitments”, and that when/if Rachel Reeves becomes Chancellor, she will establish an “Office for Value for Money, with a relentless focus on getting value for taxpayers’ money”. Thus, like the Tories, Labour proposes to treat the public sector as the primary problem rather than address its primary problems, one of which is why we expect a table d’hôtel public service (provision) for greasy spoon café prices (tax). The public sector has been squeezed so far it's not so much a matter of the pips squeaking, as are there any pips left to squeeze?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

Look beyond SNP/Greens

I NOTE with interest John Russell's letter (March 3) regarding his assessment of devolution. The incumbent SNP/Green Government may not seem a competent and capable one, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Mr Russell seems to have swallowed the consistent lies that Scots have been fed since the early days of oil exploration. Look to our Scandinavian neighbour; look how a small independent country, Norway, took control of its own resources and how its peoples are enjoying the fruits of that revenue. Remember the lies? “The oil will run out by the nineties: what will you have to support you then?”

Do you really think that this “poor” wee country would be tolerated and financially supported through “generous” donations from Westminster if they did not have access to all our resources? As an independent country we will transfer from oil to renewables, but only if independent, as Westminster is still heavily reliant on oil and wind revenues.

The present SNP/Green coalition is a poor example of an efficient government. Maybe someone should remind its leaders that the SNP was founded on the aim of independence; there is no reference to this in current form or innovative policies that would inspire Scots to vote for them. There will be a sharp lesson at the next election, as I’m sure many hard-won seats will be lost to other parties.

The 10th anniversary of the 2014 referendum will be marked in September in Glasgow. I would urge all Yes supporters, irrespective of party allegiance, to come and hear alternative ways we can achieve our potential.

Veronica Nelson, Edinburgh.

READ MORE: Ukraine cannot win. Zelenskyy must now sue for peace

READ MORE: Face the facts: the UK is both broke and broken

READ MORE: Labour and the Tories have reduced politics to a sorry state

Representing democracy

I JUST had to write to say I completely agree with Andrew Tickell's excellent piece on Gaza and the effort to portray public opposition as mob rule ("Calling all politicians: the public wants peace in Gaza", March 3) and Denis Bruce's letter (March 3) neatly summarising the absurdity of James Cleverley's foot-in-mouth remarks about limiting public protest.

Thank you for being one of the few papers to represent democracy and reality as opposed to the London-based media who increasingly appear to be the Provisional Wing of "New" New Labour.

Marjorie Ellis Thompson, Edinburgh.

The tragedy of Police Scotland

IT'S a sad indictment of Police Scotland that after having been in existence for only 10 years it's being seen by some as a solely reactive policing service and incapable of responding to anything but serious incidents.

With the amalgamation of the previous eight regional forces, the politicians promised an efficient and effective national policing system with sufficient funding and staffing. However, this has been far from the case and the politicians who changed a regional set-up which was working reasonably well should hang their heads in shame.

The previous constituent forces had budgetary problems from time to time but these were managed and throughout my time with Strathclyde Police I saw a police force which was more accountable and closer to local communities. To me, it seems that the flawed framework under which Police Scotland was brought into being was cobbled together by people who had little knowledge of policing and had an agenda other than providing the best service possible for the people of Scotland.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.

Ukraine's fatal error

I AGREE with John Lloyd (Letters, March 3) that Ukraine has lost the war against Russia. We have been bombarded with pro-Ukrainian propaganda since Vladimir Putin invaded in February 2022, and since Boris Johnson convinced President Zelenskyy to turn down the peace deal on offer in Ankara two months later. We have been told that the Russians are stupid, they are running out of ammunition, Putin is seriously ill, Zelenskyy's spring/summer/autumn offensive would retake Crimea and that Ukraine is a bastion of democracy defending freedom.

Taking that last point, this "democracy" has cancelled presidential elections, banned all opposition parties, taken the media under state control, runs a brutal secret police, persecutes Orthodox Christians, is an arms bazaar, and advertises for foreign mercenaries: up to the age of 60, no military experience necessary. I doubt if a fraction of the millions of Ukrainians who have fled the country will want to return.

The war in Ukraine started in 2014 after the elected president of Ukraine was deposed in a coup orchestrated by the US, just the latest of some 60 coups the US has enacted since the end of the Second World War. When Ukraine's nationalist government took power in 2014 it banned Russian as an official language in the eastern provinces, whose close ties with historical Russia are well-documented. When the eastern provinces opted for self-rule the Kiev government bombed and shelled them for seven years. According to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights reporting in February 2019, the total number of conflict-related casualties between Ukraine and the eastern provinces was 40,000-43,000 from April 14, 2014, to January 31, 2019, including 12,800-13,000 killed.

Mr Lloyd states that the Russian army is using "meat grinder tactics". Not according to Colonel Douglas Macgregor, the US combat veteran and military strategist who has military contacts throughout Europe and Ukraine. Colonel Macgregor states that the Russian army has been "moving slowly and deliberately" to avoid casualties, that their medivac capability is good, and that Ukraine has lost between 500,000 and 520,000 killed plus between half a million and one million casualties.

If Boris Johnson had not visited Kyiv two years ago this carnage would have happened. The deal was that Russia would withdraw to its position on February 23, when it controlled part of the Donbas region and all of Crimea, and in exchange, Ukraine would promise not to seek Nato membership and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries. Mr Johnson's hatred of Russia led to the disaster that followed.

William Loneskie, Lauder.

The Herald: Volodymyr ZelenskyyVolodymyr Zelenskyy (Image: PA)

Putin cannot be trusted

JOHN V Lloyd (Letters, March 3) attempts to provide an off-ramp for Putin and his failed invasion of Ukraine.

Messages from Moscow aren’t completely transparent. If Russia meant to abide by treaties, let's remember that Russia signed a treaty in 1991 recognising the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. They meant it then, because the President of the Russian Federation was not Putin and Russia was briefly a democracy.

Putin’s likeliest agenda is a breather for the Russian army to get the bayonets gleaming again, and to stockpile giant new war assets in new forward positions.

A treaty won’t be worth reading until the Russian people overthrow Putin.

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.

Don't sell the SAS short

THIS week's news that five members of the SAS are being investigated for war crimes in Syria brings to mind the shrewd observation, often attributed to George Orwell, that we only sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.

Our special forces risk injury, death and, if captured, unspeakable torture fighting on our behalf against Islamist terrorists who recognise neither the Geneva conventions nor any moral restraint on their depraved misbehaviour.

These terrorists do not wear any uniform nor badge of identification, unlike military personnel. To expect our soldiers to treat them as if they were enemy soldiers is wrong both practically and morally. Indeed, it is insanity to treat this type of warfare as if it was some sort of international armed policing.

The duty of military lawyers, commanding officers and our Government is to watch the back of those who guard us while we sleep, not to prosecute them.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife.

Trigger unhappy

I HAD been eagerly looking forward to watching the latest series of Trigger Point with the very talented Vicky McClure on ITV, but was very disappointed in an unbelievable storyline which turned it into a daft version of Mission Impossible.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.