WHEN the going gets tough, Anas Sarwar goes AWOL. When there is criticism to be popularly hurled at the SNP he appears to take every opportunity to publicly voice that criticism, but when criticism can be hurled in his direction he is nowhere to be seen. Like Harry Houdini escaping from his manacles or a well-rehearsed illusionist, now you see him, now you don’t.

This is an individual with the apparent principles of Groucho Marx (although I may be doing Groucho a disservice) as he is only prepared to stand by them if they seem to be popular in the mainstream media and his boss, Keir Starmer, has not instructed him to keep quiet (thus the delay in Mr Sarwar calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza).

Now the Hate Crime Act which he and his party in Scotland strongly supported has come into force, the combined resources of the UK media apparently cannot track him down, or even locate his deputy (also in my opinion of questionable principles), Jackie Baillie. Following the austerity and turmoil imposed on Scotland since self-determination was narrowly defeated 10 years ago, and with the Labour Party intent on following the policies of Margaret Thatcher (who at least seemed consistent in pursuing her misguided policies) when it wins power in the UK, will voters in Scotland who abstained or denied Scotland its independence (especially Labour Party supporters who in principle support democracy and self-determination) finally vote for the party that is committed to bringing about the constitutional change necessary to fix “Broken Britain”?

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

Labour's bluster will fail

THE perpetual British nationalist fever dream is the demise of the SNP and collapse of independence. I doubt that this is on the cards, given pro-independence polling. Yes, there is a loss of votes for the SNP, but in the face of relentless media attacks on Humza Yousaf (no honeymoon here) the SNP is still commanding strong support in many polls.

Andy Maciver ("Sarwar should pledge to shift power to the regions", The Herald, April 5) has a heroic belief that a strong showing in the General Election would lead to a shoo-in for Anas Sarwar in 2026, but that is to suppose that Labour would bring instant and advantageous change right across the UK in the 18 months or so between elections. I would guess many of Labour’s bluster balloons will have been pricked and Mr Sarwar will be left badly exposed.

Labour is already reneging on the promised UK constitutional change (Brown Commission anyone?), which, if it were Devo Max, would be something- a majority of Scots have wanted for some decades (according to polling), and Labour Wales is also demanding constitutional change. Centralism through regionalisation has been tried and found wanting at ground level (though Labour and the media liked it): no one I know wants Strathclyde to return, even with a “mayor”, though people might like the French idea of village/town mayors, but that is localising power. A no-no in Scotland.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

We must pierce the SNP fog

I HAVE a strong feeling that at long, long last, there are fewer and fewer places to hide for wrongdoers in the administration of Scotland. Now the spotlight is being turned full glare on the administration and its massive contributions recently to international aid funds. Concerns have been raised from organisations involved in this process around how funds are allocated and why (“Scottish aid funds probe launched”, The Herald, April 3, and Letters, April 4). There has, it seems, been no report or documentation of any kind on the millions in contributions passed on since 2019. That is indeed shocking. Many Scots thought their overseas aid contributions were made through the UK. It is particularly irksome when our drug deaths continue to soar to the top of the European death league and no cash is seemingly available to help out our own desperate cases.

Once again with the SNP, those of us who pick up the bill at the end of it all are kept in the dark by those running things in Scotland at present and spending millions of our cash.

The lack of information and fog that surrounded the ferry fiasco and many other matters, seem now to have enveloped overseas aid as well. We need a major cleaning of Scotland's Augean Stables.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.

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Three cheers for common sense

THREE weeks ago. Guy Stenhouse wrote "three cheers for Argyll & Bute Council" for raising the council tax rates by 10% in what was an obvious political gesture to defy the Government's rates freeze, with no thoughts of the local taxpayers at a time of financial crisis ("Three cheers for Argyll & Bute Council not bowing to the SNP’S freeze", The Herald, March 9).

Yesterday, the ruling group was replaced by the former opposition ("Cards cut decides council leaders", The Herald, April 5), having already had to reverse its hugely unpopular decision, accepting the Government's freeze and the balanced budget proposals of the opposition group.

Three cheers for common sense.

David Hay, Minard.

Who runs our institutions?

YOU recently published a letter from me praising the superb treatment I received when I was admitted to A&E at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (Letters, March 9).

Subsequent to this, I was appalled to read of the dismissive attitude of Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to complaints raised by 29 consultants at the hospital ( “Watchdog to review safety and care at flagship hospital,” The Herald, April 5, and previous reports). The belated change of mind by HIS was only brought about by publicity about their previous “shortcomings”.

John NE Rankin (Letters, April 5), in reference to the ferries fiasco, says that “for far too long, these faceless people have been able to hide behind the parapet... It is time they were named and shamed”.

Common to both these stories, and many others that The Herald reports on, are decisions made by faceless organisations paid for by the public purse. Occasionally, a chairman will be named, but not the boards. It is seldom anyone takes any responsibility, or resigns. The Post Office, health boards, Transport Scotland… the list is long.

I invite you to publish the details of the people who sit behind the various acronyms who run our institutions: not just names, but their qualifications to hold these positions. This information is no doubt already available, but not generally known.

After every cover-up and shortcoming, we are told that “lessons will be learnt”. It would be good to know who is learning these lessons. Or not.

Hamish McPherson, Giffnock.

Don't believe Israel's lies

OTTO Inglis (Letters, April 5) believes the lies Israel spouts to justify the genocide it is committing against the Palestinian people. Western governments’ outrage at the IDF’s murder of seven white western aid workers contrasts with their acceptance and defence of Israel’s murder of over 33,000 brown Palestinians, 70% of whom are women and children.

Israeli lies, lapped up by the western mainstream media, that Hamas raped and murdered Israeli women on October 7 have been debunked as war propaganda. Israel never presented any credible evidence, witnesses or victims to support these allegations. The police collected no forensic evidence nor produced any victims or eyewitnesses, which is strange if Israel wanted to prove these assaults happened. The sister of an alleged rape victim denied her sister was raped and complained her family was manipulated by the Zmerican press. The stories of 40 beheaded babies were outright lies.

Even if these allegations were proven true, it doesn’t justify Israel wiping out an entire people. Throughout Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, Israeli occupation forces have committed systematic sexual assault and violence against Palestinian men, women and children and the world turns away.

After October 7, Amnesty International documented "horrifying cases of torture and degrading treatment" of Palestinians who were arbitrarily arrested. Amnesty’s regional director said: “Administrative detention is one of the key tools through which Israel has enforced its system of apartheid against Palestinians.”

Before October 7, Israel would periodically go into Gaza to "mow the lawn", killing thousands and bombing everything in sight, ironically ensuring that the lawn grows back even thicker.

Israel routinely breaks international law because it knows it will be unconditionally backed by the US, the UK and the EU. I would hope that like South Africa, an independent Scotland would have the moral courage to condemn Israel and its enablers.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

The Herald:  proposed failed amendments on freedom of expression proposed failed amendments on freedom of expression (Image: Newsquest)

Why JK felt she had to act

TIM Hopkins, formerly of the Equality Network, appears to have a remarkably short memory. In his letter of April 4, he chastises JK Rowling for tweets which seemed “designed to offend” and “provoke anger and upset”, yet, were he to cast his mind back to March 2021, he might understand why Ms Rowling felt the need to test the limits of the new Hate Crime legislation.

At Stage 3 of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, Johann Lamont lodged amendments designed to protect freedom of expression. Amendment 11B expressly dealt with ensuring it would be safe to express innocuous views like “sex is a physical, binary characteristic that cannot be changed” and “a person’s sex may be relevant to their experience”. The response from the Equality Network (EN) was brutal. In a briefing urging MSPs to reject this, it claimed that providing this protection would “fundamentally undermine trans people’s long-established Convention right to be legally recognised in their transitioned gender” and lead to “open season” on trans people. This contributed to the ongoing confusion and anxiety about what can safely be said here, deliberately engineered by groups like EN, who have encouraged people to report stickers with dictionary definitions as hate crimes.

Had the Scottish Government made it explicit either in the Act or in guidance (promised discussions on which with ourselves and others were pulled, to avoid upsetting activists like Mr Hopkins), no one, including Ms Rowling, would have felt the need to establish now whether naming the reality of sex was likely to trigger a police investigation. That she was compelled to take this step was largely due to the past actions of organisations like Equality Network and their shameful attempts to shut the door on debate.

Susan Smith, Director, For Women Scotland, Edinburgh.

Prosecute the time wasters

IT is widely reported by the press that Police Scotland has received thousands of complaints of hate crimes after the introduction of the recent legislation.

I seriously doubt that there has been a sudden upsurge of hate in Scotland, but what might have happened is that several organisations of a political nature have encouraged members to make many spurious claims. I hope that somewhere in the legislation is a clause to allow the police to prosecute time wasters who make repeated vexatious claims, maybe even including authors.

John Jamieson, Ayr.