THE SNP has decided to try out another First Minister for size, although "re-try" might be closer to it as he did have a go at being SNP leader many years ago and by all accounts did not like it very much. Anyway, we are where we are, and apparently John Swinney is for the time being the best the SNP has to offer.

Some will be reassured by our new First Minister’s "Honest John" persona (“New FM in pledge to 'create more agreement’ in Holyrood”, The Herald, May 8). Others, however, might have noted that within moments of being confirmed in Scotland’s top job, he knowingly made three promises that he is all but guaranteed to break. Presumably he hopes that enough Scots will continue to prefer SNP rhetoric over the harsh reality of its continuing failures, scandals and missteps.

So when John Swinney says he is going to be First Minister for “everyone” it will have as much meaning as when his then boss Nicola Sturgeon said the same thing on taking on the top job. She then led Scotland into one of the most divisive periods in its history as she time and again favoured her supporters’ dreams for separation over the general public's yearning for effective public services.

Equally, as Mr Swinney claimed he will make eradicating child poverty his defining mission, some will have heard echoes of Ms Sturgeon’s “judge me on our record in education” commitment, which proved to be utterly meaningless. Indeed, the many in Scotland on NHS waiting lists, or desperate for a ferry service that works, or troubled about the state of their children’s education, might wonder how our new First Minister’s focus on what sounds good rather than on the biggest challenges that they face will merely delay further any hope for them seeing real improvements.

Then there is that “more collaborative and respectful politics” promise. It’s presumably possible that by some quirk in nature a leopard changes its spots, but as the SNP’s heckler in chief for so many years in Holyrood, it is no wonder that this promise from Mr Swinney was met with some disbelief by MSPs. At future FMQs can we look forward to our new First Minister honestly owning up to the part he and his party have played in all the problems Scotland now faces, or will he follow his predecessors’ tactic of deflection and blaming of anyone and anything but SNP mismanagement?

Keith Howell, West Linton.

Get the Letter of the Day straight to your inbox.

• I FULLY applaud John Swinney's speech as our new First Minister in promising to be a First Minister for all the people in Scotland. The cold reality however is that Mr Swinney has been one of the main architects of SNP policy for the last 20 years and has brought us to the terrible state that we are in with education and the worst-ever NHS services.

He wouldn't last five minutes as SNP leader if he started working for the majority of Scottish people who don't want independence.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen.

READ MORE: No Ross Greer, your policies aren't progressive: just stupid

READ MORE: SNP should have had its retread a decade ago. It's too late now

READ MORE: What would John Smith make of Anas Sarwar's actions?

Consider the alternatives

ALISON Rowat rightly has a bit of fun with John Swinney and the SNP ("‘This is the new, and slightly more humble, face of the SNP’", The Herald, May 8). She has no room, however, in her article for the alternatives.

We have Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross, both LINOs (Leader in Name Only and there to be walked over) and both with long undistinguished careers in Westminster and Holyrood. Mr Sarwar was in the room when Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont realised her job title was a joke and quit: Mr Sarwar is aware of his status because he followed on from elected Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard whom Keir Starmer boasted he had sacked. Douglas Ross is no better, as it was reported his leadership was ultimately as a result of murky backroom dealings and he has tied his dinghy to the Ship of Fools, aka the British Conservative Party.

I could mention the LibDems (a party I once voted for), but their politics are entirely based on their British nationalism rather than ideology: happy to be in coalition with Tories or Labour, but not any democratic pro-independence party.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Home in on the policies

I DO not support independence and have no sympathy for the SNP in its current death by a thousand cuts, but others do, and their views are to be respected.

What I find disappointing is that already, disproportionate attention has been focused on John Swinney’s age and Kate Forbes’ genuine religious beliefs as if this was some burden impeding their ability to do their respective jobs.

With Scotland in a parlous state distraction from the real issues should be minimised and we need to home in on the policies to be followed and on Mr Swinney’s and Ms Forbes' ability to get us out of the mire.

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

Anniversary is nothing to celebrate

THERE is a silence in the land. We are nearing May 12, the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Scottish Parliament, but this event has been eclipsed by the chaos in the ruling party’s leadership. There are vague plans to mark the occasion later in the year, with, for example, the Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone (Green Party), touring the country to ask people’s views about the parliament. But the occasion itself has scarcely been mentioned in public.

By contrast, in 2019, there were fanfares and a visit from Her Late Majesty to Holyrood, among other events, to celebrate Holyrood’s 20th anniversary. But now there is little sign of celebration. As the journalist Chris Deerin rightly says, we now have "an institution that is flawed, angry and divided. One that, for too many years, has arguably been focused on the wrong things." Legislation since 2019 has brought us the hate crime law and the Gender Reform Recognition Bill, two of the worst pieces of law-making in our history, as well as failed attempts by the SNP’s Green allies to make our lives more miserable.

Is there anything to celebrate? Holyrood is a lacklustre institution with mostly third-rate politicians, some of whom on the SNP benches are barely able to string a sentence together. It has all cost us billions of pounds, for everything from the building itself, through the inflated salaries - the first minister paid more than the UK’s prime minister, for example - to subsidised canteens and superfluous ministers. Yes, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Independence, I am looking at you.

Scottish nationalists think that Holyrood’s failings derive from it not having full powers, but governments haven’t used all the powers that they have. Why anyone thinks that a sovereign Scottish government would perform any better than what we have had recently is a mystery. Devolution in Scotland serves as an awful warning for anyone so much as thinking of leaving the UK.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

Brexit shows case for indy

IS it any wonder that some contributors to the Letters Pages survey the UK economy and seek refuge in their fantasy of a newly independent Scotland cast adrift on a journey which makes Conor McCarthy’s The Road resemble a day trip to Disneyland?

Does Alistair Easton (Letters, May 7) not appreciate that his confession that Brexit is a disaster, one of many heaped upon us by our neighbours, is not as he would have it a warning not to leave, but only confirms the sheer poverty of any argument to remain in the UK?

The present Westminster administration has proved itself incapable and indeed has only bankrupted its case.

Will Keir Starmer, confronted by economic reality, be up to the task?

Alan Carmichael, Glasgow.

The Herald: Keir Starmer with Natalie ElphickeKeir Starmer with Natalie Elphicke (Image: PA)

A telling defection

NATALIE Elphicke, the MP for Dover, has defected from the Tories and has been welcomed into the Labour Party, making her the third such defection under Keir Starmer ("Tory MP defects to Labour just minutes before PMQs", heraldscotland, May 8). Like the other defectors, Ms Elphick appears to have had an epiphany and no longer wants to be associated with the party that she served so dutifully as an MP since 2019. Presumably she no longer supports the attacks on workers' rights, or the Rwanda legislation that she voted for, or the desperate poverty caused by the two-child benefit cap (oh, hold on: the Labour Party has refused to abolish it, so no issues on that one).

Conversely, whilst Tories who have been responsible for growing impoverishment, intolerance and corruption in the UK are welcome in the new-look parliamentary Labour Party there remains no room for people who have dedicated their lives to that party and to tackling injustice, inequality and racism. You have to ask yourself why would Diane Abbot and Jeremy Corbyn want to have anything to do with this lot of imposters.

Chris Ewing, Cairneyhill, Fife.