IT is just 15 months since the SNP leadership election when Kate Forbes stood for the position which she ultimately lost to Humza Yousaf. She has now been appointed Deputy First Minister by John Swinney, the new Scottish First Minister.

However, 15 months ago during the leadership campaign, Mr Swinney commented about Ms Forbes’ religious beliefs, saying: “ If Kate wants to set out those views, with which I profoundly disagree despite being a man of deep faith, then the party (SNP) membership will make their judgment about those views and whether they think those views are appropriate for someone to hold if they are leader of the SNP and First Minister.” It now seems that the “deep faith” expressed by Mr Swinney has been parked to one side and Ms Forbes’ views are indeed “appropriate” for her to hold the position of Deputy First Minister.

It is worth noting that the SNP party membership so cherished by Mr Swinney 15 months ago had no say whatsoever in the appointment of Ms Forbes as Deputy First Minister. Ultimately this is an utterly shameless and entirely self-interested appointment. It also reflects poorly on Ms Forbes in accepting the role.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh.

Look at the alternatives

AMONGST all the sneering SNP jibes in recent letters there is a panic in the Tory ranks from those who feel power slipping away from them. At the same time the Labour fans know that their leader is a bit weak in the charisma stakes.

We should remember the record of the Conservatives in their long reign. The NHS has suffered, more so south of the Border, and underfunding of dentists has forced many to use the private and expensive alternative. They also allow part-time GPs to work privately despite their NHS training, so are they trying to privatise health care?

The Brexit-lovers have had the same effect on our economy as the iceberg had on the Titanic yet neither main party will reverse it. In fact in England the Reform Party is gaining strength.

We may not love the SNP leadership but look at the alternatives in both parliaments. From the Scottish perspective we have Michael Gove in Westminster with an impeccable record of talking a lot but doing little. If our housing problems are in his hands then tent-makers will do well. In Holyrood there is a failed referee, better on the sidelines waving a flag and contributing little but hypocrisy.

Our economy has languished and our productivity has shrunk. We have more service and hospitality companies but not the national income to sustain them. The future is bleak for our youths, so let's ditch the political rhetoric and find some home-grown politicians - not party hacks - to get us back on track. Fewer rich politicians who have a record which does not contain a real work ethic or duty to the electorate.

Meanwhile I am off to find a handy bank and an available GP if I can find one.

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.

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FM should fix 60% target

NEIL Mackay, as usual, is absolutely right ("FM must break away from indy strategy", The Herald, May 9). John Swinney should be open with the Scottish public that the next independence referendum should only be sought when support for independence is consistently polling at 60% or higher. It would be madness to seek it before then because it would not be won. The number of seats won at an election is simply not a valid indicator of support for independence.

If the new FM focuses on his declared priorities then a better quality of life, living standards and a more equal and caring society in Scotland will be a better persuader that Scotland should be free to go its own way.

The gobsmacking decision by the Labour Party to welcome to its ranks the extreme right-winger Natalie Elphicke ("Tory MP defects to Labour", The Herald, May 9) shows that it has absolutely no morals, nor centre-left identity, and cannot be trusted to deliver the fair and equal society most people want. Voting Labour at the next election, it is becoming starkly clear, means voting for a continuation of heartless Tory policies. Scotland needs to remind the rUK that we see things differently here.

Sandy Slater, Stirling.

Here's what hit the budget

IN his patronising school teacher voice at First Minister's Questions today (May 9) John Swinney told Craig Hoy that the SNP budget was affected by inflation and interest rates. He should have added "eventually".

Last year when the SNP had its new budget a lump sum went to foreign countries (three in Africa and Palestine); another lump went to the upkeep of our Mickey Mouse embassies; the third amount went to fund a minister, advisers and office staff to churn out info on a "not in the near future" independence strategy, and another then went to those not building the boats to encourage them to finish them, and lastly lawyers' fees to fight cases their lawyers told them they would not win.

Only then did the SNP seem to realise that inflation and interest rates would impact on what they could spend to improve housing, the health service, education etc.

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale.

What happened to diversity?

I AM sure I am not alone in noting that the new (or nearly new) Cabinet is composed of eight women and three men …all white.

Once again, the Diversity Officer seems to be missing in action or is it the case that as in Orwell’s Animal Farm all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

Stop dissing our schools

BILL Brown's wise comment on education (Letters, May 9), that we should look beyond the dated myth that "hard work and perseverance are the answer" to developing the capabilities of our students, correctly assesses that our schools should not only be focused on academic qualifications but on producing "creative, confident and inquiring individuals".

On the latest stage-managed anti-independence drama that is BBC Scotland’s Debate Night (May 8), the current level of Scottish education was savaged by Anas Sarwar, Jamie Green and Alex Cole-Hamilton, without any interruption from host Stephen Jardine in spite of the fact that more than 95.9% of Scottish students are attaining positive destinations on leaving school. It is bad enough that most politicians and journalists in England have not learned that through Curriculum for Excellence, Scotland, backed by the OECD, has a different focus on education than simply relying on test results but it appears Scottish opposition politicians either do not know this or are disingenuously acting ignorantly. In terms of the narrow PiSA testing which the opposition parties like to quote in referencing Scottish education, the UK as a whole has slipped according to recent results (lowest in science and maths since 2006) with Labour-run Wales faring considerably poorer than the other UK nations in all three measures of mathematics science and reading (average for England 497.0, Northern Ireland 482.7, Scotland 482.3, Wales 468.3). England seemingly fared best but fundamental questions remain over the preferential selection of schools from which students were tested.

Perhaps it is time for Anas Sarwar and other opposition politicians to stop denigrating Scottish education and the efforts of our teachers and staff, and to start being honest with the public that in Scotland’s holistic approach, we continue to lead in overall education across the UK and beyond.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.


The Herald: John Swinney at First Minister's Questions yesterdayJohn Swinney at First Minister's Questions yesterday (Image: PA)What defines a terrorist?

THE UK Government likes to refer to Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, as "terrorists". This practice begs the question as to what a "terrorist " is. Would we call an organisation that kills thousands of defenceless civilians for a political end "terrorist"? I think we should. By that definition, Hamas might be called "terrorist".

The state of Israel has waged war on defenceless Palestinian civilians for 80 years. In September 1982 Israeli forces and their Lebanese fascist allies massacred between 1,000 and 2,000 defenceless Palestinian refugees in the camps of Sabra and Shitila. Is that not a terrorist act? Currently, the Israeli army has killed 30,000 helpless civilians in Gaza, starved them and destroyed their homes. Is that not an act of terror?

During the Second World War the RAF fire-bombed the cathedral city of Dresden which had no strategic significance and burned to death thousands of helpless civilians. Is that not terrorist? The practice of calling Palestinian forces "militants" and the governing party of Gaza as "terrorist" while supporting the Israelis' continuing genocidal campaign with arms sales is not just an exhibition of gross double standards. It is frankly racist.

During the 2014 referendum we were told that staying in the Union would allow us to "punch above our weight" on the world stage. Well, we are seeing what that means and Scotland should have no part in it.

David Currie, Tarland.