THE Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is to be applauded for tackling the elephant in the room in this general election campaign – namely, the stark choices that the key political parties will have to make in relation to the public finances if elected (‘Manifestos ignoring ‘toxic mix’ of fiscal challenges, says IFS’, June 25).

We in the UK are experiencing the highest level of debt for more than 60 years. The tax burden is at a record high, and public services are struggling.

While the government is paying huge interest on this debt and welfare bills have grown, spending on health is likely to increase because of an ageing population, with the funding of defence also set to rise. The solution – to deliver increased investment, higher economic growth – is a pipe-dream in at least the short- to medium-term.

Taxes will therefore have to rise – despite a commitment by the main political parties not to raise VAT, national insurance or income tax – or cuts made in public services, the alternative being to borrow more and see debt continue to escalate.

The main political parties must end this conspiracy of silence and be honest with the public as to what is in store further down the line. However, I would urge the voters not to hold their breath on this happening.
Alex Orr, Edinburgh. 


Read more: 

Labour will need to make cuts, IFS warns

Swinney denies independence would mean austerity despite IFS warning

Labour spending plans will lead to £320m extra for Scottish Government


A trough of sleaze and corruption
THE reports that several senior Tory Party members are under investigation for placing bets on the date of the election simply confirm that we have had to endure a government mired in sleaze and corruption.

For those quite content to have Scotland shackled to Westminster, I would encourage them to read MP Chris Bryant’s book, Code of Conduct – a shocking account of a Parliament characterised by bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

It is deeply worrying to learn of the power held by the government, a power that stretches from control of Parliamentary business including the disciplining of MPs, to the award of honours, appointments to national regulatory bodies and, of course, nominations to the House of Lords.

It is frankly grotesque that our so-called Mother of Parliaments still tolerates the existence of this unelected second chamber. There are currently 668 members appointed for life, almost all in return for political favours or cash donations. In addition to the remaining 92 hereditary peers and the 26 Church of England bishops, Bryant states that every Tory donor who has given more than £3m is now sitting in the Lords.

In six years, David Cameron appointed 245 new peers, followed by Boris Johnson, who appointed 86 in three years. The scandal is of course not exclusive to the Tories. Tony Blair somehow survived the ‘cash for honours’ scandal and appointed 374 peers in just three years.

The Covid crisis is a classic example of the incompetence and cronyism at work at Westminster. Demonstrably, the Tory government was not prepared for the Covid pandemic, having chosen to ignore the advice of senior health officials who had war-gamed the impact of a pandemic.

Furthermore, successive Tory and Labour governments have allowed, or failed to tackle, the arrangements that allow our wealthiest citizens to effectively wave two fingers at HMRC to exploit the shell companies, offshore trusts and the Crown dependencies to avoid paying tax on an industrial scale. This is costing the public purse billions.

Of course, the Scottish government has made mistakes and errors of judgement during its years in office but there is nothing at Holyrood to match the trough that is Westminster. Will Labour behave any better once in office? 
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.


Mature approach to clean energy
JOHN Swinney states that supporting new nuclear for Scotland, to allow the country to become a completely carbon-free energy powerhouse, is ‘hopelessly ideological’ and that he ‘has never supported nuclear power’. It’s hard to avoid ‘tit for tat’, but he seems ignorant of the fact that our own people have run nuclear plants safely for over 50 years and produced zero carbon emissions during the running. That’s fact, not ideology. 

I do not like wind turbines. I think they are a blight on our landscape, and their legacy will live with us forever in the millions of tons of concrete that will never leave the ground. But I can also accept that Scotland would be an energy powerhouse, with renewables and nuclear providing a genuine abundance of clean electricity, come rain, shine, storm or calm, and that no energy source has zero negative impact, including renewables.

My experience is that Scottish attitudes to nuclear energy are surprisingly progressive, and if democracy is to prevail in the way Mr Swinney recently evangelised at his manifesto launch, then he should start by putting it to the people of North Ayrshire, Torness and Caithness to decide if they they are willing and able to accommodate and run new, carbon-free, nuclear plants. 

I suspect the First Minister will baulk at that prospect because it’ll likely give him an answer he doesn’t want to hear. 

A grown-up conversation with the intransigent Scottish Government would be a good place to start, leaving sacred cows at the door and seeing what possibilities exist to ensure we remain with an abundance of clean energy, no matter the weather. 
Jamie Black, Largs.


Scotland’s third-world decline
THE First Minister sounds very confused about the idea of mandate. I’ll explain it for him.

He and close colleagues have had a mandate to serve the people of Scotland in devolved government for an impressively long time. The first years were very promising and I sensed improvement when I visited on a work trip in 2013.

The last ten years have been a stealthy plunge in the direction of the third world. The administration has very little time to to nurse the mandate idea.

Problem one has been an authoritarian secrecy which has fuelled all the other problems. Money is secretly squandered. Tenders and contracts are concealed. Gigantic sums are spent on having no ferries to the Isles. That is the physical structure of corruption and it could cost lives.
I’ve not heard threnodies of joy about the trains either.

Secrecy has been backed with menaces in national and local government. That is a clear taste of the third world.

The NHS and its staff are exhausted. They may be just as exhausted in England and Wales, but the NHS is a devolved issue and the buck should have stopped with a serially incompetent devolved minister. Waiting times cost lives.

Drug deaths? Education attainment? Let’s just point to one supremely important question. It’s a giant failure in the rest of the UK as well, but it’s a devolved portfolio. Here goes: A high proportion of children living in poverty is third-world performance in one of the richest countries in the world.

Now let’s get back to the mandate thing. The administration’s mandate to serve the Scots runs until 2026. If they don’t make the effort to govern properly well ahead of that, they’re out of office. No mandate and no dreams. No EU passport and no fresh and modern institutions. No imaginative Nordic foreign policy at all. No social democratic re-scaling of spending. Whatever rises from the dust of all that will be up to new people.

The First Minister may be savouring an abrupt rebuke with breakfast on July 5. That ought to warn SNP leadership that it’s time – and very late for getting real about the job they have. That’s the only mandate they have. Any other is up the the public and the public will not reward any more failure.
Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.

Scots’ yearning for something better
JOHN Swinney has been ever hopeful in this general election campaign.

First, he hopes his core supporters will continue to share in his pretence that a new UK government will agree to a second independence referendum, even when there is no sustained and clear majority support for it amongst the Scottish people.

Second, he hopes that the majority in Scotland who voted to remain in the EU won’t realise that whatever problems and issues have been thrown up by Brexit, will be many times worse if Scotland were to break up the UK; and that any prospect of Scotland joining the EU would only be after an extended period of austerity, and even then only on the EU’s terms (“FM accuses Tories and Labour of ‘turning their backs’ on Scotland over EU”, June 25).

Thirdly, our current First Minister hopes that Scottish voters of all political persuasions will not take into account the SNP’s dreadful record in government, particularly if they consider voting tactically. 

A vote for the SNP will reward its widespread and demonstrable failings, while a vote for whichever party locally is best placed to defeat them, will demonstrate how Scotland yearns for something better.
Keith Howell, West Linton.