WHILE many who contribute to these pages (such as Stephen Shaw, Letters, June 23) are quick to condemn the SNP and the Scottish Government for everything from child poverty and NHS shortcomings to late and over-budget ship delivery, those same contributors appear reluctant to make like-for-like objective comparisons in these same matters with the performances of governments elsewhere, especially the Tory-led Government in London and the Labour-led Government in Cardiff.

Furthermore, some of those contributors also often seem keen to conflate good intentions and honest misjudgments with cronyism, or worse still, corruption, and clear incompetence, apparently to intentionally muddy the waters.

Given the amount of misinformation, and sometimes deliberate lies, that permeate the many sources of news available today, it is not surprising that many have become confused about whom they can trust and what information they should believe, particularly if it is delivered by politicians.

That said, in spite of scurrilous attempts to denigrate Nicola Sturgeon, most people have sensibly judged the former FM as someone who has genuinely tried to do the right things for the right reasons while Boris Johnson has often done the wrong things for purely selfish reasons, and thankfully there are few Scots who would prefer to have another Boris Johnson or Liz Truss making key economic decisions for our country (never mind introducing policies to reduce the scandalous wealth gap and to enhance the lives of the poor and disadvantaged).

That said, there is little to suggest that even if Tony Blair Mark II (also known as Sir Keir Starmer) became Prime Minister and actually made some progress in advancing democracy and social justice while moving the UK faster to Net Zero (and succeeded in doing so without collapsing the UK economy altogether), as long as the undemocratic electoral distortion of first past the post is sustained everyone of a sound mind knows that without independence it will only be a matter of time before a Tory descendant of Johnson or Truss will emerge to take the UK backwards again.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.

Read more: All of Scottish society has been far too patient with the SNP

Squabbling has cost us dear

OPAQUE governance, inept policymaking and administrative incompetence have been hallmarks of devolved government under the SNP. The troubles in which the party now finds itself befit its longstanding modus operandi. The only surprise is that more folk did not cotton on to this sooner.

That does not, however, excuse Labour or the unionists from some of the blame for poor governance in Scotland. They are not directly implicated. However, the low calibre of both parties north of the Border has enabled the electoral dominance of the nationalists despite their patent unsuitability to run a kirk jumble sale let alone something more demanding.

Recent events distract from the bigger issue viz the abject failure of devolution to deliver better government for Scotland. The SNP’s current leader may seem like a bad parody of an eastern bloc authoritarian leader with his ongoing babble about yet more referendums on settled constitutional points. The cost of such nonsense, however, is profound. We have already thrown away two decades of potential progress caught in a permanent squabble about constitutional matters.

Scotland today is like a ship stuck in harbour while passengers squabble not about the undoubted adequacy of its marine engineering but about what more tinkering in the engine room might produce.

A marine engineering example may be lost on the nationalists, alas. But it is time for us to get to sea once more. The public discussion has been dominated by constitutional matters for far too long.

There are much bigger and more important issues for us to address. How can we use the economic strengths of the UK to attract investment to Scotland? How can we benefit from the UK’s significant role in global affairs? Are His Majesty’s armed forces in the right shape to secure our borders so that we can sleep safe from the threat of international aggression? How can Scotland’s energy sector exploit the opportunities open to it in a changing world? How can our young folk fully benefit from the world-class educational opportunities provided within the UK?

Constitutional squabbling has caused us two lost decades already. Public discussion could much more usefully focus on how we can use our place in the UK to serve our own interests better as well as those of our close neighbours and friends.

Christopher Ruane, Lanark.

Mortgage crisis a lesson for all

WHILST I can fully understand the angst experienced by mortgage holders due to spiralling interest rates at present ("Sunak and Bank of England say public must take rate hit", The Herald, June 23), I cannot help contrasting the current Bank of England base rate of 5% with the 17% my mortgage rate reached in 1979.

Now I know this is no consolation to those feeling the pain at the moment and I include two of my adult children in this and I feel desperately sorry for those caught up in this mortgage trap, however, the main cause of this situation is the fact that base rates flat-lined at 0.5% from March 2009 to July 2016, even reaching as low as 0.1% in May 2020 until November 2021.

At this time lenders were falling over themselves to offer 100% mortgages with rock-bottom interest rates and it is little wonder that their customers borrowed up to the hilt in order to buy properties. Any self-respecting economist or banker worth their salt could have forecast that this policy would have disastrous consequences long-term when external forces impacted the economy.

The Bank of England should not have kept interest rates so low for so long and borrowers should have been made aware of possible threats to their ability to pay in the longer term.

Claims that the Government should intervene by providing financial support are spurious at best and could not be justified to other sections of society, mainly those in the rental sector. This is not like the pandemic when financial intervention benefited the population as a whole. Some of the methods open to lenders in order to ease the pain for borrowers is to either switch customers to an interest-only mortgage, extend the borrowing term or even provide payment holidays. The banks can well afford it as their coffers are bursting at the seams with the extra income high-interest rates deliver.

The current crisis is a salutary lesson for all future lenders and borrowers alike.

Christopher Jones, Giffnock.

Read more: Raising the base rate only puts money in the pockets of the wealthy

The night the country changed

SOME online references to Winnie Ewing talk about her “surprise victory” in the 1967 Hamilton by-election, a staggering understatement ("Former SNP president Winnie Ewing dies, 93, The Herald, June 23). I was a reporter on The (then) Glasgow Herald, covered much of the by-election campaign, trotting round after Winnie Ewing and the other two candidates, and present at the count on that November night. I was quite young but very naïve: it was the first important event I had covered.

The Labour candidate was bland and dull: his agent answered every question for him. The Tory candidate hardly figured. Winnie Ewing was lively, fashionable, interesting, with a sparky delivery and good slogans. She talked about Scotland having a seat at the United Nations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal. North Sea oil was for her Scotland’s oil. Her press conferences were crowded: people wanted to know her. The town had a fair few displays of SNP posters. At one point I commented on all this but everyone, the press included, assumed Labour would hold the seat. Don’t be deceived by the razzmatazz, they all said – so I cursed my naivety and felt I was on a learning curve.

On November 2, as we watched the count mount, an altruistic colleague from another paper told me I needed to let the newsdesk know that the unthinkable was happening: Winnie Ewing was going to take the seat.

Whatever your political affiliation, that was an exciting night. It woke people up, challenged long-held positions, ultimately led to a changed political landscape and not just north of the Border. She was a politician who made a difference.

Marilyn Millar, Cambridge.

The Herald: The night Winnie Ewing was voted into Westminster was seismic for ScotlandThe night Winnie Ewing was voted into Westminster was seismic for Scotland (Image: Newsquest)

• WINNIE Ewing’s role in the anti-Poll Tax campaign is often understated. I give you two examples from around 1988 in the run-up to its introduction.

The scene is an SNP National Council on a cold February day in the Pleasance in Edinburgh, by my reckoning around 90-odd in attendance.

Winnie is ending her report as a Euro MP. Her closing words were as follows, with of course, her characteristic flick of the shoulder: “As your president I shall not being paying the Poll Tax.” The impact of these few words over coming months were profound.

For example: the next scene is the tearoom of the Eden Court Theatre at a subsequent SNP conference in Inverness. Kirsty Wark walks in with camera crew in tow.

She scans the room and her eye settles upon a group of SNP matrons at the next table to ours. She approaches said table and aks: “Excuse me, ladies, could I interview you about the Poll Tax?”. They agree. We look at each other with sinking hearts.

Cameras roll, Kirsty Wark: "Will you be paying the Poll Tax?” One of the women replies: "As Winnie, our president, isn’t paying, neither shall we.”

The mood of the group at the next table is somewhat ecstatic though we endeavour not to show it.

Bill Ramsay, Glasgow.

Let's follow Liechtenstein

AS comment on Doug Maughan (Letters, June 22) finding the UK national anthem dull, I’ve encountered ways of cheering that song up.

A country near me sets her own song, Oben am jungen Rhein/Lehnet sich Liechtenstein, to quite a resonant treatment of the same simple tune. Their distribution text to notes is more emotional, and the second musical idea in the verse is repeated with much clamour, text and all.

Also more resonant are words which focus on land and people. Prince Alois does get mentioned in the second of two verses. I think it only polite to give his name when writing about him, but he is of course The Prince in his one-line mention.

The Austrians had to bin their song because it only worked if the Emperor’s name was Franz. Austria became a republic in 1918 and the Emperor wasn’t called anything. Germany liked the tune by Haydn. It only needed new text. Germany still has the tune although it needed new text again in 1945.

A verse in the UK anthem about land and people could be part of a repointing. There is probably such a verse among the dozens available, but currently if as many as two verses are sung they are both about the Head of State. There is more to four nations for monarchists and republicans alike.

Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.