PROMINENT figures in the SNP, such as long-standing MSP Fergus Ewing, now suspended, and MPs Joanna Cherry and Lisa Cameron, who have both been the subject of sustained campaigns against them by their own colleagues as a result of speaking their minds, are now feeling similar emotions to the majority of Scots (“SNP facing angry backlash over suspension of stalwart Ewing”, The Herald, September 29).

Those of us who have chosen not to support the SNP have long realised that our viewpoints do not matter to its leadership. Despite empty platitudes from this Scottish Government about representing the interests of all Scots, in practice that only works for you if your opinions align with theirs. Now those at the heart of the SNP party in Holyrood and Westminster who have had the temerity to speak honestly when they believe the SNP is going in the wrong direction, have discovered that the party’s leadership has again decided that honesty is not the best policy, and have acted to try to smother anyone tempted not to toe the party line.

For too long this SNP Government has been given a free pass by the electorate based on dreams of what independence might deliver rather than the deeply disappointing reality of the SNP’s demonstrable failings in mismanaging Scotland. In the coming by-election, and subsequent UK General Election, there is at last hope that normal political gravity will come to bear on an SNP leadership that has long prioritised political spin over reality.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

The problem with GERS

IF Peter A Russell (Letters, September 28) is going to quote GERS, is it too much to expect him to read it first, as in the very first paragraph of the summary he would find it “addresses three questions about Scotland’s public sector finances under the current constitutional arrangements”?

The most relevant words here are of course, “under the current constitutional arrangements”, ie Scotland as a region of the United Kingdom, and thus not an independent country. The foolishness of using GERS as Mr Russell and others often do is that it can only mean holding an assumption that an independent Scotland would continue to tax and spend in exactly the same way as while part of the UK. Otherwise, the deficit, of which they so triumphantly boast, would be different. However, since the GERS deficit is the outcome of tax decisions, 70% taken in Westminster, just as 40% of decisions about expenditure in or “on behalf of Scotland” are, should we not be asking whose responsibility the claimed deficit is? And asking could we not do better on our own? In any event, what is the point of being independent if nothing changes?

When he turns to the EU, I’m afraid that Mr Russell’s accuracy is little better. He suggests that Scottish Water would have to be offered up to be sold to a French or German company. Citing France is interesting, as clearly he is unaware that EDF (Électricité de France) is 85%-owned by the French government. It’s how France kept its electricity prices low last winter - its management were so instructed by their majority shareholder. Some of the shortfall was no doubt made up from EDF’s earnings in the UK.

Nor is this the only example. For instance, standing behind Abellio is the Dutch government’s national railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). Would it be grievance-mongering to ask why if the French and Dutch can do this, Scotland could not? Thus, Mr Russell’s certainty that Scottish Water would end up with a hedge fund owned outside Scotland or even a foreign government is about as trustworthy as his forecasts about the scale of a future deficit.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

Read more: Rosebank move just piles on the agony for Scotland

Where's the case for the Union?

I WONDER if Peter A Russell, instead of repeating independence would mean the loss of £10 billion, could create a positive case for remaining in a union whose economic policies have apparently resulted in us, despite being an oil and renewables-rich nation, apparently dependent upon handouts from our neighbour?

Is there, despite a sinking pound, lower real wages and increasing poverty a glimpse of sunlit uplands, or perhaps like HS2 they will never reach the north of England, never mind north of the Border?

Ian Cope, Glasgow.

Westminster the real hypocrites

BOB Hamilton (Letters, September 29) calls John Jamieson and I "shameless hypocrites" for pointing out the years of missed opportunities regarding Scotland's oil (Letters, September 28). There is a word for those who suppressed the McCrone Report of the 1970s, which stated that Scotland could be a successful independent nation, and who for decades talked down oil-rich Scotland, but I won't use it.

Labour's Denis Healey in an interview confirmed that Westminster was terrified that it would lose the oil revenues if Scotland became independent, hence decades of misinformation and downright lies, oops fibs. Scotland could today have been in a strong position like Norway; instead, in the midst of a climate emergency the Prime Minister has announced that he intends using every drop of oil. I know who is the real shameless hypocrite.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

UK doing well, considering

THE latest revision by the ONS of the UK's economic growth since pre-Covid in 2019 to 1.8 per cent shows that we have outperformed France and Germany, no doubt to the irritation of the usual suspects in your columns (they know who they are) for whom the EU's grass is always greener than ours.

Considering we have more than five million people aged 16-64 on out-of-work benefits and a total of nine million economically inactive, plus disruption in the NHS, education and elsewhere, and apparent inefficiencies in many public sector services due to their continued working from home, not to mention the supposed (but possibly false or exaggerated) adverse effects of both Brexit and Liz Truss's deemed "crashed economy", that is surely pretty creditable. Imagine what the UK could otherwise achieve.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

Read more: We need fairer and more transparent pensions

Procurement system flawed

GEORGE Rennie (Letters, September 25) argues that the cost of expensive inquiries is justified on the assumption that the lessons learned will improve efficiency.

That rather begs the question as to why these inquiries are occurring on such a regular basis, and why they themselves seem to end up over time and over budget.

The Scottish Public Finance Manual has a section on procurement which stipulates that in the execution of a contract the procuring agency (CMal, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian, TIE and the like) must be kept separate from the main funder (the Scottish Government). But time and again you find it is ministers who are held responsible for any contract failings by the procuring agency.

I have been involved in procurement for more than 50 years and have yet to meet a minister at any meeting. Nor would I expect to. The one documented occasion where a minister got directly involved in a project was the parliament building competition when Donald Dewar put himself at the head of the selection panel.

The Fraser Inquiry subsequently uncovered that the rest of the panel were complicit in nominating Mr Dewar’s preferred candidate as the winner. Kirsty Wark’s brazen comment to Lord Fraser that if the panel had actually followed the procurement rules “we would have ended up with a shed” is fairly typical, unfortunately. The result of that arrogance was a £400 million overspend.

Such breaches are almost endemic in the public sector. I’m constantly staggered not only by the low levels of competence amongst those involved in delivering such projects, but also by their unwillingness to take heed of advice. I’ve even been instructed to keep quiet about warnings I’d made in writing before things went pear-shaped. This is usually made on the grounds that I’m bound by "commercial confidentiality". In reality you are being asked to cover up.

On another occasion I was told to modify a report I’d compiled into a major hospital fire. This was because my observations reflected badly on hospital management. I categorically refused to do so. And guess what, we never again won a contract from that client body, despite successfully delivering two projects on time and to budget.

This is the Peter Principle in action whereby people are promoted upwards till they reach the level where they struggle to cope. It happens in the private sector as well as the public sector. When you combine that with a culture of never admitting that your side has got it wrong (often at the behest of the insurers) then invariably projects will stall. The only thing that is ever learnt is the ability to deny culpability.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.