I HAVE no idea what goes through the minds of Scottish Labour MSPs elected to Holyrood. Since they were elected in 2021, the only ones who have done anything are Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie. The rest are completely anonymous, not obviously campaigning on anything at all, least of all putting some pressure on the SNP Scottish Government.

However, now it appears they have come to life, campaigning not against the Government, but their own party in Westminster, just at a time when they stand a chance of getting elected ("Calls for Sarwar to stand up to Starmer over two- child benefit cap U- turn, The Herald, July 17).

Labour MSPs could have campaigned against the Tories at Westminster, or the SNP at Holyrood on this, but did neither. But give them the chance to undermine their own colleagues, and they are on it in a shot. The SNP will of course make hay with this when the time comes, as it ruthlessly exploited divisions in Labour ranks in the 2014 referendum campaign.

Don’t these Labour MSPs know that the Scottish Parliament has the power to top up social security benefits, or to introduce new ones itself? If this is so important to them, but it looks like not going ahead at UK level, then it can be done here anyway. Is that not what the Scottish Parliament is supposed to be for? Time for Scottish Labour to be engaging their brains, and avoid the road to self-destruction again.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy.

• SO Anas Sarwar believes that scrapping the child benefit cap will "spook the markets". Well, at least we now know if Labour is elected next year who'll really be running the show.

Roy Gardiner, Kilmarnock.

Read more: Sarwar defends Starmer's unwillingness to scrap two-child benefit cap

A lack of compassion

I LIVED in Toronto in the late 1970s. As a student of Economics on York University's evening degree programme I was often ribbed by the lecturer about being from the UK. He would suggest to the class that my homeland should be turned into a theme park for North Americans.

A quick dip into the membership fees of the Renaissance Club, scene of the recent Scottish Golf Open Championship, plus Donald Trump's courses, would suggest perhaps his dream has come true. Contrast that with the life of the people of Govan featured in Fergal Keane's Brave Britain, which is available on the BBC iPlayer.

What makes one person's life worth much more than another and how do we go about changing the world's great disparity in wealth? Certainly not by voting for the Conservatives who are proposing dispensing with inheritance tax as an incentive for future voters.

I merely appeal for a more compassionate government with a desire to create a more fair society.

E McCallum, Stirling.

Tories causing extra tax burden

I MUST say I cannot agree with James Martin (Letters, July 17). I pay an extra £90 a year in tax because I live in the country that I love, but I feel most of the extra tax I pay is caused by the fact that the Tories in Westminster continue to hold fast on the personal tax allowance.

Mr Martin, I presume, thinks I should be paying for the 12 medications I require each week. Does he think that as an 80-year-old and no longer able to drive I should be paying for my daily rides on the bus?

I should remember though that the Scottish Government’s budget must be balanced according to the Tories in Westminster.

I do not agree with the Tories in Westminster that their nuclear weapons should be stored near to the largest city in Scotland. I must also say that I do not support the Tories and Labour who think it is best that we let all drug users die.

David Sutherland, Greenock.

Read more: So, Mr Sarwar, what comes first? Money or morals?

Funding our public services

TWO items in last week’s Herald are very much linked to the plight of our cash-strapped local authorities. First, Colin Borland writing on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses (which includes hospitality and tourism interests), expressed yet again that group’s concerns on the introduction of a Scottish tourist tax ("Storm gathering over tourism with season now in full swing", The Herald, July 12).

You have previously published a letter from me that argued for the speedy introduction of such a tax. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have visited 10 European countries as well as several towns and cities in Japan and Egypt. In every single one the equivalent of a tourist tax was added to the daily rate for our accommodation. It is simply nonsense to suggest that the cost of a cup of coffee would be a deterrent to visitors considering coming to Scotland. Rather that cup of coffee would ensure that these visitors were greeted by clean streets, empty litter bins, good public transport, welcoming visitor attractions and decent public toilets. Taking Edinburgh as an example, the city would be benefiting to the tune of at least £20 million each year. As well as enhancing the experiences of visitors, such a sum would go a long way to help maintain and to improve our beleaguered public services.

This was followed by the announcement that the Scottish Government was proposing to increase the top rates of council tax for those in the most expensive properties – bands E, F, G and H ("Council tax set to rise by 22% for those living in large homes", The Herald, July 13). The reaction of the Scottish Conservatives was of course predictable. According to their local government spokesperson Liz Smith, “these bombshell proposals…will terrify people struggling to cope with the global cost of living crisis”. Leaving aside the fact that it is her Westminster colleagues who bear much of the responsibility for the financial mess that we are in, it only takes a short stroll round these better-off districts to see by the number of expensive foreign cars parked at their gates and in their driveways to glean they are not having to head off to the nearest food bank for their next meal.

Ms Smith is further quoted as saying that "people across Scotland should not be bearing the brunt of filling the black hole in councils’ finances". As there is no magic money tree, then where is the additional funding to support our Scottish public services to come from? Unlike the UK Government, which has increased the national debt to an eye-watering £2.3 trillion, the Scottish Government cannot borrow. There is certainly no additional help to be expected from the Tory Government which has ruined the economy, trashed public services, dragged Scotland out of the EU and appalled us with a string of scandals which will keep future historians busy for years. The only realistic and equitable way for Scotland to properly fund our public services is for those who are better-off to contribute more in the way of taxation.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

The truth of the Border Poll

I FIND myself once more correcting a misapprehension regarding the Good Friday Agreement and what it says about a Border Poll.

Contrary to what Robert Menzies (Letters, July 18) says, there is no right to such a vote every seven years. In fact, the power to call a Border Poll is exclusively in the hands of the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who may only use that power when he or she is of the opinion that it would succeed.

The seven-year period is the minimum interval before a failed poll could be repeated (and again only if the Secretary of State was convinced it would succeed).

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

Still mayday for Prestwick

REFERENCE the letter from Iain Cope (July 17), it should be pointed out that Prestwick Airport still owes the Scottish Government £43 million, which suggests it’s premature to move it from the disasters list.

Brian Bell, Kinross.

Contempt all over

PHILIPPA Whitford MP is stepping down at the next election saying she and her fellow MPs have been subject to “aggression and contempt" at Westminster ("SNP's Philippa Whitford will not contest the next election", heraldscotland, July 19). Now she knows what it’s like for us Scots at the hands of the SNP/Green government up here.

Michael Watson, Glasgow.

Missing the buzz

LET us hope that Amol Rajan, as the new presenter of University Challenge ("Mighty big shoes to fill but Amol Rajan slips into them seamlessly", The Herald, July 18), resists the temptation to repeat what he so frequently does on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: answers the questions he asks.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.