Herald Letter: Westminster and Holyrood Obsessions Failing The Poor.

DAVID J Crawford repeats – amongst other things – the idea that “Scotland will never have a Westminster government that reflects the wishes of the majority of its citizens” (Letters, November 13). While I am myself a lifelong advocate of electoral reform, it is hard not be amused by those who vote for the SNP then complain that their vote is wasted at Westminster. Surely they know that the nationalists can never form a government when they put their cross in a box on polling day?

It is easier to agree with Mr Crawford’s substantive point that Scotland’s devolved and reserved governments are both failing the poor at their respective levels. The fact is that we would not be in our current position if Boris Johnson had not seen his job as Prime Minster as representing the Leaver 52 per cent of the population against the Remain 48%; and if Nicola Sturgeon had not seen hers as First Minister as representing the Yes 45% of Scotland against the No 55%.

Likewise, both of these are highly divisive figures bent on pursuing their own obsessions at the expense of the greater good of society. The shame of poverty in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK must be laid at their door, as they have chosen the path of division over that of unity, and have put their own interests above those who most need the assistance of the state. The remedy for this is to vote for candidates and a party which will govern for the whole population and will seek the best of both worlds in a devolved Scotland within the UK.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter: Lies, Lies, Lies.

ONCE again we are faced with Scottish nationalists trying to mislead us on the question of Scotland’s contribution to public investment in other parts of the UK, this time in the person of your correspondent Mick McCready (Letters, November 12).

So again, it is necessary remind your readers that Scottish taxpayers are not paying for the new London sewerage system and Crossrail. And that as far as HS2 is concerned, Scotland is paying only a very small contribution, which has been agreed with the Scottish Government as reflecting its economic benefits north of the Border – and which is more than repaid though Barnett consequentials. And that Trident is deployed for the protection of the whole UK, including Scotland – it is not an “English” project, but one that contributes to the whole system of collective security under Nato, to which the SNP subscribes as well.

It is of course the right of nationalists to make their case that redistribution from the better-off parts of the UK to those that are worse off is a weakness and not a strength, as it is for social democrats like myself to disagree with that viewpoint.

However, once again, the question must again be repeated: if secession from the Union is such a good idea, why must so many mistruths about who subsidises whom be repeated so many times to justify it?

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Sestina – Djinns in the Aleppo Souks.

Catch the djinns between the piles of giddy spices
In air shot through with bolts of light
Blasted diagonally through the dust and dark
Into the barter of bargain goods of the Levant
To the haggling crowds of everyday merchants
Muttering, shouting in there, in the labyrinth.

Anciently concealed in shops and booths in the labyrinth
Blazed with tawny, azure, brown, and golden bright spices
Dealt by commercial domestic merchants
Like their goods veiled from the blistering light
And blinding heat of the shapeshifting Levant
Shuttered cluttered there in the dark

The blasted roof of corrugated tin welds in the dark
Traced with cash threading through the labyrinth
Intersecting algebraic values of the Levant
Mediterranean oil, sea-salt and camel caravanserai spices
Emulsified on counters under jaundiced electric light
By gold like the teeth in hospitable merchants

Accommodating demanding hosts querulous merchants
Their eyes and hearts looking not to our Europe wet or dark
But south and east to Mecca and the Prophet’s light
Language, life, in the djinns’ superstitious labyrinth
Subtle, expensive, sour and cruel as spices
Turned from the classical flame, the turned back of the Levant

The once stuck sun again smoulders on the Levant
Aleppo fragmented into body parts of merchants
Shells, bullets, explosives and poison gas for spices
And tracers now the bolts through a world of dark
The cacophony of an unending labyrinth
The lair of clamour and tormenting torch light

The stars have set in that tin roof, but can rise to light
Again the strained grace of the Levant
Can cut the cat’s cradle chart of the diplomats’ labyrinth
As invasions of Crusaders, Arabs, Romans, merchants
Brought force, and trade and lost themselves to the friendly dark
And persistent demand for commerce of life and spices

The Aleppo Souks strike light and sharp shadow, quick trade of merchants
As violence drives life from the Levant leaving their air stale and dark
The djinns stay put, possess the labyrinth, seeking, guarding essential spices.

Herald letter: Justice For Alex Salmond!

ALASDAIR Galloway (Letters, August 20) should look at the letters above his own when he seeks to trivialise the accusations of conspiracy which arise from the documentary on the Alex Salmond trial. If he does so, he will see that Jim Sillars repeats the allegations made by Kenny MacAskill in that programme – he is specific about a conspiracy from within the Nationalist movement.

Mr Galloway appears not to take into account that the proceedings in question were not the AGM of an obscure branch of a membership organisation, but a criminal trial in the highest court in the land.

I have no liking at all for Mr Salmond or his politics – I have rejected them for as long as the likes of Mr Galloway and indeed Nicola Sturgeon supported him. However, the allegation stands from Messrs Sillars and MacAskill that there was a plot to convict him and to have him thrown in jail for crimes which a jury has concluded he did not commit. This was allegedly a conspiracy to deprive an innocent man of his liberty for political ends.

In Scotland, I believe – and I am sure that others might correct me if I am wrong – that the name of the crime in question is “conspiring to defeat the ends of justice”, in this case by colluding to accuse Mr Salmond of crimes he did not commit.

Such a conspiracy and its associated allegations of perjury are very serious indeed and can quite rightly lead to long custodial sentences. This case is in no way comparable with the tawdry machinations that occur within a political party. It is quite right to demand justice be done, for Mr Salmond’s sake and – more importantly – for that of Scotland’s criminal justice system.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter – SNP Conspiracy Should Be Investigated.

MUCH of the Kirsty Wark programme about the Alex Salmond trial was taken up with material which was already in the public domain and was therefore fairly unremarkable. However, there is one part that cannot go uncommented upon.

Kenny MacAskill made unambiguous accusations that a conspiracy had taken place involving the women witnesses and senior members of their own party, the SNP. Mr MacAskill’s statement was especially noteworthy as he is both a sitting SNP MP and more importantly, a former Scottish Government Justice Secretary. As such he is fully aware of the gravity of the allegations that he is making: that the witnesses and the SNP leadership conspired to incriminate Mr Salmond on charges which would have deprived him of his liberty, and that the women perjured themselves to bring about that same aim. Mr MacAskill assured Ms Wark that he had evidence of these allegations from a number of sources.

It is essential that these allegations are investigated as a matter of urgency by the Crown authorities, and if they are found to be of substance, the alleged perpetrators must be charged and put on trial accordingly. Conversely, if Mr MacAskill is found to have made serious allegations for which there are no grounds, then it is he who should face the consequences.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter – How Useless The SNP actually is.

JOHN Findlay is of course correct that the cult of Nicola Sturgeon, the self-appointed Chief Mammy of the Scottish Nation, is no basis for Scottish independence. Moreover, even if her followers are correct, if she were to be hit by the proverbial bus, who would Scotland be left with?

The hopeless Humza Yousaf, with a conviction that makes him uniquely unfit to be either Transport or Justice Secretary? Or John Swinney, a husk of a man whose judgment is so poor on schools reopening that it had to be over-ruled within days? Likewise, Jeane Freeman, who shares the blame for Scotland’s care home deaths and is apparently deemed incapable of representing her own policies at the daily televised NicolaFest? Or do we go back to sleazy Derek Mackay, the disgraced ex-heir apparent?

Or do we fall back on Alex Salmond, the man promoted and supported for decades by the very same Ms Sturgeon, whose conduct around women led to him being described in court by his own defence counsel as “not a good man”?

The First Minister’s dominance is in fact a mark of how devolution has diminished Scottish politics – there is no doubt that she would have been reduced to a figure of ridicule by John Smith, or that Robin Cook would have torn her playhouse down, room by room by room (as the song would have it.) Furthermore, her threadbare party – the SNP – is symptomatic of the shallow talent pool that is Holyrood. She and they have no blueprint for a better future outside the UK, and we can have no confidence whatsoever that they could or would make an independent Scotland a better place.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter: Nationalists In World Record Bid.

THE letter from your correspondent L MacGregor (July 14) must be an attempt to break the world record for the number of exaggerations, deliberate distortions, misrepresentation and downright lies that can be fitted into a single missive. In a way we should perhaps thank him or her summing up of the tissue of mendacity upon which the case for Scottish independence so heavily relies.

These range from the insistence on best-case scenarios (the assumption that a Scottish currency would have a triple-A rating) to utter fantasy (has anyone ever seen the pipelines which the English use to steal Scotland’s water?) via financial irresponsibility (independent Scotland would not be responsible for its share of historic UK national debt) to that good old favourite the Independence Time Machine (which would whisk us back to the 1970s to set up a sovereign oil fund), throwing in for good measure the wilful misrepresentation of the devolved fisheries border of 1999 as an oil field border. The rest of the claims in the letter are also rubbish of the same order.

The SNP has recently been advised by a tame academic professor of marketing to abandon facts and tell stories instead – a lesson learned from Donald Trump and Aaron Banks and his successful Brexit campaign (“facts are white noise and emotions rule”). Its followers are obviously quick learners.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter: Where The Covid The Buck Stops.

GH Weir (Letters, June 12) needs to produce evidence if he wishes to lay the blame for Scotland’s Covid-19 infections and death rates on Westminster. In particular, he needs to show how and when the Scottish Government was overruled on the issues of lockdown and quarantine.

In the first case, he would do well to review all of the press conferences held by the First Minister in the first half of March. If he does so, he will see repeated arguments from the Scottish Government and its advisors that lockdown was not necessary. As late as March 18, we were told very clearly that “we are definitely not at the stage of needing lockdown measures in Scotland”. Not by Boris Johnson, not by Dominic Cummings, but by the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland under the admiring eye of Nicola Sturgeon.

In the case of quarantine, we need to see footage of the First Minister or the Health Secretary advocating such a move at any stage. Or perhaps correspondence to the Home Secretary or Health Secretary to show how much more prescient the Scottish Government was. In the absence of quarantine, it was all the time within the devolved public health powers of the Scottish Government to test international arrivals at Scotland’s airports and advise them to go into quarantine if they tested positive. Or to set up a strict Scotland-only protocol for everyone entering the country by whatever means. These steps were not taken, and again, the people deciding not to do so were not bogeymen in London but the Scottish Government.

The buck stops in Edinburgh and no-one should forget it.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter: The Nationalist Parlour Game.

RUTH Marr (Letters, June 9) and others are indulging in a fallacy in their assertions that “if Scotland was independent…” with regard to the current Covid-19 pandemic. There is no comparison to be made between Scotland and New Zealand, not least because the latter is an archipelago so biologically remote from the rest of the world and anomalous that it had no terrestrial mammals at all until the Polynesians arrived in the 13th century.

What is more, Scotland voted to stay in the UK in 2014. The choice of two million Scots was the preference for the risks and responsibilities of being part of bigger and more diverse country and economy over those of being part of a smaller and narrower one. If we want to play Ms Marr’s parlour game and pretend that something else happened, we can also imagine the penury that Scotland would have faced following the greatest economic shock in its history, and wonder how on earth we would have managed with public services stripped of over £10 billion every year.

Such speculation is all very entertaining, and makes useful material for the attempts of nationalists to distract us from the failings of the SNP Scottish Government. But Scotland is not New Zealand. Nor Norway nor Denmark nor the Republic of Ireland. Nor in terms of responsibility for public health and the NHS and care homes, is it even England.

In the real world, we can only judge Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman and co by the actions and decisions they have taken, and have failed to take, and above all by the Covid-19 infection rate and death toll in Scotland. No wonder that their supporters want us to be distracted by their pointless fantasies.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.

Herald letter: Who Is To Blame?

MANY of your correspondents are quite rightly outraged at Dominic Cummings and the Prime Minister and it is little wonder that they have taken to your pages to express their fury – although I wonder where the anger of some of them was when Catherine Calderwood was breaking lockdown for a couple of jollies in Fife, and when Nicola Sturgeon was defending her to the hilt.

However, I hope that they all feel much better for getting it off their chest, and will now turn their attention to figuring out who is responsible for the NHS and public health in Scotland, and in particular, where the blame lies for our excess death rates and in particular those in our care homes. (Clue: it is not Dominic Cummings.)

Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.