Boris Johnson's devolution comments show threat to Holyrood is real - Readers' Letters

Boris Johnson’s comment that devolution has been “a disaster north of the border” and “Tony Blair’s worst mistake” (Scotsman, 17 November) should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.

Boris Johnson has launched a broadside against devolution
Boris Johnson has launched a broadside against devolution

The Tories have never been great supporters of devolution, vehemently opposing both the referendums in 1979 on establishing a Scottish Assembly and in 1997 on the Scottish Parliament.

Most recently the devolution power grab that is highlighted in the Internal Market Bill simply reinforces this stance.

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The Scottish Social Attitudes survey (2019) on constitutional preference found that only seven per cent favour abolition of the Scottish Parliament and it found that trust in the Scottish Government sits at four times that of the UK Government. This points to it hardly being a disaster.

For those accused of scaremongering that there is a threat to Holyrood, Mr Johnson’s comments are clear vindication. The irony of all this being that devolution has given new life to the Scottish Conservatives after the party’s wipeout in 1997 and it is now the opposition in the Scottish Parliament.

Be in no doubt, the Scottish Parliament, which was hard fought for, is under threat and we must do all in our power to defend it.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road, Edinburgh

PM has a point

Boris Johnston says that devolution is a disaster and the entire Scottish political establishment is up in arms about it, but should we not at least be debating the point he is making?

A few years ago, the then Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was heavily criticised for asking whether ordinary Scots had actually benefitted from having a Scottish Parliament, or was it just those within the Holyrood bubble; politicians, journalists, commentators and various hangers-on.

As some-one who supported devolution in 1997, I find the Scottish Parliament a disappointment. They tinker around the edge of issues, they are too frightened to make any significant changes to the taxes we pay, and they don’t use the powers they have. For the past 13 years, the parliament has been hijacked by a single issue pressure group, elected by a minority of the population, and the Scottish “government” is seemingly answerable to no-one.

It is not apparent that our NHS is significantly better for having the parliament, education is certainly worse to the extent that the Scottish Government no longer take part in international comparison studies, local government has been undermined and the police are now overly centralised and demoralised with a huge turnover in numbers. These are the issues we should be judging the parliament on.

I think we should thank the Prime Minister for starting this conversation, and between now and May next year, we should debate if and how the Scottish Parliament is really working for us, or only those within the £100 million a year bubble that we have created.

Victor Clements

Mamie’s Cottage, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

The next step

Bojo the Clown – The Gift that Keeps on Giving – is actually, right: devolution is a “disaster” for “our precious Union”. Its inability to allow meaningful control over our economy has been brutally exposed by the Covid pandemic and it is vulnerable to the smash-and-grab raid on its powers about to be carried out by Westminster. Nothing could be clearer than that independence is the logical next step.

David Roche

Conachar Court Perth

Disastrous SNP

Of course Boris Johnson is correct: Scottish devolution is a “disaster”. But that's because we've had 13 years of the divisive SNP in power, whose over-arching focus is breaking up the UK, not managing our vitally important devolved public services. Vote out Sturgeon and her bunch of obsessive nationalists next May and problem sorted.

Martin Redfern

Melrose, Roxburghshire

Power grab

Boris Johnson’s remarks on devolution were also intended to remind North of England Tory MPs that there is no appetite for federalism at Westminster – and Gordon Brown’s Better Together gang have had more than six years to honour the “near federal” Vow promise made during the 2014 referendum.

No amount of spinning can hide the Tories’ plans to remove powers from our Scottish Parliament aided by a compliant media that has failed to explain the practical effects of the UK Internal Market Bill that allows a Westminster trade minister to overrule Holyrood decisions on a wide range of areas.

The Tories have always opposed devolution but Labour’s record is not much better. Tony Blair was never enthusiastic about devolution and during the 1997 Scottish election campaign stated that “The Scottish Labour Party is not planning to raise income tax and once the power is given it is like any parish council, it's got the right to exercise it".

At Westminster and in the Smith Commission Labour have consistently argued that employment regulations, welfare powers, VAT, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, capital gains tax, fuel duty, inheritance tax and broadcasting should remain reserved to Westminster.

Covid has illustrated how devolution is inadequate for Scotland as without control of our borders and borrowing powers we have been unable to mitigate Boris Johnson’s disastrous handling which has resulted in England having the worst Covid record in Europe. Despite that we are doing much better in tackling the virus and in our trace and protect system.

Mary Thomas

Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

Brexit logic

The Prime Minister is widely reported as describing devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.

An interesting conclusion to draw from our all-centralising Westminster government.

Leaving the EU was all about becoming "sovereign" again, as we are constantly reminded, but only for Westminster, of course.

God forbid that Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland should be allowed any sovereignty. The contradictions at the heart of Brexit are all coming home to roost.

The logic of Brexit is the break-up of the UK.

Trevor Rigg

Greenbank Gardens, Edinburgh

Put in the picture

The article suggesting that a portrait of Prince Charles Edward attributed to Alan Ramsay may have been painted by Cosmo Alexander (Scotsman, 16 November) can be queried.

An engraving by Robert Strange has been accepted as a reproduction of Ramsay's portrait since it was made.

Alexander and Strange were both ardent Jacobites who fought with the Prince's army and both men fled to the continent after the defeat at Culloden. Alexander did several portraits of the Prince while in exile.

The portrait in question, however, shows a proud prince dressed in regal finery and is more like the man who was painted by Ramsay in Holyrood Palace after his victory at Prestonpans than the refugee painted by Alexander in Rome.

John Chalmers

Canaan Lane, Edinburgh

Green religion

Eco-people such as Dr Dixon (Scotsman, 17 November) must imagine the non-industrial world they plan as a kind of biscuit-tin picture of apple cheeked villagers bringing in the harvest by hand, and never mind the rickets and rheumatism and smallpox that went with that. Plus the crop failures when half the village starved to death, and an adult life expectancy of 40 while dressed in rags all the time.

That’s the possible future for us ordinary folk as the self-appointed eco-leaders drive electric cars on deserted roads, attending meetings where they decide what hoops to make us jump through next in a world where carbon is gone and worship of the green religion has become compulsory.

Malcolm Parkin

Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Holiday rentals

The article “Scrutiny is key for rentals shake-up” (Scotsman, 16 November) and its argument that the consultation on the regulation of short-term lets appears rushed is a view shared by many in the tourism industry.

As everyone faces countless personal and professional challenges, the Scottish Government has rushed the consultation window and failed to carry out an impact assessment of what the proposals will mean for the tourism industry and local families that are hosting.

Under the proposals, hosts wanting to welcome guests into their home would have to overcome one of the most bureaucratic and financially damaging red-tape regimes in the world, which makes the need for proper consultation essential.

Licensing requirements could cost more than £700 while securing planning permission could cost up to £4,000. Hosts might also face costly home alterations, such as replacing wooden floors with lino. All this at a time when Scotland’s tourism industry is fighting for survival. Economists say that the proposals could take £1 million a day out of the Scottish economy and put 17,000 jobs at risk.

Scotland is right to pursue new rules and we support proposals that recognise the way people live, work and travel today but we are calling on the government to pause and reconsider their disproportionate plans.

We want to work together on a balanced way forward, taking into account the different types of hosts and listings, and how long they are hosting for, while protecting livelihoods of local families who need the additional income of letting their homes or spare rooms the most.

Local families are the beating heart of Scottish hospitality – allowing them to continue to host, supported by smart regulations, is in everyone’s best interests.

Patrick Robinson

Director of Public Policy, Airbnb


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