Readers' Letters

It’s disgraceful that the Tories are playing political games over extending furlough support for Scottish business and employees. The London government ignored repeated calls from the Scottish and Welsh governments, as well as Northern England mayors, for furlough extension until such time as this was needed for the South of England.

Are Douglas Ross' furlough views an own goal?
Are Douglas Ross' furlough views an own goal?

On September 17, Tory MSPs, including Baroness Davidson, voted against calls to extend furlough. Only Peter Chapman supported the motion "to extend furlough to provide support and certainty to employers and workers in Scotland for as long as public health restrictions are required to control the spread of Covid-19, recognising that there are specific sectors that will be affected for a longer period". Then, on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show on September 20, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross refused to say if he would support furlough being extended, despite being repeatedly asked.

Since Saturday, the UK government has stonewalled all attempts by the Scottish Government to get clarity on how furlough payments would affect us if Scotland went into a partial or later lockdown. Despite Boris Johnson’s “promise”, Robert Jenrick said on TV yesterday that it would be the Chancellor’s decision to extend the furlough scheme for Scotland if required after December 2. Scotland is paying the price for taking stronger measures when Boris Johnson ignored scientific advice six weeks ago. The whole episode illustrates the limits of devolution and lack of fiscal powers. It’s time to stop asking someone else for permission and take our future into our hands.

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Fraser Grant, Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

A beaten Boris

It must be apparent to all, even those stalwart supporters of the Conservative & Unionist Party, that the Union is broken beyond repair. Even if there was a willingness to repair it, the small but powerful group within the Conservative Government that wrestled control of the steering wheel away from the Old Guard are now squabbling amongst themselves.

Iain Duncan-Smith and others in the extreme Brexit gang, who have incomes based on investments, are at odds with the other more centrist group that favour continuing furlough payments, allowing businesses to survive these next four weeks. They don’t want a lockdown.

Tory MP Steve Baker, a man who can read data and graphs, was brought in as arbiter, and agrees with the Sage advice and commented, yes, there is a problem, we had better do something. Lockdown is the plan. Enter Michael Gove, who is starting the slow stabbing of Boris in the back, by casting doubt on his November lockdown, by saying it could be extended for more than four weeks.

It appears Johnson has lost control of his cabinet, party and government – not easy when you have an 80-seat majority. Just the thing needed when the whole world is the middle of a pandemic.

By all accounts Boris needs a better-paid job, so he’ll be off next year, UN maybe?

Alistair Ballantyne, Birkhill, Angus

Different data

The letter from Calum Miller (November 3) gives incorrect data on the cost of climate change policies in Scotland. The paper by the Climate Emergency Response Group has a projected price tag of £150 billion which far exceeds the £90bn figure given by Mr Miller. In addition, he failed to include the £180bn infrastructure debt to provide the energy to charge electric vehicles or the £140bn cost to replace 150 TW-hours of gas. Note that the total bill is around 300 per cent of Scottish GDP and is a cost that the economy of an independent Scotland cannot afford.

Ian Moir, Queen Street, Castle Douglas

Making waves

Surely Richard Dixon isn't suggesting that the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was caused by so-called global warming? (Inside Environment, Perspective, November 3).

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

Fore Pete’s sake!

During Boris Johnson's controversial four-week lockdown, someone living in England can drive to a park and exercise with a friend for an unlimited period of time but he/she can’t drive to a golf course and play a few holes – even as a single. In an era of incoherent policy-making, that takes some beating!

Most are prepared to cut leaders some slack in the difficult de cisions. Often "the science" is conflicting and few have the technical background to choose between differing groups of epidemiologists involved in a long-running turf war. But they needn't make such a mess of easy decisions like golf.

(Dr) John Cameron, Howard Place, St Andrews

Cost error

I'm afraid the entire response to my earlier letter by Dr A McCormick (Letters 3 November) is based on an error of mine.

My letter should have stated that care homes are charging more than £1,000 per week, not per month. Also, contrary to Dr McCormick's comments on my knowledge of the subject, I'm well aware, from personal circumstances, that the "bargain" figure I erroneously quoted is is not to be had. However, using Dr McCormick's figures of costs per annum of £30,000, those homes charging that figure, I should have written, are making a profit of around £22,000 per resident. They may also be interested to know that the concerns I raised about staff pay and employment conditions (which they failed to respond to) emerged in research carried out by the GMB union.

Returning to the subject of corporate greed, I wonder if Dr McCormick is aware of research by the Centre of Health and the Public Interest which calculated that for small and medium-sized companies running care homes (perhaps like the one they referred to) profits are around £7 for every £100 of income, but for the larger operators the figure is £15 in every £100? Are they aware that many of these operators are owned by companies based in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands? To her credit, this issue has been raised by Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who was quoted in an STV report as saying, "What these offshore structures are set up to do is leak profit away from reinvestment in frontline care".The Public Health Scotland report states that 45.2 per cent of privately owned homes had an outbreak of Covid compared to 27.9 per cent of local authority homes and 12.5 per cent of voluntary sector homes.

It's also interesting that the praiseworthy performance of the latter sector has not been deemed newsworthy. Ni nety per cent of the largest homes with more than 90 residents h ad outbreaks. What this says about the level of infection control in these homes and the relationship to profit margins and economies in the private sector, as Ms Lennon has stated, needs to be investigated. Meanwhile, we're entitled to wonder whether the details mentioned here are too sensitive for the Scottish government to mention?

Gill Turner, Derby Street, Edinburgh

Mother’s ruin

Peter Glissov's abused wife analogy for Scotland’s relationship with rUK is a cleverly emotive one (Letters, 2 November). Consider, however, that the "wife " in this case squanders family money on pet vanity projects, routinely spends beyond her means and is bailed out annually by this brute of a spouse to the tune of £13 billion to cover the deficit. She also undermines her partner at every opportunity, verbally abusing him in front of relatives and neighbours. If this lady wants a divorce, fair enough.

Fearful for their future well-being in the care of a profligate mother who puts her faith in get rich quick schemes and the charity of neighbours, would it be surprising if some household dependants opted to stay with Dad? Presumably that arrangement would be fair enough too.

Martin O’Gorman, Littlejohn Road, Edinburgh

Depressing notion

It may come as a shock to many nationalists, but the covid virus is being badly handled by the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government seems no better. The effect of lockdowns will be to cause a massive depression on both sides of the B order in 2021. The same will occur in the EU. The USA may manage to kick start things if Donald Trump is re-elected, but the outlook is very concerning.

Whatever the result of the US election, the economic climate in Europe will rule out any realistic likelihood of a Scottish referendum occurring and it is very unlikely that Scots will vote to break up the UK in the midst of a recession, unless they take collective leave of their senses, which is always possible, of course.

Regardless, the EU will be in no position to take a new member nation if Scotland were to vote to jo in – in the unlikely event of a referendum being allowed – especially one which was effectively bankrupt when times were good. The outlook when times get bad is horrific and only remaining with the UK will shelter a fragile Scottish economy from the harsh trade winds of another century with its Twenties marked by a hard Depression.

Peter Hopkins, Morningside Road, Edinburgh

Bad decisions

The SNP decision to withdraw support for the BiFab yards was monumental and perhaps epitomises nationalist governments. Critics have claimed, with overwhelming evidence, that there was “dubious financial arithmetic ” – a recurring theme with SNP projects – among many other failings. We need only look at two multi-million pound rusting ferries and a redundant airport, bought at great expense. But the worst aspect of all was the decision not to seek UK help with BiFab. No, they could not have that, could they? Better the yards left Scotland altogether than that.

Alexander McKay, New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

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