Reduce waste before increasing tax rates

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Sir, – Is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon trying to soften us all up in preparation (September 8) for a rise in the basic rate of income tax?

The first thing she may want to consider is whether this would sit easily with removing the cap on public sector pay.

There might be little point in giving workers in the health service, local government and the civil service a pay increase if it is to be immediately recouped through the tax system. Even more important is the attitude of voters to waste in government spending.

This came to mind recently as I listened to Dame Margaret Hodge give a talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

As a former chair of the Westminster public accounts committee, she is well placed to comment on discrepancies in the way public money is spent.

She estimated that out of a total expenditure budget of £800 billion, about £100bn is wasted.

How? Departments not working well together; inefficient procurement policies; incompetent attempts at introducing information technology; lack of strategic direction; private firms not understanding the public sector’s needs when bidding for and implementing contracts; political interference in defence contracts; collusion between the big accountancy firms and the HMRC over tax avoidance.

It would be wrong to pretend that some of these problems don’t exist in the way the Scottish Government manages our affairs.

If Ms Sturgeon wants to increase our taxes she needs to show that she is serious about tackling waste first.

Bob Taylor.
24 Shiel Court,
Glenrothes.

 

Scotland’s hand of friendship

Sir, – Your recent correspondent Athayde Tonhasca Jnr derided the First Minister for securing trading arrangements with China in the face of that country’s appalling human rights record.

No mention was made of the UK’s dealings with Saudi Arabia, a regime currently involved attacking Yemen, resulting in children being starved to death. The war goes on and so does the UK arms supply to the Saudis.

I also noted Martin Redfern’s reference to people like me as extreme SNP supporters because we question the credibility of the GERS figures.

It is true that Scottish Government employees produce the data for central government to a set formula which uses various estimates and adjustments along the way where it is not possible to obtain accurate details. Common sense does not come into it.

Finally, Iain. G. Richmond makes the unbelievable suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon may now be a unionist even though the First Minister’s aim in life is to secure long-overdue independence for Scotland. I also believe the derogatory label of nationalist is insulting, because some of us are internationalists ready to extend the hand of friendship to others, if only we were free to do so.

Allan. A. MacDougall.
37 Forth Park,
Bridge of Allan.

 

Russian gave great insight

Sir, – I read with some disappointment about the lack of Russian language classes in Scottish schools at the present time.

It was my great privilege to be the first male pupil in Fife to start to learn this great language when, with great enlightenment, it became part of the curriculum at Kirkcaldy High School in August 1964.

I recall with much affection the thrill at unravelling the Cyrillic alphabet, and the commitment/knowledge displayed by our teachers, Messrs Hay, Tod and Wake was inspirational.

With their help, I went on to gain a Higher in the language, before going on to St Andrews University to take it to the next level for a year under the stewardship of the great Professor Reggie Christian.

I can accept that the prospective importance of the language may have diminished since that time (only two years after Cuba) but it was about more than just learning vocabulary. Great insight was gained into the history and culture of a huge and influential country and two of Pushkin’s epic poems still rank high in my list of all-time favourite literary works. If nothing else, I can amuse my granddaughter by translating the text on the colourful postage stamps of the era bearing the iconic initials CCCP.

Richard R. Peters.
64 Lady Nairn Avenue,
Kirkcaldy.

 

Speak out on school problems

Sir, – One of the main reasons the Bath Spa report gave for 40% of Scottish teachers wanting to leave the profession was the growing level of bad pupil and parent behaviour. Speak to any teacher and they will tell you this, and the BBC Scotland Morning Call programme on Friday was besieged by teachers who either focused on, or included, bad behaviour, violence, disruption and lack of support from management in their litany of complaints.

But politicians and senior education managers studiously ignored it in their reaction to the report.

Opposition politicians blamed the SNP, and the SNP waffled about their reforms and about working with the EIS.

The union’s leader Larry Flannagan, when asked on Morning Call about behaviour, brushed it off as “low level” and focused on workload and teacher shortages.

Surely it is time for politicians to call a spade a spade, speak out on the major impact that poor parenting has on pupil behaviour and performance and to do something to support teachers instead of pussyfooting around people who probably don’t vote anyway.

Allan Sutherland.
1 Willow Row,
Stonehaven.

 

Unreasonable climate targets

Sir, – I find myself in the unusual position of supporting a position of the SNP Scottish Government.

Last year Scotland exceeded its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42%, six years early.

However, new targets to cut total emissions by 66% within 15 years are not good enough for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and its chair Tom Ballantine who issues press releases like confetti.

Mr Ballentine wants to increase the 2050 target to 90%.

In terms of effectiveness, SCCS is irrelevant despite its perpetual rhetoric.

Scotland has 0.13% of global emissions while America and China together are responsible for 44% of global emissions.

China has repeatedly said it will not reduce its emissions until after 2030, maybe.

Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Accord.

I suggest that Mr Ballantine gets on a slow boat to China and then visits America.

Clark Cross.
138 Springfield Road,
Linlithgow.

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