Sir, Your regular unionist correspondents once again pepper The Courier’s pages with their SNP/BAD propaganda.
The Scottish Government hasn’t claimed their baby box scheme is a panacea, as suggested by Jill Stephenson (Letters, December 21). They are well aware of the other factors required to ensure a healthy environment for our infants, and are taking steps accordingly.
Ms Stephenson’s other claim that only 35% of new parents had used, or were planning to use, the box as a bed, is incorrect – the figure is 62%.
In Ms Stephenson’s imagination, the 100% satisfaction figure is evidence of “a certain type of regime” – a repeat of the charge that Scots live under a totalitarian dictatorship.
Yet Keith Howell (Letters, December 21) complains of the Green Party’s influence regarding our budget.
The Holyrood voting system was designed from the outset to encourage cooperation in a parliament where no party would hold an absolute majority.
Clark Cross (Letters, December 20) claiming that Scottish taxes are higher compared to England is an outright falsehood. Nurses in particular will pay less tax. His fear that medical professionals will leave the best-performing NHS in the UK to work in an increasingly chaotic NHS England, where the public sector pay freeze still applies, is equally risible.
To highlight the parlous state of NHS England, hospitals there have been advised to cancel non-emergency operations in order to deal with a post-Christmas spike in A&E cases, with the term, “meltdown” being quoted in the media.
Mr Cross also complains of money spent on developing Prestwick Airport, and “failed renewables projects”. The former, a sound future investment, the latter, in spite of Westminster’s attempts at cutting it off at the knees, a success story we would be proud of.
A unified Police Scotland has saved taxpayers’ money, not gobbled it up as Mr Cross would have us believe.
His final complaint, that the SNP spend money on promoting Scotland abroad smacks of the Scottish cringe.
Those with an emotional attachment to Westminster rule have every right to argue for their governing body of choice. However, this does not excuse their persistent deflection and dishonesty.
Sadly, this will no doubt continue in 2018.
Ken Clark, 335 King Street, Broughty Ferry.
Town in urgent need of revival
Sir, – It is important to remember that the description of Cowdenbeath as the “Chicago of Fife” was made in the late 19th Century (The Courier, December 16).
We need to make some allowance for the pawky Fife sense of humour and the quite startling growth in the coal industry in the town at that time.
I wonder what its civic ancestors would make of the condition of its High Street today, and the divisions within the town over what to do about it.
Civic pride can often be gauged by the condition of buildings at its main entrances.
The condition of the old Crown Hotel at its north end is not just appalling, it is a disgrace.
Further along, the Town House – one of the most distinctive buildings in the region – is unused, while a gap site just south of the railway station badly needs to be filled.
Along the thoroughfare there is an atmosphere not just of decay, but of despair.
It is simply not enough for Fife Council to say this is only one town centre management problem. It is one that needs to be given the highest priority.
More than half a century ago nearly everyone in the area had a job but housing conditions in the main were terrible.
Today housing in the town is of a very good standard but the lack of jobs is reflected in the condition of the High Street. That is still no excuse for the local authority to shrug its shoulders about it.
Revitalising this famous street needs to be at the top of the agenda.
Bob Taylor, 24 Shiel Court, Glenrothes.
Putting a spin on Scottish politics
Sir, – The Alex Bell column (The Courier, December 28) made interesting if not totally accurate reading, cleverly scripted to conceal his particular takedown of the Scottish Government amongst the general failings of other leaders and regimes. He ended his piece by thanking everyone for reading his views, but his claim the SNP lost 21 seats in the May election by linking Brexit to independence indicates he doesn’t read the letters page.
Had he done so he would have known this outcome was due to tactical voting by the other unionist parties combining their resources to oust sitting SNP members with small majorities.
He would also have known that without full fiscal powers, any Scottish government would be hamstrung from improving any of its pressing problems, in particular economic growth, which is already fairly healthy, but for the estimated performance data presented by the GERS figures. These details are provided by Holyrood but to a format laid down and adjusted by Westminster in order to boost UK performance as a whole and play down that of Scotland.
Allan MacDougall, 37 Forth Park, Bridge of Allan.
Catalonia is not like Scotland
Sir, – The likening of Catalonia to Scotland is entirely false – a better comparison would be Greater London dumping the uneconomic British provinces or the Lombard League wanting free of the impoverished Italian South.
Unlike Scotland, the wealthy north-eastern region of Spain is a stand-alone economic unit. More interesting is whether the dismantling of older nations is a logical evolution of the European Union.
Rev Dr John Cameron, 10 Howard Place, St Andrews.
Left behind in EU progress
Sir, – On January 1, a decade after its accession to the EU, Bulgaria took over from Estonia the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time.
For six months Bulgaria will be the main driving force in shaping the EU’s policy agenda and has announced its key priorities for this role.
These have been outlined as the future of Europe and young people, security and stability in Europe, the Western Balkans and the digital economy.
Under the motto, “united we stand strong”, these priorities are established around the delivery of security, stability and solidarity for the EU.
While we in the UK are navel-gazing about the Brexit negotiations, there is a mistaken belief that the rest of the EU is as obsessed, but this could hardly be further from the truth.
The EU moves on, delivering on the practical solutions that will deliver a more competitive, flexible and successful EU.
While the outcomes of this will clearly impact and benefit the UK, with Brexit the UK is now but a bit-player on the EU stage.
This will be a key year when it comes to EU enlargement. So while the UK will be exiting the largest single market in the world, two nations in the Western Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro, look set to be the top candidates for the next round of enlargement.
Security and migration policies are also key matters that will be debated. The Presidency will work towards solutions in the area of asylum policy and in short and long-term measures aimed at the source of migration, not only at the consequences thereof.
There will also be a renewed focus on the delivery of the single digital market, including a focus on electronic communications and cyber-security.
There is a certain irony that as the EU enlarges and debates crucial matters which will have a profound impact on the UK, the UK has decided to pick up the ball and walk off the field.
Alex Orr, The European Movement in Scotland, 91 George Street, Edinburgh.