Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - It is now 20 years since then Tory minister Peter Lilley at the Conservative Party conference attacked the ''something-for-nothing'' culture, famously reciting: ''I've got a little list'' of those in society who in his opinion were least deserving to receive UK government help and assistance. His comments provoked widespread outrage, disgust and parody from political opponents, religious leaders and the general public. Now, 20 years on and Johann Lamont the Labour Party's leader in Scotland has also attacked the ''something-for-nothing'' culture and she too has written her own ''I've got a little list'' of those she considers to be least deserving of Scottish Government help and assistance. That list includes the police, students, those who need care, the young seeking work and apprenticeships, the old, the sick, the vulnerable and those who pay council tax. Those in the right-wing media have described Johann Lamont's lurch to the right as ''brave''. Many others, including those in her own party, have been less than kind. In adopting Tory cuts Johann Lamont has been accused of abandoning her party's recent policies, betraying its founding principles, its membership, those it represents, and has been criticised by Scottish political observers of deliberately aligning herself with coalition policies at Westminster in order to emphasise her unionist credentials. They say that those who choose to ignore history are fated to repeat it. Peter Lilley's extreme right-wing views two decades ago help make the Tory party toxic and unelectable in Scotland. The danger for Labour in Scotland is to allow Johann Lamont to repeat that mistake in the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014 and the Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. That would spell disaster for Labour. Malcolm McCandless.40 Muirfield Crescent,Dundee. An opportunity for cycle lanes Sir, - I am astonished by Johann Lamont's threat to stop Scottish students being given free university education. This is not me being selfish but looking to Scotland's future. I was funded through university over 60 years ago after my father died when I was 15 and my mother was terminally ill when I was a student. There was no way I could have paid my way through a degree then teacher training. But I like to think that the country's investment in me paid off as I spent my working life educating the next generation. Labour's new policy drives a coach and horses through their previous stance on educating those who can't afford it themselves. In the period immediately after World War Two, the finances of Britain were pretty desperate too yet the government saw the importance of supporting students. This not a matter of mis-spending in hard times; it's a matter of assuring the future of the country. Ian Gilbert.6 Robertson Crescent,Pitlochry. An opportunity for cycle lanes Sir, - I read Alan Richardson's article, Signs positive for A9 upgrade (September 26), in The Courier with interest. What a fantastic opportunity to have good, high-quality Dutch-style cycle lanes between Perth and Inverness, incorporated with the road design. Will it happen, though? It would be fantastic if the Scottish Government have the foresight to grasp this truly forward-thinking opportunity. If they did the same with the new Forth crossing and all new road developments and upgrades, it could really promote and integrate cycling within an overall sustainable transport policy. Here's hoping. Or rather than hoping, perhaps we should campaign? Gregor Macintyre.Scottish Director,JB Corrie & Co Ltd (Scotland),Signal Box Road, Blairgowrie. No need to bring it up Sir, - I feel that there is a bias to your reporting of the story, New chapter as couple to share parish (September 24). You are only writing and printing information from the disparate group plus letters written by them. I do not wish to detract from the hope that Rev Dr Francis Bridger and Rev Helen Bridger will bring to St Mary's and Broughty Ferry, however, there was an omission from the article. The Rev Jonathan Bower was exonerated of all the concerns that were raised about him. Councillor Bidwell said we have drawn a line under what happened quite some while ago so where was the necessity to bring this up yet again without giving the full story? I also refute the comment made by Sally Carus that within the Church there is no homophobia. Mrs Fiona Jeffery.22 Gauldry Terrace,Broughty Ferry,Dundee. New broom Sir, - Just 24 hours after being appointed as the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland, an announcement is made that up to 3,000 support staff jobs could be lost following the merger of the eight police forces. Nothing like the new broom! John McDonald.14 Rosebery Court,Kirkcaldy.
Alex Salmond was pressed on currency plans but hit back at Labour leader Johann Lamont’s description of a host of economic powers as “wee things” during a stormy First Minister’s Questions. Ms Lamont and Conservative leader Ruth Davidson quizzed Mr Salmond on plans for an independent Scotland to remain part of a currency union with the rest of the UK in the event of a Yes vote in September. In a speech in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Bak of England Governor Mark Carney said an effective union would force a newly independent Scotland to hand over some national sovereignty. Ms Lamont claimed: “That would mean an independent Scotland would have to share mortgage rates, tax rates and a banking system, and have our spending, borrowing and welfare decided by a foreign country we had just left.” Mr Carney had said: “It’s over, it’s over” as he left a press conference, the Labour leader claimed. Mr Salmond hit out at the Labour leader’s “scaremongering” and listed a number of powers he said Scotland would gain under independence, including excise duty, air passenger duty, value added tax, capital gains tax, oil and gas taxation, National Insurance, income tax, corporation tax, competition law, consumer protection, industry regulation, employment legislation and the minimum wage, energy market regulation and environmental regulations. Ms Lamont, branded that a “ludicrous defence by a man who used to cry ‘freedom’ and now gives us a list of wee things which we could do”. Mr Salmond said the economic powers independence would give Scotland were “quite substantial things, not wee things”. Meanwhile, Ms Davidson came under pressure to distance herself from remarks made by Tory peer Lord Lang, who questioned whether the proposed break-up of the Union would dishonour the sacrifices made by soldiers. For a full, in-depth round-up from the chamber at Holyrood see Friday’s Courier or try our digital edition.
Labour MPs planning to boycott the party’s conference in Perth over plans for further devolution have been branded an “idiot crowd”. Reports circulated that a number of Westminster politicians would not be making the trip as they are increasingly frustrated with Scottish leader Johann Lamont’s proposals to fully devolve income tax to Holyrood. That led to the SNP claiming the party was “split down the middle”. However, a Westminster Labour source told The Courier: “I wouldn’t take it that seriously. The stuff that’s coming out is the usual nonsense that doesn’t have any sway down here anyway. “Discussions are still ongoing and it’s getting to crunch point. This is just the usual idiot crowd that have a pint on the terrace and say ‘we are not doing that’.” A senior Scottish party source added: “This is not a battle between any sections of the party. This is a debate to which anyone can contribute in any way.” One MP was reported to have said: “I won’t be going because if I was asked I would just come right out and say I oppose these plans.” SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that Johann Lamont is losing control of her party.”
An SNP MSP has apologised for offending people affected by HIV after an “insensitive” tweet seemed to reference the disease. A mocked-up picture saying: “I’M YES! POSITIVE” was branded “crass” after it was posted online by Christina McKelvie. Ms McKelvie insisted it was a response to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s conference speech this week. Ms Lamont described nationalism as a “virus that has affected so many nations and done so much harm”, which seemed to allude to 20th Century fascism. Ms McKelvie claimed nothing she said was intended to refer to any medical condition. She said: “I would never make light of any health issue, and I of course apologise for any offence caused. “I also believe that Ms Lamont should apologise for her original remarks.” HIV Scotland chief executive George Valiotis said: “The words and jokes used by politicians, be they in speeches, tweets or passing comments, can set the tone for public discussion and perception.” Robert McKay, national director for HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said: “HIV is still a difficult issue for many, so you can see why anything that appears to make light of it could be seen as crass.” Scottish Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan, a member of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It was in extremely poor taste and will have been very upsetting for those people living with HIV to see.” Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour’s deputy health spokeswoman, said the “insensitive” message was always likely to cause offence. She added: “She (Ms McKelvie) has done the right thing by apologising for the upset these comments have caused. “She would do well to leave it there rather than try to pass blame on to others.”
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
The SNP behaves like a “reckless opposition” and refuses to take responsibility in the quest for independence, according to Scottish Labour’s leader. Johann Lamont also described nationalism as “a virus . . . that never achieved anything” in a phrase that appeared to allude to the European 20th century fascist movement. She stressed her party’s role in the creation of devolution in Scotland to the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Ms Lamont said: “When they (the SNP) see the policies driven by the coalition of austerity, of the ‘bedroom tax’, what do they say? Do they see the affront to families across the UK? “No, they see they see a political opportunity. “For the Nationalists the misery of the people isn’t a wrong to be corrected, it is a chance to be exploited. For them grievance is not to be addressed it is to be nurtured. “And that cynicism, that calculation which leaves families suffering now is a price worth paying if it translates into votes next September.” She added: “But how much more frustrating is it in Scotland when the government behaves like a reckless opposition, refusing to take responsibility, happy to take the credit and energetic in blaming others.” Ms Lamont said the debate was not “Scotland versus the Tories”, as she claimed the SNP were trying to make it out to be. She said: “Scotland does not agree with Alex Salmond and if we work hard over the next year it will become increasingly clear this is Scotland versus Salmond and Scotland is going to win.” An SNP spokesman said: “These are ignorant, offensive and distasteful comments from Johann Lamont that have no place in the debate on Scotland’s future, and are completely at odds with the No campaign’s professed desire for a positive debate free from abuse.”
The Scottish Secretary and Holyrood’s leader of the opposition were branded “a disgrace” by the SNP for raising concerns about shipbuilding in an independent Scotland. Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont insisted a yes vote next September would be “the death knell” of shipbuilding in Scotland. During an ill-tempered Holyrood debate, Ms Lamont said Fife-based Raymond Duguid and Eric McLeod, Scotstoun union conveners John Dolan and Duncan McPhee and former Confederation of Shipbuilding Unions general secretary John Wall have all raised concerns about independence in recent weeks. She said: “The only option for bridging the gap between the carrier project that kept Govan and Scotstoun open and any future plans for shipbuilding is naval contracts. “There is now only one barrier to Scottish shipbuilding and that is the referendum on Scottish independence. If Scotland votes yes next year, it will be the death knell of a proud industry.” Her comments were met with jeers from the SNP and the party’s MSP for Clydebank Gil Paterson was called to order amid shouts of “you’re a disgrace to Scotland” in Ms Lamont’s direction. Labour MSP Neil Findlay called for the comment to be withdrawn but Scottish Government veterans’ minister Keith Brown also attacked Alistair Carmichael for suggesting shipbuilding contracts could be shifted south if Scotland votes for independence. Mr Brown said: “You have the Secretary of State for Scotland promoting Portsmouth as the place that should get the Type 26 contracts. He should defend these Scottish jobs and it’s a disgrace that he hasn’t done so.”
Today's letters to The Courier. Sir, - Malcolm McCandless (Letters, August 6), is very quick to stick the knife into Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader. However, a poll looking at one party and listing ''untrustworthy'', ''out of touch'', ''incompetent'' and ''boring'' as options is clearly biased and focused on achieving a destructive outcome, for whatever reason. When you ask people leading questions, you will get a biased answer. If you were to ask the Scottish public whether they trusted Alex Salmond, there would almost certainly be a very significant number, even within his own party, who would reply in the negative. I watched Johann Lamont in one of the televised leadership debates earlier this year and even as a member of another party, I have to say that the audience reacted very well to her good humour and groundedness, and it was obvious to me that she had learned the lessons from 2011. Their election results demonstrate this, gaining even in Perth and Kinross. Johann Lamont is very obviously persuaded that our future lies with a better devolved settlement, not with the country being independent. Be that right or wrong, she appears clear and sincere in her beliefs and we should respect that. I don't recall any Labour politician or party member coming forward to contest their recent leadership contest on the basis that Scotland should be independent. Victor Clements. Mamie's Cottage, Aberfeldy. Glowing picture of the old days Sir, - When I read Andrew Arbuckle's piece ''Sad to lose this local link'' (August 6), I was reminded of an article in the Holyrood Magazine which expressed similar sentiment around the time of the move towards multi-member constituencies. It painted a glowing picture of the days when, ''it was possible to bump into the Provost on his way to and from the town hall, or to drop in to see the burgh engineer about a hole in the road, there was a sense of communal ownership of local democracy. ''Local rows might become more intense and local feelings might run high about minor issues on such a row, but the upside was that there was a shared desire to see appropriate services provided to the highest standard'' and if it all seemed to be costing too much ''then there was the burgh treasurer to buttonhole at the paper shop or pub.'' It went on to say that it was important to ''return decision making to each community. That means putting into the hands of ordinary people control of the place in which they live and giving them the means to hold to account those who represent them. So 'back to the burghs' it must be.'' The author of this piece? None other than Mike Russell. Yes, the same Mike Russell who went on to become a list MSP for South of Scotland with an electorate of some 500,000 and stretching from Kilmarnock to Berwickshire. As you say, Mr Russell: ''Nothing beats keeping it local!'' Ray Russell. 16 Byron Crescent, Dundee. More than just a policy mistake Sir, - Dr Gordon Hughes, Professor of Economics at Edinburgh University, has assessed the likely impact of wind power on household energy bills. He told the House of Commons Energy Committee that meeting our renewable energy generation targets would increase households' electricity bills by around 60% by 2020. The necessary investment in windfarms would amount to about £125 billion while the same electricity demand could be met from gas plants for a capital cost of £15 billion. According to Hughes: ''The average household electricity bill would increase from some £500 per year at 2010 prices to around £800 in 2020 if we rely on wind power.'' This huge investment in an expensive and inflexible technology that is not even very green will be worse than a simple policy mistake - it will be a major economic blunder Dr John Cameron, 10 Howard Place, St Andrews. Root our rogue cars overnight Sir, - Clark Cross (Letters, August 2, ''Who pays for travellers? We do, of course'') suggests as a solution to illegal camping a visit from HM Revenue and Customs inquiring about tax payments and vehicle registrations. As far as cars are concerned, I have suggested for years that the police could profitably introduce overnight checks on our streets. They now have access to databases listing which cars are licensed, insured and have a current MOT certificate. Such checks could winkle out all the tax and insurance dodgers and illegally-run cars could be either towed away at once or dealt with when the owners arrive to drive them away in the morning. The benefits would be enormous. Thousands and thousands of pounds in lost revenue recovered, side-streets cleared of illegally-run cars, traffic congestion relieved because of the absence of these pirate vehicles and, most important of all, the great improvement in road safety with unroadworthy vehicles (as so many of them are!) removed. Another plus would be that the travellers would not feel that they alone were being victimised! George K McMillan. 5 Mount Tabor Avenue, Perth. Meteor not the only jet Sir - Reference your article ''Aircraft will mark royal milestone'' (August 8), the Meteor was the only allied jet fighter to see combat in the Second World War. The Germans, of course, had several jet aircraft in service, or on trials, during the conflict. A. T. Geddie. 68 Carleton Avenue, Glenrothes.
Johann Lamont has been challenged by education secretary Michael Russell who has highlighted Labour’s previous support for the National Union of Students’ Reclaim Your Voice pledge. The party backed the pledge not to introduce tuition fees when she was deputy leader, and her party’s website still carries the slogan “no price tag on education.” Mr Russell said: “The Scottish Government believes access to education should be based on ability to learn, not the ability to pay. “That was the position the public backed and it was the position on which Johann Lamont and every other Labour MSP stood at the last election. He added: “In a single vote in Parliament, she can vote with the SNP and back no tuition fees, or she can vote with the Tories and betray the principles on which she was elected.”
The SNP “outstrips” Labour when it comes to intelligence and strategy, according to Johann Lamont’s former top advisor. Paul Sinclair said Scottish Labour “looks lightweight” and “doesn’t seem to know what it is for” before branding it “a party of commentators rather than competence”. After serving for three years as the Scottish Labour leader’s senior strategist and spin doctor, Mr Sinclair wrote in The Times about his frustration dealing with MPs. He said: “It speaks to a belief that too many of our Scottish MPs regard Westminster as a way to escape Scottish politics rather than a way to represent Scotland.” Mr Sinclair also said “the SNP have an intellectual and strategic capacity that outstrips the opposition” and Labour’s “young talent” at Holyrood, including Jenny Marra: “are only there by accident”. SNP MSP James Dornan said: “The cat is out of the bag, and Paul Sinclair has confirmed what we all suspected a really bad attitude towards Scotland permeates the Labour Party, particularly their Westminster MPs.” A Scottish Labour spokesman declined to comment.