Letters to the editor – week 25

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Unite against power grab


Labour and the Lib Dems must recognise and respect the recent vote in the Scottish Parliament and the views of their Scottish colleagues who refused to give consent to the damaging Brexit legislation proposed at Westminster.

Labour amendments to former clause 11 of the bill require consent of the Scottish Parliament unless a UK Minister ‘has reasonable grounds for believing that regulations are required for the purpose of giving effect to any international obligations’.

It would be catastrophic for Scotland if Labour left the door open for the Tory Government to breach the devolution settlement.

Leaving Holyrood exposed to powers taken without consent in any area connected to an international trade agreement would be disastrous. This could threaten future trade deals, environmental standards and food safety.

The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it.

The SNP tabled amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill to safeguard the Scottish Parliament from the threat of constraints on existing powers.

This is something which Holyrood refused consent for last month by an overwhelming majority including all parties, except the Scottish Conservatives.

It would simply be a democratic outrage and it would fly in the face of the fundamental principles of devolution. This Conservative government seems determined to destroy the founding principles of devolution and Labour and the Lib Dems must join us in defending it.

Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute.

Hard pressed farmers ignored


It seems that almost every day I’m contacted by farmers in my constituency with concerns about their future.

This is hardly surprising as farmers are borrowing more and having to pay staff less, according to figures released by the Scottish Government.

According to ‘Agricultural Facts and Figures’ published recently, agricultural borrowing has doubled in the last 10 years, capital investment has stayed the same and agricultural workers are earning £1,560 less on average compared to last year.

The figures show farm borrowing has almost doubled from £1.38 billion to £2.28 billion between 2007 to 2017, while capital investment has stayed the same at £210 million.

This demonstrates that farmers are investing much less in their machinery and equipment while still having to borrow ever-increasing sums to remain viable.

This is on top of the fact farmers are still struggling with debts they incurred as a result the CAP payment fiasco caused by the SNP Government several years ago.

Time and time again the separatists have shown complete disregard to the plight that our hard pressed farmers are facing. It seems our agricultural industry is just one more sector that is ignored by the separatists in their relentless push for a second independence referendum.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Isle of Islay.

Where is Brexit dividend?


Claims by Theresa May that a so-called ‘Brexit dividend’ will help pay for a boost to NHS spending in England worth £20 billion a year within five years are highly disingenuous.

The UK will continue to pay into the EU through the transition until the end of 2020 and will pay £20 billion of the ‘divorce bill’ through to 2028. In addition, the UK Government has committed to keep EU funding for agricultural subsidies, research and development and other key areas at the same level in the short-term.

These are set figures so it will be at least 10 years before any so-called ‘Brexit dividend’, if it were ever to materialise, is to be realised. Add to that, if the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts are accurate, public finances are set to be £15 billion a year worse off by 2021, equivalent to £300 million a week.

Interestingly, if taxes are set to rise, which they will clearly have to, it is staggering hypocrisy for the Tories to have attacked the Scottish Government’s boosting of the NHS in Scotland through progressive tax changes and then look to hike taxes themselves.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.

Our councils need investment


Local government spending cuts have left councils in Scotland unable to meet the needs of local communities and, in some cases, are putting the public at risk.

A survey of more than 2,000 local government employees working across all services reveals almost eight in 10 council workers have no confidence in the future of local services and half are thinking of leaving their jobs for less stressful work elsewhere.

While local authorities have protected spending on statutory service areas such as adult and children’s social care, the amount they spend on other areas including parks and libraries has fallen sharply.

Local authorities have had to cut so many vital services that they have now reached a point where vulnerable children and the elderly struggle to get the help that they need, entire communities are suffering and the public is being put at risk.

There have been cuts to road and bridge maintenance, potholes in roads are left unfilled and bridges are at risk of crumbling. Crematoriums are not maintained, streetlights stay broken and parks are in disrepair as councils don’t have the equipment or the staff to adequately maintain them.

There are now more than one million people with an unmet need for social care because councils do not have the resources to support them. Now is the time to reverse these cuts and invest in local government once more or the fabric of our society will come unstuck.

Mark Ferguson, chairman, UNISON Scotland local government committee.