Letters to the editor – September 18, 2020

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Sacrificing the union


The current Tory administration, in its haste to get out of the EU at any cost, proposes, in its Internal Market Bill, to ride roughshod over Scotland’s and Wales’s devolved responsibilities.

Wales’s Counsel General Jeremy Miles says of the Internal Market Bill: ‘The U.K. Government plans to sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from the devolved administrations.’

From Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party: ‘More and more this is not about independence versus the status quo of devolution. It’s about independence as the only way to protect the Scottish Parliament from being undermined and its powers eroded’. She continues: ‘Added to all of the above, this is a bill that, by the government’s own admission, breaks international law’.

Surely it is time for Scotland, and for Argyll and Bute, to consider its position. The UK is a busted flush, carelessly, incompetently and illegally led by Prime Minister Johnson and his compliant cabinet, all of whom bear collective responsibility for the international disgrace and dishonour done to all of us by a government for which we did not vote.

Mary MacCallum Sullivan, Ardrishaig

Scottish fiscal deficit overstated


Once again the GERS figures (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) have been released. It estimates the revenue raised in Scotland and the goods and services provided for the benefit of Scotland.

Just how accurate are these figures?
It should be noted that Scottish GDP is not determinable with any accuracy because much of the data required to calculate it such as taxes, imports, exports, investment, savings and more besides, is simply not reliably available for Scotland and is instead based on estimates provided from London.

Scottish VAT is declared on the whole of UK VAT returns: no-one knows how much is due for Scotland. GERS compares tax paid in Scotland with spend for Scotland. That means the following are ignored:
Scottish income taxed outside Scotland such as rents, interest, profits, royalties and maybe more, all of which can be significant; Tax paid on providing the benefits for people in Scotland when that spend occurred outside Scotland; Tax paid on the multiplier benefit in the spend outside Scotland nonetheless charged to Scotland.

It allocates £3.4bn for Scotland’s share of military spending as part of the UK. Compare this with Ireland who, in October 2019, announced that its defence budget for 2020 would just exceed €1bn.

We are also allocated the following, over which we have no say:

  • £4.5bn to service Westminster debt.
  • £1.8bn for UK ‘service costs’.
  • £966m for ‘international services’.

The result is a system designed to overstate the Scottish fiscal deficit.

GERS tells us nothing about how an independent Scotland would fare or even run its affairs.

It does, however, tell us how Westminster-linked organisations would like us to be seen.

Elaine Mackenzie, Tarbert.

The Rest – upgrade forest road


In response to the open letter to Government regarding the Rest and be Thankful and Councillor Alastair Redman’s letter in the Argyllshire Advertiser on August 14, I would just like to explain to government, councillors and readers that years ago the Argyll Timber Transport Group proposed and costed the upgrading of the forest road on the other side of Glen Croe as the sensible, safe, low cost solution. At that time, from memory, the cost was estimated at £1.9 million; much much less than has been spent on consultants’ fees, engineering works – which have not solved the problem – upgrading the old military road and generous payments in cash and kind to local landowners

Surely it was in the realms of common sense that Scottish Ministers for Transport and
Connectivity could agree this simple fix with Scottish Ministers for Rural Affairs.
Scottish Ministers own the land involved!

I strongly urge the Scottish government to adopt this solution, which they
would deliver by Easter 2021 if they start now, and when everyone wishes to see
action, and everyone is willing to work together.

When we have this new, safe, road and Argyll is open 24/7 all year round every
year, we can go back and examine the wasted time and wasted money and try to
learn, going forward, to see the wood and the trees and not to put lives and businesses
at risk.

J R Dixon, Cairnbaan

A vital lifeline for children


As a volunteer for the NSPCC’s Childline service I have seen first-hand how lockdown has impacted a generation of children. Combined with the closure of schools and the lack of contact with their usual support networks, many already vulnerable children have been placed at increased risk of mental health difficulties.

Since lockdown began, Childline has delivered more than 2,600 counselling sessions to children in Scotland for support with mental and emotional health issues, including suicidal thoughts and feelings. It is vital that children know we are still here for them and that Childline can continue to provide a vital lifeline for them.

This is why I am appealing to your readers to remember us in their will in the wake of last week’s Remember a Charity Week. Leaving a legacy can have an incredible impact – the amount we receive through legacies is the equivalent of the cost of running our schools’ Speak out Stay Safe programme and Childline combined for a year.

As we move from crisis to recovery, we need your help to continue to support children during this challenging, ever-changing situation and beyond.

To find out how you can help, please call 020 7825 2505 or visit nspcc.org.uk/guardian

Kat McMahon – Volunteer for NSPCC Scotland’s Childline service