Letters: Culture of secrecy shows Holyrood not fit for purpose
IT has been evident for some time that the parliamentary system at Holyrood is not working well at all. Recent talk of the ferry fiasco has clearly demonstrated this (“Swinney denies giving ‘final nod’ to Calmac contract”, The Herald, May 13). Nicola Sturgeon leads a government that will take no responsibility for any mishaps or mistakes made under its watch. He recently used a former minister as a scapegoat for decisions that everyone knows were made at a higher level than he then held as transport secretary.
As the Auditor General has pointed out, the lack of transparency in government is a problem. The executive has virtually authoritarian power because there are no checks and balances like there are in Westminster. It is important to note that the role of strong select committees was not replicated in the Holyrood apparatus, where the executive dominates the committees.
All of this is extremely concerning in an atmosphere where the ruling regime is campaigning for Scotland to be entirely separate from the UK, with unlimited power in the hands of people clearly unfit to wield it. Holyrood is not fit for purpose. It is a failed experiment.
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.
WHO MONITORS REDACTINGS?
The FREEDOM of Information legislation has been one of the most important pieces of legislation in our democracy, although I doubt the political parties in power would fully agree, certainly not the current Scottish government, given its reluctance to comply repeatedly.
That aside, I think there is now another tool in the government’s arsenal to avoid scrutiny; document writing. Obviously, some redactions are necessary to protect an individual’s privacy, etc. However, as seen this week on the ongoing ferry fiasco, you should seriously ask yourself why this level of drafting was necessary other than to protect the government. We have seen it time and time again during the Salmond inquiry and we have obediently accepted it.
This raises the question: who controls these deletions? Surely there needs to be an independent review of these editorial decisions? Is this within the jurisdiction of the FoI Commissioner? If not, it probably is, because we need to know that this system is not being abused by undemocratic forces.
Redactions should be kept to an absolute minimum for a very short list of exceptions and not left to politically motivated individuals wielding their big black feathers.
Ian McNair, Cellardyke.
* HOW INSPIRED was I by the missing email drama held in high esteem in the Scottish Parliament? It brought back memories of Chamberlain’s visit to Herr Hitler.
Now, perhaps the missing documents from the Salmond investigation will also be found after an enthusiastic search with barking dogs. I’m afraid the devil doesn’t need to turn up the thermostats just yet.
Peter Wright, West Kilbride.
FERRY CONTRACT AT SIDESHOW
THE issue of Calmac’s ferry contract is turning into a never-ending soap opera that had little success with voters last week.
However, the procurement process or who signed the contract for the Calmac ferries are only sideshows to the actual construction issues. No one denies this is a costly mess, albeit with the best of intentions to maintain Scotland’s commercial shipbuilding capability, and not aided by numerous design changes over nine months of shutdown.
Ferguson’s offer was non-profit, to help win future contracts and CMAL believed it was the best quality, but the most expensive offer. However, as Ferguson was unable to provide a full contractual guarantee, this liability was reduced to 50% and the Scottish Government decided to create 400 jobs.
Opponents of the SNP would have been the first to complain if this work had been carried out abroad and if the Polish and German shipyards which previously built ferries for CMAL had gone into administration, with both ships in need of further repair work .
Any useful survey of ferries to Scotland would also help determine why independent Ireland has 44 direct weekly crossings to Europe as Scottish exporters pay the Brexit price for goods stranded at Dover.
By comparison, there is little media interest in the Royal Navy’s six Type-45 destroyers which were years overdue and £1. 5 billion over budget with an unreliable propulsion system underway that is expected to take until 2028 to be fully repaired, with several ships currently out of service at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.
Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.
THIS PERFID GOVERNMENT
IT is good to remember that England deserved at the beginning of its history the title of Perfide Albion in Europe.
If the machinations to dismantle the Northern Ireland Protocol have anything to do (“Prime Minister’s Claims Protocol to be ‘fixed’”, The Herald, May 13), it would seem that the government in Westminster is not unwilling to get rid of that particular personality without a fight. .
Boris Johnson and Lord Frost played a major role in crafting the protocol to ensure they could get Brexit through.
We all remember their delight when they announced they had landed a great deal for the UK.
Since then, the focus has been on scrapping the protocol as if Westminster had been coerced into accepting this formula by the EU.
Specious arguments are now being used to make it look like they had no part in creating the condition that brought about Brexit. The EU, which has generously made concessions to meet the UK’s newly discovered apprehensions, finds itself portrayed as legalistic and intransigent in the increasingly hostile rhetoric used against it by government officials in Westminster.
Such propaganda reinforces the credibility of the title with which the Continent has seen fit to anoint England because of the bad faith it has experienced in its relations with our island.
The more it changes, the more it is the same chosen.
Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.
INSULTING FOOD BANK USERS
I watched with amazement as MP Lee Anderson said in the House of Commons about food banks (“Tory MP was taken to task for his ‘I can’t cook’ comments about food bank users », The Herald, May 12). This former Labor MP turned Tory MP (what else) insults all food bank users by suggesting that they can’t cook and that every food bank should offer them a cooking class.
Surely such sweeping generalizations must be a form of discrimination against low-income members of our society. This mistaken and inaccurate stereotype serves no purpose.
Mr. Anderson needs to understand that many people do not go to a food bank voluntarily and it is understandable that many find the whole situation demeaning, demeaning and embarrassing. Many find that circumstances beyond their control necessitate their use of the food bank. Then having them take cooking classes shows just how out of touch this man is. These rude comments are unnecessary, to put it mildly. Mr Anderson goes on to say that healthy meals can be made for 30p.
Instead of unjustly criticizing and making wholly inappropriate comments against food bank users, Mr. Anderson would do much more good if he – and his colleagues – could make it their mission to work night and day to ensure that our society is fairer and fairer for everyone. In doing so, we would reach the wonderful day when food banks would become superfluous.
It would be cause for great celebration, and I would be the first to congratulate Mr. Anderson.
I also note that he claims around £206,000 a year in expenses alone and perhaps that figure would be significantly reduced if he spent a month or two existing – without living – on 30p meals.
Stewart Falconer, Alyth.
SEVILLE FRENZY DOESN’T COUNT
I have read that an important football match is due to take place in Spain on Wednesday and that it is almost impossible to book a trip to Sevilla due to the thousands of fans hoping to be there.
At the same time, media reports of the misery of people struggling to cope with rising energy and fuel costs, with the prospect of fuel poverty likely to affect so many in the country.
Something doesn’t seem to fit.
Covid may be on the decline, but is it possible that a wave of ‘sick people’ will surface around the middle of the week?
Malcolm Allan, Bishopbriggs.
SCOTLAND IS READY FOR THE TIME TRIAL
MY congratulations to Martin Hannan (“Dealing with failure should be high on our priority list”, Herald Sport, May 12) and David Barnes (“Scottish rugby needs to get real and devise a long term plan”, Herald Sport, May 10) for their criticism of Scottish rugby, both at club and national level.
We seem far too ready to accept the excuse of “building for the future” and allowing failure to be part of it. It seems everyone in the Scottish rugby sphere has forgotten that winning is a habit, and it is one that cannot be underestimated.
Scotland fly-half Finn Russell has had a frustrating season with the national team
After watching Finn Russell’s spectacular try for Racing ’92, then a video of his best contributions since moving to Paris, the question arises: does Scotland’s rugby setup preclude him (as well as others) to produce their best? We are 15 months away from the Rugby World Cup and with the recent failure of Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby, are we (as a nation) likely to be ready for this tournament? With South Africa and the resurgence of Ireland in our group, we risk being embarrassed by another failure.
I hope I’m wrong on all aspects of the above, but regardless of the outcome for the teams, we’re all just hoping for a positive outcome for Scott Hastings.
Francis Deigman, Erskine.
NEIL Bowman (Letters, May 12) complains that the Duke of Cambridge cannot speak the Queen’s English because he said ‘for Catherine and me’. Between you and me, customs change and even the upper classes commonly say such things. They consider “I” to be more chic than “me”. I wonder if they say “Hello, it’s me” instead of “It’s me”?
Helen Ross, Allan Bridge.
FOLLOWING Gordon Berry’s letter (May 13) regarding what to call people who cohabit, may I say that I thought they were cowboys who had partners. As my old father said when a lady and a gentleman had chosen to live together, the gentleman would have “thrown his bun”.
James Caldwell, Glasgow.
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