Letters 16.4.15

Crown Estate and House of Lords

As we hear that the big guns from the Labour elite – Brown, Darling, even the alleged warmonger Blair and other big political names are being prepared for another “march into Scotland “ to prop up the disastrous Jim Murphy in the run-up to the General Election, is the silence not deafening on the famous vow – the last promise made by those illustrious gentlemen.

The latest draft Bill on the watered-down Smith proposals gives Westminster an absolute veto on any changes in welfare etc including any attempts to scrap the bedroom tax - the strings of Westminster very much remain intact.

If we do vote for a sizeable number of SNP MPs, as the polls seem to indicate, Scotland will be represented on many of the influential committees in Westminster and our opinion will finally matter.

The Scottish electorate, understandably, find it hard to distinguish between the policies of Labour and Conservative, evidenced recently by the fact that the Labour chancellor would not even reverse any of Osbourne’s 2015 Budget resolutions - changed days indeed!

Maybe we should look at major issues which do provide clear water between those two parties and the policies of the Scottish National Party – two come immediately to mind – i) The Crown Estate ii) House of Lords, all of which attract a fair degree of support from Labour and Tory but a dismantling of each is very much part of the SNP manifesto.

The Crown Estate taxes virtually all Scottish offshore development - fish-farms, wind farms, oil installations etc. This “poor“ organisation – the Crown Estate, which was transferred to HM Treasury in 1760 - owns all of Regent Street, Windsor Park, 58000 acres of the Glenlivet Estate and so it goes on. The SNP clearly states that it would divert such iniquitous taxes to assist local communities in much greater need.

You may recall that one of the mantras of the Labour Party before they became glued-together political bedfellows with the Tories was “...that the unelected elitist and privileged club in London aka the House of Lords should be scrapped…”

Once you strip out all the Barons, Earls, Viscounts (mostly Tories of course ) you are left with a total of 390 and guess what! There are 178 Tory peers yet 212 Labour peers. Can you believe that? 212 Labour peers and Labour say they might scrap the House of Lords – do turkeys vote for Christmas ?

A Band 1 nurse earns about £300 per week which is what each peer gets for popping into the Chamber for “appearance money’ not to mention the travelling expenses, second home allowance etc. How obscene! Surely we can do better than this.

The Crown Estate and the House of Lords are on top of the SNP to sort list, given the opportunity.

Let us help them to do it.

John G Mitchell

Isle of Harris

Superhero status

In his efforts to confer superhero status on Angus B MacNeil, the SNP spokesperson, David Wilson credits the MP with a number of barely credible achievements. Words - and there has been far too many of them! - become in themselves deeds.

Thoughts become actions. With his X-ray vision or, possibly, 4G mobile coverage for the Western Isles, he is even able to look into the minds of his opponents.

For instance, we are told he ‘shamed’ a government minister into taking action on the fuel situation in the North of Scotland. Forgive my obvious stupidity, but how, in the name of Kryptonite, can anyone possibly know that?

What special knowledge does any individual possess about the inner working of another person’s heart and mind, especially when their interests and those of their constituency happen to coincide with their own?

Surely, too, any casual examination of the records of politicians from remote or rural areas would reveal that speaking up against high petrol prices in their constituencies has not been the sole prerogative of one individual. Why is Dr Wilson claiming that Mr MacNeil is unique in this regard?

One would be fascinated by what else David Wilson thinks is the effect Mr MacNeil has on his other friends and opponents. Does he, for instance, tantalise Theresa May? Bamboozle Bercow? Excite and entertain the Eds - either Balls or Miliband? Embarrass Alex Salmond? (One or two items in that list might just be true!) There is one aspect of David Wilson’s letter, however, that I profoundly welcome - that is his insistence that people go to either Hansard or the relevant websites to examine the profundity and depth of Angus B MacNeil’s contributions to the House of Commons over the past years. Can I suggest that they go further? When the Western Isles MP arrived in Westminster, he launched a campaign to ensure clarity, transparency and accountability in the political system. Can he now extend this to his actions as a Parliamentary Representative for his constituency?

Will he be good enough to allow people access to his files, for instance, on his work ‘defending’ the Benbecula Range or ‘supporting’ the case for the Interconnector?

There might be a few stories to be told there too. Unfortunately, they all come under the heading of comic tragedies.

Some involve army cadets sleeping in tents. Others feature Mr MacNeil airing his utterly irrelevant belief that female wages are more important in rural areas than male ones.

One thing is certainly true. There is not a single piece of evidence that shows Mr MacNeil to be the hard-working, industrious defender of his community Dr Wilson claims him to be.

Donald S Murray

Shetland ZE2 9Ey

Branch office

In just one day the Labour General Election campaign in Scotland has been holed, potentially fatally, below the waterline, not by any other political party, but by its own party bosses at Westminster.

At the launch of Labour’s UK manifesto, both party leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls have said that there would be public spending cuts in Scotland, when Mr Murphy had already firmly claimed there wouldn’t.

When Mr Murphy’s claims were put to them, the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: “The leader of the Scottish Labour Party will not be in charge of the UK budget.”

Mr Murphy has been hung out to dry and the simple truth is that Labour would impose swingeing spending cuts on Scotland and the rest of the UK, carrying on with austerity where the Tories left off.

Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna have just confirmed that Labour in Scotland continue to be no more than a branch office of Westminster Labour and Mr Murphy has been left devoid of any credibility in this campaign..

Alex Orr

Edinburgh EH10 4JT

Politics full of compromise

Having read a letter by Dr Wilson and Mr. MacNeil’s election address regarding the 5P fuel derogation I just want to add the following comments.

The 5P fuel derogation was being highlighted by North of Scotland Liberal Democrat MP’s and MSP’s prior to and during the 2010 election campaign. My understanding was that it pretty much had cross party support throughout the North of Scotland.

There is no doubt that during this time Mr. MacNeil was part of the campaign for derogation.

The SNP election address states he helped win the 5p derogation but whilst his contribution was welcome it was no greater than that of Alistair Carmichael, Liam McArthur, Tavish Scott or any other citizen who had put pen to paper. What turned the aspiration of derogation into reality was the Lib/Dems entering into coalition and Danny Alexander, a Highland MP being appointed to the Treasury.

For Dr. Wilson to suggest that Danny Alexander, a Highland MP would grudgingly push through this policy because of pressure from Mr MacNeil takes spin close to fiction. It is only because of the Liberal Democrats in coalition that this policy was possible at all.

Dr. Wilson brings up the subject of the Lib/Dems and tuition fees, interestingly enough if the Lib/Dems had not changed their minds on this in all probability there wouldn’t have been a coalition and as a consequence no derogation.

Manifestos are what political parties wish to do if elected, if they are not elected and have to go into coalition why is anyone surprised that policies fall by the wayside, politics like life is full of compromise.

As the SNP have never been in a position to really influence Westminster politics they can pretty much put anything they want in their manifestos however it’s a simple matter to do a quick internet search for SNP Holyrood Manifesto pledges that have never been kept.

Gordon Diesel’s campaign against unfair practices is to be applauded but again this issue was highlighted by the fair fuel campaign who had support from cross sections of the community, however I seem to recall that because a Labour stalwart like Calum Iain Macmillan was the driving force there was controversy over the part our MP did or did not play.

Ruaraidh Ferguson

TongIsle of Lewis

Follow the money

The Scottish media has been full of Labour, Tory and LibDem representatives united in the view that Scotland will suffer economically in the event that the SNP make significant electoral gains and the Scottish Parliament obtains full fiscal autonomy.

The only thing that I can take from this is that Scotland must currently be being subsidised to the hilt by the rest of the UK.

If this be the case, Scottish voters would do well to vote for unionist parties and hope that the rest of the UK doesn’t notice until the Union has been bled dry!

John Eoin Douglas