Readers’ letters: Councils not equipped to tackle cost-of-living

Anas Sarwar says tackling the cost-of-living crisis will be “front and centre” of Scottish Labour’s local government election campaign

It needs to be said that the things he is focusing on – a windfall tax on the oil and gas companies, rebates on water bills, a freeze on rail fares, a £400 payment to those genuinely struggling with bills – are largely out with the control of the local authorities.

They can put pressure on the Holyrood and Westminster governments to try and do something about all this. But their powers are limited to varying the levels of council tax and rents, and providing advice and guidance for those on low incomes.

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Indeed the rates of council tax (together with help from central government for those in Band AD properties) and council rents have already been set for the forthcoming year.

On the doorsteps it may be hard to convince voters that the decisions in town halls really matter.

Mr Sarwar’s colleague Katy Clark is on slightly stronger ground when she calls for a Scotland-wide rent freeze for both the private and public sectors. Even here the argument is dependent on the Scottish government. A rent freeze in both sectors means that less money is available to councils for investment in improvements to the stock.

There is a lot of research to support the view that council elections are determined on national issues. But after the results are declared councilors and officials are left with the reality of managing things as they are on the ground.

It will be easy for cynicism to set in when voters realize their ability to mitigate the effects of inflation is limited. That is why many of us would like to see a more imagination from all parties on how the local environment, structure and services along with how the profile of their local areas can be improved. Local democracy’s future may well depend on it.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

The election’s not a week old and already we may as well not bother.

All polls indicate that Scotland’s right back in the old mess of reflex voting for the same people they complain have let them down. Meet the SNP boss, same as the Labor boss. But are the electorate really to blame when the alternatives are so diabolical?

We have Scottish Tories even our Tory Prime Minister can’t abide; Lib Dems and Greens whose sententiousness is only matched by their shallowness come the merest whiff of acquiring high office; and worst of all Alba, the 57 Varieties of Tartan Trotskyites all perpetually talking great battles but proving in practice more akin to bald men squabbling over a comb.

Come back Robbie The Pict, all is forgiven

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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I hear on the BBC that Scotland is now officially the windiest country in Europe – this certainly comes as no surprise to residents of this windswept part of East Lothian.

Across the Atlantic, Chicago is known as “the Windy City”. However, this has nothing to do with their weather but everything to do with the city’s politicians, who, historically, were viewed as blowhards, as in the US, “windy” means “full of hot air”.

Oh wait! That interpretation works here too where the Sturgeon government is full of bluff and bluster and delivers precious little substance. Hopefully voters will finally turn out in numbers next month to puncture the SNP’s hot air balloon.

Kit Fraser, Dunbar, East Lothian

Socialists of the western world can rejoice in the fact that a true socialist state now exists in Scotland.

They can study it from afar or choose to come and live here to see first-hand a ruling party that does not allow dissent, where propaganda is taught in schools and a leader who makes Boris Johnson’s relationship with the truth look small fry.

They will be able to witness a government that has become an expert in the travel business. One which now presides over a loss-making airport, a loss-making ferry service and has just brought a rail network into that same debt-laden fold.

Not content with pouring millions of taxpayers’ money into lost travel causes, the government are doing the same with the means of travel in the ownership of a world-famous ferry building yard on the Clyde. It is here that our dear leader espoused the virtues of saving jobs for workers while signing a contract to make new boats in Turkey, generously saving jobs for Turkish workers too.

In mirroring the greatest socialist states of the past (and Greece), the Scottish government now employs directly or indirectly over 600,000 people and has an insurmountable national debt – too large even for the EU to consider.

Our dear leader has bested any contemporary in spinning failure, using terms like “bright future”, “progressive”, “fairer society” and most brazen of all “prosperous”.

From Scotland today, you can glimpse back to the 1970s through red-tinted spectacles where the national deficit is out of control, the unions have the upper hand, aspiration is frowned upon and the work-shy continue to reap generous benefits for their indolence.

In the 1990s the Greens in Germany persuaded the government to close most of its nuclear power stations. Then Germany made up for the loss of energy by burning more coal and more Russian gas.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine has revealed how deeply compromised Germany has been by its reliance on Russian oil and gas. It has shown great reluctance to take action against Putin and initially would not send Ukraine any weapons at all.

Since Germany dominates the EU economically, its weak response has been reflected in that of the EU. Thus we have seen countries like Poland and the Baltic states, which have suffered Russian aggression in the past, pressing for a strong military engagement, but encountering a sluggish timidity instead.

To its credit, the UK has been sending military hardware to Ukraine from the first day of the invasion, but its response has been limited by geographical distance and the lack of solidarity in Europe. Only the determination and valor of the Ukrainians themselves have prevented Putin from achieving his objective and completely subjugating a sovereign country.

The savagery of Putin’s attack is now plain for all to see. Cities have been smashed, utilities wrecked and the people of Ukraine tortured and slaughtered.

President Zelensky is right to question and condemn the weak response of the West to Putin’s murderous attack. Ukraine does not need more speeches of moral outrage. It needs military action to defeat Putin’s army and drive it out of Ukraine.

The government’s new Energy Security Strategy illustrates the truism that only a crisis motivates change.

It is tempting to direct a crisis response toward the simple and the immediate (support of oil and gas) but that misses the opportunity to focus exclusively on the right thing, which is to follow Oxford’s example and move to electrify everything from heat pumps in homes to industrial processes.

Of course, without new North Sea production there will be short-term sacrifices from high gas prices, but the UK will advance toward net zero goals more rapidly than once thought possible. True energy security requires addressing two crises – international instability and global climate change – with a singular focus.

A commitment to universal electrification using renewables will make the UK the world leader in green power, support the industries that unlock low-cost, low-carbon electricity on demand, and create new jobs and new export opportunities.

Larry Zulch, Chief Executive Officer, Invinty Energy Systems, London

Archibald Lawrie (Letters, 4 April) claimed that tidal power is available 24 hours a day but also failed to mention the tidal pauses. Consequently this power source is only partly reliable. Back-up would be needed while the tide turns.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Leah Gunn Barrett and D Mitchell (Letters, 7 April) mourn the UK government’s decision to privatize that UK bastion of investigative journalism, in-depth news reporting and political analysis Channel 4!

They join the liberal elite with their faux outrage claiming “it is an attack on British public service broadcasting” and that the government is scared of any “semblance of independence”. What utter drivel.

Programming on Channel 4 today contains precisely 90 minutes of “news” of which one program is 60 minutes long.

Therefore the expressed outrage from Messrs Gunn Barrett and Mitchell must be their worry that today’s content of Countdown (on twice!), Undercover Boss, Steph’s Packed Lunch, A Place in the Sun, A New Life in the Sun, Sun, Sea and Selling Houses (a lot of “Sun”) My £2m Dream Home and, last but not least, that most intellectually challenging program Naked Attraction, must be under some serious threat due to possible privatisation.

Channel 4 has needed a complete overhaul for a very long time and at last, the nettle has been grasped.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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