LETTERS: Sovereign oil fund was a missed opportunity

I never cease to be amazed at the glee UK dependency supporters express over low oil prices, as they fail to recognise the problem this causes to the UK with its massive increasing national debt and annual budget deficit, which means more austerity for years to come.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 22nd February 2016, 8:42 am
Updated Monday, 22nd February 2016, 8:45 am

In Scotland we are not dependent on oil revenues, but it is a great pity that the UK government did not follow the SNP’s advice given 25 years ago to establish a sovereign oil fund, just like Norway, and build up reserves to even out volatile oil prices.

Recent Cabinet papers released under the 30-year rule revealed that in the mid-1980s, when Scotland was contributing a regular annual £25 billion surplus to London, the Westminster government was secretly cutting the Scottish budget by hundreds of millions a year.

Small countries can respond more quickly to changing circumstances. Based on GDP per capita, Ireland and Iceland are now wealthier than the UK and, without oil, Denmark, Finland and Sweden continue to have a much higher standard of living than the UK.

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Most economies derive many benefits from low oil prices, but as Westminster still controls the five main taxes that would allow Scotland to restructure its economy or deal with chronic inequality, the Scottish Government has little control over macroeconomic events.

A self-governing Scotland, with the ability to adopt quite different fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies – as well as business and labour market policies – might not face the economic time bomb currently imposed upon it.

Fraser Grant, Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Forget grandstanding, just sort out the budget

Another day, another announcement of more money distributed by Nicola Sturgeon, and another photo op.

Monday, £70 million to help key industries after a series of factory closures and threats to the steel industry. Wednesday, £6m 
for getting young, 
unemployed people into work, aimed at those who find it harder to get jobs. Thursday and Friday, who knows.

Worthwhile projects, certainly, but is the PR really more important than a co-ordinated long-term plan, tackling issues that have gone wrong or not improved under the SNP’s watch?

Last month saw council budgets cut drastically, and people young and old will suffer as a consequence. Now, money seems to be growing on trees.

A cynic might say that the object is to get Saint Nicola into the public eye as often as possible, keeping money back from councils to cover up her own mess.

The realist simply asks the SNP Scottish Government to put together a proper plan and distribute the available budget in an orderly way to secure the greatest long-term benefit for the people of Scotland.

Hazel Kennedy, Oswald Road, Edinburgh

Party leaders’ debate is another chance of farce

There is to be a political party leaders’ debate in the run-up to the Holyrood elections. It is to be on March 29 in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh and will be televised by STV, chaired by political editor, Bernard Ponsonby.

Sadly it is to be in front of a live audience. We can expect the usual grandstanding by the participants playing to their supporters, scoring cheap political points to whip up the audience.

One just has to cast one’s mind back to the referendum debates to remember the disgraceful audience behaviour.

It just needs someone from the SNP when unable to face reality to complain about Thatcher, bankers and Westminster as well as “refusing to take any lectures from Tory toffs” to set off a baying mob.

The advent of televising Westminster and Holyrood has created the most unedifying state of affairs, with nodding donkeys on all sides positioning themselves for the greatest TV exposure.

This situation has reduced the debates in both houses to the level of the worst daytime reality shows and must be counter-productive to the work of both parliaments as members concentrate more on how they are looking on television to the detriment of constructive debate regarding important matters in hand.

Donald Lewis, Gifford, East Lothian

Council doing its best to keep Edinburgh clean

It is very disappointing to hear that Mr Devlin was dissatisfied on his recent visit to his hometown (‘Edinburgh becomes dirty man of Europe’, Letters, February 18). We take the issues he raises very seriously and want our ever increasing number of residents and people who choose to visit Edinburgh, year on year, to have a positive experience.

Overall levels of street cleanliness are, in fact, improving across the city and the most recent figures, as independently assessed by Keep Scotland Beautiful, show that 15 out of 17 of our wards exceeded cleanliness targets.

We recognise that the vast majority of residents, businesses and visitors dispose of their waste responsibly. However, there are still issues in some parts of Edinburgh, including the city centre and Leith and we are focusing our efforts on making improvements in those areas through enforcement actions and other initiatives. We all need to tackle problems such as litter, flytipping and dog fouling, which are caused by an irresponsible minority.

Our street cleansing teams do a great job but they can’t be everywhere at once, so it is vital that people take responsibility for their own litter.

With our ‘Save time, do it online’ campaign we encourage people who experience issues with litter or dog fouling to report them online, so that they can be sorted out as quickly as possible.

I want every area of Edinburgh to have the same high standards of street cleanliness and we will continue to work with local residents to reach this goal.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, transport and environment convener, Edinburgh City Council