Letters: Don't blame the workers for the sins of austerity

·7-min read
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged RMT leaders to return to the negotiating table and stop the “callous” strikes, saying industrial action would “endanger” jobs rather than save them
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged RMT leaders to return to the negotiating table and stop the “callous” strikes, saying industrial action would “endanger” jobs rather than save them

THE Westminster Government has claimed rail worker pay demands will worsen inflation. But pay rises have been well below the inflation rate, so they can’t be fuelling it. Instead, inflation has been driven by Covid-related supply chain disruptions, the Ukraine war, western sanctions, and the ongoing disaster that is Brexit, causing energy and food prices to soar.

Meanwhile, striking rail workers, soon to be followed by teachers and health care workers, have systematically had their pay and conditions eroded because the UK Government undervalues human capital. Years of austerity yielded cuts to public services, driving down wages.

Where is the extra money people are shelling out for more costly goods and services going? Look no further than the commercial banks and commodity speculators in energy and food, where profits have soared.

The UK Government gifted commercial banks £900 billion after the 2008 financial meltdown and during Covid and pays the banks interest – which could be £50bn over the next the three years – on balances they’ve done nothing to earn. And the Government is profiting from increased VAT and duty which it could cut not only to reduce inflation but also to help its struggling citizens.

Now the Bank of England is raising interest rates which won’t reduce inflation but will hammer households struggling to pay their bills. This is yet another wealth transfer, from the have-nots to the have-a-lots.

Governments should ensure full employment, prevent inflation and protect their citizens. Incompetence, ideology and cruelty mean the UK has failed miserably on all counts.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.

• ACCORDING to my old phone, "barons" are well up the laddered, blue stockings of the aristocracy. Is it yet another lie from the lips of our ridiculous Tory leader to describe our trade union representatives as such?

Hundreds – out of millions – of years have passed since the working classes grasped a slippy handhold from the ruling classes to earn a right to life by simply being human.

The Brexit shambles has already shown that we are living in a land of too many cowboys and a shortage of Indians.

High time for the herd to lead the pack.

Duncan Graham, Stirling.

GIVE US A PENSIONS GUARANTEE

I RECEIVE two pensions paid by United Kingdom bodies – one the State Pension, which is paid by the UK Government, and the other, paid, under the auspices of the Financial Assistance Scheme, by the Pension Protection Fund, which was originally established in UK law, by the Pensions Act 2004, essentially to manage and make pension compensation payments to those, such as me, whose main employer had become bankrupt and who would, otherwise, receive nothing from years of contributions made into their employer’s final salary pension scheme.

It has been made abundantly clear, over the past few months, that if Scotland were to gain independence from the UK, the UK Government and, presumably also, UK bodies such as the Pension Protection Fund – which was established by UK law – would have no legal obligation to continue pension payments to citizens of a state which had become independent and was no longer a part of the UK: a position which is perfectly logical, as National Insurance payments paid over the years to the UK Government were paid to fund the pensions of those then receiving them and not to fund the future pensions of those making the National Insurance contributions. After all, I’m sure that, if Scottish independence from the UK were gained, Scottish workers making NI contributions to the Scottish Exchequer wouldn’t expect their contributions to go to fund the pensions of pensioners resident in the foreign state comprising England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To allay the very natural fears of Scottish pensioners, especially given the disastrous state of Scotland’s finances, is it not incumbent upon the Scottish Government and upon Holyrood, as a whole, to provide a written and irrevocable, cast-iron guarantee, preferably one enshrined in Scottish legislation, to current pensioners in Scotland that pensions currently paid by the UK Government, and other UK bodies, would continue unaffected, and on the same terms, if Scotland were to become independent, and to also provide a further guarantee of a similarly based, future pension entitlement to all those Scottish citizens currently making NI contributions into the UK coffers, the latter guarantee, despite my own self-interest, being undeniably more important to the vast majority of the population than the former?

Until, and unless, such an irrevocable guarantee is given, I, for one, know exactly which way I would vote in any Scottish independence referendum and would urge all Scottish voters, regardless of age, to think and act likewise – with their heads and not their hearts.

Bob Hamilton, Motherwell.

SO WHY DO THEY WANT SCOTLAND?

WHY are unionists so desperate to keep Scotland in the Union if we are costing them so much?

William Loneskie (Letters, June 21) suggests Scotland receives lots of "freebies" as part of the UK; would that be the "freebies" paid for by Scottish consumers through VAT and excise duty?

VAT and excise duty from transactions in Scotland go directly into the UK Exchequer – it receives 70 per cent of the cost of a bottle of whisky. And what about the extra VAT the UK Exchequer is currently collecting from the astronomical fuel costs? We can’t turn the clock back, but what about all the tax and revenues over the years from Scotland’s oil, no oil fund created, no legacy for Scotland?

Scotland’s economy is taking a pounding as a result of something the people of Scotland did not want and did not vote for: Brexit. But hopefully this can be corrected with the powers of independence that must follow. Those powers would allow Scotland to have control of its own economy, and allow it to prioritise spending to create the socially-just society Scotland desires.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

• LIKE many relentless opponents of Scottish independence, William Loneskie (Letters, June 21) seems to regard the Barnett formula as the total expression of the economic relationship between Scotland and England.

On the contrary, there has never been an independent, comprehensive analysis of this relationship and it is hard to imagine the necessary financial details being willingly released by the Treasury or the UK Government. The head of the civil service once – perhaps inadvertently – summarised his official attitude as being "economical with the truth".

It is never clear whether the use of the Barnett formula to attack Scottish independence is due to lack of understanding or to the deliberate misuse of numbers to support a prejudice.

Peter Dryburgh, Edinburgh.

SNP AND THE TITANIC SYNDROME

IT'S a week since Nicola Sturgeon's confident statement that there will be a referendum by the end of next year. We all know a week is a long time in politics.

Ian Blackford is in serious trouble ("SNP’S defence of Grady in chaos as pressure mounts on Blackford", The Herald, June 21). Angus Robertson, rushing to Mr Blackford's defence, has put himself in serious trouble too. Ms Sturgeon is dodging the issue along with Mr Blackford. Meantime, in the real world, the NHS crisis grows more serious with every passing day as well as social care, education and the economic fallout from numerous other problems.

The net result is that the SNP/Green alliance is slowly sinking over opposing policies and Ms Sturgeon's dream of independence has all but hit the rocks just after its launch. It is the Titanic syndrome. Nothing is unsinkable.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.

THE BRILLIANCE OF STEVEN CAMLEY

I ALWAYS turn to the Letters Pages first for a look at the usual anti-SNP moans and today (June 21) was depressingly prolific in its volatility about the Barnett formula and other items.

I could answer all the points and while cogitating the response scanned the other pages then stopped and laughed out loud at Steven Camley’s Boris Johnston’s “nasal operation” cartoon.

Depression gone; all is right in the world and the Barnett formula can wait.

Ken Mackay, Glasgow.

• WHAT a brilliant cartoon today. Steven Camley is brilliant. One picture to sum up Boris Johnson. Well done.

Alastair Clark, Stranraer.

Read more: Scrap Barnett. Why should the English fund Scotland's largesse?

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