ON Saturday morning on Good Morning Scotland, Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, along with Ashwin Kumar of Manchester Metropolitan University Policy Evaluation and Research Unit, discussed the fact that there are three million people in the UK who cannot afford to heat their houses and a further 2.5 million who cannot afford to eat good food, a quarter of the bottom 25% of earners.

Scotland will have about 10% of these numbers, possibly higher as our climate is slightly colder, requiring more energy and therefore cost.

Discussion surrounded the 1942 Beveridge Report where the five giants (big challenges) of want, squalor, ignorance, disease and idleness were cited.

In terms of poverty it appears that in the late 1940s pensioners were the biggest at-risk group – now not so much. Idleness in the 1940s came after decades of high unemployment – again this has changed as in recent years relatively low unemployment prevails.

Employment has transformed from the casual labour model of standing in line waiting for the “foreman” to hire you for the morning, and if you worked hard you would get the afternoon shift also. Now it’s easy to get a contract to work, but it is a “zero-hours” contract, where you may get 40 hours’ work or zero hours’ work. This is an extreme example, but it must be a nightmare for anyone planning to run a household budget. How much additional stress is generated by these contracts?

Flexible working where the employee and employer agree to working hours that mutually benefit both is not in question, but the contracts where the employee relies on a minimum number of hours from this contract, but frequently gets short-changed, are.

We all know high levels of stress are a contributor to poor health outcomes, so should “zero hours” contracts have a government health warning?

Alistair Ballantyne
Birkhill, Angus

THE Scottish Government and Cosla must despair at negotiating with the EIS, at least with its leadership, who don’t appear to understand how services are funded or the Audit Commission report (Teaching union announces January strike plans, Dec 9).

On the day of the STUC mass lobby of parliament, the EIS General Secretary said: “Just last week we saw an Audit Commission report highlighting that the Scottish Government had underspent on last year’s budget by two billion pounds. That was a political choice by the Scottish Government, and one that has profound implications for our public services.”

This was most definitely not a political choice made by the Scottish Government.

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About half of the underspend in the Auditor General’s report relates to UK Government non-cash and ring-fenced budgets – such as for student loans and Covid compensation during the pandemic – that the Scottish Government could not spend on other items.

The Scottish Government has reported that almost all of the remainder had been allocated but in many cases completion and consequently payment had been delayed as a result of the pandemic.

The actual underspend for the year identified by the Scottish Government is about £200 million, enough to deal with any last-minute emergency such as widespread flooding or a major storm.

At 0.4% of the Scottish Government’s total budget, this underspend is about as small as is practically possible to deliver an annual balanced budget that can not legally have a deficit.

The EIS needs to recognise that in spite of the highly publicised underspend, there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

John Jamieson
South Queensferry

I MUST commend Mike Small for his Bella Caledonia article in the Sunday National on December 4. From “liminal land to limbo” sums up the effect, post-Supreme Court judgment, on many independence supporters and others who seriously embrace the thought of a new and better future – Scotland’s future, Scotland’s choice – with no interference from outside parties who are trying to block any route towards this goal because they don’t like the different political ideology and the threat to their precious Union that has been disproved to be their often-preached “Union of equals” or a “family of nations” – a myth!

I can empathise with Mike Small’s sentiments and subsequent despair at the thought there are still huge factions of people within our population who are happy so see the status quo continue in Scotland after decades of damning evidence that the British state doesn’t do it for Scotland and there is an alternative way to change it for the better.

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Despair does indeed flourish during dark periods like this time of year, when the clocks have been put back and early dark nights prevail. However, one cannot sit still and meekly accept this position as the way it is. That’s what the political opponents of the Scottish Government and indy movement would love to happen with the whole Scotindy/referendum threat “disappearing into the long grass”. That is not going to happen, as we have travelled on too long a journey to give it all up after a highly questionable Supreme Court judgment.

Let despair transform into positivity, constructive action and unity of all associated with the quest for Scottish independence. It is our duty to push on with the great work done by Scottish nationalist pioneers like Winnie Ewing and others who have brought us to the point where we are in a far more positive political position than ever foreseen all those decades ago. There is more work to do and we can do it together!!

Bernie Japs