DUE to sanctions and no doubt counter-sanctions, we are now all braced for the already extortionate cost of living to explode through the roof. In its wake, those already badly affected by food and fuel poverty and just damned well totally unacceptable grinding poverty will become what? Poorer than poor? The super poor as opposed to the super rich? The mega poor?

I’ve been banging on about the obnoxious levels of inequality throughout the UK and here in Scotland in letters to this newspaper since November 2020. It’s getting harder and harder to approach this in a more original way, having changed tack several times now, and I feel like a stuck record.

There is, however, one aspect of this issue that has in my opinion remained consistent throughout my lifetime of 61 years, and that is the press and media’s involvement generally. When reporters on the telly interview politicians about what can be done to resolve inequality, they never seem to state the bleeding obvious.

The bleeding obvious is that the vast, vast majority of wealth in the UK is concentrated in such few hands – and that is just plain wrong and should never have been allowed to happen. This has to change quickly and drastically. Why don’t news reporters put that very simple, straightforward, bald truth to government politicians when interviewing them about what can be done to address poverty?

Instead, too often we hear trite platitudes about “levelling up”, not “levelling down”. It’s rarely mentioned specifically, but it seems to be an unwritten rule that wealth already accrued by the super rich, the plain normal rich, the well-off and even those that live a “comfortable” lifestyle cannot in any circumstances be taken from them to help those that have zilch! It’s just downright immoral and on the whole the press and media are just not challenging this situation.

I’m afraid I just don’t believe that out of all the high-quality, intelligent news reporters out there, none of them are prepared to address the “bleeding obvious” in a very robust manner with politicians. Something must be holding them back, and when poverty has never been so dire in the UK in my lifetime, that is a very sinister place for us all to be in.

The brave Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who demonstrated live on air during a news broadcast on Russia’s Channel One, is a fine example to journalists throughout the UK. Be brave, forget unwritten rules, tell the truth. Tell the bleeding obvious!
Ivor Telfer
Dalgety Bay, Fife

AFTER reading the article headlined “FM takes aim at PM amid 3.4% salary pay hike” in The National (March 15), I have to say I am left a bit bemused and also a bit disgruntled. Mind you, in view of the fact that Boris has only received a mere 2.7% increase on his earnings, whereas I have received 3.1% on my pension, I wonder if I have any right to be disgruntled. Then again, when you consider that the £2212 per annum increase that he will receive works out at £42.54 per week compared to the extra £5.50 per week that I will receive from my annual increase of £286.00, maybe I do have grounds for some grievance.

In that article, the First Minister tells us that the SNP ministers have donated all of their rises since 2008 back into the public purse. That seems to indicate that they already earn enough – and they receive around £18,000 per annum less than Westminster ministers! I therefore wonder exactly what Boris will be spending his extra £42.54 per week on, since it seems he doesn’t really need it. As for me, mine has already been decided for me.

My £5.50 per week works out at £23.83 per month. Last month, my utilities supplier increased my gas and electric bill by £11.05 per month. Last week, they advised me that if I pay £4.00 per month into a “loyalty club”, then they will keep the increase due next month down to £8.00 per month. That’s a total of £23.05 per month. So, it seems that circumstances beyond my control have already reduced my pension rise to 78p per month. That works out at 18p per week. I’ll try not to spend it all in just one shop!
Charlie Kerr

MALCOLM Cordell (Letters, March 16) confuses the commemoration of historical events with the issuing of politically correct apologies to perceived victims. To use his example of politicians attending the Cenotaph ceremony, I am not aware that, unlike the victims of past slavery, Glasgow City Council is about to issue an apology to the descendants of those Germans who lost their lives in both world wars.

Mr Cordell celebrates the £150 council tax rebate he is about to receive from Nicola. Of course, the Scottish Government is simply following the UK Government in this matter, both in terms of the amount and the method of distribution. If the Scottish Government had taken a different approach and directed the council tax rebate to the half a million poorest households in Scotland, it would be worth £600 – enough to almost wipe out much of the increase in their fuel bills expected this year. Everyone will appreciate £150 in their pockets as the cost of living soars, but if the Scottish Government is about social justice, it might have thought twice before making this a near-universal benefit. In any case, this so-called windfall is simply a tiny bit of tax handed back to help placate us all.

Unfortunately, it seems that Nicola, or Kate Forbes, did not wait for written confirmation of exactly how the UK Government would fund this rebate, and it is now apparent that the money will have to come from existing Scottish Government budgets.

In an article on March 7 in The National, Kate Forbes said the promised extra £290 million has not been paid to the Scottish Government. The funds were supposed to help Scottish households combat the cost of living crisis – but she said that the promised cash is not additional and will have to be taken from elsewhere in the Scottish Budget. Kenneth Gibson, chair of the Finance Committee at Holyrood, accused Westminster of a “council tax swindle” after Forbes wrote to him over the matter.

So not much to celebrate now, Mr Cordell.

I have some sympathy with R Mill, the author of the adjacent letter, who would vote SNP “even if they subscribe to the Flat Earth Society” because “the SNP is what will rid us of Westminster”.

If there was a genuine guarantee that voting for the Glasgow SNP local election candidates would somehow lead to a referendum in late 2023, I would be standing outside the polling station waiting for it to open on May 5. Unfortunately, the chances of a 2023 referendum seem to be reducing as each day passes. Covid and the war in Ukraine will form the basis for the excuses. Ian Blackford let the cat out of the proverbial bag only a few days ago. I sincerely hope that I will be proved wrong, but I fear that I will be proved right.

Time will tell.
Glenda Burns

“WHERE has tolerance and the ability to laugh at ourselves gone?” said L McGregor in The National (Letters, March 18). Certainly it would appear to have bypassed both the former presiding officer Tricia Marwick and Stefan Hoggan-Radu, the SNP council candidate for Fife, as they responded seriously to The National when asked about an article in The Saint, a student newspaper for the students of the University of St Andrews.

I saw the front-page sub-headline “Student paper is slated for mocking First Minister” above the horrific photograph from Ukraine on March 15 with “This can’t go on”, and I determined that the situation in Ukraine merited my attention much more than any trivia put out in a “student paper”, as they are renowned for publishing trivia.

To be honest, I didn’t even glance at it again until today when I read the excellent letter from L McGregor. Having gone back to The National of March 15 and read the piece, I almost fell about laughing that The National had given space to anything that The Saint had printed, even if it criticised the First Minister. I said almost fell about laughing, but then the words of the former presiding officer that St Andrews students were “poor souls who failed to get into Oxbridge” stuck in my craw.

In all my years at St Andrews, admittedly in the sixties, I never once met anyone who had applied to Oxford or Cambridge (perhaps that was due to the company I kept). I chose St Andrews, and fortunately they accepted me, and there I made lifelong friendships, still maintained to this day.

Perhaps our former presiding officer is recalling that Enoch Powell once called it “my university”, because in those days it had an active Tory society that invented the poll tax. Or maybe she was thinking of Alex Salmond, an economics graduate from there in the seventies, though I doubt he was “a poor soul who failed to get into Oxbridge”. Statements like that only serve to perpetuate the myth that St Andrews is an English offshoot, when it is now regarded as the best university in Britain, ahead of either Oxford or Cambridge.
Paul Gillon

SPRING is symbolic of new beginnings. It is a time to begin healing from the scars left by the pandemic.

But for many, these scars run deep. While some will be embracing life returning to normal, others who have been bereaved during the pandemic will still carry the pain of loss.

This is why we are inviting you to take part in the National Day of Reflection on March 23 – two years since the first UK lockdown. It provides an opportunity for us to remember loved ones who have died and to support our bereaved friends, families, neighbours and colleagues. Giving each other the time and space to talk about people who have died is incredibly important and can also reassure us that our feelings and thoughts relating to loss and grief are normal.

At 12 noon, the nation will come together in a minute’s silence. People can visit “Walls of Reflection” across the UK, to commemorate loved ones by adding their name, photo or perhaps their favourite song lyric – whatever feels right. With the news reminding us every day of the value of human life, it is vital to take the time to connect, support each other and remember the people we have loved and lost.

We hope you, your staff and readers will join us at midday on March 23.
Andrew Reeves
Principal social worker, Marie Curie, Edinburgh

SO the UK Government “knew about P&O cuts one day before the staff lost their jobs” (The National, March 18), but didn’t tell the Prime Minister or do anything about it, even though our under-pressure supply lines were very likely to be disrupted?

P&O’s ferries are registered in Nassau and leave UK territory on every trip, so presumably the crew is not subject to UK conditions of employment.

This is the government that has left the EU to take back full control over its borders – yet claims it cannot take action against a firm using foreign-registered vessels to avoid meeting UK conditions or standards when it serves UK ports.

Surely as a minimum they could play the company at its own game and carry out full customs and border control checks on arrival, and seaworthiness and safety inspections before they are allowed to leave, every time one of these foreign P&O ferries docks in a UK port?
John Jamieson
South Queensferry