UNPALATABLE as it may be for any workers struggling to restore their wage values, of course Health Secretary Michael Matheson is right when he tells us that a 35% pay rise for junior medics is “unaffordable” at this time (Health Secretary ‘determined’ to avoid junior doctor strike).

We can all see how the salaries and wages of public-service workers have been eroded by 13 years of Westminster Tory failed governance, where these workers have been made to pay for the wild excesses of austerity politics. Workers’ living standards have been eroded while the wealthy have languished in a tax haven of Tory making and where prices have been allowed to rise exponentially and profit-taking has risen.

While the case for all public service workers is indisputable, sadly those years of austerity have created a huge mountain of debt and the wages and pensions/benefits deficits will take time to clear. Even then, this is only possible should the incoming Westminster government make it a priority, and with the new incumbents likely to be a Labour Party who are mirroring Tory fiscal and domestic policy, doesn’t this seem improbable, unless their hand is forced?

Clearly, fiscal problems created over a longer term need reasonable time to resolve them. As with all the other public-sector pay claims, shouldn’t government be adopting a two-pronged approach?

First, as a holding measure, shouldn’t the Exchequer bear the cost (at the expense of tax breaks for the already wealthy) of an immediate inflation-matching increase, currently around 10%?

Second, shouldn’t all of our public service workers (and those on pensions and benefits) be assured that within a reasonable time – perhaps five years – their salary grades and wages will be restored to 2010 levels in real terms?

This will be expensive, but with serious negotiation directly between government, the services and the workers, it’s a price we really need to pay to preserve those valuable services and allow them to operate appropriately – in effect to get the country moving forward.

And shouldn’t this reinvestment in the skills of our public workers be accompanied by comparable investment in the public services themselves to provide the quality of availability and service we are entitled to expect?

The establishment will claim we cannot afford to do this. The plain truth is that we can’t afford not to. The imperative surely is for the economy to fully invest in the services and health of its people that it needs to function effectively if it is to retain its standing as the sixth-biggest global economy and encourage the inward investment going forward to keep it so.

It is affordable. If we can squander £400 billion during a pandemic (much of it spent in an unaccounted and dubious way), waste billions more on a railway line to shave 20 minutes off the journey time for commuters between Birmingham and London’s overheated economy and spend ever more on unnecessary and unwanted nuclear power stations, weapons of mass destruction and unusable defence trophy aircraft carriers then properly investing in our public services and their staff is most definitely affordable and infinitely desirable.

Bread now, jam tomorrow for our public service workers. Let’s get it done.

And with independence, at least we know it could and would be done. Because the priorities of our public services are assuredly the priorities of all those living here in Scotland.
Jim Taylor

HMMM ... The Tories blame the Aslef union for the impact of their own policies on wages and work conditions on the provision of rail services.

Capitalism only works when it is about markets balancing wages and profits through negotiation and cross-border trading without undue government interference (see Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations).

I am a worker whose talents are in demand due to shortage – a train driver – in an industry whose business model has always been based on minimal training places (to save bottom-line expenditure) and workers working excessive overtime, so I exercise the power of my market force to increase my pay. The government of the day thinks this is terrible – “workers getting above themselves”, “we need to stop this and stop it now as it affects our backers’ profits”.

This is the reality of British capitalism which puts high margins above wages and decent working conditions. The same model is applied to the NHS – the UK has never trained sufficient doctors, dentists, nurses or other key frontline carers to meet its actual needs, and in any hived-off formerly public service you care to mention, we are seeing the same collapse of services – whether it is the “Royal Mail”, HMRC, water (in England) or outsourced DWP functions, all due to boards focused on “shareholder value”, failing to approve appropriate training funds yet crying “wolf!” when workers, who are in demand, decide to look after their own shareholder value and ask for a wage rise.

The other problem this failure to invest in people brings about is employee churn, where people, having been “trained”, decide to walk out because the job is too stressful, pay rates and working conditions turn out to be terrible or they find a better market for their new skillset. “Oh!” says the board, “that is why we do not invest much in training, people we train just leave and those left are a waste of space”. Apparently, market forces do not apply to employees – only employers. So we read of junior doctors and nurses heading off to Australia where pay, work conditions and overall lifestyle are far better (plus it is warmer), yet the Tory media shout that this is terrible and must be stopped. They say they paid for the training (oh no, you didn’t) but treated workers like cattle and fail to see the irony when market forces are applied to their own narrow political ideology.

The problem lies not with the “revolting workforce” of Tory ideology, it lies with the Tory-policy-supported and highly corrupt “British Capitalist Model” which creates layers of unnecessary overwork, poverty, ill-health and destitution for the benefit of very few.
Peter Thomson

WITH my partner, I attended Our Republic’s rally for republicans on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. We expected to be surrounded by folk much younger than us but were pleasantly surprised to also see many aulder yins that made us, in our early 60s, feel like spring chickens!

I must give a shout out for two of the younger speakers who haven’t really been mentioned in reports of the event I’ve read. Councillor Roza Salih, who co-founded the “Glasgow Girls”, and Malini Chakraborty, who spoke a lot about de-colonisation. Both were powerful, enthusiastic speakers, brimming with a healthy, righteous anger and emotion.

The National: Roza SalihRoza Salih

For someone of quite small stature, Roza doesn’t half have some pair of tonsils. So much so I don’t know why she bothered with the microphone. She was louder than Lulu singing “Shout”! Seriously, I’m sure these two very impressive young women – indeed, more so than many politicians – will have a significant part to play in any future independent Scotland.

Much has been written about the coronation – that in 2023, it was such a grotesque contrast, with millions throughout the UK living in abject poverty having to watch on their telly (if indeed they did) such an ostentatious display of power and wealth. I want to comment from a different angle, though.

The ceremony at Westminster Abbey was clearly a very religious occasion. A big day for the Church of England but also for high heid yins from other religions who were invited so as not to feel left oot. I wonder, however, what all their gods would be thinking up there about this occasion, being yet another example of the extreme inequality throughout the UK.

Call me naive, but a good example of my idea of Christianity when my parents hauled me along to Sunday School back in the mid-1960s was the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. No doubt such behaviour nowadays would probably have him berated as a communist! Depressingly, if the story was recreated in 2023, the 50 richest of those 5000 would be gobbling up almost the lot, leaving the other 4950 to, in a survival-of-the-fittest fashion, suck the juices from the fish bones and fight over the skins and hard bits of bread crust!

So, far from the UK being currently politically governed by bastions of Christianity, it’s more like, as my dear late mum often used to philosophically say, “the devil looks after his own”. Quite!”
Ivor Telfer
Dalgety Bay, Fife

AS a coalition of organisations that support vulnerable children and young people, we very much support the report from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland that children should be able to access school counsellors outwith school hours and during the holidays to combat increasing mental health issues (May 9).

In addition to this, the Scottish Government should expand school counselling provision to all primary and special schools in Scotland, and all local authorities should have clear waiting times for children who want to access services, with child-friendly information provided.

School counsellors are incredibly important as they allow young people with mental health issues the opportunity to get the help they need quickly, without having to wait until their condition potentially deteriorates even further.

Children have the right to the best possible health, including mental health, and with already overstretched mental health services under even more pressure because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, increased counselling services are vital.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Kenny Graham, Falkland House School; Lynn Bell, LOVE Learning; Stephen McGhee, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Young Foundations

SOME years ago, an SNP member whose name escapes me was a violent proponent of the construction of huge electrical pylons which were to carry power from the north of Scotland.

These should have been undergrounded but were built nevertheless through Perthshire, though this county boasts of some of the biggest trees in Britain and relies on the tourism return from these. The pylons were twice the size of the biggest. The argument was financial and to the effect of, “you can’t stand in the way of progress”.

Now, to my surprise, the same man, or someone very much like him, is seen tearing up a draft proposal for the protection of areas of Scotland’s seabed. I assume he is a violent opponent of this scheme and his arguments are the same.

However, at one time, financial arguments reigned supreme. Now the environment is the new king.
Iain WD Forde