FIONA Bruce really had her knife into Kate Forbes on Question Time last week, interrupting her multiple times as Kate tried to answer the audience member’s question. Murdo Fraser writing in The Scotsman recently made similar muddled claims about Scotland’s block grant and unspent funding from Europe.

Both Bruce and Fraser referred to £450 million allegedly unspent from the European Structural and Investment Fund. This is not a “free gift” and must be matched by an equivalent amount from the national government. Westminster only allows Scotland to borrow money up to this figure, which would leave no leeway for other big spending projects.

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The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said in a report published last Thursday that there had initially been €941m allocated from 2014-2020, but this had decreased by only €157m due to failures to meet expenditure targets. Of the €783m still available, €503m (64%) has been allocated, the Spice report added, leaving €280m – about £238m at current exchange rates.

The Spice report has not found evidence for the “£450m claim” and final expenditure figures will not be known until the programme formally closes in 2025.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the Scotland block grant for the autumn 2021 budget was £40.6bn. The Fraser of Allander Institute states that the Scotland block grant increased by 2.4% for each of the last three years. The grant would therefore increase from £41.6bn (2022), to £42.6bn (2023) then £43.6bn in the current year, in line with Murdo’s figures, but not remotely like a “real-terms increase” with UK inflation peaking at 11% (2022) during this period and the “7% rise” actually occurring over the last three years. This is close to £8000 per head in Scotland, a figure that pales into insignificance when compared to Scotland’s GDP per head of roughly £37000, while shackled to Westminster and obliged to operate a “pocket-money” economy.

David Lowden
via email

DOES the BBC explicitly exclude SNP and Alba Party members and/or voters from the Question Time audience? If not, there must be some such in the audience by the laws of statistics. So what are such members of the audience doing when the odious Bruce launches into her next interruption of the token independence spokesperson/interrogation victim?

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Surely a bit of disruption – finely judged to encourage sympathy amongst audience members who respect public debate whether they be soft nats, soft Unionists, or neutrals – would be in order? “Shut up, Fiona!” “Let them finish!” “Stop interrupting them!” Or just a chorus of boos?

Many of us look back fondly on Alex Salmond’s interruption of Nigel Lawson’s Budget speech, but that was maybe no more than a little publicity stunt compared to what we should be doing nowadays in the face of Unionist attacks.

Name and address supplied

ONCE again the Question Time host continually interrupts the SNP candidate. I would like to see all future SNP interviewees calling her out on this as a norm, and making a point of embarrassing her over it! If that’s what it takes then so be it! We can’t be tolerating this and letting her off with this week after week. CALL IT OUT!

Steve Cunningham

FIONA Bruce’s treatment of Stephen Flynn and Kate Forbes reminds one of Groucho Marx’s remark: “My wife asks me a question, answers it herself – and calls me a liar!”

James Stevenson