THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond case is reaching the proportions of farce. Not only have prominent witnesses “forgotten” dates and facts, and not only have the Permanent Secretary and the Lord Advocate stonewalled on legitimate questions. Now we find that we have paid £55,000 for the “preparation” of witnesses – witnesses whose testimony is so inadequate that they have had to be recalled for clarification (“Salmond is rebuked by inquiry convener over ‘lack of respect’”, The , January 15).
It is now time to hand the entire proceedings over to a formal judicial inquiry, so that an examination led by a judge and conducted by learned counsel can get to the bottom of issues that seem so intractable. This is no criticism of the current committee, several of whose members – Jackie Baillie, Alex Cole-Hamilton, Murdo Fraser – have demonstrated tenacity and skill. They do not, however, have the authority to require witnesses to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
Some witnesses have treated them with contempt. Therefore, the full force of the law needs to be brought to bear so that we, whose money has been squandered on what looks increasingly like a vexatious prosecution, can find out exactly what happened, why it happened, and who caused it to happen.
Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh EH14.
A CASE OF TRIAL BY TWITTER
HERE we are again with an inquiry which seems to be dogged by problems of its own creation. If it is not bad enough that it seems to being played out in the public domain in press and TV, it is now being spread through social media on Twitter.
The place for questions and answers is in the forum of the inquiry and not in the Holyrood Parliament by politicians grandstanding as present-day Perry Masons during First Ministers Question’s. It is for the panel of the inquiry to make their findings at the conclusion of the question and answer by each of those called to provide evidence.
It seems that the inquiry is being played out in the press similar to footballers and their agents negotiating for a new contract or moves to another club.
Allan Halliday, Paisley.
SNP COULD HAVE SOUGHT CONSENSUS
YOUR correspondent Ken MacVicar (Letters, January 15) claims that the SNP and its Trumpian Yes Movement followers accepted the outcome of the 2014 referendum – in which case he must have missed Alex Salmond on the This Week programme within days of the vote comparing the outcome to a game of golf where the ball has been driven from the tee to the green and only needed a tap-in “next time” to complete the job. This was the start of a never-ending campaign to overturn the biggest vote ever cast for anything or anybody in Scotland.
There was of course another way for the SNP and especially Nicola Sturgeon to go. This would have been to reluctantly accept the No vote and to seek to build on it a consensus going forward for the good of Scotland and the UK, which was after all what she had accepted as a condition of holding the referendum as set out in the Edinburgh Agreement. On the contrary, Ms Sturgeon told us that independence was a cause that transcended all other considerations and led Scotland into deeper and deeper division, and has generally acted as if the 2014 referendum had never happened.
We can only wonder how in all of her prodigious amount of reading the First Minister has managed to avoid the story of the Wisdom of Solomon. It seems to me that she loves her party and its cause more than she loves Scotland, and that she wants independence more than she wants a Scotland at ease with itself. If that was not the case, she would surely have let it go.
Peter A Russell, Glasgow G13.
WE ARE NO COLONY OF ENGLAND
MICHAEL Settle implies that whoever leads the UK has the right of veto over the constitutional aspirations of the nations who make up the UK (“Global England would be a poor cousin of Global Britain”, The , January 15). But that is not so. The Downing Street Declaration affirmed the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination. That right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in international law, dating back 150 years, with Winston Churchill, for example, pledging the UK’s recognition of the eight principle points of the Atlantic Charter, including that “all people had a right to self-determination”.
Now we know this Tory Government does not like to adhere to international law, but it cannot continue to rule Scotland without the consent of the people who live here. Scotland is not a colony of England and would expect the Supreme Court to uphold the same jus cogens principle to Scotland, as the constitution of the UK now does for Northern Ireland. It is also worth pointing out, that because of English Votes for English Law, no politician elected from outside of England could reasonably expect to become Prime Minister of the UK.
GR Weir, Ochiltree.
UK VOTING SYTEM IS UNFAIR
I AGREE with Mrs Freddie Dale (Letters, January 11) when she says the “figures just do not stack up” when analysing the votes at the last General Election, but that is the voting system decreed by Westminster, the unfair and unfit first past the post process, which the unionist parties say we must abide by. Most modern democracies in the 21st century have a system of proportional representation, which gives a more accurate result in elections to any legislature.
The Scottish National Party does not at present, have an “inalienable” right to hold a referendum, but that is what it seeks if it wins a majority in the Holyrood election, in the d’Hondt voting system which was designed to deny any party overall control, but which gave the Conservative Party a lifeline in Scotland with a number of seats at Holyrood under the additional member system.
For example, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has never won a first past the post seat at Holyrood, but gets elected on the additional member list, which is all part of the process. If the SNP wins a majority in the May election then it will democratically seek a Section 30 Order, a position which will be in the election manifesto.
Alec Oattes, Ayr.
LET COUNCILS TAKE BACK CONTROL
MARGARET Forbes (Letters, January 15) needs to refocus a policy to provide a role for the public away from toothless Citizens’ Assemblies and instead support the efforts by MSP Andy Wightman to devolve powers over education, health, social services and emergency services away from Holyrood. Giving local authorities the budgets and legal control of these services will halt the centralisation of decision making that is failing Scotland.
It is surely time for a campaign by voters to ensure his bill reaches the statute book before May, otherwise it will disappear under a welter of indyref2 in the next session of Holyrood.
Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.
GREEN PLANS ARE PIE IN THE SKY
IT was refreshing to read David Stark’s observations (Letters, January 14) which focused on the Scottish Greens’ pie-in-the-sky Rail for All Programme (“Rail tunnel under Firth of Forth is at heart of Green Party vision”, The , January 13). This focuses not only on a Firth of Forth rail tunnel but also the construction of numerous new stations, lines and marshalling yards as well as new rolling stock which includes electric battery-powered trains.
This £22 billion “zero carbon” infrastructure proposal is apparently vital in order to tackle the climate emergency. This figure is guaranteed to be a serious under-estimate as has happened repeatedly with similar grand projects such as the Channel Tunnel, Edinburgh trams or the Borders Railway. Not only that, but as Mr Stark points out, the carbon emissions which such a vast undertaking would generate are hardly compatible with their zero-carbon claims.
It is high time that the Greens took note that the current fixation on electric/battery-powered transport as a carbon-neutral option is a self-deluded fallacy. As they stand on their fanciful moral high ground they might consider the following inconvenient truths.
This electric revolution requires vast volume of finite raw materials that must be mined, processed and transported, almost exclusively using fossil fuels as the power source. Australia and the arid salt flats of South America are the main sources of the lithium carbonate needed for lithium ion batteries. One tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent is emitted for every tonne of processed rock in Australia. In Peru and Bolivia it requires 500,000 gallons of water to produce just one metric ton of lithium carbonate. Consequently communities are being destroyed and health damaged not only through dratsic depletion of their water resources but also from the effects of toxic waste.
Cobalt, the other vital raw material needed, is almost exclusively sourced from the People’s Republic of Congo where China owns the monopoly share and the main labour source is children who work under appalling conditions. The safe disposal of millions of tonnes of spent batteries remains unresolved.
Granted, progress nearly always comes at a price, but if electric transport is going to help save the planet then we had better be on the lookout for flying pigs.
Neil J Bryce, Kelso.