I LISTENED to the discussions on the progress of the Scottish Budget on Wednesday. I thought that both the process and outcome were exemplary.

The government put forward a draft Budget in the certain knowledge that they could not get it through without the help of at least some members from other parties. Accordingly they asked those other parties to put forward their own proposals and to engage in discussion to find an acceptable outcome.

The Tories played “dog in the manger” and just barracked from the sidelines, Labour put forward their plans, which were never going to fly, but both the Greens and the LibDems took an active part. In the end an agreement was reached; the Greens got more money for local government and a step toward an improvement in public transport; the LibDems got help for the ferries in the Northern Isles. They managed to find the cash to help our public services and the pay rates for people that work in them so that they are maintained. The increased spending will, in the main, be paid for by tweaking the tax proposals to sort out an anomaly in the original proposals for those just above the higher rate tax threshold.

It is obvious that if the government had originally come forward with these plans, as now amended, they would not have passed scrutiny and the other parties would still have asked for more. A good job all round; those that are better off will pay a little more than they were, those at the bottom will pay much the same or a margin less; we will keep the show on the road and manage some alleviation of the savagery imposed upon us by Westminster.

In the end one wonders what we could do if we had control over Petroleum Revenue Tax. The UK has ours set at zero rate while Norway rakes in billions. In these days of Westminster’s ballooning national debt, why do we not tax the oil companies? Shell have this week announced the finding of two new fields that are “under consideration” – we are paying them and others decommissioning costs but not taxing their cash flow. Is there a deliberate ploy to manage the story about the value of oil to the economy?

DS Blackwood

I WAS more than a little surprised at the ferocity of the attack on Sir James MacMillan by Kevin McKenna in Wednesday’s paper (Sir James MacMillan’s vision of nationalist lickspittles and poison-tipped shoes is pure imagination, The National, January 31).

While it is true that MacMillan is highly hostile to Scottish nationalism, it is also true that he is perfectly entitled to be. On the positive side, MacMillan has been a huge champion of women’s rights.

Between roughly 1560 and 1715 around 3000 Scots women were burned for witchcraft. MacMillan has commemorated that in his magnificent operetta The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie. Gowdie was a very ordinary woman from Aberdeenshire who fell foul of church and state at the beginning of the 17th century.

We must take care not to actually demonise our opponents.

Alan Clayton
Strachur, Argyll

THERESA May is caught in a snare. It’s an artfully constructed but fake trap that she could escape whenever she wanted to.

Yes, there is unprecedented public squabbling among rank-and-file Tories who – quite rightly – look at the front bench and realise you don’t have to be anyone with standing or intelligence or integrity or even experience these days to make it to the top. But that’s not the problem.

It’s not just that the PM is trying to deliver the undeliverable – ie Brexit without damaging Britain’s future. That damage was done on June 23 2016.

The trap is the mad euphemism of “respecting the will of the British people”. Politicians of all persuasions now spout it when in a stuck position. If we could just openly accept that “respecting the will of the British people” means being xenophobic and racist to the nth degree, regardless of damage to Britain’s socio-economic or trading future, then at least we’d all know where we stood and negotiating progress would follow swiftly.

Anyone with a political pulse knows that we cannot/will not get a clampdown on free movement and still be allowed in the customs union. Pretending that is an option is a huge waste of time, money, effort and dreary dreary media musing. Those rabbits are not in the hat to be extracted.

Accept openly that what drove Brexit was the toxic, irrational fear of the EU, ramped up in the gutter press for decades prior to Cameron’s trip on the crack in the pavement. Accept that the only thing the Brexiteers care about is teaching Johnny foreigner a lesson and pretending we are living in a 1950s gawd luvem comedy.

I am an exhausted Remainer. But even I would prefer we just called a spade a spade. Call a racist a racist. Call xenophobia, xenophobia. Call stupidity and self-harm stupidity and self-harm and stop pretending it’s anything else.

Amanda Baker

I DON’T often praise the BBC, but in this instance I am very happy to do so. In this week’s Silent Witness drama three disabled actors played important roles in the storyline. While the plot was perhaps a bit exaggerated, with much dramatic licence, the three actors put in amazingly powerful performances. I applaud the BBC for this courageous casting.

Terry Keegans
Beith, North Ayrshire