LORD Baker of Dorking’s call for a Conservative-Labour coalition in the event of a hung parliament must be deeply embarrassing to the Labour Party. While Baker believes a Tory-Labour coalition government is “quite unthinkable at the moment and, at this time, likely to be rejected” he is not the first Tory grandee recently to advocate a grand coalition in order to “preserve the unity” of the UK. Others, including Labour peer Lewis Moonie, have also suggested that Labour should consider a governing pact with the Tories.

Embarrassing perhaps, but not an unthinkable outcome. A government demanding “economies” at the expense of the working poor, severe means tests to identify the “genuinely” unemployed and economic retrenchment. Sound familiar? This was the context when, in 1931, following a financial crisis, Ramsey MacDonald’s Labour government called a snap election and formed a “National” coalition government of Conservatives and Liberals “to save the country”.

As was the case in 1931, among today’s Westminster Labour elite there are those who put their own careers before their constituents’ interests and are resolute that the country be governed in accordance with neoliberal principles. Rather than Cameron calling on Miliband to rule out a deal with the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon should call on Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy to rule out unequivocally a “grand” coalition.

Dr John Bratton

CONSTITUTIONAL crisis? Absolutely. The unwritten UK constitution is based on an adversarial system. If, as per Lord Baker, the Tories and Labour form a grand coalition, the UK parliament will have no effective opposition, other than by a handful of minority parties (SNP included). That, folks, is a constitutional crisis in the making. Further, if the Scottish electorate indeed elect a majority of SNP MPs who want to pursue an agenda of social justice, a Labour/Tory grand coalition is a move to exclude the Scottish voice from the parliamentary chamber.

Michelle Van der Stighelen

WE have representatives of both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party suggesting a coalition in order to stop the SNP having influence in Westminster.

It suggests to me that not only were they bedfellows but that they also consummated their relationship. They have such a taste for it that they now want to screw Scotland as well.

Harry Key

I WAS grieved by Kate Higgins' disappointing article, which paints an entirely misleading picture of foodbanks affiliated to The Trussell Trust (Recipe for fair society isn't in the foodbank, The National, March 6).

Kate's article makes no reference to the safe, secure, confidential and discreet environments Trussell Trust foodbanks provide, and she does not talk about the volunteers delivering the service they formerly used. Her analysis, while entirely divorced from reality, has the potential to alienate her greatest potential allies in the effort to tackle, and find sustainable solutions to, food poverty – foodbanks themselves.

Instead, she paints a Dickensian picture of foodbanks as the brutal benefactors serving the broken beneficiaries and her assertions do not appear to do so for anything as noble as "individuals with rights not to be hungry." Clearly Kate has never visited a Trussell Trust foodbank nor met the many who have used them and say that otherwise they would have starved, become malnourished or taken their lives.

So, here is my invitation: will Kate Higgins give me a day of her time where I can take her to a Trussell Trust foodbank and introduce her to those delivering, as well as using, the service?

Perhaps only then will she reject her unfair implication that The Trussell Trust would ever identify anyone as undeserving.

Ewan Gurr
Scotland Network Manager, The Trussell Trust, Dundee

LESLEY Riddoch alights on the First Minister's change of emphasis on corporation tax following the publication of the Government's new economic strategy (Equality? It's all in a day's work for our FM, The National, March 5).

For every £1 paid in corporation tax, retailers pay £2.31 in business rates. This compares to other sectors of the economy where £1 in corporation tax corresponds to only £0.44 in business rates.

Our industry is currently property-intensive and so rates bills and other property-related expenditure is significant. Retailers fork out about a quarter of the £2.8 billion in tax revenues that emanate from business rates in Scotland each year.

However ,the industry is undergoing profound change and less costly routes to market – notably online – are increasingly more attractive than maintaining a "bricks-and-mortar" presence. This places a serious question mark over likely future tax revenues from rates.

A failure to reform business rates, which are set to rise again next month, could lead to communities across Scotland missing out on investment in retail outlets and the jobs that they bring.

Policy-makers in Northern Ireland and England have aIready committed to action on rates. It is why, together with 10 leading organisations from across Scottish industry including engineering, whisky production and publishing, we are making the case for fundamental reform of Scotland's business rates system.

David Lonsdale
Director, Scottish Retail Consortium

CHRISSIE Maclean, in common with many others, is missing the point (Letters, March 6). Compulsory microchipping is about the welfare of dogs, not the rights of people, some of whom have a distressing tendency to abuse, abandon and over-breed dogs.

Compulsory microchipping, enabling the identification of owners, is a step in the right direction.

It is a pity that presumably responsible owners like Chrissie Maclean cannot see beyond the infringement of their right to choose and recognise that the unbelievable number of dogs which suffer and die every year do not have the right to choose and that, if a license is unaffordable, perhaps the dog is too.

There are no foodbanks and few free veterinary services available for pet animals.

Les Hunter

THERE has been some correspondence about power generation and infrastructure round the upper Firth of Forth: fracking and Grangemouth refinery; Longannet and carbon sequestration; new crossings at Queensferry and Kincardine. In the event of the sea-level rises and tidal surges, the next problem may be flooding along the low coasts of the Firth all the way up to Stirling.

There is a solution. The Firth should be protected by causeways or barrages between Lothian and

Fife that would, like the tidal barrier in the Thames, defend against flooding without building new protecting walls on both banks of the extensive estuary. The causeways would carry road and rail lines allowing for improved communications. With a tidal rise of six metres, power could be generated from this and the flow of the river itself, with windmills as a bonus.

If two "lagoons" are created these can be used to store water on the same principle of pumped storage used in existing hydro schemes to provide steady supply.

If this seems fanciful, it should be noted that the Westminster Government's National Infrastructure Plan discusses such a tidal lagoon in the Severn and building a six-mile wall to withstand once in 500 year storms across Swansea Bay. These are at once coastal defences, carbon-saving arrangements and power generators.

Iain WD Forde

I WOULD caution Gerard Quinn (Letters, March 6) against trusting Jim Murphy or any Labour politician in regard to fees for higher education.

Murphy stated that Donald Dewar abolished tuition fees in Scotland, and this was regurgitated by Tom Greatrex MP on Radio Scotland's Big Debate from Rutherglen last Friday. It was refuted not only by James Dornan MSP from the panel, but by a member of the audience.

What Donald Dewar really did was vote for the introduction of fees for higher education in July 1998. He also voted NOT to exempt students on four-year courses from fees for the fourth year. Given the variance between Scottish and English universities, Dewar voted to apply greatest financial disadvantage to students at Scottish universities.

The need for a Labour-LibDem axis after the Scottish election of 1999 resulted in the Cubie Commission fudge to meld their respective policy positions on fees. The outcome was that students still had to pay fees, but post graduation and with a different name. This is what Murphy and Greatrex have in mind when they say that Donald Dewar "abolished" fees: calling them something else and changing the payment time.

David Stevenson

WHEN I saw the picture of aspiring politician Eddie Izzard accompanied by two legendary comedians Margaret Curran and Anas Sarwar (The National, March 6) I thought the article might provide a chuckle.

And so it proved, with Sarwar parrotting the old chestnut about voting for his Conservative party to keep the other Conservative party out: cue laughter.

It seems to have escaped Sarwar, Murphy et al that perhaps they have been rumbled by an electorate once fairly tolerant of Labour hypocrisy and shortcomings but who now couldn't care less which of Westminster's conservative parties wins in May.

This should not be mistaken for apathy; it is in fact anger.

Malcolm Cordell
Broughty Ferrry

ON the day before International Women's Day , David Hamilton MP for Midlothian launches a sexist attack on "that wee lassie wi' the tin hat oan" Nicola Sturgeon, and receives rapturous applause from the delegates at the Scottish Labour conference.

This must be a new tactic devised to win over the female voters, although it was noticeable that Johann Lamont in the audience was less than amused.

James Mills