CAROLYN Leckie wraps up the current state of politics perfectly in reference to the Scottish Green Party (SGP) having to make tough decisions to support the SNP budget (Don’t adjust your set ... politics will be surreal for a while, The National, February 6). As a “lentil-eating, sandal-wearing watermelon” myself, I am proud the SGP voted through, with some compromise with the SNP, the Scottish Budget. In doing so they managed to secure £160 million more for local councils, which will limit cuts. This was compromise from both parties and this is where a minority government could benefit the people it serves.

We have, however, seen multiple attacks on the SGP for not always supporting the SNP, such as voting for Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. The most laughable outcome of this grown-up agreement between two pro-indy parties was the name-calling from the Unionist opposition.

Trying to paint the SGP as a pro-austerity party is just ridiculous: Greens stand for, environmental protection and social justice and openly campaign against austerity; this is evident in the compromise to pass the Budget. Tweets by Labour MSPs calling the SGP sell-outs should prompt reflection on the juvenile party-political games they were playing. If I was a Labour supporter I’d be embarrassed by their opportunistic jibes at the SNP and unwillingness to be involved in productive conversations with the minority government. This was yet another opportunity for Labour to redeem themselves but alas, they clearly don’t want to be seen as a constructive or competent party.

The division in politics very much reflects the electorate’s loyalties on the big topical debate of independence. We have seen this in the "tsunami" of votes for the SNP in the General Election in 2015 and in the success in the Holyrood election just last year; they lost their majority but mopped up 59 of the 73 constituency seats with 46.5 per cent of the constituency vote. This leaves just 14 constituency seats occupied by the Unionist parties, and because of the set-up of parliament gives them more representation. I would hope to see in the future that the other parties, and not just the SGP, are willing to be constructive and try and mould SNP policy to benefit their cause in some way; it’s what can shape better democracy for everyone. However, there is another big topical debate which will more than likely manifest in new voting strategies.

Brexit has been the first shake-up for the rest of the UK in years and judging by the UK Labour’s approach to this, it is about to swallow them up too. In the rest of the UK it seems that their votes may start going to Ukip, who are masquerading as anti-establishment working-class heroes. The two by-elections which are coming up will be a taster of what is to come and I am pretty sure the voting patterns in the rest of the UK are about to go the opposite way to our political persuasion and towards Ukip. I do hope that the Greens see an increase in representation and even the LibDems in some of the more Middle England areas. The UK’s political outlook will just get further and further away from Scottish electorates values.

Another independence referendum is needed more than it was ever needed before, and we will see a completely different argument from what we saw in 2014. The membership of the EU and strengthening the weaknesses from the last debate will be a head start; alongside the ability to debunk the recycled spin around pensions and hard borders. This playground politics will not stop until after the next independence referendum, so let’s see if Nicola Sturgeon will blow the whistle after Article 50 is triggered and it’s confirmed Scotland’s demands won’t be entertained.

Brian Finlay, Scottish Green Party candidate for Rutherglen South


THE Scottish Children’s Services Coalition is pleased to support Children’s Mental Health Week, running this week until Sunday.

Hosted by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, the theme this year is “spread a little kindness”.

There are many pressures of modern day life that can affect a child’s mental wellbeing, from struggling in class to falling out with friends.

As we know, it is estimated that 50 per cent of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 24.

A small gesture, such as offering a helping hand, can make a big difference. However, if specialist help is required we must ensure that there is quick access to effective treatment, and children get the help they need, when they need it.

While we are making progress on the issue of waiting times for access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), there is still a long way to go. Over the last quarter (July to September 2016), half of Scotland’s health boards failed to meet the Scottish Government’s 18 week waiting time target and almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those referred to CAMHS were not accepted for treatment.

We also must ensure that the mental health needs of children with learning disabilities are met and that CAMHS for these children are at least equally accessible as CAMHS for other children.

Initiatives such as Children’s Mental Health Week go a long way in raising awareness and in creating an open discussion around mental health. We hope that this week will help to embolden children to open up about problems they may be facing and also encourage people to be a little kinder to each other.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Tom McGhee, Spark of Genius Duncan Dunlop, Who Cares? Scotland Sophie Pilgrim, Kindred Scotland Stuart Jacob, Falkland House School Niall Kelly, Young Foundations Liz May, Action for Sick Children Scotland


IT was pleasing to see an article alerting us to the latest dealings of the “Furtive Fox”, but Fox is not the only one trying to keep the details of Ceta under wraps (Fox under fire for ‘dodging scrutiny’ of Canada-EU trade agreement, The National, February 6).

The EU is at it too. When legislation such as this comes to the European Parliament for approval there is normally a six-month period to allow consideration by MEPs and the various committees whose remit is affected. Ceta was laid before the European Parliament in November 2016 and the European Commission (EC) originally scheduled the vote for December 2016. An outcry by MEPs has forced the EC to reconsider and the vote is now scheduled for February 14.

This still only allows three months for scrutiny rather than the usual six months. However, three committees have been able to table their views and the draft opinions of two (employment and social affairs and environment public health and food safety) were damning and recommended rejection of Ceta.

The draft opinion of environment committee, to reject Ceta, was, however, overturned by the full committee largely due to the votes of nine of the 18 socialist MEPs who went against the opinion of their delegated expert.

What led socialist MEPs to vote for a treaty that provides a separate court system (and has the power to impose multimillion-euro fines on governments) to settle the grievances of multinational corporations while disputes involving workers are reverted to arbitration committees which have no powers at all? It is hard to fathom.

Graham Kemp, St Andrews


TTIP Action Group WHILE Justin Trudeau seems to be one of the few world politicians with some sense about him – and, in comparison to Trump, is like some sort of liberal superhero – we shouldn’t be blind us to the deeply undemocratic dangers of Ceta.

Like TTIP, the only winners will be corporations. Love Canada, but be very, very wary of Ceta.

Mark Harries, Polmont