I HAVE a few suggestions which might prevent argument about tax cuts for the rich (McDonnell just proved AGAIN that he doesn’t get Scotland, November 5) and help NHS Tayside in its struggle to balance its books (NHS Tayside aims to shed 1300 jobs to balance books, November 5).

First, to help Annie Ingram, NHS Tayside director of workforce who is “carrying out an organisation-wide review of staff numbers, grades and skills” – review differentials between work grades to discover whether or not they are warranted or helpful. Get rid of any which seem unfair, say between men and women doing the same kind of job but earning a different hourly rate and between those doing jobs and managers who, at the moment, can be paid much more than them.

Then, the Scottish Government should as soon as possible, but certainly within a year to 18 months, introduce a new wage policy: increase wages for those at the bottom end of the pay scale but not for those earning, say, £200,000 or over because a 3% across-the-board increase gives those on the living wage very little extra whereas it provides a good return for those at the top end of the earning scale. This situation might last for about 10 years until the gap between the lowest and highest earners is reduced, making the vast majority of the workforce happier.

As Carolyn Leckie points out: “Give that money instead to someone at the lower end of the scale and they’re more likely to spend it locally …”. So it would be a win-win situation. And it would solve the interminable arguments over tax cuts.

After this I recommend that bonuses should be abolished for those in the public and private sector and that employment contracts, especially those offering high salaries and “handsome” pension benefits included in them, be redrawn offering much lower salaries and fewer benefits. There is a very successful precedent for this initiative, as shown when private companies like Tayside Contracts took over many of the services previously carried out by Perth and Kinross Council.

At this time dinner ladies, cleaners, etc had to sign new contracts which were less favourable than their previous ones but, as Tayside Contracts pointed out, if they didn’t like the new contracts they could leave. They retained most of the workforce because there was no alternative employment.

I suggest that many of those top earners would find it impossible to find similarly well-paid jobs and, faced with a more equitable contract, would sign it. Not only would this make the workplace a much fairer place but it would prevent the kind storms of protest over end payments that followed Lesley McLay’s departure from NHS Tayside.

Lovina Roe

IN Andrew Learmonth’s piece in Saturday’s National, he reported that Manuel Cortes of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association claimed it would be “cloud cuckoo land” if CalMac ferry routes were tendered in smaller bundles, as is the case in Norway (Transport body shoots down ‘utterly false’ ferry change rumours, November 4). He warned that if this policy were followed, “privateers would swoop in on the profitable routes, whilst the Scottish taxpayers are left footing the bill for the rest”.

I’m afraid this argument is bunkum. Not one of CalMac’s routes makes a profit. There are no cherries. Thus if an operator can provide a better service for less cost, on any route or bundle of routes, then the Scottish taxpayer and island residents are both winners.

The fact that Scotland’s Clyde and Hebrides ferries are among the most heavily subsidised in the world is due to extremely poor productivity. For example, while it takes nine personnel to berth one of the larger CalMac ferries, in Norway berthing is undertaken by one on-board hand. This is a function of efficient vessel and terminal design which involves lock-on linkspans that offer a safer link between vessel and shore and a faster turnaround. And that is but one example of CalMac’s poor productivity compared with best practice elsewhere. There are many other examples.

Cortes then suggests the Scottish Government is better placed to get favourable terms to build ferries. Not by recent experience it isn’t. The new Arran ferry Glen Sannox, currently building, is expected to cost the Scottish taxpayer an eye-watering £70 million or possibly more. By contrast, Andrew Banks of Pentland Ferries is awaiting delivery of a new 100-car capacity ferry at a cost of £14m for his efficient and frequent profitable service. This now carries the majority of passengers, cars and commercial vehicles across the Pentland Firth, notwithstanding an estimated £10m annual government subsidy to the competitive service by Northlink, which is run along CalMac lines.

Is it not time our ferry services were opened up to more innovative and cost-effective operators to provide much better service to our island communities? If so, the considerable savings made could be passed on to our hard-pressed health and education services to employ more doctors, nurses and teachers. A win win for all

Roy Pedersen