IT was great to see parties working together this week in Holyrood and Westminster against Brexit. As we approach budget day in Scotland we have a chance to remind people that our pro-independence Parliament is the epitome of “strong and stable” that Theresa May’s UK Government most definitely is not.

I hope the Greens keep their eye on the prize of independence and use their numbers to support the Scottish Government budget which will ensure continuity of that pro-indy Parliament and prove that the two parties have the stability of Scotland at the forefront of their minds.

Let’s keep our heads whilst those around us are losing theirs, and show the Scottish people where they can look to for grown-up politics and stability. The people who voted Yes want both parties to work together for common cause.
George Petrie

THE Groundhog Day policy of the Labour Party and their attitude to Scotland continues with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell promising more for Scotland if we’re daft enough to vote Labour. Where have we heard this before? Every time a British Labour MP visits Scotland we get given the same promises which never materialise. Why should anyone trust Labour when they have already said they will not allow Scotland to have another independence referendum – so much for respecting the values of democracy!

McDonnell’s Labour Party have either sided with the Tories on the austerity cuts Scotland has had to endure or have simply abstained and let the Tories do what they want. During the indyref in 2014 Labour politicians all preferred Tory rule – with all the cuts they threatened – to letting the people of Scotland run their own country. There is no place for a failed Labour party in Scotland – this mob cannot be trusted ever again
Cllr Kenny MacLaren

IF you cast your mind back to a not too distant time, you will recall the delays that beset the new Forth crossing, mostly down to the nature of the construction and the extremely hostile working conditions. It ultimately opened a little late but under budget. You should also recall the near daily assault, both in the national papers and on broadcast news, against Scottish ministers, the Scottish Government, the First Minister, the SNP, all demanding “answers”, “resignations”, “apologies” etc, etc. It was literally constant and headline, week in, week out!

Now I give you London Crossrail, an amazing £15 billion project we have all heard about regularly for the last decade. Just imagine the hue and cry there would be should it be late or over budget. There would be heads called for, ministers criticised, the government’s ineptitude called to account, constant haranguing from opposition parties, oh my word it would surely be the furore to end all furores, wouldn’t it?

BBC Six O’Clock News on Wednesday night: “The head of Crossrail is to step down following concerns raised over his joint role with HS2, Crossrail which now won’t open until autumn next year [a year late] and is one billion [yes, double take there, ONE BILLION] over budget.”

End of story, not even a mention on the later 10 o’clock news! Why not?
Stephen Henson

SOMEONE recently said that Uriah Mundell would never do anything that might jeopardise his hope of obtaining a peerage and consequently parachuting his son into his present seat. Although this would gar me grue, in the bizarre end of the pier show which has unfolded over the past week in particular, nothing can be ruled out.

If this does come to pass, can I humbly suggest that he adopt the title Lord Lickspittle of Toad Hall?
Joe Cowan

MICHAEL Donnelly is to be commended for drawing your readers’ attention to the existence of Roland Muirhead’s correspondence in the National Library of Scotland. Perhaps it is worth noting that there is also a quantity of Muirhead material in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, as well as material relating to Muirhead’s collaborator on the Forward weekly, Tom Johnston.
Iain Fraser Grigor

AS the councillor who persuaded Renfrewshire Council to promote the erection of a plaque to commemorate Lochwinnoch’s great social reformer and Scottish patriot, Roland E Muirhead, I was fascinated by Michael Donnelly’s letter with new information I was not aware of, such as how under his stewardship the Gryffe Tannery provided leather shoes for the hunger marchers of the 1930s. Due to being active prior to the televisual age there must be fascinating information in the archives about Roland Muirhead which Mr Donnelly referred to.

Many older people in Lochwinnoch have memories of Roland Muirhead and one local raconteur informed me that in the mid to late 1940s Lochwinnoch was a hub of radical nationalism. For a time the SNP leader in the early 1940s, Douglas Young, who had been a conscientious objector during the Second World War, stayed at Meiklecloak Farm, Lochwinnoch, and the firebrand Wendy Wood of the Scottish Patriots was also a frequent visitor to Meiklecloak Farm as well during this period.

Plans to erect a plaque are ongoing and I will ensure that The National has full and timely notification of its unveiling, as all modern Yes supporters owe such a debt to the kenspeckle campaigner who was Roland Eugene Muirhead, and we must perpetuate his memory and legacy.
Cllr Andy Doig (Independent)
Renfrewshire Council

DEAR Cabinet Secretary, on behalf of the Give Me Five campaign and the undersigned organisations we are writing to you, in advance of the draft 2019/20 budget, regarding the Scottish Government’s new income supplement.

In a society that believes in justice and compassion, it cannot be right that one million people in Scotland – including 230,000 children – are currently living in the grip of poverty. We therefore welcome that the Scottish Government’s new Best Start Grant will be introduced before Christmas – which will help with the additional costs of having children– and the reintroduction of payments for second and subsequent children. We also, in particular, strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to using its new social security powers as a tool for tackling poverty, by introducing a new income supplement for families on low incomes.

As you will be aware, the Give Me Five campaign believes that topping up child benefit by £5 per week would potentially lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty. Child benefit provides a stable and reliable source of income for families which is spent on children, helps hard-pressed families and prevents children from falling into poverty. As a non-means tested entitlement, it has a high take-up rate and is less expensive to administer, and we continue to believe that topping up child benefit would represent a most effective and impactful way of delivering the new income supplement.

Aside from the particular delivery mechanism, though, and while recognising that the Scottish Government is currently undertaking a process of evaluating different options for the supplement, we are seriously concerned that the stated timescale for delivering the income supplement – i.e. by 2022 – is not reflective of the urgency with which it is required.

More and more children and their families will be pulled into poverty in the coming years – particularly as the freeze on working age benefits and the Universal Credit rollout continue to have an impact. This will especially affect women, who are already more likely to experience poverty than men, including in-work poverty, have a disproportionate responsibility for caring for children and account for 91% of lone parents.

With our organisations witnessing each day the impact that poverty has on the lives and life chances of children and their families across Scotland, it is clear to us that families need this support much sooner than 2022. We therefore urge you to use the budget to bring forward the introduction of the income supplement in recognition of the pressing need to both prevent and reduce poverty.

We recognise that each budget involves making difficult choices about our society’s priorities and resources, and that bringing forward the delivery of the income supplement would involve a significant spending commitment this year. But the ambitious poverty reduction targets set by the Child Poverty Act require equally ambitious – and timeous – action and investing money now to unlock families across Scotland from poverty does not, we believe, represent a difficult choice.

Children born into poverty today should not have to wait for four years to be freed from that poverty. If we want to realise our shared vision of a Scotland where every child has every chance, then we must use the budget to bring forward the income supplement; families simply cannot wait.
Yours sincerely,
John Dickie, Director, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland
Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance
Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland
Dr Sharon Wright, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, University of Glasgow
Grahame Smith, General Secretary, STUC
Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st
Janis McDonald, Chief Officer, deafscotland
Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church and Society Council on behalf of the Church of Scotland Professor
John McKendrick, Co-Director of Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University
Professor Stephen Sinclair, Co-Director of Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University
Marie Ward, Chief Executive Officer, Cranhill Development Trust
SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Aberlour
Honor Hania, Chair, Justice and Peace Scotland
Norman Kerr, Director, Energy Action Scotland
David Liddell, Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Drugs Forum
Craig Samuel, Scotland Representative, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers
Anna Ritchie-Allan, Executive Director, Close the Gap
Hugh Foy, Director, Xaverian Missionaries UK Province
Tressa Burke, Chief Executive, Glasgow Disability Alliance
Ella Simpson, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council
Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender

Dear Cabinet Secretary, as faith leaders, we thank the Scottish Government for the leadership it has shown in bringing forward the Child Poverty Act and Child Poverty Delivery Plan, and we particularly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to boosting the incomes of families by introducing a new income supplement.

Across Scotland, the faith communities that we represent bear witness every day to the poverty that exists in our country. Whether through providing foodbanks, delivering support to people who are homeless, or assisting families who are struggling to get by, we are often compelled to fill the gaps when the state’s safety net has failed.

It is because of our work in local communities across Scotland, as well as the principles upon which we believe our society should be based, that we have a deep shared concern about current poverty forecasts, which suggest that child poverty will continue to rise in the years ahead. If these forecasts are correct and child poverty levels in Scotland reach 38% by 2027, this would represent a grave moral failing of our society.

Like you, we believe in a Scotland where every child can access the same choices and opportunities, where every family can live a life of dignity, and where the common good and well-being of all is paramount. But with so many children in Scotland currently living in poverty in Scotland, we are a long way away from that vision becoming a reality.

We believe that because of this, there is a compelling argument to act with greater urgency in implementing the income supplement. Given the levels of poverty that currently exist in Scotland, we urge you to consider using the budget to deliver the income supplement in the next year, rather than by the current timescale of 2022. Doing so would reflect the great need that families across Scotland must be lifted out of poverty right now, rather than in several years’ time.

As supporters of the Give Me Five campaign, we ask that – as well as bringing forward the delivery of the supplement – you also consider doing so via topping up child benefit, which would immediately lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.

A basic moral test of any society is how it treats those who have the least. To help us meet this test and to build upon the Scottish Government’s work in tackling poverty, we urge you to use this budget to expedite the delivery of the income supplement. Families who are living in poverty now simply cannot wait.
Rt Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Joan Cook, President of the Scottish Unitarian Association
Bishop William Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland