I HAVE been struck by the recent furore that has been created over proposals for a workplace parking levy (WPL) and tourist tax. It demonstrates how little Holyrood has grown up when it comes to empowering councils.

The Conservatives, true to form, have used these as a means to beat the Scottish Government over the head. They will damage the economy, hurt the low-paid and prove unworkable – the normal refrains we have grown used to.

However, as many will be aware, many European cities such as Paris and Berlin already have a tourist tax and councils in England have had the power since 2000 to set a WPL, although Nottingham is the only one to have done so to date.

READ MORE: John Swinney: Carlaw’s opposition to parking tax is ‘rank hypocrisy’

These taxes are an optional charge for councils to set and when it comes to a WPL, NHS workers and hospitals will be exempt and it will only apply to employers with more than a certain number of spaces.

As in Nottingham, income generated by the scheme will be hypothecated for spending on transport schemes.

It is hard to imagine any councils pushing forward with WPL and tourist tax schemes, which will take a number of years to impose, in the face of strong public resistance.

The Tories talk of the need to “empower councils” but seem to have collective amnesia when it comes to turning such fine words into practice.

Local governments across Europe raise and collect numerous taxes; it is normal. Twenty years after devolution it is time to let our councils get on with it.

Alex Orr

A UN special report of findings in Ecuador and Venezuela, issued on August 2018 but almost entirely suppressed by the media, points out some relevant facts about the situation in Venezuela.

While noting incoherence in government policy, and inefficiency, as well as massive corruption, black-market dealing etc – all of which we’ve heard of – it also reports that for the last three decades there has been, in effect, an economic war waged against Venezuela (as against Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Syria etc). The intention of the “war” is to make their economies fail, and facilitate regime change, thereby bringing in a neo-liberal socio-economic model.

READ MORE: Letters: It's obvious who the good guys are in Venezuela

In fact any government across the world that is not favoured by the US is, or will be, subject to intense pressure. That an MEP (Alyn Smith) could write a whole column about the crises facing Venezuela and not mention US sanctions is quite remarkable (Forget Brexit, the EU needs to think about Venezuela, February 10). That country is indeed undergoing a crisis, but they would not need humanitarian aid if it were not for US sanctions.

READ MORE: Forget Brexit, the EU needs to think about Venezuela

These entirely illegal sanctions, introduced by President Obama and continued under Trump, are not the sole cause of Venezuela’s problems, but they are a major part of them. Here’s another one. Some months ago, the government of Venezuela requested return of billions in gold bullion it had lodged with the Bank of England. The bank has refused, and still does today. Meanwhile the US has seized billions in assets. This is a wonderful example of larceny on such a grand scale that the rest of the world must be learning some very good lessons from it – especially, never trust your funds to the UK or the USA.

As for the recent bandwagon of “recognising” Juan something-or-other as an interim president – well, if it showed up one thing, that was just how quickly the US’s vassals can jump to their master’s bidding. Or does anyone really think France, Germany etc would have done this without America’s lead? It was of course inevitable that Britain would rush into this, as it/we – post-Brexit – will need urgent agreements with the US just to survive. Where is sovereignty in all this, or international law, or the UN charter? So much for the “international rules-based” order we hear so mush about from our politicians. We need to keep out of other countries’ affairs – how is it that we have still not learned this?

I fear that in Liliana’s “long letter” (February 10) she rather let the cat out of the bag in her last paragraph; on the side of intervention she notes the US, Canada, most of the EU, and Latin America. In other words, America and its vassals – that’s her side. Also the side of the SNP, it seems, but regrettably (to me, as a party member) we cannot look to the SNP as a party of principle when it comes to foreign affairs.

Gordon Gallacher

I AGREE with Alan Smart (Letters, February 9) when he submits John Maclean as the greatest Scottish 20th century icon. I would also submit Mary Barbour and everyone who organised the Glasgow rent strike and all those who took part. And today every single person working in the NHS, heroes all. I would also say today’s politicians are not fit to tie those people’s bootlaces. They would not know how.

David Ritchie
North Ayrshire

READ MORE: The great Scottish icon of all is surely John Maclean​