BREAKING news – all governments the world over make costly mistakes. While it might be better if Glenda Burns (Letters, Jan 4) at least attempted to compare a McIntosh with a Granny Smith, rather than cherries with bananas, what should perhaps be of greater interest is whether decisions around government mistakes were made responsibly and with laudable intent or irresponsibly and out of blatant self-interest.

The “disappointment” I expressed in my letter of December 2 arose out of persistently challenging writers of letters to other newspapers to include appropriate context so that balanced and constructive constitutional debate could ensue, which is something I think we should all strive for irrespective of the side of the debate on which we stand.

READ MORE: Covid-19 Inquiry: Boris Johnson takes aim at Scottish Government

In response to Glenda’s accusation that I “was not willing or able to contradict the facts” contained in her letter, I wish to offer the following.

First of all, the assessment that the currently estimated “overspend” (not worst estimate of total cost) of around £250 million, accumulated over a period approaching ten years through different design changes and various external factors, “equates” to more than a £500m cut effectively imposed in a single year by an external government is not a rigorous assessment.

The contract to build two innovative dual-fuel ferries, initially brokered by the Scottish Government led by Alex Salmond and Ferguson Marine Ltd led by Jim McColl, was for £97m and probably represents the SNP Scottish Government’s most costly mistake. Various factors besides the design changes, such as the Covid pandemic, UK inflation etc, have contributed to the subsequent overspend, but the ambition for Scotland to lead the way in building ferries of the future, and possibly resurrecting shipbuilding on the Clyde, was certainly laudable.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson told 'apology not accepted' amid UK Covid Inquiry

That said, Scottish Government ministers are generally not engineers or managers experienced in progressing manufacturing projects, never mind of such a scale of investment and innovation, but must accept responsibility for either not heeding presumably good advice or for not ensuring that the advice they received came from those with the necessary level of objective competence.

Either way, this situation contrasts starkly with choices made by the UK Government (on behalf of Scotland and the other three “nations”) in procuring PPE with direct contract awards amounting to £14 billion (much of it to Tory donors and Tory cronies) of which nearly £10bn was squandered on “defective, unsuitable and overpriced PPE”. Scotland’s “share” of this latter amount alone (ignoring our “share” of almost £40bn on an ineffective track/test/trace service and nearly another £10bn in identified fraud) would have more than covered the total estimated cost of similarly building four dual-fuel ferries. [Even this example of UK Government waste is “small-scale” by comparison with the reckless spending on HS2, where the “overspend” (not the total cost) has been estimated at more than £100bn on a project that was adjudged “unachievable”.]

READ MORE: Speaker apologises for 'leader of Scottish nationalists' line at PMQs

Where I agree with Glenda is that an apparent lack of competence in the Scottish Government will “bit by bit” erode support for the SNP and the Scottish Government. Sooner or later this perception will have a knock-on detrimental impact on support for independence overall, which makes it even more important that while the SNP and the Scottish Government must be encouraged to attain higher operating standards, they should not be unfairly denigrated via the omission of appropriate context or via questionable comparisons. The pernicious strategy of politically slanting stories to favour the interests of a handful of multi-billionaires who control the bulk of the UK mainstream media thrives on undermining the socially conscious Scottish Government while promoting the dubious merits of an increasingly right-wing UK Government.

Where I disagree with Glenda is in her thinking that there could be “little point” in campaigning for an independent Scotland. In the highly unlikely event that the competence of any independent Scottish Government were to actually descend so far as to be legitimately comparable with what we have recently witnessed from the UK Government (and I haven’t even mentioned Liz Truss), at the very least the proportionately representative Scottish Government would genuinely be making decisions with the best interests of the people of Scotland at heart. That message is one which will help to convince another 10-15% to support self-determination. What will not help is accepting, and perhaps furthering, the politically biased soundbites propagated by the bulk of the UK mainstream media.

Stan Grodynski
Longniddry, East Lothian