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Readers’ letters: The politics of criminal sentencing, Aberdeen City Council’s priorities and NHS

In today's letters, our readers discuss the politics of criminal sentencing, Aberdeen City Council's libraries and pools controversy and NHS.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson
Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Sir, – The SNP’s soft-touch justice system is putting the needs of a rapist above those of the teenage victim.

Sean Hogg, then 17, raped a 13-year-old girl in a park in 2018. Instead of a prison sentence, he has recently been sentenced to 270 hours of unpaid work.

The needs of a criminal have shamefully been put above those of a victim in the SNP’s soft-touch justice system yet again.

This young girl will be scarred for life by the horrendous attack.

It is high time victims of crime in Scotland are protected and criminals properly punished.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands ward.

Highland politicians voted for Central Belt-bias continuity

Sir, – All political parties centralise their power but elected Highland SNP MPs and MSPs could and should have helped to increase the Highland powerbase by encouraging members to vote for Kate Forbes, a local MSP, to be SNP leader and first minister.

After all, most people outside the Central Belt, for example in the Highlands, believe the Scottish Government, of whichever colour, concentrate their efforts on the Central Belt, ignoring the fact that decade after decade of underdevelopment and investment have taken a toll on everyone who has made their home here in the Highlands.

That being the case, why did our Highland SNP MPs Ian Blackford and Drew Hendry, and MSPs Maree Todd and Emma Roddick, along with SNP Highland councillors, vote for the SNP leadership nominee Humza Yousaf, a resident of Dundee who represents a constituency in Glasgow, as SNP leader and first minister?

Humza Yousaf. Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

They also encouraged SNP members in the Highlands to vote for Mr Yousaf and in doing so voted for the centralisation of more powers in the Central Belt rather than voting for Ms Forbes, who is undoubtedly an outstanding politician as she proved as Scotland’s finance secretary.

For local SNP Highland councillors and parliamentarians to be holding up placards in Inverness in support of the away team was obviously to curry favour with those who could look kindly on them.

It has obviously worked for some.

They gave their support to an SNP leadership cabal that were scathing of anyone who had the temerity to have a mind of their own.

Ms Forbes as first minister would never have excluded a tourism minister from her cabinet appointments, knowing full well what it means to the Highland economy.

On the other hand, we had Highland MPs, MSPs and councillors throwing their support behind a Central Belt candidate who boasted that he was the continuity candidate.

How well did these councillors know Humza Yousaf?

Their loyalty obviously lies with the SNP rather than with the cause of independence.

The new cabinet of 28 MSPs appointed by Mr Yousaf will now join the leadership payroll vote with allegiance to the status quo. Those MSPs are now part of a favoured group and have been appointed for their loyalty to the party.

The previous administration under Nicola Sturgeon – who forcefully came out against Ms Forbes – are still there as advisers on the back benches.

Kate Forbes. Image: Jane Barlow/PA

Not one SNP MSP who publicly supported Ms Forbes was given a position at the top table of the extended cabinet.

Indeed, only one was given a junior position out of the cabinet membership.

Ivan McKee, who publicly supported her, held the position of minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise.

In Mr McKee’s case this new offer was one that effectively tied his hands behind his back.

Ms Forbes, on the other hand, was offered a demoted position from the position of finance secretary which she had held with distinction. Both declined to accept the offers put to them for pertinent reasons.

One of Mr Yousaf’s first decisions was to do away with a dedicated tourism role.

Our local councillors and elected parliamentarians must have put a great deal of thought into the effect that such a decision was going to have on the Highlands before voting for a Central Belt first minister who has now come up with such a negative decision for our Highland economy.

I am sure tourism will now be taken up by one of the 28 appointees who are holding various positions within the extended cabinet as an afterthought. I am just as certain they will try to convince everyone it had been their intention to do just that all along.

Many loyalists like Shona Robison, a long-standing friend of Ms Sturgeon, were given ministerial positions.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Robison was appointed to both the positions of deputy first minister together with that of finance secretary with responsibility for the Scottish budget.

The latter decisions will rub salt in the wound of the 48% of the SNP membership who voted for Ms Forbes as she had previously held the finance and economy roll with distinction.

When compared to the eight years of SNP double talk, she is a breath of political fresh air. As for Ash Regan, she was far too committed to the cause of independence for the present SNP leadership.

Ash Regan taking part in the first SNP leadership hustings in Cumbernauld. Image: Andy Buchanan /PA Wire

Ms Regan is also committed to the cause of women and children’s rights and showed the principles many within the SNP have been lacking.

For the present SNP incumbents who have taken to promoting self-ID to the exclusion of the very thing that the SNP came into existence to achieve, she was never going to be offered a cabinet position.

I do not claim that each and every cabinet member is not up to their job, I refer only to those who held senior positions in the previous cabinet and who obviously have failed in their role.

The present career incumbents are simply being moved about like kings and queens on a chess board as a reward for their loyalty to the leadership.

The only reward I want to see handed out is one that brings about independence.

Unfortunately, only Nicola Sturgeon loyalists can make this cabinet and the obvious safety of the payroll vote to provide more of the same.

Bill Clark, Fort William.

NHS and care are devolved powers

Sir, – It seems that the nationalist contributors to your columns will stop at nothing to lay blame at Westminster’s door.

Whilst no fan of the current Westminster regime, I have to point out the letter from Mark Cullen (April 5), in which he claims that bed blocking in our hospitals is caused by the Westminster government, is totally erroneous.

Image: Shutterstock

I would suggest that he read the devolution settlement where it clearly states that health and social care are devolved matters and therefore the current woes of the NHS and social care in Scotland are the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

Indeed the newly appointed first minister, Humza Yousaf, was the most recent incumbent in charge of the health portfolio and during the hustings his nearest challenger, Kate Forbes, launched a scathing critique of the health secretary’s tenure in office including criticism over hospital backlogs.

Perhaps in future, Mr Cullen and his ilk should undertake some fact checking before putting pen to paper and we might be spared any further nationalist mis-truths and misinformation in these columns.

Ian Simpson, Woodend Place, Aberdeen.

Libraries shut for buses and bicycles

Sir, – Only days after closing a myriad of libraries – yes, libraries – throughout the city on the premise that we don’t have the money to keep them open, we are faced with spending millions on so-called bus and cycle lanes.

Who approached the council making an excellent, unanswerable case for this massive public spend?

Let’s have figures from the council on how many cyclists are using the existing lanes – or is it just a case of massive virtue signalling by certain council employees?

From your coverage of this madness, only 196 people have responded to the council’s online consultation – surprise, surprise.

How’s about ditching this madness and using the money to keep the libraries open?

James Noel, Leggart Terrace, Aberdeen.

Councillors are just philistines

Sir, – So the battle has been lost despite the best efforts of many determined campaigners. The six city libraries have closed along with Bucksburn Swimming Pool and the Beach Leisure Centre.

The libraries in particular will be much missed by their communities. The mum who borrowed Postman Pat DVDs for her son, who, 10 years on, has progressed to borrowing science books, and the pensioner who doesn’t have the internet at home but used her library’s computer, showed the value of these local assets.

Additionally, the now-closed libraries played an important role as warm hubs, a vital refuge for those who couldn’t afford to heat their homes this winter. This latter point shows how completely out of touch Councillor Hazel Cameron was when she said that “a building will not teach your children to read”.

Image: Aberdeen City Council

I should add that the libraries were shut with indecent haste, with Aberdeen City Council not even bothering to look at options for keeping them open, such as community ownership.

I really have to question the priorities of our civic leaders. The £20 million beach development which nobody seems to want (apart from the councillors) has been raised already by several correspondents. Scaling back this project might have allowed Bucksburn pool and the Beach Leisure Centre to remain open, the latter offering entertainment all round in all weathers, something which can’t be said of the glorified playground proposed for the beachfront.

And the least said about the Woodside Gateway art installation the better; ask Woodside residents if they’d rather have this £155,000 folly or retain their library and I’m certain the majority would opt for the latter.

Aberdeen deserves so much better than this shower of philistines in the Town House.

Jonathan Mitchell.

It’s time to dip in to Common Good Fund

Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Sir, – Where do we go now?

The decision to close the Bucksburn Swimming Pool was taken quickly – without any discussion and no guidance as to where we go now.

No details, no information. Have they even started to see what can be provided for those that needed easy access?

Where can the loss of public sessions be allocated to?

Where can the various groups and special needs go?

For the good of the community as a whole and for the benefit of the people that reside within the area, what better use of the Common Good Fund than to save the only pool which provides easy access for the young, old and disabled?

Brian Rattray.