Business

Letters: Time to live up to Brexit boast and axe VAT on energy

THE 82% increase in the electricity standing charge is obscene and will take the annual charge to £165.50 per annum before 1Kwh of power is used.

This increase is unrelated to the huge hike in the wholesale price of gas and will disproportionately hit low electricity users the most.

Consumers like pensioners and low-income households, who are unlikely to use dishwashers, tumble dryers and electronics and therefore unlikely to be able cut their usage to compensate will suffer the most.

Boris Johnson stated before Brexit that Britain would be able to ditch VAT on gas and electricity bills as the EU regulations did not permit it. What better time to scrap VAT on energy than now, when we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis with energy, food, interest rates and NI contributions all increasing to unparalleled levels?

Instead, the Tories “kindly” decided to lend us £200 towards the average £700 bill increase on the basis that we pay it back over the following five years (“Fury as energy bills to rise £700 with aid branded ‘inadequate’”, The Herald, February 4).

However, there are no guarantees that these eye-watering prices will reduce and that hard-pressed families will be able to afford the extra repayments.

Scotland is rich in oil, gas and wind power; however, we are hit with one of the highest energy tariffs in the UK.

If only “Scotland will not be dragged out of the EU against our will” meant what it said on the tin and we had achieved independence.

Iris Graham, Edinburgh.

SNP UNTRUTHS OVER PENSIONS

IAN Blackford in a podcast, and Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, have unveiled a brand new SNP orthodoxy on pensions (“Sturgeon vows state pension will not shrink under independence”, The Herald, February 4). In 2013, the SNP’s referendum White Paper stated unambiguously that “for those people living in Scotland in receipt of the UK State Pension at the time of independence, the responsibility for the payment of that pension will transfer to the Scottish government” (p144). The then UK Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, stated that “the Scottish people would expect their government to take on full responsibility for paying pensions to people in Scotland, including where liabilities had arisen before independence”. The SNP prefers to quote an earlier statement by Mr Webb which this later one supersedes.

In recent days, first Mr Blackford and then Ms Sturgeon have spoken publicly about how the “commitment to continue to pay pensions rests with the UK Government” and that “absolutely nothing would change”. Unless they can produce evidence of Her Majesty’s Government having entered a new undertaking on this matter, we can bin and disregard what they have said, which is merely a regurgitation of untruths peddled on the Business for Scotland website.

Mr Blackford’s and Ms Sturgeon’s statements are incorrect. Why these people should spread misleading information at this time is anyone’s guess.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.

* THE issue of who would pay state pensions in an independent Scotland prompts this question for the First Minister: if England were to secede from the UK, would rUK (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) continue to pay the state pensions of the English?

James Quinn, Lanark.

PRIME-TIME STUPIDITY

WE should thank the BBC for its Thursday night entertainment.

First we start with the reality of the news, which is a drama that the Government would like to go away.

Then we get The Apprentice, which unintentionally mirrors Boris Johnson and Co with two-legged mistakes who consider themselves to be clever and worthy of a richly-earned future, no matter an obvious lack of worldly or business nous. Team leaders promise victory and sometimes get initial plaudits when Lord Sugar asks them. However, when things go wrong, this perception is replaced by claims of “well, it was not my idea” or “I pointed out the error but nobody listened”. Last night (February 3 )we had three supposedly intelligent adults who could not spell “Arctic” then decided to avoid mentioning it until clients noticed it. Then these three plus three others, including the ambitious and confident team leader, thought that penguins lived at the North Pole (actually they are as common there as integrity in the present Government). The one problem with this reality show is that it must run for a fixed length, so there can only be a limited number of idiots sacked at any one time.

Finally Thursday gives us Question Time, when we must feel sympathy for the one sitting Conservative MP who has to defend the Prime Minister and then his own party who promoted him. Do they toss a coin to decide each week’s victim for the firing line, or do they get volunteers like the team leaders in the previously mentioned programme?

One of the supposedly non-party participants stated the very English comment that “remember Boris delivered Brexit”. Had he not noticed the rise in costs before Covid struck, the six-mile queues of lorries at Dover or the Irish/NI trade problems? When will we get to the acceptance of the realities of Brexit – never mind the stupid party activities at No. 10 and the dishonesty that followed?

JB Drummond, Kilmarnock.

NI’S TURN TO SUFFER FROM PM FOLLY

NOW it is the turn of Northern Ireland unfortunately to suffer from the consequences of the “rhubarb” and “piffle” generated at times by Boris Johnson (“Northern Ireland First Minister resigns in protest over protocol”, The Herald, February 4). On a number of occasions he has stated with regard to Northern Ireland’s protocol that there would be no checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Sir Keir Starmer in this context commented: “This is a Prime Minister who either doesn’t know the details of the deal he has negotiated or isn’t being straight about it.”

There are many in Northern Ireland who believe that they deserved better from a British Prime Minister. How many more damaging episodes involving Mr Johnson are the majority of Conservative MPs prepared to put up with before they call time up out of self-interest? Do they really have to await the results of the May local elections?

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

COVID TREATMENT CLAIMS DEBUNKED

JOANNA Blythman has informed and entertained Herald readers with her restaurant reviews and her articles on food generally. However, in recent months she has published several articles on Covid-19, its management and sequelae which are controversial and which present an alternative viewpoint to conventional wisdom on the subject.

No one should object to alternative views, but these views should be backed up by genuine rather than spurious evidence, and Ms Blythman’s track record in this regard is poor.

In an early article, she misinterpreted the findings of the NHS yellow card scheme on Covid vaccine side-effects and deaths. You subsequently issued a correction of this misrepresentation.

In a subsequent article on December 18, she made further erroneous claims, namely that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are effective treatments for Covid, which they are not.

For ivermectin, there are poor quality studies, often anecdotal, and without good controls for comparison, which suggested a benefit. However, proper controlled trials (which compared the outcomes of treated and untreated patients) showed no evidence of therapeutic benefit. The verdict of the National Institute for Health in the US is that ivermectin should not be used as a Covid treatment.

For hydroxychloroquine, the evidence is even more dubious. The two original articles suggesting the use of hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis or treatment of Covid came from a laboratory in Marseilles in 2020. Both studies were largely uncontrolled and both were retrospective, looking at the results of treatment with hindsight. Hindsight allows researchers, if they wish, to ignore patients whose results don’t support the conclusions they wish to reach.

These studies have been pilloried by most other researchers, and have resulted in the director of the laboratory, Dr Didier Raoult, being found guilty of misleading the public by the French equivalent of our General Medical Council. He has since retired. No properly controlled studies have found any therapeutic benefit from the use of hydroxychloroquine. This can be confirmed anecdotally by the experience of Donald Trump and President Bolsonaro of Brazil, both of whom contracted Covid despite taking hydroxychloroquine.

So, though Ms Blythman is entitled to her alternative views on Covid, these views should not be backed up by inaccurate information.

Dr Sam Craig, Glasgow.

PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

YOUR report about a house for sale in Clachtoll (“‘Most expensive’ croft yet on the NC500 is all yours for over £800k”, The Herald, February 4) caught my attention, both because of the asking price of over £800,000 and because that’s a part of Scotland I fell in love with many years ago, when I spent student summers working in Lochinver and Loch Loyal, near Tongue.

However, any interest in buying the place was quelled not just by the asking price, but also by the description provided by the estate agents, Strutt and Parker. They say the property (I hesitate to describe it as a croft) is “located on a spectacular peninsular jutting into the Atlantic Ocean”. I think the noun they were searching for was peninsula, though it may be pronounced with a terminal “r” in the salons of west London. And I’d call the body of water they refer to as The Minch.

Then you quote the advertising puff about being “overlooked by the dramatic peaks of Suilven, Stac Pollaidh, Canisp, Quinag and Ben More Assynt which dominate the nearby skyline”. Fabulous hills all, but none closer than 10 miles from Clachtoll. And, from the selling agent’s website, the house looks southwest to the bare headland of Rubha Coigeach and has a rocky outcrop behind cutting off views of those “dramatic peaks”.

Nice house, but caveat emptor.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

DATES WITH DESTINY

ALAN Fitzpatrick’s “numerical oddity” (Letters, February 4) can be improved by using full digits for day/month/year as 01, and so on. Using this method, those of us with time on our nerdish hands are looking forward to the imminent palindrome 22/02/2022 and bemoan the need to wait for eight years for the next one: 03/02/2030.

Many wonderful verbal palindromes have been invented, some of inordinate length, but I always return to the original chat-up line in the Garden of Eden: “Madam, I’m Adam.”

Tom Rodger, Glasgow.

* ALAN Fitzpatrick asks about any occult or other meaning attributable to Wednesday’s date, 2/2/22.

I suggest that instead of Wednesday, it was Twosday.

David Miller, Milngavie.

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