OVER recent months, the UK Government has wasted little time squandering an estimated £20 billion of our hard-earned tax money while expeditiously writing off £5 billion of fraudulently claimed Covid-related business loans and £5.5bn of dishonestly-obtained furlough payments.
Now, we learn of more mind-boggling sums wasted, money paid in good faith by citizens of and businesses in the UK, a reported £8.7bn worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) declared unfit for purpose with undue haste.
And all that’s before auditors have delved into coffers controlled by Tory chum Dame Dido Harding for her “world-beating” £37bn Test and Trace system, doubtless more eye-watering sums nonchalantly wasted.
Hats off to Tory peer Lord Agnew, nominally responsible for UK Government counter-fraud measures, who resigned on principle, accusing the Treasury of having “little interest in the consequences of fraud to our society”, blaming “a combination of arrogance, indolence and ignorance” for gargantuan losses that could have made last week’s flimsy “Levelling-up” announcement a mite more credible or helped mitigate looming energy bills.
He also accused the Government of “schoolboy errors” in granting Business Bounce-back loans to more than 1,000 firms not actively trading at the time our cash was blindly being handed out.
Meanwhile, quietly, under the radar, the UK Government recently launched Operation Iggy, a £510m initiative involving 2,000 super-sleuths investigating alleged Universal Credit fraud, mercilessly scrutinising benefits claimants’ bank accounts and other personal information for incriminating evidence.
Announcing this crackdown on the poorest in our country, UK Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Investing in measures to fight fraud protects honest taxpayers’ money and stops criminals funding their illicit activities,” adding: “[This] is a clear message to fraudsters and criminal gangs, ‘anyone trying to con us will get caught out’.”
The irony of chasing what is petty cash, whist ignoring industrial-scale fraud might be mildly amusing were it not so cruel and unjust, whilst faux Tory outrage and dual standards over a voluntary £600,000 donation to the SNP possibly, it seems, not used for its intended purpose, little more than a few days’ interest on the UK Government’s taxpayer-funded fraud.
Hounding a few bad apples hiding amongst the most vulnerable in society for a few quid here and there, while big-time Charlies trouser six and seven-figure sums without scrutiny or any prospect of investigation, let alone sanction: it’s not just Partygate that has hollowed out a morally corrupt and fiscally-incontinent UK Government.
Mike Wilson, Longniddry.
JOHNSON SHOULD STOP PHOTO OPPS
IN the middle of the chaos and mess engulfing Boris Johnson, including Russians on the Ukranian border, the effect on poverty of the rise in National Insurance, massive energy costs facing millions of families and the litany of lies increasing by the day, I want to know something: how can the man at the top of our Government spend a ridiculous number of hours a day shooting off across England being filmed in NHS clinics, hospitals or pretending he drives big builders’ lorries for a few seconds of news time?
If he were a man with any moral standards he would be in hours of meetings with those who could solve the avalanche of problems engulfing him.
Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.
COVID STAT IS MISLEADING
OTTO Inglis (Letters, January 30) says “sometimes the simplest questions are the most powerful”. In reality, the simplest questions are just as likely to be the most misleading.
The figure he quotes of “only” 17,371 people dying in England and Wales has already been thoroughly debunked by many people, including the Office for National Statistics, which was the original source of the number. The figure refers to number of death certificates where Covid was given as the only cause of death. It omits cases where Covid was the main cause of death, but other conditions, such as diabetes, were also mentioned on the death certificate, even if they were not a significant factor. This is like saying that, if someone is hit by a bus but also happened to be diabetic, then it should not be reported as a traffic accident death.
Billy Grierson, Scone.
STOP ANONYMOUS INTERNET USERS
PERHAPS Neil Mackay and Professor Julian Goodare (“The atrocious, true history of Scotland’s wicked witch hunts, January 30) do not know that witch-hunting is a lethal problem today and is in some places supported by internet abuse
An example which is not always technology-dependent is the persecution and murder of single women in rural India. A woman who lives alone and has a home or any parcel of land is accused of witchcraft and burned alive so that others may take her land.
In some Latin American countries mobile applications are used to spread fabricated accusations of witchcraft and raise a lynch mob. The target is beaten and then incinerated alive with the aid of road fuel. The motive is sometimes envy, often just twisted fun.
It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens in the UK. The accusation is likely to be paedophilia, which has already been fabricated in hostile political briefings. These are examples of the danger of anonymous access to internet.
Routers need to gate traffic on a nation-by-nation basis. No certificate identifying the sender should e traffic not forwarded anywhere. Countries can do this one by one and most countries will see the benefit quite quickly. This could also be a line of defence against cyber-aggression and fake news.
Anonymous internet use means internet service accounts using fake or stolen identities, which may currently be more than half of all accounts for message services and contact websites. Combating this is possible with proof of identity as a condition of certification for transmission of internet traffic. It’s like keeping unlicensed drivers off the road, except it’s more about identification than qualification. Disqualification is possible for wrongdoing.
Going back to Mr Mackay’s article, the witches of North Berwick did not try to assassinate James VI. The court established that they set to sea in washtubs to raise a storm. This was to stop the bride of James VI landing from Scandinavia. James VI was himself a great expert at detecting witchcraft and was able to assist the court in a consulting capacity.
Tim Cox, Bern, Switzerland.
DANGER OF THE WIND FARMS
IN response to several of your correspondents (Letters, January 30), I do not approve of wind farms. I am very much aware of the danger to bats, insects and birds, as well as the threat to peat from the concrete bases. Apparently bats explode when they fly near wind turbines. I have been aware of the danger since the erection of the first turbines, as I keep up to date with information from conservation organisations. RSPB does not approve of wind turbines, and I trust its judgment.
There are other dangers from wind farms to do with a humming noise coming from the turning of the blades. This makes life unbearable for residents living near turbines. Houses built near wind turbines are, according to some reports, unsellable.
Maybe technology can find an answer which does not involve causing more damage. But the answer definitely does not involve doing nothing because you think other countries are not doing enough.
Margaret Forbes, Kilmacolm.
STOP SUBSIDISING EV OWNERS
THE majority of councils in Scotland are providing free electricity at their electric vehicle (EV) charging points. Why should taxpayers fund the government grants and council taxpayers fund the free charging points, free parking and free electricity for rich EV owners?
Electricity and gas prices are out of control, meaning many council taxpayers are having to choose between eating and heating. If an EV battery goes on fire it cannot be extinguished but must be left to burn out. Many countries have banned EVs from underground car parks. Why not Scotland?
Clark Cross, Linlithgow.
ENHANCING SCOTLAND’S RUINS
I NOTE Sandra Dick’s article on the possible fate of Scotlands historic ruins (“Castles and heritage sites across Scotland could be left to crumble”, January 30). By definition, the ruins of a building such as those of the cathedrals of St Andrews or Elgin are unstable; the walls which supported gable ends have gone, as have the buttresses.
The danger of falling masonry is not new. When Dr Johnson visited the remains of St Andrews Cathedral and wished to ascend its steeples he was told this was not possible, because one of them was dangerous. Johnson replied that he hoped it would not be demolished because “it may fall on some of the posterity of John Knox; and no great matter!”. Although he blamed Knox’s inflammatory preaching for the state of the cathedral, the main damage was done by enterprising St Andreans themselves using the cathedral, no longer needed since the Reformation, as a handy source of building material, and indeed cathedral stones can still be identified around the town.
However, imagine were such buildings to be restored, not in stone but using a transparent material, thus maintaining what remains of the original building work in view but fully supported and protected against the elements. In St Andrews the effect would be of a ghost cathedral, and what a sight that would be.
Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews.