IF I could be allowed to comment on your leader column ("Stark reality as council's funding options run out", The Herald, October 10): the situation is even more stark than you say. Cuts of eight per cent to education and 20 per cent to health and social care budgets coupled with hundreds of job losses might seem draconian, but they come at the end of a decade that has already imposed savage cuts to council budgets.

When the SNP came to power in 2007 it enforced a nine-year council tax freeze alongside “flat cash” settlements on Scottish local authorities. Assuming inflation at two per cent per annum this has meant that councils have already absorbed a 20 per cent cut over that nine-year period. In addition we have had the Conservatives austerity plus the SNP's additional cuts to local authority budgets, resulting in a cut of 9.3 per cent since 2010/11. The combined effect of these cuts is that local authorities have cut beyond the bone. My own council, one of the smallest in the country, made £73 million of “savings” (cuts) between 2010 and 2016/17. This year, 2017/18, we had a £9m cut to manage and the expectation is that we will have a similar cut imposed in 2018/19/20/21. It is predicted that by the 2020/21 settlement my council will have a gap of £70m between our income and our required spend.

North Ayrshire (and I'm sure other councils) has tried everything to ameliorate the effects of budget reductions. We have reorganised our structures, cut out levels of management, introduced a culture of continual improvement, re-engineered processes, streamlined procedures, changed shift patterns, improved technology and training, frozen wages, suffered rounds of voluntary redundancies and cut costs wherever possible. This year we won the APSE Award for Best Council for our efforts. But, despite all our endeavours, we find that cuts on this scale over such a period are literally unbearable. Any fat in the system has long been cut away, along with the gristle and the bone. We are now contemplating amputating limbs.

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In my opinion local authorities on the current model will not survive another round of cuts on the levels being contemplated. It is time for government ministers at both Holyrood and Westminster to recognise the crisis in local government finance and to find ways of increasing, not cutting, the allocations to local councils. And it has to be this year because next year may be too late.

Alex Gallagher,

Labour Councillor North Coast and Cumbraes, North Ayrshire Council,

2 Phillips Avenue, Largs.

AT the SNP conference Nicola Sturgeon claims that “we know that Scotland does better when decisions are taken here in Scotland”. This knowingly ignores the SNP’s many shortcomings of the last decade, particularly across the fundamentals of education and health, and ill judged legislation such as the named person scheme. It suggests the years ahead will deliver more of the same as this Scottish Government continues to focus its attention on finding ways of undermining Scotland’s place in the UK.

Decision making in Scotland should be a very good thing in relation to all the devolved powers, but this presupposes that those in government are not constantly distracted by an obsession with breaking away from the UK.

Keith Howell,

White Moss, West Linton, Peeblesshire.

I NOTE with interest your front-page lead article (“'Arrogant’ Sturgeon slated after 10-year power pledge”, The Herald, October 10). Hope springs eternal with the Scottish National Party. Its entire conference has been about self-praising the SNP's awful record and ignoring reality. This may go down well with the faithful but the vast majority of Scots have had enough of SNP promises that just don't deliver.

The voters have gradually abandoned the SNP, a fact it seems to ignore, and these pronouncements will just chase even more people away. Fantasy has taken over from reality now with ideas like dumping the Union to join the European Union, making Scotland's roads an electric paradise by 2032, improving education whilst sticking to the Curriculum for Excellence and expanding Scotland's economy by raising income tax levels specifically for those who actually produce the wealth.

The 10 years we have already had of SNP rule is too long for it to retain freshness and vitality. It is well past its "best before" date and it seems we are now governed by the Stale National Party.

Dr Gerald Edwards,

Broom Road, Glasgow.

SAY you wish to focus on Scotland's future and you are accused of arrogance. Scottish Tories in a nutshell?

Bruce Crichton,

6 Birchfield Road, Hamilton.

THAT France has stated it will not recognise an independent Catalonia, meaning the breakaway region would be forced out of the EU, has profound implications for Nicola Sturgeon.

At the SNP conference Nicola Sturgeon upped her rhetoric, claiming she has a mandate to hold a second independence referendum before 2021. She's conveniently overlooking Downing Street and Scottish Secretary David Mundell having repeatedly told her “now is not the time”. With the likely prospect of a Brexit transition period extending until 2021, it would seem it won't be “the time” before the next Holyrood election.

Those elections may be four years away but every indicator right now suggests the nationalists will not win a majority in the Scottish Parliament. This means Ms Sturgeon must either cross every finger and toe in hope of a separatist majority in 2021 and hold a second referendum in say 2023. Or she's forced to bide her time until after the subsequent Holyrood election in 2025 and pray a separatist majority is restored - or she holds an illegal Catalan-style referendum before 2021.

An illegal referendum and a declaration of independence here would mean, as France has made clear, that Scotland would be ostracised by both the UK and the EU - and would fast become an economic basket case.

So, whatever the SNP leader may choose to say to her conference activists, it looks like no independence referendum before say 2026 or 2027 - and that's if Ms Sturgeon is very lucky.

Martin Redfern,

Woodcroft Road, Edinburgh.