Sir, – In some ways I can understand the disappointment Andrew Stewart expressed in his letter to your pages in the February 20 edition.

There is no doubt that people’s appetite for politics right now may be somewhat jaded following the effects of Covid-19 and the shambolic mess of Brexit. However, those two things have not stopped the politicking from all parties, but in particular the Tories as they have relentlessly attacked the Scottish Government at every turn.

They have even attacked the BBC for allowing Nicola Sturgeon to brief the country on the Covid-19 pandemic, the biggest public health crisis we’ve faced in decades.

What has really troubled the Scottish Tory party in these attacks, of course, is the clarity, competence and the popular support the First Minister enjoys, while their own party leader has been missing in action, bumbling and incompetent throughout.

That’s just one example of their boundless hypocrisy. Preaching to the SNP – and others – about acting politically after they waved through the withdrawal from the EU while major problems were snowballing as a result of Covid-19 is breathtaking.

The Tories ignored pleas from Scotland Food and Drink to have a six-month bedding-in period to allow exporters to adapt and totally refused the requests from both the Welsh and Scottish Governments for furlough extensions until it was clear that England also needed them

As for ‘prioritising a perhaps illegal referendum’ that statement demonstrates that Andrew is not averse to his own politicking.

If Scotland voted for a party that stated in its manifesto that it will hold a referendum on Scottish Independence, and that party wins the election, then the party is acting on the will of the people – no amount of refusal to co-operate from Westminster will make that referendum illegal.

If it seems to folk that all the SNP is interested in is independence, all I can say is we care about independence, because we care about everything else, and from independence, all else flows.

If Andrew takes offence at my questioning the Tory leaders’ credentials in his support of farming, perhaps it’s easier to understand in the context of his commitment to fisherfolk.

Perhaps Mr Ross can explain why we should believe him, when he gave his unwavering commitment to the fishing communities and then abandoned them as soon as Boris Johnson failed to protect them, as it was clear to any dispassionate observer he would from the the outset.

The fishing industry in Ross’ home area voted for his party because they believed the Tories would protect them unwaveringly; that fishing was an absolute Tory red line.

Today, they find they have been utterly betrayed. It seems it’s not just previous Tory governments who think fisher folks’ livelihoods are expendable. Farming families should be paying very close attention.

Andrew says we don’t need more working groups and yet not consulting the industry about its own future has been the complaint in the past. He wants to know the future frameworks, and it’s by consulting the industry that we create that sustainable future framework.

Andrew asserted that the SNP are only interested in the Central Belt, yet the party nominated myself as candidate in Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, someone who came into the industry as an outsider and dedicated 30 years of my life to it. And, it’s Emma Harper MSP, from the south of Scotland, who is currently bringing forward the much needed Bill on livestock worrying.

Broadband rollout is a reserved matter, that means it’s Westminster’s responsibility, not the Scottish Government’s. The SNP decided to intervene and deliver high speed broadband because of the woeful investment of only £29m put up by Westminster.

The Scottish Government have committed £500m-plus to roll out provision to remote and rural areas which would not be served at all had the Scottish Government not intervened.

Here’s an analogy all farmers will understand. You live next to a village that every year gets snowed in and no amount of complaint to the council gets anything done. They occasionally fill the sand buckets but never plough the roads clear.

So you, as the farmer in the community, buy a plough and manage to clear huge swathes of the streets in your town, paying for it yourself. But, you are then publicly attacked by your council because you didn’t get all of them done on time and the townsfolk start blaming you for being incompetent because their council adopted streets haven’t been cleared of snow.

Would you find that hypocrisy hard to swallow? I’m pretty sure we all would. That’s your broadband rollout reality.

As for the payments scheme, let’s not re run that tired old argument. Farmers in Scotland now get their payments earlier than anywhere else in the UK.

If rural communities across Scotland want a future where they are truly valued and where food production is a priority, then come May 6, there really is one option – both votes for SNP.

Jim Fairlie

SNP candidate for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.