Aiding barbarism

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IT IS deplorable that laws against blasphemy have not been removed from our legislation, as Neil Barber pointed out (Letters, 2 March). Obsolete legislation is toxic waste because there is always the danger that it will be revived for use by some zealot or crank and then ordinary citizens will suffer. It is surely a sign of poor governance to have obsolete laws lying on the statute book when they should have been removed long ago.

Many Islamic states are still killing people on a charge of blasphemy today. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, to name but a few, have blasphemy laws which they use to condemn to death anyone who questions religious dogma. Furthermore, wherever such blasphemy laws are enforced, vigilante religious zealots feel safe when they take the law into their own hands and murder people who do not share their beliefs.

When those countries are criticised for having such brutal laws, they always retort that similar laws are still on the statute book in supposedly modern countries like Scotland. Retaining a blasphemy law here is in effect assisting those murderous regimes in their barbaric practices. Our negligence is helping to justify their brutality.

All laws against blasphemy should be removed from our legislation immediately.

Les Reid

Morton Street, Edinburgh

Neil Barber of the Edinburgh Secular Society should get real, life is about much more than blasphemy laws. Children need to be told that being blasphemous is disrespectful to other people’s gods and religion.

Mr Barber should remember that there is more than one god and more than one religion. Some people in this world believe in killing others who blaspheme against their religion. It is far better to respect others’ beliefs than to castigate them.

K Wilson

Middle Norton, Edinburgh

A tartan trio

Donald Trump is so proud of his Scottish mother’s roots that he’s sure to want to be involved in New York’s Tartan Week if he should become US president .

Now that would be a sight: The Donald, Alex Salmond and/or Nicola Sturgeon all together at the head of the Sixth Avenue parade. They’d be in a right stew if they didn’t turn up, spurning the US President. Trump would just love to hog the show and put the boot in. Tricky scenario.

Andrew Duncan

Upper Largo, Fife

Failing farming

More than 250 farming businesses in East Lothian were promised their Common Agricultural Policy Farm payments of over £12 million in December 2015. These businesses would therefore have reasonably expected that, by now, the overdue payments would have been forthcoming. However, despite the Scottish Government spending nearly £180 million on a new flawed IT system, broken promises and worthless reassurances, the majority of farmers have still to receive a single penny.

As a result, many East Lothian farmers are struggling with serious cashflow difficulties which not just adversely affects them but also ancillary industries and the wider East Lothian economy. It is quite clear that Richard Lochead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, has mishandled this issue, as demonstrated by his panic-stricken announcement of a £20m hardship loan fund.That is nothing more than an admission of failure. Farmers don’t want to have to borrow even more, they just want to receive what is rightly theirs.

I suspect the truth is that if this was affecting urban Scotland or the Central Belt, the SNP Government would have resolved the issue by now.However, because it affects rural Scotland it has been allowed to slip off their radar screen. As former NFUS boss Jim Walker said, despite backing independence, “I could never support a party, a minister or government who have been quite so incompetent and frankly naive”.

The local MP, George Kerevan, claims that the SNP government and himself are friends of the farming community. However, all the evidence suggests otherwise, with patience wearing thin among the farming community over the Scottish Government’s endless “we are trying our best excuses”.

It is surely time Nicola Sturgeon took personal charge and arranged immediate delivery of the overdue payments to the long-suffering farming community, especially to those here in East Lothian.

Tim Jackson

Chairman, East Lothian Conservative & Unionist Association

Church Street, Haddington

Positively puzzling

I noted Maurice Brady’s concern about the implications of the First Minister’s change of shade in attire (Letters, 2 March). As one who voted Yes in the referendum and SNP in recent elections, I was more perturbed by her willingness to tell David Cameron how the No campaign might have done better by being positive. To lose was bad enough, but to suggest how the loss might have been worsened seems bizarre. I realise that this piece of meaningless rhetoric came in a speech on staying in the EU. On remembering that politics is not just the art of the possible but occasionally something more, I couldn’t help wondering whether it was a job application in case the Conservatives’ Australian guru goes elsewhere.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

New clear winner

Without access to an adequate and reliable electricity supply our society would simply cease to function. Professor Ponton points out that on a little or no wind day we would, in the absence of nuclear and fossil fuel sources, have barely one hour’s energy reserve (Letters, 2 March).

Nuclear is beyond question the only non-carbon source which could fulfil our requirements but is shunned, particularly in Scotland, on very dubious safety grounds. Wind, the chosen main supply alternative for the future, is, according to published data, actually more hazardous, as well as being unacceptably intermittent.

As I understand, the Scottish Government recommendation for wind farms is a 2.5km safety gap from habitation, which surely should be applicable also to busy highways such as the M74.

This means that every wind farm in Scotland should be a fenced-off no-go area with at least a 2.5km safety clearance.

Has anyone come across such an installation?

(Dr) A McCormick

Kirkland Road, Terregles, Dumfries

Do the maths

Your report (3 March) on Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Lasswade High was of great interest to me since the school is my alma mater. But it was also of great concern since I know from personal experience that it is just such schools which will have some pupils aspiring to go to university who might have benefited from the additional funded places scheme – a scheme which is to be scrapped as a result of SNP cuts to educational funding.

Has Ms Sturgeon not proudly proclaimed on numerous occasions that on her watch access to higher education would be based, not on ability to pay, but ability to learn? Ms Sturgeon tells us education is her priority and asks us to judge her on her record. Is it not, therefore, time that the electorate did just that – scrutinised the actions of this government and compared it with the rhetoric?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Wasn’t the First Minister’s face a picture when she tried to disguise her horror at the suggestion made by Sir Tom Hunter that the system of free schools/academies in England may have some merit and could be worth looking at as a way of reducing the attainment gap? Absolutely priceless.

G Miller

Grahamsdyke Road, Bo’ness

Cage the thugs

Violent thuggery will not reduce significantly until our politicians and judicial authorities, and/or their families, are themselves victims.

Having been sentenced to seven years, a convicted killer was released after only three, and within months repeatedly struck his new victim with an axe and knife, which required surgery and has scarred him for life (The Scotsman, 3 March).

Despite describing the attack as “cowardly, vicious and 
terrifying”, Lord Boyd jailed him for a mere 42 months, and his accomplice for 30 months.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park, St Andrews, Fife

Cut it out, boys

I am desperately concerned by a matter which has received little attention, but is something with which all readers of The Scotsman will be familiar. It is the Young Man problem, which is reaching epidemic proportions and something must be done about it.

Large numbers of young men, seeking to hide their identity behind wild face-masks they refer to as “beards”, are now having their heads experimented upon by some mad pencil sharpener.

This leaves a strange pile of hair on top of a head above a band of scalp which is otherwise as smooth as a baby’s bottom, or covered with unsightly stubble.

I suspect many young men’s mothers are unsure whether their sons have put their heads on upside-down in the morning.

It is a form of cruelty to men which modern society should forbid and which frightens the horses.

I hope other readers will help form a society to prevent this menace from afflicting our youth. We could call it SPOSH – the Society for the Prevention of Silly Haircuts.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

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