Laxative effect

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TIM Flinn’s letter calling for a bicameral parliament is most timely when read with Bill Jamieson’s excoriation the same day of Holyrood’s rubber stamp committee system (Perspective, 10 March).

One might be forgiven for thinking that Mr Flinn’s criteria for membership are pretty nearly met by life peers.

I don’t see a huge advantage in excluding former politicians, some are no doubt a necessary laxative to keep things moving.

Hector Maclean

Balnaboth, Kirriemuir, Angus

Labour women

As a woman councillor and executive spokesperson for Children, Young People and Lifelong Learning and former Lord Provost of the great City of Glasgow, I have to take issue with Dani Garavelli’s ill-informed article in the “Scotswoman” (“Don’t Count on the old boys’ network”, 8 March).

To read her article you would think that all women members of the Labour group in Glasgow were being systematically blocked for promotion to senior positions as an “old boys’ network” of male Labour councillors continues to preserve the Labour Group as a male bastion. The facts tell a completely different story which Ms Garavelli would have been able to find out if she had undertaken even the most basic research.

For example, representation of women in the council’s Labour executive committee, women councillors chairing policy development committees and women in senior councillor paid positions have all increased markedly under Frank McAveety’s leadership.

The Labour Group has also set up a working group of women councillors to develop a strategy for increasing the numbers of women in the party who come forward as candidates and subsequently gain senior positions in Glasgow’s Labour Group.

Ms Garavelli seems to suggest, towards the end of her column, that things for women councillors on Glasgow City Council will improve “if the SNP wins a majority in 2017 and Susan Aitken takes over as leader”. In this respect Ms Aitken still has much work to do – her SNP group has one fifth of women members. The Labour group has one third.

There is a great deal which must be done to achieve real gender equality in Glasgow City Council, Scottish Government, political parties and workplaces right across Scotland. It is a critical issue society must address. However, the struggle for women’s representation is ill-served by sisters like Dani Garavelli, denigrating circumstances where real progress in these matters is actually being accomplished.

(Bailie) Liz Cameron

Executive member for Children, Young People and Lifelong Learning

Glasgow City Council

Outside the tent

I have just finished reading the l memoirs of Micheline Calmy-Rey, who was the Swiss foreign minister from 2003 to 2011. (I lived and worked in Switzerland for many years before retiring back to the UK and am fluent in French). Her chapter on relations with the European Union makes interesting reading.

Switzerland is, of course, not a member state of the EU, but like Norway, is in the European Economic Area. She describes in some detail her experience of negotiating bilateral agreements with the EU, Switzerland’s major export market.

The process was usually long and tortuous in detail. In many areas Switzerland ended by adopting the existing EU ­legislation without having been involved in its preparation nor having been able to vote on the details. 

What inevitably comes to mind regarding the forthcoming referendum are the words of Johnson (LBJ, not Boris) that “it is better to be inside the tent p*ssing out than outside p*ssing in”.

(Dr) William Blair

Pont Crescent, Dunblane

Soft sentencing

There seems to be somewhat of a trend in handing out lenient sentences to serial thugs.

The Hatton Garden robbers, we are told, (your report 10 March) will be eligible for release after less than four years of their seven-year sentences. No wonder they thanked the judge.

No doubt some criminals, particularly the non-violent ones, would be better with non-custodial punishments; and others need more effective education in jail and better rehabilitation after release, for their own and society’s sakes. But, far from our prison population being too high, is it high enough for society’s protection?

John Birkett

Horseleys Park, St Andrews, Fife

Zero sense

The people behind the tiny fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles which have been deployed in Aberdeen (your report, 8 March) are being disingenuous.

The main problem with hydrogen is that, unlike oil, hydrogen does not exist in a hole in the ground. It has to be manufactured using electricity.

The obvious question is where does this electricity come from? The answer: from fossil fuel.

A further problem is that when you convert energy from one form to another there are always significant energy losses. The electrical process to make hydrogen has energy losses of 60 to 70 per cent. Ironically, this means that if we use hydrogen to power a vehicle, we are causing triple the pollution compared to just burning the oil in a diesel or petrol engine. Yet they claim “zero emissions”.

Geoff Moore

Braeface Park, Alness

Ross and Cromarty

Machine politics

Now we see another piece of sticking plaster used to cover up an SNP government mess. Instead of giving immediate support to farmers struggling because of the atrocious weather, they have been sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of EU support for months. Who are they blaming this time? A poor computer.

Despite all their claims that wicked Westminster is depriving them of money, they suddenly find £200 million to keep the farmers quiet, just like the new money they have suddenly found to reduce bed blocking and educational under performance and to increase child care.  One would almost think there was an election in the offing.

Eric Christison

Craighouse Gardens, Edinburgh

Naming names

The Scotsman (9 March) had two excellent illustrations of the well argued and evidenced sides of the named person debate.

The letter from the 12 battle-hardened organisations which deal every day with children’s issues clearly show that more effective powers are required, to help our most vulnerable children and families.

Your report about the legal challenge showed the valid concerns of people whose children do not require such monitoring or intrusion. 

Together they clearly show the fundamental flaws in the policy, which is the SNP’s lack of courage in focusing resources and powers on the mostly obvious families in need of help and instead tarring us all with the same brush and putting impossible stress on people who are already overburdened by their day jobs.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Drinking culture

Alcohol abuse costs the tax payer hugely – without their consent. It destroys families and harms children. The likelihood of criminal and other damaging or hurtful behaviour is vastly increased. Businesses suffer and the economy is hindered. Resultant accidents rob the innocent of life and limb. Drunken behaviour intimidates and frightens many, especially the most vulnerable. And The Scotsman’s response (Comment, 9 March)? Alcohol abuse should not be treated as a matter of “morality”.

The prevailing view in impeccably non-judgmental relativist Scotland is that drunkenness is an acceptable leisure activity, but periodic hand-wringing over its consequences is necessary to maintain our credentials as a caring society.

Richard Lucas

Colinton, Edinburgh

Fallible frackers

It is not only pro-fracking ­engineers and scientists, assuring us of safety, who have expertise that merits being listened to by government in the fracking debate (Letters, 5 March)

Many of those opposed to fracking (including scientists and engineers) have very valid reasons to also have a voice without being ridiculed or accused of nimbyism.

The testimony of the highly qualified Dr Geralynn McCarron, a general practitioner, toxicologist, obstetrician, working in communities within a fracking area of Australia, which can be heard on YouTube, makes disturbing listening.

The risks of injecting dangerous chemicals underground in large quantities at very high velocity must not be skimmed over by those who appear to consider themselves infallible.

Carol McManus

Newmills Road, Edinburgh

Sunday stand

The SNP are being accused of political opportunism in voting against Sunday trading for England. Opportunism, some say, due to a Holyrood election just around the corner. But the legislative timetable at Westminster is not set by the SNP.

But are the SNP MPs right to be getting involved in legislation that affects England only, bearing in mind Scotland for over 20 years has had Sunday trading?

More than a third of Scotland’s retail workers work for large retailers headquartered in England, so on this point alone it is clear why SNP MPs are rightly getting involved.

In Scotland, retail workers are rewarded with higher rates of pay for working on a Sunday and this must be protected, however, the proposed legislation in the Commons could have consequences for these workers, affecting their higher rates for Sunday work.

There are in the region of 1,000 retail workers in each Scottish constituency that could be affected and were SNP MPs to sit in silence and not vote, they could be accused of the sin of omission, however the 54 who voted against this legislation, rightly represented their constituents interests.

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive, Banknock Falkirk

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