I WAS amazed at the lack of coverage in the media of the economic growth rate in Scotland during the last two quarters of 2015.
The GDP in the third quarter was revised down and became negative and in the last quarter it was 0.2 per cent, which also could be revised to a negative rate at a future date, placing Scotland in recession. If this had been reflected in the rest of the UK it would have been less important but it was substantially lower, with GDP growing 0.6 per cent in the last quarter.
Notwithstanding the importance of this matter, it was reported by BBC Scotland as a simple fact with no comment. There was a short discussion on BBC2’s Scotland 2016 and The Scotsman gave a very short comment, with the longer commentary relegated to the business section. Scotland clearly has a mountain to climb just to improve to the UK level.
This is particularly important as now Scotland raises much of its own taxes, lower GDP could reduce the revenue generated from that assumed and result in more cuts or additional borrowing to balance the books. That is, of course, unless the Fiscal Framework deal has effectively underwritten any such shortfall, which is then covered by additional payment under the Barnett formula – welcome, but a sad indictement of Scotland’s ability to stand on its own feet.
All of this is against a background of the SNP’s ludicrous claim that under independece with full fiscal control they would be able to increase the growth rate above that of the UK to ameliorate the initial enormous deficit on the assumption that the starting points were roughly equal. If we had become independent on 24 March the economic outlook would have been even more bleak than the No campaign’s worst fears. Once again we must thank the 55.3 per cent of sensible people who voted No and spared us economic armageddon.
Braid Farm Road, Edinburgh
While I am not averse to picking up any undeserved cash that might come my way (inheritance comes to mind; offshore investments if I had any), I am not too impressed by the news that a team of St Andrews University scientists have been awarded a £5.7 million grant “to further our understanding of evolution” from the American John Templeton Foundation (The Scotsman, 7 April).
Nowhere in the report does it mention that the foundation has, traditionally, religious objectives. It believes science and religion can be reconciled, and would not welcome a conclusion that this is not possible. The scientists involved at St Andrews (my alma mater, I would add, traditionally drenched in religion) must be aware of this, and if they don’t think their findings will be affected by the source of their funding, then they don’t know how the world works.
Keith Row, Edinburgh
Park that thought
Regarding the letter from Colin McLean (Letters, 7 April) regarding commuter parking in the West Lothian Council (WLC) area, in comparison with Borders Council area, why does he think the default position should be it is the council’s function to provide commuter parking at railway stations? Surely this should be part of the “offer” provided by the rail industry. Commuters are, after all, their passengers.
Transport Scotland is the national transport authority, is it not? Should this body not be funding Network Rail and Scotrail Abellio to provide an integrated transport network – car, bus and rail interchange hub – and should the polluter pays principle not be applied?
In Linlithgow, the council is currently consulting on the designation of an Air Quality Management Area.
As a consequence the council, without pre-judging the consultation, may have to introduce measures which adversely impacts on parking and vehicle movements in the town centre.
For the record, WLC built a 77-space longstay car park in 2011 in Linlithgow between the sports club and the cricket club, as part of a local parking strategy. The Council actually provides more commuter parking in the town than the rail industry!
Within the town over the years, in any parking survey, the former Greenpark filling station site in Edinburgh Road has been identified as a suitable site to develop a tiered car parking facility for commuter parking as the site lies below road and railway level. The site is currently vacant, is adjacent to the railway line and within a five-minute walking distance to the railway station.
Problem: the council doesn’t own the site and in these times of austerity is not in a position to acquire and develop the site. When the Bathgate-Airdrie line was reopened the associated commuter car parking at Uphall Station, Bathgate, Armadale and Blackridge was provided not by WLC but by Transport Scotland.
Solution: perhaps Transport Scotland, with its financial resources, should acquire the site or possibly enter into a joint development of the site with the owner?
Perhaps Mr McLean’s criticism of WLC should at best be shunted into the sidings and directed at those who make the decisions in Transport Scotland?
(Cllr) Tom Conn
West Lothian Council, Livingston
Help the estates
On Monday, 4 April, The Scotsman published an article giving the sporting estates’ defence of muirburn – the burning of heather during grouse moor management.
Yesterday, you published the results of research from Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities, indicating that adopting the latest “sustainable land use practices” would allow the locking away, or sequestration, of huge quantities of greenhouse gases in “farmland and natural wild spaces”.
Thus we witness a 19th-century indulgence confronted by 21st-century reality.
Grouse moors and deer stalking estates have this in common: they both minimise carbon sequestration.
Burning of grouse moors and over-grazing of stalking estates prevents woodland regeneration and devastates ground vegetation, whilst compacting soils and reducing their carbon retention capacities. These systems are the very opposite of “sustainable land use practices” if that sustainability has any reference to the aspirations of the recent Paris summit on climate change, to which our governments are committed.
The questions arise: how long, in a world divesting its money from fossil fuels and increasingly desperate about global warming, can these anachronistic and damaging land-uses prevail? When will the monetary value of sporting estates begin to plummet? How long will it take before the Scottish Government faces up to this reality and provides scientifically appropriate legislation to govern the demise and transition of Scotland’s sporting estates?
Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire
Coming to blows
Another article from Jenny Hogan of Scottish Renewables (“Energy generation is a key issue for the election” The Scotsman, 6 April).
She wants to triple green energy by 2030 despite energy intensive industries, which employ 600,000 people, being endangered by the costs of green energy.
The Port Talbot steelworks is just the latest example.
Her claim of 21,000 green energy jobs on examination shows foreign workers, temporary contracts and few long-term contracts.
She wants a greater rollout of electric vehicle charging points but this will do nothing in a world with 1.2 billion vehicles.
Electric vehicles on Scotland’s roads number fewer than one per cent.
Her comment that tripling renewable electricity would “maintain secure energy supplies” would be laughable if it was not so serious, with brownouts and blackouts imminent.
She must be aware that diesel generators are already on standby.
Jenny Hogan spins these frequent articles since that is what she is paid for by the wind industry as spokesperson for Scottish Renewables which, of course, is the propaganda machine for the wind turbine industry.
As a quality newspaper I am sure The Scotsman will ensure that views contrary to that of Ms Hogan are also published.
Springfield Road, Linlithgow
The Fox factor
Unlike the referendum in 2014, where I was convinced beyond any doubt that Scotland’s future was best served by remaining an integral part of the UK, I have an open mind on the EU plebiscite in June. Arguments on both sides are persuasive.
However, I was struck by the actions of leading Brexit campaigner and former defence secretary Liam Fox. Anxious to keep President Obama from commenting on the EU poll when he visits the UK this month, presumably in favour of remaining, he is one of more than 100 MPs who signed a letter to the US Embassy asking that the President remain silent on the matter while here. They ask that the President does not “interfere in the domestic political affairs of allies”. All well and good.
Then I recalled and checked that in 2012 Liam Fox had been interfering in the election process of a US President by openly campaigning for an Obama rival, Republican Mitt Romney.
This is the kind of ‘’do as I say not as I do’’ hypocrisy that is unfortunately all too common at present in Scotland.
New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh
Your headline “New generation of ‘captainless’ boats set sail on North Sea” caught my attention.
Is that not what Scotland has been for the last ten years?
Liberton Drive, Edinburgh