Blair apology

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IN NEW Labour’s salad days, Tony Blair apologised for every historical British “sin” from the slave trade to the Irish potato famine with the Guildford Four thrown in for good measure.

But all that stopped when his Iraqi fiasco set the Levant ablaze and undermined every Middle Eastern secular ruler who protected minorities and stood between us the Islamists.

Finally, on a cosy US TV show, the permatanned one admitted: “Of course, you can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

I suppose that double negative is as close as we will get to an apology so Sir John Chilcot can put away his whitewash brush and hopefully David Cameron can steer clear of Syria.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Tax credits

Critics of George Osborne’s tax credits reduction plans appear to imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be either uncaring or incompetent, but neither suspicion strikes me as being particularly plausible.

Instead, Mr Osborne seems to be hoping that some employers will respond to these changes by paying more to hang on to employees they value, and also that some employees will respond by applying for better paid jobs.

For some working people to be left worse off by these changes, neither of these things must happen and all tax credits recipients must effectively stand still.

The reality is that higher income tax thresholds, the National Living Wage, and an increase in free childcare provision are a huge improvement on unsustainable working tax credits.

It is bad enough that we currently pay large numbers of working-age people to do nothing; we shouldn’t also be subsidising low wages with £30 billion of taxpayers’ money.

Mr Osborne’s reforms are long overdue.

Keith Gilmour

Netherton Gate, Glasgow

Power plans

While browsing the Scottish Government website (gov.scot/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy /Infrastructure/), as you do, I came across a table of Major Power Stations in Scotland – Hunterston B, Torness, Peterhead, Cruachan, Cockenzie and Longannet. The table is dated May 2008!

Since then, of the two coal power stations, Cockenzie has been demolished and Longannet closes next March.

The two nuclear power station, Hunterston B and Torness, are due to close in 2023, according to their operator EDF.

Cruachan is pumped storage and dependent on other electricity sources for its operation. After 2023, that apparently just leaves Peterhead (gas).

Of course, there are significant additional renewable electricity sources in Scotland since 2008, mainly wind, but as happened earlier this month, when Scotland was under a high-pressure weather system, the wind doesn’t always blow.

Back-up, conventional power stations are still required.

The last time the lights went out over the UK, 40 years ago in the 1970s, the prime minister was Edward Heath; and we all know what happened to him.

I was wondering what plans our current First Minister has post 2023, or post 2008 even.

John C Davies

Easter Warriston, Edinburgh

Elizabeth Marshall (Letters, 24 October) raised two questions about who benefits from the energy deals and why.

The answer to the first is easy: it is the well-off, the wealthy and the rich who have the cash to install solar panels, biomass units and wind turbines on their property.

They then receive massive payments from the Feed-in Tarrif (FIT) scheme, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme and the Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC) scheme from the regressive green levies that are charged to the energy bills of Scottish consumers.

The cash is obtained from the 40 per cent of Scots in fuel poverty who cannot afford the large payments needed to install renewable plant hence receive no subsidy cheques.

At least she can be reassured that things could be worse if a majority of Scots had voted Yes in 2014. Currently 91 per cent of the renewable subsidies are paid by the English and Welsh as we have a UK grid system.

However, she should note that EU regulations would have prevented Holyrood billing foreign consumers in rUK to recoup the subsidy cost of electricity exported and the result would have been penury instead of poverty for 40 per cent of Scots.

The answer to “why?” is that MSPs refuse to listen to the campaign led by Scottish Renewables to scrap the regressive green levies and pay the subsidy bill by using the new taxation powers coming to Holyrood.

Note that if MSPs are unwilling to alter the subsidy regime, an easy solution would be for Holyrood to grant Ineos licences to frack, convert Longannet to burn shale gas and generate electricity at half the current cost of £42 per MWhour quoted by Professor Anthony Trewavas instead of the £120 per MWhour cost of wind power.

I trust this answers the questions raised by Elizabeth Marshall.

I Moir

Queen Street, Castle Douglas

Case for Trident

There appear to be three main objections to the renewal of Trident: cost, morality and the fact that we would never use it.

CND have estimated that the cost of renewing Trident would be £100 billion. The claim is that it is wrong to spend so much in a time of austerity.

But is it really so much when spread over 40 years? Even if the CND figure is right, £2.5bn per annum is a very small part of our overall budget.

And the financial case becomes even weaker when, in an attempt to buy off those who worry about job losses, opponents of Trident say the money might be better spent on conventional weapons.

Why pick only on nuclear? All war is abhorrent. Trident is an easy bandwagon to climb on to, but how often do we spare a thought, let alone campaign, for children blown up by land mines or soldiers mown down by machine guns or having their limbs blown off by IEDs or permanently wrecked mentally by war?

Are the casualties from a nuclear bomb any worse than those caused by chemicals or barrel bombs, carpet bombing or any form of bombing?

The scale of any one attack may be different but, for the individuals and their families, the tragedy is just as great. A plane crash hits the headlines because of the number of casualties that occur at one time, but is it any different from tragic deaths in smaller incidents?

By definition, it is virtually impossible to prove the negative, however, I think the Cuban Missile Crisis came very close to that sort of proof.

The Soviet leader Khrushchev in 1962 was helping Castro to build nuclear missile launch sites in Cuba – a clear threat to US security.

Kennedy looked him in the eye; Khrushchev blinked first and withdrew the weapons. Further proof is that in the past 70 years no one has dared to use a nuclear bomb.

Finally, strange as it may sound, the purpose of having a deterrent is to avoid having to use it. In an ideal world, no one would want nuclear arms or any other weaponry, for that matter. But it is a fact of life that they exist.

What would be achieved if Scotland or the UK decided unilaterally not to have a nuclear deterrent? The decision might make us feel righteous, but it would not deter a rogue state which was willing to take advantage of our weakness.

We need to get a sense of perspective on the whole issue.

Henry L Philip

Grange Loan, Edinburgh

Tech tardiness

Jane Bradley laments on Scotland’s digital technological tardiness (Perspective, 24 October) compared with Moldova, the poorest country in Europe.

Apparently, as a whole we are somewhat meagre in “smart” cultural artefacts, like mobiles and tablets.

This could be a blessing rather than a curse and hopefully we ought to have fewer.

Technology is and always has been an ethical issue, namely the right way to use it.

It seems at present that no moral code of public use of mobiles and tablets is developing. However, it isn’t only in some instances of use in public that digital technology in creating conflict. A concern recently highlighted is how digital technology can wreak havoc on family relations at meals.

Interestingly, Ashley Davies recently lamented provocatively the decline of public morality regarding “manners” in everyday life. Arguably, in her words, we may be “stumped” to get a public morality of technological behaviour.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie

Stockbridge cars

I write as a council tax payer and resident of Stockbridge in some despair and confusion at the City of Edinburgh Council’s apparent aim and enthusiasm for ignoring the preferences of those of us who live here, and for making life more difficult for us.

The council has already agreed to an unwelcome, unnecessary and intrusive structure which will blight the area, in the shape of a vast stadium at the Accies’ ground in Comely Bank Road, against which the majority of us locals voted.

Heaven knows what that will do to congestion and aggravation of parking difficulties in the area. Now, the council plans to introduce weekend and later evening parking restrictions in the area without any extra permit holder spaces.

Those of us who pay for the privilege of parking near our homes are more than likely going to have to face leaving our cars considerable distances from where we live, frequently at dead of night.

It all sounds and looks much more like a revenue-generating priority than any effort to ease congestion or make the lives of council tax and parking permit-paying residents more comfortable. May I urge you therefore, urgently please, in turn to urge the council to reconsider this plan.

Anthony Tucker

Leslie Place, Edinburgh