Chilcot delay

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My soldier son fought in Iraq and two of his friends died there so I am less than amused by Sir John Chilcot’s deplorable civil-service dawdling in producing his report.

From where I stand it would appear that, in spite of recent e-mails, there is no hard evidence that Tony Blair entered into a secret deal with George W Bush ahead of the war.

But the invasion of Iraq was manifestly illegal under international law as the resignation of the Foreign Office’s estimable Professor Elizabeth Wilmshurst made plain at the time.

There is also no doubt from the later evidence of Hans Blix and Carne Ross that Blair knowingly misled the Commons over intelligence reports about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

It is also clear that he ignored the advice of the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, that an invasion of Iraq would seriously increase the al-Qaeda risk on the streets of Britain.

If an obscure cleric in the provinces can assert such facts and present them in a few lines what has this latter-day Sir Humphrey Appleby been doing for the past six years?

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Inside Europe

Among his usual acute observations, Bill Jamieson (Perspective, 29 October) rightly criticises the EU’s “lack of democratic accountability, a bureaucracy beyond account, indifferent to voters’ concerns”.

To that might be added naive credulity by some pro-EU politicians, such as Catherine Bearder MEP, who wrote recently that the UK should stay in and “be leading the EU”, not leaving it – hardly an evidence-based assertion even for a Lib Dem MEP!

The UK was right on the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, on Schengen, on greater EU integration, on the Euro, on Juncker – each earning us derision from the EU diehards – and is now right on the risks of further population pressures from very different cultures, however tragic the plight of many individual cases (particularly as certain neighbouring countries of similar cultures seem to be doing little or nothing).

So would the EU establishment ever permit the UK “leading the EU” – from inside?

It is not just nostalgic backward-looking to reflect that on four occasions in 300 years its role has been to save “Europe” from itself – from outside.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park, St Andrews

Prime Minister Cameron’s assertion that for the UK to form a Norwegian-style arrangement with the EU is not in the UK’s best interests is absolutely correct.

Norway is a member of the European Economic Area, but enacts most EU legislation in order to maintain access to the Single Market, practising the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

Not being a full EU member, it does not participate in decision-making in Brussels, but abides by its decisions, incorporating approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation.

It is what is known as “fax democracy”, with Oslo awaiting instructions from Brussels.

Norway has no seat at the negotiating table.

It has no veto in the European Council, no votes in the EU’s council of ministers, no MEPs or votes in the European Parliament, and no European commissioner to help.

In addition, Norway also pays about €600m (£432m) a year to the EU.

It is no surprise that Norway’s foreign minister Borge Brende earlier this year stated that it makes sense for the UK to stay in the European Union, where it “can have more influence than outside”.

For the UK to voluntarily choose to move out of the core and into the outer circle, in order to join those influenced by but not influencing Brussels, would be a highly damaging and backward step.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

Rural broadband

Your article on rural broadband speeds (28 October) states that the Scottish Government is committed to tackling the digital divide.

However, this may not be easily achievable.

I live in Bridge of Earn, four miles south of Perth, and recently posters have started appearing on BT cabinets around the village proudly announcing that “Superfast broadband is here”.

What the posters do not say is that it is not available beyond the cabinets to homes and businesses due to copper wire connectivity.

I contacted the Scottish Government and was informed that they were funding the upgrade of the cabinets but the rolling out to properties beyond was the responsibility of the infrastructure owner, such as BT.

There is no compulsion on the part of BT to complete the upgrading of the fibre networks as this was a commercial decision to be made by them and I was informed that at the present there were no plans to upgrade to fibre in the village.

So in the meantime I sit typing this e-mail to you on a connection of around 5mb/s while at the cabinet some 500 metres away there is a fibre cable capable of delivering speeds up to 70mb/s and no prospect of this ever reaching my home in the near future.

And as for the appalling Freeview digital television coverage – that’s for another time.

Isn’t digital technology wonderful?

Iain Mackinnon

Durley Dene Crescent, Bridge of Earn

Rail failures

In further reference to the Abellio Scotrail franchise (Letters, 29 October) and in particular to the running of the new Borders line, I have now used the service nine times.

On two occasions I have had to stand all the way to Waverley from Newtongrange due to high demand and there being only two coaches in operation but my main reason for complaint is that on only four journeys has my ticket been checked and with no barriers in operation at Waverley station I am sure that the figures for passengers travelling on this new service are underestimated.

Although there are ticket machines on every platform many prefer to pay on the train and finish up travelling free.

Tony McLaren

Stevenson Lane, Newtongrange

Steel deal

Recent letters complain about the use of foreign steel in the new Forth Crossing.

Builders of the original 1964 Road Bridge used American steel, as the supply from British Steel at Port Talbot was unreliable due to numerous strikes at the time. This steel added to the later cost of strengthening the towers, as it had to be specially treated prior to welding.

Malcolm Parkin

Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Energy policy

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has entered the debate on energy security in Scotland (your report, 29 October). For many years the SNP-dominated government has ignored advice that their reliance on renewable energy was increasing electricity costs, putting jobs at risk and would lead to black-outs unless electricity was imported from England.

The SNP would be loath to allow English electricity over the Border since it comes from nuclear, coal, gas and soon from shale gas. ICE has recommended that the Scottish Government take “independent, scientific, expert advice” on the pros and cons of wind, nuclear and onshore gas.

The SNP’s only answer to the imminent closures of power stations at Longannet, Hunterston and Torness is to build yet more wind turbines.

Alex Salmond boasted that Scotland would become the “Saudi Arabia of marine power”. Now Aquamarine power, the company he supported with £28 million of public cash, has been put into administration.

Bang goes yet another of his pet projects.

The Scottish Government must reverse their fixation with green power, listen to the engineers and change the energy policy to one that will keep industry supplied with affordable electricity and our homes warm and the lights burning brightly.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Mature response

Many have been pondering how best to avoid increases in tax which the SNP will inflict on its wealthy working population once they have the power to do so.

Moving to England is the obvious answer and I note from an article (28 October) that HMRC will work with the SNP government to catch those who “try it on”, by having a place south of the Border but don’t physically move there.

This and so many other instances since devolution shows the stupidity of the entire project.

Can anyone really put their hand on their heart and say they are better off in Scotland now than they would have been without the huge extra tier of government that the Labour Party foisted upon us in a failed attempt to extinguish the SNP threat?

We told the SNP where to stick their independence last year, and now would be a good time to unwind the entire project and let us all get on with each other again.

Scotland used to be a good place in which to live, where everyone, in the main, was friendly and politically indifferent, which is a normal state of affairs for a settled country.

Not now: unrest, antagonism and even hatred have been whipped up, all for political reasons. It’s not nice and it could get much worse.

The only people who want everyone to be constantly “engaged” in politics are politicians. Mature nations are populated with folk who recognise politicians for what they are, a necessary evil to be avoided whenever possible.

Stan Hogarth

Palmerston Place Edinburgh

Out with a bang

Ashley Davies (Perspective, 29 October) gives a timeous warning of the danger to life and limb of “enchanting pyrotechnics”.

There will be not a few hearing loud bangs sharing her “panicky shots of adrenalin”.

However, it isn’t “a bit extreme” to want to limit the purchase of fireworks to authorised trained professionals.

This is because dangerous firework behaviour is part of the same problem as regulating public behaviour.

It seems that in our contemporary culture significant numbers of individuals no longer keep to the rules.

One glaring example is the rules of the Highway Code, which are systematically ignored or broken.

A Firework Behaviour Code could be backed by law but this is no guarantee of enforcement.

Arguably perhaps Ashley Davies is right and only trained professionals can purchase fireworks and explode
them.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie