Local difficulties

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HOPEFULLY the Holyrood inquiry into the Forth Road Bridge closure will also examine the delays in building the second road bridge, which has exacerbated problems for commuters.

Tam Dalyell (Letters, 16 December) and others who seek to blame Holyrood and the SNP for the temporary closure of the Forth Road Bridge seem to ignore the fact that due to unprecedented traffic volumes the Scottish Office proposed a second road bridge in the early 1990s. However, this was cancelled by Tony Blair’s Westminster government in June 1997.

The proposed second bridge was fiercely opposed by the then Labour-run Edinburgh City Council and Tam Dalyell may recall Alastair Darling calling it a “ridiculous bridge” in the House of Commons in 1995.

In January 2006, following eight years of inaction by the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), which many seem to have forgotten was solely responsible for the bridge repairs until June this year, warned that work on a new bridge should start immediately but this advice was ignored until the SNP came into office and commissioned the second bridge despite the Labour’s transport spokesperson calling it a “vanity project”.

With the benefit of hindsight had the extensive repairs not been postponed by Feta, acting independently from Transport Scotland or government, the bridge would have probably been closed for a much longer period than is envisaged to solve the current local difficulty.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

If my dog bites someone that’s arguably my fault and so I have insurance against legal liability. If those who have lost business because of Forth Road Bridge chaos successfully claim compensation, then who should pay it?

It is unfair that the public which had no powers in this matter should be collectively expected to meet such compensation bills when the guilty parties are in fact the MSPs. The inactivity of Holyrood in protecting public interests here enabled the Scottish Government to sit on its hands with their fingers crossed for seven years while the present tragedy unfurled. The guilt, therefore, rests on MSPs and they should pay the relevant compensation.

If MSPs have failed to take out liability insurance then, as with dog owners, that’s their fault and no-one else’s. It’s time those who are paid well for responsibly guarding our affairs coughed up when they fail to do so.

Tim Flinn

Garvald, East Lothian

As a sign of goodwill surely Transport Scotland should consider a special service over the Forth Bridge between Dunfermline and Haymarket/Waverley on Boxing Day. This could be operated by the various loco hauled trains which are, at present, doing a sterling shuttle service. It could even be a free service negating the need for booking offices and ticket staff.

The closure of the Forth Road Bridge has been disastrous. This token would go some way to restore faith in our Scottish Parliament.

Colin C Maclean

Hillpark Avenue, Edinburgh

Mature reflection

David Roche demonstrates that there are definitely parts that Nationalist prejudice can reach and good sense cannot. Launching forth from his cobwebbed cave in the darkest Highlands, Mr Roche resurrects that musty old Nationalist shibboleth, “The Scottish Cringe”.

It criticises anything that demonstrates the use of brain over discrimination in favour of purely Scottish options. In this case, the choice of English policemen to sort out the disastrous SNP single Scottish police force experiment. 

The worst of it, to Mr Roche, of course, is choosing someone English for the job.

Mr Roche queries whether any such policemen will be qualified in Scots law. Oddly enough, I don’t think most Scottish policemen are qualified in Scots law, in fact. It does not prevent them from doing their job, nonetheless. 

Bizarrely, however, is that he goes on to say that, “Mature countries... would find this sorry state of affairs simply incomprehensible”. No. Mature countries would find his nit-picking prejudice incomprehensible as we do not discriminate against any of our citizens.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Maggie’s legacy

Andrew Whitaker writes about Conservative philosophy (Perspective, 16 December ), and is nostalgic about the good old days of post-Second World War consensus politics in the UK; sadly no mention of the fact that the old policies no longer worked by the 1970s, which is why Margaret Thatcher was elected.

The new policies were accepted, so much so that eventually Labour adopted them, which ushered in their most successful period ever, under Tony Blair – a lesson seemingly lost on the current Labour leadership. 

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness, West Lothian

Fiver a gallon

Here’s a sign of the times for us older folks who are much better at getting things in perspective, or maybe just being plain cynical. A litre of petrol looks like it’s set to dip below £1 giving us cause to cheer, hooray, unless of course you’re an SNP economist (if there is such a thing).

But those of my vintage and beyond pause to remember that good as the £1 price sounds, it equates to £4.55 a gallon. Yup, nearly a fiver a gallon. Who among us would have believed we’d ever have thought that was cheap?

Ian McElroy

Heathfield Road, Thurso

Policy of grievance

It’s a small world. When on holiday in China in August we met a lovely couple from Mauritius, the Mauritian gentleman’s manager was Scottish, so he was familiar with the independence issue. His considered opinion was that independence was not a good idea. He thought that the best strategy was to continue to threaten to go for independence, in which case the Westminster government would continue to throw money at us.

Peter Jones (Perspective, 14 December) seems to confirm the effectiveness, up until now, of this somewhat underhand but possibly effective strategy. The constant refrain of grudge, grievance and being hard done by from the Nationalists seems to have maintained the comparative advantage which Scotland has had in funding from Westminster, despite the Westminster austerity agenda.

The Nationalists have not yet come up with an alternative strategy to this such as realistic plans which would actually enable Scotland to grow its economy and enable us to actually pay our own way to a greater extent.

Henry Kinloch

Campbell Park Crescent, Edinburgh

Legal sway

Please note that, contrary to your report (16 December), Alison Saunders is not “Britain’s most senior prosecutor”. She is Director of Public Prosecution and, as such is responsible for criminal prosecutions in England. She holds no sway in Scotland where criminal prosecutions are pursued at the instance of the Lord Advocate.

Laurence Milne

Auchendinny, Midlothian

Lords above

It seems no time since the leaders of the Liberal Democrats came prancing up from London to announce that we were in coalition with the Tories in order to provide stable government for the nation.

And it seems no time at all since the Lib Dems were massacred by the electorate at the polling booths up and down the country.

What has happened since?

Nick Clegg and his team have hardly apologised to the membership of one of the most loyal political parties in the country.

We have been left to struggle on without much support from London. The prancing North has come to an end and shaking hands in the rose garden in Downing Street is either a fond memory or a nightmare.
However, we can be gladdened by the fact that those who were leaders of the catastrophe have accepted knighthoods or gone to the House of Lords.

Lose your seat and go to the Lords is certainly a new career move in the politics of radical change which the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats were leaders.

(Rev Dr) George Grubb

Wellhead Close, South Queensferry

Licensing reform

The bin lorry tragedy in Glasgow last year and the subsequent BBC Panorama programme and fatal accident inquiry have prompted me, as a retired GP, to consider some of the issues raised.

Having worked for 30 years in the NHS, I am very aware of the shortcomings of the existing DVLA regulations for the medical aspects of fitness to drive. During my working life there were a handful of patients who were unfit to drive but continued to do so in spite of repeated advice to the contrary.

The current guidance in such situations allows the doctor to breach patient confidentiality and report directly to the DVLA and inform the patient. The rationale for this being that the danger posed to the public overrides that of patient confidentiality. However, in all instances where I was involved with reporting under these circumstances, there was a significant adverse effect on the doctor/patient relationship. This creates an obvious difficulty for both parties, and doctors are reluctant to take this course of action.

The DVLA regulations require to be changed, whereby the doctor is given the responsibility to automatically report any medical conditions affecting safe driving. The law changes would require the individual to be responsible for informing their doctor and the DVLA, and failure to do so would result in significant punitive measures. This is especially important for the drivers who hold heavy goods and public service vehicle licences, for obvious reasons.

In Edinburgh, there is an assessment unit at the Astley Ainslie Hospital, where car drivers only can be assessed. This can be especially useful where there is any doubt about fitness to drive, for example due to early memory loss.

The Scottish Parliament could take the lead here to implement new laws and DVLA regulations to mitigate the chances of a tragedy such as the Glasgow bin lorry incident ever occurring again.

Peter Keeling

Abbotsford Road, North Berwick