Museum letdown

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I was impressed on my first visit to the revamped National Museum of Scotland. It is indeed a museum for the 21st century with a buzz of activity, a Visitor Experience Team and a Fringe Box Office.

It is pursuing an active, not passive, role to educate and entertain and is a major player in the cultural life of Edinburgh. But I wonder that in trying to provide something for everyone it has lost its core purpose? “To explore, debate and celebrate our nation and the world” as an aim is too vague, difficult to define and impossible to measure. What is on offer is a cultural playground for adults and, particularly, children.

The central hall is still magnificent and a joy to behold but there is one major flaw in the museum experience, which is the use of half lighting in several galleries and particularly the basement.

The Chambers Street entrances take you into a gloomy tunnel which reminds one of the dungeons of a castle. What a dismal introduction for the visitors. Unless one was near you would not see the information desk or the brasserie.

It is difficult to see the exhibits, very difficult to read the information on them and impossible to decipher notices on the walls … except by peering closely. It is all quite dreadful for a national institution. It should be bright, cheerful and welcoming.

I must add. My wife and I were enjoying a snack in the Balcony Café until we saw a mouse run along the bottom of the wall and under a cabinet. I feel if I saw a mouse in a restaurant I would not return. I thought it might be a matter for the Visitor Experience Team, but chose the Information Desk, when I could find it.

In Fringe rating, no five stars for the museum.

John Carder

East Forth Street, Anstruther

Equality? Bah!

Praise is being heaped on our Olympians and rightly so. And the reason for their success is down to, not just their own considerable dedication and effort, but to the huge background support and the not inconsequential funds directed at those who were deemed to be most likely to succeed.

Elitism. It should always be that way, to get the best out of the bright sparks. So why is it that double standards exist in this great country of ours which discriminates against the greatest asset we have, our brightest children.

Let elitism reign in that arena too as it did when Britain had the best education system in the world. It now struggles because the loonie left believe that comprehensive education should treat all children as equally able when we know it simply is not true and we end up with equal mediocrity.

All of us have different talents and we should be segregating the brightest to rub shoulders with the brightest then encouraging them to be proud and keen to show it instead of allowing those with less ability to set the agenda by mocking the “swots” and making them feel out of place.

Stream the best together; they’ll be the ones who will run our country and our businesses, the rest of us will find our place and some of us will still make a good fist of it but by other means.

Equality? Bah! No such thing, equality of opportunity, sure thing, but if you don’t shine early you will have to make way for the more able and catch up later if you can.

Stan Hogarth

Palmerston Place, Edinburgh

Venue defence

I completely disagree with Dr Alan Rodger concerning the Queen’s Hall (letters, 24 August). It is an iconic element of the Festival from its early days. It has a wonderful atmosphere and acoustics and is loved by audience and performers.

Whilst not gainsaying its deficiencies outlined by Dr Rodger, I think its rather makeshift appearance is part of its attraction, harking back to the “make-do” days which showed great music does not need a fancy environment.

HAN McKenzie

Grange Loan, Edinburgh

Rail fair rises

It has now been a week since the latest above inflation rises in rail fares was announced. I have searched in vain for some reaction from the Scottish Government or the SNP party machine but all I could find was a bland statement from Transport Scotland to the effect that off-peak fares aren’t going up as much as fares used by people who need to commute for their job and by the way if you think trains are expensive here you should try living in England. I find this surprising.

Surely the left wing SNP should be against these profiteering rises which affect the hard working families so dear to their hearts? Also, they still seem very keen on ending air passenger duty so surely the business travellers and tourists who arrive by rail and must be of equal importance to the Scottish economy as those who can afford to fly should enjoy a similar reduction in fares?

Is it only coincidence that major SNP donor Brian Souter, a man who gets invited to finance meetings with Chinese delegations, which elected MSPs weren’t aware of, makes much of his wealth from rail franchises?

Instead of agitating for another independence referendum it would be nice if the SNP government for once actually stood up for the people they pretend to speak for.

(Dr) SJ Clark

Easter Road, Edinburgh

Memories of Jay

I never tire of watching the BBC’s political satire Yes Minister produced by left-leaning Jonathan Lynn and his rightist colleague Anthony Jay, who died on Sunday.

Using material from The Crossman Diaries and sources among Whitehall’s mandarins, the scripts were checked for authenticity by Marcia Falkender, Harold Wilson’s formidable secretary.

The series gave a more troubling view of the British state than any work since George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and is required viewing for both students and immigrants.

In later years Jay also became a critic of the BBC, saying its climate of hysteria reflected the fact it is “agin almost everything that makes the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place”.

Rev Dr John Cameron,

10 Howard Place, St Andrews

Russia incursion

Your report by Tom Peterkin (23 August) that Russia has set up a news operation in Edinburgh, Sputnik, to supposedly undermine the UK by promoting Scottish independence, is a cause for alarm, in view of the warnings made about Putin’s foreign policy aims by General Sir Richard Shirreff, a former Deputy Commander of NATO.

Why, one has to ask, has the SNP Scottish Government allowed this news operation to be set up? Is it because it is so determined to have independence at any price that it is prepared to accept the support of a Kremlin backed organisation?

Stephen J Edwards,

Inveresk Village, Musselburgh

Deficit troubles

Nicola Sturgeon forecast that there would be “no surprise” in the newest GERS figures. And indeed, the figures published this week show that for the second year running Scotland’s deficit is almost identical – we are £15 billion in the red. In more manageable terms this means that our expenditure exceeded our income to the extent that on every man, woman and child in Scotland £1,600 more was spent than was raised.

How are we in this fortuitous position? The answer is simple – because we voted convincingly to remain in the UK.

Ms Sturgeon’s reaction is to claim that “what has changed from the last GERS publication is that now we face being taken out of the EU”. Well, of course, she is right in one sense – the figures are every bit as bleak this year as they were last. So nothing has changed in that respect.

But how on earth could Brexit have had any effect whatsoever on Scotland’s economic performance in the 12 or 24 months before the EU referendum even took place?

But we had better get used to it. Brexit is now the only game in town and the fall guy, as it were, for every conceivable set back – it would probably have got the blame if Celtic had failed to qualify for Europe!

To use a phrase – it “beggars belief”.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

The latest GERS deficit is a shocking indictment of Scotland’s financial position under Westminster rule as London still holds all the main economic levers and particularly considering Scotland sent a £300 billion surplus to the UK Treasury during the 30 years up to 2014.

No serious economist would claim that GERS is a 100 per cent accurate exercise as the basic GERS revenue numbers are more or less guesswork regarding such items as to where VAT is paid, and Scotland is a net exporter whereas the rest of the UK is a net importer of goods.

You can ignore all the financial arguments against an independent Scotland on the basis that no one knows what they would be as, for example, GERS over estimates the amount of defence expenditure by over one billion a year and charges Scotland several billion a year on UK debt repayments mainly incurred on London-centric borrowing.

The recent Brexit referendum shows that the majority of people vote on issues other than economic forecasts and who can rely on an UK government which after years of debate has no plan whatsoever for dealing with the Brexit financial deficit two months after the vote while government ministers go away on holiday.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Equal pay

Does John Gallacher of Unison really believe that support staff such as janitors and receptionists should receive the same flat salaries and increases as FE lecturers, (letters, 24 August ) regardless of their qualifications, training experience and seniority?

It would be interesting to know how the salary of the typist from Unison who helped produce his letter compares with his own remuneration, and whether she is advised to strike for pay equality.

Colin Evans

Netherby Road, Edinburgh