No-one wins here

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The deliberation of the Electoral Court regarding Alistair Carmichael is another disappointment for the Scottish Liberal Democrats just at a time when Scotland requires a more liberal and less dictatorial type of politics. He must pay some sort of penalty for telling lies, but hopefully that will be a personal one, and that he can regain his reputation as an excellent Member of Parliament.

The sad irony is that the whole exercise of leaking the information was entirely unnecessary. It is obvious to all that the SNP, from Nicola Sturgeon downwards, are revelling in the policies of this uncaring Conservative Government.

Dr Charles Corser

Friars Way, Linlithgow

The best television this week came from the political news. The righteous indignation of those who did not manage to get their MP sacked for a lie was upstaged by Stewart Hosie at Westminster. His interview gave the impression of a man who had been asked to recite “ Holy Willie’s prayer” at a Burns night and was taking this opportunity to rehearse. I would suggest a bit more hand wringing.

Doris MH Duff

Belmont Gardens, Edinburgh

The topic of terminological inexactitudes is much in the news. As you say in your editorial (10 December), Alistair Carmichael has emerged with no credibility from the unsavoury leaking fiasco and its consequences. The only step which would possibly have retained any public respect was to resign as soon as the facts came out and he was forced to admit that he had lied.

Coincidentally it is revealed at the same time that transport minister, Derek Mackay, was economical with the truth when he told MSPs at Holyrood that cancelled repair work on the Forth Road bridge was unrelated to the current problem – a claim made similarly by Nicola Surgeon the previous day. Now he has admitted (your report same day) that the cancelled work would have “replaced” the damaged section. I look forward to Stewart Hosie’s appearance on television to castigate his colleagues for politically motivated fabrication.

There is nothing new under the sun here, of course. Is there any hope that the “new politics” of Jeremy Corbyn could make the political landscape a cleaner place? We live in hope rather than expectation.

Perhaps all politicians could learn from the Yes campaign during the referendum as have campaigners pushing for Britain to leave the EU (your report 8 December). “One thing,” they tell us, “that we have learned from Alex Salmond is not to say things that other people can say are untrue”!

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Cost of officials

One of the leading industries in the United Kingdom over the last 20 years has been the exponential growth of government with its attendant costs. We need to deal with this unnecessary problem with a rational approach.
Since we now have two parliaments and two assemblies in the United Kingdom, as Margaret Wallace reminds us (Letters 10 December), the proposal for a Scottish senate is untenable. Indeed, we could do the finances of Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the UK a power of good by making our MPs into MSPs, thereby reducing the salary bill, though depriving Alex Salmond of much of his income thereby, of course, poor soul.
A more representative electoral system would not go amiss amidst this reform, of course, as the SNP with a little under 50 per cent of the vote for Westminster have almost 95 per cent of the seats.
The Royal High School is perfectly adequate for weekly Scottish parliamentary business of the reduced number of MPs/MSPs who would deal with UK legislation in London during the rest of the week. Edinburgh would, thereby, not risk losing World Heritage status. Similar arrangements could apply to Wales and Northern Ireland. Westminster Hall, perhaps, could then serve as an English parliament for their MPs/MEPs. A smaller public sector. Fewer civil servants. Savings all round. We have voted to remain in the UK henceforth. Therefore, the House of Lords should be the revising chamber for Scottish decisions. It does a good job already. Why duplicate it?

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Priorities doubt

Nicola Sturgeon swanning into the Paris Climate conference and pledging £12 million of Scottish money for poor countries affected by climate change, must surely stick in the throat when lack of maintenance has closed the bridge carrying the most important road in Scotland, for which she is solely responsible.

Malcolm Parkin

Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Flood warnings

The way the BBC and the bien pensant link unusual natural events to man-made global warming reminds me of ancient prophets exhorting humanity to repent of its sins. In fact most recent flooding is a product of local decisions such as building on flood plains or degrading drainage basins by changing land use and/or river channels.

As a result, any weather out of the normal run is going to have a massive impact on people who, for whatever reason, have chosen to live in areas of high risk.

Dr John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Children’s needs

Scottish Government figures which indicate that 22.5 per cent of pupils in Scottish schools are recorded as having Additional Support Needs (ASN) are very concerning and show a strong need for the protection of funding for the sector (Scotsman 10 December).

With the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warning that councils could face up to half a billion pounds of budget pressures in the coming year, we have written to all council leaders as they look to set their budgets, seeking the protection of funding to services addressing the needs of those with ASN. As we know, the cost to society of failing to adequately support this vulnerable group far outweighs any potential budget cuts.

Reduction in individual support to children with challenging behaviour can result in severe disruption to mainstream classes. In this context, council education departments have also highlighted an increasing number of children with complex needs and the consequent pressure on special school places. It should also be noted that this is set against a background of the number of teachers consistently falling, from 54,347 in 2008 to 50,717 this year.

Urgent action is required to ensure that those children and young people with ASN are provided with adequate support, delivering the best possible outcomes. And the first step in that process is for councils to protect funding to these vital services, which addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Sophie Pilgrim, director, Kindred Scotland; Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Tom McGhee, Managing Director, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations; Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School

Walker Street, Edinburgh

Migrant focus

The exhibition Family Portraits; The Scots-Italians 1890-1940 at Register House gives a good short history of the Italian immigration to Scotland but I feel needed more information on the tragic period 1940-1944 when they were treated as enemy aliens.

It was believed that about 40 per cent were members of the Italian Fascist Party but in view of Churchill’s policy of “collar the lot” all adult males were arrested,regardless of previous conduct. The transportation to overseas detention camps caused great distress to families left behind with no protection against local hostility. The tragedy of the sinking of the Arandora Star when 96 detainees on their way to Canada were drowned was compounded by the treatment of the survivors who returned to Gourock. They were forbidden to talk about it and were shipped to Australia without seeing their relatives. It was some time before the names of the dead were known.

It says something about the character of the Scots-Italians that few retained rancour and that families such as Crolla, Valvona, Jannetta, Conti and Paolozzi are successful and respected throughout Scotland


John Carder


East Forth Street, Anstruther

Gimme shelter

In response to Karen McMillan’s extremely good letter (Farm Shelter 8 December) on the dearth of animal shelters in this, a country of some pretty dreadful weather, my home looks down on fields that are prone to flooding. The sheep living in these open fields are not close to the farm.

In winter, the farmer turns up in a small van (usually once a day) does a circuit of the field – presumably to check if any of his produce has died. These sheep have to withstand the extremes of weather without shelter detailed in Ms McMillan’s letter. All it would take would be some brick walls and a roof (great height not required) at one end of the field to change the lives of these wretched animals. The farmer is quick enough to load his product on a lorry to move them about when required for treatment or for its last journey. Perhaps a night such as we have recently experienced might encourage a farmer to carry out official guidelines? We are shortly to be reminded of an era when “there were shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night”: no wolves here but we don’t even appear to care, presumably until something awful happens.

I do ask why, if the guidelines are in place, are the authorities not inspecting the conditions that farm animals are kept in whether on the farm or in fields at a distance? I thought that was one of the reasons they were employed by the taxpayer.

Sue Polson

Fife