Old school

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HOW TO close the attainment gap in schools, especially when comparing children from financially poor backgrounds to those living in more affluent areas, has been high on the list of subjects for discussion leading up to next week’s election.

In a BBC Radio Scotland discussion this morning, all four main parties were keen to say how much money they were putting or proposing to put into schools to attempt to close the consistently wide gap.

Why, I ask myself, does it have to take money? Surely if the teachers know their subjects – and I’m thinking of the 3Rs, the bedrocks of everything to come – and possess the abilities and skills learned during teacher training, then get on and teach!

I’m sure my primary school a few years after the war did not have lots of money thrown at it but in my year we could all do up to the 12 times table by the end of primary two. Let’s say that Mrs Bruce was “old school” but by God she ensured no child – no matter their background – was left behind. Poverty then was real poverty!

Michael Hogg

Craigfoot Walk, Kirkcaldy

Maternity matters

The EU has been instrumental in improving workers’ rights such as paid holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave over the years, and is a good example of the benefits EU membership affords.

But we can always do better. For too many people, inequality and poverty start before they are born.Too many people struggle to make ends meet, food bank use has increased enormously, so Labour’s plan to more than double the Sure Start maternity grant for new mums in need, to £1,030, is a really good idea.

This is a good use of the welfare powers coming to Scotland. With improvements to childcare, action to tackle the attainment gap and reversing the SNP’s planned education cuts, we should all support Labour’s plans to help to lift children out of poverty and improve their chances in life.

Rosemary Mackenzie

Beaufort Road, Edinburgh

Tories’ time?

There is a growing bandwagon of people intending to vote Conservative, but has the election come too soon?

Labour is in a death spiral and the Lib-dems have slipped too far in the polls.

All this could have been different in six months’ time. More people would realise the Conservatives are not just Ruth Davidson and actually have an impressive front bench in Scotland that would be a formidable opposition, trenchantly oppose Indy2, and co-operate with the SNP’s many “Tartan Tory” policies.

The Labour party could have been pulling out of its dive, and the planned SNP cuts, backtracks on fracking and named person, and brutal reorganisation of public services would have played into the Libdem’s hands.

All I can make of this is that, for the time being, at least one of my votes on Thursday needs to go to the Conservatives.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

SNP and the polls

If, as expected, the SNP secure an overall majority, Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear she intends to take us all for a ride, and it will not be a very comfortable one. In her latest TV interview (STV, 28 April) she redefined the meaning of the democratic will of the people of Scotland. Commentators have speculated that the SNP would not seek a second independence referendum unless a sequence of opinion polls showed 60 per cent support for independence over a full year.

Yet in this latest interview, Ms Sturgeon revealed she would not be limited to any particular numbers in the opinion polls, just as long as they show more than 50 per cent support for independence, and there was more than one poll over a period, not simply a one-off.

Asked why the UK government would agree to another referendum, given the Edinburgh agreement she signed promising to respect the 2014 result, Ms Sturgeon raised the spectre of her new special definition of the “democratic will of the people of Scotland”.

This is now to be simply whenever a handful of opinion polls give a result that Ms Sturgeon wants.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

On the SNP ‘list’

As I presume I am numbered among Douglas Turner’s (Point of View, 28 April) black list of “more prolific anti-SNP contributors” to your newspaper, may I welcome his addition of Allan Thomson to the group.

It is a distinct honour to be noted in this way. Perhaps Mr Turner’s list can be preserved by the SNP for some future use.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Green manifesto

On inspection, I am more than puzzled by the programe put forward by the Green Party, as many things do not seem to add up – they are in favour of Scottish independence, and want to do away with fossil fuels, ie the oil industry.

We know from recent history that an independent Scotland would need the revenue from this industry to balance the books ( SNP based their calculations on oil at $113 a barrel – a figure seldom reached ). If we do away with the oil industry here, where would a Scottish Government get the revenue from?

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness

Oil case

David Stevenson (Letters 28 April) has misunderstood or misconstrued my letter. It should be clear that my point was not that the “case” for independence has been torpedoed by the oil crisis but that the “economic case” – unconvincing in the first place – has.

Oil was indeed “irrelevant” in 1950 but would Mr Stevenson not agree that in later years the campaigning around “Scotland’s oil” was very relevant – indeed a central issue – to the SNP’s case? Then, during the referendum we were told that oil was a “bonus”. I would suggest that 15 per cent is a pretty large “bonus”.

But perhaps Mr Stevenson means that oil is of “little relevance” since the revenue from it is currently negligible and he wishes, like the SNP, to remove it from the equation.The SNP claim that we would “live in a more prosperous society” must now be viewed in an even starker light.

Though perhaps not foremost in Mr Stevenson’s “case” for independence, the economic prospects of Scotland surely constitute a fairly significant component of “all Scottish interests”.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Fracking facts

In the article (Fracking no risk to water supplies 29 April), Richard Dixon of FoE Scotland claims that hundreds of families in the US are living off water that has to be trucked in after fracking operations led to toxic contamination. Where supposedly these problems in eastern USA arise, tens of thousands of houses are built anywhere. Without mains water, people sink their own well. Because similar claims were made by environmentalists in the USA about well water contamination, a comprehensive examination was made by university civil, hydraulic and environmental engineers with funding from the National Science foundation and published in Science 2013 by Vidic and others.

They concluded that since the advent of hydraulic fracturing, more than one million treatments have been conducted with perhaps only one documented case of direct groundwater pollution. It is misleading to continue to use this argument of water contamination against a method that will relieve us of dependence for gas from less stable parts of the world.

Edinburgh’s water supply comes from 30 miles south, well outside any useful fracking area.

(Professor) Tony Trewavas FRS FRSE

Scientific Alliance Scotland, North St David Street, Edinburgh

Anti-Semitism

There is nothing inherently racist about seeking economic sanctions against a nation of whose leadership one disapproves but denying its right to exist and calling for its people to be swept into the sea or forcibly transplanted is another matter.

Political activists routinely direct their fire at governments and it is usually left to fascists or religious extremists to target a racial or religious group – to talk about “the Jews” in a way the Ku Klux Klan talked about “the blacks”.

The poisonous anti-Semitic attitudes now breaking surface within the Labour Party and the National Union of Students may not be a surprise but they are surely a matter of regret in a country which once stood alone against Hitler.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron,

Howard Place, St Andrews

Global warming

As I write this tonight in late April 2016, a blizzard of enormous proportions engulfs Kinnesswood.

In June 1985, I cancelled a fishing trip to the west coast because it was too cold, and both Slochd Summit and the Drumochter Pass were closed by snow and sleet for two days in that summer month.

In early November 1967 – please note the year 1967 – I could have died in a snowstorm while I was trapped all night in my car outside Blair Atholl.

Winter started in November 2015, and therefore in what amounts to May 2016, we can only assume that the Scottish winter is for six months. We could do with some global warming here right now please.

Malcolm Parkin

Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross

Joan of Arc

Under “Now and then” (29 April) you note that “Joan of Arc entered Orleans, France, and won victory over English”.

The triumphal entry of Joan of Arc to Orleans still celebrated, occurred in 1429 to the tune which we now know as Scots Wha Hae and which the French military still play as The March Of The Soldiers of Robert Bruce (Marche des soldats de Robert Bruce).

The Bishop of Orleans at the time, who participated in the defence of the city, was Scottish and there were Scots in Joan’s army. That was at a time when Scotland and France had mutual citizenship

David Stevenson

Blacket Place, Edinburgh