Power and glory

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So Nicola Sturgeon is ranked the 50th most powerful ­woman in the world on the new Forbes magazine list, 21 places behind the Queen. The SNP is crowing – so far, so ­predictable. But why place her so highly?

An SNP spokesperson claims it is a consequence of Ms Sturgeon’s influence in “international issues such as human rights, climate change and the EU referendum”.

This surprises on a number of counts.

Yes, Ms Sturgeon is to appear in an EU TV debate next Thursday. But until now, the most noticeable aspect of her input to the debate has been near silence, relative to other UK politicians – except occasionally moaning that the Remain campaign is too negative, and periodically threatening a second UK break-up Scottish independence referendum.

And her contribution to “international issues such as human rights and climate change”? Holyrood’s role is merely domestic; Ms Sturgeon has no international remit. True, her Chinese trade deal has raised serious concerns at Amnesty International, plus Scotland has missed its climate change targets for four years in a row under the SNP. But presumably neither is an achievement warranting inclusion on the Forbes list?

It would seem Ms Sturgeon’s appearance half-way down the Forbes list owes more to the prowess of her highly effective team of spin doctors than any genuine international significance.

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh

Education gaps

I disagree strongly with your editorial (3 June) that closing the “attainment gap” is a laudable aim.

Children of similar age, even if siblings, have diverse abilities and interests and learn at different rates.

There is no more reason for them to be similar in levels of numeracy and literacy than in physical and mental health, sport, social skills, analytical abilities, creativity, self confidence or empathy. And these are far more important in welfare and success than literacy and numeracy.

More than 90 per cent of communication involves speaking, hearing and/or seeing. Most learning happens through these and doing while nearly all numeric calculation is done electronically.

Most young adults now read little. Many homes have no books; few use libraries. Teaching reading does not create readers.

Schools were established in the 19th century to equip pupils to work in offices and shops and be amenable to control. Enabling people to live happily and healthily, think for themselves and develop their creative abilities was not a concern. What is referred to as education is in fact usually indoctrination.

The SNP’s election manifesto read like a Soviet five-year plan. None of these worked, but figures were manipulated to make it seem so.

We are to have a “world class” education system – John Swinney should explain what that means, and which countries he thinks we should emulate. Perhaps the United States, where standard achievement tests have been used for several years – while many schools no longer offer music or art, child health is very poor and Donald Trump is lauded?

Will we also have “world class” parenting, health and housing? Without huge improvements in these areas there will be little change in education.

If Nicola Sturgeon’s aims are realised, which is very unlikely, the health and welfare of countless children will be hugely damaged, but that may only be evident after she has gone.

John Munro

Buccleuch St, Glasgow

Failure to add up

The cost of the failed computer system which was supposed to facilitate European Union payments to farmers in Scotland is around £200 million. The Scottish Government could be fined up to £125m for the failure to process the payments within the required timescales.

I recall that Alex Salmond insisted during the lead-up to the independence referendum that the cost of setting up an independent Scotland would be £200m – about the same as the SNP has wasted on one failed IT system.

This is the same former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist who congratulated bank chief Fred Goodwin on his “great deal” in taking over ABN Amro – the deal that nearly led to the collapse of the global banking sector.

Meanwhile, we have an SNP MSP sub-convenor of the Holyrood finance committee, John Mason, who claimed on social media that the deficit and the debt were the same thing. This after being in the post for five years, during which the deficit and the debt were hardly out of the news.

Our finances are hardly in the hands of the sharpest knives in the drawer when it comes to economic matters.

Donald Lewis

Gifford, East Lothian

Misused powers

With reference to the article on powers of attorney (Friends of the Scotsman, 30 May) and Iain Gill’s letter (31 May), ­perhaps a “named person” could be appointed to whom reference could be made relative to assistance with difficulties arising regarding the operation of a Power of Attorney, but in particular for ­protection of the elderly person and their assets.

With regard to the latter, the Power of Attorney is unfortunately frequently used as a “gift card” to deplete the old person’s assets, regardless of the fact that under statute and in the code of conduct issued by the Office of the Public Guardian, the appointed attorney should not use the assets for their own benefit.

Liz A Watt

Guild & Guild Solicitors, ­Edinburgh

Fracking freedom

The only areas of Scotland where it will be possible to “frack” are where coal was once mined – Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, the Lothians and Fife and a few places in between. If people in these areas are given the facts on the relative risks and benefits of fracking and decide in favour of developing their local economy and creating jobs, then why should the Scottish Parliament with a majority of MSPs whose constituents will be entirely unaffected by the process have the power to prevent any development?

The SNP government should devolve the decision on unconventional oil and gas extraction projects to the local authorities affected, but of course won’t as it will end their fantasy that Scotland is one country filled with people with a unity of purpose aligned to those of the party.

For those who claim increased carbon emissions is the main reason to oppose fracking, then please also oppose the importation of any form of hydrocarbon-based fuel – and indeed the discovery of fire in the first place.

(Dr) SJ Clark

Easter Road, Edinburgh