Rural broadband

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Your article (28 October) said that Corrie Road in Kinlochleven had the slowest broadband at a download speed of .985MBPS.

This is not correct. We get 0.4MBPS here in Glencoe and I know of people in rural areas who cannot even get dial-up.

We try to run a small tourism business and can just about get by as we can receive and send e-mails but we do not have enough to support any kind of video streaming or be able to support wi-fi.

The net effect of this is that we lose lots of business as tourists want wi-fi now, but also many potential customers cannot reach us as the search engines are too powerful for us to support them.

We are on an exchange-only line and Openreach (despite what was reported in your paper last week) doesn’t see a way to improve things as it is not cost-effective.

Governments and government agencies pay lip service but rural communities like ourselves are victims of a postcode lottery and are unlikely ever to benefit from superfast broadband. Openreach was quoted as saying it was trying to engage with those on exchange-only lines to find a way forward.

There has been no engagement here and it seems things only happen when it is politically beneficial for those involved.

David Baker

Glencoe

Dark dangers

The clocks go back, giving us darker evenings, and what do we find? People being killed on the roads in the extra hour of darkness between 5pm and 6pm (your report, 30 October).

It appears that three of the accidents you report occurred during that hour, one where in addition someone was injured, while other accidents occurred much later.

We should keep daylight saving all year round to reduce the number of these accidents.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Tax disparity

Some decades ago I was employed by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes.

At that time, the Revenue operated on the entirely fair principle that the more money made, the more tax was paid. Sadly, this has been completely turned on its head.

Nowadays, the “high rollers”, via skilled accountants and financial advisors, can utilise a multitude of loopholes in the system to avoid paying large chunks of tax, and in some cases pay no tax at all.

I do not blame the individuals for taking this advantage because the guilt lies with the series of Westminster governments, which throughout the years have allowed the explosion in tax loopholes to go unchecked.

If someone, or some company, makes money in this country, it is in this country they should pay their tax, and, if they are making a lot of money, they should pay a lot of tax, not piddling amounts.

It is obscene that in a society in which tens of thousands of pounds are squandered on the vanity of a personalised number plate, queues are forming at more and more food banks but it is even more obscene for the mega rich to escape their legitimate burden of income tax.

Joseph G Miller

Gardeners Street, Dunfermline

Energy debate

May I join Clark Cross (Letters, 30 October) in welcoming the increasing, and increasingly forthright, contribution of professional bodies to the energy debate? Unfortunately, this may have come too late.

I have already pointed out (Letters, 8 October) that, starting 10,000 years ago, it has been the on-demand access to stored energy whether as farmed food, for heating or more lately for mechanical assistance, that has made our civilisation possible.

With 40 years acquaintance (in California) of the drawbacks of unstored wind energy, it horrified me that this was to be Scotland’s future principal source and the attempts at fooling the public into thinking that it is proving to be successful are quite disgusting.

Wind energy is at the present time apparently successful only because we have sufficient other stored-energy sources (coal, gas, hydro and nuclear) to take care of lulls and slews.

This situation is going to change drastically within the next few years. The advice I would give to readers who can afford it is to keep their fossil fuel heating systems and to invest in a back-up petrol or diesel generator for electricity.

The data is available and the maths is really fairly easy to do. Scotland is a little better off than many countries, mainly due to low population density, but there is no way that renewables can meet total requirements as the Scottish Government rather foolishly continually repeats as its energy policy.

(Dr) A McCormick

Kirkland Road, Dumfries

Northern lines

I read with great interest the article (16 October) about the key proposals to turn Scotland into a greener place.

Key among these are plans for high-speed rail for Scotland and major upgrades of existing rail lines between the seven cities. I am particularly interested in the ideas for 150mph trains running between the North-east, Central Belt and further south.

As a rail user and convener of a local rail group in the far north of Scotland, I naturally support all these schemes.

Nevertheless, up here on the Far North Line between Inverness and Caithness, we have been suffering from train delays, cancellations and service disruptions for some time, which is a not unnatural consequence of repeated failure to invest in this line’s infrastructure over recent years.

A further unsurprising consequence is the loss of passenger traffic from both Thurso and Wick, two stations serving the most densely populated area in the Highlands outside Inverness and its surroundings, to the tune of 14 per cent over the past two years.

One key aspiration of those of us who still use rail from up here (and a good many more who would) is the reduction of the ridiculously long journey times from Thurso/Wick to Inverness.

This works out at between three hours, 40 minutes and three hours, 57 minutes.

It does not cost the earth to achieve these reductions and capacity improvements, and I would point out that we do have some pretty good opportunities up here which could be to the benefit of rail.

Network Rail could spend 
relatively small amounts of money to achieve some journey time reductions of maybe 15-20 minutes, even 30 minutes, and there have been some useful suggestions made by the Friends of the Far North Line to that effect.

Nonetheless, both Network Rail and Abellio Scotrail have set their faces against any journey time reductions for the Far North Line, despite assurances given by Transport Scotland that these would be at least considered. So, is this a case of double standards? Why should we be denied even a tiny fraction of the promised investment for the high-speed trains from Aberdeen southwards as well as investment on the main lines?

A small investment up here would bring some great rewards.

Mark W Norton

North Rail Line Action Group

Thurso, Caithness

Nuclear horror

I can assure Henry Philip (Letters, 29 October) that I most certainly do not think that non-nuclear bombings are acceptable. Humans have a unique capacity for barbarity, expressed in myriad ways.

I would also defend my use of the word “genocide”, which Peter Laidlaw questions 
(Letters, same day).

It is recognised that genocide can occur within the context of a war, and is directed against civilian social groups, rather than armed enemies.

The Nazis were not unique in this regard, as both ancient and recent history proves. The US bomb was aimed at civilians, not armies.

There are multiple reasons for placing nuclear weapons in a category of their own.

They are universally feared as instruments of mass destruction, and engender mistrust between nations for that fact alone. No-one alive today is unaware of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear warfare, or of the virtual impossibility of any meaningful humanitarian response in the aftermath of such a war.

Our recognition of the moral difference between nuclear weapons and conventional weapons, no matter how devastating the effects of the latter, is highlighted by the fact that use of the former would 
violate international humanitarian law. The indiscriminate killing of civilians would be the ultimate aim of the war, not a regrettable side-effect.

These are just some of the reasons why I consider nuclear warfare to be the most terrifying threat to humans, the environment, and to all other species with whom we share the planet.

Carolyn Taylor

Gagiebank, Wellbank

To show thanks

We are just back from a coach tour of the Battlefields of Flanders, where the poppies grow.

We were bombarded by statistics, if not shells, and our hearts were torn to pieces, not by rats as big as cats, but by the thought of the unremitting hardship and the unrelenting horrors of the trenches during the First World War, when the land was shelled, gassed and bombarded to smithereens.

We visited beautifully tended graves and magnificent memorials, courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We carried out moving little ceremonies to our own lost loved ones in all sorts of lovely little cemeteries. We survived the emotional turmoil of the Menin Gate ceremony with the superb pipe band of George Watson’s College.

During all of this I felt a heartbreaking poem coming on, often in the middle of a restless night while reliving the overpowering images of the day. That poem was never born.

Instead, a strange thing happened. While attending a family gathering in Centerparcs in Cumbria two days after returning, I collapsed on a badminton court for some reason, and spent 12 days in hospital in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

The speedy arrival of the ambulance crew, the subsequent journeys to Carlisle and then Newcastle, and the simply wonderful care and treatment by all concerned in our 2015 National Health Service was all the poetry my wife and I needed.

If you want a comparison with a First World War casualty dressing station, just visit Essex Farm at Ypres Salient to be stunned.

Perhaps we should give thanks to all those who fought in times gone by, sacrificing themselves by the million to secure our freedom and ensure a society of which we should be, with all its shortcomings, very very proud indeed.

Peter Tait

Saint David’s Terrace, Edinburgh

Rugby times

A close colleague of mine, a former international rugby referee, decided to run his stopwatch on actual playing time at one of the World Cup matches. He opted for the Wales v Australia game. He was somewhat bemused with all the stoppages with injuries and penalties time etc that the actual playing time for the whole game was a mere 23 
minutes. He couldn’t believe it.

Jim Reilly

North Bridge Street, Hawick