Toxic history

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So St John’s Road in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, has been named Scotland’s most polluted street? (“Toxic fumes in city streets”, 18 January).

In 1984 the then Lothian Region agreed to extend the Western Approach to the City Bypass. This would have relieved the congestion through Corstorphine and the resultant pollution. A multi-storey car park could have been built at the site of the old Caley station and additional outlets provided to relieve the resultant traffic in Lothian Road.

The Labour Party stalled the scheme in the city council and cancelled it when they regained control of the region in 1986. It will be extremely difficult for the Labour/SNP administration in the city to remedy the situation now.

John Kelly

High Street, Dalkeith

Does Trump care?

“Banning somone for wanting to ban others is in my view a very inappropriate response.”

Here I totally agree with the SNP member of Parliiament for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, regarding the Donald Trump furore. Where I have doubt in this matter has to do with the possibility that Mr Trump really cares, with any shred of altruistic motive, about the areas of Scotland in which he has “invested”. The latter word implies, for me, that all he is looking for is profit. We know of his familial connection to the Island of Lewis, but, as far as anyone can tell, he seems to have made no effort to help the economic situation in the Western Isles – and such help is undoubtedly needed. What sort of Islamic incomer to the United States bothers him? Would that be the poorer people, or would he equally reject the King of Saudi Arabia were he (Mr Trump) to become US President? The half-million signatories who want Mr Trump banned from the UK seem to me to exhibit considerable naivety, considering the publicity they are giving him. Let us take my namesake Donald at his word, welcoming him to the UK and to Scotland, and see where it all leads, where true and lasting benefit is concerned.

Donald W Fraser

Blake Avenue, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

NHS IT failure

I note that MSPs have slammed NHS 24 managers while investigating a £41.6 million overspend in its new IT system.

How standards have slumped. In the “good old days” someone would have been fired immediately for such a dereliction of duty as not reading such a high-value contract before placing the order! Can we at least expect that all bonuses paid from those responsible will be stripped and pension pots correspondingly reduced or will it be just sigh and pay someone else a huge “bonus” to sort it? What a contrast to a cleaner, janitor, secretary or other comparatively lower-paid worker who would have been summarily dismissed!

James Watson

Randolph Crescent, Dunbar

Passing the buck

How can the SNP government justify getting £205 million more cash from Westminster for the coming year and giving £500m less to councils, while at the same time there is an underspend in their present budget of £357m just lying in the bank? They don’t even try. Instead, working on the principle that if you state something often enough (whether it is true or not), people will begin to believe it, they hide behind the myth that the Council Tax freeze is fully funded.

I admire Sandy Howat, the SNP Deputy Leader of Edinburgh City Council, for challenging his national leaders on this point, saying in December: “A revenue cut of this scale would be very damaging for jobs and services within Scottish local government generally, and here in Edinburgh specifically. Everyone will be hurt by this.”

Despite the severe cuts imposed by the Scottish Government, the Labour/SNP Coalition in Edinburgh has produced a balanced budget. But this has come at a price. Although the Coalition has protected vital services as much as it could, some of the services which Edinburgh citizens presently enjoy will be lost or reduced.

Why is the SNP government passing the buck of making the unpopular cuts to local councils? It is becoming more and more clear that it is part of a policy to centralise more power in its own hands by killing off decision making at local level.

Henry L Philip

Grange Loan, Edinburgh

It’s misleading

Oxfam’s misleading wealth statistics based on naive extrapolations from Forbes’s billionaires list and Credit Swiss’s Global Wealth Databook were parachuted into the economic jolly at Davos.

In fact, spendable income inequality is not increasing, increased capital is not bad for labour, wealth is not a zero sum game, and high income taxes do not lead to a more equal outcome.

As regards the last, we have a more progressive income tax than the US (though even that pales in comparison to Sweden) but inequality is much the same in the three nations.

Rather than being the defining challenge of our time, I believe wealth inequality hysterics is a distraction from what I consider our main goal: raising living standards among the poor.

(Rev) Dr John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Taxing question

I read with interest David Stevenson’s letter (19 January) in which he espouses the nationalist mantra of comparing Scotland with our Scandinavian neighbours. He compares us with an oil-less Denmark, but, of course, forgets to mention the other side of the coin. Denmark has one of the highest costs of living in the world. Income tax between 27-55 per cent, bank interest taxed at 42 per cent and VAT of 25 per cent. Perhaps Mr Stevenson can explain where we will get the income to pay this level of taxes?

Lewis Finnie

Larkfield Gardens, Edinburgh

Betting on black

There is no doubt that in the North-east of Scotland “Oil slump brings black times indeed” (Perspective, 19 January). However a most significant comment is made by Peter Jones concerning the way oil markets work. He notes how one North Sea oil producer is getting $68 a barrel for its oil. Presumably this percipient oil producer “read the runes” of the futures market and “bet successfully” for 2016. Of course the volatility of oil prices and futures markets mean there is a financial risk.One can’t help wondering if this is the best economic system for harvesting a “strategic resource”.

Interestingly, one eminent analyst of international politics remarked how oil futures are like a “gambling game.”

Arguably, the IMF and World Bank should suggest a fundamental reform of this damaging “Casino Capitalism”.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie

A British Bomb

James Stevenson is quite right when he refers to the nuclear deterrent as “rather hazardous” (Letter, 20 January). Anyone who was tempted to attack the UK would soon find themselves looking down the barrel of weapons which would make the most demented enemy of our country blanche at the prospect of being on its receiving end.

Oddly enough, this is part of the policy known as MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction. That means that anyone contemplating destroying the UK with nuclear weapons must contemplate an equal destruction of their own country thereby. The fact that we have had no such conflict since the end of the Second World War is proof of its effectiveness. That is why North Korea is so keen to flex its nuclear sinews, so as to warn off the West lest it consider a pre-emptive strike. Of course, it would not, because of the consequences.

However, additionally, Mr Stevenson seems to believe that we have US bases in Scotland. We do not. When he complains at the cost of Trident, strangely enough, I would agree with him. Although £167 billion over 32 years is great value for money (less than £1.67 per week per person in the UK), it would be much better to have a British-made bomb. I hope he will write to Mr Cameron pushing for that sort of inspiring investment in the defence of the United Kingdom.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Blowing hot air?

On the subject of wind farms:

• Over 5,000,000 trees felled to make room;

• Hundreds of miles of bulldozed tracks;

• Giant pylons scarring our beautiful countryside;

• Thousands of tons of concrete dumped on our fragile upland ecosystems;

• Millions of birds and bats needlessly slaughtered;

• Wind farms visible from 60 per cent of Scotland;

• The highest energy bills in Europe;

• Countless millions extorted from poorest bill payers;

• Multinationals and landowners trousering millions…

… despite all this, during our coldest night so far, when we need power most, wind’s contribution to the National Grid, to the nearest round figure is ZERO (precisely 0.15 per cent).

George Herraghty

Lothlorien, Lhanbryde, Moray

Steel crazy

Tata Steel has announced a further 1,050 job cuts at plants across the country.

Karl Koehler, the chief executive of the European operation, accused government ministers of failing to act to save Britain’s steel industry.

He blamed cheap imported steel which mainly comes from China and complained that UK firms are paying the highest energy costs and Green taxes in the world. This is true since due to the rush to be seen to be Green, by both the Scottish and UK Governments, the UK manufacturing companies are no longer competitive. Where was the Scottish Government when the £60 million electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh rail network was discussed? There are steel structures every 100 yards, but guess where most of the steel is from?

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow