What the frack

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IT IS a measure of the state of politics in Scotland today that the SNP minister in charge of fracking, Aileen McLeod, stumbled and on four occasions had to stop an ongoing interview recently when basic questions concerning her ministerial remit – such as “Where do you stand on fracking?” – were asked. These and other questions apparently flummoxed her and filming was cut short.

It is quite startling that Dr McLeod will almost certainly be re-elected and she and several other SNP representatives will continue making the most serious decisions regarding our welfare and that of our children and the future of our country.

The spell under which a sizable chunk of the Scottish electorate are held remains in force and those with the best interests of our country at heart look forward to the wakening.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

It is good to see that, unlike the SNP, Scottish Labour proposes to ban fracking in Scotland – no ifs, no buts, no fracking. To meet our climate change obligations, the last thing we should do is burn another fossil fuel.

This is not the USA, where shale gas extraction is in largely deserted areas. Scotland is most likely to see fracking in the heavily populated Central Belt, where there are existing onshore licences.

Residents don’t want high pressure liquid and toxic chemicals injected into the rock deep below their homes, nor do they wish to see companies cutting corners on preventing water contamination, and allowing the deadly greenhouse gas methane to escape.

The risks to our environment are too great, Labour is quite right to ban fracking.

Georgina Harris

Warrender Park Terrace, Edinburgh

Election tax

One significant issue facing Scotland has been conspicuously absent from political debates and speeches during the current Holyrood election campaign.

Scotland’s economy is widely recognised as being is a parlous state as evidenced by rising unemployment, reduced investment and business closures, so why is this central issue not being given a higher profile by politicians?

So far in this election campaign we witness politicians competing with one another to increase public spending and then squabbling about which tax rates should be increased to pay for this increased spending. Increased tax rates have a negative impact on economic growth. Surely a much better, long-term solution would be to seek ways to improve the overall economy thereby building taxation income to fund better public services from an expanding economic base?

This latter solution would expand the size of the economy cake providing a more prosperous future for all, rather than making us all poorer by trying to find new ways to divide up an ever smaller cake.

GM Lindsay

Whinfield Gardens, Kinross

Tory plans

The Tories’ desire to re-introduce prescription charges and tuition fees is the thin end of the wedge when it comes to charging people to use basic public services. I fear that the Conservatives will support SNP government proposals to slash spending on local authority services which will mean higher charges for nurseries, breakfast clubs, after school care – as well as huge increases in other local authority charges like car parking and funeral costs.

Taxing the richest 1 per cent of Scots a 50p tax rate – it was 60p for eight years under Margaret Thatcher – does not seem an unreasonable ask in these times. I do hope the SNP and Tories re-consider their opposition to this proposal.

Michelle Smythe

Dalry Road, Edinburgh

It is highly appropriate that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is visiting a waste management plant, as she can put in an advance order to pulp her party’s manifesto after next week’s election.

Ms Davidson says it is not a manifesto, it’s more like a job application. For a job with no power. To be a poor runner up. It is short, both in terms of the number of pages and in inspiration and ambition.

The manifesto says one of the top three priorities is ensuring the two governments, Scottish and UK, work together. But there is absolutely nothing, not a word, about how this would happen. Presumably because PM David Cameron is so toxic.

There is no tax raising, indeed there is a desire to reduce taxes when possible. So no extra funds for the NHS, other than inflation increases. Nothing for education, only more cuts and more austerity. There is a plan to build more houses, but far fewer than needed. The only plan to generate more money is “efficiencies”, which means fewer jobs, the poorest and most vulnerable are hit once again.

On reflection, why wait until next week, may as well get on with pulping this now.

Phil Tate

Craiglockhart Road, Edinburgh

Labour’s Trident

The decision of the Scottish Labour party to oppose the renewal of Trident is both courageous and entirely right. It cannot have been an easy decision, as both our country’s security and the security of employment for the workers involved are important considerations. It is worth noting that Labour, unlike the SNP, has a plan to retrain those workers who will lose jobs associated with Trident.

For many of us Trident is morally repellent. Even for those less sure of that, the fact remains that Trident is outdated. The threats have changed: our national security remains important but the renewal of Trident is not the way to go.

Lucy Grig

Roseneath Street, Edinburgh

SNP report card

If the SNP government were to be issued with a school report card reflecting on there performance to date it would definitely read “Must try harder” as we see our education system, NHS Scotland and Police Scotland all struggling to achieve performance targets.

It is not acceptable for the SNP to simply blame Westminster for all that is wrong in Scotland when they are directly responsible for these essential services and the buck stops with them…

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Mugiemoss Road, Aberdeen

Politicians out

Tom Peterkin worries about Holyrood’s apparent lack of mechanisms for holding a majority government to account (Perspective 28 April).

The real problem, however, is that politicians, in general, are the last people who should have anything to do with government.

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Not so smart

As is to be expected from an employee of Smart Energy GB, Claire Maugham paints a rosy picture of smart meters. (Powering up to use smart meters as a vital part of the digital revolution, 27 April). Several issues have been glossed over.

She wrongly states that smart meters will be supplied free of charge – the costs of all installations will end up on everyone’s energy bills.

Ms Maugham says that household appliances will be smart and interactive and would be turned on when energy is cheapest which would be at night.

Would you really want to go to bed knowing that machines have frequently gone on fire?

In future domestic appliances will have chips installed during manufacture and electricity providers will be able to turn them off via the smart meter.

In fact a government document has stated that should there be a danger of blackouts, which is getting more and more likely, then smart meters would be used to cut off supplies.

Despite the tone of the article, smart meters are definitely not mandatory. I refused to allow one to be installed and others should do the same or face a Big Brother scenario.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Vapid response

I read with interest the latest appraisals of e-cigarettes.

As I understand it these accessories are promoted as an aid to smokers who wish to “quit”(stop?) smoking. To my mind they are,in fact, aimed at people who wish to continue smoking but with a smaller risk of incurring the consequences.

My father smoked until he was diagnosed with a throat lesion. He successfully completed a course of radiotherapy during which he refrained from smoking. He did not smoke again.

It seems to me that, given the right incentive, smokers can break the habit. Sadly, however, today’s society requires a quick fix without any associated hardship so it looks like e-cigarettes are here to stay.

David Edgar

Stromness, Orkney

Slow progress

Congratulations to the R&A on encouraging young golf fans to attend The Open by providing camping facilities at Royal Troon. (Your article, 27 April). What a good idea.

However, if their speed of erecting tents is similar to their speed round the golf course then the tournament may be over by the time junior golfers have hammered the first tent peg home.

Slow play is entirely down to the professionals who most juniors love to imitate.

If they succeed in bringing juniors to The Open then I would suggest that the R&A also lay on lessons in etiquette and how to behave on the golf course which might reduce the time for a round.

It is the fact that a round now takes over four hours that is discouraging people taking up the game and people, like myself, who were used to a three-hour round, from playing more often.

Roderick I Morrison

Plewlands Gardens, Edinburgh

Steel facts for PM

David Cameron’s remarks (scotsman.com/news) about the new Forth crossing just show the depths of his ignorance re Scottish steel. He is obviously unaware, or perhaps doesn’t care, that the type of steel made in Scotland is of no use in the construction of the bridge as Scotland no longer has steel rolling mills. Perhaps he or his advisers should get their facts correct before making comments like that.

Moira Greig

Kirkliston Road, South Queensferry