Schools saga

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NEVER one to miss a bandwagon, Nicola Sturgeon has called for an inquiry into the construction of the Edinburgh schools which have recently been closed – not the defects in the building work which were the cause of the problem, but the PFI/PPP system which allowed the schools to be built. She has asked whether the contracts have ended up putting private profit over quality, a fair question.

Now one of Scotland’s leading architects has called for the procurement of Scotland’s schools to be returned to councils (Your report, 13 April).

The SNP government scrapped the PPP model in 2008, replacing it with the Scottish Futures Trust. But the architect, Malcolm Fraser, says that model is not much different to the previous one. He also believes that the Scottish Government’s hub contracts for public buildings are of concern, too. It looks like Ms Sturgeon will have to enlarge the scope of the inquiry to add her own policies which are now being questioned.

Clearly there are plenty of different views; I suspect there is no clear answer – except hats off to Labour who at least got the schools built or renewed and allowed our children to be taught in first-class facilities.

W Harris

Lygon Road, Edinburgh

The letters (14 April) published under the headline “Architects may snipe…” overlook the fact that PPP, PFI and design and build (D&B) contracts tend to marginalise the role of ­professionals.

Traditional procurement, where the architect, engineer and surveyor are on the client side of the project throughout, have been a reliable method of producing attractive, high quality and durable buildings for over 150 years.

As has become apparent, self-certification by contractors might not warrant the same level of confidence.

Neil Baxter (Hon FRIAS)

Secretary & Treasurer, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Edinburgh

Health issues

Your report (13 April) that Scots are the most frequent gamblers in the UK is another indication that we are a nation of addictive personalities.

We have a long-standing reputation for enjoying a drink and we are also known for our fondness for take-away food which is fuelling our growing obesity epidemic. And let’s not forget the legendary Scottish sweet tooth. Yes, we are a bit too fond of things which are bad for our health and our financial situations.

Robert Kelly

Bonhill Road, Dumbarton

Achievements

Contrary to Alasdair Seale’s jaundiced view of the Scottish Government (Letters, 14 April), most voters seem to think that the SNP has done a good job.

There is record funding for the Scottish NHS, which is the best performing in the UK, and an increase of more than 11,200 extra staff since the SNP took office.

Under the SNP, free childcare has been increased substantially and pupils are achieving record exam passes with 93 per cent of school leavers now going on to work, training or education. The number of full-time equivalent college places has increased to 119,000.

Despite the downturn in the oil and gas industry, employment has reached its highest ever level, with 2,636,000 people in work in Scotland.

The SNP has exceeded its target of 30,000 safe warm affordable homes. As well as the council tax freeze, many families are benefiting from free student tuition fees and free prescriptions, and despite the recession 100,000 small to medium-sized businesses have seen their business rates slashed or abolished.

Free bus travel and personal care has been protected and extended by the SNP. Scottish Water has been kept in public hands and more new schools and hospitals have been built to a higher standard and offering better value to the taxpayer than was the case under the last Labour/Liberal Democrat administration’s discredited PFI/PPP method of finance.

These are only some of the achievements that the SNP can build on for the next five years.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Energy research

If Lang Banks of WWF (Q&A, 13 April) knows of research that shows it is possible to have a secure, efficient electricity supply system based “almost entirely” on renewable generation by 2030, I would like to see the source. I think that is a fanciful idea. Nor can I see renewables replacing transport and heating fuels. Transport has to be either based on electricity or hydrogen and the latter has to replace methane in the gas grid. The main source of hydrogen is coal.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Cold reality

Scotland’s endemic fuel poverty should be an election issue because 1.5 million households live in cold, poorly insulated buildings which damage the health of the vulnerable.

More than half our homes are heated by electricity supplied at high cost by foreign firms with power cuts threatened because decommissioned power stations were not replaced.

One of New Labour’s many disastrous ideas was to reject policies ensuring a secure energy supply and to promote fashionable green policies at the expense of its citizens.

But a cold northern land needs cheap, reliable electricity to heat the homes of its vulnerable and to power economic activity. Generation must be returned to our engineers so we receive a stable abundant supply devoid of the onerous and unnecessary “green” policies that have sent prices soaring.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Fuelling fairness

Nicola Sturgeon is really trying to grub for votes when she announces that older Scots are to benefit from an extension of the winter fuel allowance, delivering a “better, fairer deal” for senior citizens.

The Winter Fuel Allowance was introduced by the Labour government in 2000. It provides vital support for pensioners on lower incomes – but surely to provide a fairer deal, for richer pensioners it should either be taxed or taken away. The money could then be used for other pensioner benefits, care home fees etc.

Sorry Nicola – I can understand that you wish to get votes from elderly people, but this is the wrong policy. The vast majority of people in Scotland would be better off if the allowance was restricted to those who need it.

Lucy Grig

Roseneath Street, Edinburgh

Tory revival

May I say I share Dennis Forbes Grattan’s admiration of Ruth Davidson (Letters, 14 April). More than anything else I appreciate her putting forward a bright and positive case for Scotland’s place in the UK. She has a brought a breath of fresh air to the stuffy world of Scottish politics.

I am beginning to think that come May I will do what for me would have been once unthinkable – even if my father’s grave may rumble!

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Need for stability

The latest Scottish Chamber of Commerce report makes clear just how delicate a state the Scottish economy is in just now (Your report, 14 April).

There is clearly a need to return to more serious matters after 5 May. We will of course have the EU referendum hanging over us until late June, but this report makes clear that the very last thing the Scottish economy then needs is any more uncertainty. Sadly of course, the SNP has already signalled its intention to restart the independence debate as an early priority.

It seems businesses and our economy will have to succeed despite the SNP, rather than be able to depend on focused support from that direction.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

City’s litter issue

We’ve just visited Glasgow for the ELO concert at the SSE Hydro, and while there we took the chance to visit the Riverside Museum.

The concert was absolutely fantastic, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our visit to the Riverside Museum.

However, what shocked and disappointed us while there was the massive amount of litter all around the waste ground in the vicinity of these venues. It really doesn’t give a good impression at all to those visiting Glasgow.

Judi Martin

Maryculter, Aberdeenshire

Cut aggression

The king is dead, long live the king should be the motto for the US defence barons. The news carries scary stories of Russian planes bugging US warships in international waters in the Baltic Sea – which is thousands of miles from America. Perhaps we should pause to consider what the American response would be to Russian warships holding manoeuvres in international waters in the Caribbean.

Recently, Pentagon officials announced plans to deploy 4,000 troops, 250 tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles, self-propelled howitzers and other vehicles in eastern Europe. US Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Wark said that these moves were taken against the background of “Russian aggression”. But who is the aggressor? Is Russia building its bases near the US to protect Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and other countries?

Nato was formed “to keep the Germans down, the Russians out, and the Americans in”. But the Second World War is over now, and there is no Soviet Union. We must construct a pan-European defence system based on mutual security. A nuclear-free and independent Scotland could play a vital role in building such a system.

Brian Quail

Hyndland Avenue, Glasgow

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