Readers' Letters: Not wild about bringing back apex predators

On reading Ilona Amos’ Sustainable Scotland preview entitled “Gathering to show how wild Scotland can be” (15 September) regarding tomorrow’s Big Picture rewilding conference, I have to admit to conflicting thoughts.

Being of a farming background I can acknowledge that some modern arable farming practices have had detrimental impacts on soil structure and fertility and that woodland cover has declined markedly over the centuries, covering just 13 per cent of UK land today. However, I was disappointed not to find any references to delegates who could present an agricultural perspective.

During the time when brown bears, lynx and wolves roamed the land, the apex predators that some rewilding enthusiasts would like to reintroduce, the population of Britain was around 3.6 million. The gradual deforestation went largely hand in hand with incremental increases in grazing livestock and improvements in all sectors of agricultural husbandry which were needed to sustain an increasing population.

Today there are 68.5 million of us and despite the benefit of huge advances in crop yields and livestock breeding we are reliant on close to 50 per cent of imported food to sustain the nation.

Rewilding advocates are keen to see a population of Brown bears living in the wild here in the UK (Picture: Shutterstock)

The concept of rewilding clearly resonates with a large proportion of our urbanised society, currently standing at 84 per cent. Advocates of this concept are undoubtedly sincere in their quest to enhance biodiversity, avert climate change and reach net zero by 2050 with the help of 26 per cent tree cover within the next decade, while also doubtless supporting the growing use of biofuels which, ironically, create more emissions than they save.

In arguing their case there are exaggerated claims about job creation while potential negative impacts on farming and ancillary businesses are dismissed. UK emissions amount to around just 1.3 per cent of the global total, therefore compared to the major emitting nations, which are miraculously expected to follow this virtuous example, the task would appear achievable. It will, however, be financially ruinous at around £50 billion per year. In terms of land area, the figures are difficult to determine, but broadly speaking the cumulative area of agricultural land that could be lost to these schemes may approach or exceed 30 per cent.

This is not to say that certain compromises and cooperative improvements between farming and conservation interests should not be made but in this small overcrowded island is it really sensible to trade so much food producing land for a pseudo-wilderness and countless food miles?

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Pipe up!

I watched the Queen’s final passage from Balmoral to London and have only one criticism. Whilst going from Holyroodhouse up the Royal Mile to the Kirk there should have been pipers playing a lament.

Iain Davenport, Penicuik, Midlothian

Failing Union

The latest British Social Attitudes survey from data gathered in 2021 indicates that support for an independent Scotland has grown from 27 per cent in 1999 to 52 per cent. This is the highest figure reported in an authoritative survey that includes polling expert Professor John Curtice among the authors. Also of note is the drop in support for devolution over the same period from 59 per cent to 38 per cent.

While different polls posing different questions typically exhibit more pronounced highs and lows, there is no doubt that the underlying trend of public opinion in Scotland is an increasing desire for self-determination, which is now favoured by at least half of the electorate (this reality will hopefully be borne in mind by those seeking to represent the view of the “majority” in their forthcoming constitutional arguments).

That said, there perhaps is a strong inference from the survey results that this change may be due, at least in part, to the persistent denigration of the Scottish Government by opposition parties and by many commentators in the mainstream media. In other words, through spurning objectivity and balance in their criticisms, supporters of this dysfunctional union seem to be unintentionally conspiring to deliver the independence that they rail against.

While the public can see for themselves that there are many areas in which the Scottish Government can do better, most can also see that south of the Border life in general is not better, and is in fact worse for many of the poorest and least privileged in a crumbling society. United Kingdom governance is failing and it is now clear that Brexit is not the solution and that only independence can deliver the future to which most in our country aspire, both for themselves and for their fellow citizens.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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Union ‘has become decidedly less popular’ in Scotland, report finds

In the dark

I was struck by two articles which appeared in The Scotsman yesterday. In the News section there is “Union has become decidedly less popular, report finds”, yet another speculative piece on support or otherwise for Scotland leaving the UK. The fact that the fieldwork is almost a year old means that this report is long out of date, especially considering recent events.The other article, by Professor John McLaren, is presented as an opinion piece in Perspective. It is, however, an analysis of the effects of devolving some elements of taxation to Holyrood.

Prof McLaren reckons that, in four years’ time, Scotland will have received £1.5 billion less in tax revenue than under the previous dispensation. As he says, Scottish households will be paying much more tax than those in the rest of the UK, "but with next to nothing to show for it”. He dubs this “the negative consequences of fiscal devolution”. Perhaps we should call it “the price of devolution”.Prof McLaren points out the most important aspect of this: “The weird thing about all this is that the ‘higher tax for no benefit’ position Scotland is now in is not part of the political debate”. This is the fault not only of politicians who conceal this scandal from the public, it is attributable to the flawed Holyrood system, particularly in comparison with Westminster, with its checks and balances.If the ramifications of devolving tax to Holyrood had been widely disseminated, we can be sure that Professor John Curtice and his psephological associates would be reporting rather different opinions on Scottish secession.

As it is, politicians, especially those in the SNP, find it advantageous to keep the public in the dark, and are able to do so because of the absence of mechanisms for making them accountable.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Careful, now

Has the SNP unleashed a real problem for itself? The backlash amongst independence supporters since the Queen's death has reached new highs. The poll suggesting a 52 per cent support for dissolving the Union seems a little out of kilter with the recent fulsome display of admiration for the monarchy. Someone is getting this badly wrong. SNP politicians constantly beat the drum that we must be independent yet never tell us how this is to be achieved nor at what cost.

The nub of the problem is that no poll is worth considering unless it is based on a concrete, highly detailed plan. Not only is the devil in the detail but the fate of the SNP is too. Be careful what you wish for.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

History lesson

Tim Flinn was likely having a wheeze to suggest extreme limits on voting (Letters, 21 September), but I do support calls for wider education on constitutional matters, particularly in the confinement of debatable lands between Hadrian and Antonine Walls.About 1,100 years later, in the weeks following its creation, the original version of Magna Carta was annulled by Pope Innocent III, who described it as “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people”.Named in 1215’s Magna Carta, “Alan de Galloway, constable of Scotland”, had contributed to its terms in the days leading up to King John sealing the great charter. “Alan... was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to the drawing up of Magna Carta. He was with the king at Windsor on 3 June, and the naming of Alan as one of the men on whose advice John supposedly granted the great charter… indicate the nature of his dealings with the English king.”Rome did not acknowledge a Scottish role; notice was not served on the vassals living in Alan’s domain, who remain obliged to uphold his agreements. Magna Carta of 1215 is hence arguably still a legitimate constitution in southwest Scotland.There are shared principles in Magna Carta, for example a security clause, which appear also in the later Declaration of Arbroath, lest servants of the crown exceed their powers, perish the thought!There is therefore an historical and geographical overlap of common precepts of law, seen in living constitutional documents linking Scotland and England, doubly so in Galloway. Good lessons to teach aspiring rulers?

Donald M Henry, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway

Lockdown legacy

Sweden's policy of not having Covid lockdowns in 2020/21 was controversial, but a recent scientific paper comes out in its favour. It is titled “Non-covid excess deaths 2020-21: Collateral damage of policy choices?” and this category of deaths includes heart disease and hypertension, diabetes and obesity, drug and alcohol-induced deaths, road accidents and homicide.

One of the main findings of this study was that for the EU as a whole there were approximately 64 non-Covid excess deaths per 100,000 during the period in question. But for Sweden, which didn't have lockdowns, the figure was much lower at 33 per 100,000.

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

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