Are MSPs qualified to spot ‘elegant fictions’? - Readers' Letters

“It's easy, in elegant diction, To call it an innocent fiction; But it comes in the same category As telling a regular terrible story''

Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament committee examining the government's handling of harassment allegations against him

As with many others, I watched with interest some of the evidence presented by Salmond and Sturgeon last week. Now I am reminded of the line in the Pirates of Penzance when Major General Stanley confuses “an elegant fiction” with “a regular terrible story” as he seeks escape from the pirates.

Is there a difference? I merely ask the question.

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This train of thought then turned to the well meaning but hapless committee set up to inquire into this whole farrago. I spent some years as police divisional commander for the greater Leith area in the 90s and during my tenure, there were 13 homicides. These were all solved – not by me, I hasten to add, but by hard-nosed, well trained detectives – led by SIOs – senior investigating officers. These were efficient and effective officers – one going on to be the first female chief constable in Scotland – and I feel they would have penetrated the elegant fictions spun during this inquiry.

For example, the trained detective notices the reluctance to look the questioner in the eye – folded arms, the shuffle of paper, pens and other trivia – all to avoid the real question.

What training and background has this committee? Very little, I suspect, as time and again both Salmond and Sturgeon managed to obfuscate and deflect. I fear that the opportunity has gone to really question them unless there is yet another court case.

No one has resigned, no one has been sacked and £500,000 has been wasted. Culpability rests at the top. They should all examine their positions.

Dr Alan Naylor

Rullion Road, Penicuik

Arthur’s Seat

What is happening to Arthur’s Seat?

For many years my husband and I have driven to Dunsapie Loch, parked the car and walked higher up to take exercise and admire the wonderful views in all directions. Now, as my mobility has decreased, it would be an ideal place for me to walk on the level beside the loch and take full advantage of the fresh air recommended by all to keep Covid at bay. Alas, this is currently impossible as all roads in the park are closed to everyone except walkers and cyclists.

Not every octogenarian – let alone many much younger visitors – is capable of making the initial ascent. Why should they be deprived of access to satisfy the ever increasing demands of the cycling lobby?

On Saturday the park beside Holyrood Palace was full of people taking advantage of the early spring weather whilst having to dodge the Lycra clad, be-helmeted packs of those on wheels whose sense of entitlement is almost palpable. This smacks of discrimination to me.

If the roads were clear there would be room for all and one of Edinburgh’s finest open spaces could be enjoyed by everyone.

Alison Bruce

Wester Coates Terrace, Edinburgh

Notable omission

I was surprised that The Scotsman of all papers should publish an article on women on banknotes (8 March) without mentioning Mary Somerville (1782-1870).

Born in Jedburgh, brought up in Edinburgh, her father believed that girls should only be taught to read enough to read the

Bible (and not to write) and do enough sums to be able to do their household accounts.

Self-taught, she became an acclaimed mathematician, astronomer and scientist, highly valued by her male colleagues, with many international awards. Her image was printed on a Bank of Scotland £10 note issued on 4 October, 2017.

Isabel Gordon

Inch Park, Kelso

Right to vote

Canon Alan Hughes has written a very long and detailed letter containing many interesting facts, one contentious assertion and one blatant error (8 March). He asserts that 800,000 Scots living in England should have the right to vote in any future referendum, but I wonder what his view is concerning the 500,000 English people currently living, working and contributing to Scotland. Should they be denied a vote? The last referendum based the franchise on residency, regardless of heritage or ethnicity, and that is the fair way to proceed in any future referendum.

He also says that Gaelic was never spoken "below the Highland Fault Line and only in the west of Scotland". With the exception of Orkney and Shetland, Gaelic was spoken throughout Scotland. A quick glance at the proliferation of Gaelic place names in Scotland and a bit of basic research would have confirmed that, at one time, Gaelic was spoken throughout the country. It's also a bit disappointing that someone with Canon Hughes' illustrious lineage should have so little empathy with the culture and heritage of the land of his forebears.

Gill Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Lockdown heroes

As we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown, I’d urge people across Scotland to reflect on the efforts of frontline charities and groups who have, quite simply, kept local communities going this past year.

When the world stopped, they started. They delivered food to the doorsteps of those shielding. Transferred vital mental health services online. Launched support lines to connect the isolated, and found all manner of ways to bring communities together, from Zoom Zumba classes to virtual choirs.

Through our Coronavirus Appeal, which has raised £97 million to date, we’ve been privileged to support more than 13,000 such projects since last March, including thousands across Scotland. The creativity and tenacity they have shown, against the odds, has been truly humbling to witness.

And of course, their work is not over yet. Though the vaccine roll-out rumbles on at pace, they continue to respond to the economic and wellbeing impacts of this pandemic, and will be needed for many months and years to come.

This month the National Emergencies Trust is celebrating #NETCharityChamps across the UK, with the help of some well-known faces. I encourage everyone across Scotland to recognise a champ of their own. You may just make someone’s day after an incredibly difficult year.

General The Lord Richard Dannatt

Chairman of the National Emergencies Trust, Horseferry Road, London

Vegan dogs

Re Stephen Jardine’s column about a vegan diet for puppies and dogs (Scotsman, 6 March), I recall that my shepherd father’s working Border collies were always fed on oatmeal porridge throughout an energetic working life.

They had few if any health problems and were fit and ready for action when duty called. The porridge was “served” cold and was very solid!

Esther Tayor

Dalgety Bay, Fife

Bad sports

Following the disgraceful scenes (again) by Rangers fans (Celtic are no better) perhaps its time to suspend professional sport on television (Scotsman, 8 March).

The big stars seem totally unable to control their egos. At first they curbed their enthusiasm at scoring with discreet elbow nudges and social distancing.

Now we are back to what resembles an orgy, not socially distanced, when a goal is scored. No wonder their fans display an equal inability to control themselves.

If we must have sport, then lets show school matches and youth matches and please – no furlough for the prima donnas which would only enable the minority with finance to attend 'parties' and enjoy trips abroad.

James Watson

Randolph Crescent, Dunbar

SNP losing grip

The encouraging news that the SNP’s grip on power is slackening, shown by recent polls, cannot come too soon. Of course, as with the independence referendum of 2014, there is only one poll that counts.

When Nicola Sturgeon says that her aim is to “rebuild and revitalise” Scotland, she says it without apparent irony, because who has been in power for 14 years, if not her own party? There is clearly an Augean Stable to be cleared out and a lot of doo-doo has built up during that time. Scottish education is at an all-time low, despite Ms Sturgeon wishing to be judged on how she handled it. Well, she will have her wish soon enough.

Scottish health is in a crisis with the Sick Kids still to be sorted. Prestwick is still a running sore in Scotland’s finances, BiFab has been rescued by a company that is based elsewhere in the UK, thank goodness, but no thanks to Ms Sturgeon’s party. The reaction to her administration’s plan to close the Eye Pavilion has been a sign of the times.

With information demanded by the Holyrood committee looking into the conduct of the Scottish Government still not fully released, is it any wonder that voters are turning away from her divisive politics when the SNP can hold back evidence which relates to their own party’s conduct?

When Ms Sturgeon asks “what kind of country we should be?” the answer that is coming is “not the kind that you run”.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

Secular views?

Neil Barber doubtless welcomes amended legislation by Humza Yousaf which still permits atheists to criticise and even to mock religious beliefs in a free and democratic country.

However, going by his swathes of letters over the years in which he has described Christianity as a "superstition” etc, should Mr Barber not change the title of his own organisation from "secular society " to "atheist society”? He seems to me very atheistic and not especially secular in his views expressed in your pages.

Gus Logan

York Road North Berwick

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