There has been no grant support to B&Bs forced to close who are not registered for business rates, although we understand there may be some rather late movement later this month. There has been no hospitality top-up grant to any B&Bs or guest houses because they do not serve food and drink so, according to the Scottish Government, do not fall within the category of hospitality. B&Bs in England are receiving Rishi Sunak's top-up grant.
The final straw, which came in December 2020, was the Short-Term Lets Legislation drafted by the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart'. The thrust of this legislation is to licence the large numbers of short-term lets which take away the opportunity for local residents to find housing and overcome the alleged anti-social behaviour from some short-term let occupants.
In the two consultation papers published in April 2019 and September 2020, B&Bs were expressly excluded from the planned legislation. By December 2020, Kevin Stewart had included B&Bs and, in a letter to the committee tasked with approving the draft before presenting to the Scottish Parliament this week, stated that B&Bs had always been included in the planned legislation.
The committee passed the draft on 3 February. If this is passed in Parliament, it will mean that a small two-bed B&B owner in the Highlands will fall under the same licensing burden as a multiple property owner in Edinburgh – that cannot be right.
Peter Moss OBE
Huntingtower Lodge, Fort William
An unfair fight
Celia Hobbs is right to ask why communities in Scotland cannot enjoy the same right to veto a wind farm application as those in England (Letters, 6 February).
The response from various quarters has always been that “the public are consulted as part of the planning process”. True but it is very much a one-sided process. Communities battling multiple applications at the same time or one after another do not have the finances and/or manpower to keep up the huge effort required, over many years, to fight against applicants with unlimited resources.
A public inquiry can be nerve-wracking for anyone who has had no previous experience and now that the whole process is recorded and available for viewing, many members of the public are being discouraged from taking part due to what they believe to be personal and vicious attacks by lawyers acting for the other side. This results in a skewed perception of public opinion.
Campaign group Scotland Against Spin has already been successful in its request for a handbook which explains the very complicated planning/appeal process and this will be issued by Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) in the Spring. Its next request is for the provision of a “Public Advocate” for those who cannot afford the legal representation desperately needed in order to balance the whole process and make it a fairer and less frightening place for those members of the public wishing to participate.
In response to Celia Hobbs’ letter I would like to say that the Scottish Government is also "pushing everything offshore".
Residents and tourists will be horrified by the proposed wind farms which are about to fill the horizon of the firths of Forth and Tay. The Crown Estates are paid for the lease of the seabed and Chinese, French and Irish companies seem only too happy to buy a share. Wind, it seems makes money. Inchcape (72 turbines) and Neart na Gaoith (54 turbines) are only 15km off shore and on either side of the 35-metre Bell rock lighthouse. The 208-metre turbines will dwarf the lighthouse and the flashing lights will transform the night sky. Further out, 32km from the Fife coast the massive Seagreen wind farm will have 114 turbines initially and they plan at least 250 more.
Independent visual impact assessments say that 40km should be the minimum distance from shore. I assume it’s cheaper to have them closer. The coastal views from St Andrews, east and west sands and East Neuk of Fife will be ruined on sunny days, but never mind – Neart Na Gaoith’s visual impact statement says it’s often foggy and in places like Cambo you won’t see them when in the trees.
In the first half of 2019 Scotland produced enough wind energy to power two Scotlands and £745 million worth of energy was exported to England and Wales. It’s too late to stop these off shore turbines, sadly. Floating turbines are being tested and theoretically they could go further offshore but as no-one seems to protect our land and seascape do not believe they will.
Shift of focus
It has been reported that Moorfields Eye Hospital, at present in East London. is to be replaced as a single unit on a new site near Kings Cross.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, our equivalent centre is to be dismembered, the sudden absence of the earmarked funds masquerading as a masterplan for a new type of eye service. The proposal is not new nor would it be a service. The same idea would have been implemented in 1998 with disastrous results had the resulting outcry not provoked a rather belated examination of the precise implications. It was wrong then and passing time has not made it any less wrong.
There is rather more to ophthalmology than the taking out of cataracts on a conveyor belt system. There are terrifying emergencies like acute glaucoma and detachment of the retina which call for swift seamless action by trained staff on the spot, not for a trip into uncertainty up a motorway.
Some 80,000 out-patients pass through the Edinburgh Eye Pavilion every year. For many of them, even making it to the present hospital is difficult enough but to add the M8 in both directions to their existing infirmities, would have one inevitable result – appointments abandoned and vision lost.
And where has the money gone? Well, for a start, we need look no further than the Covid £500 to all staff, the architectural fees already paid for the rebuild at Little France and the other vast sums freely spent on well publicised expenditure. The people of Scotland and in particular, those of our capital city deserve better. It is not too late for NHS Scotland to emulate the wisdom of the new Moorfields Eye Hospital planners in London and to construct the new Eye Pavilion as promised in Edinburgh.
Hector Bryson Chawla, OBE FRCS
Morningside Drive, Edinburgh
What a waste
If there are vaccines left near the end of a day (Scotsman, 5 February) is there no-one with the wit to think out of the box to use them up?
For example, is there a fire station or a police station nearby whose personnel could be vaccinated? Surely someone in charge could have a list of suitable premises who would have people working in them at the same time as vaccinating centres are open, so saving wastage.
Etna Court, Armadale
An Almighty row
I was pleased to learn that the campaign for the pardoning of those convicted of witchcraft in Scotland during the 16th to 18th centuries has received the support of the First Minister no less (Scotsman, 5 February) as this matter is naturally one of my main concerns at this time.
May I also bring to the attention of those valiant for justice the grievous wrong suffered sometime earlier by a young couple driven from their home by fire and sword on the orders of their tyrannical landlord (often referred to as “He”), the so-called justification for this draconian action being a minor infringement of the terms of the lease.He, as creator of the property, was surely also to bla me for planting a dangerous tree in the garden in the first place and also for failing to protect it from the incursion of venomous reptiles. However it seems He was not only the pursuer in this case but also the judge and jury – a clear miscarriage of justice.
Actually He seems to have his finger in many pies. For instance we are told that “He sends the snow in winter, the frost to swell the grain”, i.e. He is influencing the climate and meddling in agriculture, and there are numerous other recorded instances of tempests, thunderbolts and sundry smitings.
I would suggest that the relevant committee of the Scottish Parliament look into this rather shady Mr Big. At least in this case there will be no difficulty about getting access to the relevant documents as they are readily available in one fat volume, though in very small print and on ridiculously thin paper.
Justice must be served!
Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh
Uplifting to read of a new retail park being built in Cupar (Scotsman, 5 February). Deflating to see that initial lets will be a coffee shop, a tanning outlet, a cut-price bargain shop and a hamburger bar.
This seems to be the blueprint for 21st century “shopping” therapy. I'll avoid the opening rush and sadly endure the procession of speeding delivery vans in and out of my street.
Redford Walk, Edinburgh
Can you believe those bewailing BT and Sky giving £2.23 billion per annum to the English Premier League but only £30 million to the Scottish? Do they expect them to waste their cash oversponsoring a Mickey Mouse league decided de facto by four games for almost the last three decades?
Scotland destroyed its own domestic competition to kowtow to the Old Firm's hollow threats of leaving for the English or a mythical Atlantic League if they weren't given a bigger slice of the pie. Now it has a domestic game no serious investor will touch.
Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone, Renfrewshire