Closing the attainment gap is a foolish aim - Readers' Letters

While I agree with much of what Brian Monteith says about Nicola Sturgeon (Scotsman, November 15) his criticism of “failing schools” lacks explanation. What criteria does he use?

Are our school's 'failing', as columnist Brian Monteith suggested?

Does he think all schools are "failing"? if not, what proportion does he think are, in what way and who is responsible? Councils provide buildings and employ teachers. The Holyrood Government sets aims and policies and provides finance but its powers of control are limited.

Hospitals do not cure many of their patients but we do not say they are "failing", knowing that poverty, housing, diet, health and physical environment are all crucial. These equally affect education.

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Many school buildings are more than a century old with designs unsuited to modern ideas on education. Most hospitals are under 50 years old.

Yet academic "standards" are higher than ever as shown by the record number at universities More pupils are involved in environmental and charity projects. "Wocial and personal education " has improved much – my old school is far better than ever.

However the "attainment gap" in numeracy and literacy remains. This does not surprise as eliminating it was and is a foolish aim. It relates to many more factors than poverty and occurs even among siblings. There is no reason to assume that what poor children most need is higher levels of literacy and numeracy or if schooling can achieve this.

The government should have the honesty to admit failure and scrap the policy which wastes money.

Does Mr Monteith agree?

John Munro, Glasgow

Payback time

Retired Professor Colin Howie says that there is a five-year wait for hip replacements, that there are 400,000 on the list and the worst ever staffing crisis in NHS Scotland (Scotsman, 15 November). Is there a solution?

In England university fees are capped at £9,250 per year but Scotland abolished fees in 2000. Thus taxpayers have been funding free Scottish university education for 20 years.

There is a chronic shortage of doctors, dentists and nurses in Scotland's NHS since many qualify then follow the money to pastures new and we have to rely on foreign professionals who are poached from countries which may need them more. Those who are educated at taxpayers’ expense at Scottish universities at a cost of £40,000 to £60,000 should, before they get the fees paid, agree to be legally contracted to stay in Scotland for a minimum of five years. Scottish people would then be able to get NHS appointments, hip operations and perhaps, the holy grail, even find an NHS dentist.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Something fishy

I just want to assure any of your readers who may be upset at the demise of Peterhead Fish Market due to Brexit as Mairianna Clyde says (Letters, 13 November) that it is very much alive and kicking.

I live in Aberdeen and have four meals a week with a super variety of fresh fish from a local fish merchant who gets all his fresh fish from Peterhead on a daily basis and also supplies lorryloads of fish daily to all his customers in England. His business is in excellent shape.

T Lamb, Aberdeen

Vaccine transport

Helen McBride, who writes about here vaccine problems (Letters, 16 November), has been very unlucky and has my full sympathy.

By contrast I seem to have been particularly lucky because I qualify for the free vaccine transport provided by Handicabs Lothian to their members.

Three times Handicabs Lothian have given me free door-to-door transport to my vaccine appointments and on each occasion I have been taken on or before my appointed time – twice at Stockbridge Health Centre and once at Craigmillar Health Centre. I had a Saturday morning appointment at Craigmillar Health Centre at 8.51am on 6 November. Handicabs picked me up at 8.15am and I was back home by 9.22am. The service both from Handicabs and the staff at Craigmillar Health Centre was excellent.

John Ballantine


Labour’s example

It is not so much the fact that the First Minister of Scotland used her official residence at Bute House as the site to launch her friend and fellow nationalist Val McDermid’s book, it is the fact that she seems to do it without even a moment’s hesitancy or consideration of how it might look to others. Such an act would have been unthinkable and beneath the dignity of all previous occupants – except perhaps one.

Of course, as things stand in Scotland at the moment, she is not likely to lose many voters through arrogance as her party are guaranteed their zealot vote. It is simply because the SNP are seen as the only way of reaching the zealots’ dream Utopia of separation from England, so anything goes.

It seems nothing short of a long period of time and gradual realisation of the self-destructive folly of nationalist and green administrations and policies by a new and more aware generation of voters will change things. A united opposition would bring this about quicker, of course.

It is comforting to recall, however, that Labour’s years of very similar hegemony in Scotland did come to an end, admittedly from internal ruptures rather than serial incompetence and arrogance, but end they did.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Power of veto

Prior to signalling that the deal had been agreed, Alok Sharma, the president of COP26 was reduced to tears as he apologised to the delegates “for the way this process has unfolded”. He was talking about the late change to the agreement where a pledge to “phase out” coal was changed to “phase down'” meaning countries that burn coal could now take some time to effect any changes. He got a standing ovation.

Once again the power of 197 countries, each one with a veto that can scupper any agreement, watered down the message that COP26 was sending to the world. This veto ruling has to change – even the European Union has now recognised the importance of this point.

The essence of the conference has been variously described as “a marathon not a sprint”, or “we are at the floor not the ceiling”, or “trying to put the Paris agreement into practice”, but none of these statements helps to obtain an agreement which actually reduces greenhouse gases.

Coal is described as the “world's strongest driver of climate change” but it is not – lignite, or brown coal, or turf as it is best known, spews out four times as much noxious gas per ton as coal, but the world only burns 800 million tons of lignite so it does not even get on the agenda. If we stopped mining lignite tomorrow we could reduce climate change gases by 2.6 billion tons of coal equivalent each year.

The other major point which does not get so much traction, is the money that many countries are demanding as reparations for the centuries of CO2 etc which has been produced by the richest countries. This is a good idea as some of these particularly small countries are already feeling the effects of climate change with rising sea levels, but, the money has to be policed to ensure that it is being spent to alleviate the effects of climate change, and not ending up in personal bank accounts.

Remember: the quickest way to get cash into a Swiss bank is to send it to a country which has only one political party.

James Macintyre, Linlithgow, West Lothian

High numbers

Eliazbeth Marshall (Letters, 16 November) is right to draw attention to the urgency required to deal with global warming, but she shouldn't start from a false statement.

She claims that "in the past 30 years the global population has doubled". No, it hasn't. The information is readily available and shows that the 2020 total of around 7,800,000 is about 1.5 times the total in 1990. For doubling, one must go back nearly 50 years to the early 1970s.

Malcolm Ogilvie, Isle of Islay, Argyll and Bute

Food fears

Whatever climate doom Elizabeth Marshall may believe is headed our way, food production has risen faster than the global population.

If she wishes to live without fossil fuels, fine, but she'll be cold, hungry and living in the dark. She also won't be able to access the internet, as it and the devices that access it are dependent upon fossil fuels. Healthcare and food production does too, so there are more little hiccups in the frenzy to spread nonsense about how we live today and who and what are the real threats to our wellbeing.

Hamish Hossick, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Master’s voice

Why do TV companies think that by handing a mic to former players, that they will be natural commentators? As clearly shown on Tuesday night by Ally McCoist, ths is sadly not the case.

I would urge these guys to take in a couple of Bill McLaren videos, and just listen o how the “master” did it.

Jim Reilly, Hawick, Scottish Borders

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French farce

I note, with a measure of surprise, that approximately 1,000 migrants made it across the Channel in one day recently. This will no doubt bring further reproachment of our French colleagues from the Home Secretary for their apparent failure to restrict such departures from northern France. But why would they?

Presumably the French authorities have little wish for the chaotic scenes at Calais to return to the nightly news bulletins. Far better, surely, to wave the migrants through and continue collecting the generous payments from the UK government for theoretically limiting the numbers setting off from France?

David Edgar, Symington,South Lanarkshire

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