Digital skills vital for Scotland’s school pupils - Readers' Letters

As someone with a background in the field of education, I read Gina Davidson’s article about the delivery of digital access to over 700,000 Scottish schoolchildren with some interest (Scotsman, 17 August).

Initiatives in schools to improve children's digital skills are to be encouraged, says a reader
Initiatives in schools to improve children's digital skills are to be encouraged, says a reader

In a world where digital access is becoming more and more important, it is an area where ensuring the next generation are as educated and skilled as possible is absolutely vital.

Of course, many children already have skills and knowledge beyond that of their parents in this aspect of life, but these skills are not always learned in the safest of ways and allowing schools to play a bigger role in developing how these skills are learned and teaching children the dangers as well as advantages involved is incredibly important.

Providing the means to access and develop these skills is a vital part of ensuring future success and the Scottish Government should be commended for taking this initiative forward.

It was with some disappointment, therefore, that I read Oliver Mundell’s rather weak efforts at trying to talk down the initiative.

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How much more useful it would be if people like Mr Mundell had something to contribute to improvements in Scotland initiated by government or others, rather than constantly talking Scotland down.

W Spalding, Dunfermline, Fife

Education myth

I agree with Mary Thomas (Letters, August 13) that the idea that Scottish education was excellent and led the world is baseless.

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The article on philosophy by Steven Nadler and Lawrence Shapiro in the same issue describes how many people form opinions without seeking evidence. This is a classic example.

Very few Scots knew anything of education in other countries. It was then very unlikely that people in other countries (most of whom were illiterate) had any knowledge of education in Scotland

I have been in about 50 countries on six continents but never heard anyone mention Scottish education. Visitors to Scotland I met said they knew nothing about it

Until 1970 most Scottish children failed the “qualification examination” and attended “junior high schools” where they learned little. I spent six years in an academy. Boredom was the norm. Teachers did not “inspire” us.

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We learned nothing of philosophy, psychology, politics, economics or government. There was no “social and personal", “sex” or “outdoor” education and no guidance. We received no information and advice on employment.

By "swotting " I gained five Highers" and then an Honours degree. However I had no self-confidence or interpersonal skills. Yet I became a teacher (not a good one).

There are as many ideas on education as on religion, marriage, economics, and the environment. No one approach or system is suited to all persons, let alone every country. Britain and other imperial powers did great harm to other peoples by imposing their "education systems" upon them.

Scottish education no more "led the world " than did Scottish music, religion or food.

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Walter Markham, Glasgow

Leave Cambo oil

There is another reason to leave Cambo oil under the sea (Scotsman Editorial, 17 August). The chief developer of this oil field, Siccar Point Energy, is owned by a company registered in Luxembourg, Siccar Point Luxembourg SCA. What this means is that all profits, interest payments, supply and even labour chain contracts will flow through Luxembourg, not the UK.

So since there won’t be any UK tax revenue there is no economic case for developing this oil field. And the environmental consequences of doing so would be catastrophic. Friends of the Earth Scotland has estimated that extracting and burning Cambo oil would result in carbon emissions ten times greater than Scotland’s annual emissions.

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Contrast the UK Government’s mismanagement of Scotland’s oil with what Norway did. The UK Government wasted oil revenues on short-term consumerist policies such as mortgage tax relief and slashing national borrowing while selling off state-owned British Petroleum and British Gas. It then eliminated tax on Big Oil in 2016, effectively subsidising the obscene profits of an industry that is threatening life on the planet. These Big Oil tax rebates show up in Scotland’s national accounts as a “loss”.

Norway taxed oil companies for the privilege of operating offshore and had the foresight to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. It retained a majority stake in its state energy company and has generated £386bn more than the UK in tax revenues since the production of oil and gas began. Citizens, not shareholders, benefited.

Herein lies the case for restoring Scotland’s independence. The SNP Government only needs to make it.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

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Think again

The Scottish Government is considering a discussion document which would encourage children as young as four to announce to their teacher that they wish to change gender. The teacher would then be obliged to make appropriate changes within school and possibly without reference to the parents.

Far from being “progressive” this would be more appropriate in some oppressive third world regime. Educating children is brilliant – “re-educating” young minds is dangerous and unwelcome. Teachers will do a great job of education if they are just left to do it.

Parenting may not be easy, but it will always be better left with parents than poiticians.

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Let us hope that today’s young parents will see this shadowy notion for what it really is, reject all such government intrusions, and invite their representatives “tae think again”.

Alan Sim, Aberdeen

Partisan politics

I wonder if D Mason and John Birkett (Letters, 17 August) have actually read the gender policy guidance issued by the government or just the highly distorted piece of political scaremongering in the article by Brian Monteith (Scotsman, 16 August).

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Such views betray a startling lack of confidence in the common sense of teachers. Of course, Brian Monteith's main motivation is to attack the Scottish Government and to do this he's happy to distort reality. Collateral damage is of no concern to him, but the readers (including the gullible) deserve a less partisan approach to sensitive issues.

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

Last man standing

President Biden has every right to lambast the Afghans (Scotsman, 17 August) for standing aside and letting the Taliban walk in to power with no resistance whatsoever. It must be said: the Afghanistan military were provided with decades of training and were 300,000 strong and better armed and equipped than any possible opponent.

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The truth is that the many thousands of western soldiers involved over the decades could not possibly have remained there permanently. On that President Biden is also spot-on. All that appears to have been lacking with the Afghan Army was the will to fight.

It seems they were prepared to fight the Taliban until the last western soldier died.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Exit strategy

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The way in which President Biden ordered the exit from Afghanistan has been a disaster.

In his speech to the American people he explained how the Afghan army had been made strong by American money and training. Now the advanced weapons which the US supplied have been taken over by the Taliban, making them stronger than ever before. These weapons will eventually be used against the West.

The BBC's highly respected security correspondent, Frank Gardner, has said that the humiliating departure of western forces is "a massive morale boost to anti-Western jihadis all over the world".

The claim by the Taliban on social media that they are a new caring version is risable. Why should Facebook and Twitter allow them on their platforms anyway? One of their spokesmen has 320,000 Twitter followers. This is the same Twitter organisation that has banned the 45th president of the United States.

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William Loneskie, Lauder, Scottish Borders

Salmon farms

The latest information for the year 2020 in the Scottish Aquaculture report by SEPA records 27,000 tonnes of dead fish disposed of. This is estimated to be about 20 million dead salmon and the worst mortality figures ever recorded.

This level of husbandry loss is about four times the level of ten years ago in 2010. It is commonplace in salmon farms for mortality to be over 25 per cent due to diseases and parasites.

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Imagine the outcry if farmers had a quarter of their stock dead in their fields.

Vaughan Hammond, Braco, Perth and Kinross

Green claims

The UK Government is set to review electricity tariffs that claim to be "green" over concerns some energy firms could be exaggerating their environmental benefits. (Scotsman, 16 August) What has taken so long for politicians to see the obvious? Perhaps they were wearing green-tinted glasses.

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Octopus Energy, Bulb Energy, Pure Planet, Shell Energy, Green Energy UK, Ecotricity and Ovo Energy all claim to supply "100 per cent green electricity”. This is impossible. On average over the last 100 days, between 8am and 10am, fossil fuels, mostly gas, supplied 42.4 per cent of our UK electricity, renewables only 19.6 per cent.

Why has the Advertising Standards Authority, despite numerous complaints, not investigated and then banned these misleading adverts and heavily penalised the companies?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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