Do help the aged

No doubt there will be support for Alexander McKay's plea for age-related freebies to be limited to the truly needy (Letters, 24 March). However, in addition to the inconvenience of means testing there would be the cost of administration, which would eat into the gain to the public purse.

An alternative would be to redefine as taxable income all cash handouts, and concessions such as the TV licence, with a clear monetary value.The full amount would not be saved but whatever was recovered would be related to the income of the recipients and any additional costs should be negligible. The bus pass would not be caught but it has benefits for society in general and not just the holder.

S Beck

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Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Why are some people in this country being disrespectful to pensioners by advocating cuts to their standard of living yet choosing to ignore the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money (pensioners’ money included) that goes out of this country every year either to the European Union, overseas aid or is being scattered like confetti to all four corners of the world?

Margaret Wallace

Broomfield Avenue, Cumnock

When polls pale

Your story Holyrood “should make all decisions for Scotland” (23 March) illustrates a fundamental problem with political polling.

The above statement effectively means “independence”, but support for independence is only given at 39 per cent, which we are then told is more than the 45 per cent who actually voted Yes in September 2014. The answer you get depends on the question that you ask, and how you ask it.

The fact that two questions which are fundamentally the same can provide such different results shows very clearly how easily it is to confuse people, and this opens up opportunities for leading them in the direction required. To spread the risk of getting the wrong answer, ask the same question in slightly different ways, and brief heavily to make sure people know that black is really just another shade of white. Then nobody will know what is going on, and anything becomes possible.

I note also from the background statistics that the weighting gives Yes voters an additional three per cent, a little bit of detail that should not go unreported.

All political polling should be banned. Only then will we start talking about policies, not politics.

Victor Clements

Taybridge Terrace, Aberfeldy

Off the rails

Whether or not one agrees with Malcolm Parkin (Letters, 23 March) that the UK Parliament’s decision to construct HSR lines in England is a waste of money, it does have a sound case, based not on speed, but on lack of capacity on existing tracks.

The argument for extension from Manchester to Scotland is far weaker. There will be adequate capacity for many years to come and the costs per passenger mile for extension would be many times higher than for the now proposed sections in England because of the far smaller populations served. Moreover, topographical constraints mean new tracks would be very close to existing ones, which isn’t the case in England.

According to figures given, extending HSR from Manchester to Glasgow/Edinburgh would reduce travel time by only 50 minutes . It is hard to see that this would justify the many billions of pounds for construction and that it would make any difference to the financial benefits to Scotland claimed. Probably such could be obtained at a far lower price and much sooner by other means. The “opportunity costs” will need to be examined.

HSR is not a panacea for slow growth . Japan, France, Italy and Spain all have excellent HSR systems but their economies have been weak for many years and show little sign of improvement. By contrast that of Mexico, which terminated most inter-city passenger rail services in 2000, has grown hugely. Just what the situation here will be in 20 years cannot be known. Moreover, a new generation of politicians will be in power. and should be free to decide for themselves what is the best course of action. when and if the time comes for a decision. Present ones should focus on dealing with existing issues and not seek to commit their successors in any way.

John Munro

Buccleuch Street, Glasgow

Dole, not coal

The closure of Longannet power station is a crime against the Scottish economy (The Scotsman, March 24). No number of wind turbines, generating electricity only when the wind blows, will be enough to replace the 2.4 gigawatts of base load electricity Longannet generated in all seasons and all weathers.

In years to come, we will suffer brown-outs and black-outs, because of this decision and the Climate Change Act, which led to it.

Otto Inglis

Inveralmond Grove, Edinburgh

Private eyeful

Your front page (March 24) reminds me of the famous Private Eye cartoon of September 19 2014.

Entitled “How Scotland will look after Independence,” it had two panels. The upper one, according to the Yes Campaign, depicted a sunny tropical loch, with blue skies, aquamarine water and beautiful palm-fringed beaches. In contrast, the lower one, according to the No Campaign, showed a blackened, devastated valley, akin to Dante’s gateway to hell, with distant, erupting volcanoes spewing seas of red lava towards the dead and dying bodies in the foreground.

It is now clear which vision lay closer to the truth.

Barry Hughes

Comiston Drive, Edinburgh

Pilot error?

After reading the polemic by Paul Carberry (Friends of the Scotsman, 24 March) under the heading; “Named person aids troubled minority”, I feel I must challenge some of the comments and omissions.

Mr Carberry makes much of the pilot which he claims has been successfully operated in the Highlands, but I live in the Highlands and enquiries with many friends who live outwith my area have failed to find anyone with any experience or knowledge of such a scheme. I can only conclude, therefore, that the pilot must have been conducted within a very small part of the Highlands, and is therefore of little value. I note the tone of the article seems to have reverted to weasel language like “single point of contact to help families access services”, “will have access to a named person”and “to direct vulnerable families to help and support”. It carefully avoids dealing with the issue of whether the Named Person Scheme will be compulsory or whether, as the First Minister said: “It is an entitlement, not an obligation.”

There is a terrible stench of deception surrounding the pronouncements of the various “stakeholders” in this scheme, and far from serving the needs of vulnerable children, the totally unnecessary and expensive scattergun approach is very likely to lead to the vulnerable being overlooked as ever-scarcer resources are not targeted where needed. Surely a basic principle of the provision of any service and the stewardship of resources is that appropriate targeting is key?

I suspect the “stakeholders” as Mr Carberry refers to himself, have lost sight of what their efforts were meant to achieve and along with our government are now engaged in an exercise in justification where vulnerable children could become the casualties.

I also find it appalling that the media have not taken the First Minister to task on the legitimate question of whether she was being untruthful or was badly informed when she made her claims of “not compulsory”.

Alan Thomson

Kilcamb Paddock, Strontian

Get gone, graffiti

I was surprised that Fife police have traced and, I hope, charged two youths in relation to graffiti offences (The Scotsman, 24 March). Graffiti is a criminal offence and needs to be reported. But my attempts to do so over the years have not met with any results. Police tell me that only the relevant property owners should report it and that I should not e-mail them with pictures of graffiti tags unless I saw the graffiti being sprayed (very unlikely). Due to this attitude, I have stopped reporting it on behalf of my local community council. I still try to persuade the owners to remove graffiti and some do so promptly. We need a national campaign to rid our streets of this vandalism and catch the culprits.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Rebel yell

So the English taxpayer subsidises Scotland to fill a huge £10 billion black hole (The Scotsman, 24 March). But George Osborne has shown himself willing to cut more than a billion from the weak and disabled, so why not the “rebellious Scots”. We must vote SNP on 5 May to keep the independence knife at his throat!

George Shering

West Acres Drive, Newport on Tay, Fife

Stone me

I am dismayed to discover there is no TV coverage of the women’s World Curling Championships from Canada. Other than via YouTube, if you can find it. The World Curling Federation website reveals, curiously, that only two European countries are receiving TV coverage (France and Poland), whereas is it being beamed to the likes of South Korea, Japan, China, and Brazil (now there’s a hotbed of curling for you).

Isn’t it a shame that we aren’t allowed to witness one of the few sports in which we do rather well?

Mike Wilkinson

Kirk Wynd , Strathmiglo, Fife