Edinburgh versus Dublin: A tale of two cities - Readers' Letters

As a native and long-time resident of Edinburgh, but with “in-laws” in Dublin, I am a frequent visitor to Ireland’s capital and have become increasingly struck by the diverging contrast between the fortunes of the two cities in the last two-three years.

People take a lunch break in the business and financial sector of Dublin City centre

It is hard not to compare confident, cosmopolitan, connected Dublin, with its “can do” attitude, strong economy (the Irish economy is the fastest growing in the Eurozone), increasing position as one of Europe’s main financial /business hubs post-Brexit, and its deep and long-established links with government/industry in the EU and US, with Edinburgh’s pale imitation of a capital city (with few, if any, of the aforementioned attributes).

But hey, back in 2014 the citizens of Scotland’s so-called capital voted for it not to be a capital city – so well done fellow Edinburgh folks, I guess you got what you voted for.

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However it’s worth the short 200-mile trip to Dublin now and then to see what the alternative future may have looked like for our lovely city. See it and weep.

D Jamieson, Edinburgh

Columba’s role

Today marks the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St Columba (Colmcille) at Gartan in Donegal in 521.

Since Ireland has three patron saints – St Patrick (primarily), St Brigid and St Columba – this is an opportune time to consider whether Scotland might consider recognizing the founder of Iona and “dove of the Church” as a deputy patron alongside the somewhat obscure St Andrew.

Columba's official feast day, 9 June, moreover, would neatly counterpoise the wintry celebration of the apostle’s 30 November.

Hamish Allan, Edinburgh

Saving the Union

Christine Jardine is deluded if she thinks that replacing Boris Johnson with any of the current Tory cabinet or even Sir Keir Starmer will save the Union (Scotsman, 6 December).

Brexit has changed the dynamic and confirmed the fact that Scotland has no influence at Westminster or as part of the UK. The latest ONS figures show that Northern Ireland’s economy performed better than any other in the UK due to its preferential EU treatment yet a growing number want a referendum on reunification with the much more prosperous Republic. The latest Human Development Index from the UN placed Ireland second highest in the world for quality of life, which is based on health, education and income in each country, just behind another country of “only” five million people, Norway.

In Wales, the Labour-led government has entered into an agreement with Plaid Cymru, and the Labour FM Mark Drakeford has made clear that he considers the current Union dysfunctional, which needs to be replaced by a Confederal UK.

Covid perfectly illustrated Scotland’s limitations under the current constitutional arrangements as we couldn’t close our borders to suppress the virus and we didn’t have the borrowing powers to diverge from England on extending or shortening any lockdown period. It was only when we diverged from a UK-wide approach that Scotland got on top of the pandemic with our resultant fewer Covid cases and deaths per head of population. Thanks to the SNP concentrating on the day job, we also have the highest percentage of our population jagged compared to anywhere else in the UK.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Vaccine blow

Why did the UK Government cancel an order for 100 million vaccines from Valneva, and then place an order for the same amount with Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca? Valneva is an inactive vaccine, which makes it reassuring for children and the pregnant and vulnerable. Kate Bingham, head of our Vaccine Task Force, ordered 60 million doses from Valneva for the UK, and that was increased by 40 million doses after the memorable occasion when Boris Johnson defied a travel ban to visit the Valneva factory in Livingston.

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Subsequently, this huge order was cancelled by the UK government, just as trials proved that Valneva had produced an effective vaccine against Covid and its variants, with a different profile to any other, similar to those used for flu and polio. It targets the whole virus to give a broad immune response that continues to be effective if a virus mutates. Better still, Valvena is working on a nasal spray instead of needle delivery.

Without the UK’s order, Valneva decided to produce the vaccine in its German factory, a huge loss to the economy of Scotland. Worse, the new variant, Omicron, may respond to the Valneva vaccine better than that of Pfizer or Astra-Zeneca.

The EU has bought into Valneva with alacrity. It may be a French company, but the vaccine was researched and trialled in Scotland. It is an example of European cooperation at its best, and a real pity that Scotland lost out because of Westminster’s contrariness. As Kate Bingham said, the UK Government’s decision to cancel the order was "inexplicable”.

Frances Scott, Edinburgh

Blair’s legacy

I was surprised that in his list of the achievements of the Blair administration (Letters, 6 December) Alexander McKay did not mention the setting up of the Scottish Parliament which has led to the burgeoning of the SNP and the near total eclipse of Scottish Labour.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Drugs stigma

According to the Scottish Government, the real cause of drugs deaths is stigma. If only we could all be a bit more understanding, charitable and indulgent, the deadly drugs would magically lose their chemical potency.

In keeping with their humanistic philosophy, no-one is to be held accountable for their actions and bad decisions are more malfunction than mistake, more ill-fated than irresponsible.

Yes, some embark on illegal drug use in the most trying of personal circumstances, but others just drift down a road of reckless hedonism. Whatever the back stories, our society would be healthier if the availability of illegal drugs was stifled. This strategy has not been tried and failed – it has not been tried. Progressive liberalisation of law and law enforcement has led to the current normalisation of illegal drug abuse. One can't walk around Edinburgh for too long without smelling cannabis. Assuming that police officers possess the same olfactory faculty, they must routinely ignore these crimes.

Our society is already enthusiastically supportive of those seeking to escape addiction, I'm glad to say, with recovering and recovered addicts hailed for their restorative endeavours. But do we really want to eliminate the stigma surrounding illegal drug use? Should it be an esteemed lifestyle choice? An inevitable side-effect of a protective moral culture is that disapproval is directed at certain destructive behaviours. To remove "stigma" is to dismantle morality.

Of course, there will be those who express disapproval in an uncharitable and hostile manner, but the issue there is not "stigma" but a lack of graciousness.

Taxpayers' money would be better spent on posters warning of the dangers of illegal drugs rather than attacking “stigma”. It appears that the government's policy in this area is being dictated by people who actually approve of illegal drug use, who wish to shift the blame, remarkably, to those who disapprove of it.

Richard Lucas, Scottish Family Party, Glasgow

Mary’s Meals

The charm of the presents under our Christmas tree lies partly in their very different shapes and sizes. Perhaps the same could be said of our own families. None of them look the same.

Take 12-year-old Hawa – she lives with her granny, an aunt and four cousins in Liberia. Often there is not enough food for her family to eat.

Mary’s Meals serves nutritious food at school to children living in some of the world’s poorest countries, attracting them into the classroom where they receive an education that can, in the future, be their ladder out of poverty.

More than two million children receive our life-changing meals every school day – including Hawa.

I am pleased to tell you that, until 31 January 2022, donations made to our Double The Love campaign will be matched, up to £1.6 million, by a generous group of supporters.

Those children receiving Mary’s Meals might not have a pile of presents to unwrap on Christmas morning, but their dreams are alive and well, thanks to those who share our belief that every child should have enough to eat and go to school.

You can learn more about our work by visiting marysmeals.org.uk.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Founder, Mary’s Meals, Glasgow

Power cuts

During two years living and working in Sweden I experienced low temperatures and storms which damaged property and brought down trees, but never a power cut. Why? Like most northern countries all cables in Sweden are underground.

For many months roads have been dug up for the new fibre broadband – a perfect time to put all cables underground, so why was it not considered? It is unacceptable that in a rich modern country people have to endure days of misery without power.

Avril Cameron, Inverness

Pension threat

In his letter (6 December) Malcolm Parkin highlights how disowning the oil industry would negatively impact the tax and dividend receipts that help to fund our pension schemes.

Independence of course poses an even greater threat, yet unbelievably there are still those peddling the myth that the RUK would continue to administer, contribute to, and pay Scottish state pensions. Perhaps they are well oiled?

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

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