Edinburgh's festivals and heritage bodies should be working together - Readers' Letters

I fully understand the frustration felt by Major General Buster Howes regarding the uncertainty hanging over this year’s Tattoo and festivals (“Tattoo Chief accuses heritage body of wanting to turn Edinburgh into ‘empty medieval theme park’, Scotsman, 4 March). We should all support his ambition to run to capacity crowds when the Tattoo returns, there is no questioning the veracity of his comment about the festivals being the “underpinning fabric” of our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo still hopes to go ahead this year
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo still hopes to go ahead this year

However, despite his criticism of Cliff Hague and the Cockburn Association I don’t believe that either want to turn Edinburgh into an “empty medieval theme park”. Nor do I believe that anyone in Edinburgh Council or the Scottish Government lives in an “echo chamber insulated from real engagement with civic society”, as seems to be believed by Mr Hague.

At this time more than ever it is vital to get our economy back on its feet so that people have jobs and there are taxes to pay for the public services we all want. Too often the tourism industry is underrated in its economic and heritage contribution to the city and the country.

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Both the Tattoo and Edinburgh Castle create an economic powerhouse that helps support jobs and heritage investment. Pre the pandemic Edinburgh Castle provided nearly 60 per cent of the funding of Historic Environment Scotland, which funds heritage projects the length and breadth of the land.

If Edinburgh’s festivals fail to recover one of the very first victims of such a failure will be Scotland’s built heritage. Both Mr Howes and Mr Hague are decent men, and perhaps we need to get them together in a room to utilise their undoubted intellects to map out a better future for the festivals and heritage together.

Donald Anderson

The Spinney, Edinburgh

Legally blind

Can I respectfully suggest to Gill Turner (Letters, 4 March) that before she composes her traditionally predictable immediate Pavlovian responses to anyone who dares to suggest that occasionally matters might be better regulated in England than Scotland, she actually checks some facts.

Murdo Fraser set out completely accurately the contrast between the position of the Lord Advocate in Scotland and the Attorney General in England. Prosecutions in England are instigated by the Crown Prosecution Service, not the Attorney General and except in certain very limited situations the Attorney General has no influence over prosecutions in England.

This is exactly what Murdo Fraser was saying and a situation which in the light of the current Crown Office shambles is clearly desirable in Scotland.

I say this as a Scottish solicitor for over 50 years who, in these columns in the past, has defended Scots Law and in fact encouraged the Scottish Government to implement reforms urged by the Scottish Law Commission for years, which would give Scotland a competitive advantage over other systems of law.

This would keep the distinctive features of Scots Law up to date in things that really matter, instead of some of the ridiculous legislation currently being promoted by the Justice Secretary and others and proposed legislation previously abandoned because no one in their right mind would have anything to do with it.

I find it surprising that a government and its supporters like Gill Turner cannot accept that occasionally concepts and ideas from England can be called in aid to make Scotland a better place to live in than it is now.

John Donald

Essex Road, Edinburgh

Lockdown dates

This week the Chancellor announced that furlough will be extended until September. This is strange because earlier Boris Johnson had seemed to announce an end to lockdown by 21 June.

Meanwhile the WHO (World Health Organization) stance on herd immunity to Covid-19 is that it should be achieved “through vaccine, not by allowing a disease to spread”. It admits that the number of people who would need to be vaccinated isn't known, but gives the example of measles which requires 95 per cent of populations vaccinated.

Even more concerning is that a November study in the Lancet lead authored by epidemiologist Sir Roy Anderson says “the impact of vaccination on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 will start slowly and build up over a few years to reach target coverage levels”. Anderson has worked for WHO and Imperial College London and has advised government. He is a colleague of Sir Neil Ferguson who infamously persuaded the government to implement lockdown back in March.

Is the Boris Johnson announcement a red herring?

Geoff Moore

Alness, Highland

State broadcasts

If Peter Hopkins actually watched Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid briefings (Letters, 4 March) he would see that not only does she face a phalanx of hostile journalists but, unlike in England, opposition politicians also get the last word as a response.

The new chairman of the BBC has given large financial sums to the Tory Party, while the BBC Director General was a Tory councillor and constituency chairman. To complete the circle, Paul Dacre, who was editor of the right-wing Daily Mail for 22 years, is tipped to become the new chair of Ofcom, which regulates broadcasting in the UK.

Kim Jong-Un would be proud of such control of the state broadcaster.

Mary Thomas

Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

Auld Grey Toun

Your golf correspondent, Martin Dempster, wrote recently about his day trip to St. Andrews (23 February) and much as I enjoyed this, as I do his articles generally, I fear he has confused St Andrews with Dunfermline. He is not alone in this as it seems to have become the norm amongst golf scribes and commentators to refer to St. Andrews as “The Auld Grey Toun”.

It has always been my understanding that it is Dunfermline that’s known as the “Auld Grey Toun.” St Andrews on the other hand is known as the “Home of Golf.”

Many of Dunfermline’s public houses sold a whisky called The Auld Grey Toun. The label on the bottle had a picture not of the Road Hole at St Andrews or of the Swilken Bridge but of Dunfermline Abbey. I seem to recollect that this whisky was bottled on behalf of the Dunfermline Public House Society Ltd (who once operated a number of the so-called Gothenburg pubs, or Goths, in the town).

So, if proof is needed that it is Dunfermline that’s known as “The Auld Grey Toun” then look no further than the whisky of the same name, which will provide at least 70 per cent proof!

P Young

North Urquhart Place, Dunfermline

Sound advice?

The Scottish Government has been accused of a number of things over the past few weeks but one accusation that certainly does hold water is their utter naivety. Had they followed the example of the UK Tory government, the Salmond debacle might never have happened.

Whenever the Tories have anyone in their midst proving to be awkward, as in the Priti Patel case, then an ‘agreement' can be reached between the parties, in this situation to the tune of £340,000 of taxpayers' money.

Party members are easier to deal with, however, as in the case of Jackson Carlaw for example, as they can be removed in true Stalinist fashion and few people will even notice.

I would not recommend the SNP follow Boris’s Tories on any other aspect of political policy or behaviour but this is one situation they might want to watch and learn for future reference.

D Mitchell

Coates Place, Edinburgh

Fallible memory

I am reminded by S Beck's letter (5 March) on the fallibility of memory of a presidential address to the Scottish Record Society by the late Professor Gordon Donaldson, HM Historiographer in Scotland, shortly before his death in 1993.

Although an Edinburgh man, he was of Shetland descent and made many journeys there, using the ferries to travel from island to island.

He recalled one journey which he had particularly enjoyed, which he was sure was on (name of ship) and on a precise date. He later learned to his chagrin that having checked the records of the local shipping company many years later he was totally wrong on both counts.

His conclusion was: "For accuracy, always rely on archives – the written record – not on your memory" which I, as a retired archivist, can also ruefully confirm from my own recent experience to be excellent advice.

Andrew Broom

Traquair Park West, Edinburgh

Do your real job

Ian Blackford MP has stated that another indyref could happen late this year despite all that it is happening at the moment. It was almost two years from the ratification of the Edinburgh agreement in 2012 to the actual referendum in 2014, so to suggest that an indyref would take place in nine months is merely politicking on his part.

I have lived one-third of my life now with the threat of my country seceding from a long-standing political union that has stood for 13 generations.

Mr. Blackford is very fortunate to have the middle years of his career during the biggest economic expansion in human history and a period of relative peace (at least in Europe).

But yet he would cause more chaos for my generational cohort by promoting another indyref, during a global pandemic and another economic contraction, despite this being of little concern currently.

Perhaps he could do the job he was voted in to do: build a stable Scotland, within the UK, where those with the means can find the opportunity to better themselves, much like he did.

David Bone

Hamilton Street, Girvan

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