GM crops

IN AUGUST, Richard Lochhead, Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and environment, announced that the Scottish Government intends to take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorised GM crops.

Since then, this proposed ban has been widely discussed in the media.

However, the new EU rules, contained in Directive (EU) 2015/412, do not allow the Scottish Government to introduce such a ban.

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The operative part of the directive states: “During the authorisation procedure of a given GMO or during the renewal of consent/authorisation, a member state may demand that the geographical scope of the written consent or authorisation be adjusted to the effect that all or part of the territory of that member state is to be excluded from cultivation.”

Contrary to the claim by the Scottish Government, the directive does not provide for devolved administrations to ban GM crops, but only member states.

Since Scotland is not a member state, the Scottish Government would have to persuade the UK Government to apply a ban on their behalf.

Andrew Wilson

Waterfront Avenue, Edinburgh

Russian flight

Looking at the wreckage of the Airbus 321 leased by cash-strapped Russian travel company Metrojet it would appear to have suffered an explosive decompression of its fuselage.

This could have been caused by stress-cracks in the fuselage, the external impact of flying objects (including fragments from a malfunctioning engine) or an on-board explosion.

A US defence official confirmed a satellite had picked up heat flashes around the time of the crash but there was no missile trail, ruling out a terrorist surface-to-air rocket.

I noted the normally imperturbable Vladimir Putin brushed aside speculation and sent a deeply emotional message to victim’s loved ones:
“Our hearts and souls are with you.”

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Named persons

Taken in isolation, the SNP’s named person scheme could be seen as an innocent, though overzealous and misguided, attempt to monitor the well-being of children in families.

However, when viewed alongside the SNP’s manifest desire to micromanage many other areas of life in Scotland, ensuring that everything is run according to the one true philosophy of the state, such a charitable interpretation is naive.

The crucial line crossed by the Named Person legislation is that it asks these state-appointed monitors to assess families, not just for the possibility of neglect or abuse, but for whatever the SNP deems to be unsuitable parenting, and to take action accordingly.

The natural assumption used to be that biological parents were responsible for bringing up their children as they saw fit, with the state intervening in extreme cases.

Now the trend is towards the state allocating children to adults as they see fit.

Reproductive technologies and unorthodox household compositions, along with the desire of people to have children without a reproductive relationship, have led to the state getting a bit too used to deciding who is going to be classed as the parent or carer of which children.

With this normalisation of state planning in what used to be natural family life, and the SNP’s determination to enforce its monolithic philosophy in every last corner of Scottish life, it is surely only a matter of time before unfortunate children are taken away from perfectly good parents who happen to see the world from a different perspective than Nicola Sturgeon.

Richard Lucas

Broomyknowe, Edinburgh

Wind energy

I note the universal welcome from environmental groups (your report, 3 November) to the consent granted by the Scottish Government to a floating wind farm outside Peterhead.

I do hope that this development will generate more power on a regular basis than that produced by wind turbines already installed in the UK.

To the best of my knowledge, we already have more than ten GW of so-called installed capacity in UK, with nearly half in Scotland.

Since the publication of this article I have been looking at Gridwatch (UK National Grid Status).

On Monday evening at 20:15pm wind provided 0.67 GW (1.87 per cent) towards a total demand of 35.85 GW and yesterday at 1:30pm wind provided 0.46 GW (1.13 per cent) of demand totalling 42.39 GW.

Looking at the whole month of October, wind has been hovering around a couple of GW apart from a spike at the beginning of the month and the last week, but never exceeding five GW.

So we have a situation where coal/gas and nuclear have to provide the vast bulk of energy and, within that, we have periods when all the wind farms might as well not exist.

The shortfall is made up of nuclear energy from France and Holland.

Long may it continue.

Wind will never provide a guaranteed supply of energy and the more we install at subsidised prices the more expensive it will be for the taxpayers and energy users as the back-up provision will have to be increased as well.

It does not matter how many wind turbines are installed; there will be periods when they only provide a totally insignificant share of our energy needs and it becomes a choice between blackouts or a full backup provision.

Furthermore, the increasing energy costs caused by subsidies hit the poor harder through fuel poverty.

Solar provides no answer to these problems as the energy is provided mostly when demand is lower and as the energy is not dispatchable (cannot be stored), this form of energy only creates an even greater requirement for back-up provision.

Because of the requirement for constant back-up it is doubtful if wind and solar provide any reduction in CO2 emissions.

Even if there is a small reduction, it is infinitesimal compared with global emissions with China and India in particular set to build even more coal-fired power stations.

John Peter

Monks Road, Airdrie, Lanarkshire

Faslane jobs

Finding alternative work for the highly skilled workers at Faslane might be difficult without there being another high-tech industry in Scotland.

Fortunately there is, for some of them anyway: the nuclear power plants at Hunterston, not far from Faslane, and at Torness.

Working with nuclear reactors on a submarine is not all that different from working on a civil nuclear reactor, although they are not of the same design.

Unfortunately, these nuclear stations will be decommissioned within the next eight years; our anti-science Scottish Government would not permit their replacement, risking a shortage of electricity and probably forcing skilled workers to go to England and Wales for similar jobs.

What a way to run a country.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Paris junket

At the end of this month 40,000 politicians, officials, green activists, lobbyists and journalists from 195 nations will converge on Paris for the latest in a long line of UN Climate Change junkets, creating lots of additional emissions.

The event lasts for 11 days and sceptics calculated that the cost of hotels, flights and meals will run into many millions of pounds.

The EU is committed to cutting its CO2 emissions but others argue that the “developed” nations burned fossil fuels so why should the “developing” nations not grow their economies on cheap fossil fuels?

These “developing” nations say that they might be prepared to make some contribution to reducing CO2 but only if they are paid to do so out of the “Green Climate Fund” financed entirely by the countries which they claim created the global warming problem.

Starting in 2020 this fund will give out $100 billion (£65bn) every year of taxpayers’ money to “help developing countries adapt to climate change”.

In a nutshell – blatant blackmail.

Like previous climate conferences, the Paris junket will end in no legally binding agreements, and nations will continue to build coal-fired electricity plants, increasing, not reducing, emissions.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Be safe, be seen

Every single year at this time, as the darker early mornings and darker nights draw in, I’m confronted by pedestrians all over the place who are virtually unseen to motorists because they are wearing dark clothing and make no attempts to make themselves more visible.

I believe it really is time the “Wear Something Light At Night” campaign from when I was little was brought back and the vital potentially life-saving message it delivered was repeated.

Nowadays, there are even more hi-visibility garments around than there were in the 1960s, so there is simply no excuse for people putting themselves at risk of not being seen.

Be safe – be seen.

Judi Martin

Maryculter, Aberdeenshire

Rugby heroes

Throughout many years, I have taken part in, watched, read about and listened to sport.

No action by a player has ever touched me as much as what Sonny Boy Williams (of the All Blacks) did after being awarded a coveted and well-earned World Cup medal.

A 15-year-old lad, Charlie Lines, ran onto the pitch to honour a most distinguished player. Charlie was tackled by a steward and thrown to the ground.

The player picked him up, and had a word with him (along with Steve Hansen, the All Black Coach).

Then Williams put his medal around the lad’s neck and escorted him back to the stand.

I am aware that this exceptional athlete has attracted less attractive headlines, but I believe this was a totally sincere and spontaneous, generous act.

In contrast to this remarkable act, we had to witness the steward’s pathetic earlier action.

Did this heroic defender of the realm genuinely believe that the lad’s enthusiastic act was a threat to national security or to Williams himself, who stands at 6ft 4 inches, and weighs in at 17st of muscle and athleticism (he also happens to be the heavyweight boxing champion of New Zealand)?

I am concerned that wearing a “high-vis” jacket seems have the same effect as a lobotomy.

(Prof) David A alexander

Thorngrove Avenue, Aberdeen