Letters: In black and white, pandas were a political hot potato

In his article “A bitter taste to panda politics” (News, January 10) Martin Hannan gave a very one-sided and rosy view of the latest attractions at Edinburgh Zoo. He accuses those who opposed bringing the pandas to Edinburgh of politicising the issue.

This has been a political issue for more than five years since David Windmill (then chief executive of Edinburgh Zoo and former CEO of The Scottish Salmon Growers Association) started lobbying politicians at Holyrood and Westminster to get them to help persuade the Chinese government to give us the bears.

It became even more of a political issue when Alex Salmond’s government spent £42,000 of public money on the arrival party and associated misleading advertising praising the Chinese government for “following five years of political and diplomatic talks . . . gifting two giant pandas to live in Scotland”.

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If he opened his eyes, Mr Hannan would realise this is a very risky financial gamble by a cash-strapped zoo and a very cynical Chinese government, which much prefers to hide its terrible record of environmental damage and human rights violations behind the cuddly image of the giant panda.

John F Robins, Animal Concern

SNP is blurring the border lines

I regard myself to be as Scottish as they come, but I certainly do not want independence.

If this ever happens I will absolutely want to hold on to a British passport. Do I have the option? This is one of the very many issues that the SNP will be keen to avoid discussing, but it is a very important issue for me, and no doubt many others.

It does raise the interesting prospect of a country where half its citizens voluntarily opt for citizenship of another nation.

Ken Currie, Liberton Drive, Edinburgh

Housing builds good foundations

It’s positive news that the Barnton Hotel, once an eyesore site in major disrepair, will be redeveloped and transformed into housing (News, January 11).

Bringing empty properties back into use contributes to society positively on a number of levels – in particular through local regeneration, reducing vandalism and improving neighbourhood appearance.

Whether for private use or for use as social housing, Scotland’s 23,000 long-term private empty homes can play a significant part in addressing Scotland’s housing crisis.

Kristen Hubert, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, Shelter Scotland, South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh

Squash squeezing pensioners’ cash

I PLAYED squash the other day at Craiglockhart. At the end of last year, it cost £3 for 45 minutes’ play. This time, I was charged £6.20. As a pensioner I’m horrified at the increase.

I was told that the pricing had been rationalised and simplified.

Without subsidised sports facilities, we’re not going to be as fit as we should be.

What happens then? We become a burden to the NHS much sooner.

Tom Wightman, Edinburgh