Letters: East Coast investment can boost city economy

The government should back a plan by local authorities along the East Coast line for new investment in services to realise fully the economic benefits that high-speed, 21st century rail can bring to cities like Edinburgh.

The plan calls for eight long-distance high speed trains each hour running at 100mph linking core stations like Edinburgh with intermediate ones; HS2 services to run between Edinburgh and London as soon as possible and integrated with existing services; improvements to passenger services such as 100 per cent mobile connectivity, not cuts.

The economies served by the East Coast line contribute over £300 billion each year to the UK economy but we can do even better. Cities and communities along the line are already planning to create the connections that will boost business but we need government backing.

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The government, with its blinkered belief that the market can be left to work its magic with the new franchise, refuses to see that investment in basic infrastructure like overhead wires is what matters.

The East Coast Line can act as an economic powerhouse but we need a broader vision of the balance sheet than the government’s; it must invest to accelerate economic growth

The House of Commons transport committee made similar points in an in-depth report in which it says that the Department for Transport has “failed to give sufficient weight to the wider economic and social benefits of rail investment”, focusing simply on passenger numbers and short-term economic gain.

Mark Lazarowicz, MP Edinburgh North and Leith

Wartime hero Churchill also had a dark side

There has been much outpouring of gushing praise to mark the life of Winston Churchill as we commemorate his death 50 years ago.

And indeed Churchill was a great wartime leader, but while this role has quite rightly been heralded, he was far from the paragon of virtue that some commentators would have us believe.

His finest hour aside, let us not forget that he believed women shouldn’t vote; he was also fiercely opposed to self-determination for the people of the empire, advocating the use of poisoned gas against “uncivilized tribes” in Mesopotamia in 1919.

For much of his career he was also a disastrous politician. In 1915 he had to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disaster of Gallipoli; his decision in 1925 to restore Britain to the Gold Standard caused a deep and unnecessary recession that led directly to the General Strike in 1926, in which he was reported to have suggested using machine guns on the miners.

So, while we must celebrate his role as a brilliant war leader, let us not forget another rather more chequered past.

Alex Orr, Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

Holyrood must listen to all views on new Bill

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the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee will today take evidence from a range of religious leaders, many of whom are out of touch with the views and beliefs of their members.

Humanist Society Scotland challenges religious objections to the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, religion and belief are to be treated equally. Despite this, the Scottish Parliament has decided to take evidence from a panel made up of religious leaders separately from other secular organisations.

A BMJ 2013 survey on assisted suicide found that the attitudes of members of certain religious groups was significantly out of step with the official position of that religion. The survey found that 61 per cent of Presbyterians (such as the Church of Scotland) were in favour of assisted suicide; 56 per cent of Catholics and 72 per cent of Anglicans also supported a change in the law to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives. The same survey found that less than 0.02 per cent of respondents said they look to religious leaders for guidance on assisted suicide, versus 65 per cent who said they look to science and their own reason and intuition.

Gary McLelland, Humanist Society Scotland

It’s only a healthy economy for some

Isn’t it ironic that while David Cameron brags about how healthy the economy is, he then says the reason why spending on home care has dropped by 25 per cent is because he can’t afford to spend any more.

This would actually be fnny if it wasn’t so serious and if David Cameron wasn’t such a first class idiot.

Alan Lough, Boroughdales, Dunbar

Scots new property tax is a fairer system

John Swinney’s new tax rates on Scottish property purchases will make very little difference to the buying and selling of homes, as people need a roof over their head and will move up and down the ladder regardless.

However, the good news is for the majority of buyers in Scotland, the LBTT changes will save them money come April when buying a property, as the average house price in the country is £160,000, and £232,000 in Edinburgh.

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In my view, LBTT is a fairer and more modern way to tax compared to the old stamp duty. It is more progressive as opposed to lump sum changes which would have worked many years ago before prices sky rocketed.

Previously, many buyers would hunt for a home less than £250,000 as they would pay £5000 less in tax if they purchased one at £250,001 which is madness.

We have to move with the times and it’s about time there is in place a tax system which is reflective of today’s property market.

Graham White, head of sales, Braemore, Morningside Road, Edinburgh