Light work

I read with some dismay, the article regarding our electricity supplies, “Renewables now biggest generator of electricity” (The Scotsman, 23 December) in which you state that almost half of Scotland’s electrical demand during 2014 was supplied by renewables.

This statement may sound wonderful but it is somewhat misleading. Electrical system demand varies over time but it is always there and has to be satisfied, not when the wind blows, but instantly. This is achieved by means of large conventional power stations running night and day. There is no alternative.

Covering the countryside with wind turbines and allowing them to take precedence over all other forms of generation for grid access doesn’t really help matters. It just means that these large stations have to be running in the background, ready at a moment’s notice to provide 100 per cent backup for erratic and unpredictable wind farms.

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This operating regime produces far more emissions than would be produced if the stations were running on full load, in fact it has been postulated that this state of affairs goes a long way towards negating any perceived savings made by these so-called green energy sources.

So yes, it can be said that renewables generated the equivalent of almost half of Scotland’s demand but only when the wind blew and this is not the basis for running a reliable and efficient power system.

With Cockenzie being a distant memory and Longanet following suit, we will soon have nothing left to back up and protect our supply system, so instead of singing the praises of renewable energy, Fergus Ewing and others need to do some hard thinking and come up with realistic ideas for keeping the lights on.

Alan Cawthorne

Captains Brae, Twynholm, Kirkcudbright

Blight work

The Beauly to Denny high voltage electricity line is now fully operational. Recent media coverage has shown the disastrous impact this is having on the environment. Yet Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) continue to wreak havoc on our landscape. Despite all the evidence, SPEN is in the process of developing a similar line of 50m tall pylons across part of Ayrshire and the spine of Dumfries and Galloway, from near the west coast at Ballantrae to Harker, just north of Carlisle. They plan to create new sub-stations at Newton Stewart, Glenlee and near Dumfries.

This line will be primarily used to carry wind energy from South-west Scotland to Cumbria, not for use in Scotland. SPEN’s proposal document assumes that an overhead line is the only possible option and avoids mention of undersea or underground routes, despite the growing European Network of subsea cables and the undergrounding of lines through the Pyrenees and Alps.

Those of us who live under the threat of this blight would greatly appreciate any help to make SPEN reconsider their actions. They will be detrimental to wildlife, the visual and historical environment and significantly damaging to the tourist industry, which is one of the main economic drivers in the area. These monstrous behemoths striding through unspoiled hillsides and rural parishes are an insult to the landscape.

Unfortunately, it will take enormous pressure to convince SPEN that the allegedly cheapest option will have larger ongoing costs, both economically and for the environment and to take responsibility for the long-term consequences of this project.

Alice Howdle

Kirkton, Dumfries

Air, no thanks

Following John Swinney’s austerity Budget, I was shocked to read that the SNP is calling for a £200 million tax cut for the airline industry.

Where is this money going to come from? The NHS, schools, higher borrowing or higher tax? George Osborne has cut Corporation Tax – supported by the SNP – from 28 per cent to 18 per cent, a massive tax cut for the airline industry, but they have not passed this on in lower fares. The price of oil has collapsed but the airline industry has not passed this on in lower air fares. Now the SNP want to give them another multi-million pound tax cut by cutting air passenger duty. Will they pass this on to customers or continue to pay millionaire salaries to their chief executives? It is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between John Swinney and George Osborne, both are on the side of big business.

M Smythe

Dalry Road, Edinburgh

Foodbank shame

I was astonished to read that 60,000 people in Scotland are dependent on foodbanks in a country that we are told by our government is one of the wealthiest in the world.

It is easy for the Scottish Government to blame Westminster, but I was under the impression that a government has the responsibility to care for its people.

The Scottish Government gives the impression of not caring for the people who require the foodbanks to feed their families. What a sad reflection on the working of our Parliament if they are unable to pass legislation which assists people caught in the poverty trap. Thank goodness for the voluntary organisations that provide the people who step up to the parapet and assist the folk who need help.

It is the voluntary groups across Scotland that so often step in and help the disadvantaged and marginalised.

Get a grip, Scottish Government, and abolish foodbanks and food poverty, and work in the areas where people are in desperate need .

(Rev Dr) George Grubb

Wellhead Close, South Queensferry

Rock on, Tommy

Your writer Scott Macnab has been hitting too much of the Christmas sherry if he thinks there’s any chance of a “left-wing alternative” at Holyrood next year with the so-called RISE Coalition (Inside politics, 29 December).

Let’s get matters into perspective – at the last Holyrood election, the combined vote of all Scotland’s Buckled Lefties was even less than the derisory efforts of the BNP and the Christian Party. In the 2015 General Election, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidates finished behind in every seat in which they faced an Official Monster Raving Loony Party one.

Scotland’s ragbag of Toytown revolutionaries and working class inverted snobs – who hate one another more than they hate their class enemies – blew their only chance of being a force when they cast adrift the only asset they ever had in Tommy Sheridan, a brilliant orator and pragmatic socialist with a flair for presentation and a talent for bridge building even amongst Tory MPs such as the late Phil Gaillie – a potential Socialist First Minister. Alas for Sheridan, he proved a lion leading donkeys.

Mark Boyle

Linn Park Gardens, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Judge dredging

The obligation to dredge out our rivers used to belong to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics.

These had statutory responsibilities to prevent flooding but in 2000 the Environment Agency and the European Water Framework Directive demanded an astonishing policy reversal. No longer were authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding – their primary obligation was now to make sure our national rivers achieve “good ecological status”. Rivers were to remain as close as possible to “undisturbed natural conditions” and the dredging or embanking of our waterways was wholly incompatible with the directive.

I do not know why every inundation must be blamed on global warming when the EU and the planners who allow estates to be built on flood plains do the job so well on their own.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Dredging, as Stan Hogarth suggests (Letters 29 December), would be fine for improving navigation but I’m afraid would only produce a deeper river basin which would in normal conditions fill up to the same surface level as before, so do nothing at all to improve flood control – only raising the river banks, which is the normal defence mechanism, or providing massive diversion culverts as in southern Spain.

(Dr) A McCormick

Kirkland Road, Terregles Dumfries

Trees of life

I smiled when I read Ken Houston’s assertion (Letters, 29 December) that “trees are not sacrosanct”, since he unwittingly denies that fundamental relationship between humans and trees which is still respected by indigenous societies. Humans have considered trees to be sacrosanct since the beginnings of our social and religious life, which took place under trees.

Trees provide shelter and protection for a multitude of species, including humans. An individual tree can host hundreds of insect and lichen species, so cutting down several healthy specimens purely to satisfy our demands for a pretty view could have a much bigger impact than he realises. Trees also help to prevent soil erosion, and, crucially, flooding. Our removal of trees in the past has been a contributory factor leading to winter flooding in recent years.

The most satisfying way to be enthralled by views of our beautiful Scottish scenery is to climb a hill or mountain. Nothing beats that experience. We demand instant, effortless connection with nature, but the view from a train gives us limited satisfaction, because we’re merely passing through, like characters in a play moving on to the next scene. There are multiple opportunities to enjoy nature’s beauty without having to sacrifice trees purely for that purpose.

Carolyn Taylor

Wellbank, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Sop to Syria

In response to John Connell’s article on the illumination of Edinburgh’s landmarks (“Street party offers ray of light for Syria”, 29 December), I find myself taken aback by the headline.

This is an event which heralds great celebration, and many sore heads the next day – I find it difficult to relate this to the trouble that Syria is experiencing and the little celebrating its people will do.

I respect the idea of raising awareness and unifying, yet I believe the country could be doing a lot more than turning on some lights.

It is interesting to note the inclusion of the number of tourists who are set to cross our border for this joyous event –“75,000”, yet questions remain over accepting those whom we are intending on “helping”, Syrian migrants.

Scott MacKenzie

Warriston Terrace, Edinburgh