Manifesto no

WAITING for the SNP's manifesto to be published is like waiting for a magician to take the stage. We all know we are going to see some political sleight of hand as they distract us from failures on so many of their own targets over the course of the last nine years. There will also be some deft playing down of their overriding ambition to break up the UK.

But if the polls are right and they secure their absolute majority make no mistake, come the summer this magician will whisk away the cloak to reveal their real purpose as they re-start a whole new round of divisiveness seeking to engineer a second independence referendum.

Keith Howell

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West Linton, Peeblesshire

Why are the political parties so slow to publish their manifestos for the May Holyrood elections?

In particular, since it’s unlikely anyone but the nationalists will form the next Scottish government, why is Nicola Sturgeon’s manifesto being published just over two weeks before polling day? And crucially, after many of us – apparently as many as 25 per cent – became eligible last week to vote by post?

The SNP often publishes its manifesto late. It is, of course, the chameleon party that claims to be all things to all men – the champion of targeted anti-austerity measures for the less well-off and the advocate of universal middle class benefits. So, when Nicola Sturgeon at last graciously informs us of our fate on Wednesday we can expect her, as per usual, to have cherry-picked from other parties’ manifestos whichever policies du jour she hopes might appeal just now.

Every party lectures one another on transparency. Indeed, the SNP regularly enjoys assuming the moral high ground for Holyrood vis a vis Westminster on openness and honesty.

So would not the cause of transparency – and indeed, our democratic process – have been furthered by all parties publishing their manifestos when the election campaign officially commenced at the end of March?

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, Edinburgh

Defending PFI

The “facts” used by Mary Thomas (Letters, 18 April), like so much of the smoke and mirrors stuff that comes from the SNP, have to be examined closely.

Firstly, she makes the elementary “apples and pears” error of comparing the capital cost of erecting a building with the lifetime costs of the contract.

She also makes the mistake of claiming that small revenue underspends could have been used for capital projects. Revenue can never be used for capital projects but, even if it had been, the amount available could not have looked at the massive amount required to replace all the crumbling schools and hospitals that had been neglected for 18 years, not just in Edinburgh but all over Scotland. PFI and PPP were the only means of raising so much at that time to avoid forcing several more generations to work in dreadful conditions.

Then she claims that the SNP “built” over 300 schools in its first term. Leaflets from SNP candidates are more careful in their wording. They only claim “completions.” In fact, all they did then was take credit for “opening” schools and hospitals that were started by the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration. Indeed, it was many years before the SNP started the process of building anything new.

She also claims that the SNP’s Non-Profit Distributing model will be less expensive, but there is mounting evidence that this is little more than a change of name. For example, the Aberdeen Western peripheral route (built for £469 million) will ultimately cost taxpayers £1.45 billion over 30 years, Glasgow’s super campus (built for £193m) will cost £600m, and selling the Western Isles ferry to Lloyds and then leasing it back to CalMac could cost £100m.

Finally, I note that she completely ignores the fact that the present crisis was caused by bad construction, not PPP or bad design.

Henry L Philip

Grange Loan, Edinburgh

Plovers are over

RSPB Scotland’s position on Gordonbush windfarm has been clear since at least 2003 when we first objected to a windfarm proposed for the site (Letter from Lyndsey Ward, The Scotsman, 18 April). Despite our best efforts, we were not successful in stopping the development but we did help ensure a detailed research project was secured. That research has now been published. Sadly, it has confirmed our worst fears. Golden plover have almost disappeared from the site during the first two years of the windfarm’s operation.

We will need many more windfarms if we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimise the damaging impacts of climate change already affecting our wildlife. However, RSPB Scotland will continue to oppose proposals that would harm our most important places for wildlife when there are many less damaging alternative sites available.

That is why we currently remain in resolute opposition to the Strathy South windfarm, proposed for an even more sensitive site in the heart of the internationally important peatland habitats of the Flow Country. Windfarm sites like Gordonbush and Strathy South not only put wildlife at risk, they damage the reputation of an industry that we all desperately need to succeed.

Aedán Smith

Head of Planning and Development, RSPB Scotland

Your article regarding the vast decline of the golden plover as a result of the Gordonbush wind farm was certainly ironic. In 2015, the Heather Trust introduced, on their website, the three finalists for the Golden Plover Award. Gordonbush, managed by SSE, was one of them.

Luckily, Gordonbush did not win. If they had, how embarrassing would that have been for the Heather Trust today, especially as SSE are trying to extend the wind farm by nearly 50 per cent? The winner received a nice picture of The Golden Plover.

What a pity Gordonbush didn’t get one as well. If SSE’s wind farm is increased any further, visitors to Gordonbush in the future will probably only get a chance to see the bird on canvas.

Mary Young

Birch Road, Killearn, Glasgow

Modest proposal

So, some teachers are unwilling to fulfil their Named Person duties during the school holidays.

In the spirit of public service, I would like to volunteer to take oversight of the wellbeing of two children over the school holiday periods. I will monitor their programme of activities daily and observe their level of happiness regularly. I will intervene to address any issues that arise and refer them for professional help if required. If enough adults shared my commitment to supporting the SNP’s grand plan to look after children, all children could be covered in a similar way.

Obviously, a committee of social workers, educationalists, politicians and health professionals will need to look at the issue carefully, but I tentatively propose that children could be allocated to their own parents under this scheme.

If trials of parents looking after their own children in school holidays are successful, the next stage could be to roll out the programme to cover termtime as well.

Preliminary research indicates that almost all parents are willing to take on this responsibility without payment, but the cost of training them all in the SNP’s official state parenting philosophy might prove prohibitive.

Richard Lucas

Colinton, Edinburgh

New Voters, Welcome to the crazy world of politics! It has occurred to me that perhaps the Named Person Scheme should be introduced, across the board, without delay. That way, the new members of the voting public, aged 16-18, will have someone to hold their hand at the polling station.

Clare Chalmers

Braidwood Bridge, Midlothian

Facts, not mud

I have to admit I find myself in agreement with George Osborne in his reaction to the remarks of some Brexiters: “Every time you cry wolf about Project Fear you only expose how weak your case is.”

It is regrettable that the EU referendum has already descended to the same depths as the independence referendum, with taunts of “scaremongering” and “talking Britain down” sounding pathetically familiar.

Let’s hope as the debate goes on that the electorate will be treated respectfully and, when presented with facts concerning the risks of leaving, be provided with reasoned argument rather than empty-headed mudslinging.

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Taking the water

I was thrilled to learn of the discovery of how to use urine to produce electricity (The Scotsman, 18 April) .

Could this eventually mean that instead of being charged to use certain public conveniences one might be offered an inducement to do so – even if it were only a free drink to encourage a speedy return.

Unfortunately it will take some time to set up such a scheme and I fear – nay,I am certain – I shall not be able to hang on for so long.

‘Scuse me…

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh