Miracle missiles

The First Minister, as are many others, is concerned that more bombing in Syria will lead to more civilian casualties (Your report, 2 December).

What she and they are overlooking is the revelation by the Prime Minister that, uniquely, the RAF has a wonder weapon: the Brimstone missile. Released over a city, it pin-points a building where jihadis are sheltering, goes in the door, unerringly singles out the bad guys and eliminates them in a puff of smoke without harming anyone else.

This is clearly an incredibly precise weapon – and a snip at possibly no more than £100,000 a pop (plus delivery charges outwith the UK mainland). The mystery is that other countries,not even the United States, do not have it.

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S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Brimstone bother

Peter Jones (Perspective, 1 December) said that the bombing in Syria would benefit from having access to the British precision Brimstone missile. This assertion was repeated on Radio Scotland yesterday. Could The Scotsman help to dispel this myth by pointing out that the UK sold the Brimstone system to the Royal Saudi Air Force some time ago and they have been in use in Syria since February.

The overall effect of the bombing on Daesh has been minimal – and who could forget the information from the Ministry of Defence last year which indicated that our aircraft in Iraq had succeeded in taking out a couple of SUVs, a flat bed truck and an unmanned control post.

That cost several million pounds. When one considers that if each sortie of two of our elderly Tornadoes released its payload of Brimstones and Paveways, it will cost the country more than £1 million a time.

As Dr Evan Lloyd (Letters, 2 December) points out, it’s astonishing how, even in times of the need for extreme austerity trumpeted by the government, endless amounts of money can be found for war.

Douglas Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

New strategy

There is little doubt that Islamic State terrorists need to be eradicated, but for the UK to start bombing after months of bombing by many other countries is a somewhat pointless waste of time and will lead to more innocent people being killed.

The cowardly IS terrorists are now well integrated in the villages and towns in Syria, hiding in schools and hospitals.

A new strategy needs to be developed by those involved instead of constant ineffective bombing.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Party battles

When I read the contributions to The Scotsman by Alan Hinnrichs (Letters, 2 December), I am always struck by the similarities to Jurassic Park that flood into my mind. Mr Hinnrichs is a relic of the Cold War.

Mr Hinnrichs has now been joined by a leader of the Labour Party who is another echo whose time is very much past.

The Labour Party has been subject to a takeover by extreme elements of the Far Left, much as happened in the 1980s.

The war that Mr Corbyn wishes to avoid is one which affects us all and there is no way that either he, or Alan Hinnrichs, can try to hide away from our obligations as a leading power.

Mr Hinnrichs and Mr Corbyn would like nothing better than to undermine and destroy the strength of this country and they must be stopped, much as the Parliamentary Labour Party will soon have to prevent the latter from achieving his ambitions by replacing him.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive, Edinburgh

An unwanted bill

No-one should be surprised that universities are unconvinced by reassurances from the Scottish Government regarding the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill (Your report, 
1 December).

This government has developed an unhealthy reputation for letting their centralising and controlling instincts have free rein in so many aspects of life in Scotland.

Professor Jim Naismith of the University of St Andrews joins a long list of concerned voices in the sector as he warns this legislation “seriously threatens” the autonomy of Scottish universities.

The proposed bill is an example of new legislation being developed without any identified problems to address. Rather, it inserts government interference into a process that was independently able to operate perfectly effectively.

It is as unwelcome as, say, trying to introduce some degree of state involvement into every family in Scotland. But of course the SNP have already done that, haven’t they?

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Third sector help

I read with interest the Scottish Government report, Pulling Together: Transforming Urgent Care For The People Of Scotland: The Report Of The Independent Review Of Primary Care Out Of Hours Services, and welcome the implications it has for improvement to care and the patient experience.

At Samaritans, we agree wholeheartedly that “People seeking help need to see the right professional at the right time, according to need”.

Our volunteers provide people with crucial space and time to talk about their feelings; they listen unconditionally and with empathy. Samaritans’ support is most called upon out of hours, with calls, texts and emails peaking after 7pm and at weekends. Demand has risen consistently in the last five years.

We are pleased that the report fully recognises the role of organisations outside of the NHS, such as those in the third sector, which provide invaluable support to people at places and times that they cannot access traditional sources of help. The review provides a key opportunity for the NHS to strengthen relationships with third sector organisations, and create solutions to improve out-of-hours services.

No matter what someone’s urgent condition, we should have appropriate services in place to meet those needs. Suicide takes the lives of around 700 people in Scotland every year and we must ensure that urgent care resource hubs are as equipped to deal with an emotional crisis as a broken leg.

The planned pilot programme of Distress Brief Interventions is to be welcomed as a way to ensure that health professionals are enabled to signpost those in emotional crisis to appropriate sources of support.

Those at risk of suicide deserve our care, attention and support. Samaritans volunteers up and down the country are here whenever they are needed. Our NHS must be there too.

James Jopling

Executive Director, Samaritans Scotland, Edinburgh

Airport upgrade

The recent upgrade in security screening at Edinburgh Airport has been lambasted as very slow, shouty, and over-fussy. Surely a price worth paying to feel safer? Except that it doesn’t seem to work.

I flew from Edinburgh recently – but was horrified, at my destination, to find in the recesses of my jacket a small, razor-sharp craft knife which I sharpen pencils with.

Very careless of me, and by rights I should have been taken aside, interrogated and probably missed my flight. So how is it possible that for all the huffing and puffing and expensive security measures in place, I was able to get anywhere near a plane?

David Roche

Coupar Angus

Tracking troubles

Before 9am yesterday, one train on the Borders Railway was cancelled, two arrived in Edinburgh 12 minutes late, one left Edinburgh 19 minutes late and the 7.27am from Tweedbank arrived 22 minutes late.

The defence of “teething problems” as the reason for delays on this new railway (Your report, 2 December), so routinely trotted out by Transport Scotland and the ScotRail Alliance, is well beyond its sell-by date. The new Airdrie to Bathgate railway opened at the end of 2010 to little fanfare, and had very few teething problems, mainly related to a slight delay in the completion of some intermediate stations, amidst awful weather. This service runs very reliably, despite having an intensive 15-minute frequency and a long-distance service (68 miles from Edinburgh to Helensburgh).

Its reliability is achieved because it is a double-track electrified railway, with services operated by modern trains.

Too many people in government believed the Borders Railway would be a white elephant running empty trains. These people insisted on a penny-pinching budget both for construction and operation, with only nine miles of double track, and elderly diesel trains providing the service. Their legacy is the disruption we see on the line with persistent frequency.

While Transport Scotland may claim to be working with ScotRail to “maintain” high standards, the reality is that the attainment of high standards is a long way off, and will not be achieved until the deficiencies of the railway’s design are rectified. This will cost many millions and is unlikely to be given any priority.

Sadly, for folk in Midlothian and the Borders who waited so long for their railway to return, they will have another long wait for a reliable service.

Robert Drysdale

Ocean Drive, Edinburgh

Home truths

I write on behalf of the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland to welcome the recent commitment from Scottish Labour to campaign for a Warm Homes Act. This is a key 2016 Holyrood elections manifesto suggestion not just from this alliance, but also the broad coalition of civic society that is represented by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.

More than 50 per cent of Scotland’s energy use comes from heating our buildings and homes. However, less than 
4 per cent of this is met by renewable fuel and only 1 per cent comes from district heating.

At the same time, with 39 per cent of Scottish households living in fuel poverty, it is clear that a step change in approach is required if we are to ensure households don’t have to choose between heating and eating.

A Warm Homes Act that supports the deployment of district heating and renewable heat, creates new fuel poverty ­targets and strengthens minimum standards of energy efficiency performance will have many benefits. It will bring low carbon and affordable warmth to thousands of households and businesses, create thousands of jobs by kick-starting a new industry, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

We look forward to hearing more detail about Scottish Labour’s proposal and seeing similar plans from the other ­parties for tackling fuel ­poverty and reducing the carbon ­emissions of Scotland’s housing stock.

Alan Ferguson

Chairman, Existing Homes ­Alliance Scotland