National debt

AS EACH month passes, and figures are released, it is all too clear that the Chancellor’s targets are being repeatedly missed.

The deficit isn’t shrinking and the national debt continues to spiral totally out of control.

Austerity certainly hurts but it certainly isn’t working.

In common with this, David Cameron’s plans (if he really had any) to reduce immigration to controllable levels are clearly in shreds.

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In England, employees in education, the police and all aspects of the National Health Service tell us that they and their organisations are on the brink of collapse. Surely now is the time for the government to bite the bullet and enter into cross-party talks with that expert on Plan Bs, Alistair Darling.

Although Darling’s policies, when in office, have a lot to do with the mess we’re in, a credible Plan B is a must-have and seems unlikely to come from anyone but him, as he constantly reminded us during the referendum campaign.

However, in case he’s a bit rusty, here are a couple of suggestions from a mere layman like me. We still get more than 20 per cent of our energy from burning coal.

Stop importing it, and start digging some up. We still have millions of tons of it.

Visit the docks and see what other goods we are importing (there are plenty), and start manufacturing them instead. Use the money intended for Trident.

Joseph G Miller

Gardeners Street, Dunfermline

Nuclear deterrent

The assertion by Duncan Robertson (Letters, 6 October) that “70 years of relative stability throughout the world” can be attributed to the existence of nuclear weapons is doubly questionable.

Firstly, “relative stability” for whom?

Certainly not for the millions who have died or the millions more who have been displaced by the continuing armed conflicts that have afflicted the world throughout these 70 years in spite of nuclear weapons.

And secondly, the claim that nuclear deterrence has “worked” is hypothetical, cannot be substantiated, and is opinion only.

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Meanwhile, governments continue to be in thrall to the myth that the threat of mutually assured destruction guarantees our safety.

The real dangers we face are those of dehumanised suicidal terrorism against which nuclear capability is an irrelevance.

We need a more thoughtful, robust and realistic appraisal of what we mean by national security and how best to defend it.

Geoff Miller

Newtyle, Angus

Risky business

I refer to Peter Jones’s somewhat pessimistic economic analysis, “North Sea oil is a risky business” (Perspective 6 October). Seemingly in a few weeks’ time the rules limiting fossil fuel consumption could be increased.

Will this affect in any way consumers with oil and gas-fired central heating boilers?

One effect, presumably, if oil and gas production is cut, could be to increase the price.

Perhaps this would encourage more householders to invest in solar panels but without the generous subsidies.

Of course the Nationalist government is intent on wind and tide electricity generation policy by 2020.

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Arguably, “green fundamentalists” and “renewable obsessives” could well push increasingly for renewable electricity to replace oil and gas fired central heating.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie

Funeral poverty

Your article, “Funeral poverty rife in Scotland as grieving families struggle to cope” (6 October), made for disturbing reading as it clearly demonstrated that death is no escape from poverty.

But it was reassuring to read that the Scottish Government has commissioned a report into the massive 92 per cent increase in funeral cost over the past ten years, a figure clearly calling for justification and investigation by the funeral companies themselves. No family in the country escapes the reality of death and the massive emotional distress that follows.

So to have the stress of not being able to give one’s loved one a send-off because of financial pressures is totally unacceptable in a civilised society.

Perhaps pressure could be put on local authority charges incurred at crematoriums and funeral parlours and a cap on a basic funeral charge by funeral companies.

This would be a good start to the Scottish Government’s investigation into this very emotional issue.

Catriona C Clark

Hawthorn Drive, Falkirk

Royal High

I find the opposition by Save Britain’s Heritage, the leading heritage campaign group, to the luxury hotel planned for Royal High School site rather hypocritical (your report, 6 October).

When you consider their objections of it violating the A-listed landmark, they say it will “intrude horrifically” on views across the city.

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Why did they not show the same opposition to that horrific building we now call our Scottish Parliament? It is within a stone’s throw of the very same site.

This new hotel on Calton Hill will bring much-needed employment to our city and I am sure will also allow more tourist to visit, which will generate income to our economy.

Sometimes employment looks better than old buildings.

J Docherty

East Kilbride

Sturgeon failings

As a Labour supporter, I have no need of Nicola Sturgeon’s sympathy but I do feel so very sorry for those voters who have been conned into voting SNP, a party that has shown itself to be grossly financially incompetent with huge under-spends in education and social services.

The Michelle Thomson affair, the hand-out to the hugely profitable T in the Park, NHS targets missed on a daily basis and falling standards in our schools indicate a First Minister who is more interested in giving self-promoting interviews to flashy magazines than in the daily governance of Scotland.

My daughter had to explain to her certificate class that because the school could not afford a full set of textbooks, the pupils would have to share one between two and they would have no access to the book for homework assignments.

These young people will be sitting SQA exams next May. So much for Ms Surgeon’s much-vaunted promise to improve educational standards as one of her many “sacred duties”.

Some schools are now asking parents to buy essential textbooks and, sadly, that is the slippery slope to a two-tier education system.

Nicola Surgeon’s interview with Alastair Campbell indicates that she will continue with the rhetoric of grievance and division but it is now obvious that this SNP government, under her leadership, is incapable of dealing with the very complex and difficult issues facing our country.

Maureen Henry

Lammermuir Gardens, Glasgow

Wild salmon

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Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (your report, 7 October) have failed to mention that there are other rivers located along the east coast, where there are no salmon farms, that have failed to meet these new conservation limits.

In fact, only a handful of the largest rivers have been classified as category 1, allowing wild salmon to be killed for sport.

Catch data from the past 15 years show that wild salmon numbers along the west coast are actually quite stable and are not in decline due to the presence of salmon farms.

(Dr) Martin Jaffa

Callander McDowell, Manchester

Beam me up

I just read about Alex Salmond’s attempt to board a British Airways flight as Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. I suppose we should be grateful he wasn’t also dressed as his hero.

I wonder what Lt Uhuru, AKA Nicola Sturgeon, thinks of all this. I hope it won’t phaser too much and she allows Alex to klingon to his job as foreign affairs spokesman, in charge of all the SNP’s intergalactic relations.

Or will it be “astro la vista, baby”?

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Electric cars

George Shering (Letters, 6 October) is fortunate to be able to afford a top-of-the-range electric car, which he says does not use rare metals, and get a £5,000 govern. Other makes of electric cars do. “Rare earth” metals are used in everything from electric car batteries, solar panels and wind turbines to fluorescent light bulbs, smart phones and cruise missiles.

High-performance batteries need lithium. Neodymium is used in the powerful magnets to drive electric engines.

The move towards better technologies means an ever-increasing demand for exotic metals and thus health dangers from the toxic and radioactive waste generated by the mines and processing plants in China, Malaysia and Brazil.

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But I hear the cry that “electric cars will save the planet”.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Legal highs

There needs to be an urgent look at how the so-called “legal high” drug sales can be stopped before their use by younger people and even children gets completely out of control.

The police need to be backed up by some robust blanket cover legislation making it illegal to sell these dangerous concoctions to juniors and empowered to close down these high street traders without delay.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Mugiemoss Road, Aberdeen

Old Testament

Doug Clark (Letters, 6 October) could not be more wrong: Christians do not “choose to carry a very heavy load” of moral requirement.

Instead, they receive God’s gracious forgiveness, experiencing release from “a very heavy load” of guilt before God, and entering into a renewed relationship with Him.

The moral teaching of the Old Testament should not be judged on the basis of Mr Clark’s garbled misrepresentation of it.

Christians do not believe that all elements of Old Testament law still apply, and accept that some laws deal with the sub-optimum existing culture.

The process of interpreting Old Testament teaching for today is not a matter of arbitrary “pick’n’mix”, but of careful analysis in the light of New Testament teaching.

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Homosexual relationships are declared immoral in the Old Testament, as they are in the New, along with adultery, premarital sex, prostitution and incest. The charge that the Old Testament justifies slavery is just untrue.

It outlines a fair system of voluntarily offering future work for a fixed period in exchange for unpayable debt. This system is better described as servanthood than slavery.

I imagine that Mr Clark is uninterested in gaining such understanding, preferring instead to express his anti-religious hostility through indiscriminate mudslinging.

Richard Lucas

Broomyknowe, Edinburgh