Nerves of steel

Jim Craigen (Letters, 27 October) criticises the Scottish Government for not buying Scottish steel for the new Queensferry Crossing.

He obviously does not know that all the steel manufacturers in the UK were invited to tender for the work but not one was interested.

Their reason was that they did not have the necessary facilities to fabricate the large box sections and deck fabrications required.

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Until the closure of Ravenscraig in 1992 there were integrated and subsidiary steel industries throughout central Scotland, employing more than 10,000 people and easily capable of such work.

However, in recent years the rapid run down of these industries has left us and the rest of Western Europe almost totally dependent on China for raw steel and large fabrications.

If blame is to be laid at anyone’s door it is at the door of the nationalised steel industry which failed to modernise quickly enough in the 1980s to compete with the modern Chinese plants with their cheap labour and access to local iron ore.

Whether that would have made a difference today is difficult to say, but the Scottish Government are innocent of any blame for Chinese steel being used.

James Duncan

Rattray Grove, Edinburgh

Road to war

I entirely agree with Lesley Riddoch’s core argument on the consequences of the Iraq war (Perspective, 26 October), but why drag in an irrelevant and unconvincing comparison with the A9 road?

Riddoch says that “the Scottish Parliament had no cash for dualling the A9 but managed to find £8.5 million to improve security with a new entrance, scanning machines and retractable bollards”.

With the Scottish Government’s current price tag of £3 billion for its plan to dual the 80 miles of single-carriageway A9 between Perth and Inverness, that £8.5m would have funded just a quarter of a mile of new road!

Meantime, two thirds of the parallel railway are still single-track, with upgrades long delayed and government investment capped at just £600m.

David Spaven

Church Hill Drive, Edinburgh

Abellio treatment

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Barely six months into the new ScotRail franchise, Abellio has made a very bad start.

Indeed, many of us regular travellers have come to believe that Abellio is selling the nation short.

We passengers are now enduring all kinds of new hazards – trains that are shorter, trains that are cancelled through lack of rolling stock, trains that don’t stop at stations because of timetable problems, and (this I find incredible) trains that are replaced by buses because the trains are “too full”.

All this – and we remain stuck with third-rate trains that are the poorest-quality long-distance rolling stock in Europe.

Worse follows with Abellio’s new Club 50 scheme. Club 55 operated by First ScotRail applied a simple £19 go-anywhere-anytime fare (£17 with a Senior Railcard).

Club 50 offers 20 per cent discount online, and 10 per cent for personal booking, plus £10 to join.

Earlier this year, I took up the matter of the second-rate Club 50 with Phil Verster, managing director of ScotRail Alliance.

In his reply to me of 17 August, Mr Verster indulged in a piece of patronising unworthy of a leader of a national rail company.

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I’d informed him that with Club 55 I could (and did) frequently travel Aberdeen-Stranraer return with my Senior Railcard for £17.

His response is worth quoting in full: “With Club 50, the fare with the online discount of 20 per cent would be £86.40. Off-peak return with a Senior Railcard (is) £71.35, plus the annual Railcard fee of £30, making a total of £101.35.”

Not only are Mr Verster’s figures and fares the economics of madness, but his self-assumed superior stance is condescending, demeaning and belittling.

Does he really imagine that we passengers are mugs enough to think that we have to factor in the £30 annual cost of our railcards for one journey?

Further, the Club 50 Aberdeen-Stranraer return fare of £71.35 is a bankbook away from the Club 55 equivalent of £17.

Harsh fares, cancelled trains, fewer trains... is this the New Jerusalem as promised by Abellio in its franchise bid? If so, why didn’t Transport Scotland intervene?

Why doesn’t it now do so anyway?

Gordon Casely

Crathes, Kincardineshire

Nuclear fear

Henry L Philip (Letters, 26 October) rightly points out that all war is abhorrent, but he is wrong to equate casualties of nuclear war with those who are victims of other forms of bombing.

It is precisely the difference in the “scale of any one attack” which puts nuclear bombs at the top of any league table which measures the relative impact of various weapons on human beings.

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An atomic attack is not just another tragedy, as he suggests. It is not a random fatal accident which no-one could foresee. It is a colossal, premeditated crime against humanity.

It is difficult to accept the existence of a weapon whose legacy has haunted hundreds of thousands of people who experienced, or were ultimately affected by, the Second World War bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Apart from the direct deaths which decimated the populations of those cities, long-term sickness and disability resulted, including serious blood disorders like leukaemia.

Children were most severely affected by exposure to radiation, including those who were still in the womb, and some children remained emotionally and intellectually affected into adulthood.

The damage went far beyond those long-term physical effects, and included social disintegration and psychological and spiritual trauma.

The cumulative toll on society was enormous. Those victims who are still alive continue to experience psychological problems that include distressing flashbacks, and they remain susceptible to mental breakdown.

A 1979 study carried out by Japanese scientists and social workers into the impact of the bombings concluded that the magnitude of the atomic destruction “cannot be dismissed as just another hazard of war”.

They believed that “it is better termed genocide – for it is a complete negation of human existence.”

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We may or may not keep Trident, but what we must never do is minimise the scale of destruction which nuclear weapons can inflict on our fellow humans.

Carolyn Taylor

Wellbank, Broughty Ferry

With respect to Henry Philip, the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis was much more of a draw than is generally known.

The Americans had Jupiter C ballistic missiles stationed in Turkey, and these were given up in return for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

By an unpublicised agreement the USSR was allowed to station troops in Cuba, and this caused a row when their existence was rediscovered years later.

The greatest threat to peace was actually subsurface.

The Soviets had sent three non-air conditioned F-Class diesel submarines to the western Atlantic.

Each was armed with a nuclear tipped torpedo, which could be fired with the agreement of the Captain, the Political Officer, and the second in command.

One of the submarines had been detected and was being held down by a US hunter killer group, dropping signal charges which the Russians took for depth charges.

They were too deep to receive radio traffic, so had no idea if war had broken out.

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Fortunately, the senior officer of the deployment, Captain Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, was on board, though acting also as second in command of the boat, and he persuaded the Captain to surface and await orders from Moscow. Arkhipov’s career did not suffer, and he died a Vice Admiral in 1998.

In 1961 he had been second in command of an H-Class ballistic missile submarine which had a nuclear reactor accident in the north Norwegian Sea.

This was featured in the 2002 film K19 Widow Maker starring Harrison Ford.

Frank Donald

Tantallon Place, Edinburgh

HMS Pinafore

When Gilbert and Sullivan first performed HMS Pinafore in 1878, Britain really did rule the waves.

I was reminded, this week, of its famous song by the “Admiral of The Queen’s Navee” who explains how he rose to the top of the tree without actually ever going to sea!

This was against the backdrop of the news that RAF Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier has been put in charge of the £6.2 billion aircraft carrier project, the most important in decades.

These are the largest warships Britain has ever had.

It is claimed that he has no experience of carrier operations, or maritime warfare, and will be in charge of the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, their jets and helicopters yet, reportedly, he has never been to sea in a warship.

Is WS Gilbert rolling in his grave?

John V Lloyd

Keith Place, Inverkeithing

Hoodie bombs

Mid-October saw the commencement of the annual six-week blitzkrieg that brings a Damascus-like air to the autumn nights of every council estate in Scotland.

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I refer of course to the yearly campaign of terror unleashed on humans and animals alike by those with the IQ of the average house plant whose easy access to an endless arsenal of “over-the-counter” fireworks ensures maximum disruption to the peace of communities everywhere.

Why any responsible government would encourage this annual open season assault on the nerves of the nation with a “come one, come all” approach to fireworks’ sales is difficult to comprehend.

Surely legislation restricting the sale of such explosives to licensed display organisations only is the common sense approach.

It’s high time decisive action of some kind was taken to halt the head banger activities of Scotland’s hoodie bomb squads.

Martin Blackshaw

Glen Road, Livingston

Winter walks

For those who find winter a depressing time, my advice would be to get walking.

Walking has many benefits for our health but less frequently discussed is how it helps us remain positive and happy.

In fact, walking has been shown to reduce the risk of developing depression by 20 per cent.

Walking for just part of the journey to work can significantly boost our happiness levels, which is especially important during the winter months when many of us get up, travel in the dark and can find it hard to incorporate activity into 
the day.

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It stimulates endorphins, which help to improve sleep quality and reduce feelings of stress.

Walking is free, accessible and easy to build into everyday life.

Research suggests that active people are 30 per cent less likely to feel distressed and 30 per cent more likely to experience enhanced levels of wellbeing.

Tompion Platt

Living Streets

Wentworth Street, London