No justification

IT IS not only the published evidence, but also 14 years of experience as a consultant paediatrician, which leads me to wholeheartedly refute the claim that the 'current law on smacking is right' (Comment, 13 February).

If smacking were a drug, its licence would be withdrawn. It doesn’t work to improve a child’s behaviour in the long term: conversely, it can cause them to have more aggressive, antisocial behaviour, or problems with self esteem, anxiety or depression. Not everyone will suffer those ill effects, but some will, and it is those whom a change in the legislation will protect. I see them in my paediatric practice, and out there in the adult world as well. In the absence of potential benefit to anyone, there is no justification, in a civilised society, for continuing to have a law that condones the assault of children as ‘justifiable’.

I was born before we knew the link between prone sleeping and cot death. My mother may have placed me on my belly, but with subsequent knowledge, she wouldn’t do the same for her grandchildren. No loving parent (or grandparent) wants to ignore the evidence of what works in raising children healthy and happy. Surely no politician should fear any public backlash when helping Scotland join the 47 other nations around the world who have already evidenced the benefits of removing any remaining legal defences that allow children to be hit?

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Dr Lucy Reynolds

Doune Quadrant, Glasgow

Delivering justice

It is very encouraging that the new Lord President has taken such an enlightened and forward-looking approach to the Scottish court system (Lord president aiming to move Scots courts into the future, 12 February).

This is the latest signal that leaders in the legal profession in Scotland appreciate the need to change the way services are provided in the 21st century. There will be resistance of course. Paradigm shifts are not easy for many to accept. But Lord Carloway deserves support.

In addition to enhancing the services of the courts and those who work in them, it is useful to note that, in many countries, much is being done to reduce the pressure on, and use of, the courts overall. This is really a subset of a general recognition of the value of “preventative spend”. Imaginative ways to ensure that courts really are a last resort are being found in both criminal and civil matters. In Scotland, this could be combined with new approaches to dealing with drugs and other offences. In civil cases, the greater use of Ombuds services, family relationship guidance and mediation can make a big difference.

Ultimately, we face choices about the allocation and use of resources. We may well be on the cusp of learning that there is real value in less adversarial and retributive approaches to society’s problems and that the benefits socially, economically and culturally will be important for Scotland’s future.

John Sturrock QC

York Place, Edinburgh

A real imposition

Obviously the First Minister does not do irony. Criticising Jeremy Hunt for imposing a new contract on junior doctors against their wishes, she insists such tactics would never happen in Scotland (Sturgeon slams Tory treatment of junior doctors in England, 12 February).

Am I the only local authority councillor who is appalled by her double standards as she imposes the most draconian cuts to our council budgets against our wishes.

Councillor Maureen Henry

East Dunbartonshire Council (Labour)

John Douglas (Letters, 13 February) says it’s time for junior doctors to take their gloves off in their fight with the Tory UK Health Secretary. He may be missing the whole point.

The Conservative government have a long term health policy. And by imposing new contracts and seeing junior doctors possibly leave the service in droves, it is another step towards privatising the NHS.

The NHS in Scotland may be devolved, but this is a policy Scotland will follow should the Scottish Conservatives ever again get to control the levers of power.

Eric Christison

Craighouse Gardens, Edinburgh

Bright sparks

There is nothing wrong with some blue sky thinking backed up by active research (George Shering, Letters 13 February) so long as this does not lead us to dispense with down-to-earth common sense.

If we are to aspire to Scandinavian levels of electricity usage, that means about 50 kilowatt hours per day per person. If that is to be supplied entirely from intermittent renewable sources then of course we require this to be via storage. To put this into perspective we should note that a single car battery stores only 500 watt hours, so for just a single day’s storage for our little country alone we would require the equivalent of 500 million such batteries.

It is estimated that there is in the region of 1,000 years of stored energy for the whole world population in nuclear fuels. Where does common sense suggest our efforts should be directed ?

Dr A McCormick

Kirkland Road, Terregles, Dumfries


Regarding the difficult times for Scottish farmers (Rural economy ‘grinding to a halt’ over cash delays, 12 February).

Scottish farmers are going through the worst of times with low grain and milk prices and horrendous weather and floods and the last thing they needed is to be let down by the Scottish Government with the bungling of a £180 million IT system leaving them high and dry without any subsidy payments and no funds to pay outstanding bills.

It would be comforting to see some compensation payment clauses in the failed IT system to give those farmers interest payments to compensate for their unacceptable wait but that may have been too prudent a move for a government contract.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Join and vote

In the late 1950s and 1960s a number of Labour figures were alarmed about splits in the party over unilateral nuclear disarmament. I picked up one of the two volumes of Michael Foot’s great work on Aneurin Bevan the other day and read in 1957 my cousin Sam Watson, leader of the Durham Mineworkers, was brought in to chair a committee and try to restore some unity. Sam failed to work his usual magic on this occasion and the Labour Party continues 60 years later to still have the debate.

All a person can do as a Labour supporter is to join the party, keep their membership up to date, go along to branch meetings and vote for mandated conference delegates, who will represent their point of view and vote accordingly at a Labour Conference. To do that first it requires Labour supporters to make up their own mind of course. The agony of the Labour Party is the same dilemma most right thinking people feel about the subject. No one wants nuclear weapons. Can we do without them?

Nigel F Boddy

Fife Road, Darlington

Devolution deficit

Since 2008 Scotland has had nine years of consecutive council tax freezes that have saved average Scottish Families £1,500 over this time period. The equivalent family in England have had piecemeal council tax freezes and now face additional council tax increases.

The devolution deficit that exists in England is penalising low and middle income families. Those who live in England now need an English parliament.

There should be equal devolution for Scotland and equal devolution for England. The council tax is regressive and penalises those on fixed incomes. It is also bureaucratically expensive to collect. Limits should now be placed upon tax rises. This new poll tax should be abolished. Scottish and English voters want this tax abolished.

I believe it is not progressive to tax people into the ground, especially families and old age pensioners, be they English or Scottish. We should all be treated equally.

Oliver Healey

Fox House, Leicester

Not so strong

In December the pound/euro exchange rate was about 1.42 euros to the pound. On Friday it was under 1.28 euros to the pound – more than a 10 per cent drop. Politicians and the news media have been strangely quiet about this. On Question Time on Thursday, a member of the panel yet again attributed some of Britain’s ills to “the strength of the pound”. But then up popped Nigel Farage (whose policies I have no time for) to say the unsayable: the pound is sinking, and lazy politicians can no longer blame its strength for anything. On this occasion I had to agree with him.

Alan Hamilton

Gordon Crescent, Bridge of Allan

Reason to leave

Independent auditors have refused to sign off the EU’s latest financial accounts saying that £4.5 billion of European taxpayers’ money was misspent and was “irregular and possibly illegal”.

This is now the 21st year that auditors have refused to give the EU accounts a clean bill of health. Companies doing this would be struck off and not allowed to trade.

Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands refused to approve these accounts but they were outvoted by the other 25 EU finance ministers.

David Cameron’s dream is to stay in the EU but to have the power of a “red card” to block rules we do not like being imposed by Brussels.

This is highly unlikely since he would need 14 of the 28 nations in the EU to support him but we have repeatedly seen in the past how nations have ganged up against Britain on issues such as immigration, refugees and welfare caps on migrants.

It is yet another reason to leave this corrupt, unaccountable, uncontrollable, dictatorial and mega-expensive colossus.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Laws of the game

After watching Saturday’s “scrumathons” from Paris and Cardiff I must comment on Friday night’s match between Wales U20s v Scotland U20s when the first scrum did not take place until the 47th minute – surely a record of some sort. In a game the Scottish lads did not deserve to lose they were ‘undone’ right at the end by the winning Welsh penalty kick on the say-so of the touch judge but the referee did not spot anything untoward and, on the replay, neither did the commentators.

Meanwhile, in the Wales v Scotland match, all of the officials missed that the Wales No 9 played the ball in an off-side position, which resulted in their first and, ultimately, decisive try. It was referred to the TMO and the question arises – can a TMO hear the crowd’s reaction through the ref’s mike?

Scotland have every right to feel aggrieved. Although Wales were the better team overall, the game has to be played by the rules.

Andrew Suddon

Longhope Drive, Hawick