No time to shirk

I write on behalf of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland to congratulate The Scotsman on your editorial (“Scots must play their part in global climate battle”, 10 November). The problem of climate change is not for someone else, some time else; it is a problem for each one of us now.

As you rightly say: “None of us should shirk our individual responsibility to this dear green place.” It is, of course, logically, not just morally, flawed to argue that because what I can contribute is small I should do nothing at all. Certain types of challenge – the Second World War and slavery spring to mind – have always needed collective action and asked the question: “Am I prepared to play my small part in achieving a collective benefit or avoiding a collective catastrophe?” On this occasion the individual and collective benefit for all future generations of fast action and the cost of inaction have become ever more ­apparent.

I would only add that it is not just “scientists and environmental campaigners” who are warning of the dangers of climate change. The warnings come from every sector of society (climate change has been described as “the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century” in the British Medical Journal).

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Bank of England governor Mark Carney put it well: “While there is still time to act, the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking. The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come.”

On 28 November the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to play our part in building momentum for action at the crucial talks on climate change in Paris in December. Thousands are expected to take part in Scotland’s Climate March from the Meadows in Edinburgh to Princes Street Gardens, starting at noon. It is an occasion, not to wait for someone else to do it, but to speak for ourselves and our children in support of the moral, social and economic imperative for action. I hope Scotsman readers will be there.

Tom Ballantine

Chair, Stop Climate
Chaos Scotland

Rose Street, EdinburghHigh price to pay

Any argument over tramway construction costs always seems to surface in Scotland in cut-and-dried form. Not much change from 2008. 

The figures now being quoted for the double-track York Place-Ocean Terminal extension are £144 million for four kilometres, or £36m per km. We are currently planning the urban section of the Tuebingen Stadtbahn (also standard-gauge double-track) which has reached a similar stage of development. It will cost €111m (£79m) for 10km or less than a third of the Edinburgh cost-per-km. Tuebingen will have to buy rolling stock, but the vehicles already exist for the Edinburgh line. So why the astronomical difference? 

One important document must be studied and evaluated by both sides: the Chartered Institute of Building’s September 2013 Report on Corruption in the UK Construction Industry (25pp) which argued that even the new 2011 Bribery Act was a dead letter, and that price-fixing cartels operated unchecked.

This is a shaming indictment and must be read by all councillors and ministers concerned. 
They could do worse than consult their Partnerstadt Munich, scene of a big tram revival. At the time of the original tram stushie I phoned my contact in the Munich Transport Administration. Had Edinburgh been in touch? Not a letter, not a tweet. I wonder if things have improved.

Prof Christopher Harvie

High Cross Avenue
Melrose, Scottish Borders

Bloody disgrace

Regarding the article (“Bloody Sunday ‘murders’”, 11 November) at least in post-apartheid South Africa there was a recognition that terrible deeds had been done by both sides in the country’s recent past, and the sensible thing was to draw a line under them and start again.

Our government has been too spineless to insist on the same here in relation to the Troubles. As a result former IRA operatives who committed all kinds of terrible premeditated murders are exempt from ­prosecution while former British Army old age pensioners, who thought they had been serving the interests of our country in Northern Ireland, are hounded by police over snap decisions 
taken in dangerous and ­chaotic situations half a century ago. You really couldn’t make it up. 

Irvine Inglis

Reston, BerwickshireLondon Scottish

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I was intrigued by the reports of a conversation between the Queen and Sir Simon Hughes, as retold by the former Liberal Democrat MP.

Her Majesty commented on the increase in the “number of Scots” at Westminster. This is curious as the number of Scottish MPs has in fact decreased from 71 to 59 since she came to the throne. Sir Simon then peculiarly equates a “rise” in the number of Scots with the success of the SNP, which captured 56 of the 59 seats at the last Westminster General Election.

Far be it from me to criticise the good Sir Simon, but there have been Scottish MPs in the House of Commons for some time, most of them from parties other than the SNP. And, as highlighted, this number has fallen over recent years.

It is clearly disappointing to see such narrow nationalism from a former Lib Dem MP who equates “Scottish” MPs to being SNP. It is maybe now the case that Scottish MPs, as identified by both Her Majesty and Sir Simon, are at last being noticed and standing up for Scotland.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

The dry season

In the Now & Then column (Obituaries, 11 November) it was noted that in 2010 the Scottish Government had introduced various items of legislation to counteract binge drinking.

For the past five years I have never understood the 10am “watershed” for sales – surely a serious binge drinker will not have surfaced by then?

And what about the citizen who wants to do an early supermarket shop and then get on with their day?

What do the statistics say about the results of the legislation?

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Another successful intrusion into the everyday lives of normal people by the Scottish Government?

Roland MacLeod

Grinnan Road
Braco, Dunblane

Losing argument

The SNP has at last hinted at what it may do with part of its increased tax-raising powers, to be devolved under the forthcoming Scotland Act.

It looks like Finance Secretary John Swinney’s first major income tax decision will mirror Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s plan not to raise the threshold at which the comfortably-off pay higher rate tax, as is planned for the rest of the UK by 2020. 

Mr Swinney believes this is progressive, citing the SNP’s tax increase for more expensive properties as an example of shifting the burden of taxation to the better-off. This is undoubtedly the case, though the jury’s still out as to whether the overall tax yield will be increased by the tax which replaces stamp duty; if not, then Mr Swinney’s decision will be little more than selectively ­punitive. 

The Finance Secretary will need to take care that any increase in income tax doesn’t drive workers out of the job market – by say choosing early retirement or considering part-time working. Plus ­longer-term, the better off are historically more mobile – why work in ­Glasgow when you can secure a better take-home pay in ­Newcastle?

Tactically the SNP and Labour’s income tax plans for those earning over £43,600 present problems for both ­parties in next year’s Holyrood elections. Tax increases are vote losers. Few doubt the SNP will do well next May but we could also witness hard-working middle-class families shifting their allegiance away from Scotland’s two largest parties to the Conservatives. This demographic largely votes Tory in England – perhaps they’ll start to do so again in Scotland?

Martin Redfern

Royal Circus, EdinburghTwitter ye not

Ages ago, The Scotsman, like many other newspapers, published anonymous letters by correspondents who used obscure pseudonyms. Fortunately this was eventually stopped and all letters have to carry a full address and telephone number (though only an abbreviated address is published). 

Unfortunately, some anonymity has returned with the use of Twitter, where many tweets are pseudonymous. This is regrettable because we have the right to know the authors of the expressed opinions, which are often trite, ignorant and/or provocative.

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It is true that we can discover a tweeter’s real name from Twitter, but why can’t you show it? We could also respond to a tweet via Twitter.

What’s more regrettable is that your Letters pages have been invaded by a panel of tweets, which squats like a cuckoo pushing aside letters, which seem to be fewer now. 
Presumably this is all part of the newly designed Scotsman, with its mickey-mouse typefaces and lack of letters. 
Please give Twitter the bird and give more space to well-thought-out letters, like this one.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, EdinburghAnti-celebrity

Even allowing for the fact that the word celebrity has been diluted in recent times, it should not be beyond ITV to attract contestants for its “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” show who can entertain or inform us because they can sing, dance, act, play sport, do impressions, tell jokes, discuss news and current affairs, tell of their charity work or caring responsibilities, or a particular interest such as fashion,cookery or art.

Instead, ITV goes again for the lowest common denominator by inviting some who have the sexual morality of rabbits, who are notorious for heavy drinking, or infamous for their vacuous rants against others.

Clearly, any concern about excessive drinking or sexual and mental health is completely trumped by the desire for ratings and revenue. Sadly, this does not protect vulnerable youngsters who may be influenced by such programmes.

John V Lloyd

Keith Place
Inverkeithing, Fife

Human failings

Those who profess secularism disregard the reality that western democracy owes its origins to the Reformation: the impact of the Renaissance on Christianity. If we abandon our heritage and history, we will only succeed in destroying all the freedoms and privileges we now enjoy.

If we are honest we should recognise that the failures of religion are the common failures of humanity, which are endemic and universal. The root of all evil is not religion, but man himself.

Ian L Forrester

Bennochy Avenue
Kirkcaldy, Fife