Polling options

The Scotsman (Comment, 25 January) claims that Labour could lose all its consitiuency seats in the May election; this is possible given the split in the Unionist vote (spread over three parties), together with a first-past-the-post electoral system.

This leads to the point of tactical voting for this election – if the Unionist vote in each constituency rallied around the strongest Unionist party, then Labour could win many such seats. 
This is doable, as the electors have two votes; vote tactically in your constituency seat, then vote for the party of your natural choice in the second ballot – over to you, unionist parties.

William Ballantine 

Dean Road, Bo’ness, West Lothian

Bill Jamieson’s article about the poor results from UK opinion polls during the past year (Perspective, 21 January), together with your previous editorial (4 January), paint a very poor picture of the credibility of the polling industry.

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Similar poor results are occurring in other countries, notably in the United States. In fact, the debate in the US appears to be more advanced than here, with one Harvard historian commenting that polls were becoming so unreliable that they could actually be undermining democracy, and called for an overhaul of how they are used.

Despite this concern, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been quoted as saying (Letters, 12 January) that, if she believes there is a consistent majority in opinion polls, she will press for a second referendum. Even without the above comments, opinion polls should not be allowed to influence important political decisions. After all, they are merely opinions given on the whim of the moment.

(Dr) Gordon Cochrane

Dargai Terrace, Dunblane, Perthshire

At the oil pumps

Once again an SNP politician is allowed to get away with the claim that the White Paper’s oil revenue forecasts were in line with everyone else’s at the time. This is simply not true.

In Sunday’s interview on the Andrew Marr Show, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon repeated the carefully constructed misdirection that the White Paper used similar predictions of the oil price to the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Of course, the price per barrel is only one factor in how much revenue is generated - production levels, extraction costs and the tax regime all have their own impact. The SNP chooses to use the most optimistic forecast possible for each of these factors, thereby producing a set of scenarios that were unrealistic to the point of fantasy.

Fraser Whyte

Barclay Park, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire

I note with some interest that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is on record saying that there is “Some distance to travel” in respect of funding negotiations with Westminster.

I would rather suspect she will never accept what is being offered by Westminster as satisfactory no matter how generous the settlement might be.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn, Aberdeen

After Andrew Marr’s forelock-tugging school-newspaper interview with Nicola Sturgeon on Sunday is it not time we got Andrew Neil to interview her, or failing that one of the other BBC current affairs anchors who aren’t afraid to ask a searching question and persevere until they get an answer, such as Eddie Mair, Gary Robertson or Jeremy Vine. The others can’t lay a glove on her.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

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Before rushing to praise the strength of the Union Scotland still finds itself in (Letters, 25 January) Michael Hogg should first consider a few hard facts.

Firstly, prior to the referendum, the UK experts he has so much faith in projected higher oil revenues than the SNP. Secondly, oil was only ever 15 per cent of Scotland’s economy and there is so much more to this small country of ours.

Thirdly, there are hundreds of independent countries who exist economically efficiently without oil. In the UK, manufacturing output continues to shrink and with it exports. The trade gap continues to grow. We have come to some pass when we hear Chancellor George Osborne trumpet that we had “only” had to borrow £74 billion compared with £81bn for the same time last year, to fund the deficit.

Mr Osborne chooses not to mention that the UK national debt is over £1.5 trillion and it takes over £50bn just to service the interest. Repayment is not an option for an economy fuelled largely by consumer debt and economists are warning that such an economy is ill-prepared to withstand global shocks such as the ­contraction of the Chinese economy. 

So as the prospect of another recession grows, it’s a little too early to be smug about ­Scotland remaining a member of the Union of the United Kingdom.

Douglas Turner 

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Dominance issue

With reference to your contributor John Birkett (Letters, 25 January) I agree with his statements about Angela Merkel and Germany running the EU for Germany’s benefit. Looked at overall Germany has now achieved what it failed to achieve by two World Wars: total domination of Europe not militarily but financially and politically.

And the result is not to Europe’s benefit and certainly not good for the UK. Europe is probably in a more dangerous state now than any time since the end of the last war. We need out for Europe’s and our own sake.

Ian Ross

Eden Hermitage, Edinburgh

The unwelcome tsunami of 1.25 million migrants into Europe last year could cause the break-up of the entire expensive, undemocratic European Union edifice.

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Europe’s border-free travel zone will soon be suspended, perhaps for ever.There are already conflicts over barricades diverting migrants to other countries.

Member states are refusing to accept an EU quota system for refugees and many are forcing migrants to pay for their upkeep.

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, warned: “It’s Europe that could die, not just the Schengen area”.

The Swedish and Dutch prime ministers have warned that the EU had only weeks to avoid a meltdown.

Turmoil will then lead to the demise of the euro.

The proposed UK referendum on Europe may hopefully not be needed after all.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road

Linlithgow, West Lothian

Desperate pleas

I am in full support of the governments announcement for a voluntary regulator to clean up the charities sector, this is something I believe is long overdue.

Many people, including myself, are sick of aggressive and manipulative advertising campaigns from big charities through the mass media and via mailshots through letterboxes. This has got to stop. The money spent on these campaigns could be spent helping the people the charities represent. And if people do give to charity they are bombarded by phone calls asking to increase their donations and it is impossible to walk down the high street without getting harassed by chuggers, who are being paid by charities to raise money – again a questionable use of resources.

Change is essential before the goodwill of the people is taken for granted and we stop donating period. But is self-regulation really the right answer?

Gordon Kennedy

Simpson Square, Perth

Fishermen’s line

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There is no doubt of the importance of fishing to Shetland and to Scotland. However, it is wrong of Simon Collins of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association to assert (your report, 22 January) that “Commission officials…ignore[d] the wishes of an elected government” when the EU-Faroe [mackerel] talks took place in Copenhagen last November. The fact is that in the preparations of the annual consultations with Faroe Islands, no Member State asked the European Commission to re-open the 2014-18 mackerel arrangement.

In any case, “political power” in the European institutions does not lie in the hands of unelected bureaucrats, as Mr Collins asserts, but rests in the hands of MEPs and government ministers.

Graham Blythe

Head of the European Commission Office in Scotland

Alva Street, Edinburgh

Religious liberties

The Scottish Government’s obduracy over religious observance (“Religious observance to stay in schools after review call rejected”, 23 January) is disappointing and indicates a failure to move with the times.

Schools are places where young people are taught what is known and to train their minds to think. They should not be places where religious beliefs are taught as if they were fact, even less places where religious services are conducted by clerics or evangelical groups.

It is specious to argue, as the SG does, that pupils are not required to worship during religious observance. It is not even clear how many schools follow the guidelines. The City of Edinburgh Council, at our request, is conducting a survey of its schools to find out and we want a poll, as allowed by law, of Edinburgh electors to determine the future of religious observance in the City

When more UK adults have “no religion” than say they are Christian and this gap is even wider among young people (under 40s are nearly twice as likely to be non-religious than Christian), it is time to abandon Victorian subservience to religion, especially in schools.

Steuart Campbell

Secretary, Edinburgh Secular Society

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Cyclical argument

Peter Gregson’s objection to the Roseburn-Leith cycle route (Letters, 21 January) is based on a misunderstanding of the published plans.

The plans clearly show that the physically segregated cycle path will pass behind bus stops. This is a tried and tested design which has been safely implemented across Europe and ensures no interaction between cyclists and buses.

I hope he will not repeat this error in his future campaigning against this development.

John Wood

St John’s Road, Edinburgh

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