Power struggle

SCOTLAND today resembles the plundered Wild West. Multinational giants gallop through our glens and over our mountains spearing pylons into our iconic landscapes.

These white monsters with outstretched arms and metal latticed eyesores with buzzing, glistening transmission lines are strung across the skyline. Visitors on the newly promoted North Coast 500 will take in hundreds of such structures, standing like invading aliens in landscapes that were once the envy of the world. They will feel cheated and probably not return.

SSE says it will cost twenty-five times more to put cables underground from Beauly to Kintore than overhead lines. That’s some increase, even for SSE. Its claims that the Beauly to Denny abomination would be ten times the cost to bury was considered to be wildly exaggerated at the time.

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Although volatile wind factories require massive grid upgrades that the likes of SSE ignore what they are doing is unacceptable to many citizens and visitors. Pylons are a hideous addition to a natural landscape and will be a permanent symbol of the callous disregard for the land they are erected in.

Burying cables would have an environmental impact but the landscape could recover, eventually. Pylons will probably remain for ever as government policy seems to be that once a landscape is trashed, to keep on trashing it.

Underground and subsea cables would be protected from winter storms and blizzards. People wouldn’t have to struggle in freezing temperatures without heat and light. Engineers wouldn’t have to risk their lives battling to fix power outages in dangerous conditions.

We need less speaking with forked tongue and solutions we can live with.

In the real Wild West, Chief Seattle may not have been talking about our power lines but we can draw parallels from what he said.

“When the green hills are covered with talking wires and the wolves no longer sing, what good will the money you paid for our land be then”

No-one has ever put it better but who will listen?

Lyndsey Ward


Difficult choices

I agree wholeheartedly with Brian Quail regarding the abolition of all nuclear weapons (Letters, 28 May).

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They have the potential to turn the Earth into a desert.

However when he decries the use of an atom bomb on Hiroshima he should try to look at the situation which prevailed in 1945, and put himself in the shoes of the Allied leaders.

Japan had no intention of surrendering. All Allied overtures were rejected and the whole civilian population was being readied to die for the emperor. The Japanese armed forces were brave and fanatically loyal, and were prepared to sacrifice themselves almost to a man, as had been shown by earlier island invasions and the kamikaze air attacks.

In Churchill’s memoirs he records that the Allied commanders advised him that an invasion would cost a million Allied casualties.

So in the circumstances of 1945 the atomic bomb probably reduced the number of people killed and injured.

My father, who had already served five years in the Army, had received his orders to sail with his regiment to the Far East to take part in the invasion of Japan, so it was with an immense sigh of relief that they heard of the sudden end of the war, thanks to the Atomic bomb.

Of course it was awful, but I ask the question of those who condemn the Americans, “What would you have done, given the stark choice available?”

James Duncan

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Rattray Grove, Edinburgh

Swinney’s summit

In the 1960s and 1970s, attainment gaps were unheard of. Council house kids, their parents and teachers,knew that, if you behaved and stuck in, the best education in the world would be drummed into you.

By getting Highers that were the same quality as those of the private schoolboys on my Edinburgh University course, my path to good employment, security and health was assured.

John Swinney would do well to populate his education “summit” with people like us, especially the ones who are still involved in education and who understand both what got them there and the good and bad of the current education and social situation.

He might obtain a clear route forward that involves parents and pupils accepting responsibility for presenting themselves as well fed, motivated learners, and getting educators to focus on the basics and good discipline.

This will require a fundamentally re-worked Named Person scheme which has teeth, is respected, and can produce positive outcomes.

This will produce school leavers who will have a good education and motivation to work during the time they are at school and only require further education to teach them additional, specialist subjects.

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The money saved could be used to give a real leg-up for the truly disadvantaged and special needs children.

Sadly, I don’t think any of the above is in Mr Swinney’s head.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Parental support

Teachers and parents have tolerated the so-called “Curriculum for Excellence” for years. Now, parents find themselves confronted by the impending Named Person scheme. Confidence and trust are at an all-time low. The Scottish Government has plans to close the attainment gap. Should we not all be working together to achieve this – government, schools, teachers and parents?

With debate due to take place on the final legislation for the Named Person scheme, the newly-appointed Minister for Education, Mr Swinney, would be well advised to scrap the project completely, consigning it to the dustbin. He would not be losing face by so doing, but gaining respect and reinstating confidence where it is badly needed.

He must appreciate that without the support of parents, he will achieve nothing.

Clare Chalmers

Braidwood Bridge, Midlothian

Degree of latitude

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What a depressing philosophy of university education Jane Bradley embraces in her discussion of degrees and jobs. (Perspective, 28 May).

Shouldn’t a university, of all places, be where the “follow the money” values are roundly criticised?

Surely before “training” for a job or profession students should be free to choose their courses.

They shouldn’t be constrained by the demands made by finance capitalism and what corporate bureaucrats want.

Rather, the emphasis should be upon a “critical philosophy” which challenges the conventional wisdom and institutions.

Perhaps that is (or maybe was) the beauty of the “ordinary degree” of broad academic subjects.

It would be a mistake to make “job training” the purpose of education, especially university education.

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Arguably a philosophy of education must be about self-development and not justifying “training for business.”

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk, Inverurie

Switching off

Your editorial rightly highlights the need for young people to register to vote in the EU referendum, with the missing 3.5 million potentially skewing the result by their absence (‘Young need a reason to vote in referendum’, 28 May). Yet young people today are savvy enough to recognise the hyperbole coming from both sides of the debate for what it is, and as a result many are simply switching off.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Business case

Top to bottom, the UK is a business and our customers are our lifeblood.

Without customers no business can survive, and continually offending customers the way we offend the EU will soon drive them away. We won’t be leaving them, they’ll be leaving us.

It’s all very butch to want to control our own affairs but our nationalist friends need to grasp the realities. The problem with the EU isn’t the EU at all, it’s the politicians we voted into Westminster and Holyrood. Any half decent government ought to be telling people that the world is increasingly globalised and there’s no going back. Pulling up an imaginary drawbridge is no answer, it’s defeatism on a major scale. We have to stick together in a highly competitive world.

Robert Veitch

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Paisley Drive, Edinburgh

Deal or no deal?

Boris Johnson has made the Conservative Party look stupid by reminding us how unrealistic their manifesto was regarding cutting immigration. He has also made himself a hostage to UKIP. As the likely next prime minister (in event of Brexit) he can’t get a good deal from Europe unless he accepts immigration.

A poor deal will be bad for the economy. If he significantly cuts immigration he may damage the health service, reduce productivity and lose the taxes of skilled immigrant workers, while marginally helping British low paid workers.

Andrew Vass

Corbiehill Place Edinburgh