Pup or privet?

THE photograph of a woman preparing her poodle for the annual exhibition of human egos illustrates how far Crufts entrants are prepared to go to exploit their pets in their desire for reflected glory (The Scotsman, 11 March).

This poor dog was obviously regarded as a suitable object for topiary, as if it were a shrub which had to be trimmed into shape to satisfy the criteria for a specific category. The sight of its shaved, naked legs filled me with pity, and I wondered how anyone could consider this treatment acceptable.

Worse things are done in the dog breeding industry, not least of which are the deformities which are deliberately caused by selective in-breeding.

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The arguments for and against ending the perpetuation of this cruelty are recycled every year when Crufts appears on the calendar, but nothing ever changes.

All dogs are descendants of wolves, but these exhibits which have been elaborately prinked into shape to satisfy the ridiculous criteria for success in the showring bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors.

Perhaps they should rebel, and start biting the hand that feeds and shears them.

Carolyn Taylor

Wellbank, Broughty Ferry


Whose tax cuts?

Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson, in her personal message, says she opposes tax rises for Scots. I find this difficult to believe, given the record of the UK Conservative government since 2010.

The government regularly say they have put money into people’s pockets via tax cuts. Yes, the government has announced tax cuts totalling £55 billion a year, but it has also announced tax rises – often in other aspects of the same taxes – of £91bn a year. That leaves a net increase in taxes of £36bn a year.

They are so proud of the increase in the income tax personal allowance but they should hang their heads in shame – it was not their idea, it was the Lib Dems as part of the coalition agreement. Whether it’s the increase on VAT on most things you buy from 17.5 per cent when Labour left office to 20 per cent now, or teachers and police paying 40 per cent rather than 20 per cent on some of their income because the 40 per cent threshold has been lowered, or increased charges for everything from passports to social care for the elderly, or the 1 per cent increase in National Insurance, or the cuts in the tax credits paid to working families, we are all worse off.

There have been genuine tax cuts – someone paid £1 million a year has received a £42,500 tax cut from George Osborne. But how many readers of this newspaper have received a £42,500 tax cut? – no more than a handful, I would think.

Rosemary Mackenzie,

Beaufort Road, Edinburgh

Shameful slur

It didn’t help that MP Natalie McGarry deleted her tweet in which she falsely accused Scotland in Union director Alastair Cameron of being a Holocaust denier – as soon as a comment is out in the Twittersphere it can’t be hauled back.

Calling a respectable fellow citizen, who happens to campaign for different political aims, a Holocaust denier is not only an insult to the person involved. Using this term for banal political point scoring also shows disregard for the actual significance of Holocaust denial and ultimately for the Shoah itself.

Ms McGarry’s excuse that she mistook Mr Cameron for someone else doesn’t make it any better. Instead it raises questions about her main concern – Holocaust denial as such or taking opportunistic advantage of something she believed to know about Mr Cameron? Her reply to his response suggests the latter: it reads like a last-ditch attempt to associate him with Nazism followed by an unconvincing “apologies etc”.

Before we tick the names of our chosen candidates on the ballot sheet we really should make sure that they not only represent our political views but also conduct themselves with the required maturity and civility.

Regina Erich

Willow Row, Stonehaven

On the QT

Watching Thursday’s Question Time on BBC1 I was somewhat surprised at the lack of Scottish/Dundonian accents from the audience – overwhelmingly the audience seemed to be English.

Was this orchestrated by the Unionist parties and/or the BBC, as to all intent and purpose this may have just as well been screened from middle England?

John Hutchison

Berveridgewell, Dunfermline

Paying for park

So the Duke of Buccleuch is to charge a minimum of £10 for people to enter Dalkeith 
Country Park after 7pm (The Scotsman, 9 March)? The park provides an outstanding amenity for the local community and it is absurd to suggest that the modest charges are excessive.

The upkeep of the park must cost considerably more than the income from these charges. It is simply not practical to control all the visitors at nil cost.

What is very unhelpful is that so much litter is scattered in these lovely pastures and woodlands by visitors. Is it too much to ask that they take their empty bottles, cartons and plastic bags away with them?

The improved facilities are being provided at a considerable cost. If similar facilities were being provided by the county council there would be a cost to the council tax payer.

John Kelly

High Street, Dalkeith

Slice of salmon

David Bell in his Comment column (The Scotsman, 10 March) writes that “a more robust fiscal balance sheet for Scotland will have to be based on improvements in revenue from sources other than oil and/or cuts in public spending”.

One existing source of revenue is the leading food industry, salmon farming.

Promoting the same product, the once-famous Scottish rural industry, salmon river angling, has almost collapsed.

The Scottish salmon rivers which often recorded more than 120,000 salmon caught in a year, in 2015 recorded fewer than 65,000 caught, with 90 per cent released.

Competitor Iceland recorded 75,000 salmon caught in 2015. Iceland’s seven-mile long River Ranga recorded more than 12,000 salmon caught and mostly kept for the market. The Ranga’s success is due to its hatching and growing juvenile salmon, ready for migration to the sea.

The river bed, being volcanic ash, is unsuitable for spawning.

Scotland’s many professional salmon hatcheries, served by leading biologists, could provide smolts, at reasonable cost, for most of the Scottish salmon rivers.

Scotland and Iceland accept that the National Revenue per salmon caught is £1,000.

The ministers for industry and rural affairs should insist on Scotland’s most valuable rural asset, its salmon rivers, contribute a substantial share to the rural economy.

Mark Pattinson

Lochcarron, Wester Ross

Poor prospects

While welcoming the all-party sign-up to the Poverty Alliance’s campaign (The Scotsman, 10 March), I suspect poverty will be with us for a long time. But poverty should be measured by more than mere income and expenditure. For example, the negative effects of poor health are very difficult to quantify.

Equally, definitions of comfort vary. I do not feel comfortable in a Scotland where education budgets are at threat – school, colleges and universities are all affected. I firmly believe that public libraries are not a luxury, but a necessity for a civilised society.

Some can live comfortably without the universal benefit of the winter fuel allowance for all pensioners – winter woollies and hot water bottles spring to mind. We do have choices. We can vote for fairer taxation; the effects of the council tax freeze have increased austerity for many. Whatever happened to the SNP promise of full-scale reform of council tax?

For younger workers, the future looks bleak. They have to carry the burden of my baby boomer generation, while looking at much shorter years of retirement for themselves as the age for entitlement to the state pension rises ever higher. In-work poverty is a real issue.

Moyra Forrest

Starbank Road, Edinburgh

Scots servitude

So much media talk on the pros and cons of Brexit by those groups , individuals and institutions that look after the “big people” but little is stated about the main reason for wanting to leave the EU.

For hundreds of years the UK has fought fearlessly to maintain our right to decide our own destiny. Things have not always been great within the UK but we have got where we are by making our own decisions. Now we are being lead down a path that will deny us the right to govern ourselves, with our liberty being gradually eroded towards a united Europe. Enough. We do not wish to be dragged into a mess created by others with the purpose of denying us freedom to make our own rules and decide what is good for us.

Europe is a shambles and leaving it will do us no harm. It is not for business and economists to tell us what government we should have. It is down to the voters and even if it involves some temporary problems, that is our decision, not one to be made so businesses keep making profits for their shareholders and banks can trade as they like. It is our decision, so make it and let us get out of this imploding, badly managed mess. There is life beyond the EU for the UK.

Ian Ross

Eden lane, Edinburgh