Readers' letters: Alarm over cost and security of new fire safety rules

I was interested in what Derek Farmer had to say about the new smoke and heat alarm system which home owners are required to install (Letters, 16 October).

Fire and Rescue Service apprentice Jessica Lewis fitting a smoke alarm that will become compulsory next year

He mentions a cost of £300. I have received an estimate of between twice and three times that figure for a house which may be a little larger than his but is still a modest bungalow. It may be a perfectly reasonable sum but as someone with no technical knowledge it is impossible for me to judge. Other tenders could be sought but this is just the sort of scheme to attract unscrupulous cowboys - and they don’t all wear black hats.

No doubt this new regulation has been framed with the best of intentions but I would suggest that whichever arm of government is responsible for implementation should take steps to ensure the scheme is carried through with the minimum of hassle and expense.

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S Beck, Edinburgh

VAT burden

I write in support of Derek Farmer (Letters, 16 October) concerning the new regulation requiring all households to have interlinked smoke and heat detectors fitted by the end of February 2022.

I agree with Mr Farmer that this is yet another example of idiotic centralised bureaucracy, which has also been poorly communicated to people.

I have been quoted £336 to replace my existing alarms, £56 of which is VAT. I believe this should be VAT exempt and wrote to Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP who has passed the matter on to Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Local Government and Housing. I await a response.

Joan Grant, Edinburgh

Pump action

Your editorial, "Pump it up" (Scotsman, October 15) discusses the feasibility of air pumps replacing old gas boilers by 2025 despite their "high upfront cost".

When natural gas replaced manufactured gas in the early 1970s, it was my job as a PR for The Scottish Gas Board, to ease the conversion process.

Every gas appliance had to be altered to take the new gas but at no cost to the consumer. Appliances which could not be converted were replaced, free, by similar appliances which could be.

Of course, any customer who wanted to buy a new appliance could be sure of a good deal on the purchase. Consequently, the changeover took place with very few problems or political posturing.

Why can't this deal be offered to householders now?

Lovina Roe, Perth

Road to rail

It does seem obvious that now is the time to cut down permanently on the number of lorries on our roads, rather than tempt drivers to come "from a' the airts".Surely rail tracks still go right into our dockyards!

Margot Kerr, Inverness

Smart meters

Shaun Milne takes the typical industry view that smart meters with their in-home display can save householders money ('Preparing for a difficult winter', Scotsman, 16 October).

He exemplifies the energy used by a computer. The problem is that with a lot of other appliances in use at the same time, many of them controlled by thermostats (fridges, freezers, boilers, etc, which switch on and off at random) it's impossible to distinguish one appliance's consumption/cost from another. The overall power consumption will constantly vary.

If one does not already know an appliance's power rating (it's usually marked on the appliance), it can be found by plugging a cost and usage calculator into the power circuit.

We had smart meters installed in the summer and I have yet to find any useful information on the remote display. One does not need this display to know that leaving appliances on standby can waste power and money.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Safety first

Knee-jerk reactions to the horrible murder of Sir David Amess are to be expected, but it is not just MPs and other elected politicians who need to be protected.

The police, hospital staff, ambulance crews, firemen, workers in shops and, indeed, ordinary members of the public are all at risk from madmen and terrorists. Action, not words, is required. But what?

Longer sentences are not the answer. We could legislate against the sale of guns, swords and daggers, but could we ban the sale of kitchen knives?

The truth is that we live in a society where hate has replaced disagreements. The problem has been exacerbated by the social media and there appears to be no way of reining them in.

So, is there nothing that can be done to protect everyone? Well, for a start, we could increase the money available to the counter-terrorist squads but, above all, we need to reduce the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and also spend much more on the mental wellbeing of all our citizens.

Henry L Philip, Edinburgh

Covid record

D Mason (letters, 16 October) dismisses the far superior Covid performance in Scotland by claiming that per capita statistics are meaningless.

The majority of Scotland’s population live in the central belt which is as densely populated as most areas in England and, given Scotland’s general poorer health, our population is arguably more vulnerable to the pandemic.

As an island, the UK should have the best Covid statistics in Europe rather than the worst due to Boris Johnson’s numerous fatal errors. The devolution of the law enabling Scotland to control pandemic measures took place at the very end of March 2020, by which time the virus was everywhere.

With regard to the Nike outbreak, it seems only one delegate from Scotland actually contracted Covid as a result of attending the conference. Details were immediately reported to the UK and Northern Ireland governments in respect of their delegates and they too chose not go public and possibly identify the patients involved.

An investigation into the Nike outbreak was held and on 20 March 2020 the Chief Medical Officer reported that the Incident Management Team were successful in curtailing spread and led to the eradication of the particular viral lineage with no evidence of any wider outbreak associated with it in Scotland since that time.

The Scottish government will be the first in the UK to hold a public inquiry and no doubt the Nike outbreak will be considered together with much larger issues this year.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Fossil fuels

John McLellan provides sanity to the climate debate ("COP26 can't lead to end of oil and gas”, Scotsman, 16 October).

Indeed, most countries have no intention of ending exploration or use of oil and gas.

John’s revelation that the oil and gas industry generates £8.8 billion for the Scottish economy and employs 100,000 people will come as a shock to many.

The rest of the world is not giving up on fossil fuels as they build yet more coal-fired power plants and drill for gas and oil.

Norway will "develop, not dismantle" its oil and gas industry and will continue to explore for oil and gas for at least the next four years.

Do Boris Johnson and politicians really believe that the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and China will close their oil and gas fields?

China and too many other countries have not provided details on how they would reduce their emissions. This means that COP26 will begin without any idea of achieving the 1.5C target.

The UK net zero crusade is mega-expensive for UK taxpayers (£1 trillion+) and is futile without China, India and the oil rich countries committing themselves to improved legally-binding emission reduction targets.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow

Debate debased

The treatment of Professor Kathleen Stock by students and some staff at Sussex university, the no-platforming and disinviting of invited speakers to many of our Russell Group universities and the so-called woke mob’s modus operandi in confronting the question of slavery and statues, and the eco-mob’s ravaging of any who dare to oppose them, suggests that many of our young people do not consider reason and rational debate as an appropriate tool for dealing with issues that seem important to them, or believe in democracy.

For students in our universities it is clearly too late to imbibe the efficacy of reason and debate. These time-honoured tools should be an integral part of our educational system at a much earlier stage.

I suggest that every school should have a Debating Society and every pupil should be given the tools to take part in that society. There should be inter-school debating contests, with a (possibly televised) national final. The winning team would be awarded medals and their school receive a cup. The annual competition could be financed by our most prestigious legal firms or financial companies.

Doug Clark, Currie, Midlothian

Assisted dying

Next Friday, 22 October, peers in the House of Lords will debate a new assisted dying bill tabled by Molly Meacher. A similar bill from Liam McArthur will soon be discussed in Scotland.

Many who oppose the bill believe that only their god can give and take life.

This is a perfectly defendable position for the religious believers themselves, but we wish they would present it honestly as such and not distort the debate by exaggerating fears about abuse of law.

This is too important an issue to give disproportionate weight to the calcified ideas of religious minorities.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society

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