Readers' Letters: Bring back belt to clamp down on feral teens

The Educational Institute of Scotland noted 718 incidents of violence and aggression in Fife schools in August and September. Some 584 involved physical violence.

Thirty-nine years since banning the belt in Scotland, the move’s disastrous legacy lives on. In surveys, stressed-out high school teachers highlight unmanageable workloads and a lack of communication, but now demand that the increased violence be addressed. Staff do not feel safe in their classrooms. That is unacceptable. Teachers coped admirably with the pandemic and lockdowns. Now the situation is exacerbated by the feral teens who have become school refusers.

The situation in schools highlights the growing concern regarding these children. In the city of Dunfermline one could provide other evidence; including the ghastly carnage among our lovely peacocks in the Glen at the hands of an 11 and 13 year old in June. In May, buses to Blairhall were taken off at night, repeatedly vandalised by young teens. We have had the annual attack on the Fire Brigade on Bonfire Night. One is not safe in the bus stance on a Friday or Saturday night as kids aged 12-14, high on drink and drugs, could target you. The police run some home to families who do not care. Last week the Unicorn statue on top of the Mercat Cross in the High Street – traced back to 1120 – was smashed beyond repair.

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Before the pandemic there were 5,000 attacks in Scotland on teachers each year (far more among classroom assistants, teachers in special schools and referral units). Compensation claims for teachers doubled in three years. Police are called out dozens of times each month. A few schools have a permanent police presence. Teachers are spat upon, scratched, bruised, kicked, winded, sworn at, abused on social media, attacked with improvised weapons. Classrooms are vandalised, schools get burned down. Some 95 per cent of Scottish teachers report low level disruption in class. Is the threat of strike action at Bannerman High School in Baillieston the tip of an iceberg? The nations of SE Asia have exam attainment we envy. They did not abandon corporal punishment.

Threatening teenagers are becoming an ever bigger problem on Scotland's streets, reckons reader (Picture: Syda Productions/Adobe)
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John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

No democracy

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Interesting article from James Mitchell on the subject of Scottish democracy needing a shake-up (Perspective, 18 November). A proper democracy also needs a clear link between government spending and taxation; in Scotland this does not exist. There needs to be a clear link between what Holyrood spends, and what is raised in taxation to fund it. Getting so much from Westminster via the block grant makes it too easy to blame London for everything.

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

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Money madness

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn budget shows that the Tories are determined to punish anyone not in the top 10 per cent of wealth while crushing the majority of people – the poorest will suffer a 20 per cent drop in income.

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The biggest winners in this grotesque wealth transfer from the poorest to the richest are the UK commercial banks. Not only has the Tory government lifted the cap on bankers’ bonuses and reduced the tax banks pay, it will be paying £136 billion in interest over the next five years to the banks. This is money the government gave the banks using Quantitative Easing (QE), which is creating money without incurring any debt. That’s £27bn a year that could be used to fund the NHS and education and equals the spending cuts and the increased tax Hunt imposed last week.

How did this happen? The government created nearly £900bn of new money through QE, which was spent into the economy via the commercial banks. The banks put this money on deposit account with the Bank of England, where they are paid interest on money they were given. Interest rates are rising and are expected to hit 5 per cent, meaning banks will reap an extra £155bn over the next five years they did absolutely nothing to earn.

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Austerity isn’t needed and will result in horrific long-term harm to the country. Labour seems willing to follow this Tory madness. This union is doing nothing for Scotland. We must end it.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

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Follow the money

Another £1.5 billion heading north despite the grievance-making claims of Nicola Sturgeon that Westminster starves us of funding. More claims by John Swinney that the money will go to help the health and social care sector will be worthy of a more thorough check. Since the start of the pandemic the SNP government has history in “redirecting” handouts from Westminster. Where some of these monies has gone remains a mystery. This is why I cannot understand the UK government allocating Barnett consequentials without monitoring the uses of the cash. Pennies from heaven for the SNP and secret Scotland.

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Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

Off balance

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In The Scotsman of 19 November there is a quote from the First Minister that “the budget for 2023-2024 will be a difficult balancing act in the wake of the Autumn Statement”. However, Kate Forbes MSP had “already warned that the public sector required a reshape and staffing levels would need to drop by around 30,000 by April 2023” (your report, 17 November). Note that John Swinney MSP, currently deputising for the Finance Secretary, has yet to address this solution, outlined in the spring, to balance the current budget by March 2023!

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas

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No accountability

What will it take for Nicola Sturgeon to remove her health minister, Humza Yousaf, from his post? Major GP troubles (“GPs switch to ‘Emergency only’ care as crisis grows”, 19 November 19), huge problems with NHS dentistry, A&E waits, the ambulance service, overworked nurses and other medical staff. National strikes looming and huge delays in accessing hospital referrals and treatment, plus mental health services in disarray.

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What has Humza Yousaf actually been doing to stop all of this? This is the job we are all paying him for. This has been the way the SNP have run affairs in Scotland for years. No accountability and yet the Scottish NHS is a totally devolved matter. Trite answers such as “independence will fix this” or “it is Westminster's fault” cut no ice.

For how much longer must we put up with this shocking state of affairs?

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Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

Danger changes

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I thoroughly agree with Les Reid’s comments on the Gender Recognition Bill (Letters, 19 November).

Men have lived as women and women as men throughout history, within the existing legal framework, but to change the law to allow them to legally change their gender and, particularly, to allow schoolchildren to undergo life-altering surgery before reaching adulthood is to step through the looking glass without a return ticket.

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This bill will allow people to make permanent changes to their lives at an age when they do not have the necessary experience of life to make an informed decision, not to mention the rats’ nest of other peoples’ lives that such decisions will impact, such as in prisons, hospitals, sports and changing rooms, to name but a few.We will step through that looking glass at our peril.

And before some earnest, troubled, outraged soul stridently demands to know my gender, I self-identify as an Old Curmudgeon!

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Ian McNicholas, Ebbw Vale, Wales

Slow down

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Even the most ardent of motorists would recognise the need for the safety of other road users in Edinburgh. Additionally, measures designed to alleviate – where possible and practical – city centre congestion form an important part of any modern planning process.

Over recent decades greater pavement space for pedestrians has occurred and, more recently, the Spaces for People initiative has seen a significant increase to the provision of segregated cycle lanes as well as a further degree of pedestrianisation. The alacrity with which funding was obtained (for what was deemed to be a temporary measure during the Covid pandemic) and the work completed was in stark contrast to the day-to-day maintenance of the roads and pavements throughout the city. Many of the thoroughfares affected by these measures are now also subject to a 20mph speed restriction. Now one reads that the council transport convenor plans to extend the 20mph limit to 90 per cent of Edinburgh roads; increased safety being the apparent objective.

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Edinburgh, however, is not Amsterdam. Its topography – and climate – require proper consideration to be given to the needs of motorists. An adequate public transport service is not a panacea for all situations. Given that situation, some indication from those responsible that the motorist is not the enemy would be welcome. After all, it is that category of road user – not pedestrians or cyclists – who pay excise and fuel duties, some of which may (indirectly) help maintain the roads and footpaths.

Derek Stevenson, Edinburgh

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Pay for power

Electric vehicle owners will soon have to pay to use the roads. From 2025 cars will be liable for £165 a year, vans £290, but cars costing over £40,000 will pay £500. There are over 590,000 on UK roads so that would bring in, at say an average £300 a vehicle, £177 million every year. EV owners got a substantial government grant and can charge their vehicles for free at council-provided charging points at council taxpayers' expense.

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This free electricity must stop. We now need cyclists and e-scooter owners to pay to use the roads and, illegally, the pavements.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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