Readers' letters: Kirk must get out of its bunker and help the poor

In 1761, when the poor of the parish were starving, 16 weavers got together in the church at Fenwick to form a group selling oats at a discount. This care for the poor went on to become the Co-operative movement.

I walk past the offices of today’s Church of Scotland and wonder why my church offers no clothes banks, no food banks, no free meals for the poor and no apparent concern for those who are now toiling to feed and clothe themselves and their children. In Edinburgh’s Leith the Sikh church feeds the needy. At Tollcross there is a free clothes bank in the Methodist Hall. We maintain a hotel in Galilee

The Church which professes to be our national Church appears content to sit in its bunker and remain indifferent to the needs of the poor in Scotland, just as it remains indifferent to Scottish politics.

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Perhaps they should begin to wonder whether parishioners who pay yearly towards it think it is worth the candle.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland held in Edinburgh earlier this yearThe General Assembly of the Church of Scotland held in Edinburgh earlier this year
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland held in Edinburgh earlier this year

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

Beowulf beware

It is a symptom of the continuing slide into total irrelevance educationally that Aberdeen University is now giving "trigger warnings" about Beowulf to its students.

Beowulf is a medieval poem written in Old English and is a fairy tale, with monsters and battles. It was written in a time when everyone, from children to old people were intimately involved in all the processes that apply in a basic human society, much as still happens in many parts of the world.

The poem includes all the blood and guts of birth to death; of the bloody way in which people obtain their food in a society which had never heard of vegetarianism, much less veganism. It even mentions defecation! Goodness me. Students today don't defecate, apparently.

Perhaps Aberdeen University, of which I am a graduate, believes in something called "reductio ad absurdum" (taking things to the lowest level of absurdity) in its academic studies, but when I was a student, we were expected to behave like adults, so perhaps the university is right to talk about the "mental health and well-being of students (being) a primary concern of the school”, because it behaves as if its students were schoolchildren and not adults.

If students at Aberdeen cannot cope with the very basics of life in a primitive society, such as murder, blood, racial slurs and other such matters, how on earth will they cope with The Canterbury Tales or Jacobean drama?

Dave Anderson, Aberdeen

Paper tickets

To pay for an RSNO 2022-23 subscription, it was possible to write a cheque and to receive the tickets through the post. Paper tickets for the Edinburgh International Festival could also be received in the post. However, the Fringe Festival is fully e-ticketed.

Could it be that the reason for this difference is that a large part of the audience for classical music is elderly and perhaps not, as a whole, so well disposed towards electronic devices. Does it follow that the Fringe is being ageist?

Alastair McLeish, Edinburgh

Truss theory

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The show of hands from the Conservative Party members who made up the audience at Thursday’s Sky leadership debate overwhelmingly favoured Rishi Sunak, a post-debate Telegraph poll showed he had edged it by 54 per cent to 46 per cent and the Times's online poll showed 89 per cent favouring Sunak.

The debate also gave us a new term: Truss-splaining, which will need no "mansplaining" for anyone witnessing the Foreign Secretary's rambling, evasive, often patronising answers to audience and moderator questions on her astounding public sector pay and other U-turns and ropey grasp of mainstream economics.

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But despite all this she is still apparently a dead cert to become Prime Minister, which makes me wonder if the conspiracy theory that a fifth column of members want her to be leader because she will crash and burn and they can get Boris back is actually true.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Energy anger

Scots are angry. And for good reason. UK energy bills are set to hit £3,800 per year for households, but Scottish households will pay even more. Why, when Scotland produces the majority of UK energy, both fossil fuel and renewable?

First, blame Westminster. It controls energy policy where energy is priced at the most expensive fuel, gas, rather than a basket of fuels that includes cheaper renewables. Scotland produces nearly all its electricity from renewables but doesn’t get any benefit.

Second, the privatised National Grid charges Scottish renewables developers to connect to the grid whereas Welsh developers are paid to connect.

Third, Scots pay higher standing charges and contend with colder temperatures.

Fourth, poorer families pay the most for energy, both as a proportion of their income and because more are using expensive prepayment meters.

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Fifth, Scotland is subsidising the UK. The Telegraph noted that planned offshore wind developments mean the UK can export energy to the Continent via interconnectors for a lot of money, “helping to plug the UK’s trade deficit”. By contrast, independent Norway has invested in renewables, developed their net zero supply chain, grown their sovereign wealth fund, and expanded their majority state owned energy companies. Norwegian households pay far less for their energy, where the price of electricity is near zero.

Independence would enable Scotland to control its resources for the benefit of its people, rather than Westminster for the benefit of large corporations and shareholders. What are we waiting for?

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Fuel bonanza

Mary Thomas (Letters, 5 August) seems to be blissfully unaware that the price rises for oil and gas are largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its propensity for using oil and gas as a weapon against the West. The whole of Western Europe is suffering too.

Even more worrying is the fact that Ms. Thomas also seems to be unaware that her "bonanza” of oil and gas income for a future independent Scottish Government won't actually take place because the use of fossil fuels is gradually being cut down by all responsible nations. Hasn't she heard of the international target of zero carbon emissions?

Very few heads of government are more vociferous than Nicola Sturgeon on this subject.

D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian

Scrutiny justified

I do not often agree with Sir Iain Duncan Smith, but he is entirely correct to demand scrutiny of the SNP administration’s conduct of its devolved remit (Scotsman, 5 August).

Has anyone carried out a detailed audit of the Scottish administration’s conduct of its business since devolution? Since the SNP came to power? If they have, I haven’t heard of it. Yet the disasters continue – I won’t list the whole catalogue of ferries, BiFab etc – and no-one is held to account for them. I would like to see a much stronger role for Stephen Boyle, the Auditor General, who has produced judicious reports on various issues, including education, but who can simply be ignored by the executive in the way that it ignores all criticism.

The devolution settlement failed in establishing accountability to Westminster on the part of the devolved administrations. Sir Iain’s plan to hold SNP MPs at Westminster accountable for the actions of the SNP in Edinburgh may or may not be viable. But what we have is scarcely the SNP’s much-vaunted “democracy” when it itself is able to evade scrutiny, refuse to answer FOI requests, hide evidence (such as the OECD schools’ report before the 2021 election) and maintain secrecy in many areas that would be of intense interest to voters.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Brought to book

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The administration at present running my country has reached the nadir of churlishness. The mean-spirited unpleasantness revealed in the criticism and eventual stopping of the children’s book planned to be given to all UK children as a souvenir of the Queen’s 60th year on the throne was beyond the pale (Scotsman, 2 August). May I say I am lukewarm on the monarchy in principle and have no axe to grind.

Ironically, the “complaints” were as childish as could be expected from the primary schoolchildren at which they were aimed. In fact they were pathetic and complained for example about the wording used to describe the death of the Queen Mother and mention of England winning the World Cup in 1966. They were trivial beyond belief and every nationalist shibboleth was covered.

I find the whole episode depressing in the extreme. What are they doing to us? Reducing an ancient and proud country like Scotland to a group of second-rate, ranting, unbalanced, paranoid nationalists?

Forget the constitutional issues. These people do not have the intellect, vision, broad-mindedness or wherewithal to run a village administration, let alone a country. If there was any doubt before, there is none now.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Talking point

I nearly choked on my breakfast when I opened my Scotsman at the editorial page and read the sub headline which claimed that in order to preserve the Union, the next Prime Minister must engage the Nationalists in debate (August 3)!

What an astonishing assertion! You can’t debate with Nationalists. They have only one position and that is separation from England and there’s nothing short of that goal that they will settle for. Debate about what exactly?

Alan Thomson, Strontian, Highland

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