Readers' Letters: Let’s not underestimate the power of tartan

The Edinburgh Tattoo is world class, a spectacular event, an unqualified success and is sold out every year. Now we learn that it is to be overhauled from its “tartan and shortbread” image.

Pipers and drummers in tartan make for a stirring sight (Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Pipers and drummers in tartan make for a stirring sight (Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Do not belittle the importance of tartan and the place that it holds in peoples’ lives, both here in Scotland, and for those who have taken their tartans with them overseas – both young and old. The status of tartan includes history and heritage, colour and design, multiplicity and variety, the power to impress, to celebrate, to commemorate, to engender controversy, to mourn, to win, to lose and the power to dream.

Tartan is nowhere better loved than when seen worn on the kilts of the Tattoo’s Massed Pipes and Drums. Scotland is also proud of the wonderfully trained Highland Dancers in their bright tartan kilted skirts and velvet waistcoats. We do not think of the Tattoo as broken and in need of repair; moreover it has successfully continued to evolve, both in terms of content and also in terms of presentation and lighting. As with any business or organisation, the best way forward is to hold on to those things that matter most, and to change those that don’t. The real skill lies in the ability to choose wisely between them.

Deirdre Kinloch Anderson, Longniddry, East Lothian

Be careful...

Joyce McMillan backs protesters who plan to disrupt the forthcoming COP26 meeting ( Perspective, 22 October). If they do block traffic, and an ambulance can't get through, Joyce will be hoping that it is not she who is in it!

William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian


Has the definition of democracy been changed without my knowledge? My dictionary defines it as “control of an organisation or group by the majority of its members”?

I suggest that any disruption by a minority is therefore potentially undemocratic if it interferes with the day-to-day democratic way of life and involves the majority in increased expenditure though taxation or diminution of service through disruption. I am all for the right for people to make their views known, but this must surely be done within the democratic process. The huge expense of extra policing, extra court capacity etc of COP26 is surely going too far.

Undemocratic protest should surely be met with robust and punitive action by the authorities if it causes the majority financial and disruptive consequence. If, for instance, the interference with ambulance movements results in a death, then those responsible are potentially guilty of manslaughter – since hold-ups could have been foreseen. Perhaps we could have a designated area, like wasteland, where individuals could chain themselves to immovable objects and remain there, potentially for ever, with no charge. The media could also assist by refusing to carry any pictures of what is after all undemocratic behaviour.

All this without considering the impact on Covid-19 levels of mass demonstrations.

Enough is surely enough.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

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Hype hots up

COP26 chief Alok Sharma was a Physics graduate before he turned to finance so he knows enough about the uncertainties of climate science to be alarmed by Boris Johnston’s claim that the Glasgow jolly is “the most important moment in the history of the planet”.

Every green talk-fest since COP1 has been the “last best chance to save the world” so we expect extravagant exaggeration from climate alarmists but the “most important moment in history” – occurring in Glasgow – cut me just the tiniest break! The irrepressible inhabitants of that bleak city have already renamed the event Flop26.

(Dr) John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife


The latest Scotland in Union scaremongering propaganda piece that trots out the old chestnut that England wouldn’t agree a bespoke favourable trade deal with Scotland, which is one of England’s largest export markets, and far more important than Northern Ireland, insults our intelligence (The Scotsman, 22 October).

When Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, 55 per cent of exports went to the UK. This has since dropped to nine per cent, while the EU now accounts for almost half of all Irish exports. Ireland has 44 direct sailings to the EU every week while Scotland, as part of the UK, has none.

If Scotland chooses to join the EU, then we will have the same trade deal with England as the EU will have, plus all the EU trade deals across the globe that England won't have. Some 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the United States and Germany is Denmark’s largest trading partner, but neither want to be run by their larger neighbours.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh


Michael Gove was simply being kind to an embattled SNP (“Gove: SNP can take the credit for levelling up", 22 October). The SNP are in deep trouble everywhere else. The 2019 exports figures will make grim reading for the separatists. Trade with the UK is 60 per cent of Scotland's output while trade with the EU is only 19 per cent. Considering Brexit will have made this figure even worse, SNP demands for independence and greater EU trade look somewhat hollow. This increased trade would need a booming economy and a government very sensitive to the requirements of trade and commerce, epithets unsuited to the SNP/Green government. Far from being a rallying cry, independence looks to be an albatross around the neck of the Scottish government.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

China crisis

It's understandable that business commentators in the Scottish press focus mainly on domestic stories, but the Evergrande real-estate crisis in China is worthy of far more attention. For years I had naively assumed that the Chinese were doing capitalism better than the west, by deterring land speculation. Now I see I was wrong. And it's not only Evergrande teetering on the verge of bankruptcy; there are other speculators too.

Knowing how all this will play out geo-politically, given that the west's banks have run up a skyscraper of debt, requires a crystal ball. In the “good old days” a war would have been agreed, to kill off enough creditors and see business-as-usual restored. But in the age of hypersonic missiles, bearing lord-knows-what, that ain't so easy.

George Morton, Rosyth, Fife

Odd self-praise

SNP MP Martyn Day’s comment that the “bold and progressive action to tackle fuel poverty” taken by his government in Scotland seems at odds with the reality that there has been a 44 per cent increase in the number of people unable to pay their fuel bills here. I, for one, would be interested in hearing what these bold and progressive actions actually are as I suspect this is merely another claim in the long list of self-praises that characterise the SNP government here, joining those in education, health, policing and economic recovery.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh

Road trip

In his latest article Kenny MacAskill rails about Nicola Sturgeon’s meek acceptance of Westminster’s powers to veto another Indy referendum and her lack of a Plan B, yet without giving any detail he mysteriously alludes to other ways, other routes (Perspective, 22 October).Will it be the High road, the Low Road, the Yellow brick road, the UDI road, or is he just a Talking Head on the Road to Nowhere?

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

Nothing better

Dr Andy Bannister of SOLAS (“For those who trust in Jesus, then it's true that tomorrow never dies”, 21 October) think that if we live in a godless universe none of us will be remembered! By descendants of the deceased, maybe, but many important people will be remembered, mainly from their writings – these works will live as long as the human race survives, perhaps even after that.He also thinks that oblivion (nothing) is to be feared. Yet the writer of Ecclesiastes (9:5) declared that “the dead know nothing… or the memory of them is forgotten”. I look forward to non-existence (nothingness) as the alternative (living for ever with memories) sounds like hell.Anyone who thinks that the magnificent and endless universe in which we find ourselves was created by some anonymous supernatural entity is seriously deluded and in need of a shave by Occam's Razor.Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Poor report

It came as no surprise to read that more is spent in Scotland on school pupils than in anywhere else in the UK (“High spending on Scottish schools 'does not translate' into good educational performance, says report”, 22 October). That it is £800 per pupil did come as a bit of a shock. What did not come as a surprise was to learn that this increase in spending did not translate into better standards and performance. Throwing money at a problem does not fix it. The Curriculum for Excellence has been criticised for many years now and the dabbling round the edges is not making any improvements.

In 2015, the First Minister asked to be judged on education, stating that she was prepared to “put her neck on the line on the education of our young people”. Of course, this was an empty promise as we watch the attainment gap rise in many areas while she points out the one or two areas where it has narrowed.

Investing in our education system needs input from experienced teachers who know how to get the best out of pupils, not throwing good money after bad.

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Banffshire

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