Readers' Letters: Military Tattoo has become too entertaining

Once the most dignified, respected and admired military display in the world, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is now an outdoor variety show.

Congratulations are due to the production team for putting on a very entertaining show indeed. But the thing is, some of us do not go to the Tattoo purely to be "entertained". It goes much deeper than that. In previous years we have become used to leaving the event with a renewed sense of respect, admiration and gratitude for all the armed forces, past and present. The 2022 Tattoo was an extravaganza fit for the West End Theatre with a few token nods given to some of those deep-rooted military traditions we have admired so much in the past.

Could we please give the younger generation a little credit and not just assume they all want to trade the vital Tattoo ingredients of military precision, first class musicianship and dignified age-old traditions for wailing rock opera singers, rappers, razzamatazz and LED-lit costumes? Would it really cause offence to ask our guests from other corners of the world to join hands with us in our traditional song of friendship, Auld Lang Syne? Would it really be upsetting for a non-English speaker to hear a narrator setting each scene and therefore bringing cast and audience closer together?

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While I would always agree with the necessity to move with the times, I suspect the Tattoo's core audience will feel that too much departure from its unique traditions will lose far more than it gains.

Electro Pipes were one of the non-traditional turns at this year's Edinburgh Military Tattoo (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
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Alan Sim, Aberdeen

Useless insults

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There are at least three things we can take offence at regarding Nicola Sturgeon’s series of chat shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, in particular her indulgent nationalist backslapping with Brian Cox.

One, of course, is the rubbish piling up outside, which you might think would be her priority given the impression it gives people of our capital. She appears not to be interested.

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The second is the suggestion by Brian Cox that people in Scotland are culturally different from others in the UK, by which he means England. Ms Sturgeon was nodding away. I consulted my atlas of Scottish surnames, and Cox does not figure at all. An online search tells me it is mostly English or Welsh in origin, but that it could be Irish or Scottish and has been anglicised. Ironically for a political activist like Mr Cox, the first record of the name was in the 1500s at Westminster in London. It is also the 69th most common surname in the UK, so culturally, it seems Mr Cox has more in common than he might like to admit to with those people he wants to distance himself from. Did I mention he is already 3000 miles distant living in the USA, the Scottish climate not suiting him?

We already knew about Nicola’s granny coming from the north east of England, but apparently Sturgeon is a Norman name, the first mention of which is as Lords of the Manor of Whepstead in Suffolk, a title given to her ancestor Ralph after 1066. So, not just English, but thoroughly aristocratic and establishment in the south of England, and with the Battle of Hastings featuring more prominently than Bannockburn. One can speculate that the Sturgeons may well have been on the English side at Bannockburn. Herein lies the danger of talking about cultural differences whilst lacking in self awareness about such possibilities.

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The final point made was that, apparently, we are lacking the confidence to be independent in Scotland. There is a history to this. In the 1990s, Jim Sillars called us “90-minute patriots”, essentially a calculated insult borne out of frustration at their political failures at the time. Then we have the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” line, supposedly coined by that nice John Swinney. This is another insult, essentially meaning, “Are you too wee and stupid to accept our political analysis?” The “lack of confidence” comment suggests to me that they feel their cause is going nowhere again, and that they are striking out in frustration.

There is much speculation at present about Ms Sturgeon’s future, but like Alex Salmond, that future seems simply to be reciting their old lines to the small proportion of the faithful who will pay to listen. You can’t make progress with the wider population by insulting people.

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Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

No solution?

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It is hardly surprising that Scotland’s population is forecast to fall at a much greater rate than that of the UK as a whole (your report, 31 August). I would think many readers of The Scotsman will have children or grandchildren who have had to move south to get employment suited to their education and talents.Nor is it surprising that this diaspora has an adverse impact on economic growth and also on the balance between government expenditure per head and tax receipts as brought out by GERS.Of course, this situation is not peculiar to Scotland: it affects all regions of the UK outwith London and the south-east. Immigration is no answer as London is as much a magnet for incomers as for the indigenous population. Every so often a “levelling up” operation is announced with great fanfare but they all run into the sand.For some, independence is the answer, and indeed, a decade or two of consistently enterprising, sagacious, strictly focused independent government might well change things, were such a thing to be had. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has suggested replacing the House of Lords with a US-style senate representing the various UK regions – but would it be granted meaningful powers?Perhaps there is no problem, or at least none for which there is a solution and we should just drift on as we are.

S Beck, Edinburgh

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Going down

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People should welcome, not fear, a decline in the Scottish population. The recent projections by the Scottish Fiscal Commission show a gradual reduction by a sixth spread over half-a-century, not a catastrophic crash. As a highly developed and affluent nation, Scotland both contributes disproportionately to climate change and unsustainable levels of consumption, and has the financial capacity to manage changes in age structure.

Nor. too, should Scots fear a decline in GDP growth. While economists and politicians may have persuaded us that GDP measures something important, it disregards justice and human and ecological wellbeing. Crude economic growth is laying waste to the planet, while just 5 per cent of the income generated from growth in GDP goes to the world's poorest 60 per cent of people. Measured by what's important, Scotland's population trajectory is positive.

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Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications, Population Matters, London

End of the line

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The Edinburgh Tram Inquiry cost is set to pass the £13 million mark, with no end in sight, which is becoming ridiculous.

Perhaps we need an inquiry into the Inquiry?

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William Ballantine, Bo'ness, West Lothian

Window taxing

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One would expect that faced with the existential threat of global warming and the immediate brutal rise in heating costs, Listed Buildings would, like every government body, be focused on the challenge. Well no. We have windows, on the first floor of a much-altered grade B tenement, which are beyond repair. I have proposed to replace them with double-glazed ones, of a high insulation standard, identical in design, except that the astragals will be 9mm wider. I was refused consent by the City, and on appeal, by central government, though Historic Scotland did not object. In both cases the main ground for refusal appeared to be the width of the astragals.

Listed Building’s preferred option is, secondary glazing – a bit tricky with shutters – or a type of double glazing unit with a smaller pane separation. This gives much inferior insulation, and due to the narrow gap is prone to early failure, so much so that many firms are not prepared to provide it.

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This defeats the the aims of combating both global warming and rising heating costs. It also goes against the core purpose of Listed Building legislation. Cold, expensive-to-heat houses will not be attractive to own or rent and will hence be poorly maintained and fall into decay. This is not just one specific case. This effects over 3,000 properties in Edinburgh alone. It appears to be a blanket policy, for neither the City nor central government chose to examine the windows.

The Scottish minister who owns this policy is Minister for Public Finance Tom Arthur. He could do great good with a few strokes of the pen.

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David Hogg, Edinburgh

Ugly history

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Thank you for publishing the article by Stephen Hall on Russia’s centuries-long anti-Jewish history, which continued through the Soviet era until the relatively civilised period under Gorbachev, and is once again rearing its ugly head by Vladimir Putin’s near-totalitarian regime (Perspective, 30 August). It should be required reading in our secondary schools, to counter those who refuse to accept that in almost every respect the Soviet Union (which lasted six times as long as Hitler’s government) was just as Nazi as Germany was from 1933-45.

It is a dreadful reflection on our education system that even now, so many of our fresher university students are encouraged to buy and wear T-shirts picturing Stalin and his acolytes, which they would never dream of doing with their German counterparts.

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But with academics such as Noam Chomsky (Book Festival report, 20 August) apparently willing to give Putin “the benefit of the doubt”, it is small wonder that students are misled.

Where on earth is the “doubt” in Putin’s statements, history falsification, anti-democratic restrictions and cross-border aggressions of the past 20 years?

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John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Write to The Scotsman

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