Readers' Letters: Over the top flood damage scheme must be paused

The UK Government’s recent Infrastructure and Projects Authority annual report warns that the HS2 project is currently being given a red rating, meaning that there are serious concerns about the delivery of the project in its current state. HS2 was bitterly opposed by many of those close to the intended route, partly due to failings by the government to make a solid business case for its construction, not to mention the scarring of miles of countryside that would occur as it was built. Nevertheless the scheme went ahead.

Fast forward to the Flood Protection Scheme which is currently being put forward by East Lothian Council for the town of Musselburgh. We are witnessing similar tactics by the council to those used by the UK Government when HS2 was first mooted. Putting aside the tendering process, which is another story, public “consultations” have been ongoing with the architects and councillors responsible trying desperately to demonstrate that their scheme is the only way to protect the town from once-in-a-lifetime flood events.

Residents of Musselburgh have responded to these plans with a campaign pointing out the damage that concrete walls and embankments along both sides of the River Esk, some of which will be 2.3 metres high, will do to the environment and to a key recreational space in the centre of their town. These barriers will cut off the riverside access for a considerable distance and certainly block use of the stretch which runs through town. If constructed this will be an act of civil engineering vandalism… and talking of vandalism, concrete walls attract graffiti so one can imagine how these will look a few months after completion.

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The council claims these objections have been listened to but insist this scheme, or a close version, is the only solution. In other words, they will ignore the public and push ahead. At this stage all that is being asked of the council is that they pause the process so expert opinion on alternative, more environmentally appropriate, plans can be sought.

'Archie', the Roman archer statue who guards the River Esk at Musselburgh, has been adorned with white ribbon by locals worried about the threatened concrete barrier (Picture: Steven Robertson)'Archie', the Roman archer statue who guards the River Esk at Musselburgh, has been adorned with white ribbon by locals worried about the threatened concrete barrier (Picture: Steven Robertson)
'Archie', the Roman archer statue who guards the River Esk at Musselburgh, has been adorned with white ribbon by locals worried about the threatened concrete barrier (Picture: Steven Robertson)

I'm not holding my breath.

Jim Bell, Musselburgh, East Lothian

Rough wooing?

Kenny MacAskill's article (Perspective, 3 August) really is full of nothing better than “what might have been”. He reminisces about “the charm and wooing of 2014” as though that were the reality of the Nationalists’ campaign and their conduct in their failed efforts. My recollection as a campaigner for Better Together is quite different. We met many people in the Borders who became afraid to open the door to unknown callers, such was the bullying and force exerted by the Nationalists on the doorstep. Pushing a Better Together leaflet through the letterbox of an apparently empty house often led to the door being pulled open, followed by a cry of “We're with you!” Of course, the huge support for the Union in the Borders bore that out.

This part of Scotland is in the best place, perhaps, to appreciate the folly of a divided UK. The use of the word “democratic” in the mouths of nationalists seems quite misplaced to me. The single biggest democratic exercise that we have ever experienced resulted in the clearest victory for the Union. They lost – it’s as simple as that!

The destruction of the previous collaborative spirit between Westminster and Holyrood is entirely the work of the disappointed Nationalists. They can show nothing in their years in charge which has improved the lives of Scots or the prosperity of our country.

Alison Fullarton, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders

Alarm bells

It's a matter of serious concern that a Royal College of Nursing survey has shown some two-thirds of student nurses are considering leaving the profession because of serious financial worries. These people are the bedrock of our future NHS and their unhappiness with their working conditions should be ringing alarm bells within the Scottish Government, which it clearly isn't. Previous health secretaries, including Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, have done little to lay a solid foundation to enable our health service to cope with a more challenging world and Michael Matheson appears to be little different.

Frequently we are told by a Scottish Government spokesperson that more resources than ever are being pumped into healthcare but it doesn't seem to make one bit of difference and the downward slide continues.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Sound and fury

Leah Gunn Barrett's rant against the Union of the Parliaments (Letters, 4 August) is so extreme that it is difficult to answer all the points she wishes to make. However, realpolitik in 1707 was much the same then as in Europe today. In the period leading up to the Union of 1707, Scotland had suffered years of famine. It was Europe's poorest country. It had set up a colony on Spanish land in central America, which was a catastrophic failure and it bankrupted the nation. Scotland’s parliament voted for union and no one has ever proved the accusations of bribery against the signatories. The Scottish government requested military support in case of insurrection. There was no attempt to coerce by force, as Ms Barrett suggests.

Scotland was not conquered. The two kingdoms amalgamated to form a new state in 1707 called Great Britain and Scots have been central to developing our nation ever since.

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Ms Barrett makes statements of opinion out to be facts. They are not. “Our languages” include English, which has been spoken here since 500AD and predates Gaelic, which was regarded as “Irish” in pre-Union Scotland.

We are defended from despots like Putin by our nuclear deterrent. Scots have (and do) run things in the UK. Whether it is Admirals Cochrane and Duncan, Gordon of Khartoum or Gordon Brown, we run this country and protect it as much as anyone. Ms Barrett’s letter is a tale... full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Andrew HN Gray, Edinburgh

Wrong remit

John Swinney stated in September in the Scottish Parliament that the allegations made about the ferry procurement process in a BBC documentary were “taken seriously” and that it was “important they be addressed”. Specifically, he declared that the “fairness and appropriateness” of the process would be “properly and independently investigated”. We looked forward with eager, but guarded, anticipation.

Now we find (your report, 3 August) that the KC entrusted with the investigation, Barry Smith, has no remit to examine the “fairness” of the process but only whether “fraud” was involved! Firstly, there was no allegation of fraud in the BBC programme. Secondly, if indeed fraud is involved then surely that is a matter for the police.

What needs to be investigated is not whether any laws were broken but whether any rules were broken. One of the key questions is why the whole sorry saga kicked off in the first place as Ferguson Marine were unable to provide a “builder's refund guarantee”. Providing such a guarantee is one of the minimum "mandatory" requirements in such major projects. Indeed, CMAL itself wished to restart the whole tendering process – excluding Ferguson Marine – as a result of this failure.

The SNP’s role in this whole murky episode may or may not have led to legally criminal actions but it certainly looks as if their approach has been “criminal” in a moral and political sense. The Scottish taxpayer, however, may never know.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Up the reds

It may be Scotland’s most iconic mammal but we are losing the fight to save our much-loved red squirrel. For the first time red squirrel recordings have dropped below two thirds of all squirrel sightings. According to Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, the Scottish Wildlife Trust-managed project monitoring our squirrel population, “while 75 per cent of the UK’s red squirrels are found here, their numbers have fallen drastically in recent decades”. Many of our native species have fallen victim to human intervention and climate change but it seems that red squirrels are also increasingly succumbing to a deadly squirrel pox carried by non-native grey squirrels, immune to its effects.

There is, however, hope from Ireland, where pine martens have been reintroduced into areas where the less agile grey squirrels are prevalent. Greys are now almost absent from the Irish midlands, allowing the native reds to flourish given they are faster and more savvy in evading predatory pine martens. It is no coincidence that a map of Scotland showing the prevalence of pine martens closely correlates with that of red squirrel strongholds. It is important that Scotland learns from Ireland’s success in growing its red squirrel populations before it’s too late. To achieve the necessary biodiversity required we must create more native woodland habitats so that martens and reds can re-establish lost territories.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

That’s showbiz

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Oh, pull yourself together, Georgie Grier! (your report, 4 August). So your one-woman play got a one-woman audience? That's showbiz.But no, you go running off to Twitter with a “boo hoo” selfie of you crying, looking for sympathy, and kneejerk luvvie smoochies resultant.

Why is today's generation so spineless? The slightest thwarting of their will, and they turn on the tears – “triggered” like spoilt children that have always got to get their own way. Life is a plethora of anvils raining on your head when there's no coyote around – phlegmatism about plans gone awry is part of adulting. If Ms Grier can't do that, the cut-throat world of entertainment is definitely not for her.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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