Readers' Letters: Scots should have vote on assisted dying bill

Regarding your article “Assisted dying bill set to be lodged at Holyrood by the LibDems today” (Scotsman, 21 June), I lived and worked in New Zealand during the time in which legislation to enable assisted dying was being debated. It is a topic that nurtures strong emotions and deeply held convictions with diverse views even within the palliative care sector.

LibDem MSP Liam McArthur wants the right to assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. (Picture: Toby Williams)
LibDem MSP Liam McArthur wants the right to assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. (Picture: Toby Williams)

It always struck me as surprising, however, that a country with an intolerably high suicide rate should wish to head down this road. Assisted dying campaigners did not like the analogy, but language matters. It is what it is. Suicide is a choice, and with assisted dying an individual is asking someone else to help them.

Scotland is not New Zealand, but it is worth pointing out that the decision on the matter was ultimately decided by people, through a referendum. Will that be the case in Scotland? Whatever the outcome, investment in palliative care is of utmost importance.

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I hope an intelligent, informed and careful debate can give voice to the fragility and power of people’s lives in the months ahead.

Helen-Ann Macleod Hartley, Ripon, North Yorkshire

Not there yet

By any standards the Liberal Democrat by-election victory in Chesham and Amersham was an astonishing political coup. I note that Christine Jardine was cautious in her appraisal of what it might mean for her party's electoral fortunes in a much wider test of public opinion (Perspective – 21 June). For it is one thing to show wonderful campaigning skills at local level; it is something else to show that that a party should be trusted with the reins of government. Making a serious dent in the “Blue Wall” may be an indication of an efficient demolition squad. It hardly means that the policies are there to convince the public at national level.

What policies do the Liberal Democrats need to look closely at? One, of course, is erasing the memory of the coalition years with the Conservatives in the first half of the last decade. This is a matter still likely to concern voters in the north of England and in Scotland.

Another is the relevance of the party's longstanding support for federalism, given that that there is little enthusiasm for regional parliaments in England. The disruption caused by the HS2 project was clearly a factor in swinging people away from the Conservatives; the Liberal Democrats, however, remain committed to public transport projects which may not always be popular. It still favours increases in taxation, often directly on incomes, to pay for various social measures. This, too, might create disillusionment.

Ms Jardine did not mention the collapse of the Labour vote, caused, no doubt, partly by tactical voting but also by its leadership travails. From this it will no doubt recover in time. So, too, will Prime Minister Boris Johnson's current problems in managing his cabinet. It is then that we shall see more clearly how Lib Dem policies stand up to the scrutiny of voters.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Switch off

Among the letters published on Saturday 19 June was one complaining that Radio Scotland had broadcast a programme the writer considered to be garbage and another urging the prosecution of the makers of a video he had plucked from the internet. No one is under any compulsion to listen to any particular radio programme or station, nor to access hateful items on the internet. Presumably the BBC considers there is an audience for anything it decides to broadcast, while policing the internet seems to be several degrees more difficult than herding cats.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Helpful tip

In the event of a Low Emission Zone being established, Christian Orr Ewing (Letters, 21 June) would still be able to drive an older car into Edinburgh, just not into the centre. He could make use of one of the five park and ride sites, from any of which he could get a free bus ride into the city centre.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Hypocrisy

Nicola Sturgeon bans travel from a Scotland to parts of Northern England, but is she not acting ultra vires? As soon as someone crosses the Border, they are subject to the laws of England, not the laws of Scotland, and citizens are free to travel anywhere in England.Full marks to Manchester mayor Andy Burnham for calling out her hypocrisy after watching so many Scotland fans travel to London.It’s almost as though the Scottish Government’s entire focus is on creating division within Scotland and with the rest of the UK.

Brian Barbour, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Away, Andy

It seems Labour’s Andy Burnham expects the First Minister to communicate directly with England’s City Mayors rather than communicate through the UK Four Nations forums. Certainly there is a logical argument that areas directly affected by policies made in other areas should courteously be informed in advance of implementation, especially if not involved in prior discussions, but health is a devolved responsibility and Manchester is not yet in a region of Scotland. However, Scotland is supposedly a partner in the Union and not only has the Scottish Government not been consulted or involved in discussions ahead of the signing of the Tory-lauded "Australia Deal”, we still do not even know the details of this deal, which could be devastating to the livelihoods of Scottish farmers and those employed in other sectors of the UK economy.

It is understandable that the Mayor of Manchester, who naturally voices concerns of the people he represents, is frustrated in having to work with a Prime Minister who seems to think that having a conversation with himself in the shower is representative of a world-leading democracy in action. Perhaps if Mr Burnham soon becomes leader of the Labour Party his apparent belief in open democracy will be manifest in his instruction to the leader of Labour’s Scottish Branch Office to support the holding of a second independence referendum?

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

Shooting fish

Brian Monteith has rightly analysed the impact of Andy Burnham's masterclass in calling out Nicola Sturgeon. I hope our Scottish opposition leaders read his article and reflect on how they can deploy these methods every week. It should be like shooting fish in a barrel. No pun intended.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

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The fall guy

Poor old John Swinney having to appear on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Sunday, attempting to justify Nicola Sturgeon’s widely derided decision to ban Scots from travelling to Manchester, and without prior discussion with Andy Burnham, Manchester's mayor. Sturgeon routinely seems desperate for the oxygen of self-publicity – except when she makes a major howler such as this and her ever-loyal deputy then acts as the fall-guy.

Martin Redfern, Melrose Roxburghshire

Cycling fail

John McIntosh (Letters, 18 June) is not alone in finding our new cycleways a waste of money. As a cyclist, pedestrian and driver, it is hard to find citizens who think that their arrival was overall helpful.

Of course such lanes have safety benefits when fully segregated, as in Holland, or when using old rail lines. As installed in Edinburgh at present, however, our councillors seem to have little mandate and difficulty in providing statistics to show any benefit from fewer injuries.

Why did they not trial a few small sections first, before the enormous cost of so many bollards and clumsy anchors, as well as the labour involved? The same outlay spent on pothole repair would surely bring greater benefits in avoidance of car suspension damage and other cycling accidents.

Colin Evans, Edinburgh

Down under deal

Brian Wilson (Perspective, 19 June) is entitled to his lukewarm view of EU membership – the attitude is characteristic of many senior Labour hands of his vintage. And, although Labour did little to challenge a dubious EU referendum, and actively abetted Brexit itself, he’s surely only being pragmatic to insist the UK must now learn to cope with its outsider status.But he should give closer consideration to an Australian trade deal so modest that its only justification can be political. The excessive air miles and carbon footprint of the new imports are not consistent with an equally pragmatic approach to the problems of the environment. And the deal implicitly condones brutal Australia’s poor animal welfare conditions.

Anthony O’Donnell, Edinburgh

Rather green

Sacha Dench is going to try to fly a complete circumnavigation of mainland Britain in an electric-powered paramotor to highlight climate change and speak to people who may have solutions (your article, 19 June). Her paramotor replaces the two-stroke fossil fuel engine she previously used. If she thinks her battery electricity is all green she is mistaken. Octopus Energy, Bulb Energy, Pure Planet, Shell Energy, Green Energy UK, Ecotricity and Ovo Energy all claim to supply “100 per cent Green Electricity to their customers”. This is impossible. Over the last 42 days gas was providing, on average, 41.5 per cent of the electricity sent to the National Grid, renewables only 21.7 per cent.

The Advertising Standards Authority, despite numerous complaints, has not banned these misleading adverts. Ms Dench should complain to the ASA that her proposed all-green flight has been tainted before it has even started.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

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