Readers' letters: Scottish country dancing criticism left me reeling

I was very disappointed with Stephen Jardine’s article about Scottish country dancing and the charity that is the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) (Scotsman, 28 October) He shows no understanding of the difference between ceilidh dancing and Scottish country dancing, a cultural activity that Scots have enjoyed for more than 250 years. Unfortunately, this limited understanding is shared by many in the media, as was evidenced when the same topic was discussed on The Nine.

Robert Burns was a Scottish country dancer and described it vividly and accurately in Tam O’ Shanter:

​“Nae cotillion, brent new frae France,

But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys and reels,

Scottish country dancing has global appeal (Picture: Jon Davey)Scottish country dancing has global appeal (Picture: Jon Davey)
Scottish country dancing has global appeal (Picture: Jon Davey)

Put life and mettle in their heels”

​I recently enjoyed a Scottish Country Dance in Dundee along with more than 80 other dancers with ages ranging from 21 to 80. They all enjoyed 18 dances, jigs, strathspeys and reels, with live music from top Sottish musicians. The oldest dance was first published in 1750, the most recent, in 2023.

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​The RSCDS is a charity with more than 9,000 members, only 25 per cent of whom live in Scotland with another 25 per cent in England. The other half are spread around the world, some in the obvious places like Canada and the United States but many in less obvious places such as Japan, France, Germany and Argentina. As a charity it has a duty of care towards its members, particularly young people, hence the need to produce guidelines to ensure that people feel safe and are protected.

​The world has moved on since poor Mr Jardine was traumatised by his “gym” teacher and the girls at his school. It is very unfortunate that he uses well-intentioned guidelines to poke fun at a healthy, inclusive activity enjoyed by thousands of Scots but about which he obviously knows little.

​Bill Cant, Dundee

What’s the point?

One wonders if there can ever be a meaningful outcome to the Covid-19 Inquiry with the unavailability of Whats App messages, emails and other communications between the major Scottish government players.

​The relatives of the people who died during the pandemic have a right to know what government decisions were taken to assess their impact on the wellbeing of their loved ones so that some closure may result.

The scale of the deletion of these communications could be construed by some as not having been isolated unintentional occurrences but a co-ordinated attempt to create an air of collective amnesia throughout government circles, making it difficult to apportion any responsibility.

Nicola Sturgeon’s repeated assertions of her leading a trustworthy, truthful and transparent government seem to have been tarnished. It’s interesting to note that Ms Sturgeon’s bête noire, Boris Johnson, even managed to turn over communications to the UK inquiry, albeit with some reluctance.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirling

Ban WhatsApp use

Alistair Grant (Scotsman, 30 October) poses the question is the Scottish Government policy in relation to WhatsApp and other messaging services fit for purpose? The clear answer is no. Use of unofficial channels of any kind for conducting government business should be outlawed immediately. Only government-provided devices and sanctioned channels that enable proper archiving as part of public records should be used at all times.

There is simply no need to use WhatsApp, unless of course you want to avoid an audit trail. The question then becomes why?

J Lewis, Edinburgh

Cranial implants

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Until advances in AI can give us robots who are never troubled by doubt (because they are never wrong) or human emotions, would it be possible to fit senior members of the government with cranial implants to record and transfer to printers all the information they have received, what dicussions they had, what decisions they took and how they arrived at them.

This would provide so much bumph that the inquiry industry, which is so lucrative for a few, would have enough raw material to keep it rolling merrily along for many more years, giving a significant boost to the country’s GDP.

S Beck, Edinburgh

Nothing changes

I am currently reading the densely fact-packed 450 pages of Jonathan Dimbleby’s Second World War history of The Battle Of The Atlantic; a truly majestic feat of research and writing. The overarching impression gained is of the abiding principles of obfuscation, economy of truth and, frankly, damn lies perpetrated by highly esteemed war leaders on all sides, as a matter of course, when informing media and public alike. Records both oral and written were modified, misinterpreted, redacted, lost or simply never kept in the first place.

So what’s new? Both Covid inquiries, which appear to be expensively duplicating each other’s efforts, are being delayed and frustrated by a woeful lack of transparency on the part of the politicians who managed the pandemic. It is highly likely that the truth about the war against the virus may never be fully exposed and the ubiquitous lessons not learned! It is a sad fact that human nature has never fundamentally changed and is unlikely ever so to do.

S R Wild, Edinburgh

Roadworks misery

Following on from the failed promises over the last 16 years to upgrade the A9 trunk road between Perth and Inverness comes four months of traffic disruption and delays due to work on a gas main.

A single carriageway section of the road near Dunkeld is reduced to a single lane with traffic controlled by temporary traffic signals. There is no alternative route as a diversion. As has been widely reported, this results in queues of traffic and long delays.

I have recently travelled from Inverness to the Glasgow area and back. On my southbound journey early on Thursday evening (October 26th) there was a queue over six miles in length. On my return at around lunchtime on Sunday (October 29th) there were again significant delays. On both occasions there was no sign of work taking place on the gas main.

It would appear that road users are to accept delays at these works 24 hours a day and seven days a week until February. Is it really possible that, in these circumstances, the contractor works only a 40-hour week between Monday and Friday?

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If it is essential that the gas main must be laid in the carriageway, then it should have been possible for Transport Scotland to stipulate that the work should be done overnight with traffic flow not impeded between, say, 7am and 9pm.

It is hard to imagine a more striking example of how low little regard politicians and their agencies based in the Central Belt give to those who live in the Highlands. I find it impossible to imagine that any other community in Scotland would be subjected to such disruption.

George Rennie, Inverness, Highland

Words of peace

When both the UK Tory and Labour leadership cannot advocate an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine war, the conciliatory words of First Minister Humza Yousaf were a welcome revelation.

Speaking in a synagogue, he said: “I was brought up in this community with Jewish neighbours. We shared culture, traditions and even food". And in quoting further: “I want you to know that this First Minister, who is proudly Muslim, shares the pain of our Jewish communities. Your heartbreak is my heartbreak. Your loss is my loss. Your tears are my tears.”

The sadness is that in this ancient home of three great religions, the festering tragedy between these Arab peoples is only compounded by the far-right and near-criminal activities of the Prime Minister of Israel.

Grant Frazer, Newtonmore, Highland

What ceasefire?

The calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war grow louder. The suffering on both sides so far has been horrendous and difficult even to contemplate.

But was there not a ceasefire in operation when Hamas launched its ferocious attacks on Israel on 7 October? How can they possibly expect the Israelis to agree to another unless there is some kind of international cast-iron guarantee that Hamas will not do exactly the same thing again? The UN should be working on that guarantee.

Alexander Mackay, Edinburgh

Sound advice

I'm delighted and relieved that Humza Yousaf has been able to contact, following a communications blackout, his in-laws, Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband, Maged, who were visiting Gaza when Hamas attacked Israel (Scotsman, 30 October).

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Nevertheless, tragically, they are living under appalling conditions and in a high-risk situation, and the anxiety and distress felt by Yousaf’s UK family are entirely understandable.

This underscores how important it is for all British citizens, whatever their political views or opinion on the constitution, to adhere closely to advice issued by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office regarding not travelling to war zones across the world or, as was the case when Yousaf’s in-laws chose to travel, areas the UK considers and designates as high-risk. I'm sure all readers very much wish Elizabeth and Maged a speedy and safe return to the UK.

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

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