Readers' Letters: Smelling a rat over cancellation of fireworks

I smell a rat and I don't mean one of those gorging on the piles of garbage littering the streets of Edinburgh.

On 22 August, exactly one week before the event, BBC News announced there would be no Edinburgh Festival fireworks display, the reason being that at the time a decision had to be made, organisers were not confident it could be delivered within the guidance at the time.

When the rest of the festival is, with the exception of Jerry Sadowitz, taking place as per normal, why were the organisers forced to cancel the most spectacular and popular event? When was the decision made to cancel and why was it not announced to the public at that time? Since they mention guidance and not restrictions I assume the decision was made after restrictions were lifted, so what guidance was there to justify cancelling an open-air event, especially as indoor events could go ahead.

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The rat I smell, given the minimal explanation and its timing, is that there appears to have been some sort of blunder and an attempt to cover it up. I think we are entitled to a fuller explanation of the reason to cancel. Surely after two years of missed festivals and this being the 75th anniversary, every effort should have been made to ensure the fireworks display took place. It isn't rocket science, organisers have the experience of nearly 40 years of successful displays to draw on.

2018's Virgin Money Fireworks Concert saw pyrotechnics 'dance' to music by Edinburgh's Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Picture: Andrew O'Brien)2018's Virgin Money Fireworks Concert saw pyrotechnics 'dance' to music by Edinburgh's Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Picture: Andrew O'Brien)
2018's Virgin Money Fireworks Concert saw pyrotechnics 'dance' to music by Edinburgh's Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Picture: Andrew O'Brien)

John Wann, Edinburgh

Volunteer wanted

The appalling state of Edinburgh's streets after refuse staff have been on strike for less than a week is testament to the excellent work they normally do, unnoticed and unsung. It took a strike for everyone to notice.

And where does culpability lie? Local Authorities are responsible for the cleansing service, and the original 2 per cent pay offer was a joke, but their budgets have been savagely cut, year on year, by the Holyrood Government, so their coffers are pretty empty. The speed with which John Swinney found an extra £140 million to help settle the strike is evidence that he knows the Government is the real guilty party. And contrast that £140m with the £300m+ the SNP Government chooses to spend each year running overseas “embassies”, the most recent of which was just opened in Copenhagen.

The Scottish Government's priorities should be to ensure that the services which the people of Scotland rely on are functioning properly, be that trains, ferries, education or the disposal of rubbish. The Scottish Government should stop spending on mythical foreign services and repatriate that money to pay hard-pressed and overworked public workers a decent wage for the excellent work they do.

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon would care to take a selfie with one of the rats!

Judith Gillespie, Edinburgh

Holyrood follies

Nicola Sturgeon is paying far more attention to her two favourite subjects, independence and celebrity appearances at the Festival, than her day job for which we all pay her.

Her latest gaffe is to go to Copenhagen to open a “Scottish hub office”. This is a little premature as Ms Sturgeon has no international power and her much-touted independence referendum has yet to get past the starting gate. Meanwhile John Swinney is insisting there is no more money to ease the nationwide crippling bin strikes yet it seems there is plenty for these follies.

This is a huge political mistake which will have negative ramifications for Sturgeon, Swinney and independence.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow

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Nicola Sturgeon visits Copenhagen to officially open a Nordic Office

Look east

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Regarding our rubbish collection hiatus, perhaps we can all learn something from the Japanese culture. Public rubbish bins are few in Japan, and the public take their rubbish home with them. Let us all devise ways of doing this. This adds to our already-stressed home rubbish storage problems, but needs must. Our cultural attitude toward consumerism and related waste needs improving anyway.

Nancy Lynner, Edinburgh

Trouble ahead

We've lately seen much virtue-signalling by Nicola Sturgeon about her green credentials. But now, with the terrible war in the Ukraine largely responsible for soaring energy prices that create financial hardship for many of us, the SNP spots an opportunity. John Swinney once more puts oil and gas at the centre of its (considered by many experts to be shaky) economic UK break-up narrative. Let's gloss over that oil prices are hugely volatile and think about what this means for the SNP/Greens alliance held together by separatism yet with the Greens making increasingly strident environmental demands as their price for propping up the SNP administration.

Sturgeon talks up her new besties, Greens leaders, Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, but surely now there's trouble in the cessationist paradise?

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Watery grave

It has been reported that senior Tories have suggested that Scotland’s water could be appropriated to solve England’s drought by putting into effect the old idea of a lock-less “mathematical” canal. The proposal was first advanced 80 years ago and is dug up periodically, including during the time Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, when he gave it his usual unthinking endorsement, much on the lines of his ideas for a network of road tunnels under the sea to Ireland.

The cost quoted for this fantasy is £14 billion, but that is likely to be as near the mark as the cost quoted for HS2. And who cares? There is Scottish gas, Scottish electricity and Scottish oil to pay for it. There is also ample precedent in the Welsh farms and valleys inundated to supply Birmingham with water for this kind of exploitation of the subordinate constituents of the UK.

I know it rained on the Prime Minister’s ”camping holiday” in Wester Ross, leading him to pack up and go home, but he should not be allowed to let that determine water policy for the UK. Scottish holidays are often wet and he should have brought a brolly.

If England wants more water for its gardens why doesn’t Westminster set up desalination plants in the South? Costly, perhaps, but there is no harm in that when at least part of the cost can be charged out to Scotland. It would not go well with whisky, but neither does London water.

Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

Lever bothers

Alex Orr asserts the GERS figures are “based on a measure of guesswork that indicate very little” (Letters, August 26). It is somewhat puzzling, therefore, that he also claims – on the basis of these meaningless figures – that the UK is responsible for "appalling mismanagement of the economy". Are these figures – produced by Scottish Government statisticians and the “authoritative publication on Scotland's finances” according to Alex Salmond – meaningful for the UK but not Scotland?

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Mr Orr's claims are based on the equally well-worn assertion that an independent Scotland would do things differently because it would have its hands on “major economic levers”. The only one of these elusive levers I have ever heard mentioned by a nationalist is borrowing. Currently the UK borrows on behalf of the whole country including Scotland – an uncomfortable fact for nationalists – and from 2016 to 2021, 18 per cent of the UK's borrowing was on behalf of Scotland, which has 8 per cent of the population. One thing that would certainly be done differently in an independent Scotland would be borrowing – at a considerably higher interest rate!

Perhaps Mr Orr can point to other “levers" and inform us how they can be used only in an independent Scotland to “stimulate the economy”. Until the independence movement can show that – contrary to the forecasts of its own Growth Commission report – a solo Scotland would be more prosperous, then I and a large proportion of the population will look forward to the prospect of changes in government at Holyrood and Westminster to produce an upturn in the UK's and Scotland's fortunes.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

It’s a mystery

About a week from now we will be presented with a new Prime Minister, chosen by Conservative Party members, a tiny fraction of the entire UK electorate. According to polls a majority of them would rather see Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in No. 10 Downing Street than Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor.

This preference appears baffling. In TV debates and hustings Mr Sunak responds with detailed answers to challenging questions and comes across as an excellent communicator while Ms Truss often strays into vague generalisations, appearing schoolmasterly and distanced.

While Rishi Sunak offers pragmatic, immediate financial help for those millions of Britons who are facing real hardship this winter, Ms Truss' flagship policy of tax cuts to kick-start economic growth will literally leave them in the cold. In hustings Mr Sunak claims that Ms Truss’s plans will make the typical MP £1,700 better off while people on low wages will have to make do with an additional £1 per week. The benefit for those below the basic tax allowance will be exactly zero.

Yet Ms Truss' supporters seem to be comfortable with this idea as with her plan to divert £13 billion from the NHS to social care, all funded by general taxation. How this is supposed to work in tandem with tax cuts is anyone's guess. All of this will supposedly be based on some “fiscal event”, omitting an Office of Budget Responsibility forecast of the impact on the economy.

Tory MP Michael Gove called Ms Truss’s approach a “holiday from reality”. If Tory members are happier to follow her on that holiday than settling for the competence and prudence of Rishi Sunak, one wonders what is actually driving the voting agenda of this leadership contest.

Regina Erich, Stonehaven

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