Readers' Letters: Sturgeon's so-called 'pretendy' embassies are nothing new

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The first Scottish offices overseas were established by the Scottish Development Agency (SDA), an agency of government set up in 1975, to improve on the inadequate service provided by Whitehall’s “Invest in Britain” Bureau working through British embassies abroad.

These offices proved so successful that a Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, George Younger, decided to build on them when responsibility for the UK’s regional support systems exercised through the Department of Trade and Industry’s regional office in Glasgow passed to the Scottish Office, enabling him to unify the inward investment and trade support functions of the SDA and the Scottish Office in “Locate in Scotland” (LIS), with representation from Texas to Tokyo. This provided real competition to the Republic of Ireland’s inward investment record, until then the best in Europe. The established system continued until the Scottish Government took over on devolution and remains the foundation of today’s structure.

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The results are far from “pretendy”.The latest figures for the year to last March showed that Scotland had enjoyed a 14 per cent increase in Inward Investment projects, compared with 1.8 per cent for the UK as a whole and 5.4 per cent for Europe. Prospective investors’ rating of the UK’s nations and regions placed Scotland second only to London for attractiveness.

Nicola Sturgen should not be criticised for attempting to expand Scottish representation abroad, a reader argues
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Does the FM use this representation as a platform? Certainly, and rightly. It takes no great span of memory to recall the front page splashes of Secretaries of State visiting abroad in the cause of inward investment or when a success was landed. Indeed, I recall an annual report from LIS in which every single photograph was of the Secretary of State of the day, as was thought entirely appropriate by him.

James Scott, Edinburgh

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Danish folly

Another costly pretendy embassy opened and while Scotland is in chaos with industrial disputes Nicola Sturgeon is in Denmark to open her new folly.

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It appeared recently that she has been dropping hints that her time may soon be up as First Minister. I would like to suggest that if and when she does “abdicate”, her new position will involve jetting around all over the world overseeing her collection of meaningless embassies, at the expense of the Scottish taxpayer.

Ian Balloch, Grangemouth, Falkirk

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Bitter harvest

“If Scotland votes No again, beware the politics of bitterness,” warns Canadian academic Daniel Weinstock ().

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Well I’ve got news for the professor, the bitterness of the losers in our one and hopefully only referendum kicked off immediately after the result and has never ceased since. Those to blame according to them (in no particular order) include the Queen, Scottish Labour Quislings, the "establishment”, the press, the BBC, MI5, missing Yes stuffed ballot boxes, the Three Amigos, and Gordon Brown’s “Vow” (which most No voters never even read) to name but a few.

As for the losing Quebec separatist politician who scapegoated the ethnic vote in that referendum, who can forget the references to the votes of English “White Settlers” as yet another alleged factor in the failed attempt to break up our country?

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It’s bad enough being pontificated at by Scots actor luvvies who don’t even live here, and the musings of a Canadian 3,000 miles away, however well meant, adds nothing to the debate. In fact the inference that a No vote would be bitterly divisive but a Yes vote would lead to peace, sweetness and light is utterly risible.

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

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Dialogue required

It is disappointing to read of resistance to the appointment of the Centre for Good Relations to conduct a process of civic mediation between anti-abortion protestors and those impacted by their protests (Scotsman, 27 August).

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Mediation offers a constructive way for each side to listen to and understand the other’s concerns in a safe space, without any need to agree with them. It does not imply that there is “middle ground” but may well help those involved to move beyond the polarising antagonism which seems sometimes to have resulted from the protests.

If we are going to build a tolerant nation, where different views and beliefs are respected, we simply must find ways to work with diverse groups and encourage dialogue between people who are in conflict. Mediation, with a skilled independent third party, is a well-established way of achieving this.

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The Centre for Good Relations has an excellent track record in this kind of work and should be supported in this important task.

John Sturrock, Senior Mediator, Core Solutions, Edinburgh

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What a wallaby

I was astonished to learn, from your report on the absconding wallaby (Scotsman, 26 August), how tech-savvy some animals have become: “She was found in undergrowth using night vision and heat sensor equipment.”

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S Beck, Edinburgh

Going private

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In the annual school exam grade hysteria for state schools, why is the most important challenge never made? Why is the most relevant question never asked?

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Scotland exam results: Why the figures are so shocking
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Many fee-paying schools – whose pupils' results outstrip their crowded-classroom poorer contemporaries – do not follow the same syllabi and many private schools also pick their own exam boards. Some of the very wealthiest of these schools have considerable leverage. Exam boards are also competing for custom.

Next time you are blindsided by a potential PM and ex-chancellor who thinks Darlington is in Scotland (Sunak) or a (then) Brexit minister (Raab) who didn't understand the importance of the Dover to Calais trade route (I could go on and list most of the last cabinet) look to the advantages of the fee-paying school system. It is not just about the extra input and coaching and the confidence-veneer thickly applied or class sizes – though of course it is all that too.

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Amanda Baker, Edinburgh

Councils’ finances

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In attacking the Scottish Government on the council workers’ pay deal, Brian Wilson (Scotsman, 27 August) didn’t mention that Scottish local authorities’ useable cash reserves increased by £1,200 million in 2020/21 with Edinburgh’s reserves increasing by over £113m.

It was on that basis that the outgoing SNP finance convener on Edinburgh City Council ring fenced a 4.5 per cent pay award for council bin men. However, on 12 August Edinburgh Labour leader Cammy Day voted with the Tories and Lib Dem councillors on Cosla to push through a measly 3.5 per cent offer and defeated the SNP proposal of five per cent. This delayed sensible negotiations and is the reason Edinburgh’s streets are full of rubbish.

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Brian Wilson also forgot to mention that in addition to the Cosla five per cent offer on 19 August, the minimum local authority living wage is being increased to £10.50 an hour which, based on a 40-hour week, is £1,248 a year – higher than applies in England and Wales for the lowest-paid workers.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

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Time to talk

Crippling energy bills are the price freedom-loving nations must pay to ensure Ukraine's independence, Boris Johnson said in Kyiv on Wednesday. The problem, as European media point out, is that sanctions are hurting us more than Russia, and European resolve is wavering.

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The calamitous new price cap has been announced. The Resolution Foundation talks of the coming winter being “a catastrophe”. Meanwhile, with President Zelensky desperate to keep the conflict in the headlines; his forces were shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which should be demilitarised.

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has renewed his call for talks and we should echo these. We keep being told Ukraine can win the war with Russia (a country with the world’s greatest number of nuclear warheads), but they can't and it was said sanctions would hurt Russia.They are crippling us.

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The rouble is the fastest performing currency. Yes, McDonald’s, Starbucks etc pulled out but successor companies are almost identical. Russian energy exports rocket, they report a historic high trade surplus and major economies such as China and India still trade. Germany is on the brink of recession and the EU is about to splinter in its response. We can compromise with a clear conscience.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

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Shot down

Your article about shot pheasants being full of lead (Scotsman, 23 August) is absolute nonsense. Lead was banned for use in shotgun cartridges over 35 years ago – all shot in cartridges is now made from steel.

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All shot game may contain small balls but they are not made of lead, so game is quite safe to eat – apart from perhaps the risk of breaking a tooth on a small steel ball!

Robert D Fleming, Duns, Scottish Borders

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Water works

While criticising the privatisation of water (inter alia) in her column “Cost-of-living crisis demonstrates the utter folly of ‘small state’ politics”, (Scotsman, 26 August), Joyce McMillan seems to have forgotten that, in Scotland, water is already nationalised. It is run by Scottish Water, a statutory corporation accountable to the public via the Scottish Government, which receives any profits. It’s a model that should be used elsewhere.

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Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Write to The Scotsman

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