Readers' Letters: Teachers' strike is unjust and indefensible

In July 2021 researchers from the London School of Economics examined the loss of learning caused by school closures during lockdown. They found that between March 2020 and April 2021, school pupils in Scotland lost a maximum of 119 classroom days; a worse situation than pupils in England. In terms of average learning losses, Scotland’s pupils also fared worse than their English counterparts. The entire focus of the education system in Scotland should have been on ensuring that pupils missed no more learning time.

I hope that striking teachers this week reflect on Reform Scotland’s recent report: Absence and Attendance in Schools. The think-tank’s report finds that in 2018/19, almost 140,000 children were absent from school in Scotland at least one day per fortnight; more than 45,000 were absent one day per week. In Glasgow alone more than 6,000 pupils were missing one day per week.

These figures are scandalous. But what is perhaps more scandalous is that striking teachers are now adding to this loss of learning.

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Of course there is nothing wrong with unions fighting for more pay and better conditions for their members. But the price paid by striking teachers is not paid by management, but by schoolchildren who lose out on their education. It is a very great price, and one that some of them will pay for the rest of their lives. It is for this reason alone that the teachers’ strike is unjust and indefensible.

Teachers hold a rally outside the Scottish Parliament on a strike day in November last yearTeachers hold a rally outside the Scottish Parliament on a strike day in November last year
Teachers hold a rally outside the Scottish Parliament on a strike day in November last year

For pupils, attendance at school is supposed to be compulsory: the same stricture should now also apply to teachers. That is why the Prime Minister is right to bring in anti-strike laws. The unions should now call off their strikes. It’s time to get Scotland’s schoolchildren, and their teachers, back into the classroom.

Graeme Arnott, Stewarton, East Ayrshire

Another angle

Rather than trying to pass “non-strike legislation” into law would it not be more sensible to treat essential workers as retired people are treated and legislate that their salaries are triple locked?

John Cutland, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Wind’s woes

Stifling the urge to scream we told you so, the apparently unaccountable wind industry’s failings are coming in thick and fast now.

From official reports that endangered birds and bats are being slaughtered in unsustainable numbers; to micro plastics and toxins eroding from the blades in alarming amounts into our environment, our waterways and the sea; to millions upon millions of pounds being spent to switch turbines off and yet bizarrely many more are set to be approved; to ancient radioactive particles on the seabed being stirred up by offshore wind speculation and its infrastructure when fishing in the same area is banned; to high energy costs when over-deployed wind fails and reliable generators demand ludicrous payments – £4000-plus MWh – to step in; to the utter nonsense that wind will provide base load when temperatures plummet and regular winter highs produce breezeless weather conditions; to the ruthless foreign wind multinationals who sweep in and use Scotland as their own personal cash cow, trash our country and then disappear never having to live with what they have forced on us; to the insanity of electrifying everything from heating to transport and relying on the weather to provide the power; to the politicians who have the audacity to tell us wind is clean when the evidence is to the contrary both where turbines are installed and their components manufactured; to the misinformed and arrogant green-sloshed who tell us wind is cheap while our bills rocket.

When will the policy-makers join the dots? When will they admit they have got this catastrophically wrong? When our rural lands and seas are industrialised beyond recognition by wind turbines and their necessary infrastructure of pylons, substations and cables? When people die of cold because they are too frightened to turn their heating on or fall because they try to use less lighting in their homes? Those in power are so far removed from reality that the real suffering by ordinary folk just passes them by. Their solution? Build more wind turbines.

Lyndsey Ward, Beauly, Highland

Do as I do

With all these SNP and Green politicians and letter writers telling us how to manage our lives it would be instructive, to say the least, to find out exactly how they heat their homes, their modes of transport, etcetera and perhaps even their own self-identifying genders.

To show the way, I admit that we have enjoyed the services of a heat pump for nine years, run an electric car and happily retain the genders we were born with.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Harry’s game

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I had zero respect for Tom Bradby, whose fronting of ITV’s news – openly peppered with his personal opinions and feelings – are a complete disgrace to the spot Sir Trevor McDonald turned into a cherished national institution of objectivity.

But he’s gained some by his Sunday night interview in allowing Prince Harry to hang himself by his own petard in spectacular style. Without the spin of The Guardian newspaper, the Duke of Sussex was shown up for the spoilt rich brat he was who – unlike his brother William – never learned to check his privilege, and with Moaning Meghan in tow (his Queen Of First World Problems) it can be certain he never will.

With luck, this will be the last we hear of the Tiresome Twosome for a very long time.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

King must act

I am appalled at Prince Harry’s statement about killing 25 “chess pieces”. Irrespective of his other beefs, this affects all forces personnel and UK citizens and as such King Charles, as Commander in Chief of Armed Forces, must make an official comment.

Referring to the other side as chess pieces rebounds in considering all UK armed forces as chess pieces too. I wonder how this is viewed by his Invictus Games participants and how it will affect future recruitment to the armed forces?

Commander in Chief, step up to the plate and defend your armed forces and the people of the UK. Do not delegate this duty to anyone else and lose the respect of the British people who you need to defend this country.

Dawn Wilson, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

False claims

On the Laura Kuenssberg show on Sunday Rishi Sunak falsely claimed that A&E waiting times were worse in Scotland than England.

The data shows that in November 2022, 64.1 per cent of admissions to full Scottish A&E departments were seen within four hours, and 4.3 per cent waited more than 12 hours. In the same period, in full English A&E departments, the figures were 54.4 per cent and 10.2 per cent. So, Scotland’s A&E departments were 18 per cent better on the four-hour target and more than twice as good on the 12-hour target.

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Rishi Sunak will claim that the English A&E figure is 68.9 per cent, which includes county hospitals that don’t have full A&E departments and that deal with less serious cases. The Tories are expert at distorting the data when they aren’t outright lying.

Finally, there is no acknowledgement that NHS funding is largely controlled by the UK Government and Scotland must make do with its limited “allowance” from Westminster. Scotland isn’t the currency issuer, Westminster is. That’s why restoring our independence is the only way to prevent the collapse of our vital public services and the immiseration of our population.

Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh

Finance key

The Scotsman Editorial of 9 January indicates that spending 33 per cent of the Scottish budget leaves NHS expenditure “woefully inadequate” to meet the current crisis experienced by the public.

However, this highlights the failure of media and political debate in Scotland, where there is only a focus on an individual problem with no recognition that there are several problems, all intertwined through finance, that need to be addressed.

For example, independence results in a decade of austerity so how is NHS expenditure to be increased as living standards fall? A Green Revolution is estimated to cost £150 billion with flat owners facing a £40,000 bill to bolt heat pumps onto an outside wall of their property whilst rural Scots face a £33,000 debt to upgrade their dwelling to the requisite EPC standard. How are these debts to be repaid if more cash is to be poured into the NHS and living standards fall, as forecast in the SNP Growth Report?

A refusal to accept that “independence is irrelevant until we fix the climate” should now be re-stated as “independence is irrelevant until we fix the NHS and the climate”. Hopefully, today’s debate on IndyRef2 at Holyrood will address the fact that major political problems cannot be addressed on a single-issue basis but must reference all intertwined factors.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway

Back to basics

I did not need a poll to tell me that the majority of Scots are unhappy with the way the SNP government is running public services. Merely glancing through readers’ letters in newspapers is proof enough.

Yet we still see Nicola Sturgeon heading towards a Spring Conference to discuss independence and Lorna Slater promising that Indyref2 would be delivered.

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What about the delivery of better basic public services for a start – then the public might be more receptive towards going for the Nationalists’ dream of separation and self-determination.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirling

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