Readers' Letters: We are sacrificing food security – and our farmers

We cannot live for long without food. We survive better with good quality, locally grown food, making knowledgeable and good choices about what we eat. The UK government has recently been presented with the Dimbleby report which advocates just that.

Are British farmers being placed at a disadvantage?

Boris Johnston and his team say they wish to create a high-skilled, high-income country post-Brexit. British primary producers have employed foreign labour to produce high-quality, local food. Abattoirs employ foreign labour; packers also employ foreign labour; simply because they cannot attract British people to do these skilled, often uncomfortable jobs. All these foreign workers must be paid the same rates as British people (they are paid at least the minimum wage) and although they can reclaim tax when they leave this country, they all pay national insurance.

The UK government insists that there is no crisis, that there will be plenty of food. There will be, but it will be foreign, produced to lower safety, hygiene and animal welfare standards than here in UK. Brits will still eat, but it will be foreign food – we will be at the mercy of other countries, with no food security of our own.

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For some time, UK governments (of all colours) have been edging towards cheap, imported food. British farmers simply cannot compete on a level playing field with other countries which do not have the same ideals of safety and welfare. British food is inevitably going to be more expensive – a niche product.

The result will be fewer farmers, virtually no livestock and less carbon sequestered in our productive grass-fed livestock farms (we do not produce beef or lamb in vast stockyards like the US and Australia). British farming will no longer have a place in society and the countryside will become a different place, bereft of cattle and sheep, pigs and hens, grazing in neat fields, with crops grown only for fuel. This wound not be the countryside I have loved all my life.

Gill Lawrie, Arbroath, Angus

Street of shame?

I can scarcely believe that I am writing this letter, but I cannot be alone in being astonished at the lengths some of your correspondents will go to in order to drum up examples of Anglo-bashing! Peter Lewis ( Letters, 11 October ) complains that a made-up character in a fictional story by Alexander McCall Smith has had the impertinence to “apparently vilify the English”. This shocking faux pas is so terrible that he has to find an example of an awful Scottish person to balance history!

It's fiction! Bertie's grandmother, Nicola (obviously a dangerous name, full of lurking threats) is not real. You can't politicise a gently portrayed fictional character. Ye Gods! Bertie gets enough grief from his crazy mother.

Brian Bannatyne Scott, Edinburgh

Student politics

Martin Redfern (Letters, 12 October) rightly asks why the Green MSP Lorna Slater is supporting “disruptive protest” in Glasgow, and apparently taking part, when her Scottish Government colleagues the SNP don’t allow this outside Holyrood.

There is however a more important side to this. If the protestors deliberately set out to be disruptive, then that increases the chances of trouble which could get out of hand, and risks the reputation of both Glasgow and Scotland more widely on the international stage.

Is it not time that our pretendy-ministers looked beyond their student politics and took responsibility in the way we might hope publicly elected politicians should do?

The main objective of COP26 is to agree how meaningful cuts to global emissions might actually be delivered. Thankfully, these discussions are being delivered at a UK level because the shallow and superficial virtue signalling of Ms Slater and her colleagues is unlikely to get us very far.

Victor Clements

Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross

Heads I lose

I note Gill Turner's letter (12 October) and her comment about the East of Scotland farmers discarding 3.5 million broccoli heads. I would much prefer if they had discarded 35 million.

Archie Burleigh, Skelmorlie, North Ayrshire

Empty buses

During all the furore over diesel engine emissions, why is it that in the East Neuk of Fife, we see a daily procession of totally empty buses traversing through the coastal villages from 6am until midnight seven days a week? Many of these buses are double-deckers!

Who pays for such obviously unused services and why are those in the know not doing something about such a waste of public service funds?

Derek Farmer, Anstruther, Fife

For the birds

Scotsman readers will be familiar with the phrase “He's away with the birdies!”, meaning that someone is somewhat mentally lacking.

That phrase certainly comes to mind when I see that our Scottish Government is giving £2.35 million to help rebuild Fair Isle Bird Observatory in the Shetlands – a building that was burned down in March 2019.

Apparently, the total final cost of the reconstruction is being estimated at £7.4m, so our apparently wealthy government may well be giving away yet more of our taxpayers' money in the future.

I've nothing against bird-watching but as we are entering a period when the cost of gas and electricity is to soar and some families will be forced to choose between heating and eating, is it wise to use vast sums of money to facilitate bird-watching on a island that has a population of only 60 people? And at a time when the Union of Ambulance Drivers is pleading for further funds to keep their vehicles running throughout the coming winter?

Archibald A Lawrie, Kingskettle, Fife

Figured out

Alex Orr’s assertion (Letters, 12 October) that Scotland would be better off on trade by gaining independence and joining the EU can certainly be disputed if numbers are introduced. The most recent Scottish export statistics released by the government (2018) show Scottish exports to the EU of £16.1 billion, or 19 per cent, and to rUK of £51.2bn, or 60 per cent.

Scotland would get out of the UK and out of the UK internal market because Scotland would retain EU regulations to further the EU accession cause. Therefore, the same effect to exports to rUK would happen as is claimed by Alex Orr is happening to our EU exports. So that would be six times as damaging compared with what he is claiming is happening at present.

It is anybody’s guess when an independent Scotland could become an EU member. This could take years, leaving Scotland outside both the EU and rUK internal markets in the meantime.

John Peter, Airdrie, North Lanrkshire

Fuel for thought

Jenny Stanning (Letters, 12 October) stresses the importance of indigenous oil and gas in minimising imports. It should be clear to even the most ardent eco-warrior that gas is a premium fuel worldwide and that demand will persist indefinitely and will command almost any price in a shortage.

I would argue that the best use of gas anywhere is the domestic market in the UK. We have arguably the most efficient gas network in the world with virtually no transmission or distribution losses. What is wasteful is using this premium fuel to generate electricity inefficiently and then transmit the electricity inefficiently via cables.

It is somewhat ironic that it is our green policy of installing intermittent generating wind turbines, necessitating high volumes of gas to top up generation, that requires us to import so much gas at premium prices.

John Mcintosh, Edinburgh

Vaccination woes

Thank you for publishing Dr Jenny Harries’ advice on being fully vaccinated against both flu and Covid (Scotsman, 11 October). We have been following her advice.

But I wonder how she would advise us to obtain these vaccinations. NHS Lothian has set up an extraordinarily complex and ultra-secretive system which is anything but user-friendly and clearly programmed with incomplete content, whereby 81-year-olds were sent to highly inconvenient venues for flu vaccination with no mention being made of Covid boosters. Logging on was impossible. Both cases known to me can no longer access the system as both were wrongly told they could cancel and rebook, one after several rebookings to get the date for the joint vaccination later than six months after the second Covid vaccination, the other simply for asking for a more suitable venue. He was greeted with: “They have sent the letters out too early!”

Flu jabs, though not Covid boosts, are easily available in neighbourhood pharmacies, unlike last year when disabled nonagenarians were sent to centres in Princes St Gardens.

Some things have been learned in that the blue envelopes sent out to younger partners did refer to Covid boosts, but the dates of the appointment were still within six months of the second Covid vaccination. The period for moving the appointment had been extended to a fortnight, which must cut down on the number of reappointments. The next step will be when appointments are in a convenient centre, at a clinically appropriate time, with full information.

Marina Donald, Edinburgh

Brian’s silence

As a change from the turgid predictability of Brian Monteith‘s usual weekly columns (Scotsman, 11 October) can I suggest he devotes at least one in the near future to the performance of Boris Johnson’s government and to the British triumph that is Brexit, as he’s been oddly quiet on this subject recently.

For once, that would make interesting reading.

D Mitchell, Edinburgh

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