Business in the House of Commons on Tuesday included “proceedings of the House during the pandemic”. This business was led by the Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. There was a very interesting, heated debate, with the Conservative government calling for MPs to return to the House with immediate effect, and opposition members calling for MPs to continue to take part in proceedings through the temporary system of having all divisions taken remotely.
It is breathtaking in the 21st century and in the current circumstances that we all find ourselves in, that this debate was necessary. Technology has come into its own and it would not have been unreasonable to have expected the Westminster government to be seen to promote the democratic process and representation through technology and the “hybrid” system.
Given that some MPs are following the government’s instruction to self-isolate or are shielding due to issues for a family member, Rees-Mogg’s demand will result in many putting themselves and their family at risk. Yet a solution is available and must be grasped, allowing those MPs to represent their constituents. What about the Westminster government’s advice to “stay at home,” “work from home if you can”? Should that have read “work from home excluding MPs?” What about the government’s advice not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary?
This takes us on to a whole other issue, that of climate change / air quality. Some MPs make a round trip of hundreds of miles to represent their constituents, adding to climate change/air quality issues. Tuesday puts the Westminster government’s claim to be serious about tackling climate change into doubt.
Catriona C Clark, Hawthorn Drive, Banknock, Falkirk
Why did the SNP’s Gavin Newlands turn up to Westminster in denim shorts? Did he think it was another Zoom meeting?
David Bone, Hamilton Street, Girvan, South Ayrshire
Care homes crisis
Care home design emphasises social interactions between residents. Many have dementia.
This makes infection control very very difficult, far more so than in hospitals where, despite long-standing preventive measures, Covid-19 has been getting about. Its lethality increases markedly with age, more consistently and markedly than with any other virus.
That is why there have been so many recent tragedies. The failure to prevent the ingress of virus into care homes has been an international one, from Spain to Sweden to Scotland and from England to the United States.
Now is not the time to construct national or international league tables, but to find out why the virus found it so easy to enter care homes and do something about it; the virus has not yet gone away.
Hugh Pennington, Carlton Place, Aberdeen
Must do better
For the past ten weeks my grandson has been receiving his education at home, like hundreds of other primary school children. He is fortunate enough to live in an area of Edinburgh where the children at his particular school will virtually all have access to equipment to enable them to do the work. He has received work from the school and his parents work very hard to ensure he does this and returns that which is requested. Not an easy task if you are not teachers yourselves!
They are also having to work from home in their own careers. So why in this day and age of technology does his teacher not reply to the work sent in and give him some feedback? Some teachers are great at complaining that they are misunderstood and not appreciated, but is it any wonder if this is how the children are being treated?
Why can they not use Skype, Zoom or any other of the technical ways of getting groups on line? Other countries across the world have been using this for years.
When asked about this the answer was that the teacher “did not know how to use computer programmes”. Well, may I suggest that all schools do a bit of teaching of its teaching staff and ensure that they do get this knowledge because it is likely that going to school is going to be disrupted for some time and the children still require to get lessons.
You have already had ten weeks to learn computer skills and from now until August to get it right.
So, head teachers and teaching staff, show the children and parents that you actually care about their education and are willing to learn new things to enable it to be carried out.
Maybe then the appreciation will be shown to you; but more importantly, all our children will not suffer unnecessarily.
Jane Greer, Huntingtower Park, Glenrothes, Fife
Up in the air
John Holland-Kaye, the CEO of Heathrow, is regularly interviewed on TV, most recently on yesterday morning’s BBC breakfast show, and as a result I feel I know more about what’s happening at Heathrow than I do about Scotland’s biggest airport five miles up the road from here.
My wife and I live near the flight path into Edinburgh Airport and the number of planes coming in has definitely increased over the last few days. So where are they coming from, are they bringing tourists into Edinburgh during the lockdown and what security arrangements are in place at the airport?
Harry D Watson, Braehead Grove, Edinburgh
Home to roost
Is it not a strange coincidence that at this very time of year, when the rookery nests are full of cawing, hungry young scavengers, the chattering classes are in a similar crescendo, calling for the demise of the arch-SPAD Dominic Cummings?
First, their concerted faux concerns about him sitting in on Sage meetings then, two months after his trip to secure the safety of his family, the screeching banshees tried to get him at any cost.
Since time immemorial, heads of state and government have been surrounded by special advisers to help keep an eye on all sorts of affairs, such as Sir Francis Walsingham for Queen Elizabeth I and Daniel Defoe for William III. In modern times we have had Alastair Campbell for the Blair government and now Dominic Cummings for the Johnson one.
These appointees may not be everyone’s cup of tea; however, they provide a necessary spare set of eyes and ears and an advice safety net for their boss, who cannot be everywhere at once.
People of like-minded expertise and persuasion are not always correct in their analysis of data and their recommendations can have serious repercussions for us all.
To illustrate my point, during the second World War, Dr Magnus Pyke was at the Ministry of Food and there his team came up with the idea that the haemoglobin by-product for plasma transfusions could be used for making black puddings for human consumption. Thankfully this idea was quickly put to rest by one of the government special advisers who latched on to the proposal before it saw the light of day.
There is something afoot in the dirty world of politics with this whole Cummings affair. Time will out!
Archie Burleigh, Skelmorlie, North Ayrshire
Norway, oil etc
Murdo Fraser writes in his article (Perspective, 3 June) that “Corona virus would have been a catastrophe for an independent Scotland”, and goes on to say that only the generosity of the English taxpayer has kept us afloat.
It must be a source of some astonishment to Mr Fraser that every small independent country across Europe has, without exception, coped with the virus and the economic consequences much better than Westminster; and in every case supported their economies at least as well as, and in most cases better than, the UK. An independent Scotland would have been equally capable of doing the same.
He then has the effrontery to castigate the SNP for not keeping enough money in its reserves for a rainy day.
This is rich coming from the party which concealed the truth about the billions of revenue from North Sea oil and then blew every penny of those revenues on tax cuts for the rich, rather than building up a national oil fund.
Norway, which has produced less oil than the UK, has a fund of almost two trillion dollars and has not had the slightest problem in protecting its economy in the current crisis.
The UK could have had the same but that would have required prudence and forethought. Not something Westminster has ever been capable of.
James Duncan, Rattray Grove, Edinburgh
Richard Dixon promotes “redistributing wealth” alongside action to stop the climate changing (Inside Environment, 2 June).
Similarly senior UN climate ‘expert’ Ottmar Edenhofer infamously said in 2010 “one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy... We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”
Can Richard Dixon clarify from whom wealth will be taken and to whom it will be given?
Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland
I would like to protest in the strongest possible terms at The Scotsman leader (3 June) which described President Donald Trump as a ‘...racist, sexist, serial liar’. After his stunt holding the bible outside a Washington church, it missed out ‘hypocrite’.
D Mitchell, Coates Place, Edinburgh
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