Royal High saga

The intervention of Unesco's assistant head of culture in the continuing saga of the Royal High School is welcome, but there is one particular aspect which should be thoroughly investigated.

You report that the lease agreement between the council and the developers could block any progress of the latest proposal until 2022 (UN culture chief backs music school proposal for Royal High, 22 August).

I would suggest that the validity of that lease may be challenged on the grounds that when it was awarded in 2010 it was for a ‘boutique arts hotel’ which was to be contained within the envelope of the A listed building.

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Some time afterwards it was ‘upgraded’ to become an ‘international luxury hotel’ with added accommodation blocks at double the original budget.

The UK may have opted for Brexit, but as of now we remain bound by EU procurement regulations and case law.

The council’s own planning and development sub-committee took a correct decision when it rejected the hotel application, which was manifestly anti-competitive insofar as the subsequent proposal bore no relationship to the winning entry in the 2010 competition.

After the prospective hotel developers launched an appeal against the council decision, the Scottish ministers appointed two reporters to consider the evidence in an inquiry.

At the preliminary procedural hearing I indicated that I intended to provide evidence in a written submission, with case law citations, which clearly demonstrated that the original lease was vitiated since the relevant proposal had been replaced by an entirely different one.

I was subsequently notified that the reporters would not be considering this vital evidence on the grounds that it fell outwith their remit.

I would suggest that their remit obliges them to ensure that all parties concerned in this enquiry should be subject to the principle of compliance with the law.

In essence, the appeal should be struck out with immediate effect insofar as the hotel application as currently proposed bears no relationship whatever to the winning entry, and the terms of the original lease no longer apply.

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It seems we do things differently in Scotland.

David J Black

St Giles Street, Edinburgh

Search for truth

The case for a United Nations-backed international inquiry into the circumstances of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and subsequent conviction of Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, remains a very strong one (your report, 22 August).

It is difficult not to feel sympathy with former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s view that investigators will never get to the bottom of the case.

But the legal system here and in other countries should never be constrained by the idea that the facts are simply too complex to probe.

As the attendance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival talk about his book on the matter shows, there is still a strong public appetite to get at the truth.

Events in the Middle East since Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds seven years ago(and his death some three years later) have compounded the difficulties in finding it.

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For the sake of all those who perished that bleak December night more than 27 years ago, it is vital that the search for it goes on.

Mr MacAskill’s book has enriched the debate about how international events can inhibit legal decisions.

His statement at the time of Megrahi’s release stressed the need for global co-operation to look at all the facts, without concealing his own view that Megrahi was guilty.

The Scottish Government, however, did not have the power to authorise such co-operation. The basic point he made, though, has been borne out by world events since then.

He has felt confident enough to offer his own deductions about what actually led up to Lockerbie and the aftermath.

They should be seen as an important contribution to an even wider examination of the events that led to the carnage.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

No more MSPs

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When I saw your headline “More MSPs might be what we need” (your report, 22 August) I nearly choked on my cornflakes. According to Lesley Riddoch, former Presiding Officer George Reid thinks that numbers should rise from 129 to 150. The 129 MSPs have failed to address the numerous problems Scotland already has.

Scotland is the most over-governed country in the world with 1,223 councillors and 129 MSPs. Then there are six MEPs and 59 MPs.

The costs of the 129 MSPs salaries, expenses, pensions, their offices, numerous researchers, assistants, PR consultants and the extremely busy spin doctors are unsustainable. The annual cost for having 129 MSPs is £72 million and one can add another £32 m for the 1,223 councillors.

The Scottish Parliament building cost £414m and was ten times over budget and three years late.

So much for accountability. Lesley Riddoch asks whether doubling the number of MSPs might make the parliament more efficient.

We all know the answer to that – doubly inefficient.

The SNP is fond of referendums so one asking the people to decide by how much we should reduce the number of politicians and councillors is long overdue.

Clark Cross

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Springfield Road, Linlithgow

I do wish people, and journalists in particular, would stop misusing the term ‘Mother of Parliaments’. Lesley Riddoch misused it in her article ‘More MSPs might be what we need’, (your report, 22 August).

The phrase was coined by MP John Bright in 1865 when he described England [sic] as ‘the mother of parliaments’ because it gives birth to successive parliaments.

In no sense is Westminster the mother of other parliaments, but it is the child of the state, being born again at each general election. It is the UK that is the ‘mother’, not Westminster.

Steuart Campbell

Dovecot Loan, Edinburgh

Dewar’s SNP gift

In Tam Dalyell’s recently-published autobiography he claims that Donald Dewar, in trying to appease the Alex Salmond-led nationalists with devolution in the 1990s, merely encouraged the SNP and his effort was more akin to throwing meat at a wild animal.

His view on Donald Dewar in the run-up to devolution and what followed is not complimentary at all and, in fact, at the time and now many felt much as Tam Dalyell did – that there was no placating or middle ground for nationalism or nationalists.

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We were, in fact, told at the time that ‘devolution will kill nationalism stone dead.’

That another wise astute politician like Donald Dewar could not have seen what was so obvious to so many is baffling.

Unwittingly, his actions have led to the collapse in Scotland of the Labour Party and the situation we now face.

Had Labour been resolute and held to their pro-UK principles and not caved in and been used by the SNP to further nationalism, things could have been very different. He virtually gifted Scotland to the SNP.

Unquestionably, Mr Dewar’s intentions were good and he was sincere. However, everyone knows where the road paved with good intentions leads. We now witness it daily.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Don’t interfere

SNP MPs continue their grandstanding at Westminster. Their Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins says with great bravado that unless the UK government reveal details of the deal it will be seeking with the EU for Brexit, then they will ask the Speaker of the Commons to grant an ‘urgent’ question on Brexit when they return to parliament on 5 September.

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This follows the First Minister saying, with her customary mock outrage on any Brexit related issue, that it “beggars belief” that there is little clarity about the approach being taken by the UK government some eight weeks after the EU referendum result.

So the SNP would like the UK government to tell them and everyone else in advance what they are going to try to negotiate with the EU.

That would be just fine as long as we do not mind completely compromising our negotiating position. Which of course is something the SNP would like to happen.

The worst possible outcome for the SNP is that the UK government do a good job of the negotiations with the EU, ultimately securing what is clearly the best route forward for all of the UK, including Scotland.

If the UK government is to secure the best outcome on Brexit they will have to do so despite the SNP’s interventions rather than because of them.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Usual suspects

I see in yesterday’s The Scotsman that the First Minister has visited Bosnia and paid her respects to the 8,000 men and boys massacred in 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces.

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I will be interested to read the variety of anti-Sturgeon letters this will provoke from the usual suspects. No doubt she will be accused of hypocrisy, arrogance and incompetence.

I await to discover whether the level of indignance will be at the usual level.

Jan Cameron

Allanfield, Edinburgh

No hard border

Dr Roger Cartwright (Letters, 20 August) questions my view (Point of View, 19 August) that a hard border between an independent Scotland and an independent England, or Rest of the UK, is not inevitable.

Clearly it is possible, if either party wants it, but if both are in a common travel area, whether in or out of the EU, it would not happen. Most of those seeking Scottish independence seem in favour of Scottish membership of the EU.

We do not yet know what the outcome of Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU will be, but a common travel area is among the options.

Dr David Stevenson

Blacket Place, Edinburgh

Boost for fishing

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Brexit couldn’t come soon enough for Scottish fishermen.

They now wait in joyful anticipation of the EU shackles coming off their industry – an end to complicated legislation and years of throwing fresh fish back into the sea.

This could well be the long awaited revival of the Scottish fishing fleet, leading to many more trawlers being built as opportunities open up in the vast Scottish fishing waters around Scotland which are well stocked with quality fish.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Bucksburn, Aberdeen