ScotRail is failing to tap into cycling market - Readers' Letters

So Abellio ScotRail has wheeled out the token gesture of reconditioned carriages adapted to carry up to 20 bikes on the Glasgow-Oban line? (Whatever happened to the Abellio promise on taking up the ScotRail franchise in 2014 to introduce tourist trains on West Highland lines?). So a growing body of people who cycle have this stopgap measure thrust upon us.

Cyclists in Glasgow's revamped Queen Street Station

All this emanates from the fact that when the current ScotRail was introduced from 1989, the trains were Dinky Toys, Thomas The Tank Engines-on-steroids, railed vehicles built down to a price rather than up to a standard. Down the intervening 32 years, we cyclists have protested at the lack of bike-carrying facilities.

Look at the market missed out by our rail industry. My local bike shop alone sells two new bikes for every working day of the year. The cycling revolution has been with us now for over 30 years. In 1988, my son and I used a Kyle train between Garve and Achnasheen, and tacked on to the service train were two guards’ vans stuffed with bikes and rucksacks. By the policy of the trains it operates, our national rail company has killed this green market at a stroke and gifted it to the motoring lobby.

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By contrast, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Denmark – to take but four rail systems – trains are built to hoover up cyclists. Cyclists are positively marketed as bums-on-seats. Here in Scotland we’re pests who are barely tolerated.

The trains to Oban may take 20 bikes a time. The appalling rolling stock that entered long-distance services in Scotland in 1989 boasted only two bike spaces each, and it took pressure from the cycling lobby to raise that to a further extra two spaces – but in so doing, each train lost four seat spaces. As for our new high-speed long-distance 125 trains, we’re back to just two spaces again.

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

Gordon Casely, Crathes, Aberdeenshire

Taylor made

Ruth Davidson, or Baroness Davidson of Lundin Links as she prefers to be called these days, claims to have been “genuinely astonished” that Boris Johnson signed off on her peerage (Scotsman, 19 July).

For someone many claim to be a perceptive political player she shows “astonishing” naivety if she doesn’t know why it was given.

The great historian AJP Taylor summed up this type of surprising political largesse neatly when he said: “The establishment draws its recruits from outside as soon as they are ready to conform to its standards and become respectable. There is nothing more agreeable than to make peace with the establishment – and nothing more corrupting.”

Clearly, if she can’t beat this utterly corrupt Johnson regime she might as well join it.

D Mitchell, Edinburgh

Ruth’s truth

I think Ruth Davidson is well out of Scottish domestic politics and should not take over Alister Jack's job as Secretary of Sate for Scotland.

She was brilliant in the referendum and the 2016 Holyrood and 2017 general elections but now that indy is dead - or as Michael Gove so picturesquely put it, delayed till after his retirement - Scotland needs leaders with ideas and policies that can win elections and get rid of the SNP, not just rely on anti-indy rhetoric and bland lealfets.

The proof of this is the 20 per cent decline in the Conservative vote from 750k in 2017 to 590k in 2021 – and 100k of that is credited to tactical votes.

Policy was not one of Ruth Davidson's strengths and the decline in support is the result. But hopefully she and Lord McInnes, the former director of the Conservatives in Scotland, will absorb and inte grate with the more innovative, varied and robust approaches to defeating nationalism that are emanating from Westminster.

They and their Holyrood colleagues also need to accept Brexit, work out how "levellling up" can be applied in Scotland and how to reach the one million who voted Leave, two million who voted No, and the 1.8 million who didn't vote at all in May.

It isn't just the Tories though. Opposition parties need to up their game and create an atmosphere of belief and optimism that there is, after all, a cohort of pro-UK Scottish parties who can reboot and transform our country.

Alan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

For the birds

Ilona Amos's report (Scotsman, 21 July) that our seabird populations are being altered and damaged by climate changes lacks several vital explanations.

First, how can she know for sure the detailed mechanisms of processes whereby changes in climate may influence the seabirds' populations and to their detriment? Second, how does she justify the notion that, like the climate in general, variations in seabird populations, though not fully understood and explained, occur?

Do historical records relating to changing climate and seabirds show that what she worries about may have happened in years gone by?

The huge variations in climate over very many years could be compared with what is known about their possible associations with changing seabird populations.

What could we possibly do to influence the possible impacts of climate on the birds? After all, we in the UK already enjoy very minimal outputs of greenhouse gases compared with the many much heavier emitters in very many countries, especially those out east.

It's all to do with uncertainties between post hoc and propter hoc, association and causal link.

Charles Wardrop, Perth, Perth and Kinross

Currency claims

D Mason doesn’t understand the economics of a sovereign currency issuing nation, which Scotland will be upon independence (Letters, July 21).

A currency by itself has no intrinsic value but is a measure of a nation’s wealth. Scotland is a wealthy nation. It has land, abundant natural resources, a well-educated population, and an advanced export-driven economy. We are an energy powerhouse and England will be eager to buy our power, meaning our currency will be far from weak.

We will not inherit UK debt as we will not be the successor state, something London has acknowledged. Debts to banks, including mortgages, will be converted to Scottish pounds since that will be the condition for banks to continue to operate in Scotland post-independence.

The Scottish Central Bank will be able to set its own interest rates and invest in transforming Scotland into a fairer and more sustainable country.

Because Scotland has its own legal system and a functioning tax system, we will have a tax revenue stream that will be collected in Scottish pounds, the only currency for domestic payment. We will have ample foreign currency reserves as people transfer their current sterling balances into Scottish pounds.

History is full of examples of newly independent countries successfully launching new currencies. The difference is Scotland will be starting with many advantages other countries can only dream about.

Janet Bungener, Edinburgh

Trustworthy data

In defence of the problematic circumstances surrounding the much delayed release of data on Covid-related care home deaths in Scotland, Gill Turner discusses whether equivalent data for England are reliable (Letters, 16 July 2021).

We must not allow such whataboutery to take the focus away from the problems much closer to home. While the decision-making that led to the high number of care home deaths in Scotland and elsewhere should come under proper scrutiny during a future public inquiry, the reputation of National Records of Scotland, as the independent guardian of our demographic data, which has been dented by this affair, is in immediate need of repair.

The priority must be to ensure that Scotland's statistics are trustworthy and compiled without fear or favour, not whether the underlying data are better or worse than England's.

Harald Tobermann, Edinburgh

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Numbers game

Has anyone else noticed how Covid-related deaths are counted in a cumulative fashion – that is, they don't restart the count from zero at the end of a year? A far as I'm aware, deaths from all other diseases are reported non-cumulatively. For example, deaths in England from ischaemic heart diseases were 33,327 and 32,862 for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Had Covid-related deaths been zeroed on the anniversary of the first UK Covid case (according to worldometers.info) we would be currently seeing 11,566 Covid-related deaths, not the 128,896 that our TVs report.

Geoff Moore, Alness, Highland

Lunatic fringe

The ‘’Scotland isn’t England’’ message on Covid restrictions now being promoted by the SNP is aggressively combative.

This is not a message to pass on information to people entering Scotland from other parts of the UK. Instead, this is clearly a sop to placate the lunatic fringes of the SNP

They know a new referendum is off the cards perhaps permanently and so they have to compensate in some way and what better way than to have a go at our southern neighbours, with whom we share this island?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Betty oops

Edinburgh-based novelist Lucy Ellmann, in her tortuous rambling Things Are Against Us, has called JK Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith "the Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse of Scottish letters".

Clearly Ms Ellmann is not familiar with JK Rowling's alter ego Robert Galbraith – surely she qualifies ergo as both the Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse of Scottish letters?

However, anyone familiar with The Worst Witch, The Sandman, Red Dwarf, Star Wars and especially Buffy The Vampire Slayer knows Rowling more as the Thomas Edison of Scottish letters – since he was also a master of passing off everyone else's original ideas as their own.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone, Renfrewshire

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