Trading places

I HAD always assumed that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) operated on the 'most-favoured nation' principle. This encouraged freer trade and less protectionism by ensuring that you could not set a lower tariff for some and deny it to others.

Your report (Scotsman, 26 May) on the WTO chief forecasting huge duties and billions in trade tariffs on leaving the EU seems completely at odds with this approach. It implies that cutting separate deals for special interests is the order of the day.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

I am puzzled by the reported statement from the head of the World Trade Organisation that,if the UK left the EU, there would be billions in tariffs to be paid on its imports. I thought the WTO’s mission was to encourage trade by reducing tariffs, not to impose them, and that it is up to individual states to decide their policies. If outwith the EU the UK might, for instance, raise tariffs to protect industries, such as steel. The proceeds would, of course, go into the Treasury’s coffers.

S Beck

Craigleith Drive, Edinburgh

Research the facts

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In the ever-decreasing standard of the EU debate, today’s article (26 May), sees Alastair Sim combine the apolcalyptic scare story (leave the EU and fight against cancer will be hampered), with the appeal to the desire for co-operation as reasons for voting to stay in.

The fact is that the universities do receive a substantial subsidy from the EU and one can see why they are fighting for Remain. I know of students who have been visited on behalf of their university and told to vote Remain.

Unlike the Scottish referendum, it appears that universities are prepared to interfere and seek to influence.

There is of course no reason why an independent UK or indeed Scotland would not continue to fund research.

David A Robertson

Shamrock Street, Dundee

Odd offer

What a peculiar proposition Nicola Sturgeon seems to be offering her opponents, given that most of them are pro-UK (‘Sturgeon aims for alliances’ 26 May).

In essence she is saying let’s get together on a range of nice sounding “progressive” policies, and meanwhile I will seek to undermine all that by working to rebuild the case for separating Scotland from the rest of the UK. Which is it First Minister, are we working together or breaking apart?

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Learning curve

You report that the Scottish Government’s proposed new international council of education advisers “will be formed over the summer [and] will include experts in closing the attainment gap, achieving equity and system reform” (“New schools advisory body announced at first cabinet”, Scotsman, 25 May).

Yet on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme on 22 May, John Swinney made it abundantly clear that he is determined to introduce national, standardised tests.

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So it seems that, no matter what his panel of experts might recommend, Mr Swinney’s mind is already made up about how best to close the attainment gap.

Given the government’s commitment to an “evidence-based” approach, and Mr Swinney’s own claim on Sunday Politics to have “a willing pair of ears”, it is to be hoped that he will call a moratorium on his proposed testing programme until his panel of experts has looked at all the evidence and reported back.

Colin Weatherley

Gullane, East Lothian

Police training

I refer to your coverage of Chief Constable Gormley’s appearance before the home affairs committee on 24 May. The coverage was inaccurate. Police Scotland and its legacy forces and constabularies have provided practical capacity building training for over 20 years to a range of countries. This has been facilitated, co-ordinated and approved by the UK Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and others including Unicef. The activity has been undertaken with the full knowledge and support from successive Scottish Governments. Police Scotland recovers the full cost of this training from the Scottish and UK governments.

Asserting that such training – which has been delivered since 1993 – is a response to financial challenges faced by Police Scotland is inaccurate and does not support the evidence Chief Constable Gormley presented to the committee. There are significant benefits to our officers and staff and the people of Scotland by Police Scotland being engaged in this activity.

All of the countries supported by Police Scotland have full diplomatic relations with the UK Our activity is aimed at improving the quality of policing available to the citizens of these countries.

Iain Livingston Qpm

Deputy Chief Constable

CAS funding

I write with regard to the article published in Wednesday’s edition of the Scotsman, which set out inaccurate and misleading information about the Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) funding position.

The article asserted that funding for the organisation was to be “offloaded” on to the Scottish Government from Westminster. While your article correctly indicated there has been a transfer of some consumer funding from the UK to the Scottish Government as a result of the powers devolved through the Scotland Act, there are no plans to transfer or “offload’ core funding.

I include a statement from BIS, our UK government funder: “Only funding for consumer advocacy and advice has been devolved to Scottish Government as part of the devolution deal. BIS continues to provide Citizen’s Advice Scotland with core funding. BIS has no plans to transfer responsibility for this funding to Scottish Government.”

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Our focus remains on delivering high-quality, free, impartial and confidential advice to the people of Scotland, often helping some of the most vulnerable individuals. To achieve this we depend on our highly skilled staff and volunteers, for whom the publication of inaccurate and misleading information with regard to the financial position of the organisation causes unnecessary anxiety.

I am aware that CAS provided a full and thorough briefing explaining the facts of the situation, prior to publication of Wednesday’s article and I regret that this was not used. I hope this clarifies the situation for your readers.

Anne Lavery

Chief operating officer, Citizens Advice Scotland

Pint sized

As a long standing Friends of the Scotsman contributor who has long advocated the health benefits, both physical and mental, of having a pint of real ale in the pub and conversing with other customers, instead of sitting alone in the house drinking cheap supermarket hooch, I read your report (Drink levels up as off licence sales soar, 25 May) with interest and wondered what relevance the photograph of three men enjoying a convivial pint of beer in a pub had to the story.

If you are going to highlight the fact that whatever problems some people in Scotland may have with alcohol, it is down to cheap supermarket hooch and not drinking beer in a pub, then can you please, as I have asked for before both in letters and articles, show someone pushing a supermarket trolley loaded with industrial strength cider to their car rather than the photograph used.

Colin Valentine

National chairman, Campaign for Real Ale, Edinburgh


Malcolm Parkin (Letters, 26 May) lights a beacon of reason amid the fog of hypocrisy shrouding the Muirfield affair. Social engineering is indeed behind political objections to club members restricting membership to men.

What is at stake is basic principle; that like-minded people have the right to commune with each other in any legal activity under their own rules.

That right is universal, while objectors’ claims of discrimination are specific to a single golf club. They express no objection to the country’s many other private clubs. I believe more are exclusive to women than to men.

Arguments citing loss of the prestige of holding the Open championship and of associated local and national revenue are simply irrelevant.

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Only membership of the Honourable Edinburgh Company is confined to men: women are welcomed as players, subject to certain conditions, and if they find these insulting, any fit person could walk from Muirfield to Gullane’s three excellent courses.

The situation has since taken on a sinister aspect in the form of political pressure on Muirfield members to “reconsider” their decision; in other words keep voting until the “correct” decision is reached.

I would urge them to refuse outright, but should they allow a second vote, democracy would be best served by a doubling of the previous majority.

Robert Dow

Ormiston Road, Tranent

Oil crisis

The people of Scotland inarguably took the correct decision in 2014 when they decided to remain an integral part of the UK. If any further confirmation was required, it came today in the news of my former employer Shell laying off another 475 jobs (your report, 26 May).

As every succeeding piece of bad news from the North Sea is revealed, I cannot help but see the image of the former First Minster of Scotland, Alex Salmond, scornfully dismissing ‘’Project Fear’’ and reassuring us all that a price well in excess of $100 a barrel was “conservative”. One can only imagine the devastation that would have hit Scotland had they listened.

Thankfully, the people of this country were not fooled.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Secular move

Richard Lucas despairs about the modernising of The Church of Scotland over sexuality and relationships and their opposition to smacking children (letters 26 May).

He laments that these are “secular values.” Mr Lucas should remember that Secularism is concerned only to separate church and state and makes no judgment of religious ideas per se.

I imagine that if asked, many secularists would applaud the Kirk or any organisation finding its way towards liberalism and decency but the internal ideological struggle of a private religious group has nothing to do with Secularism.

Neil Barber

Edinburgh Secular Society