Two sides

Scottish Secretary David Mundell rightly highlights the fundamental scope and significance of the new powers for Scotland (Scots poised for 'Holyrood 2.0' with biggest shift in history of devolution, 11 January). He speaks of a 'transformation in the way Scotland is governed'. Surely all who want the best for Scotland will be enthused by the positive potential of a reinvigorated Scottish Parliament.

Yet, the focus for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is very different and less positive. She used the opening exchanges of 2016 to trail a renewed debate about Scottish independence, already looking for imagined or exaggerated opportunities to spread grievance and divisiveness, saying she is confident of getting a majority behind her ambition to break up the UK.

Keith Howell

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West Linton, Peeblesshire

May I point out that the much-discussed “Once in a Generation Opportunity” was an observation, and (unlike “The Vow”) never presented as a binding promise.

James Stevenson

Drummond Avenue, Auchterarder

Flood of aid

When challenged by opposition parties on why aid to areas hit by flooding had not been announced the SNP government of course blamed Westminster for the delay.

Those unfortunate enough to be affected know that water is no respecter of boundaries but will seep wherever it can.

Would it not be more sensible therefore for the Scottish Government to join with the UK government in agreeing not only a joint support package for those affected but also a consolidated, jointly funded plan of action into the prevention of further floods across the UK? To do otherwise would indicate that the SNP think that even natural disasters can somehow be peculiarly Scottish.

Dr SJ Clark

Easter Road, Edinburgh

In her haste to criticise David Cameron and praise Nicola Sturgeon over financial relief to flood victims (Letters 11 January), Mary Douglas shows she is not up with the facts. David Cameron made £50 million available to flood victims a couple of weeks ago.

Under the Barnett Formula, £5m of that came to Scotland via Holyrood. Victims in England received payments right away but victims in Scotland are still waiting for Holyrood to disburse funding. This is typical of the SNP who are hot on rhetoric but cold on action. They are as is constantly shown, all gong and no dinner!

Donald Lewis

Beech Hill, Gifford, East Lothian

Controlled envy

How the new Labour leadership must envy the SNP.

With the latest shadow cabinet resignation and rumblings from the unions whose members in their many thousands will find themselves rapidly out of work should Trident be abandoned on the altar of dogma, Jeremy Corbyn must wish he had the power over his elected members that Nicola Sturgeon has over hers.

As it is, the hard core of moderates in Labour who persistently cling to reality and speak out will not lie down. This is most frustrating for the zealots who joined in the mass membership drive in the wake of Ed Miliband’s departure and skewed the leadership election.

They must look at the iron control imposed by the SNP – where no elected member ever utters a syllable that is not laid down dogma imposed from above – and wish they could impose similar control.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Deer price to pay

MSP Michael Russell’s suggested amendments to the Land Reform Bill that Scottish National Heritage be given stronger power to encourage land owners to cull deer on their land down to more sustainable levels is in response to environmental groups pointing out that high deer numbers are causing irreparable damage to important habitats (Scotsman, 11 January).

The response of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) is reported as being “deer are a respected and irreplaceable resource for many small communities who derive an income from them”.

Michael Russell is correct to attempt to amend the Land Reform Bill as deer numbers have increased three-fold since 1960 and as a consequence much damage has been wreaked on Scotland in pursuit of antlered trophies: declining mountain woodlands, the near extinction of natural tree lines, trampled blanket bogs and the steady loss of biodiversity.

Before the 19th Century Highland Clearances, when the land was cleared of people, first to make way for sheep and then for deer, many more people lived in Highland Scotland and could do again. The Land Reform Bill is perhaps a first step towards the goal of a more sustainable rural landscape in Scotland’s more marginal land.

Benedict Bate

South Clerk Street, Edinburgh

MSP Michael Russell is right to seek new legislation to allow for better management of Scotland’s deer population. Concern about the damage caused by deer to agriculture, forestry and the natural environment goes back to the 1950s and since then red deer numbers have increased at least threefold while roe deer numbers have also increased greatly. Scotland may now have the highest density of deer of any country in the world.

With some exceptions private landowners have not been willing or able to maintain deer numbers at levels which do not cause environmental or other damage. In the absence of natural predators, deer need to be controlled to levels which are truly sustainable. Private landowners have resisted change for more than 50 years and new legislation is required.

John Hunt

York Road, North Berwick

Gael warning

It’s such a shame that Donald Lewis (which is a wonderful Highland name) lets prejudice get in the way of facts when raising the issue of Gaelic (Gaelic for “waste” , letters,12 January).

The SNP are not decreeing that all public bodies should have language plans.

This is nothing to do with the SNP.

The setting up of the Gaelic Language Board was a decision of the whole Scottish Parliament, led by Labour at the time, in 2003.

The principle that public bodies need to look at their responsibility for Gaelic is very sensible. Not only do Gaelic speakers pay taxes, like non-Gaelic speakers, but the language gives an incredible insight into parts of Scotland’s reality that the English language could not be expected to.

Recent research at Glasgow Caledonian University has also shown that Gaelic could potentially add between £81 million and £148m to the Scottish economy if used fully by business. However, the future of the language and culture is not an economic question, but rather whether the riches that Gaelic can give all of Scotland’s different communities can be successfully unlocked.

Dr Douglas Chalmers

Senior Lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University

Culture clash

It is five months since Angela Merkel was warmly inviting the world’s refugees to Germany.

Since then a mob of a thousand men of “Arab or North African” origin sexually assaulted more than 100 German women in Cologne, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

Germany will spend at least €17 billion on asylum seekers in 2016.

A leaked government published by Die Welt warned: “We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law.”

In a nutshell the German government is expecting a clash of cultures, terrorism and a backlash from the German people.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Crisis is real

SNP MSP Dennis Robertson’s comments that “there is no crisis in the oil industry” showed a scandalous disregard for reality.

Sadly, he is not alone among Aberdeen’s elected representatives in choosing to ignore the very real problems of the people they are supposed to represent.

Callum McCaig, SNP MP for Aberdeen South, said last year in his Westminster maiden speech: “The low oil price is of course concerning but... those who want to find work will by and large find it.” With Mr Robertson convinced the oil industry is “booming” and Mr McCaig convinced jobs are freely available, it’s a wonder that 65,000 are out of work because of the oil crisis – many in the North-east.

Fraser Whyte


Equal rites

There are regular comments concerning political equality between the sexes. Might I respectfully suggest that this is never likely as long as the two sexes have separate toilet facilities.

In the gentleman’s there will always be the whispering and settlements being settled before any public comments are made – I assume that there are the same “ secret” whisperings in that other place.

Tom Reilly

Esslemont Road, Edinburgh


I was astonished to hear that, in the important matter of vehicle emission testing, only 13 out of the 32 local authorities in Scotland have bothered to apply for powers to test ­vehicles.

Most airborne pollution comes from vehicle emissions and it is the biggest cause of athsma and breathing problems.

There is little point in our Scottish Government constantly lecturing us on healthy lifestyles when the most important testing of vehicle emissions is ignored.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Mugiemoss Road, Aberdeen