Uncharitable view

I was amused by the thought of the Rev Dr John Cameron demanding to see the accounts of a charity before considering donating to its cause (Letters, 14 December). Some might consider this to be an astute move, but I have always based my charitable contributions on the effectiveness of the individual charity, and support only those which satisfy all the necessary criteria.

The report cited by Dr Cameron, published by the outfit calling itself the True and Fair Foundation, has been described by the Charity Commission as “flawed”, explaining that the issue is not with the data but with the analysis. The report is in my opinion misleading, because it fails to explain how a charity’s trading, for instance, generates income, which allows it to spend more on its cause than it could if it were relying only on individual donations.

Many of the charities mentioned in the report, as well as other experts, spent a long time trying to explain the reality of the situation to the authors of this report but they seem to have been unwilling to listen.

There is much agreement among many that charity accounts are complex, and need to be made clearer, but it is misleading to declare, as the foundation’s founder Gina Miller does in her report, that “these charities aren’t putting enough money towards their social purpose”.

The report was restricted to UK charities, not international aid agencies, so any attempt by individuals to tarnish the reputations of the latter is misguided and misleading.

This report has probably done untold harm to charities, many of whom are struggling to raise much needed income for their causes. The “Chinese whisper” effect will cause many reluctant donors to feel justified in their parsimonious outlook.

Carolyn Taylor

Wellbank, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Hard truths

I am grateful to Lovina Roe (Letters, 14 December) for causing me to agree with Brian Wilson for a second time. Only when he wrote movingly and sensibly about mental health did my normal political blinkers fall off.

I don’t know whether Ms Roe is around children much but I always subscribed to my wife’s doctrine of the Ds – distraction, deferment and discipline – as we brought up our five children. This avoided unhelpful and unnecessary conflicts when immediate truth called for a “No”.

I added a fourth D in the office – don’t die in a ditch if it doesn’t help what’s important.

I can’t help thinking of the commonplace of who would escape hanging if judged on our deficiencies. The Bible puts it more poetically in. “if thou should observe iniquities who would endure it”.

An obsession with not lying or not evading hard truths hardly helps things get done. Politics is famously “the art of the possible” in a territory littered with impossible requests and politicians who want to help but can only go with the grain.

My experience of working for them is that they, like others, vary in their ability to cope with unpalatable truths and skills in turning them to good account.

LV McEwan

Kirkhill Road, Edinburgh

Norwegian good

Dennis Forbes Grattan (Letters, 14 December), like several other recent correspondents, rejoices that Scotland escaped independence after the recent referendum, suggesting that otherwise we would be in dire financial straits.

Some may think that the UK is now in dire financial straits. Even had the referendum resulted in an overwhelming Yes vote, we were not due to become independent until at least March 2016, so we would still be part of the [meanwhile] United Kingdom.

Irrespective of the detailed arguments it seems obvious to me that Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are all doing better than Scotland. Norway used oil revenues sensibly, but the other three do not have this resource. Present voting trends in Scotland suggest that I am not alone in hoping that Scotland will soon join these fellow Northern European countries, of similar size and location to us, in dignity and relative prosperity.

David Stevenson

Blacket Place, Edinburgh

Trunk call

Quite the best way of dealing cheaply, quickly and effectively with Gulf Stream deluges would be to reinstate the lost woodlands and forests of our upper water catchments.

Flood-check treebelts planted across the drainage of our hillsides and their run-offs would soak up huge volumes of surplus water and very greatly reduce or eliminate the need for lower catchment floodwalls and levees, which often disfigure and are exorbitantly expensive.

A nationwide system of grants should surely be put in place without delay to encourage local farmers and landowners to plant these woodlands, planned by teams of landscape architects, scientists and engineers, using satellite imagery and co-ordinated by the Forestry Commission. It would very quickly show dramatic returns.

John Byrom

Spring Gardens, Edinburgh

Closure question

Possibly the saddest fact of all to emerge from the current Forth Road Bridge scandal is the abysmally low standard to which Scottish journalism has sunk. Only a few years ago newspaper reporters would have been all over this story.

From the beginning, if only one component on only one carriageway was “cracked” why was it necessary to close both carriageways?

Of the “20mm crack”; was that 20mm long? Or 20mm wide? Or 20mm deep? When does a crack become a break?

The carriageways on the bridge are divided into six slabs, each of which in turn is supported on a flexible truss structure. Pairs of “truss end links” support the weight and constrain the movement of each of the corners of those flexible truss structures where they are joined to the main rigid towers of the bridge.

Originally we were told that one of those truss end links needed to be repaired; now the information has crept out over the last week that the number needing to be repaired has increased to seven. That is almost 20 per cent of the total and such a high percentage must cast serious doubts on the life span of the remainder. How long before the bridge has to be closed again to repair more of them?

Irvine Inglis

Reston, Berwickshire

Unfair, Nicola

Nicola Sturgeon says her party will oppose the government trade union laws (your report, 14 December) on the grounds that they are unfair, and that the Tories have no mandate in Scotland (even although the laws have some sensible points and the matter is not devolved).

Ms Sturgeon might be on firmer ground if she kept her party from voting on English only matters at Westminster (which she won’t), thus leaving her open to the accusation of double standards. 

William Ballantine

Dean Road, Bo’ness, West Lothian

West Bank deaths

I was concerned at your article on the car being driven at ­Israelis and the driver being shot (International, 12 December). For a quality newspaper it was a pretty poor piece of reporting with no mention of the context nor the fact that many of the Palestinian deaths are extremely suspect. For example, a Palestinian family in Hebron on Friday buried its second child to be killed by Israeli forces in the last two months.

Uday Irsheid, 24, was shot in the chest by Israeli military forces earlier Friday during clashes and later died from his injuries. Nine others were shot by live fire during the clashes.

His funeral came just over a month after his family buried his 17-year-old sister, Dania.

Dania was shot and killed by Israeli forces on 25 October after police officers allegedly saw “a knife in her hand”. No Israelis were injured during the incident. Following an investigation into several cases of Palestinian deaths, Amnesty International found that Dania’s killing was “absolutely unjustified” and called for Israel to end its “pattern of unlawful killings”.

Nearly a third of the 118 Palestinians to be killed since 1 October have been from the Hebron area, and Hebron families have paid a heavy toll. Since 800 particularly aggressive, illegal Israeli settlers were moved in the centre of this Palestinian town the residents of the Hebron area have come under mass arrests and restrictions on movement, with portions of the city’s centre declared a “closed military zone” since 1 November.

B McKenna

Overtoun Avenue, Dumbarton

Deficit in analysis

It’s a pity, with his undoubted intellect, that Dr Scott Arthur is capable of overlooking reasons for our Scottish NHS funding problems, and therefore, of suggesting a solution (Letters, 14 December).

There are two main problems: the operation of the Barnett Formula, and the cuts required to the deal with the £160 billion accumulated deficit left by the last Labour government in 2010 following 13 years in power.

Barnett exerts a 1 per cent squeeze on the £25bn block grant – an underfunding of £250m each year. As half our expenditure is on the NHS, about £125m is lost there. Dr Arthur states that the IFS and Audit Scotland claim the underfunding is £300m, but I recall a figure from them for a five-year period of double that. I am not trying to make the figures fit, but that reconciles with a five-year Barnett squeeze of some £600m.

In my opinion, the mistake both of these bodies make is to use the lower level of money coming to us as for the NHS, and ascribing that to cuts by the SNP government – well isn’t just about everything the fault of the SNP – whereas it is the Barnett Formula (introduced by a Labour government in 1978) that reduces our funding. And on top of that, we have to cope with the cuts required to offset Labour’s profligacy.

Dr Arthur makes no suggestion about which other services should be cut in the Holyrood’s finite resources, in favour of the NHS. Regarding staffing, what proposals does he have to entice doctors who, after training at UK taxpayers’ experience, have taken up posts in Australiasia?

His satisfactory experience of his treatment at ERI was matched by those reported by patients phoning BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call, much to the apparent chagrin of presenter Kaye Adams.

Douglas R Mayer

Thomson Crescent, Currie, Edinburgh

Mass ignorance

In response to the Saturday night climate deal, Pope Francis said, it will require “a concerted and generous commitment on the part of each one”. I do not know of any church that presented the Save the Planet message next day. And I can’t imagine many churchgoers shared their car or left it at home.

Allan Ramsay

Radcliffe, Greater Manchester