Oiling the wheels

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TECHNOLOGICAL improvements in shale oil extraction are transferable to conventional oil fields though whether the new drilling methods will make the North Sea viable remains in doubt.

It is clear we are entering an era of cheap oil – which is bad news for petro-dictators, Isis, the SNP, wind and solar power, nuclear energy, electric cars and, sadly, Aberdeen.

But Scotland has huge shale reserves in the old industrial areas of the Central Lowlands and Fife so, provided Holyrood doesn’t get in the way, we could still join the party.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Megrahi matters

The arguments about the involvement and guilt of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in the Lockerbie bombing have been well rehearsed over the last 15 years. But I think we should welcome the prospect of a book, on the matter of his release, by former Scottish justice secretary Kenny McAskill (your report, 8 February). It may help throw some light on internal machinations at Holyrood but also on the role of the Westminster government in the Libyan’s release in August 2009.

The conventional account is that the controversy was simply a matter of Scots law. Letting people go on compassionate grounds is a distinctive feature of the legal system north of the Border; Mr McAskill simply used his powers in that respect. Yet it is difficult to believe that the Foreign Office in London did not have a view on the matter. If Mr McAskill can throw some light on its role then he will have done a service to both history and the quest for truth and justice.

It is unclear as to how much he will be constrained by the bounds of official secrecy. But it will be interesting to hear about what discussions he had on the matter with then First Minister Alex Salmond and senior civil servants. Mr Salmond has always defended the then justice secretary’s courage in letting Megrahi go. It would still be interesting to know what reservations were expressed at the time. This is a book that can tell us a lot about how government under pressure actually works.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

Taking the huff

Polls in the last few days suggest that the Yes vote is back at 45 per cent and The Tories are pulling ahead of Labour, up from 12 per cent to 20 per cent. The unremitting series of scandals, poor education and health statistics, mis-steps such as the Forth Bridge, and local council austerity may have knocked the shine off the SNP bandwagon.

The Libdems and Labour still seem to be stuck in the groove that gave us 19 years of underwhelming devolved government culminating in an increasingly one party state divided by a “once in a lifetime” referendum.

Could it be that people are looking over the Border and wondering whether to come out of their historic huff with the Tories?

If so Holyrood election is shaping up to be a genuine battle between two parties with a clear view of where they want to take Scotland, not just in terms of the Union but on education, self reliance, welfare, policing and taxation.

Allan Sutherland

Willow Row, Stonehaven

Budgetary sense

Douglas Mayer is quite wrong when he implies Labour has some responsibility for the £160 billion budget deficit when it left power in 2010. Up until a couple of years earlier, Labour’s borrowing had been around the average for previous decades, and it was only for investment. In most years under Labour, public sector receipts from taxes etc. were higher than expenditure. Unemployment was well down and there were 700,000 fewer housing benefit claimants. Labour’s spending plans were supported by the Tories.

Unfortunately the financial crash, caused by reckless risk taking by the banks and other financial institutions, undid all the good work.

Since 2010, George Osborne has managed to borrow more than every previous Labour government, and every Tory one, combined.

Phil Tate


Saltire specs

When Lesley Riddoch was regularly on BBC Radio Scotland some years ago, I used to think she was an intelligent and incisive commentator on current affairs but, my goodness, how she has changed.

John McDonnell’s comment comparing the SNP’s cuts to those of Margaret Thatcher’s is only too accurate and Ms Riddoch’s bitter bile of ad hominem arguments reveals her sensitivity about that.

Her idol, the Blessed St Nicola, may well talk about social equality, etc. but we should judge the SNP on what it does and not what its spokespeople say. I suggest that Ms Riddoch abandon her saltire spectacles and see Scotland as it really is with its tartan Tory austerity.

Bill Cooper

Highfield Circle, Kinross

No surprise here

No one can be surprised that the deadline on agreeing the fiscal framework might not be met (“SNP warns deadline on funding could slip”, 8 February). After all, John Swinney, who is supposed to be leading the negotiations on the Scottish side, appears to have put most of his effort into giving negative briefings to the press.

Keith Howell

West Linton, Peeblesshire

Double standards

It has always intrigued me as to why those white Brits working outside the UK are “expats” but those non-whites working in the UK are classed as “immigrants”.

The word “expat” of course has softer connotations than “immigrant”. An “expat” is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing but in reality expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad. Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats. Instead of calling those Brits living on the Costa Del Sol “expats”, let’s end this outdated practice by calling them “immigrants” and watch the reaction.

Alex Orr

Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh

Flying finish

I find it odd that the Flying Scotsman final run will be between two English cities.

I am now 89 years of age and my father was proud to be a railway clerk with the LNER for most of his working life.

As I grew up near to the Fishwives Causeway, Portobello, a frequent jaunt in the summer school holidays was to the wall between the Causeway and the express line to London, which was climbable so school children would sit astride it to watch the Edinburgh to London trains – in particular, at 10am every weekday, the Flying Scotsman.

Who therefore decided its final run should be London to York? Surely it must be from Edinburgh Waverley to York (through Doncaster!).

Please think again! The Flying Scotsman must say farewell to Scotland.

James Fraser Curle


Mway madness

Not only are A and B roads in an unacceptable substandard condition but travelling at the weekend on the M74 and M8 from Douglas to Edinburgh Airport I was shocked at the poor state these two motorways are in. Rightly or wrongly, I was always under the impression that all motorway surfaces should be of the highest standard. Another example of the rapidly falling standards in Scotland.

Margaret Wallace

Broomfield Avenue, Cumnock

Hole lotta shakin’

Judith Gillespie’s letter (Pothole Purgatory 4 February) was most timeous, pointing out the lack of interest shown by our politicians. She did not point out the colossal cost of the compensation for injuries.
I wonder if many know of an experiment carried out in Gurgaon, India, they used an advanced material which halved the cost and time. I believe Stirling Council uses something similar. Perhaps it should be more widely used.

Richard Burtles

Colinton Road, Edinburgh

Pavement rules

I read with interest the item on page 2, 8 February, regarding the introduction of a bill by MSP Sandra White to ban cars from parking on pavements. It is a positive step.

However, if drivers were to abide by the Highway Code rule number 244 they would read that it states: “You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it.” While it specifically states London, it does say “elsewhere unless signs permit it”.

While considering problems for pedestrians they might also enforce Rule 64 of the Highway Code which states: “You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.” It follows this up with information on the Roads Scotland Act of 1984 reinforcing this instruction.

But pedestrians also have to read the Highway Code. Rules 1-3 tell pedestrians how they should behave. Using the pavement if provided. If there is no pavement walking in single file on the right hand side of the road. Wearing bright colours so they can be seen easily.

Perhaps if the rules which already exist were followed and enforced there would be fewer accidents.

B Wilson

Silverknowes Drive, Edinburgh