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Letters; Sunday, 9 May 2010

No welcome for foreigners


I’m glad the Sunday Herald is not succumbing to populist hysteria around immigration and I especially welcome Ian Bell’s column (Even bigots deserve answers, Opinion, May 2).

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There are no doubt good arguments for rationalising our approach to border control (though to treat it as a major national crisis seems spurious) but what about our policy on foreigners who want to come here to visit?

Even my friends who believe that economic migration needs to be controlled have found my personal story shocking.

I met my girlfriend Silvia, born in Ambato, Ecuador, in January 2008. I came back here for a year and started an MSc in Edinburgh. When I returned to see her for half of last year, we spent the summer months discussing whether to get married; I told her I couldn’t in earnest do that at 23. It was a tough decision and it’s too early to tell if I should regret it. We spent almost two months applying for her to stay with me and my family, from first going to the embassy, getting letters from my parents and her employers, paying the $114 application fee and waiting for three weeks after the application was sent to an office in New York. We decided that if she came here first, we could decide how seriously to take things later.

When it was rejected, she wasn’t half as blown off as I was. She had been through it before, having applied for a language exchange to Virginia, USA. But I hadn’t expected this. After all, she had only applied for a general visitors’ visa for three months. She had money in her bank account, my parents had vowed to assume living costs. Yet the three reasons for denying her entry were written plainly. Her money was not sufficient for the time period; my parents had not proved their ability to support her; and her employer had not written an additional letter stating when he expected her back.

These are not listed among the required documents on the VISA4UK website. If they are what the Borders Agency is looking for then it is at best dishonest for them not to be mentioned. I have heard that what we were trying to do is not impossible and we are seeking legal advice on how to proceed.

Joseph Cape

Bridge of Allan


Wrong to dismiss SNP


I normally applaud the astute insights of Muriel Gray, but her final piece before last Thursday’s General Election lacked relevance to Scotland (Labour might one day reinvent itself ... but first it has to die, Opinion, May 2). It seems Ms Gray has fallen for the middle-class opiate of the media and its scandalous “great tripartite hoax”. While I readily agree that the three coloured ties in question are empty husks of candidates with “a Gollum-esque lust for power”, it beggars belief that she would opine that the candidate we ought to be able to trust “should, of course, be Brown”.

Her dismissive wave of the hand at Salmond and his nose-clipping forgets that the SNP is a party serious about dismantling Trident and taking this stolen money back to public services in lieu of the withering spending cuts certain to arrive from Westminster. We do have a choice.

JS Watson



Investment in skills is vital


The news of proposed cuts to the budgets of some of Scotland’s universities and colleges highlights the challenges such institutions face and the threat posed to our fragile economic recovery (Axe set to fall on Scotland’s universities, News, May 2). Skills development is vital to Scotland’s productivity and economic development, as outlined in the Scottish Government’s Skills Strategy, and it is key that we maintain investment in our universities and colleges as a means to deliver a skilled workforce and maintain economic recovery.

As the economy recovers it is vital a skilled workforce meets the demands of both current and future economic growth, especially as we embrace new sectors such as renewables. And it is colleges, universities and industries working together that will create and develop education and skills opportunities. There is no magic bullet, but it is vital that we continue to invest in our universities and colleges, enabling them to develop flexibility for employers and businesses looking to access skills at the right time and in the right place.

Jacqui Hepburn, Director

Alliance of Sector Skills Councils, Scotland


Cancer can affect anyone


Joanna Blythman would have us believe that everyone with bowel cancer has only their eating habits to blame (Process this: refined food leads to ill health, Opinion, May 2). How does she explain the high incidence of colorectal cancer (a condition usually linked with meat eaters) in vegetarians who are generally regarded as pretty sensible eaters?

Of course, Ms Blythman is not alone in blaming the victim, albeit supported by much research and not all of it as firm in its conclusions as Ms Blythman. I was even informed by a senior registrar surgeon that as long as people eat sensibly, don’t smoke and exercise regularly then they are unlikely to get cancer. I have no doubt that many of your readers with cancer will respond that they did all the right things and still got cancer.

Cancer is a complex disease, and there are some things in life that we have absolutely no control over, regardless of what we do.

Danny Doherty



Bus services must improve


Damien Henderson’s article on public transport was both interesting and depressing (Future of your bus service: dirty, late and dangerous, News, May 2). Interesting, because Scotland’s two main bus operators, FirstGroup and Stagecoach, operate in the private sector, with profit margins apparently not sufficiently high for them to invest in new vehicles, while Lothian Buses, which is council-owned and operated and, I believe, profitable, appears to be able to invest in new vehicles on a very regular basis. Depressing, because if the public face of local bus services throughout most of Scotland is as this article implies, what hope is there of getting people out of their cars?

Graeme Fraser



Anarchy isn’t the answer


The answer to the question, “Is it ever OK not to vote?” is, in my view, no (Argument of the week, Opinion, May 2). Terri Marquez, who argued the opposite view, is described as secretary of the Edinburgh group of the Anarchist Federation. My dictionary defines anarchy as “general lawlessness and disorder” or “the absence or lack of government”. So these are the objectives of the Anarchist Federation. That this is the case is amply demonstrated by his desire for various types of public protest. I cannot, in principle, deny the occasional usefulness of such movements: I was a poll tax refusenik myself. There is, however, a significant difference between the view that such activity is the basis of society and, alternatively, politics, which is termed “the art and science of government”.

The latter implies a proper conduct of public affairs whereas Mr Marquez’s view, it seems, is that there should be no such thing, merely constant chaos. Well, if his scenario ever comes to pass he had better not expect an ambulance to turn up if he is ever very ill or injured, nor a fire engine if his house is on fire and he certainly better not expect the police to appear should he be burgled as that would be the norm, not a crime. These services only exist in an effective form where there is effective government.

Protest has long been available through the ballot box. You take a ballot paper, draw a diagonal line across it, fold it and put it in the box. This is called a “spoiled paper” and they are separately counted and the number announced with every election result.

Cllr Alan Grant

Deputy Leader, Perth and Kinross SNP Group


Man would disgust aliens


If Prof Stephen Hawking is right that “if aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans”, then humankind only has itself to blame (Quotes of the week, Opinion, May 2).

If aliens are able to monitor us from outer space, they must be disgusted with the behaviour of this strange creature that inhabits planet Earth. Why, they must be asking themselves, are the majority of these creatures so intent on destroying the planet that they are living on? Why, they must puzzle, when there is abundant food to feed our population, with no need to resort to killing and suffering, do so many of us choose to abuse and exploit other creatures, innocent animals? They must have a very low opinion of “humankind”. If aliens had the power over us that we have over the (non-human) animals with whom we share this planet, would they have the right to abuse and exploit us for their food, clothing and research?

Sandra Busell



A sobering look at rape


A recent column by Joanna Blythman both depressed and inspired me (Rape is a feminist issue ... but booze blurs the argument, Opinion, April 18). As a mother of four, boys and girls, I think the real issue is about young people, of both sexes, taking ownership of their sexual behaviour and conduct.

Some years ago my son was charged with rape following a brief sexual encounter with a girl he met one night. The case against my son was thrown out and never even reached the pre-trial stage, but he suffered such shame and stigma I feared he would never recover. Central to this devastating circumstance was a young woman who could not or would not take responsibility for her own sexual behaviour, and Ms Blythman’s article is heartening because it attempts to grapple with these complex issues of conduct and personal responsibility.

I believe that in the cold and sober light of dawn there are many men and women who subsequently regret sexual encounters and there is a real danger that regret and embarrassment about alcohol-induced sex acts can lead to misleading claims of rape.

Many feminists hold that false rape claims are a myth and I agree that few women would deliberately and knowingly falsify evidence to get a man charged. However, given social attitudes to sexual behaviour there are consequences for many young women (and some young men) if they arrive home in the early hours, still half inebriated and in a dishevelled state, to anxious parents who quite rightly may demand an explanation as to their whereabouts and conduct.

Even today, few girls would come home from a night out and feel it acceptable to tell mum and dad they were having sex in the park with a guy they just met. At this point, personal responsibility comes into play and whether you are male or female, and the way you choose to dress, is irrelevant. The issue is about making decisions and choices you can live with tomorrow and if you can’t and you end up regretting those decisions then that’s a lesson in life about self-knowledge, self-control and boundaries. In a mature, enlightened society you can’t duck these issues by hiding behind your gender or your alcohol habit.

Name and address withheld


Two heads are better than one


Each of your socio-politico-economic scribes gave very full and interesting slants on the crisis facing Britain (Opinion, May 2). It became clear during the election campaign that not one of the unionist leaders is suited to leading the government, as Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg failed to clearly and openly state the severe steps that must be taken to rectify our economy. The appeared to be solely interested in achieving power.

In his essay, The TV Election, Pat Kane correctly higlighted the importance of the Brown-Duffy confrontation; Gillian Duffy was more upset by being called “that woman” than being called a “bigot”, for it showed the contempt Mr Brown felt for Mrs Duffy, conveniently ignoring the important problem of uncontrolled and illegal immigration which she identified. Nevertheless, Muriel Gray considered Mr Brown to be the most experienced candidate but how is she able to state that he is also by far the most intelligent? On the evidence, the old adage that “two sheeps’ heads are better than one” appears to be the only solution resulting from this election.

Ian FM Saint-Yves

Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran

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