Repair the roads
ThE report from Audit Scotland criticising the failure to attack a shortfall of over £2 billion in road repairs and renewals contrasts with the urgency which most political parties are attaching to an additional Forth crossing, also costing over £2 bn but financed by cutting other public spending to allow completion by 2016 (“The roads to hell”, The Herald, February 16).
Failure to act on this crossing has been claimed to be a disaster for the Scottish economy and employment, without any convincing evidence or comparison with alternative uses of this funding over the next five years.
The factual position is that road traffic levels per head in Scotland are expected to remain stabilised in coming decades, even in an improving economy. Patterns of movement are changing with stronger preferences for rail and bus use and for healthier and more active modes. The present road and rail bridges can handle substantial rises in travel by rail, bus and in shared cars.
Both bridges have lives well in excess of 20 years. In the case of the road bridge, it may be necessary to restrict HGV movement, especially of lorries close to their maximum loaded weight. But this accounts for no more than 3% of bridge traffic. Is it sensible to attach top priority to a £2 bn spend to tackle this problem when existing crossings are capable of handling most traffic and increasing passenger numbers?
Sensible budgets should be giving more priority to road and pavement maintenance, possible rebates for HGVs and greater use of borrowing, road charging and energy pricing to accelerate shifts to energy conservation, energy efficiency and the Scottish and UK Government aims for a low carbon economy.
This will require a combination of smaller and larger infrastructure and low-carbon energy schemes, yet priority for an additional Forth crossing would work against these objectives and act as a brake, not a stimulus, to the Scottish economy and overall employment.
Tom Hart, Vice President, Scottish Association for Public Transport, 11 Queens Crescent, Glasgow.
The Big Society has an obvious answer to the problem of our deteriorating roads. I expect the Prime Minister to bring in an “Adopt a pothole” scheme.
KC Fraser, St Andrews.
By a strange coincidence, the bill for repairing Scotland’s roads is almost exactly the same amount as the proposed cost of building a new Forth Road Bridge.
Why on earth are all politicians (except the Greens) so determined to add to our road system when they can’t even look after the assets we already have?
It looks like the existing bridge can be repaired, so please let’s scrap this white elephant and use the money more usefully.
Helen Todd, Edinburgh.
I’m sorry to disagree with your editorial, but there are times when potholes become a joke (“Potholed roads beyond a joke”, The Herald, February 16). In South Lanarkshire, we have a coalition council comprising Labour and Conservative members. Labour councillors (so it is said) see potholes as being only half empty, but Conservatives see potholes as being half-full. Thus our potholes don’t need fixed at all.
Thom Cross, Carluke.
Opposition to gay marriages only on religious grounds
Alexander Waugh, like many who oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples, opts for the straw man approach (Letters, February 16).
Nobody is proposing that the Church of Scotland or any other religious organisation should be forced by law to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. In fact the Equality Act would give explicit protection to those who choose not to. All that is being proposed is that the law which prohibits them from reaching their own decision should be removed.
At present, civil partnerships cannot involve a religious element or be conducted by religious or humanist celebrants. Naturally many couples wish no religious element, and many – probably most – religious celebrants would not wish to conduct them. But I see no reason why those who do should be prevented by law.
As a secular legislator, and as someone who has no religion, I find it odd that some religious groups should be demanding that the religious freedom of others should be restricted by law in something so basic as the recognition and celebration of loving relationships.
I see no moral distinction between same-sex and mixed-sex relationships. Indeed I can’t remember ever hearing a clear moral argument proposed – only scriptural references.
Those who do see a distinction can make their own choices about their own lives, but they have no right to impose that view either on other religious people or on the rest of us.
Patrick Harvie MSP,
Room 4/2, 52 St Enoch Square, Glasgow.
I fully agree with Dr Alexander S Waugh’s sensible views. All Divine religions allow and sanctify marriages only between men and women. Hence, same-sex marriages are outside the pale of every Divine religion.
Bashir Maan, Village Maan, Pakistan.
I read with great interest Colette Douglas Home’s discussion of proposed religious marriage ceremonies for gay couples (“Time to redress the rights balance with gay marriage”, The Herald, February 15). She forgot to include the last sentence, which begged the question: if this proposition has no approval in Heaven doesn’t everything else pale into insignificance?
Dr Ramsay Vallance, Bearsden, Glasgow.
Water power will turn the tide on energy problem
Neil Craig (Letters, February 16) asks where we will get our electricity from when the wind drops in cold weather. The answer is water power, hydro, tidal and offshore wind with energy storage.
Scotland already has a substantial amount of hydro, including pumped storage, and we could have a lot more. We should explore the possibility of pumped storage using the sea as the lower reservoir. Also the proposed link with Norway allows us access to that country’s massive hydro potential.
Another idea which has been proposed is to have large offshore wind turbines generating compressed air which is stored in deep seabed flexible bags. Tidal power is regular and predictable and plans are already under way to tap the Pentland Firth and the Sound of Jura.
If only one quarter of the tidal potential in the Pentland Firth were to be captured it would provide over twice the output of every power station in Scotland going flat out.
So the lights will not go out in a renewable energy Scotland.
Kerr MacGregor, Midlothian.
Cutting Classics courses would run counter to Chair of Greek bequest
As another beneficiary of the University of Glasgow’s Classics programmes, and a student of the late Professor Douglas MacDowell, I strongly support the views expressed by Susan Milligan (Letters, February 15 February).
As a student, I benefited enormously from research-led teaching, particularly in the (then) department of Greek, which helped me develop many of the skills upon which my subsequent career has been founded. I had the privilege to be taught by dedicated academics who were at the cutting edge of their discipline, as well as being extremely gifted teachers. As someone who works in higher education, I am in no doubt about the quality of my degree in Classics and the life-long attributes and skills it imparted.
I understand that one of the strategic drivers for the recent restructuring of the University of Glasgow, from faculties and departments to colleges and schools, was to encourage interdisciplinary research, reflecting the nature of much research in the 21st century. To this end, the new school structure would seem to provide ample scope for cross-disciplinary work between Classics, history and archaeology, and a clear opportunity to build on established strengths in these areas, to strengthen research and taught provision and allow scope for innovative development. Why would the university now wish to stymie such interesting possibilities for growth, by reducing provision in Classics?
Along with my peers of 30 years ago, I welcomed the £2 million legacy offered last year by the late Professor MacDowell to the university to reinstate the Chair of Greek. I earnestly encourage the university to explore how this unprecedented act of magnanimity and scholarly dedication can be used to safeguard and strengthen provision in Classics, which is held in such high esteem by its graduates, as well as by its current students.
Surely any move to reduce Classics provision at the present time would be counter to the impact and expectation of a Chair as a result of this legacy?
Thelma Barron, Causewayhead, Stirling.
I am one of many throughout the world, shocked by the proposal at the University of Glasgow to cut adult education programmes. In a time of economic recovery, we need more adult education to assist our communities gain new skills.
I would like to add my voice to the call to reject these damaging cuts. I do so as someone who knows the work well, having first learned about it many years ago during the time of Professor Lalage Brown. I do so also as secretary of the Global Alliance for Community-Engaged Research and former secretary-general of the International Council for Adult Education.
The department of adult education and continuing education at Glasgow University is a world leader in the fields of engaged scholarship and community-based research. It has a role of global prominence. It has retained credibility in the world of research-intensive universities around knowing its stuff because it has the day-to-day role of working with adult learners in the greater Glasgow community in shaping provision for better jobs, health and more socially inclusive regions.
Glasgow University carries more weight and credibility because it has not lost its day-to-day link with the community. It is this reputation that also attracts many students from other parts of the world who study in the post-graduate programmes.
Higher education is, like many other segments of society, contested territory. The market would like our universities to be better integrated with their human capital and research needs. One of the major trends in higher education is the emergence of what Professor Sir David Watson of Oxford University calls the engaged university.
There are several universities and institutions that support the call for more public engagement around the world as we move toward knowledge innovation community partnerships as key to the next stages of development.
The University of Glasgow is wonderfully positioned to strengthen a global leadership role within these emerging discourses and practices.
The degree to which it continues to meet the learning needs of a changing region and a changing world through adult education will play a critical role in its ability to continue the momentum.
Budd L Hall, Professor and Director, Secretary of Global Alliance for Community Engaged Research, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Patients are not criminals
Your article about cuts to the legal aid budget states there are around 4500 such tribunals every year, at which it is decided whether patients should be locked up or not (“Cuts spur fears for mental health tribunals”, The Herald, February 16).
The Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland makes decisions about compulsory treatment, among other things. This can mean the patient is subject to compulsory treatment as an in-patient, but can also mean the patient is subject to compulsory treatment in the community while living at home.
It is not at all helpful to refer to patients “being locked up” as though they are criminals.
A Silver, Glasgow.
Legislation won’t build a Big Society. It takes community spirit to succeed
It is all too easy to mock David Cameron’s Big Society policy as it swings between the ultra-vague and the over-particular (Letters, February 16).
The concept, however, is clear enough (although politically dangerous to express in so many words): for too long this country has been dramatically over-governed.
In the 1960s the Public General Statutes (published annually) were contained in one medium-sized volume. Now these extend to four volumes year on year, not to mention the vast number of statutory instruments and subsidiary regulations issued annually.
This amount of state involvement and regulation has led to an abnegation of the ethics of personal responsibility and an in-built attitude of “the state will provide”.
And this applies not just to social issues but to moral issues as well (to the shame of the church).
The people of this country need to re-awaken the old ideas of self-reliance and personal responsibility in the management of their lives, along with reinvigoration of a sense of community – we’re all in this together.
Unfortunately this will not come about by the passing of yet more legislation, what is needed is a basic change of attitude at the grassroots.
I doubt that this will happen (particularly in Scotland) as the attitudes are ingrained.
George Morton, Newton Mearns.
Single police force is a step too far
As the debate regarding a single Scottish police force rages on, the only agreement seems to be that change to the present structure is inevitable.
The 1970s re-organisation of forces brought about economies of scale and the ability to respond better to crime. At grassroots level the relationship between the public and their local bobbies suffered with an influx of officers from different backgrounds. With Scotland having a vast geographical area with differing policing needs, it may well be that a single force is a step too far. My fear would be that one Chief Constable would be too amenable to political pressure from central government.
Bob MacDougall, Kippen.