To the rapturous applause of an audience that had been misled, Gordon Brown announced no change of any consequence to the ID scheme ("Brown bids to stave off blues with pledges borrowed, old and new", The Herald, September 30). Passport applicants will still be required "voluntarily" to apply to be placed on the National Identity Register, at their own expense, or forego the right to travel.
They will still be treated like criminals, required to hand over their fingerprints to be recorded on a central file. They will still face lifelong reporting requirements, with fines of up to £1000 for each failure to notify the authorities of any change of personal details. Their sensitive personal data will still be put at risk on a vast and intrusive central database. That database will still log activities whenever an
identity check is made: hotel stays, banking transactions, applications for credit, visits to clinics and so on.
Loading article content
The Prime Minister promised that ID cards would not be made compulsory for UK citizens within the next parliament. But the government uses a definition of compulsory that would not be recognised by anyone else. It has been published policy since the scheme was first devised that compulsion would not be imposed on determined refuseniks until the majority of the population had been forced to register by other means -- the mechanism of designated documents.
Simply put, anyone applying for a passport or other designated document will be deemed to have made an incomplete application unless they also apply to be registered on the ID database. No compulsion, according to the government, but don’t hope to travel abroad unless you comply.
So the Prime Minister’s announcement meant nothing. In contrast, the reaction of listeners, many of whom mistakenly thought that ID cards were being scrapped, spoke volumes. Even among the government’s firmest supporters, there is a clear desire to be rid of this folly. Mr Brown should heed his conference delegates and make the policy reversal that the whole country could applaud, to scrap the ID scheme entirely.
Dr Geraint Bevan,
3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow
The proposal by Gordon Brown to hold a referendum on voting reform early in the next parliament puts him on a collision course with Iain Gray, Scottish Labour leader, and Jim Murphy, Scottish Secretary, who have said that now, in the midst of a recession, is not the time for a referendum on independence ("Gray set to allow vote on SNP key mandate", The Herald, September 29).
In his Labour Party conference speech on Tuesday, Mr Brown was announcing that a referendum would be held on electoral reform, which would be held at around the same time as a potential vote on Scottish independence.
It is, indeed, strange that it is proposed to hold a constitutional referendum on electoral reform, but not one on Scotland’s constitutional future.
Pursuit of knowledge
The Higher Education Funding Council of England’s consultation document on the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF), published last week, has been widely condemned for its insistence that, in all subjects, 25% of the score will be on the "impact" of research; that is, roughly, its direct contribution to the economy.
Many of the humanities and pure sciences have no such impact to speak of: their value lies in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and the (wholly unpredictable) future
developments, intellectual or practical, they may engender, perhaps decades later.
If things have reached this level of philistinism with a Labour government in Westminster, the thought of how bad things might become when the
Conservatives take over drives one to despair.
Higher education is devolved to the Scottish Government. Yet so far successive Holyrood administrations have participated in UK-wide research assessment exercises as though devolution had never happened. Why does not Scotland opt out of the REF, and show that it does not share the Thatcherite values which have become orthodoxy south of the border?
Dr Adam Rieger,
Department of Philosophy,
So, Glasgow completes another public holiday while the rest of Scotland continues to work.
Last week it was Edinburgh’s turn. Aberdeen has its turn. So does Dundee, so does Falkirk and so do other towns and cities. This happens in England, too.
Simultaneous holidays should be put in place.
How many businesses only trade with the company round the corner these days?
We are in a world in which working with someone in Portsmouth or Paris is just as likely as working with someone in Pollokshields or Partick, yet we still feel the need to shut up shop when the rest of the country goes to work.
How much is lost to Finance Secretary John Swinney’s and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling’s coffers due to business being shut 25 miles along the road?
As the nation continues to waddle towards an obesity crisis, it is alarming to note the "successful" growth in the sales of energy drinks ("Taste of success for energy drinks", The Herald, September 30).
These drinks are simply a source of concentrated empty calories for an unsuspecting public duped by clever, irresponsible marketing.
Perhaps the term "obesity drinks" would be nearer the mark.
Dr David Walker,
First to abdicate
I must challenge the statement in your On This Day item (September 29) that in 1399 Richard II, King of England, was "the first British monarch to abdicate".
Constantine II, King of Scots from 900, abdicated in 943 and retired as a monk to St Andrews, where he died in 952.
Dr Alexander S Waugh,
Scottish Wildlife Trust’s independent charitable status is vital to its work
In calling for a single conservation authority for Scotland, Niall McKillop seems to have misunderstood the role of charities such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust (Letters, September 30).
By working in partnership with government agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) is better able to conserve Scotland’s wildlife across our network of 123 reserves; our conservation teams undertake projects in the wider countryside and give valuable practical experience and training to disadvantaged groups such as young job-seekers; our 35,000 members are given a voice with government in a way which would be impossible for a statutory agency, and our members’ centres and children’s wildlife watch groups help people experience the natural world at first hand.
It is wrong to suggest that SWT would not be able to exist without Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) funding. Of course, SNH funding is vitally important. However, last year, nearly 90% of SWT’s funding came from sources other than SNH. SWT is generously supported by our members, by donors and by a wide range of grant-giving bodies.
Attempting to merge Scotland’s environmental charities with the government would, aside from appropriating 20,000 hectares of our members’ land, slash Scotland’s conservation budget. Conservation cannot and should not be delivered by government, or government money, alone. That is why we work closely with government at ministerial and agency level and why we are fully behind the Scottish Government’s initiative to promote more integrated management by its environmental and rural agencies.
Our independence is our essential strength. To remove it would do a great disservice to Scotland and the Scottish people.
Simon Milne MBE,
Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust,
3 Kirk Cramond, Edinburgh.
Pope has a stirring message for modern society
It seems that a committed Christian has only to have a letter published in The Herald to provoke criticism from correspondents who oppose the Christian way of life (Letters, September 28). That appears to be the way of the world.
This week, Pope Benedict XVI gave a stirring message to 120,000 church followers gathered to welcome him at Brno Airport on his visit to the overwhelmingly secular Czech Republic.
He warned that modern societies excluded God at their peril. "History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions," he said, adding that technical progress was not enough to "guarantee the moral welfare of society".
These timely words, I think, justify James MacMillan’s letter (September 26) welcoming the holy father’s projected visit to Scotland next year.
The Fellowship of Confessing Churches should be more open and honest about its views concerning women in positions of authority within the Church of Scotland -- for instance, as elders and ministers.
Nearly 150 Church of Scotland parishes have joined or are considering joining the fellowship ("Kirk members join movement in opposition to gay ordination", The Herald, September 28). The fellowship is linked to similar organisations in the rest of the world, such as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which have similar beliefs.
These organisations have made it clear that the issue that has prompted their formation is the ordination of practising gay ministers, bishops and so on.
I find it disturbing that these fellowships, which proclaim the gospel loudly, have been launched by denigrating a minority. It is easy to stir any majority group into action against a minority, as we have seen throughout history.
The fellowships have played down
their views on issues that have a big impact -- for instance, women elders and ministers.
Is this honest and open?
Patrick Harvie is wrong to suggest that the Home Insulation Scheme has been "set up to fail" (The Herald, September 28). Nothing could be further from the truth.
In its first year, the scheme will offer 10 council areas across Scotland help in making their homes more energy efficient.
Free energy efficiency measures will be offered to low-income house-holds whose homes are suitable and discounted measures to those on higher incomes.
The scheme is part of a long-term drive to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s housing, and other council areas will benefit from it in the future.
The Greens want home insulation to be free to all, regardless of income. In the real world, against a backdrop of economic turmoil and a tight budget settlement from the UK government, our priority is to focus resources where they are most needed.
Minister for Housing and Communities,
The Scottish Government,
The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
Incineration of waste may be inevitable and necessary to meet future Landfill Directive commitments
Those who advocate campaigning against waste incinerators should be aware that the Landfill Directive requires that, by 2013, we divert 50% of the waste we send to landfill, based on 1995 tonnages ("Campaigners hit out at plans for more incinerators", The Herald, September 30). The 2020 target is 65% diverted.
Although Scotland’s councils have made significant progress in improving
household waste recycling, with the front-runners now achieving more than 40%, it is now recognised that some form of tertiary treatment -- for instance, anaerobic digestion (processes during which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) -- is inevitable if we are to avoid swingeing fines for failing to meet the diversion targets.
The technology associated with the thermal treatment of waste (and it should be considered as a treatment rather than a disposal option) has progressed in the past few decades and is seen as being able to play an integral part in our National Waste Strategy.
The Scottish Government has recognised, however, that public concerns need to be addressed and has, therefore, placed a limit (25%) on the installed capacity eventually delivered.
There is, however, another avenue that is worth exploring if we are to comply with the Landfill Directive. For some reason, the UK has accepted a proposition that commercial waste collected by local councils must be considered as municipal waste. If the same waste is collected by a contractor, it escapes the diversion targets. This means that if a council stops collecting non-household waste, it disappears from its records, although it still exists to be collected by a contractor.
If this definition was to be revisited so that the directive only applied to household waste collected by councils, the diversion tonnages would be defined more strictly and compliance with the directive more readily secured.
John F Crawford,
How refreshing and well balanced I found John Peter’s letter (September 30).
The UN World Climate Change Conference in Geneva a couple of weeks ago was told by Mojib Latif, one of the world’s top climate modellers, that forecasts of climate change are about to go seriously out of kilter and we could be about to enter one or even two decades of cooler temperatures.
This authoritative conclusion went largely unreported. Vested interests and financial incentives for academia conspire to suppress information that fails to support dire predictions of looming catastrophe. Al Gore has a lot to answer for with his splendid but blatantly misleading film, An Inconvenient Truth.
A sense of balance is long overdue, in view of the enormous sums about to be spent in averting a crisis forecast by questionable computer models. Too many people have been brainwashed by propaganda. We must challenge the spurious claims.
Join the debate, contact Herald Letters here