Your critique of ScotRail's latest fares increase, comparing rail fares with motoring costs, excludes the costs of owning (or otherwise possessing) a car (Scotrail ticket price hike means it is now cheaper to take the car to work than the train, News, January 7). Do ScotRail pay nothing for the use and maintenance of their trains? Based on what I paid for private use of my last employer's lease of a car on an "all-inclusive" basis (servicing, replacement tyres and VED all included) I reckon the real cost of motoring including fuel is not less than 30p per mile. This still makes the train fares which you picked on something of a bargain – just.

There is certainly much to criticise about rail fares. There is no clear relationship between distance travelled and cost as there is with motoring. One thing that does stand out though is the rip-off cost of fares for shorter journeys – the kind that most people make most often, to judge by Government travel statistics – even before the latest increases, particularly for single fares. How about £5.20 for a Kingussie-Aviemore (12 miles) single? Or £1.90 for a Queen Street-Bishopbriggs (3 miles) single? When a couple travelling together would find it cheaper to go by taxi there is clearly something wrong. And ripping off the occasional traveller is no way to persuade them to use the train more often.

Your leader suggests Government intervention (The disaster of the rail fare hike, Editorial, January 7). Those of us who can recall Government-imposed inflation-busting fare increases pre-privatisation are naturally sceptical. But today, with Transport Scotland and their Government paymasters openly hostile to opening train stations and lines nearer to where people actually live and work – meaning bus fares often have to be added to the train fare at one or both ends of a commuting journey – can we be sure that the political will exists to promote rail travel as a green transport choice whether by price or otherwise?

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Andrew McCracken


I worked for over 20 years in the field of sustainable transport, until retiring recently. One of the important tasks in this was to make car users more aware of the real costs of travelling by car, along with the health and environmental benefits of reduced car use. While many of us love the potential freedom and convenience of the car, most of us do not love the reality of stress and wasted time experienced in everyday driving conditions. Governments of all colours have accepted since the 1990s that we cannot build our way out of road congestion, but attempts at alternative transport strategies have been at best sporadic and half-hearted.

Alan James



It was good to read that Hardeep Singh Kohli is willing to admit that his “anti-vegan stance stemmed from ignorance” (When they’re not being pious vegans talk a lot of sense, Comment, January 7). However, although I have never personally encountered a “pious” vegan, it is rather tiring when those who consume an animal-based diet, never justify doing so and often accuse vegans of being “holier than thou”. If the best they can do is throw barbs at people for having compassion and wanting to live their lives, as best they can, by not causing suffering to other animals, it is rather below the belt and does nothing to excuse their cruelty-condoning choice of food.

Mr Singh Kohli, along with others, accuses vegans of being “judgmental on occasion”, adding that "like born-again Christians, born-again vegans seem to think we omnivores are committing heinous sins by eating the flesh and enjoying the milk of animals”. At the risk of being labelled judgmental, I believe those who consume animal flesh and the milk of animals are committing heinous sins. Mr Singh Kohli needs to follow up this accusation by trying to justify eating animals and consuming animal products, when our taste buds can be easily satisfied with animal-free/cruelty-free foods.

He goes on to say: “While I doubt I can ever become a full-time vegan, I know that my first-born is toying with the idea and his sister might well end up heading in that direction.” Good for them, especially as they have an animal-cooking chef father; it shows they are independently minded. The one word wrong here is “can”. Anyone can become vegan; I think he meant, “while I doubt I shall ever choose to be a full-time vegan”. This may seem more likely when more people start becoming more aware of just how healthy veganism is.

Sandra Busell



SIR Harry Burns advocates taxing the rich to give money directly to the poor in order to improve the health and wellbeing of the latter (Top Sturgeon economic adviser calls for citizens income in Scotland, News, January 7). He quotes reasonable indirect evidence for the effectiveness of such a policy in limited studies.

However, since Scotland has a very high proportion of state employees who will be on wages fixed by the sitting government no matter how “progressive” that government and its allies might be, and in addition has, as elsewhere, an ageing population which will generally also be on fixed pension income, this argument might fail due eventually to lack of sufficient tax revenue from these dominant groups of taxpayers.

By all means let us set up adequately powered social studies to see if Sir Harry is correct in his conclusions but meantime let us also look more closely at all the possible reasons for disparities in our small society.

Alan Rodger



It is a brave person who would publicly support SPUC’s willingness to mount a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s ghastly plans to allow home abortions (Abortion at home pill is abhorrent, Letters, December 24). I am not a Catholic, fundamentalist or evangelical Christian. However, I fear we are going too far. Isn’t it strange that when illegitimacy no longer means humiliation, there is access to contraceptives and the morning after pill, and schoolchildren know more about birth control than any previous generation, abortion has become just another acceptable method of birth control?

As a society, we shirk from the question: when is the foetus human? The present time limit of 24 weeks for an abortion has become grotesque due to medical advances. One-third of babies born at 23 weeks will survive in state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care units. Babies born at 21 and 22 weeks have lived.

The Abortion Act 1967 was brought in for very good reasons, but how many women have an abortion today because the pregnancy posed a risk to her health greater than if the child was born alive? We need a debate.

When the Scottish Government pushed for abortion to be devolved, I envisaged a reduction in the time limit in relation to medical advance. Is the taking of RU486 Misoprostol at home without a medical practitioner consistent with Section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967? Has the Scottish Government exceeded its powers? A judicial review seems necessary.

John V Lloyd