To read some of the letters sent to The Herald, it would appear the biggest threat to tackling global warming is not our continued use of fossil fuels but selfish and often ill-informed nimbyism.

The opponents of the Beauly-Denny power line would have us all believe the route it follows is currently free of such “blots on the landscape”. It is not.

The plan is to upgrade an existing line using fewer pylons and, where possible, rerouting to lessen the visual impact. All of which will allow Scotland to exploit fully its enormous renewable resources and provide us all with clean, sustainable energy. When the line’s opponents talk of it ruining Scotland’s countryside, we can only assume they want the current line dismantled, too.

We can all use candles to light our homes, I suppose. Or maybe nuclear will be the answer. Then again, with frequent shutdowns of stations because of safety fears, a lack of an indigenous supply of fuel and dwindling accessible uranium deposits worldwide, probably not.

Stuart Allan, Dundee.


Detrimental impact

I watched the Cameron McNeish programme on television recently as he walk across Skye. One item in the programme, filmed near Sligachan referred to a power line (telegraph-pole height) that Scottish and Southern Energy had agreed to remove. It interrupted the view of the Cuillin mountains. SSE was proud, said its PR lady, to be part of a project to protect the beauty of the local environment and its tourist amenities.

How much more, then, could the promoters of the Beauly-Denny power line be congratulated if they exercised the same responsible attitude and recognised the detrimental visual, health and environmental impact their proposed pylons will have across large swathes of our green and pleasant land?

Iain Sinclair, Stirling .


Reason to be proud

In response to John Kelly (Letters, January 7), I think anybody who voted for the SNP would be proud of the targets that the government has set in relation to cutting CO2 emissions, and this power line is vital in that quest.

I would be more concerned if we, as a country, could not look outwith the box and were forced to rely heavily on the furtherance of nuclear power.

Negative comments merely highlight that the time has surely come for an in-depth debate on the future of energy supply In Scotland.

We have to get away from this “not in my back yard” syndrome in relation to energy proposals. Though it often produces vast quantities of hot air, I’m afraid that is not enough to keep the lights on.

David A Millar, Glasgow.


A growing menace

Take a look around Scotland’s landscape: a real look. Not one of soft-focus, of sunset, of snow blanket, but a real close look at our so-called bonnie land.

You will see hardly a freshwater loch that has not been raised by an eyesore of a dam, an outflow river that flows too fast or not at all, forests of squared-off sitka, pylons straddling every glen and the growing wind farm menace.

With Beauly-Denny, we further contaminate our landscape. Future generations will not thank us. And how ironic it is that an SNP administration should accelerate the process.

Robert Wallace, Glasgow.


Realising potential

The upgrade to the Beauly-Denny power transmission line is to be welcomed as it immediately opens up the opportunity for many more -- and much needed -- renewable energy projects to be developed.

Until now, the north and north-west, which represent some of the best sites for marine-, hydro- and wind-powered electricity schemes, have been held back. The majority of recent wind power schemes have focused on the central belt and south of Scotland, with very little opportunity for projects in some of Scotland’s windiest and wettest areas to get off the ground.

With the upgraded Beauly-Denny line in place, however, many more land-owners and local communities will now have the chance to embrace and benefit from energy from renewable sources. Offshore wind, as well as wave and tidal schemes, should also benefit. It should also reassure financers of such projects.

Richard Leslie, Edinburgh.


A green myth

David Ross said with reference to Beauly-Denny that it was either the day Scotland began to build its future on green energy or sold its acclaimed landscape for a cheap option (“Power struggle lies ahead as line is given green light”, The Herald, January 7). It’s not quite as simple as that.

Green energy from wind farms is a myth because of the continual power station back-up required. Yes, the Scottish landscape and nature are being destroyed but not for a cheap option. Wind farm electricity, which is intermittent and variable and unpredictable, requires 100% back-up from reliable or firm generation.

A R Nelson, Lanark.


Nuclear is cheaper

The consent for the Beauly-Denny line has brought into focus the environmental impact of renewable energy. Scotland needs to develop an optimal mix of energy technologies, so it is useful to compare diffuse renewable energy generation with compact thermal generation.

The Whitelees wind farm will generate 322MW of power at a capacity factor of order 30% for some 20 years and at a build cost of £300m. The effective cost of energy production can, therefore, be estimated at 1.77 pence per kilowatt-hour, excluding renewable obligation costs.

The United Arab Emirates, a small nation rich in renewable energy potential, has recently awarded a fixed-price contract for four 1400MW nuclear reactors to Korea. An energy park will generate 5600MW of power (equivalent to peak electricity demand for Scotland) at a capacity factor of order 90% for some 60 years and at a build cost of £13bn, with up to £12bn required over the plant life for fuelling and other costs. The effective cost of energy production can, therefore, be estimated at 0.95 pence per kilowatt-hour. Wind, therefore, appears to be twice as expensive as nuclear.

It is also useful to compare the scale of engineering required for the large-scale deployment of renewables. A single 3MW Vestas wind turbine with a capacity factor of 30% has a 255 tonne steel tower, yielding 280 tonnes of steel per 1MW of power delivered. For comparison, the small, Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear plant delivers 1150MW and requires approximately 12,000 tonnes of steel rebar, yielding 10 tonnes of steel per 1MW capacity. Wind requires 30 times more steel than nuclear.

Colin R McInnes, Netherlee, Glasgow.


Sensitive SSE

Your correspondents’ concern about Scotland’s landscape (“Pylons scarring the landscape will be the government’s legacy”, The Herald, January 7) is universally shared. Through what the public inquiry report described as “sensitive” routing, developed over three years, the Beauly-Denny power line does not pass through any of Scotland’s designated National Scenic Areas. Most of the new overhead line will be within one kilometre of an existing line of pylons, which will be dismantled. In addition, the landscape in key areas such as the Cairngorm National Park will be improved through the removal of other power lines as part of the Beauly-Denny package.

Dr Keith MacLean, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scottish and Southern Energy, Inveralmond House, 200 Dunkeld Road, Perth.


Greater transparency is required over awarding of consultants’ distinction bonuses

Ralph Kirkwood (Letters, January 8) wonders why Nicola Sturgeon has written to Gordon Brown seeking a UK-wide review of consultants’ distinction awards.

One explanation is her concern that the recruitment and retention of consultants in Scotland might be affected if there was a potentially more lucrative awards system operating south of the border. It would be surprising and disappointing if this were the case, because, as she says, “consultants are motivated first and foremost by patient care”. It is a privilege to be a doctor, and one hopes that her fears would be allayed by the expectation that the professional rewards of a well-remunerated job would prevent such a brain drain.

However, she is right in asking if the present system should be revised, and in this era of transparency and accountability, with increasing constraints on the public purse, the whole process could be open to public scrutiny, and details of the awards, what criteria are used in their assessment, and perhaps even of the recipients, available on the internet. The current arrangement in Scotland is more equitable than when I was appointed to a consultant post in 1975, when the system still had many features of an “old boy” network, where committees were dominated by previous recipients. The procedure was shrouded in such secrecy that one often did not know who had an award or why.

When I left the NHS, the committees set up to award the discretionary points as a preliminary to more major awards were more democratic, and an attempt was made to ensure the process was as fair and objective as possible. I am sure this has evolved further, but it would be helpful if the public and the profession could be reassured that the procedure for awarding the major B, A and A+ awards was transparent, and that the magnitude of these awards is justified. Perhaps a recipient could give us this reassurance.

However, whether distinction awards are justified in the first place is a subject that requires debate, as clinical excellence may not always be easy to assess. It may be invidious to compare one medical speciality with another, when the pressures and challenges may differ widely. How easy can it be to quantify dedication, compassion and exceptional commitment to patient care, without true 360 degree appraisal, including nursing input and patient feedback.

John Sinclair, Milngavie.


Now we are all to be viewed as slaves

Advertisements for the national identity scheme have started to appear on the internet, and they give a startling insight into the Home Office mindset.

One of the adverts shows an ID card being used to identify Spartacus from a crowd. Apparently the Home Office sees similarities between national registration of the UK population and the oppression of slaves by the Roman empire.

The parallels between the Home Office’s ID scheme and the Roman empire do not end there.

From this week, the catchment area for enrolling people on the national identity register has been extended across the north-west of England to the Scottish border.

Scots must again stand strong against this menace from the south.

Dr Geraint Bevan,NO2ID Scotland,3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow.


Huddle together

How long before Gordon Brown arranges a G20 summit on the problem of global freezing?

Dai Woosnam, Grimsby.


Young musicians constitute a beacon of hope and deserve to be given much more support

While agreeing with Michael Tumelty in his review of the splendid National Youth Orchestra of Scotland New Year concert, in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Monday evening, that NYOS offers a beacon of hope in the midst of other depressing developments, such as cuts in music education, uncertainty over the future of Castle Toward and the report about the demise of the Festival of British Youth Orchestras (The Herald, January 6), I feel compelled to express concern over the level of public support given to all the NYOS ensembles, when they perform in Edinburgh and Glasgow, contrasted with the support they receive when performing elsewhere, particularly overseas.

On Monday evening, I would estimate the audience numbered barely 500, and from talking to someone who had attended the Edinburgh concert the previous night, the audience in the Usher Hall was even smaller. Even allowing for the effect of the weather, it must be dispiriting for the young musicians to play to such empty houses.

I remember attending a half-full GRCH NYOS 2005 summer concert with Dutch cellist Quirine Viersen joining them for a performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto and then seeing the same programme performed a few days later in a packed Konzerthaus in Berlin.

With NYOS being dependent on financial support from cash-strapped councils, which will almost inevitably decline over the coming years, the best way of ensuring this beacon continues to shine is for everyone to get out there and support these young musicians in their musical development and guarantee that our professional orchestras continue to reap the benefits NYOS has provided over the 30 years of its existence.

Alan Robertson, Glasgow.


The announcement that this year’s Festival of British Youth Orchestras has been cancelled is a tragedy for young musicians. The spirit of the FBYO celebrates the universal benefits of young musicians from all social, economic and geographic areas coming together. As a former participant of the festival, it was a brilliant experience and inspired me to choose music as a career.

It is a loss that will affect the orchestras, bands and ensembles that participate, supporting not only young musicians but professional conductors and instrumentalists. I can only hope that it will return in a better financial climate.

Michael Graham, Glasgow.


Failure to modernise damages business

Andrew Brady states (Letters, January 6) that I “criticised the Johnnie Walker workers for daring to protest at the plant closure”. That is incorrect. It was understandable that the Diageo workers should react as they did.

My criticism was directed at others who should know that if companies acquiesce under the such pressure and fail to modernise and improve their competitiveness, Scotland will be left with an economy and business environment not fit for purpose. Such a state would lead inevitably to even more Scottish jobs being lost.

Iain M McMillan, Director, CBI Scotland, 16 Robertson Street, Glasgow


Meaning of ‘life’

It is some incredulity that I read (“Sectarian killer goes home”, The Herald, January 8) of the imminent release of “one of Scotland’s most notorious killers” after serving a mere 14 years of a “life” sentence.

Why does our justice system even bother with the term “life sentence”?

Steph Johnston,  Glasgow.