Fifty years after Dounreay was started, it is time to look back. As a young graduate engineer, I believed in the technology and applied to work there.

Now, looking back from maturity, I consider Dounreay to be the biggest disaster in our energy history. The idea was that fast breeders would use nuclear fuel much more efficiently. In practice, it all went badly wrong. The molten metals used to transfer the intense heat from the reactors proved too hard to handle. This was the experience of every country that tried to make the technology work. It defeated the Americans, the French, the Germans, the Russians and the Japanese.

Dounreay generated very little electricity and contributed very little to fundamental research knowledge. As a parliamentary candidate in Caithness and Sutherland who advocated renewable energy, I was dismayed to encounter the most amazing technological arrogance from the management at Dounreay who dismissed renewables as “toy-town technology”. With radioactive pollution on the beaches of Caithness and a massive bill for clearing it all up, I can only regard Dounreay as the most expensive job creation scheme of all time.Kerr MacGregor,former SNP energy spokesperson, and parliamentary candidate for Caithness and Sutherland,31 Temple Village, Midlothian.Fears that Scotland will face an energy gap in 15 years are misplaced. Authoritative research undertaken by independent energy analysts Garrad Hassan earlier this year showed that, even after the closure of Torness in 2023, Scotland will be generating more electricity than it is today, although demand may be lower as a result of meeting efficiency targets. With moderate investments in a stronger, smarter electricity grid and enhanced electricity storage (such as more pumped storage facilities), Scotland can enjoy energy security.

Contrary to the scaremongering of certain political and commercial interests, Scotland will be able to remain a large net exporter of electricity to England, and in the future that can be clean, green, renewable electricity. It would be foolish to waste time and effort on an expensive, hazardous power source

reliant on imported technology when we can create jobs exporting renewable knowhow and technology around the world.

Duncan McLaren, Chief executive, Friends of the Earth Scotland, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh; and Liz Murray, head of campaigns, Scotland, World Development Movement; Richard Dixon, director, WWF Scotland.

Ian McGowan’s article “Can environment body really be impartial?” (The Herald, November 3) struck a chord, not in relation to wind farms (with which we are afflicted here in East Ayrshire), but with the increasing blots on our local landscape of open-cast coal extraction.

Last year a protected bog was “accidentally” breached by such a developer, causing damage to a special protection area designated for its habitats and bird species.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had objected, but seemed content to allow the development to proceed “with mitigation”. When questioned about its attitude to condoning development in such a sensitive area of the southern uplands, SNH referred to taking into account social and economic aspects, as if it were the competent authority to do so. The planning authority also seemed to regard SNH as “the competent authority”.

According to SNH’s Environmental Assessment Handbook, however: “SNH may be asked to advise the competent authority on any natural heritage matters before they [in this case East Ayrshire Council] decide on the application.”

It seems that SNH exceeds its remit on professional advice on natural heritage matters and is influenced by social, economic and political issues. What expertise does it have on these?

If the Scottish Government wishes to approve large-scale wind farms, power transmission lines and open-cast developments, then it should first heed the advice given on purely natural heritage matters by organisations such as SNH. Then, if it must, exercise some balancing duty and bring other factors into the final decision.

Greta Roberts, Kilmarnock.

History of Scotland was riddled with inaccuracies and blighted by personal partiality of presenter

The Solemn League and Covenant

Now brings a smile, now brings a tear.

But sacred freedom, too, was theirs,

If Thou’rt a slave, indulge thy sneer.

This tribute by Robert Burns, who could hardly be described as a joyless Calvinist, aptly describes Neil Oliver’s performance in the first episode of the BBC’s History of Scotland. The objectivity expected of a historian was replaced by the personal, dramatic and needlessly snide script of a self-opinionated TV personality.

On reading the article anent the spat between Mr Oliver and Professor Tom Devine (“Battle between TV history man and academic gets personal”, The Herald, November 9), one feels the objectivity of someone like Prof Devine has been sair missed in the making of this series. From the “Thank God for that!” final remark of Mr Oliver, it is obvious he took a personalised and partial approach to both Covenanters and Kirk.

It would have been sufficiently educational to explain – and the programme did it well – the history and Britain-wide consequences of the struggle to establish the independence of the Kirk, without resorting to puerile caricatures of a zealot, fanatical lawyer, an ancient prophet and a martyrdom-seeking minister. Yes, there were fanatics and fundamentalists. It was like that for all religions. The Scottish Enlightenment was still 100 years away, and any true historian would have based his impartial judgment in that context.

The programme was riddled with inaccuracies. For example, three times he referred to “Bluidy” Claverhouse as James Graham, when his name was John. He implied that Peden the Prophet was free as a result of leniency by Charles II, when he escaped with 66 other Covenanters from a ship taking them to slavery in the West Indies.

Oliver admitted that as many as 60% of Scotland’s population initially supported – and 60,000 signed – the Covenant, but belittled this by implying that many signed “with shaking hand” through “fear of God”. It is difficult to imagine 10,000 ordinary men, women and children walking many miles over hills to one conventicle, simply because of fear of God. For most, it was a demonstration of people power as a political means of improving their wretched lot.

Our pride as Scots stems – or should stem – from the fact that we had a Kirk which built a school in every parish, and declared all souls to be equal; and a common people who espoused this view and fought for it against the power and greed of the nobility with their dule trees and patronage which controlled their lives – and the tithes and tortures of a church which controlled their souls.

Though Burns despised the righteous Auld Lichts, he had the intellect to acknowledge and admire the thrawn courage of the thousands of ordinary folk who endured murder, torture, maiming, execution and slavery in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality. Pity about Mr Oliver.

Dr J A Begg, Ayr.

Airport rail link plans

As an engineer who worked in road planning, it was interesting to see the suggestion that Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) be routed via the south side of the Clyde. When Strathclyde Regional Council began its investigation, one of the options was extending a then existing line to Braehead and the defunct power station.

This route would have served the Braehead centre and Renfrew, as well as the airport. However, because at the time an Act of Parliament (Paisley Confirmation Act) required the Cart to be navigable to Paisley, a high-level bridge, as the White Cart viaduct on the M8 had to be, or an opening bridge was financially unattractive compared to the current scheme. This project was attractive because it could serve Braehead as well as Renfrew. It was also challenging because of housing in Renfrew, and Renfrew Golf Club. Sadly, apart from the removed navigation restriction, all these problems, plus more, remain.

A light-rail system cannot be integrated, without a transfer, to the heavy-rail system. Were Glasgow to have a substantial existing and expanding light-rail set-up, it would be ideal.

With regard to supermarkets (“Supermarkets double in just a decade”, The Herald, November 10), drive along any new motorway and at or very near each interchange, there they will be: Waitrose at Capelrig adjacent to Junction 4 on the M77 the latest, or Morrisons off the A737 Johnstone bypass. The stores grab much of the capacity provided at new junctions to the detriment of other road users. When I had just introduced, with some reserve, a project adding capacity to a network, I was asked if I would accept a supermarket off a junction which was now no longer a delay point. Why improve the road network?

J A Taylor, Ayrshire.

A few facts from the report to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) from its transport consultants, Faber Maunsell, may cast some light on the debate raging over the Glasgow Airport Rail Link. The report predicted a total of 550,000 air passengers and airport employees would use the airport train in 2009. The number of airport passengers was forecast to be 8,470,000 in 2009. It follows that only one in 18 passengers was predicted to use the train. This is hardly surprising, as the train will take 16 minutes to reach Central Station and passengers will wait for up to 15 minutes, whereas a car will reach most city centre destinations in a little over 10 minutes. Furthermore, for the majority of travellers, Central Station will not be their final destination.

So far as the effect on the M8 is concerned, the consultants’ report it as negligible. The report puts the annual operating cost at £4.16m, compared with an income from fares of £1.65m. Why would we subsidise people who can afford to travel by rail and air, while the working poor travel predominantly by bus?

Regarding the Commonwealth Games, surely athletes will be met by buses and taken to their accommodation. If visitors travel by airport train, it will be once on arrival and once on departure. Judging by my last trip on the train between Paisley and Central Station, visitors would get a more favourable impression approaching Glasgow on the M8, which will be congestion-free following the completion of the M74 in a little over a year. In addition, we are to lose the very civilised setting down area outside Central Station.

John Cullen, Milngavie.

Anger at banning of climate march in city centre

The Public Processions Committee of Glasgow City Council has effectively sidelined Scotland’s most important public display for strong action on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen talks. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland had requested to march on December 5 from Glasgow Green to Kelvingrove Park via a small part of the city centre. Council leader Steven Purcell was happy to pose with Miss Earth Scotland to grab the media spotlight (The Herald, October 22) but then his Labour colleagues rejected the preferred route.

Glasgow City Council proclaims a desire to be Scotland’s greenest city but when it has the opportunity to host an event of international importance to demonstrate commitment to creating a greener globe, the Labour administration is found wanting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time the Dear Green Place is asked to host such an event.

Strathclyde Police claimed Christmas shopping and a Celtic game would stretch their ability to oversee a family-friendly march. Contrast this with approval for an Apprentice Boys’ walk through the city centre the following week.

I hang my head in shame at how this makes Glasgow look, but on December 5, I will walk with my head high. I urge all readers to show how important this issue is. Turn up on December 5, not merely to embarrass Steven Purcell’s administration but to demonstrate that the future of our planet has to come first before promoting organised sectarianism.

Councillor Grant Thoms, SNP spokesperson on the environment and sustainability, City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow.

The fact that Glasgow City Council has changed the route of the Wave Scotland march tells us much about the attitudes of those who govern our city. They don’t want to inconvenience shoppers in the run-up to Christmas by allowing peaceful demonstrators to march through the city centre. Let’s pretend climate change isn’t happening. The action of the council runs contrary to the tradition of protests in Glasgow which have gathered at Glasgow Green and walked to the centre.

Paul R S Martin, Glasgow.

With reference to your story “Climate change march is banned from city centre” (The Herald, November 10), there is no Orange Parade planned in Glasgow for the following week.

Robert McLean, Executive Officer,Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, Olympia House, 13 Olympia Street, Glasgow.

An anthem for the nation

I often look enviously at countries around the world which have easily recognisable national anthems, while we Scots are fumbling in the dark trying to establish one.

Our historical subservience to former empire and the United Kingdom has always held us back from forming a coherent and united identity, and all that goes with it, such as an anthem, pride in our flag and considering ourselves as equals in the family of nations.

We have had the four prospective choices for use at the Commonwealth Games thrust upon us, without due consultation at national level. None of the choices – Flower of Scotland, Highland Cathedral, Scotland the Brave or Loch Lomond – was written as an anthem, and none, therefore, is fit for purpose.

It isn’t enough that they are popular. The argument that a national anthem should be easily played on the pipes makes sense. It should also invoke traditional social values and traditions.

It must also reflect the new, more confident, Scotland, with emphasis on our nation’s aspirations and diversity (from the original peoples that formed the Scotland we now know to the immigrants of recent years).

We have world-class musicians and songwriters, and, with Celtic Connections just two months away, perhaps we should be looking at the likes of Dougie MacLean, Donald Shaw and Phil Cunningham to gather contributions from across Scotland.

We deserve an anthem that will unite us, and bring pride to hear it and to sing it. Is this too much to ask? For once, let us take our time and get this right.

Richard McHarg, Bathgate.