Like many of your readers, I have often heard commentators expounding on the iniquity of the Highland Clearances and denigrating the actions of the then Duke of Sutherland.

Within the past few days, I happened to see a documentary which related, in a very positive way, the story of how the crofters of Assynt acquired their forebears’ lands from the Vestey family.

Consequently, I have been somewhat surprised at the limited comment on The Herald’s Letters page regarding the families on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire who are threatened with being removed one way or another from their land. I understand the need for compulsory purchase orders to ensure that developments approved by local authorities, and seen as being for the common good, are not blocked unreasonably.

In this case, however, there is a proposal to use CPOs effectively to throw people off land which they legally own to make way for a private development (“Will David be Trumped by golfing Goliath?”, Jennifer Cunningham, The Herald, October 2).

Is this too small a matter to interest all those who over the years have been so vociferous in the matter of the Clearances and the Assynt lands? Are there not enough people involved to evoke their attention?

I would have thought that there is a matter of principle that should, before now, have been given the support of those with aspirations to be independent, or are we to be forever in thrall to anyone who appears waving a big enough cheque? Perhaps there should have been more wide-ranging discussions of possible alternative ways of proceeding so that the Scottish people acquired, possibly via the government, a stake in the future of this land instead of agreeing the sale of another parcel of Scottish land to another developer.

At Loch Lomond, we have seen that all that was achieved was the transfer of a parcel of land beside the loch from the Colquhoun family to someone else who also keeps the area very private. Is this going to be repeated ad nauseam (and I really do mean ad nauseam)? The fact that the golf course at Loch Lomond is recognised as being a very fine one is quite beside the point.

The way in which we in Scotland deal with matters of this type in future needs to be part of the national conversation that the government at Holyrood seems so keen to have.

John A Maxwell, Bearsden, Glasgow.


Talks are welcome


This week in Geneva, Iranian and American officials were involved in the most direct engagement for more than 30 years (“Iran and US hold direct nuclear talks”, The Herald, October 2).

The indications are that the meetings have been something of a success and the talks demonstrate the importance of nations doing just that: talking to one another.

Iran’s new proposal to export uranium for third-party enrichment abroad for use in its US-built Tehran reactor is a significant concession.

Many commentators will argue that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is merely playing for time, but the important thing to remember is that there is still plenty of time to play with.

Last month it was revealed that US intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work, halted in 2003.

Furthermore, the suggestion that Iran’s nuclear facility in Qom was covert turned out to be misleading as it emerged that the Iranians had already declared its existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Stefan Simanowitz,

Chair, Westminster Committee on Iran, Hampstead, London.


Choice comments


The Prime Minister gave a commitment to a referendum on electoral reform during his speech to the Labour Party conference this week; he said he would give voters the choice.

Indeed, the word “choice” was mentioned 29 times in Gordon Brown’s speech. So let’s give the people of Scotland the choice on how they see their future by holding a referendum on independence.

Catriona C Clark, Banknock, Falkirk.


Campaign group’s concern is to do with information that will be held on identity scheme database


In response to James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service (Letters, October 2), I would like to assure readers that it is not the information stored on ID cards or passports about which the NO2ID campaigning group is concerned primarily, despite reservations about the insecurity of the chips, but the information on the database that underpins the national identity scheme.

I should also add that NO2ID has never claimed that those registering would be required to provide tax and health records when applying for a passport or ID card; rather, that the national identity register will provide an index to personal information stored on other databases, while also compiling an electronic dossier of people’s lives whenever their identity is checked, as specified in Schedule 1 of the Identity Cards Act.

I sincerely appreciate the willingness of Mr Hall to enter into debate about the ID scheme. However, it would be beneficial if he would respond to the arguments rather than setting up his own straw men to knock down.

Dr Geraint Bevan,

NO2ID Scotland,



James Hall will be familiar with the

concept of the Potemkin village (something that appears elaborate and impressive but in fact lacks substance).

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) is already issuing cards to students from non-European Economic Area countries. These cards include fingerprints. But no college in the UK has the equipment needed to read these cards. Not one. They are Potemkin cards.

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) is due to add fingerprints to the passports and ID cards it issues to UK citizens. But there is no national network of registration centres to collect our

fingerprints. IPS is dependent on a Potemkin network.

The flat print fingerprinting technology being used by UKBA and IPS fails 20% of the time. There are 62,000,000 people in the UK, some 12,400,000 of whom will not be able to verify their identity using this technology. We are being offered Potemkin verification. IPS is trying to convince UK retailers to collect our fingerprints. In total, 20% of the customers of any retailer who gives in will promptly find it difficult to prove their right to work in the UK. And the chief executives of these retailers will promptly find themselves running Potemkin businesses.

Mr Hall claims that his plans will maintain the gold standard for UK passports. That is a claim on which even Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin, who ordered the fabrication of fake settlements to fool Empress Catherine II, would have choked.

David Moss, London.


In his speech to the Labour Party conference on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: “We will reduce the information British citizens have to give for the new biometric passport to no more than that required for today’s passport.”

In letter published in The Herald three days later, James Hall flatly contradicts Gordon Brown, saying that the new passports will hold the same information as today’s “plus an individual’s fingerprints”.

Will the new passports hold fingerprints or not? Would Mr Hall care to tell us which it is?

Andrew Watson, Cambridge.


Lewis Chessmen should be returned permanently


While it is fantastic to see 24 of the collection of 82 Lewis Chessmen at present held by the British Museum go on tour in Scotland next year, it is now time for the full return of the twelfth-century chessmen to the Western Isles (“Accord of a sort allows Lewis Chessmen to go on Scottish tour”, The Herald, October 2).

The pieces, crafted from walrus ivory and whales’ teeth, were unearthed in 1831 and, of the 93 chessmen, 11 are in Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland while 82 are in the British Museum.

It is simply not good enough that

they are occasionally loaned back to

the Western Isles. Ownership of the

collection should pass to the people of these isles, where they were found and where they should be put on permanent display, housed and looked after by the Western Islanders.

The economic benefit to the isles would be immense, more so than the benefit garnered by their partial display in the British Museum.

And, once returned, the islanders can then decide to whom to loan them, if that were their desire.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.


No point in pursuing inquiry into BAE Systems


Is the Serious Fraud Office mad (“Defence giant faces massive lawsuit over bribery claims”, The Herald,

October 2)? It appears to want to bankrupt Britain’s largest manufacturer, BAE Systems, with what has been reported as perhaps a £1bn fine. The fine is not based on profits, but on contract size.

Would the government have to come in and bail out the company with taxpayers’ money if this happened?

Surely everyone knows that we have “friends” around the world to look after our commercial interests. A good example of how this works is the radar deal for Tanzania. Many experts also pointed out that a far cheaper civil radar system was all Tanzania actually required.

Yes, but what did we require? Defence sales come under covert operations, and an £8m payment to a middleman is as easy a way to expedite matters as any. And, of course, the Americans do not like us getting into their backyard and are attempting to use their legal system to make things embarrassing.

Niall Barker, Troon.


There is a need for common holiday dates


While Martin Yown (Letters,

October 1) is right about the disruption caused by different holiday weekends in Scotland, this is not the case in England, where holidays are on fixed dates everywhere.

In England, the last Monday in August is a Bank Holiday, and the time when many music and arts festivals, sporting events and so on take place.

Not having a common date in Scotland makes it less practical to hold such events here.

My wife and I, as long-standing supporters of the Greenbelt Arts Festival held in England, find it frustrating that our son is at school then, and we also do not get a public holiday then. The weather is generally better then as well, so at the moment it is lose-lose.

While I do not expect the present Holyrood administration to harmonise Scottish holidays with England, could we at least have common holidays across Scotland which might encourage more public events with a wide appeal?

Bob Floyd, Helensburgh.


Wise words from RLS


In the present increasingly stringent financial climate, with limits being put somewhat belatedly and half-heartedly on bankers’ bonuses, the politicians who rushed to the aid of the financial institutions, seemingly without imposing any conditions on their less than transparent activities, would have fared better had they first heeded the following advice: “That wealth should not be the first object in life.

“That only so much money as he

has earned by services to mankind can a man honestly spend on his own comfort or delight .

“That of what he has earned, only

so much as he can spend for his own comfort or delight is his to spend at

all; and that whatever is spent by carelessness or through habit or ostentation is spent dishonestly and to the hurt of mankind.”

Although these words could easily have been uttered by Vince Cable, Treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats at the party’s recent annual conference, they were, in fact, written by our own Robert Louis Stevenson in his paper on Lay Morals in the 1880s (from Introductory of Ethical Studies).

Have we learned nothing in the past 130 years?

Anne Matthew,

Tarland, Castleton, Perthshire.


Democracy diminished


Even with the late intervention of

the Vatican, in the form of a warning that the EU threatens Ireland’s identity, traditions and history, it seems likely that the Irish people will vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty this time round.

Unwilling to accept the Irish “no”

vote in the first referendum, we have witnessed the authoritarian European machine using every means at its

disposal to change Irish minds,

including a media blitz and big business pressure.

The last vestiges of democracy and sovereignty will disappear as it is now

evident there is nothing to stop an unworthy Tony Blair becoming EU president. At least the Irish have been allowed to express their views through a referendum, something Gordon Brown has denied the British people.

Bob MacDougall, Stirlingshire.


Superb NHS treatment


While on holiday recently in the

Western Isles, I had the misfortune to

fall and hurt my elbow and knee. I required medical attention for the week I was there.

I cannot speak highly enough of the care and attention I received from Benbecula and Stornoway hospitals and from a Tarbert district nurse before I left on the ferry to Skye.

Sometimes we read and hear so

much adverse comment about the

NHS but my recent experience enables me to express my profound thanks for a highly professional and practical

demonstration of superb medical care and attention.

Margaret Macleod, Perth.


Northern sights


If, as Eric Macdonald says (Letters, October 2), Naples is the dirtiest city on the continent, perhaps Glasgow may become known as “the Naples of the North”, just as Edinburgh is “the Athens of the North”. Only a suggestion.

George Bryson, South Lanarkshire.