THE Government’s announcement about the full-time return to school in August is very welcome, but setting aside the need for continuing education, it is important to understand that it wasn’t just a case about impact on families versus the safety of children and school staff.

For my mind, two things were more material in the decision to accelerate the return to school. Firstly, under the previous guidance, education authorities were asked to be “creative and imaginative” in their drafting of their planning for the return and many were far from that. Secondly and, more importantly, there was growing evidence about the detrimental effect on the wellbeing and mental health of our children from lack of contact with their pals and outdoor play opportunities as a result of the lockdown.

A recent report, commissioned by the UK’s Play Safety Forum and written by David Ball, Professor of Risk Management at Middlesex University, contained evidence causing the author to come to the conclusion that the UK policy was much more harmful to children than beneficial. Citing statistics showing the extremely low risk to children from the virus and the evidence that children’s role in transmitting the virus being fairly limited, the report urges that children’s social and emotional wellbeing be prioritised in all decisions relating to the easing of lockdown and re-opening of schools.

Also quoted in the report is the scientific consensus that the risk of transmission of Covid-19 is much lower outdoors than indoors due to air movement and the effect of UV light on the virus and on contaminated materials. All this would support allowing children to play together outdoors and to increase the trend to more outdoor education. We also should commend this report for its support of more rational, evidence-informed decision making.

Harry Harbottle, Portpatrick.

SO, after weeks spent implicitly criticising Boris Johnson's lockdown easing measures as overly hasty, Nicola Sturgeon, in response to sustained criticism, including from businesses, employers, workers, schools and parents, eventually provides lockdown lifting plans for north of the Border. Most measures are being lifted a day or so differently to England – presumably just to be different, and bizzarrely, after her rhetoric around the need for caution, in some cases sooner than England.

We still await news from the SNP administration about revisions to social (pointlessly rebranded here as "physical") distancing, without which shops and the hospitality industry can't function. Doubtless this will also more or less replicate what Downing Street has decided, though using cosmetically different language and a slightly alternative timeline.

And Ms Sturgeon claims she's above politics these days.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.

ROBERT McNeil's articles are always highly enjoyable, and he is bang on the money with his comments regarding Boris Johnson splurging £900,000 of public money on repainting a plane (June 21). To do such a thing in these difficult days with businesses struggling due to lockdown and many people facing economic hardship is not just "plane daft" and an expensive and insensitive waste of public money, it suggests that Mr Johnson is up in the clouds when it comes to making sensible decisions, and one can only wonder what role his top political adviser and co-pilot Dominic Cummings played in this flight of fancy. Was it for advice like this that the Prime Minister stubbornly clung to Mr Cummings in the teeth of the public's disgust?

Mr Johnson needs to be brought back to earth with a bump, and face being grounded, permanently.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Keep an open mind on climate change

NEIL Rothnie (Letters, June 21) obviously doesn't know that there are many theories on what makes the climate change, so I will enlighten him.

He knows of the warming theory involving man-made greenhouse gases. The late Stephen Schneider was a leading proponent of this; in 1975 he announced to the world his concern for the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. Incidentally, pre-1975 he was warning the world of a looming global cooling crisis, but all of his cooling work has been deleted.

Many alternative theories on climate have been announced. In 1997 Henrik Svensmark published his first paper on the link between cosmic rays and climate. In 2008 Nicola Scafetta announced his research suggesting that most climate change is due to the influence of planetary motion on the sun, and William Gray suggested ocean currents. In 2014 James Kamis suggested that mantle plumes and plate tectonics drove the climate, and in 2016 Arthur Viterito suggested vulcanology.

Many scientists have claimed that changes in the earth's magnetic field are the dominant driving force on climate, or that simply nobody really knows.

I respectfully suggest that Mr Rothnie be more open-minded.

Geoff Moore, Alness.

NEIL Rothnie may be genuine in his beliefs that mankind can save the planet by giving up fossil fuels His contempt for the North Sea oil industry is puzzling, since without it the UK would have been held to ransom by foreign nations. The UK has a miniscule 1.13 per cent of global emissions, Scotland 0.15%, but China (30%) India (6%) and numerous other countries are still building coal-fired plants to drive their economies using cheap fossil-generated electricity, not mega-expensive wind electricity.

Mr Rothnie mentions climate chaos but he, and others who believe the computer climate modelling forecasts, will be upset to learn that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has, once again, stated that there is little basis for claiming that droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes have increased, much less increased due to greenhouse gases.

Ever since climate scientists realised that there was a comfortable living to be made out of the threat of global warming there have been many hundreds of scary predictions, all of which failed to come to fruition.

Will Mr Rothnie vow not to own, use or travel in any products which were derived from fossil fuels?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.

Why statues need to be removed

"MY name is Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!’

Thus wrote Shelley in a poem subverting the vanity of power embodied in a statue.

I would generally support the views expressed by Professor Wardle in his letter (June 21) and the article by Kevin Mc Kenna (June 20) where Sir Tom Devine makes his arguments for a deeper scrutiny of Scotland’s role in the slave trade. Their views on the latter cannot be seriously contested.

However, both take the current anti-racist iconoclasm to task. It is dismissed as "a largely meaningless gesture" or "desecration". Instead, we are told, the "discussion needs to be widened" and the "demonisation" needs to stop. But why are contemporary struggles against racism, oppression and their totemic representations seen as obstructive of an examination of the past? And why should particular emblems of that past be ignored?

What is a statue? It is surely, amongst other things, an attempt to transcend time and space. These petrified representatives of horror that fill our public spaces are not merely significant in their materiality, they are also important as figurative projections of power, rank and prestige propelled from the past into the present. The intention behind them was that they were to be honoured and acknowledged as emblems of a dominant class who took their barbarous rule as a natural right. More importantly, they help underpin that same domination today.

Any statue is both a presence and an absence. All statues fill a space and, simultaneously, obscure and conceal. I would argue that the removal of these monstrosities would help reveal the more authentic history desired by Prof Wardle and Sir Tom.

Finally, if we are to fully examine Scotland’s role in the slave trade, we should endeavour to avoid clumsy conflations. The Scottish millworker and the Scottish crewman did not "benefit" from slavery. They were part of a dynamic of capitalist accumulation in which they had little say and little power. They led miserable lives characterised by long hours, disease and premature death. If Sir Tom wishes to insist they did benefit then he should at least employ some form of calibration and differentiation. The slave owner and the merchant stole the lives of the slave and the wage slave.

Alex Porter, Stirling.

BEING a naturalised Scot of mixed West Indian/British heritage, I have a concern that the more admirable aspects of the Black Lives Matter campaign are being ruined by a very sinister development.

"Taking the Knee", originally a brave and meaningful gesture by black American sportsmen and equality campaigners, later adopted by supporters of all races, has been devalued by the way the media are using it.

Singling out any public figure who is not an enthusiastic "knee taker" for opprobrium, effectively makes the act compulsory for anyone who does not want to risk their reputation, their job, or harassment by a large and angry segment of society.

Many non-believers living in extremely strict religious communities will attend or comply with the requirements of that religion in order to fit in and avoid persecution – even though they live otherwise blameless and good lives. Compulsory gestures of solidarity or belief have no real value to any cause as they make it impossible to judge the true extent of "belief". Obligatory worship or participation in religious ritual by non-believers cannot be of any value to the Deity concerned.

Neither politicians nor anyone else should be questioned or criticised about their non-participation in someone else’s gestures or rituals. Instead, judge them by what they are actively doing in life to make things better now and in the future.

Mark Openhsaw, Aberdeen.

Degrees of stupidity

I AGREE entirely with Priscilla Douglas’s rebuttal of Iain Macwhirter’s conflation of education and intelligence (Letters, June 21).

Some years ago, I worked for a public service organisation whose basic entry requirements were numeracy, literacy and physical fitness. Practicality and common sense were advantageous, too. News came that one of our bases was to receive a recruit who had been educated to a high degree (more than one of them, it was rumoured). After he had completed his basic training and been sent to his base, I met his supervisor and asked him how his recruit was doing.

"You mean 'Three Degrees'?" he asked, rhetorically. "He could tell you the square root of a jar o' jam, but he couldnae open the lid!"

Dougie McNicol, Bridge of Weir.