THERE has been much talk recently, at least in theory, in some political circles concerning "levelling up" in order to make life fairer and more equitable. In real life, however, the actuality at times demonstrates that the general trajectory can be in the opposite direction ("Music lessons will soon be 'only for pupils from well-off families'", The Herald, December 28). I believe it to be an indictment of our societal values when one reads that schools in Scotland are reported to be "rapidly moving" to the situation where only pupils from wealthy families are able to afford music lessons. Situations like this serve to confirm that we are still far removed from people in our country succeeding only on merit.

Nicola Sturgeon once observed: "My priority for my time as First Minister – and let me be clear I want to be judged on this – is that every young person should have the same advantage I had when I was growing up in Ayrshire." The First Minister has obviously not been without difficulties in the sphere of education during her period in office. However, if her avowed commitment is to mean anything she must surely intervene to make the wherewithal available to ensure that the opportunity to develop one’s talents musically at school is not just for those fortunate enough to have well-off parents. Life will never be completely fair. However, surely, we should try to avoid it becoming more unfair, particularly for children.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


IN your article on the race to save the Clydesdale horse ("Race to save iconic Clydesdale goes from a canter to a gallop", The Herald, December 23) you set out the vision of Professor Janice Kirkpatrick. Her demand for a National Clydesdale Stud in Scotland, not dissimilar to those of the Lipizzaner studs in six European countries, is most commendable.

Her vision of creating a breeding, educational, training and genetic research facility in Pollok Park could lead to a wider mix of new owners and breeders from across society. In short, the economic future of the breed lies in attracting the young people who have the wit to own, train, exhibit and meet the cost of maintaining their horse.

I have two cobs and two Clydesdale mares. The price of land rental, horse feed, the vet, the blacksmith, transport and harness costs me in the region of £2,250 per horse per annum. Hence this earnest appeal from a geriatric rustic, who worked with Clydesdales on the farm in the mid-fifties, to the much-decried young yuppies. The Clydesdale horse needs you.

The Clydesdale horse excels in intelligence and a willingness to learn. Competition sections are now developing in heavy horse ridden classes, carriage driving, stallion-cart driving and dressage in addition to the traditional In-hand classes for mares, stallions, foals, fillies and geldings.

For those taking an interest in breeding for the first time there also exists the Clydesdale Horse Society from which reliable guidance is always readily available.

So, I ask the population of Scotland to give serious thought to securing the survival of our famous native breed.

Arthur Greenan, East Linton.


COLIN Pennycook’s methodology for working out the number of Covid cases per head of population (Letters, December 28) is flawed. These can be easily found using the official website and clicking on By Nation. This shows, at the time of writing, the number of cases per 100,000 in the last seven days at Wales 576, England 392, Northern Ireland 217 and Scotland 128. The latest number of fatalities within 28 days of a positive Covid test per head of population is England 109, Wales 107, Scotland 81 and Northern Ireland 67. The number of cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic show similar differences rather than just a population share as suggested by Mr Pennycook.

One can only speculate as to why the BBC and others do not make this information widely available to the public.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh EH11.


THE current focus on avoiding concussions in impact sports is a serious matter, but it does remind me of this old chestnut: during a very physical football match, one side’s striker was felled by a particularly robust tackle. The medics rushed on to the pitch to tend to him and reported to the coach: “Jimmy must be concussed as he doesn’t know who he is", to which the coach replied: "Tell him he’s Pele and get him back in the game."

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.


AS this extraordinary year drifts quietly to its inevitable conclusion, your Letters Pages deserve thanks for their contribution to the mental health of your readers during the long months past.

Allowing contributors the opportunity to rant, pontificate, amuse, or even deliver a considered, balanced opinion must have done much to assuage inner torment and frustration in these difficult times. The sometimes inevitable responses of outrage, agreement, counter-argument, or further amusement will also have helped to calm the mind, even when the responder has completely missed the point of the original letter.

Constructive feedback is always welcome (criticism is such a harsh word), as it allows a writer to consider how he or she might have better delivered their argument in the first place.

Thelma Edwards and Russell Smith are obvious candidates (inter alia) for the awarding of a gold star on their respective jotters, but even Jill Stephenson and Gerald Edwards deserve commendation for effort and entertainment.

Keep up the good work in 2021.

John NE Rankin, Bridge of Allan.