AS Portfolio Holder for Islands on North Ayrshire Council, I must comment on your report on the fiasco over the building of the two ferries at Ferguson's of Port Glasgow ("Ministers ‘in denial’ by rejecting failure of delayed ferries project", The Herald, January 27). The story of the mess of the ferry contract is well known. But it is worth pointing out that the problem did not begin with rusting hulks 801 and 802. The root of the problem lies with the SNP's promise to introduce RET to the islands.

RET is an approach which requires not just subsidy, but well-planned and targeted land-based infrastructure improvements in line with a refresh of the ferry fleet. In 2008 the SNP brought in a ferry subsidy (which it called “RET” but it is not) thereby increasing demand. It had no concerted plans to improve the land-side infrastructure to cope with the increased traffic. Nor, crucially, did it plan a systematic replacement of an ageing fleet which was and still is too old and worn to meet the increased usage implicit in subsidising the ferry trips.

As a consequence the people of Arran are having to rely on an ageing and increasingly unreliable ferry, delivering an erratic service, while they wait for the long-promised and even-longer-delayed replacement. And the lack of onshore infrastructure improvements means that my constituents on Cumbrae are plagued every summer with extended waits, sometimes for hours, to get on to the island end then, in the evening, to get off. On the onshore side in Largs, the traffic clogs up the streets, also for hours on end.

The common denominator here is a propensity by the SNP to rush to claim credit for half-formed policies coupled with a lack of foresight and an inability to plan properly for the consequences of these policies and the victims of the Scottish Government's incompetence are, in this case, the populations of the islands of Cumbrae and Arran.

Alex Gallagher (Labour), Islands Portfolio Holder, North Ayrshire Council.


I NOTE with interest your article on lockdown use ("Scotland’s ATM use drops by one third during lockdown", The Herald, January 27). The fall is not exactly unexpected considering we have mostly been in some form of lockdown. But are we sleepwalking into the cashless society?

The Westminster Government made a commitment over a year ago to protect cash in our society. The country is simply not geared up for a cashless society, small retailers, those involved in farmers markets and the like cannot carry the cost of cashless transactions, it simply does not make economic sense. So, let’s start with some statistics: more than eight million people in the UK have no other means of finance but cash – that is nearly 20 per cent of the UK population, a large number to exclude from the country’s economy. Those we will be excluding are in all walks of life, including those with disabilities, those who do not have a bank account, those who simply do not trust banks considering there has been a 238% rise in bank fraud during lockdown.

We must address some vital question the pandemic has thrown up. Those self-isolating, dependent on their local communities for vital supplies, how do they pay? The window cleaner managing to keep working, how do we pay for this service? Bank and ATM closures have been creeping onward for a number of years, not just closing the bank, but closing down communities, denying many access to their money at the cost of protecting the banks’ profits. People's ability to pay for services must not be taken away, it is a basic right.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.


I WANT to thank Rosemary Goring for her article on Jenners which stirred very happy memories for me ("Edinburgh without Jenners is like Paris without Eiffel Tower", The Herald, January 27).

As a small child, living on a farm, one of our big excitements was the large, brown paper parcel, tied up with string, which brought our new clothes. (It must have been the forerunner of online shopping). Each season, on approval, my mother helped us try on coats, dresses, jumpers, skirts and so on as we chose which we would keep, before she re-wrapped what wasn't needed, ready to return to Jenners.

Once a year, at Christmas when we were still young and very excited, we made an annual visit to the joys of Jenners Bazaar, where we were greeted by Santa Claus and given a present from his sack. The anticipation on the journey, huddled under travelling rugs in the back of the car, before car heating, was palpable and the return journey in the dark of December felt as far then as a flight to America does now.

My third recollection, shared with Ms Goring, is of the loos, which to this day are hard to find. Over the years, because of my three little brothers, they were a necessary first port of call each time we went to Edinburgh.

I am pleased, in these uncertain times, to read that the new owner and developer plans to retain the name of Jenners.

Olive Bell, Dunbar.


IT’S rather sad that Nicola Love’s social interchanges have been as dreich as the weather and on the north side of cheerful ("How am I ? Are you sure you really want to know...?", The Herald, January 27).

My own experiences have been more upbeat, with “still the right side of the daisies”, “never died a winter yet”, “still got a pulse”, “still standing up and talking back”; although I have fond memories of a friend long gone whose standard reply was “fair to hellish”.

R Russell Smith, Largs.