I READ with dismay Neil McKay’s Big Read ("Inside Scotland’s education wars: Inside Scotland’s education wars Daggers drawn on all sides amid Covid lockdown", January 24).

While the headline correctly identifies the competing concerns and interests of those involved with the education of our children, I feel the article failed to represent fairly the concerns of parents and totally ignored the views of children.

The concern of all parents, not just those involved with the Us for Them campaign group, is the experience of our children throughout this pandemic.

I have to challenge the comments of an anonymous teacher about parents complaining about supporting their child with home learning on the basis that “the idea that the school should be there to provide childcare is an unwelcome thread”.

While I agree that the argument that schools provide childcare is unwelcome, to conflate the ability to support home learning with childcare is disingenuous. I am not aware of anyone expecting schools to provide "childcare". What we do expect is our children to be educated – as is their legal right.

For many parents (if not the majority) home schooling is impossible and the longer it continues the more pressure and stress it creates. My wife and I are full-time key workers who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. We can be in the same house as our children and ensure they are fed and not physically harmed. It is not ideal childcare but it is childcare.

What we cannot do – between back-to-back online meetings and increasing workloads – is sit with our five- and seven-year-old and support them through a 9-3 structured online learning programme. My five-year-old cannot read or write, how can they navigate Google classrooms without constant supervision? Our experience is not unique and we do not make these choices to "save the economy" as Larry Flanagan states, but to safeguard our jobs, our homes and our children’s welfare. Some families will have to choose between job and childcare and this will of course hit the most disadvantaged the hardest.

I note with interest Mr Flanagan’s comments that this is merely "interrupted learning" and his comparison with sick children. Inflammatory comments such as these detract from the systemic failings to support, not just one or two children who have missed a year, but hundreds of thousands who have fallen behind, been put at risk or will leave education and never catch up.

And, to dismiss the real concerns of children who have missed out on their Nat 5s and will likely miss out on their Highers as nihilistic, is insensitive to say the least.

This should never have been a polarised debate. The EIS has successfully manoeuvred the Government into a black and white position of schools being either open or closed. Blended learning is now off the table altogether which most parents felt, while not ideal, at least afforded some level of support for our children.

We are almost a year into the handling of this pandemic and I am disappointed that both Scottish Government and the teaching profession have failed to identify more creative solutions which would have maximised the face-to-face learning children need. And for children school is much more than academic achievement – it is social interaction, a safe space, a warm meal. All this was stripped away from our children overnight, not once but twice.

Our solutions to the pandemic have punished children hard – and yet they are never represented. Their voices are not heard. They are not OK. We are not OK. None of this is OK.

We should be working together to ensure our children are never disadvantaged like this again and stoking the division is only furthering the harm being done to our children.

Nick Waters, Newton Mearns.


WE finally failed to "have our cake and eat it" when the Prime Minister sealed his despairing trade deal with the EU. In fact the reality of our Brexit farrago is that UK companies are now being advised by officials at the Department for International Trade to establish companies in the EU. The post-transit shambles made it inevitable that businesses, desperate to cut Brexit’s disruption and extra costs, would transfer key operations away from of the archipelago.

When Tory backwoodsmen ruled out remaining in the single market and customs union, it was clear that jobs and operations would be exported. The smart money, including the big UK banks as well as financial and other major services, immediately set up operations in the EU. They wanted nothing to do with our “back-of-a-fag-packet” trade deal. The consequent hit to the UK economy and tax revenues will increase the drift to the Continent.

No-one will escape: Brexit bureaucracy and the loss of frictionless trade mean extra expense for everyone. As early as 2018 the May Government accepted that an average free-trade deal with the EU would result in our GDP being five per cent lower in 15 years than had we remained. A zero net inflow of EU workers, fatuous green "new deals” and Covid-19, that last element of a perfect storm, will give an idea of what Britain was like in the dreary 1950s.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews.


THE UK's number of deaths from Covid-19 now being above 100,00 per head of population must give us pause for reflection on how our authorities have conducted the programme of policies against the pandemic.

The narrative about the virus and the rollout of the vaccines has changed considerably from what was said at the outset. Where we were told that viruses tend to become less virulent, the evidence suggests that this one is defying that hoped-for trend.

Instead of following the length of time prescribed by the manufacturers of the vaccines between the two doses for every individual, the UK has struck out on its own. It has gone for a 12-week gap between injections where three weeks were originally prescribed, though the World Health Organisation intimated that the interval could be safely extended to six weeks but no longer.

Now we will have to wait and see whether the UK is just storing up trouble for itself by following its own path not just out of anxiety over the NHS but more likely out of its fear of what might happen to the economy, which looks as though it could plummet to its nadir if its plunge is not arrested

My biggest fear is that if the crunch does come with the crash of the economy, we will see our Westminster Government spilling its crocodile tears as it is "forced" to cut back on public funding, driving us into a skimpy safety net provision of public services, on the grounds that sacrifices will have to be made to restore the economy while bleating that such cuts will only be temporary – but we all know what temporary means in political speak.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.


CLARK Cross (Letters, January 24) is correct in his summary of China and its flaky approach to green energy. China will simply say what people want to hear in that regard, because its purpose is to control the world via industrial strength, and it is not going to achieve that with unreliable power from windmills and solar panels. Its need for energy is relentless and can only be provided by the planet’s huge reserves of fossil fuels.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.


I NOTE with interest your headed item "Grangemouth's billionaire owner snubs Scottish Government's invite to talks on carbon-cutting goals" (January 24). It is worth noting that Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos, has recently pledged millions of pounds to research into antimicrobial resistance. A noble act indeed, unfortunately cancelled out by the blatant hypocrisy of Ineos being one of the world's worst contributors to climate change.

Rose Harvie, Dumbarton.


RON MCKay's article "Boredom is for bores: Cures for lockdown ennui" (January 24) claimed giant panda Yang Guang is kept “in a cage about the size of [the writer’s] living room” at Edinburgh Zoo.

While our giant pandas often choose to spend much of the day sleeping and eating, both Yang Guang and Tian Tian have lots of space to enjoy off-camera, including large outdoor areas with climbing frames, trees and pools. Unless their keepers are in part of the enclosure delivering bamboo or cleaning, they are free to explore all day.

When they are in the spotlight, they have millions of adoring fans around the world. Our charity’s webcams and online education resources have been incredibly popular during lockdown, with panda cam alone being played more than 6.1 million times in 2020.

Regular viewers may well have spotted our keepers building Yang Guang his very own snowman last week after he was spotted rolling around in the snow outside. This is just one example of the wide range of enrichment we develop for our animals to keep them stimulated and encourage different kinds of behaviour.

Giant pandas in the wild also like to shelter when it is cold and spend between 12 and 16 hours napping, after consuming up to 100kg of bamboo every day. This means Yang Guang is doing what comes most naturally, blissfully unaware of the thousands of people watching him and trying to figure out what entertaining sleeping position he’ll come up with next.

David Field, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh.


OFFICIAL figures analysed by the Taxpayers' Alliance show that on average MPs cost taxpayers nearly £240,000 for their salaries and expenses for the year 2020/21. There are 650 MPs with a basic salary of £81,932. In addition there are about 800 politicians in the House of Lords and 129 Scottish MSPs. Add 1,227 local councillors in Scotland, about 20,000 in England and Wales and 462 in Northern Ireland and the cost of "democracy" becomes horrendous.

Taxpayers are certainly not getting value for money. It is time for a cull on these numbers. During Covid these political animals enjoyed full salaries, so is it not time for them to show that "we are all in it together" by taking a 20 per cent salary and expenses cut?

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.