I NOTE an excellent article from Alex Renton about the slave trade, its legacy, and the obligations we have to make amends for our part in it ("My family had slaves. Scotland must make amends", The Herald, June 4). The wealth that flowed from slavery, and from other imperial enterprises, powered the great industrialisation of Victorian times, making the UK the workshop of the world. We still benefit from that bounty.

Mr Renton is right to decry the “propagandising education, which saw the British empire as a benevolent enterprise”. During my schooling in the late 1960s, world history was all about the Empire, a time when a third of the world’s land area was coloured pink on the map. I was taught that the Empire was an unalloyed good that brought democracy and the rule of law, railways and development. No mention of the vast wealth siphoned off to the UK to keep the wealthiest in British society in the style to which they were accustomed.

Dean Acheson, US President Truman’s Secretary of State from 1949-53, said in 1962: “Great Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role”. He also said: "Britain's attempt to play a separate power role – that is, a role apart from Europe, a role based on a 'special relationship' with the United States, a role based on being the head of a Commonwealth which has no political structure or unity or strength and enjoys a fragile and precarious economic relationship – this role is about played out.”

If that role was about played out almost 60 years ago, there’s little hope for it now. Yet that is the role that Boris Johnson and the Tories appear to have in mind for the UK. We’ve dispatched a naval carrier group to the Far East to fly the flag, we’re going to build a royal yacht, we’re going to sign fantastic trade deals with our former colonies, who must surely be grateful still for all the wonderful things we did for them while we ruled them.

Fantastic indeed, but more in the sense of being out of touch with reality. The UK is still one of the world’s biggest economies, but its days of dominance are past and its imperial history is as much a burden as a boon. Mr Johnson’s attempts to turn the clock back are futile.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


IT is not always that I find myself in agreement with Neil Mackay (“A brutal purge by Sturgeon is the only way to deal with SNP infighting”, The Herald, June 3). However, I certainly do share his views concerning the feuding within the SNP and the dire state of government in Scotland.

"What does Scotland do about this insulting nonsense from the party of government?" he asks. A simple solution would be to close down Holyrood altogether.

The building itself is quite attractive (and cost a lot of money) and could perhaps be turned into a concert hall as the acoustics are believed to be very good, or even a small theatre. Either way, this would doubtless be appreciated by the Edinburgh Festival Society, which is always on the lookout for new venues.

Many in Scotland must now agree that any of these moves would save the taxpayer a great deal of money. In addition, local councils would get back their powers, many of which have been hijacked by central government.

Jim Morris, Strathblane.


REPEATED reports in The Herald about ferries, the SQA, independence, and Covid spread seem to be the gift that keeps on giving. After Brian Taylor retired from the BBC, he gave an interview where he said that there were some MSPs who were extremely intelligent and could hold their own with anyone in the land. There were others, he said, that he would not trust with the messages. Judging by some of the results we are seeing, I leave it to others to suggest who may be in that latter group.

Colin Gunn, Glasgow.


THE Scottish Government is committed to independence and the UK Government is committed to strengthening the Union. It is unlikely there will be an independence referendum any time soon, and we are again faced with years of bickering between the parties in Scotland. With a Government showing insufficient focus on the day job, to the detriment of health, education, policing and public services, and an opposition obsessing with the constitutional issue rather than providing an effective challenge, the one thing beyond doubt is that Scotland will not get the government it deserves.

UK legislation could establish clearly and beyond doubt a framework for the four nations to review their membership by referendum. The Union has existed for more than 300 years, whereas EU membership was relatively short term at less than 50 years. Stability is needed to remove the current short-term thinking and bickering that is so damaging, and therefore a referendum interval of 50 years seems appropriate.

The other current problem is that a vote on a 50/50 split resolves nothing as already demonstrated by nationalist dissatisfaction with the result in 2014. A clear and decisive majority of say two-thirds seems reasonable to dissolve an arrangement that has been in place for more than 300 years, and of course to demonstrate fairness to those people reluctant to leave such an established Union.

Rob Golbourn, Bridge of Weir.


I GET concerned when I hear President Biden and the Westminster politicians exercising their vocal chords and flexing their military muscle against China because China not only has powerful friends throughout the world but is more technologically advanced than us now, successfully landing a robot on Mars, investigating the other side of the Moon and having a smaller but more up-to-date space station orbiting the Earth.

Their form of governance is different to ours but perhaps that suits their culture. Our fingers have been burned four times this century trying to force liberal democracy on fiercely patriotic countries which have suffered occupations in the past and have different religions and customs.

I long for the West to be more open and acceptable to different ideas, seeking diplomatic answers to world problems rather than always having suspicious thoughts when it involves China or, indeed, Russia.

Iris Clyde, Kirkwall.


DAVID Clark (Letters, June 3) falls into the same trap as Rosemary Goring did in her original article ("There is a way to stop the menace of the fly-tippers", The Herald, June 2): not realising that litter and fly-tipping are two entirely separate problems and need to be approached differently. The only areas of commonality are that people fly-tip and drop litter because they know they’ve a good chance of getting away with it, and the council will clear up their mess. That needs to change.

The problem started over three decades ago with a Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (COPLAR: that most of the public aren’t aware of). For street cleansing, the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (Coplar) requires our councils to "zone" every part of their areas and allocate priorities for getting these cleaned up. Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) is charged with monitoring the councils’ performances but ignores Coplar, preferring to use its own scheme (the Local Environmental Audit and Management System, Leams). Over the years, wily council officers have found ways to get a high Leams mark without actually complying with Coplar. Coplar also allows unhappy taxpayers to petition the sheriff if they feel their council isn’t meeting its own commitments: a risky business nowadays as the first (and probably last time) it was tried last year, the sheriff rejected the petition and awarded costs to the council, effectively bankrupting the largest anti-litter volunteer group in the UK.

KSB has also spent heavily on "educating the public" since the 1980s, but it’s not working.

Councils need to do more enforcement. With litter, it’s a simple case of getting staff out (it’s been done before with plain clothes Community Police) to issue fixed penalty notices to anybody seen dropping litter. Then publish their names on social media.

Fly-tipping is a bit different but our councils’ trading standards officers spend a lot of their time scrutinising adverts in local media. Why can’t they compile a list of "man & van" operators and then cross-check with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to see if they are registered waste Carriers? If not they should be asked what they do with any waste they collect? And if fly-tipped waste is traced back to a householder, they need to be prosecuted as well and their names published.

We need more education to highlight Coplar, and warn householders that if a man takes away their rubbish and doesn’t get them to sign a waste transfer note, they’ll be prosecuted if he fly-tips the material. That’s where KSB needs to concentrate its efforts.

John Crawford, Lytham.

Read more: SQA must be made truly independent of the Government