IT is a very sad day for Scotland when our Presiding Officer, Alison Johnstone, feels it necessary to use UK legislation to help her manage the buildings and grounds of the Scottish Parliament ("MSP calls for Holyrood to reverse controversial plan to criminalise protests", The Herald, September 13). The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body is seeking special powers for Police Scotland to control public access, including the right to demonstrate, using UK legislation primarily designed to control organised crime and terrorism. No wonder Kevin McKenna has referred to this action as “sinister” ("Holyrood elite are waging war on ordinary people", The Herald, September 13). What the Presiding Officer is trying to do is a fundamental breach of her obligations to democracy and human rights, with no opportunity for public consultation or political debate. But she is not alone in trying to undermine Scottish access rights.

Two years ago officers of Police Scotland reported two walkers for “aggravated trespass” to the Procurator Fiscal in Fort William. They were walking peacefully along a path where a recent planning approval for a new building required the landowner to maintain this path past the building. That requirement was ignored and Police Scotland were asked to use powers available to them under 1996 UK legislation, originally designed to control the activities of hunt saboteurs in England, to stop public access along this path. For more than 18 months a dark cloud hung over those walkers as they feared criminal convictions. They still await an apology from the Chief Constable for this gross misuse of UK legislation by his local officers.

A more recently example is at Dalwhinnie, where Network Rail has locked the gates on the level crossing, in a vain attempt to stop public use of a historic route between Dalwhinnie and Loch Rannoch. This route has been documented on maps since the 1700s, long before the Perth-Inverness railway was built. NR claims this is because a local resident was too slow when using the crossing on one occasion. The real reason appears to be problems with the audibility of LNER’s Azuma trains on their once a day southward journey from Inverness. To justify this assault on present-day public access requirements, NR relies on railway legislation passed by the UK Parliament in the 1800s, claiming this absolves it of any need to consult with the local community, outdoor recreation groups, or anybody else before imposing this closure.

These abuses of Scottish democratic rights need to stop. The Presiding Officer must set a better example, for the Parliament, Police Scotland, Network Rail and anybody else who thinks a Westminster solution can be used to override Scottish legislative requirements. She needs to look for a Holyrood-based solution for any public access issues. Otherwise every Scottish MP should oppose her draconian proposals if they go before the UK Parliament for approval.

Dave Morris, Kinross.


I FOUND myself nodding sagely as I read Doug Marr's column ("Modern-day pop is cheating today’s youngsters of their musical legacy", The Herald, September 13). Doubtless only space prevented him from including names of groups like The Drifters/Searchers/Gerry and the Pacemakers/Hollies/Merseybeats, and more who, until the pandemic struck, were still touring (albeit sometimes with greatly changed personnel in the line-up) or had only recently ceased touring.

For me, popular music stopped in 1978, with the arrival of the first of my three children.

One particularly striking loss has been what I would call the "eccentric groups". For example, does anyone remember the Barron Knights, who had a number of hits with parodied versions of 1960s pop tunes, or The New Vaudeville Band with Finchley Central or The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band with Urban Spaceman or The Scaffold who did rather well with Lily the Pink (although I suspect that a song of that nature would not get any air time these days, because the professional takers of umbrage would be offended by the sundry deformities suffered by the subjects of each of the verses)?

Incidentally, The Sound of the Swinging Cymbal still introduces Pick of the Pops now presented by Paul Gambacchini at 1pm on Saturdays.

Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.


A LOT has been said in the media recently about Calmac's ferries breaking down. As we were booked on five ferries travelling down the Western Isles and then over to Skye for a holiday, we became apprehensive and packed a tent, sleeping bags and other necessities for wild camping. There was no need. Each and every ferry was on time, the staff efficient and the bigger boats had great facilities.

It must infuriate the locals when their ferries are taken off or are delayed, but as a tourist, I've only praise for the service.

Lesley Barrow, Edinburgh.


RE Robin M Brown’s most welcome letter (September 11) requesting names for Hull 802, how about The Vital Part, The Lost Cord, or Mariethelast?

James M Arnold, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran.


YOU report that Sainsbury is to close its stores on Boxing Day ("Sainsbury to keep all stores shut on Boxing Day", The Herald, September 14). There will be many Scots who will remember when Sainsbury, before becoming a public company, closed at 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and only reopened at 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Nobody died of starvation as a result.

If shop opening hours were to be reduced would that be a bad thing?

John Dunlop, Ayr.


ABLE to give 82-year-old Billy Rae McCrindle a few years I am heartened by his contribution to the music scene at home and abroad and by the adulation of beautiful young Spanish girls (Letters, September 14 ).

I foresee a new career as pianist-magician. When I play people disappear.

R Russell Smith, Largs.