THERE has been much complaint over the last decade or so about austerity. Well, in the words of President Reagan, "you ain’t seen nothin’ yet". Plans to accelerate the transition to public transport will involve building housing developments and business parks with little or no car parking space. The "20-minute neighbourhood" will mean that the facilities one needs will be available in a small surrounding area requiring little or no transport. The circular economy will mean recycling, reusing, making do and mending.

This may be hard for most people to grasp, but it is what I remember of life in my childhood after the war. Younger siblings wore hand-me-down clothes that their elders had grown out of. Shopping was done on foot on a pretty much daily basis at a range of small outlets in one’s own district. Girls were to taught to darn socks and to patch and mend. We knitted to acquire otherwise expensive pullovers, and made rugs from kits at home. At least we had a coal fire to keep us warm, even if intermittent power cuts sometimes kept us in the dark.

This is what reducing demand on resources means: going without, settling for something lesser than we want, making do and mending. Reduced to our 20-minute neighbourhoods, restricted by the limits of public transport, our horizons will shrink, cultural life will stagnate, choices will be strictly circumscribed. This is what austerity is. This is very much the Greens’ prospectus, and it appears to be that being embraced also by the SNP.

What the young, whose demand for new clothes, accessories and gadgets is limitless, will make of it remains to be seen. But I suspect that, after demonstrating in favour of climate change measures, when faced with austerity in reality a number of them will say, in shocked tones: "But we didn’t mean it to be like this".

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


THE COP26 Glasgow climate negotiations’ tone was set by the UK Government, among those still failing to keep even the inadequate pledges made at Paris six years ago, like $100 billion a year from developed to developing countries to cope with the effects of climate change and afford green energy technologies. Experts say they need more like $1 trillion annually.

The half-baked legal requirement on UK companies to make plans on how they would progress towards net zero showed a lack of serious intent. There are no dates by which they have to have reduced their net emissions by 25% or half or to zero. The belief that the market will sort it itself is wishful thinking.

China, Russia and India’s governments certainly disappoint too. But the UK, US and most other developed-country governments have not only failed to provide the foreign aid levels required, but continue to use fossil fuels themselves. More than 75% of all US energy and 70% of total UK energy comes from fossil fuels. President Biden also refused to sign up to phasing out coal to avoid losing votes in mining state.

If developed countries, who could afford the transition, haven’t got close yet, low and middle-income countries, where many people are a day’s earnings away from starving, need more support from richer countries to do it. And no government will survive in power long if the electricity supply is cut off too often.

The UK Government's welfare “reforms” targeting the disabled, those on low incomes, and other vulnerable groups; and unwillingness to fund insulation of existing housing, also undermine public support for green reforms among low and middle income earners. As did David Cameron’s scrapping of supposedly “green” levies on fuel bills which were mostly actually subsidising energy bills for the poorest.

It’s neither realistic nor fair to expect anyone to vote to make their family or population cold, hungry or homeless today for the good of all in the long run. Reducing inequality within and between countries is the only way to get majority support for the changes that are needed.

Duncan McFarlane, Carluke.


THERE is another way of looking at the situation where our representatives such as Douglas Ross have multiple jobs ("MSPs holding second jobs using Holyrood for ‘hobby’ says Labour", The Herald, November 15). Personally, I have always found it difficult to be in two places at the one time. If Mr Ross can fulfil the roles of MP and MSP simultaneously and have time to run up and down the sidelines with a flag it would suggest to me that none of the jobs can be particularly onerous.

If we are led to believe that elected representatives with multiple jobs can do so at no detriment to the interests of their constituents, one has to ask how those with just the one job pass the time of day? Do they just sit about twiddling their thumbs? Is being an MSP, even one who couldn’t convince a constituency to vote for them and gets parachuted into Holyrood as a list MSP, simply a part-time job? If that is the case, why does each MSP need an annual budget of £130,000 to employ support staff? Why can MPs claim £177,550 each year for support staff if many of them are in effect part-time MPs? I wonder if Mr Ross is entitled to claim support for both jobs?

That’s a big bag of worms to delve into but it is a pointless, futile exercise as despite the fact the we pay their wages the general public is powerless to control either Westminster or Holyrood. Government of the people by the people? Aye, right.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


MARK Smith dissects the anatomy of the Scottish vote, in particular the Tory vote, and how the solid 20% it represents is not going to change much whatever the circumstances of sleaze and mismanagement ("The Scotland factor means nothing has really changed", The Herald, November 15). He concludes with this phrase: "As I say: the political landscape may be changing but not in Scotland and that has consequences for everyone who wants to get rid of the Tories."

Could anything encapsulate better than Mr Smith's words the democratic deficit in Scotland and the arrogance of the Tory Party throughout the UK? Allow me to rephrase his conclusion in another way: even if the Tory vote in Scotland never gets above 20% you're going to get Tory governments. Just suck it up.

John Jamieson, Ayr.


OUR Unionist confrères do bang on about the alleged benefits of the Union, but neglect to mention our second-class status within it. For example, on Friday and again tonight (November 15), those wishing to watch Scotland’s international matches on television must take out, at their own expense, a subscription to Sky Sports; they do have the option, of course, of watching the England games on STV (yes, that means Scottish Television). That may well be their preference anyway. On Saturday, they may have picked up the numerous references to "England", rather that the UK or even Britain, during the reminiscences. Second-class citizens, or merely invisible in their own land?

By contrast, today’s Herald highlighted the difference in performance in the expansion and electrification of the rail network in Scotland under Holyrood, to the stagnation and broken promises in England, particularly with regard to HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse railway (Lesley Riddoch: "What dithering PM should do next: Take inspiration from railways north of the Border", The Herald, November 15). And Holyrood achieved this with a limited budget and severely circumscribed borrowing ability. I leave Unionists to draw their own conclusions.

Larry Cheyne, Bishopbriggs.


READING Catriona Stewart's piece on plans for transport in Glasgow ("Then or now? Attitudes to car-free life stuck on repeat", The Herald, November 12) reminded me of the issue of travelling between Central and Queen Street railway stations.

Some years ago the late Roderick McDougall and Ken Sutherland showed how a Crossrail could be constructed with just 1.8 miles of track and a station at Glasgow Cross; no expensive tunnels under the Clyde required.

Passengers whose final destination was Glasgow would still use Queen Street or Central, but those requiring to travel on to the other network, such as from Edinburgh to Ayrshire, or Dumfries to Fife, would change trains at Glasgow Cross instead, without the long trek or bus ride through the traffic presently required.

So far, the powers that be have proved deaf to this straightforward measure which would make rail travel more attractive and thus reduce car use. With the pressing need to make travel more sustainable I hope they will change their minds.

In the meantime, is it too much to ask for a safe cycle route between the two stations to be identified?

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews.

Read more: Now the hard work really begins