THE Scottish Government's decision to require all households to install interlinked smoke and fire alarms at their own expense crossed a significant line. This is about issues of safety in our own homes and the fabric of these; in no other instance in living memory has any government imposed on the entire population a legally-mandated requirement for such costly change with a deadline.

Is there some national emergency, evidence of some catastrophic failure by the population which required the Government to step in and force us by law in our own interests to act in this way? The incidence of deaths in fire is at a very low level (less than 50 each year out of 1,300 deaths in household accidents) and a large proportion of the population already has alarms installed, though not to the arguably excessively high standard now required. The measure was a poorly considered overreaction to the Grenfell disaster and grossly disproportionate.

As Mark Williamson comments ("Fire alarm fiasco will fuel inflation", The Herald, January 25), it will seriously aggravate the cost of living crisis for poorer families, or place them outside the law and at insurance risk. It seems to me likely that more people will die and suffer injury falling off ladders and chairs when they self-install these devices than will be saved by their installation, if indeed any lives at all would be saved. Given the 1,300 deaths each year in other household accidents, the Government would have been much better advised to force us all to commission (at our own expense of course) a safety audit into our homes and required us to implement (with a deadline) whatever recommendations were made.

Stephen Smith, Glasgow.

* I AGREE with the article by Mark Williamson that the new regulation in Scotland for domestic smoke alarms is ill-considered.

I can imagine the venomous outcry from the SNP if this command had been handed to us from Westminster. I already have the very much cheaper individual alarms all over my house and when tested I can easily hear each of them.

What does the Scottish Government expect me to do if these new alarms go off? I have read the relevant Scottish Government leaflet and it tells me that the interlinked alarms mean that “when one goes off , they all go off – helping everyone to react quicker and save more lives”. I would very much like to read the pragmatic research documentation which supports this statement. How, for example, can a frail elderly person “react quicker”?

I hardly dare mention it, but I have fire extinguishers on both the upper and ground floors of my house. I hesitate to reveal this in case a new regulation comes out that I must be fully qualified to put out even a small fire and I must wear personal protective equipment in doing so.

I feel that the whole matter has been very poorly thought through and has quickly become a burdensome imposition compared with existing practices. If needed at all, the rule should have been that only when you sell your house do the interlinked type need to be fitted.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.


MANY will have been shocked and dismayed when learning of the murder in Ireland of Ashling Murphy, a popular young teacher and musician. I was touched, as I am sure many others were, when the President, Michael Higgins, and his wife, Sabina, embraced Ashling’s family at the funeral mass. By so engaging the couple showed, I believe, how much they cared about the profound loss the family had sustained.

That incident helped to emphasise for me how fortunate the Republic of Ireland has been in modern times with its choice of presidents. Michael Higgins, in addition to being a politician, has secured recognition as a poet, sociologist and broadcaster. He had succeeded Mary McAleese, politician, author and professor of law. She in turn had succeeded Mary Robinson, politician, Professor of law and renowned campaigner. She was the first woman to hold the post of president in that country . She also served as a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Often when the subject is raised concerning the appropriateness of hereditary monarchy providing the Head of State in this country, an argument is advanced against the termination of the existing arrangements on the basis that it would be difficult to find an acceptable alternative system. The Republic of Ireland seems to have fared quite well without a hereditary monarchy and everything which comes with it.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


I AM perplexed by James Watson's opinion (Letters, January 25) that the "road tax" should be shared more equally. I drive a car, I ride a bike, I pay my taxes: what more should I pay?

Is he suggesting that road users should be charged per mile, the proportion of the carriageway used, per carrying capacity of their vehicle, per average speed, or perhaps the propensity to maim other road users?

Allan McDougall, Neilston.

* I FEEL I must correct a common misunderstanding, as expressed by James Watson. Vehicle excise duty (not road tax) is not a tax on road use but a tax on vehicle ownership and is part of the general taxation, which is then distributed by the Treasury in line with the government of the day's policies. Most cyclists pay tax in one form or another and therefore already contribute to the cost of road provision.

Andy Munro, Erskine.


“CARELESS talk costs lives”; so we were warned when our country was threatened. Perhaps we should warn our politicians that careless talk destroys lives. Such is the harm their inappropriate and exaggerated language causes in the community.

During the war Britain was considered to be a religious country. Every broadcast by the Prime Minister or the King included a reference for us to pray for deliverance from the enemy. How times have changed. During the current pandemic, despite the hours and hours taken up by politicians on television, not one word has been said to encourage us to pray. Little doubt that this is now a God-forsaken country. Our politicians consider they and they alone can solve every crises.

William Barr, Gourock.