I FEEL that the task set for herself by Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, may well prove her downfall in politics (“Somerville: I guarantee reform plans will change education”, The Herald June 11).

Like all the people whom I expect she surrounds herself with for advice, she appears to have been very successful personally in complying with the demands of her own early schooling and seemingly went on to further succeed in study at higher education establishments. I wonder if perhaps that somewhat-incestuous nature of administering educational provision is a characteristic of all professions. However we accept, for example, that medical practitioners suffer from the same illnesses and diseases as the rest of the population.

It seems inevitable that if you ask people who enjoyed being immersed in their schooling and were good at passing exams it is unlikely they will ever suggest the Scottish system is seriously broken. Would they say we must start again by redefining a radically different system involving actively analysing and then meeting the individual learning needs and developing interests of all pupils? I doubt it; a series of tweaks is more probable. If teachers are consulted I suspect the tweaks will be minor, for they are part of the establishment, being products of it.

The test will be if our Cabinet Secretary bases change on consulting more widely than the closed shop of education. Why not ask people such as bricklayers, refuse collectors, the inmates of Scottish prisons, tyre fitters and so forth? Those critics who would then cry that we must not dumb down the noble aims of Scottish education are missing the whole point.

I believe that Scottish education has always had a significant problem with egalitarianism. It consistently hides elitism behind the disguise of assuring quality and I doubt anyone now has the power to break that deceptive mask.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.


THOSE who support minimum pricing of alcohol (Letters, June 10 & 13) cannot see the wood for the trees and should not venture out into the forest. Too often they get lost – like those who still believe alcohol has never been cheaper by comparison to prices in the 1980s.

On April 22, 2002 (Word files are handy), you published a letter I had submitted. In it I described how I had taken the price of an ordinary pint of beer in the mid-1970s and compared it to the 2002 price. The result showed an average nine per cent year upon year increase. Twenty years on, the price of a pint is a disgrace. Has this put people off going for a pint? I very much doubt it. The price of all alcohol over the years has followed a similar pattern. The Government says that minimum pricing was brought in to tackle cheap alcohol when there is no such thing as cheap alcohol.

I fully support those who go out of their way to genuinely help those with alcohol problems, but the uselessness of minimum pricing has not helped them one jot. It has only made the problem worse.

James Simpson, Erskine.


I NOTE with interest Kevin McKenna's recent article ("Drumbeat of anti-Christian hatred continues unopposed", The Herald, June 11).

Mr McKenna mentions the situation in Scotland, where there is perhaps an underlying sense of anti-Christian feeling in policies linked to health and education. It may be that this is simply linked to a feeling that the Christian church (of any denomination) is of little relevance in today's society.

He suggests that the Church of Scotland has perhaps opted for "a comfortable life, and to fly with the prevailing winds".

As a "paid-up" member of and elder in the Church of Scotland, it is true that we are seeing a big reduction in church membership and attendance at worship. I can with a sense of sadness recall the happier days in the 1950s when we had the Tell Scotland movement and the large Crusade Rallies with Billy Graham and the church was on the move. New churches were being established in the new housing areas and we were moving forward.

Now we seem to be going backwards and to be in decline. Under the Church of Scotland's Radical Action Plan churches are to be closed; some of them were extension churches from the 1950s. I have to accept that the Kirk does have too many buildings and a shortage of ministers and some change is needed, so what is the way forward?

My hope is that even if we appear to be in decline this might be a temporary thing as I recall (and paraphrase) the words of an American general when his troops were in retreat and in danger of losing the battle: we are not in retreat, we are simply advancing in the opposite direction. Let's hope that we in the Church of Scotland can see a positive message with that thought.

Ron Lavalette, Ardrossan.


DAVID Miller’s “McGonagallisms” (Letters, June 11) are undoubtedly pastiches. McGonagall never used Scots, scanned only by occasional chance, and was only ever unconsciously funny. His belief that rhyme mattered above all else is well exemplified in the lines:

"Then Montrose asked the hangman how long his body would be suspended.

Four hours was the answer, but Montrose was not in the least offended."

There are many worthy contenders for the accolade of world’s best bad poet, but I think my vote would go to Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) for:

"The feather’d Tribe on Pinions cleave the Air;

Not so the Mackerel, and still less, the Bear."

Robin Dow, Rothesay.


THE photograph of people queuing on Sauchiehall Street to see the Superman film ("Remember when ... Superman landed in Glasgow", The Herald, June 13) sparked a long-forgotten and rather personal memory of mine.

In my early twenties, wearing glasses and a side shed hairstyle, some said I looked a bit like Superman. Just to be clear they meant the version that entered the phone box and not the one that emerged. One day I sprang into a sprint to catch the bus that approached. A group of small boys gasped in awe and I heard one say: “Look, he’s going to take off and fly now.” My wife still chuckles at that.

David Clark, Tarbolton.