LIKE Ian McNair (Letters, September 2) I too am totally scunnered with our Scottish Government’s alcohol restrictions.

Whilst I fully accept that our track record is far from healthy, I do not understand the thinking behind the policies being effected to curb excess and anti-social behaviour.

If I wish to go shopping at 9.30am or even 10.30pm to avoid crowds I am unable to purchase alcohol. What possible justification can our leaders give for such nonsense?

I can at least understand the minimum pricing thinking despite considering this measure pointless, but the purchase restrictions and train bans are just plain tiresome and do absolutely nothing to improve our misuse of the demon drink.

I am convinced the point is to be seen to be doing something – not necessarily something sensible or effective, just something.

Forbes Dunlop, Glasgow.


QUESTION: why can’t we enjoy a drink on a ScotRail train ("Now ministers won’t trust us to enjoy a tipple on the train", The Herald, September 2, and Letters, September 2)?

Answer: young men (and young women too) whose drinking to excess utterly spoils rail journeys.

Regrettably, I’m for continuance of the ban.

Gordon Casely, Crathes.

• IN Alan Simpson's article on alcohol on trains, his happy acceptance of free beer for the masses in North Korea horrified me. Has he never read 1984?

Jane Stewart, Melrose.


ALISON Rowat is much too downbeat in her assessment of Mikhail Gorbachev (“East or West, who is best to judge Gorbachev’s success?”, The Herald, September 1).

Of all the Soviet leaders, he was most obviously the exception in his open-mindedness, ability and vision. That is before any assessment of his achievements. So to describe him as “ultimately a politician like any other” seems well wide of the mark viewed from both Russian and western perspectives.

Once in power his policies, internally and abroad, were bold and far-reaching. So much so, in fact, that he undercut his own power base, the Communist Party. Reconstruction and transparency (perestroika and glasnost) became ubiquitous terms in the West, in good part because of the sheer unexpectedness of his internal policies and the extent to which they loosened the grip of an authoritarian party and state. Free elections and free speech, freer immigration and foreign travel came as complete surprises in the West, inured to the restrictions and stasis of the Soviet system.

In foreign policy, Gorbachev’s speech at the UN in New York, in December 1988 renounced the “Brezhnev doctrine”, which had kept Eastern Europe firmly in the Soviet orbit. In the following year, all the Communist leaders there were ousted, without any sign of Soviet intervention. Then came the reunification of Germany, resisted, ironically, by Mrs Thatcher but not Gorbachev.

In defence policy, annual summits led to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons and the removal of short- and medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Much of Russia’s economic transition problems can be ascribed to Boris Yeltsin’s government, which insisted, with western advice and support, on “shock therapy”. Its consequences did a great deal to alienate ordinary Russians from democracy and market economics. A unique and historic opportunity was, tragically, lost.

None of that was Gorbachev’s doing. What he did achieve, however, was quite enough to justify calling him a great man rather than “a politician like any other”.

Alasdair Rankin, Edinburgh.


WITH no ceremony or fanfare of any kind, in Bathgate and only as a result of an initiative by Bathgate Community Council as well as with funding from the Scottish Government, a long-standing injustice in Scottish history was recently – partially – remedied. For as part of Bathgate Community Council's bid to increase visitors to the town, an interpretation board has now been installed in the Steelyard in Bathgate which for the very first time anywhere in the world recognises the achievements and life of Peter McLagan, Scotland's and the UK's most successful mixed-race MP in the 19th century, who was MP for my county of Linlithgowshire (now West Lothian) from 1865-1893. In total he was re-elected seven times in a row – no mean feat for any politician, let alone someone of M. McLagan's mixed race heritage.

The installation of this board was the first time that his life was duly acknowledged as well as the fact that he was of mixed race parentage, his father being a Scots coffee planter in British Guinea (now Guyana), his mother a free-born black woman. I say "partially remedied" because he shares the panel with other prominent men and events in Bathgate's history, but at least a start has been made to right this particular wrong.

Accordingly, I have now written to my MP, Martyn Day, MSP Fiona Hyslop as well as the Presiding Officer to the Scottish Parliament, to inquire whether or not something more substantial should now be done to commemorate the life of Peter McLagan and the wider significance of his life in Scottish and British history?

David W Main, Bathgate.


I TOO would like to hear cyclists using their bells to warn pedestrians of their approach (Letters, September 1). What bells? I never see a cyclist with a bell fitted. A bell ought to be mandatory.

Ronald Singleton, Glasgow.


I NOTE the various concerns over piscatorial wriggly things, potatoes and their eyes, ears of corn, and baby carrots etc ( Letters, September 1 & 2), but for my squeamish self they pale into insignificance when I reflect now on where my harmless wee morning egg has been hiding.

R Russell Smith, Largs.