IN November 2018, the National Geographic Society reported that a sperm whale found in Eastern Indonesia had died with its stomach full of plastic debris, including “115 drinking cups, 25 plastic bags, plastic bottles, two flip-flops and a bag containing more than 1000 pieces of string. In all, the plastic contents of the whale’s stomach weighed 13.2 pounds”.

One year later, BBC Scotland reported the death of another sperm whale on Harris, this time with a “100kg ‘litter ball’ in its stomach. Fishing nets, rope, packing straps, bags and plastic cups were among the items discovered in a compacted mass”.

Three years later, we know that our lethal plastic pollution of every single ocean has multiplied many times. I am not sure if some of your correspondents know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or, closer to home, the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, which is “hundreds of kilometres across in size, with a density of 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre... from human waste travelling from the rivers into the ocean (consisting mainly) of microplastics”. Apparently, so much marine life is trapped in this plastic waste, it is too dangerous and destructive simply to remove it: once we have dumped our plastic bottles, the damage has been done forever.

Therefore, before one more year passes, for the sake of whales, for the sake of the oceans and for our children’s future, it is surely vital, and admirable, that one more national government – the Scottish Government – offers leadership by raising awareness, offering us the chance to change our habits, develop alternatives and reduce destruction.

Like its early commitment to onshore and offshore wind power, its continuing European co-operation on wave and tidal power, green hydrogen and other sustainable energy development, our Scottish Government’s leadership on reducing plastic pollution cannot be and must not be delayed by Westminster’s failure to act.

That is the stark difference between our Scottish Government and the chaos at Westminster. Whatever the practical difficulties of making the bottle scheme work – and changing bad habits always involves plenty of difficulty – it is clear that Scotland has a government with vision; England does not. The Scottish Government is daring to confront difficult issues and try, while Westminster wallows in continuing scandal, corruption and the real disaster: Brexit-induced social and economic crises.

The plastic bottle issue is one more example of why Scotland needs to move on from that horrible stasis.
Frances McKie, Evanton

DRS will not end litter

I AGREE with John Jamieson’s complaints (Letters, January 15) about litter being deposited in his garden and all over the country by the public. The verges of our motorways and at every traffic junction are absolutely filthy.

However there are two major reasons for this. The first is the disgusting behaviour of the public and especially motorists who just throw litter out their windows whenever they’ve finished eating or drinking. The second is down to the demise of the road sweepers and vehicles that hoovered up any litter on a regular basis.

Mr Jamieson is very much mistaken if he thinks the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will reduce any of this behaviour for a mere 20p or so incentive.

The world has changed. As a wee boy in the 1950s and 60s we loved the DRS that involved us in searching for bottles to get the 3d from the shop owners. They were a form of currency that allowed us to go to the pictures or whatever.

I can’t imagine any of today's 12-year-olds being motivated by 20p that’s for sure.

Having worked in the licensed trade for more than 40 years I can assure Mr Jamieson this DRS is the most ridiculous, impractical one I’ve ever experienced. It has to be stopped or we could see serious repercussions from major brand owners withdrawing from Scotland and the horrendous costs, at a time of extreme difficulties, could see businesses closing down.
John Gilligan, Ayr

Shameful lack of A9 signs

FURTHER to Alan Simpson's column re the delays to the dualling of the A9 ("Putin excuses over A9 upgrade is betrayal of pledge to Highlanders, I wonder if, when he was last travelling on it, he noticed that, certainly on the 100 or so mile stretch between Perth and Inverness, there is not one, repeat not one, speed advisory road sign along its entire length.

Admittedly speed cameras are in abundance, allegedly tracking our every move, but how on earth are motorists, perhaps those not up to date with their Highway Code, or more seriously those visiting the country from overseas, meant to know just what speed they are allowed to do on the different stretches of carriageway along its route?

For safety's sake, if the dualling is to be delayed to some future date lost in the mists of time, then at least let's have some speed signs erected, and not depend on cameras catching motorists after they have, perhaps inadvertently, already broken the law or caused an accident.
Gordon Robinson, Perth

The naked truth

AH, memories of Latin lessons (Letters, January 11, 13, 14, 15, 16 & 18). My teacher at Notre Dame in Glasgow in the 1960s was so old she must have studied with Cicero.

She would read aloud the daily vocabulary which we would repeat from The Approach to Latin which I still have. One day during a particularly dry lesson the class suddenly came to life as she spluttered and stuttered when nudus nuda nudum appeared, one adjective we never forgot.
Elizabeth Walker, Hamilton

• GORDON Evans's mention of Basher Laird the Latin teacher (Letters, January 16) omitted an important point that I am reminded of. He in fact made the belt virtually redundant.

On first encounter with a new intake he would select an obvious miscreant (teachers were adept at this in these days). Six cross-hand wallops in full view and the victim left to suffer in full view. It was then sufficient to place the Lochgelly in full view of everyone before lessons commenced. I never saw it used again. Shortly after, I decided Latin was not for me.
Tom Law, Sandbank, Argyll and Bute


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