THE sad demise of Speaker Betty Boothroyd ("Tributes to ‘one of a kind’ as first female Speaker Betty dies at 93", The Herald, February 28) reminds me of the time when the Labour Party hierarchy refused to consider me as a suitable candidate for the Scottish Parliament, despite the fact that I had been MP for part of the Falkirk area for a quarter of a century and I had the support of 97% of Labour Party members in my constituency who wanted me to be on the approved list of candidates for the Scottish Parliament.

A few weeks before the first elections to the Scottish Parliament, Labour bigwigs decided to open an office in Falkirk High Street which was to serve as campaign headquarters for the new Labour candidate.

Senior politicians who attended the opening event included the Secretary of State for Scotland, Donald Dewar, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, who was probably the most popular politician in the UK at that time. Mo was invited to do the official opening but I was not even officially informed about the event, despite the fact that I was still the sitting Labour MP.

I reminded Speaker Betty Boothroyd of the unwritten rule that, when MPs made an official visit to another MP’s constituency, they should inform the constituency MP. Betty told me that she would contact the honourable members concerned, telling them in no uncertain terms that she expected them to abide by the normal courtesy. I received an immediate and fulsome apology from Mo but Donald was conspicuous by his silence.

Betty Boothroyd was old Labour through and through but, as Speaker, she did not let her party affiliation cloud her judgment or sense of fair play.
Dennis Canavan, Bannockburn

Kibble charges a grave mistake

AS Chair of the Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens I really do sympathise with the difficult financial choices that the city council has to make.

However, the decision to charge adults £3 and children £1.50 for entry to the Kibble Palace ("Anger after charges for Botanic Gardens are ‘slipped through’", The Herald, February 22) has created a dangerous new policy precedent without reasonable consultation. Neither does it recognise the value that the Botanic Gardens plays in environmental and climate change information through the internationally-recognised plant collections.

The many parents we meet who were introduced to a greater understanding of biodiversity and habitat protection as children in the Kibble Palace says volumes about the vision of the city’s forefathers.

We are now creating a situation that ensures regular access only to those who can afford to visit and will exclude children eager for simple knowledge as well as those visitors already under difficult daily choices.

The decision will also affect many organisations who use the Kibble Palace to engage with the public, providing information through biodiversity groups, Glasgow Science Festival, and general engagement with a wide cross-section of Glasgow’s diverse community, especially the young who are eager to learn through touch and feel and not just digitally.

For more than 30 years the Friends have supported all of the work of the Gardens, and indeed contributed and sourced considerable sums in partnership with the Gardens staff.

Our support has also been through education programmes and the recently established training of volunteers to support the highly skilled staff.

Perhaps it is not too late for the city administration to engage with others to find a more sensible way forward and save our valuable international reputation for openness and engagement about global issues
Brian Atkinson, Chair, Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Losing out on broadcasting

TELEVISION and radio are among the most important cultural advances in the last 100 years. Isn’t it time Holyrood had a debate on the issue? Last night (February 28) English football dominated the two most-watched terrestrial channels in Scotland. Scots pay the same licence fee as everyone else but we have the poorest return for our money in the UK.

BBC Scotland and Radio Scotland are perceived as poor quality, lacking ambition, and are not even very Scottish. In Scotland there is no 24-hour news cycle – we have a news groundhog day where events get regurgitated seemingly without end. The UK-wide BBC platforms (funded by us all), are overwhelmingly England-centric in their content, context and presenters.

I am jealous of BBC England for the depth and range of their programming whether it is news, politics, sport, historical and cultural perspectives. Scotland has none of this, yet we are supposedly celebrating a century of Scottish broadcasting. Pathetic.
GR Weir, Ochiltree

Pyrotechnics must be banned

PYROTECHNICS have no place in any sporting arena. They should be banned and anyone caught using them in such places should be instantly and severely dealt with.

Perhaps if the MSP who suggests – from the comfort and safety of Holyrood – their legitimate use ("‘Scotland needs to look at safe pyro’", Herald Sport, March 1) had to clear up the mess of the serious accident/incident that is waiting to happen he would be less likely to encourage their use.
Dan Edgar, Rothesay

Killer quote

A FOLLOW-ON to Jack Fordy's letter about improving driving standards (Letters, March 1), I wonder how many recall the homily spoken by the actor Broderick Crawford at the close of each TV episode of Highway Patrol: "Remember, it's not the car that kills, it's the driver"?
John Macnab, Falkirk

Bringing up Latin

ANENT recent correspondence on the diet of Julius Caesar and Brutus (Letters, February 27 & March 1), may I attach another couple of lines indicating the results of their meal?

Caesar adsum iam forte
Brutus aderat
Caesar sic in omnibus
Brutus sic inat

Neil Scott, Edinburgh


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.