THREE months ago I emailed all eight of my MSPs seeking their views on assisted dying, and asking whether they are likely to vote in favour of Liam McArthur’s proposed bill in the Scottish Parliament. Since my MSPs include two and a half party leaders, I anticipated worthwhile responses.

Three months and many reminders later, the outcome is hugely disappointing. Of my seven regional MSPs, only two have replied cogently. Three more (including one and a half party leaders) have replied, but with such mealy-mouthed prevarication that their replies are essentially worthless. The remaining two haven’t replied at all. More significantly, neither has my constituency MSP (the remaining party leader).

I am perplexed by this outcome, as I believe that inquiries such as mine are part and parcel of the everyday role of an MSP. Although the subject matter of the inquiry should be immaterial, it is interesting that the two MSPs who have replied meaningfully to me share my support for assisted dying. I have reason to think that none of the others does, which may help to explain their apparent reticence.

All this makes me seriously question the accountability of our elected representatives. It seems to me that, in terms of engaging with constituents at least, they are a law unto themselves. There is no line manager or mediator to whom I can turn, as I could in any other situation where I feel I have not been dealt with fairly. In the case of my constituency MSP, I can at least register my own small protest by not voting for them next time round; ultimately futile of course.

But even that option is not available in the case of the regional members, who have never needed to seek support from me or from any other voter. Thanks to our Additional Member System of election, they sit very comfortably at our expense in the Scottish Parliament solely by virtue of having clambered high enough up their party’s regional list. So why should they feel any sense of obligation or commitment to an individual constituent such as me?

The Scottish Parliament website states: “MSPs must consider the views of their constituents when voting.” Public support for assisted dying is undeniably overwhelming in Scotland. When the time comes for our elected representatives to vote on Mr McArthur’s bill, it will be interesting to see the extent to which they have considered the views of the public, their constituents. In the case of six of my MSPs, I already know the answer.

I presume I am not the only constituent in Scotland to have legitimately expressed their views to their MSPs, only to have received such a paltry response. I am not as a rule an overly sensitive individual but I can’t help feeling that our democratic process, and particularly the Additional Member System, predisposes to complacency and serves us more poorly than we deserve.
Iain Stuart, Glasgow

Put sport on its own channel

TONIGHT (March 1), I settled down to watch my usual programmes on the TV, only to find that both BBC and ITV were showing football, in which neither my wife nor I is interested. Not only that, they were English matches.

Why does football have to take precedence over the normal programme schedules? Well over 50 per cent of Scots are unlikely to be interested in football, and even fewer in English matches. Why can there not be a sports channel on both BBC and ITV, which could be used for showing all types of sport – football, rugby, golf, tennis, cricket, athletics, the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and all the other sports I haven't mentioned?

A few years ago, there was an opportunity, when BBC closed down BBC3 and moved it online, for it to call the vacant channel BBC Sports. There must be a vacant channel which ITV could use. If not, there are plenty channels with the ITV name, 2, 3, 4, and also the plus-one (+1) channels. Not all of those are necessary. One of them could be called "ITV Sports".

It is high time the BBC and ITV were prevented from interrupting the schedules just to show football and other sports in which the majority of viewers are not interested.
AM Crozier, Dumbarton

Piano talent was uplifting

I MISSED the previous two episodes of Channel 4's The Piano due to a sojourn in the Good Old NHS attending to the needs of roaming licensed vampires and sharing in the general gaiety of fellow-inmates, who greeted newcomers with “If you don’t play golf, or five-a side football, you don’t get in here”, so I found the programme reviewed by Alison Rowat ("By our grand Central Station, you could have sat down and wept at the talent on show", The Herald, March 2), a great pick-me-up and just what the doctor ordered.

The variety and talent ranging from a 13-year-old, the high-functional winner Sean, a young man with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, to two over-nineties still going strong, was uplifting and a joy, and took me back to my youth when I would hammer away, front casing removed and foot on the loud pedal, to my own satisfaction.

Magic times – I could make people disappear.

In a previous letter I cited the observation by George Bernard Shaw, “Hell is full of amateur musicians!” After last night’s experience I ain’t feart any longer.
R Russell Smith, Largs

Arts and craft

I AM enjoying the correspondence about learning Latin at school. As a first-year pupil at my local Secondary, I was placed into an “A” class, which meant we studied Latin for one period each week, but did not get taught Woodwork, like the other pupils. I have to say that I don’t remember much Latin, other than having a laugh at “Amabo, amabis, amabit amawerunt” etc. We also enjoyed chanting, at playtime, what we thought was a poem written by Romans:

"Si Senora, derde go,
Forte Lorres ina roh,
Demis no Lorres, demis trux,
Fullah coosan hensan Dux.”

Latin did, however, have a life-changing impact upon me. Upon completion of my sixth year at school, I went on to Teaching College. After graduating, I returned to my alma mater, where I went on to teach Woodwork for the next “forte” years.
David Corstorphine, Cellardyke, Fife


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