SCOTTISH classroom violence, as with any problem, should be dealt with first by head teachers, and then by the director of education in one of our 32 education authorities: what exactly is their purpose if every problem has to be escalated to ministers in Edinburgh for a solution ("Teaching union calls for urgent guidance on pupil restraint", March 31)?

In my schooldays, physical punishment (belting) was ubiquitous, but it was noticeable that teaching pedagogues resorted to the belt far more often than teachers who could engage with their pupils. My registered class size in the early 1960s was in the mid-forties. Teachers in Scotland now have smaller class sizes (and smaller than England or Wales) and are very well paid. Isn’t it time they stopped bleating and got on with educating our children?

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

Another sorry ferry chapter

THE standing down of CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond signifies yet another milestone in the sorry tale of how not to run a lifeblood ferry service.

The true goings-on of this utter shambles have been shielded from public gaze and only the demises of David Tydeman and Robbie Drummond have thrown some light on the issue, with many people believing that these individuals have been made sacrificial lambs to spare the blushes of incompetent ministers who were elected with the responsibility of ensuring effective public services.

The lives of islanders have been thrown into chaos and one wonders what effect the tales of travel woes will have on the tourism industry.

There seems to have been no planned timetable for the replacement of ageing vessels and whether this is down to poor management or government underfunding is unclear. The only certainty is that the ferry service which islanders deserve and pay for is not on the horizon anytime soon.

Bob Macdougall, Kippen.

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Let's extend not proven verdict

ANDREW Tickell’s article about the not proven verdict deserves comment ("Not proven support dwindles to legal nationalist hardcore", March 31). First, having more than two verdicts is not unique. The Italian system has five verdicts for a panel of advocates to choose from.

Secondly, when removal of the not proven verdict was the subject of a parliamentary debate at Westminster in 1995 it was the rape crisis centres in Scotland which were strongly in favour of its retention because a not guilty verdict stigmatised the woman whereas not proven stigmatised the man. Their current reversal of this position is inexplicable.

Far from removing this verdict, we should be enhancing it to resolve the anomalies that exist within the two-verdict system. For instance, in the OJ Simpson case he was found not guilty in a criminal court because of "reasonable doubt", but was then found guilty in a civil court using the "balance of probabilities". This begs the fundamental question of how the same evidence can be used to find a man guilty of a crime which the state has stipulated he did not commit?

The above anomaly could be resolved if a civil case could only proceed when either a guilty or not proven verdict was reached. This would protect the genuinely innocent whilst giving the victim’s family recourse to a measure of justice. Furthermore, it could resolve another anomaly offered up by the removal of the double jeopardy rule.

Double jeopardy was first jettisoned in England because too many people were found to have committed a crime after being declared not guilty, thereby demonstrating that it is the two-verdict system itself which is flawed.

The direct consequence of this is that a not guilty verdict is no longer a reaffirmation of your innocence at the conclusion of the trial. It simply means that you are innocent "on licence" as and until any new "convincing" evidence can be found against you. The Shirley McKie case demonstrated what can happen when "convincing" forensic evidence is produced at a trial.

The likelihood of an innocent person being found guilty under the revised double jeopardy rule thus moves from the theoretical to the distinctly possible. This would defeat the purpose of its reintroduction, which was to identify and prosecute the genuinely guilty. But if not proven becomes the only verdict whereby a double jeopardy prosecution can be advanced, then it would go some way towards removing that second anomaly.

Sadly, rather than embracing such fine tuning of the existing system the current bill reeks of rampant political calculation. It was perhaps asking too much for it to be an exemplar of rational thought processes.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

Forbes is wrong over Coul

I WAS shocked and extremely annoyed to read that Kate Forbes MSP was supporting the proposed golf development on the unique conservation site of Coul Links. In particular she was insulting the many local protestors by implying that all the opposition was based in the Central Belt ("Locals 'wildly in favour'", March 24).

I know a considerable number of locals have emailed her to express their opposition to the proposed development but interestingly those of us who live closest to Coul have received a reply that she cannot reply to their message as they are not her constituents. So we have a situation where Ms Forbes can comment on the development but locals cannot respond to her. As a result I must use this more public forum to address her.

First, Ms Forbes states stating that “people opposed to development do not live locally” and that locals are “wildly in favour”. On what does she base these “facts”?

I would be interested in her answer to a number of questions: Has she considered how many of the grossly inflated number of jobs claimed by the developer actually already exist in the service industries in the area?

As an economist has she assessed how many of the jobs will provide a salary which lets the worker obtain a mortgage? If they cannot, how will they find accommodation in these days of second homes and Airbnb?

Has she talked to the shop and restaurant owners who have found it extremely difficult to find enough staff in the area in recent years, especially since Brexit?

As an economist has she considered the probable detrimental effect on smaller local golf clubs such a Brora, Golspie and Tain?

Ms Forbes claims that the development is a “necessity”. But as the Inner Moray Firth already has over 60 golf courses how can one more be “a necessity”? Remember, since the destruction of Menie by a supposed “international standard” but loss-making golf development there is only one mobile dune system of the importance of Coul Links anywhere in Northern Scotland. Will she continue to support its destruction by this unnecessary development?

Despite claiming that she “would always prioritise the views of the Highlanders” she only appears to have communicated with the company proposing the development which of course is backed by an American golf-obsessed multimillionaire and an expensive lobbying company. Now where have we heard that before? To my knowledge Ms Forbes has done nothing to engage with the substantial number of Highlanders opposed to this development.

David McAllister, Tain.

The Herald: Kate Forbes has backed the Coul developmentKate Forbes has backed the Coul development (Image: PA)

A theory with no substance

I ALWAYS wondered if education had decided to develop itself and its thinking to self-promotion rather than passing on information that was of practical benefit to real individuals: developing academic programmes to attract foreign students and thus boost senior salaries rather than providing a sound degree for "ordinary" students. I began doubting "education" some 60 years ago as a teacher when I encountered a 15-year-old lad who had never achieved more than 5% within the school exam system, but was an absolute mathematical natural, snapping out answers to doubles, trebles and Yankees quicker than I could write them on the board.

The article by Neil Mackay ("No Space for God?", March 31) has confirmed my view. Cosmopsychism is simply an unsubstantiated theory, be it no doubt lucrative for Professor Philip Goff. Like many "theories’" it is simply that; with no real substance outwith the mind of the perpetrator and certainly no "proof" other than manipulations that might help individuals. For example, where does his idea of good come from? Of course there is no proof of God and academic theories from the past have not helped, distorting the basic system of living put forward by Jesus of Nazareth.

Michael Shermer, sceptical scientist and author of The Believing Brain, argues that reason is found in cognitive psychology, advancing the idea that we have a human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise and believing the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents (you weren’t first, Professor Goff).

In fact regarding the existence of God there is a choice whether the patterns we "see" are true or false. If you believe the rustle in the grass before you is a dangerous predator when it is just wind, you are more likely to survive than if you believe the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator.

I have chosen to follow the pattern of "The Creator" (no academic pictures attached) demonstrated by Jesus through his life and sacrifice. My "theory" has been substantiated, for me, over the years and never faulted. However, even if there is no God, I feel I have made a better choice than some force without a conscience.

James Watson, Dunbar.