I AM beginning to wonder if Graeme Roy, Glasgow University’s professor of economics, is living in an alternative universe after reading his upbeat, sugar-coated article on the economic position of the Highlands ("The Highlands is no longer Scotland’s ‘problem’ area", November 13).

Professor Roy acknowledges that “the region does face challenges” but he seems detached from reality otherwise and I would argue that the Highlands is very much a "problem area" with deep, entrenched difficulties on almost every front.

Let’s look at transport, for example, as no area can prosper without good communications.

Ferry services in the west of Scotland are in total disarray (as this newspaper reports every week) and the local council in Orkney is fighting tooth and nail to get funding to replace the ancient local islands fleet.

The dualling of the A9 from Perth to Inverness was promised for 2025 but now the Scottish transport minister tells us that this target is “unachievable”. The main road route to Argyll over the Rest and be Thankful closes on a regular basis because of landslides and there is no solution in sight, only temporary fixes.

Prof Roy does recognise that the railway service to the Highlands is abysmal but the Loganair air routes are also dogged by cancellations.

These are all long-standing issues and no business is going to consider investing in an area (and creating jobs) where the transport infrastructure is so bad and so urgently in need of money. Health, education and policing services are in similar crisis.

All budgets are at breaking point but when one is told that Nicola Sturgeon’s First Minister’s diary devoted 0.1 per cent to rural affairs, I’ve no hope that the Highlands and Islands’ problems will be addressed any time soon.

James Miller, Kirkwall.

The benefits of managed moorland

CHRIS Packham's comments ("Scotland’s beautiful landscape is now a manscape’, The Herald, November 13) provide more evidence of agenda-driven hostility towards grouse moor management with little knowledge of what is actually happening on the ground in Scotland.

The Scottish Government's official wildlife crime report demonstrates that raptor persecution has fallen to historically low levels, as can be seen in the latest figures, with the majority of incidents having no connection to grouse moors at all.

It is deeply regrettable that Mr Packham fails to recognise the weight of scientific literature showing that predator control and muirburn do deliver tangible benefits for biodiversity, particularly among some of our most threatened species. Earlier this year one such study showed that the red-listed Eurasian curlew raised four times more chicks on moorland managed for grouse shooting compared to unmanaged moorland sites. Grouse moors are havens for ground-nesting birds, as has been recognised by some of the UK’s most renowned ornithologists in evidence to parliamentarians.

Mr Packham also erroneously conflates moorland at Glen Coe with moorland managed for grouse shooting. It is frustrating that, in the course of making an argument about the importance of the truth and credibility, Mr Packham has himself mischaracterised the situation.

Ross Ewing, Director of Moorland, Scottish Land & Estates, Musselburgh.

Read more: There's no justification now for Catholic schools 

Justification for Catholic schools

ALISTAIR Easton (Letters, November 14) points out that much has changed in Scottish society since the passing of the Education Act 1918. However, he fails to mention the fact that, before the enactment of that legislation, there were many schools already in existence supported by the Catholic Church in Scotland and Catholic communities. These schools were handed over to local education authorities with the conditions that they maintained their Catholic character and the Catholic Church would control what was taught to the children in the spheres of religion and moral education.

These were significant parts of the agreement then made. One senses that it was only a matter of time before a serious clash arose between that church and the plans of a Scottish government.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

Why can't we sit on deck?

YOU report on more delays, forced reduction in passenger carrying capacity and the likelihood of millions more in costs as the two ferries continue their agonising construction at Ferguson Marine ("Glen Rosa ferry launch will only be ‘symbolic’", The Herald, November 14).

A future disappointment appears likely from the few available photos of the two ferries. Back in the day, to me one of the scenic pleasures of the Arran crossing was, weather permitting, to sit convivially on the open deck seating in the fresh air watching the world go by, rather than in the usually crowded and relatively stuffy inside accommodation.

Looking at the photos of both the Glens Sannox and Rosa, neither appears to have such open deck seating. If that is the case, I wonder if whoever designed these ferries sampled public opinion before deciding against this facility? Lessons could possibly have been learned from, for example, the continuing popularity of the venerable PS Waverley which continues to paddle about in the same waters packed out with passengers on deck admiring the scenery.

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.

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The balletic Bobby Charlton

SADLY Liam Bryce's recent article on the state of elite football is all too accurate ("Farce and the furious down south but Ange stems anger, Herald Sport, November 10). The state of the game at the highest level is indeed in deep crisis and is I suspect inseparable from the corrupting effects of big money and the forces of rapacious capitalism.

The death and funeral of Bobby Charlton ("Farewell to Sir Bobby", The Herald, November 14) remind us of a different era when football's essence was the game and not big business. I am not, and never have been, a believer that in the past all things were better all the time, but there can be little doubt that elite sport has been polluted by forces whose first and only interest is profit.

I was fortunate to see Charlton play on a number of occasions and while I have never attended a ballet performance, watching him was, I suspect, something similar. The grace, elegance and above all sporting way he played the game was unsurpassed. One game in particular when Scotland played England at Hampden stands out. The frenetic atmosphere generated by over 100,000 spectators did not faze Charlton; he played the game at a pace he dictated. Even the most fervent Scottish fan could only admire his artistry. Watching a true great dispelled any partisanship. Swan Lake at Mount Florida.

I may not have attended ballet but I am a season ticket holder at Firhill and while the Jags may not produce a player of Charlton's class, you never know. As another wonderful player of his era said, "it's a funny old game". If football is the beautiful game Charlton was its embodiment.

Brian Harvey, Hamilton.