TOPIC OF THE WEEK: fish farms and pesticides

As a former employee of several Scottish fish farms, I welcome Rob Edwards's investigative reporting on the industrial practices the public don't see and the Scottish Government don't want us to see ('Cover-up' claim on fish farm pesticide, Environment, November 5). I also welcome your editorial which raised important questions about the influence of the fish farming industry and the Scottish Government on the independent status of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) .

Last week the First Minister repeated her government's "absolute commitment" to the protection of the Scottish marine environment. Why, then, did the Government put pressure on Sepa to water down a proposed ban on the pesticide known as Slice, used by fish farmers to kill sea lice that infest and kill farmed salmon – despite scientific advice that it could also be killing wildlife in sea lochs?

The Scottish Government strongly supports fish farming (particularly salmon farming for its exports to China) because of the benefits to the economy and to employment in remote coastal communities, but at what cost to wildlife and its habitats? In February, Rob Edwards reported that "at least 45 lochs around Scotland's coast have been contaminated by toxic pesticides from fish farms that can harm wildlife and human health, according to data released by Sepa".

In the 1970s I worked on a trout farm that regularly used a chemical called malachite green to treat fungal disease in fish. It dyed the water completely green and was discharged into the nearby river which supplied water for more than 500,000 farmed fish. This chemical was still in use in the UK until 2002 when it was banned by the EU due to fears about its effects, including carcinogenic symptoms, on human health.

I am not against fish farming in principle, but would welcome an independent inquiry into the industry's effects on the marine environment and wildlife, including wild salmon and sea trout whose numbers have declined greatly since the arrival of salmon cages on the west coast. Bad practices, including the use of pesticides that may be harmful to wildlife, must be stamped out, and the Scottish Government is the responsible custodian of the marine environment which is claims to cherish.

Tommy Stanton


Rob Edwards again reports on allegations of dodgy deals between Government departments and the factory fish farming industry. I have experienced the way the Scottish Government bends over backwards to accommodate largely foreign-owned salmon farms. From allowing salmon farmers to shoot seals to hiding details of the polluting toxic chemicals routinely used to kill sealice, Scottish Government officials seem to think nothing is too much to do to keep the industry happy.

John F Robins,

Save Our Seals Fund


Amidst the blizzard of articles on sexual abuse, now centring on our parliaments and other corridors of power, practically nothing is written about the root causes of this malaise: the enduring presence of misogyny in our culture, and the pernicious influence of the internet in promoting this (SNP caught in sexual harassment scandal as party favourite resigns, News, November 5). Writer Will Self put this point succintly recently on the BBC: “internet pornography is the global petri-dish of misogyny in our society.”

There is an abundance of evidence that Will Self is right. So why isn’t curbing pornography uppermost in the minds of legislators, not to mention the supposed moral guardians of our age, the churches?

The longstanding test of obscenity used to be that of “liability to deprave and corrupt”. In Scotland, public decency was protected by the legal maxim that “all shamelessly indecent conduct is criminal”. These standards have been departed from, allowing pornographers free rein and normalising a culture of misogyny.

We must reinstate these standards of morality and decency, outlawing pornography and properly protecting our people, particularly women and children, from these malign influences. It means practical action, not honeyed words, from our legislators.

Randolph Murray



I smiled when I read letters dutifully supporting a law banning the physical chastisement of children (Smacking teaches children that violence is OK, Letters, November 5). You asserted a fortnight earlier that “anyone who believes that beating a child is in any way justifiable or acceptable should seek help for their mental health” (Laurels for smacking ban campaigners, Editorial, October 22). Who in their right mind would out themselves to that kind of opprobrium? Well, at the risk of attracting the attention of men-in-white-coats, I would ask to muddy the waters.

A settled consensus exists among relevant professionals that it is better for all concerned to support parents in crisis than criminalise them. This law will ensnare committed, loving parents, and be wholly redundant for sophisticated sadistic parents. It will remove the potential of judicious discretion by experts. Further, adequate legal provision (with the arguable exception of cyber-abuse) already exists to protect children.

Has anyone evaluated the efficacy of this law? John Finnie MSP, its proposer, has stated it is only intended to send a message. That is not a proper use of statute.

Archie Beaton


Moves to criminalise parents who reasonably chastise their children would disproportionately impact migrant families, the poor and working classes. A smacking ban is the invention of a white, middle-class elite. Children will be taken away or put on an at-risk register, parents will be hauled to court. The moral policing of mothers, because they did not fit the mainstream idealisation of middle-class mothers, is discrimination.

Wedging the state and a host of self-styled “experts” between parents and their children would transform family life into a series of techniques.

B McKenna



A couple of months ago, I wrote complaining about book reviewers who include spoilers. Here we go again – only, this time it’s film reviewers (Also released, Sunday Herald Life magazine, November 5).

I’m glad I saw The Killing Of A Sacred Deer before I read the reviews. Damon Smith’s review was not free from spoilers, although he was by no means one of the worst offenders. Reviewers in several other national newspapers gave way too much away. Had I read the reviews before seeing the film, it would have had a negative impact on my enjoyment of watching it. With a film such as this, a large part of the enjoyment was not knowing what was going to happen. The surprise element is all-important.

Film reviewers, like book reviewers, have one of the cushiest jobs of all. Doing something they enjoy and that they would, no doubt, do for pleasure, even if they weren’t getting paid for it.

If it is safe to assume that they don’t want to spoil the viewing experience for other filmgoers, why do they do just that? And why don’t editors remind them not to include spoilers in their reviews?

Sandra Busell



I was at the Scottish Independence Convention’s Build: Bridges To Indy event in Edinburgh on Saturday, Nov 4 with around 1799 others. Inspiring, committed speakers presented information on what needs done to increase the Yes vote next time round. Next day, I bought my Sunday Herald as usual. There was only a small article on page three (‘Westminster in decay’ Salmond tells indy supporters, News, November 5). We have only two declared independence-supporting papers and to date your paper has been brilliant. Has something changed?

Noirin Blackie