IAIN Macwhirter states what must surely be the sane view, innocent until proven guilty (Russia is how bombs start to fall, March 18). Have Theresa May, with standard Tory Imperial hauteur, and Nicola Sturgeon, without careful thought, fallen into a trap?

Putin secures another term with his ratings almost off the scale. Has he found an excellent diversion from more Middle East involvement? Westminster has taken the heat off, "Dumb Brexit", Nato pulls together but Trump plays it cool. Wherein lies the danger?

On a planet run by multi-billion tax avoiders playing politics one match lights the fire. China has "put the hames" on the "Rocket Man" for the moment. Two massive egos strut the world stage. Let us not forget the trigger for two world wars. Until Scotland is rid of Trident we are in the frontline. Independence tomorrow would not be too soon.

Iain R Thomson


THE SNP’s Childcare Minister, Maree Todd, was with some reason called "clueless’’ by a member of Holyrood’s Education Committee this week. When asked how many staff she controlled in total she was unable to answer.

This is symptomatic of what ails the SNP. No doubt had Ms Todd been asked on any aspect of referendums or of Scotland being taken out of the UK, she would have been able to answer in chapter and verse.

Alexander McKay


THE UK has a dangerously low gas storage capacity of only two per cent of annual demand. The EU and UK imports gas from Russia. This is the wake up call to increase our storage capacity before Russia turns off the tap.

Last year, Russia's gas exports to Europe rose by 8.1 per cent to a record 193.9 billion cubic meters. The UK cannot rely on hostile foreign countries for our energy needs.

There is a wealth of shale gas beneath our feet so we must ignore the anti-fracking mob with their discredited "disaster" claims and get fracking.

The Scottish Government has a moratorium over fracking to appease environmental voters and Patrick Harvie's five MSPs.

It's time for SNP politicians to stop thinking about retaining their huge salaries and pensions and get fracking for Scotland before our gas for cooking and heating is turned off.

Another benefit is that electricity manufactured from fracked gas will be much cheaper than electricity from heavily subsidised wind turbines.

Clark Cross


WILLIAM Burns believes that “British agents” are to blame for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal as an “attempted publicity murder of Putin” (Letters, March 18).

His reasoning appears to be that the crime was so blatantly Russian in its origin, method and motive that it therefore simply cannot have been committed by the Russian state. Although the absurdity of this backwards logic is sufficient to immediately dismiss the entire argument, the extraordinary naivety of Mr Burns and his fellow conspiracy theorists warrants some scrutiny.

The Kremlin wanted to achieve what we might call implausible deniability. It wanted to leave a calling card – to send an unmistakeable message to dissidents, oligarchs, rivals, double agents and foreign governments that it has the will and the means to harm them anywhere on Earth. No serious observer of Russia who knows anything about how Putin operates is under any illusions that it is responsible.

But the Kremlin also knew that any evidence short of Putin’s own fingerprints being found on the crime scene would be disbelieved by useful idiots in the West, egged on by increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories being pumped out of Ostankino Tower. It knew that this would give Russia cover, creating doubts and divisions which would reduce the diplomatic cost of the attack and dilute the retaliatory sanctions imposed.

To quote an equally gullible man who once contemplated Putin’s “soul” and found a “trustworthy” ally: mission accomplished.

David Kelly


AS A coalition of independent and third sector organisations that supports those children and young people with additional support needs (ASN), we were struck by the article on exclusion rates for those children with ASN when compared with those without (Revealed: Disabled pupils more likely to be excluded from school than able-bodied youngsters, March 18).

According to the most recent statistics, the exclusion rate per 1,000 pupils for those with an ASN, such as dyslexia, autism and mental health problems, is more than four times those who have no ASN.

This has been exacerbated by a fall in the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN, from 3,248 in 2012 to 2,733 in 2017, accompanied by an increase in the number of those identified with ASN by over 55 per cent since 2012, now standing at over 183,000, more than one-quarter of the pupil population.

We recently highlighted the struggle that many teachers are facing in dealing with an increasing number of those with ASN in their classrooms, which is also having an impact on those in the rest of the class.

With a cut in resourcing and numbers of specialist staff, it is little wonder that many schools are resorting to excluding pupils, which should be a last resort, and has a major impact on the child concerned, impacting on their future prospects.

While we support the presumption of mainstreaming, that all children and young people be educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply, it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly for all those with ASN given this fall in specialist support and increase in the number of those identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems.

If we are to close the educational attainment gap, a welcome objective of this Scottish Government, it is vital that it works with local authorities to provide the necessary resourcing and equipment to address the needs of those children and young people with ASN.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

Stuart Jacob, director, Falkland House School

Tom McGhee, chairman, Spark of Genius

Duncan Dunlop, chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland

Niall Kelly, managing director, Young Foundations


THE discriminatory and concerning situation described in this article and the arguments put forward, while compelling, are severely let down by the emotive and frankly divisive headline. A less emotive headline might have noted that pupils with disability are more likely to be excluded than their peers.

The concept of able-bodied and disabled is a concept that should have been consigned to history some time ago but it is one that continues to be sadly prevalent in Scotland. It supports well-meaning but negative attitudes towards persons with disability. The United Nations and World Health Organisation have, for well over two decades, used a biopsychosocial model that puts activity at the centre of human existence. A person’s health condition, body function and structures are but elements in the overall model, whose central aim is to increase activity for all individuals in society. This is a human right.

This model is also dynamic and thus the influences of the different elements in the model fluctuate over time. There is no space for abled-bodied versus disabled. A slogan I heard in Norway put it very well: "It is normal to be different." A variant in Scots might be: "We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns."

This is not simply a semantic pinhead argument. While accepting that specific terms are required in law, for those whose views influence public perceptions we must move away from deficit descriptions of groups in our society. It benefits us all if we think of and respond to the person first, not the descriptor – therefore a person with disability, not a disabled person.

Iain Prain

Yarrow, Scottish Borders

CERTAIN types of letters which appear in Scottish newspapers are unfortunately responsible for driving middle of the road readers away from these papers. These letters often contain abusive vocabulary and extreme and incorrect statements with an intention to create alarm. Almost always they run down Scotland. It is not reasonable to expect readers to answer all these letters, though some indefatigable souls try.

In my own case it is easier to stop buying the paper. The Scotsman, though it was my local paper for many years, is now unreadable due to unbalancing effect of such letters. It distresses me that The Sunday Herald has printed at least three last week. One is negative about Scotland having any effect on climate change and is against electric cars and wood stoves; one mentions Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot and was presumably for confronting the 200 million of Stalin's empire with the thin, red line; the last is more simply is in favour of eviscerating foxes by the agency of trained packs of dogs. These are not are civilised points of view and are a complete waste of time.

Iain WD Forde


JAMES Kelly MSP states that he is delighted that his Bill has led to the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (Voices on … March 18.)

I am a regular attender at SPFL and international matches and I would be delighted if Mr Kelly – or any of his supporters – could advise me what it is that I will now be able to do which the OBFA legislation prevented.

However, I will not be holding my breath.

Douglas Morton


DAVID Stubley displays a basic lack of knowledge of his subject (Foxes must be subject to control, Letters, March 18).

Like many wild animals, fox numbers are controlled naturally. When there is a lack of prey vixens produce fewer cubs and fewer of those survive.

The argument about controlling red foxes is a red herring used by mounted fox hunts to justify their horrible hobby. In Scotland, each hunt covers a large area of land, perhaps over 100 square miles, and hunts a different part of that land twice a week. A really efficient pack might kill an average of one or two foxes per hunt plus a dozen or so young foxes during the “cubbing season” when they train their hounds to kill.

This does not control the fox population and fails to target foxes that might be causing farmers a problem. If a farmer does not protect his or her poultry by use of electric fences and a secure hen-house, the usual way to get rid of any fox which takes advantage of the situation is by lamping – illuminating the fox with a bright light and then shooting it.

This is far more efficient than sending 40 hounds followed by 40 folk on horseback through fields that often contain pregnant livestock or growing crops.

It isn’t foxes that need controlled. It is fox hunts and the sooner our MSPs hunt the hunters into the history books the better.

John F Robins

Animal Concern

IN response to David Stubley's letter about fox hunting (Letters, March 18), it is a great pity that foxes – any animals – have to be killed. Are we sure that they do not control themselves if left alone?

That, however, is not the issue. The issue is that despite allowing flushing with hounds for the foxes then be shot, the law seems to be being abused and the savage uncivilised killing by being torn apart by dogs continues.

Mr Stubley comments on other animals being killed by foxes. If my cat, pleased as punch, dumped a dead bird at my feet I would know that that is nature. If my daughter came in from the garden with a dead mouse in her mouth, then I would correct her.

Victor Moncrieff


THIS week the SNP's governing body will move to scrap Scotland's centuries-old blasphemy laws (Moves afoot by SNP to scrap ancient Scots blasphemy laws (News, March 18). Blasphemy laws have no place in a multicultural, largely secular society which values freedom of speech. Freedom for religion is a fundamental right, as is freedom from religion.

If we allow the state to prescribe the limits of acceptable speech, it will not be just speech that is limited. Is it asking too much of the Church of Scotland that it should apologise publicly for the mental and physical misery it has caused with this medieval notion? Last year, comic Stephen Fry was investigated by police in Ireland for blasphemy after he called God ''stupid'' and a ''maniac'' on an Irish TV show.

This should serve as a warning to us all that as long as such laws remain on our statute books there will always be the possibility that some Christian sometime will be moved to invoke them.

Doug Clark