I refer to the articles in The Herald on Sunday on January 13, and The Herald on January 14, which reported on proposals to alter the local government pension funds.

These funds have been accrued from deductions from salaries and employer contributions, which are effectively delayed salary, and as such are morally if not legally mutual funds. It stands to reason, then, that any alterations to the funds should be the concern of the members of the scheme rather than politicians and trade union officials.

The proposal to amalgamate the 11 pension funds into one is based on “big being better” and more efficient, which is disproved by the smallest fund, Orkney, having relatively the largest surplus. Also, if there are a number of funds then success of the various fund managers can be compared – with one fund there is no comparison.

Suggestions were made that these funds should only invest in “ethical” investments. The difficulty with this is determining what is ethical to the fund managers. Not investing in oil-related companies may not be thought appropriate in Grampian, nor weapons manufacturer BAE Systems in Glasgow, nor Babcock in Fife. For members who smoke it would be hypocritical to oppose investment in tobacco and those who enjoy a dram are unlikely to object to investments in distillers.

It is suggested that amalgamation of the funds would allow them to provide funds for infrastructure investment in Scotland. I would suggest that it would be simpler to create a Scottish Infrastructure Fund which the local authority pension funds and other collective funds could invest in, subject to the returns being suitable.

Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, effectively closed down the private company defined benefit pension funds by taxing them. A similar situation should not occur with the local authority pension funds. The funds work perfectly well just now and so “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.

James Miller

Conon Bridge, Dingwall

Put country before party

Leading a country and leading a political party are two entirely different things. I am afraid that this has not registered with the current crop of leaders across the UK.

Theresa May, when the chips are down, despite her courage, is infinitely more interested in keeping the Tory Party from imploding than she is in doing what is best for the people of this country. Jeremy Corbyn is worse; he is wedded to an outdated and fanciful Marxist plan for the UK to become some kind of a socialist paradise, perhaps on the lines of Greece or Venezuela.

But the worst is our own Nicola Sturgeon. She has not a sliver of consideration for the economic paralysis and damage a second break-up-the-UK referendum would bring upon our country at this time and continues her manic pursuit of a Holy Grail that in her heart she knows is never going to happen.

It is, in truth, all very sad. When we need them most they are posted missing.

Alexander McKay


Martin Redfern (Letters, January 6) maintains that a "Yes" vote in 2014 would have seen Scotland kicked out of the EU (which was the line of Better Together at that time).

But we now know that, in the event of any country leaving the EU, a “transition period” would be allowed – which, in the case of Scotland, would likely have resulted in our maintaining a sensible trading relationship with both rUK (who were then staying within the EU) and the rest of the EU.

The ensuing performance/behaviour of our masters/mistresses in Westminster has proved beyond doubt Scotland has never been, and will never be, a respected partner in any “United Kingdom” with Westminster.

It’s time Scotland re-emerged as an independent country – deciding for itself with whom it will have any relationship, and the nature of that relationship.

Ian Waugh


Put Joanna in charge!

In response to your article reporting on BMA Scotland’s new obesity fightback (News, January 13), I would say put Joanna Blythman in charge.

I have been reading Joanna’s books for at least 20 years. She knows exactly what is happening with our food, and to our food. Our digestive systems have evolved over millions of years, but what we eat now is a diet which only came into force after the Second World War, and our digestive systems have not yet got used to all the changes.

We cannot continue to put the NHS under this pressure, which is why the Scottish Government is trying to reduce the consumption of foods high in salt and sugar. Of course, the Food and Drink Federation is complaining about the plans. It’s in its interests to continue to sell, and to encourage us to want, unhealthy foods.

It is behaving in some ways like the tobacco industry, when governments were trying to discourage addicts from smoking.

Just like smoking, eating unhealthy food is having a terrible effect on our health. It is costing our health service so much money, when there are so many claims on it. It means long waiting times for treatment, it means some people die before they can be seen, it means targets are not met.

Yet some people continue to complain about “the nanny state”. Yes, people must take responsibility for their own health, but giving them the right information, and more importantly the means, to ensure they can eat healthy food will benefit the whole of society.

Margaret Forbes


Give Trump the credit he’s due

I read Neil Mackay’s excellent article on Trump’s first two years in power (The Big Read, January 13).

While I agree with nearly everything he wrote, I think like most commentators he does not give any credit to Trump for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.

Every president since Eisenhower has tried and failed but now we have a real prospect of peace in the region. Who would have thought?

Maybe it takes one lunatic to know another.

Nevertheless our liberal elite cannot bring itself to give him any credit for this momentous achievement. That in itself is hilarious. Get over it folks, give credit when it’s due.

Ian McNair


Time for a reality check

The Government’s newly-published Clean Air Strategy aims to reduce the estimated 36,000 annual deaths blamed on toxic air. Wood-burning stoves and open fires are now the biggest source of outdoor particulate emissions at 38% but it was not so long ago that politicians encouraged wood-burning stoves.

Drax power plant was said to produce green electricity, but how can it when trees are chopped down in America and Canada then shipped to Britain?

Friends of the Earth (FoE) wants new road-building to be scrapped and the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles phased out before 2040. Only the rich can afford an electric car and the reduction in UK emissions would be miniscule.

Globally there are 1.2 billion vehicles on the road and there will be two billion by 2035. FoE and others of that ilk need a large dose of reality and should take themselves off to China and India which are rapidly increasing their emissions, at present 35%, and have no intention of reducing them until after 2030 – maybe.

Clark Cross


A building well worth saving

There must be many disgruntled supporters of the Mack building at Glasgow School of Art who now have money just burning a hole in their pockets. Well, can I suggest another worthy building which can be saved at a knock-down price?

The A-listed Coats Memorial Church in Paisley has been vacant since August and has not suffered much deterioration. A proposal from the trustees and a Paisley-born developer has been put forward to convert it to a multi-purpose venue for the arts etc. The conversion wouldn’t be an impossible task either – its Scottish architect, Hippolyte J Blanc, seems to have designed it to be easily converted for alternative uses.

Paisley had been going through a steady decline until the bid for UK City of Culture last year which, despite losing, has given the city a considerable boost, the refurbishment and upgrade of the Town Hall being a perfect example.

The costs for the church conversion have been budgeted at £1.5 million, which will no doubt hopefully be a slight underestimate. However, the developers will have the example of the Mack debacle to show them how not to do it.

George Dale