Joined-up transport? I'd settle for joined-up thinking

I read with interest your article on sustainable tourism (Herald on Sunday, November 17), and in particular the segment about Cairngorms Connected.

As is usual in Scotland when faced with poor, declining or an absence of services we carry out a project which will almost inevitably reach blindingly obvious conclusions and not uncommonly borrow solutions which have been in place for years elsewhere (eg integrated transport is a reality all over Europe).

One such project may be the EU/Hitrans project: Cairngorms Connected – which it is certainly not at present.

Earlier in the year my teenage son needed to get to Cairngorm (from Inverness – the regional hub) in the morning where he was doing some volunteering. He looked at the train and bus timetables and found to his dismay that the bus left Aviemore station less than 10 minutes before the train arrived.

In his frustration he wrote to all of the Highland MSPs (only three of whom contacted him) asking why the bus and train services could not meet and why with a little thought could a through ticket not be available. He also suggested perhaps some other initiative such as a through travel ticket which gave a discount on a lift pass (notwithstanding the disaster that is the funicular) or food.

In the event Fergus Ewing took on the case and his researcher contacted both ScotRail and Stagecoach and got short shrift – one stating that they could hardly change the service for one person. Strategic thinking of this standard is hard to come by!

The issue culminated in a long letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Transport advising of the huge subsidy paid to these companies and of the various bureaucratic fixes he intended to put in place to improve public transport (including of course the mandatory committee).

However, the only conclusion my son and I came to on the matter was that significant public subsidy and two Cabinet Secretaries couldn’t get a bus effectively to nowhere to wait 10 minutes for a train at Aviemore!

Since re-telling the story to friends the incident has been serially trumped by trains not meeting ferries, buses not meeting ferries or trains and so on.

Colin Clark


How can we trust this bunch?

Sometimes all you can do is laugh. I heard one Tory MP on TV (with a straight face amazingly) utter the sentence “Boris Johnson cares about Scotland”. That bare faced claim was understandably greeted with genuine mirth from the TV audience.

Then I saw that the Tory party (after the England TV election debate) had dishonestly posted bilge on social media using the name “Fact Checker”, rather than admitting to being the Tory party.

After Johnson’s numerous and repeated instances of being economical with the truth, even the Tory Party itself seems to think that if they put out statements under their own banner, people will unsurprisingly assume they are lying through their teeth.

In the context of sky rocketing poverty and a trebling of the length of food bank queues, we can hope that Johnson’s first promise after getting to be prime minister – to give another big tax cut handout to the billionaire bankers and hedge fund managers who largely fund his odious party - was just another whopper of the bare faced variety. Sadly history suggests that the toxic Westminster tories will continue to line the pockets of the rich and force more kiddies into dire poverty.

K Heath

Cortachy, Kirriemuir

• Never, in my half-century of interest in UK politics, have I seen such a poor choice for voters as I do now as we approach December 2019 and the next general election.

Of course, Brexit and Scexit have soured the whole political landscape, but even so the choice is grim. Hobson had a better selection.

I can see little or no redeeming factors in either of the two major parties. Labour, once my automatic choice, is in the grasp of a cabal of control freaks of the far left and some of the things that now emanate from this once principled party fill me with shame.

Europe has tied the Tories in knots for decades and no end is in sight perhaps other than a schism where their centre-left could merge with Labour’s centre-right. The Lib Dems remain wishy-washy.

Here in Scotland we have a party of grievance and perpetual whining in charge of our domestic affairs. A party whose two First Ministers were and are obsessed and delusional narcissists.

I apologise for the doom and gloom but the worst part of all is that I can see no change for some time and I may not live to see it.

Alexander McKay


A country in name only

It always annoys me when British unionists talk of this country when they mean Britain. Britain isn’t a country, it’s a state made of three and a bit countries and when one analyses the British state in detail we can see that in every aspect it only reflects the largest country within it.

The name itself "Britain" comes from Britannia, the Roman term for England (and Wales), and not Scotland which was then known as Caledonia. If the current state was known as Greater Caledonia then only a fool would imagine that it represented England so why should Scots believe "Great Britain" represents us?

If one considers the flag of Britain the Union Jack the symbolism is obvious. The St George’s Cross flag of England dominates in the centre, its cross is the thickest and both the flags for Ireland and Scotland are hidden behind it.

The national anthem, God save the Queen, contains the lines “and like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush” while the Queen herself has taken the English name Elizabeth II. There was never an Elizabeth I of Britain, only of England.

Scots MPs are outvoted by a factor of 10/1 in the British parliament and for Wales it is even worse as they are outvoted by a factor of 20/1! No wonder we almost never get the government we Scots vote for and are instead forced to put up with England electing Conservative governments.

Despite Scotland voting 62% remain in the 2016 referendum our views on this are completely ignored and instead we are going to be forced to leave the EU despite being told in the 2014 referendum that the only way to guarantee our EU membership was by voting No to independence.

Given all the above facts it is no wonder that most Scots according to recent opinion polls now prefer the normal national powers of independence. I believe this option will win in any future referendum.

The British unionists in Scotland also worry that this is the case which is why they are all desperately trying to avoid giving Scots voters that democratic opportunity.

The sensible option for Scots at this general election is to vote for the Scottish National Party. If the SNP win another thumping majority and the unionists are again reduced to single figures perhaps they will eventually wake up to the fact that saying "you Scots can’t have another vote on independence no matter what you vote" isn’t a valid option within a supposed democracy.

Joe Middleton


SNP does not equal Scotland

Thankfully most of those who want Scottish independence know it is no longer politically correct to suggest the English should go back to where they came from, but nevertheless Jim Lynch found the phrasing to make his point (Letters, Herald on Sunday, November 17). Musing that he recalls I once admitted to not being Scottish by birth, he then wonders why in the light of my finding “so much at fault in the Scottish political system” I have chosen to stay in Scotland.

Of course he completely misrepresents my criticism of the SNP as implying I am against Scotland. My "crime" is to call out this SNP government that all too often fails in delivering what the people of Scotland depend on it for, and instead focuses on how best to breakup the UK. If the SNP gets its way, families, friends, businesses and their customers will find themselves sitting either side of a hard border all of the SNP’s making. In my view that would threaten so much that the majority of people value in the long-standing and positive interdependence of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

What is to Mr Lynch’s credit is that he makes no bones about the SNP’s overriding obsession, as he states boldly that the pursuit of independence is its “sole function”. He is right about that, but I suspect his words will make SNP spin doctors wince.

Keith Howell

West Linton

Taxing issue

The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party have both now committed to raising Corporation Tax and Air Passenger Duty taxes in their manifestoes. I wonder if the SNP will commit to increasing these taxes to help pay for vital public services and fighting climate change.

Or will the SNP stick to the policies that Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have espoused for the last 20 years that cutting these taxes brings in extra revenue from the laffer curve effect?

Tracey Thomas


Who's going to pay for hospital fiasco?

I was in for one of my visits to the QEUH this week and was surprised to see a substantial part of the frontage has been closed off for remedial works. Apparently this is in part to check the soundness of the glass cladding panels' fixings, but also to investigate and rectify drainage problems going by the substantial and deep hole.

I sincerely hope that the NHS have in this case arranged for the remedials to be carried out free gratis by the contractor who built the hospital. In the case of the Edinburgh Children's Hospital however, the NHS did not pursue the same contractor for some of the remedial work costs there as they thought their case may fail, despite there being what must be a quite substantial amount in retention monies which should be used to help with the costs caused by the contractor.

Some NHS department must also be to blame for accepting a clean bill of health handover in February this year, thus triggering the hefty unitary charges to the PFI consortium, with the hospital remaining unused in the interim. There is now also the possibility of penalty charges from the Downing Group Housing Association who have purchased the old hospital site in Marchmont.

George Dale


Dangers of blurred boundaries

The blurring of boundaries is becoming a major problem throughout society. As moral norms become more porous, it is more difficult to navigate in society with any certainty. That is visible now in all walks of life.

The John Lewis Company has relaxed the rules about its changing rooms so that they have become unisex instead of there being separate areas for men and women. That creates anxiety for one gender or the other.

For a university to declare that students can declare themselves black psychologically or culturally when they are white is a nonsense. Skin colour is no more than an accident of birth and is in no way an essential feature of an identity. It is descriptive of an observable appearance, not of a mental make up.

When it comes to transformation of gender, individuals who choose to live as the other gender opposed to their biological sex characteristics, should only be acknowledged as that gender once reconstructive surgery with the appropriate hormonal medication has been performed.

Clarity of boundaries creates certainty and prevents misunderstanding, mistakes and avoidable litigation.

Denis Bruce


Not my cup of tea

The Prime Minister’s way of leaving his teabag in the mug only becomes an act of treason if he adds the milk very quickly after teabag and boiling water. Tradition firmly states that tea draws in boiling water, and milk immediately takes the edge off the heat.

My tea is drawing as I write, and the milk goes in without removing the teabag when I transmit. The tea does not stew.

I take a different view of destroying the value of the pound sterling and shredding the European citizenship with which Britain’s young people were born, and with that citizenship their right to live and work anywhere anywhere on the Continent as part of the world’s largest economy

Tim Cox

Bern, Switzerland