One size fits all? How wrong you are

I was frustrated by John Edward’s claim in last week’s issue of The Herald on Sunday ("Covid-19 Lifeline: Charity tax boost 'vital' say private schools", May 3). His caricature of state schools as a “one-size-fits-all system” is as insulting as it is false.

In the week prior to lockdown, guidance and support for learning staff across Scotland worked indefatigably to arrange bespoke learning for Scotland’s most vulnerable children.

Scottish Government initiatives such as Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) and Raising Attainment for All (RAFA) have transformed the culture of schools since John Edward or I were pupils. As a teacher in a state school, I can assure you that I spent the final week we were open discussing the needs of individual children – there was no one-size-fits-all approach.

His claim that “autonomy” provides better learning also has little basis in fact. The most tangible difference between state and private sector during the lockdown has been that teachers in the latter are free to use platforms like Zoom. State schools have chosen not to do this as we are unsure if these platforms are secure. A scant regard for cyber security is hardly anything to boast about.

As a reader, I felt it was unfair that the article quoted Mr Edward, a vested interest, without providing a balancing view. Scotland’s teachers view every child as unique. There are no “one-size-fits-all” policies.

James Forth


Now is not the time to ease lockdown

We should not be contemplating starting returns to work, schooling etc until the well-used R number gets to, or below, a steady 0.5 and there is constant mass testing of essential persons and spot sampling of the general public overall, with quick results from same.

There is no point in waiting for infections and deaths to give us any indication of any rise in infections.

It is perfectly understandable that many are climbing the walls to be freed from the shackles of lockdown and desire to get back to work, not only for financial reasons, but for mental health too.

If lockdown is eased by too many and too soon, then we will be back to base with a new peak of infection, also any hope of the country regaining financial stability will be pushed back even further than any fanciful projections to date.

It is all very well to show proposed examples on the television of social distancing in schools, workplaces and social settings but omitting to think of the gatherings together before and after those events is dangerous and borders on the negligent.

George Dale


Let's just scrap these Ferguson white elephants

I wish to endorse in full the points raised by Mr Roy Pedersen in The Herald on Sunday of April 29. The appalling case of the two part-built vessels at Ferguson’s, with CMAL and the Scottish Government throwing shed loads of taxpayers' money at the problem, is a disgrace and patently has morphed into a gigantic face-saving exercise.

I have read the inquiry which runs to some 40-plus pages and it is shocking reading. Undoubtedly the costs will soar as time goes on. The more important inquiry should be into the competence of CMAL and their failure to move with the times and remodel the dinosaur which is CalMac/CMAL.

Mr Pedersen mentions the catamaran MV Alfred operating in the Pentland Firth. I have made a return trip to Orkney in this superb vessel which has a capacity for 98 cars and is variously reported as having cost £14.5 to £17 million. This service, which is privately owned and unsubsidised, successfully competes with the Government-subsidised NorthLink Scrabster to Stromness which, reportedly, enjoys an eye-watering subsidy of some £350 per return passenger. That the Government should commit tens of millions of taxpayers' money to compete with private enterprise should also be the subject of an inquiry.

Your older readers will remember how, some 40 years ago, CalMac, with Government collusion, was, disgracefully, allowed to oust the unsubsidised and profitable Western Ferries from the Islay run. It's ironic that, while CalMac flounders, Western Ferries have gone on to provide and excellent 6.10am to midnight service to Dunoon, and at no cost to the taxpayer. Furthermore, they provide 24-hour medical evacuations free of charge. By using shore-based crews working in shifts they make maximum use of their assets and avoid the overhead of providing meals and accommodation for live-aboard crew. Were this model to be applied to CalMac, with suitable vessels, subsidy could be slashed, if not eliminated.

Capacity cannot be increased by building ever-larger vessels if the harbours and depths are not upgraded in proportion. The ever-increasing weather-related disruption is due, not to inability to make the passage, but to problems in berthing a craft with the windage of a full rigged ship with insufficient draft.

It is time to scrap the Ferguson vessels and adopt more modern and inexpensive craft to replace the ageing fleet and remodel the operation with strong Government oversight.

J Patrick Maclean


• Once again self-styled ferries consultant and former councillor Roy Pedersen revives his favourite topic of calling for the two CalMac vessels being built at Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow on behalf of Scottish ministers to be scrapped. This was the man, when presenting evidence to the REC Committee on January 29, 2020 concerning a question about CMAL, said: "One is incompetence; another is vested interest; and the final one is corruption. If somebody else can think of other answers, they can give them". Not surprisingly Mr Pedersen has not produced one shred of evidence to justify his claim, and to this day has yet publicly apologise for such an outrageous allegation at a Parliamentary committee.

Maybe Mr Pedersen, in addition to his call for scrapping the vessels under construction, would like to see the dissolution of CMAL as the Scottish Government’s vessel and ports procurement agency. It seems to me that this is an organisation, of less than 40 employees, that has brought together a team from the public and private sector with countless years of expertise in vessel design and port infrastructure, asset management, HSQE and much more.

What would he suggest going forward, let’s hear his current views? Perhaps he should read CMAL’s recently published Three Year Corporate Plan and see for himself the extent of the organisation’s remit, as charged by Scottish ministers.

In conclusion, I have yet to hear Roy Pedersen justify his claim of incompetence, vested interest and corruption. Show Scotland plc the evidence or withdraw that scurrilous allegation publicly sooner rather than later.

Rob Ware

Sleat, Skye

Coronavirus is not a popularity contest

At her daily TV briefings, Nicola Sturgeon reiterates, anticipates or cosmetically reconfigures the UK Government's coronavirus strategy and tactics. In so doing, she has been praised – and, by some in Scotland, more so than her Downing Street counterparts. Why?

This is no gruesome competition – death tolls in all settings across the entire UK are tragically high, and sadly it's not over yet. The telegenic Ms Sturgeon is, however, a seasoned TV performer and her daily appearances play to her strengths. So, while she delivers very similar daily messages as Messrs Hancock, Gove and Raab, do, consequentially, some Scots bizarrely find style more important than substance?

Martin Redfern


Will Covid achieve what Mary Whitehouse couldn't?

Now that social distancing has been established as a norm for the foreseeable future, there is going to be a massive change in our communal activities.

Attendance at sporting events, music festivals, theatres, cinemas and social clubs is going to suffer in the long term, especially if there is going to be a permanent threat hanging over us with the likely return of this virus annually, if no vaccine can be found to control its ravages.

Pubs and restaurants may well decline in large numbers, since profits depend upon large turnovers, their margins being rather narrow.

However, there is one chink of a silver lining which might well emerge from this sad and sorry state of affairs. For some years now we have been exposed to graphic images of acts of intimacy upon our screens and stages.

I will not be the only person in the world to have scrambled to switch over from a programme which left nothing to the imagination in the field of foreplay and consummation. Such embarrassing moments appear to have been on the increase in recent years, much to the chagrin of many actors and many viewers.

Now we may see a volte-face in that situation with the necessity of ensuring social distancing, unless the programmers resort to CGI to maintain such an element in their playbooks.

What I would hope for is a much more subtle approach so that intimacy is hinted at in the old-fashioned way of early cinema, leaving it to the individual's imagination to visualise what happens once the hint is given, and the scene moves on without any explicit detail.

In no way am I a prude but I do object to pandering to the prurient by including such intimate scenes, which add little or nothing to character or plot development.

Nature intended presumably such acts to be not only pleasurable but also private and without interruption or gawping spectators, though it would appear that there is a perverted minority interest in observing, and allowing to be observed, such goings-on.

The battle, which Mary Whitehouse fought and lost over the coarsening of public performances in this regard, may well have been inadvertently won by Covid-19, and long may that surprising victory last.

Let us hope that we will be thankful for such small mercies for many years to come.

Denis Bruce


Power stations and professors

As a retired history teacher currently preparing my grandson's first home schooling lesson [it can wait a bit – he's only 3], I write to thank you for your Spotlight article (Come what may: days that changed our nation, The Herald on Sunday, May 3).

Lots of good stuff there, but I was particularly taken by the photograph of Chapelcross. My dad used to work there, I was taken to a families' open day in the early 1960s, and I still have the DVD (remember them?) of it being blown up.

Your remarks regarding its demolition and site clearance are particularly apt: I will in due course bring them to my grandson's attention, since he might find a long-term career opportunity in clearing up the mess left by his great-grandad's mates.

But to more pressing matters. When the great JK eventually regales us with the tale of Boris J and the Brexit of Doom, I hope she realises that there are two Professors N Ferguson involved:

• Professor "breeks doon" Ferguson who had to resign this week for not following his own social isolation rules, not to be confused with ...

• Professor Ferguson of Harvard, who was one of the first, along with C Cadwalladr of The Observer, to suss out Dom Cummings [see "the Square and the Tower", index, p544, a copy before me as I write].

Clearing up messes left by our ancestors seems to be becoming a theme here … Given that I'm unlikely to be given the opportunity to work at Eton in 15 years time when Wilf MacBoris not-yet-Johnson gets there, have you any suggestions of how I can help out in the meantime?

Norrie Forrest