BRIAN Wilson ("We need a root-and-branch review of how they spend our money", The Herald, December 19) gets two things wrong in his side-swipe against free-tuition higher education. First, access has become fairer, although how much of that improvement is due to higher education being free is open to debate (I would argue it’s been crucial). Second, places for Scottish students are not capped to make room for students from the rest of the UK or international students, as Universities Scotland has often pointed out.

I am also worried about the increasing attacks on free higher education. No one is arguing for fees in primary and secondary schools (despite the middle classes registering higher levels of achievement) or the NHS (I hope). An important principle is at stake. Do we want to fund public services out of general - and, hopefully, progressive - taxation, as we do with the NHS (and, of course, the police and national defence), or do we want a Victorian-style safety net for the poor and unlucky (with all the problems of stigma, victim blaming and means testing)?

As we drift to the latter, maybe we should reflect that, when the process is complete, Margaret Thatcher will truly have won and there will be "no such thing" as society.

Peter Scott, Commissioner for Fair Access 2016-2022, London.

Read more: SNP budget moans show need for a full review of how our money is spent

Change our forms of ownership

WHILE agreeing with everything else Mark Smith said ("A climate of fear: what went wrong with the Greens", The Herald, December 18), he has been blind-sided by conventional capitalist perspectives in relation to free bus passes. It costs not a penny more in staff and resources to have full buses, trains, theatres, cinemas, sports centres than to have them half empty.

Only a proportion of the money paid to bus companies for the free fares relates to actual losses. We don't know the proportion but I would guess not more than 30%. Some of those eligible for free travel would out of choice or necessity make some journeys even if they had to pay full cost but overall they would travel less. However to maintain services, if it were not for the subsidies from free travel, there might have to be an increase in other subsidies with no gain.

This is why such basic public services should be publicly owned. We could then allocate resources rationally according to overall policy objectives. From an environmental perspective, we need to maximise public transport use and public authorities should be able to fix pricing to achieve this.

Transport is not the only area in which changing our perspectives and forms of ownership might yield a better social and environmental use of resources. Along with all the bad things, there were some good things in the old Soviet economy. Many things like bars of chocolate were very expensive but approved cultural things were very cheap: musical instruments, art materials, concert tickets, local transport. If we are to achieve environmental aims, we have to make our economic system work for these aims rather than be dominated by corporate profit targets.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.

Read more: Scottish Greens: what's gone wrong in the party

Edinburgh's minefield

I RECALL over many years, concerns being raised by cyclist groups over the safety of cyclists on our city roads. In Edinburgh, the council has done well in creating many safe cycle routes for cyclists; however I think it’s time to consider the safety of pedestrians.

On the busy thoroughfare of Leith Walk there is now a very complex network of road lanes, tramlines, cycle paths and pavements. I happened to be shopping near the junction of Leith Walk and London Road and frankly it is a nightmare as a pedestrian. One has to be ultra-careful not to get in the way of casual cyclists, but the real danger is with the delivery cyclists who race along at speeds similar to the 20mph traffic speed limit. Woe betide if you get in their way. And to cap it all, the council has created junctions where vehicles enter and exit certain side streets by driving over an actual formal pavement, with little or no warning for people on foot.

It must be very concerning for families with young children who have to navigate through this travel minefield.

Brian Watt, Edinburgh.

The Herald: Should our buses be in public hands?Should our buses be in public hands? (Image: Newsquest)

Loss of a fine journalist

I WAS saddened to read the death notice in today's Herald (December 19) for Charlie Allan. About 15 years ago the first article to be read in The Herald on a Monday morning was Charlie's Farmer's Diary giving us a nicely irreverent flavour, at times, of farming life in Buchan.

We exchanged the occasional email and he was planning to devote his time to finishing a final volume of work for Penguin Books. I feel sure that task was completed to his satisfaction.

A writer, journalist, teacher, sportsman, farmer, and family man provided a good start to the week with his column in The Herald.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Stewart Little, Bridge of Weir.

Sign up for our Letter of the Day email.

Leave our place names alone

THE welcome rebuttal by Andy Deans (Letters, December 19) of the nonsense that is “Cairn Gorm Mountain” highlights the growing bowdlerisation, cauterisation and anglicisation of our native place names.

Place names state who we are and where we are, and bear within themselves stories of our nation.

Here in my corner of Kincardineshire, we are afflicted by a recently-erected sign indicating “Scolty Hill”. Suffix-less Scolty has towered over Banchory since I was a boy, and quite possibly for a year or two before too.

Down the hill from our home, Craigsyde has become Craigsyde Farm, while a former church property was advertised as a manse house.

The farm where I once picked up butter and eggs used to be South Cromlet, but has metamorphosed into Green Acres.

The redoubtable (and sadly late) Charlie Allan fought long and hard when the name of a neighbouring property lost its historic Easter Quhilquox (a place above a vein of quartz) to that of Sleepy Hollow. In this case, we’ve all lived more happily ever after, for thanks to his efforts, the original place name was eventually restored.

Gordon Casely, Crathes.