KATE Forbes is quite correct to state the needs of Highland communities must be addressed urgently ("We must all play part to fix crisis in Highlands, says Forbes", The Herald, January 30). In previous years governments had greater political vision and commitment; thus, in 1964 the Highlands and Islands Development Board was established in Inverness.

This was led by Professor Sir Robert Grieve to address the social and economic needs of the then seven Highland Counties, also known as the Crofting Counties. It planned the development of the Highland economy and sought to nurture good employment opportunities for an area previously bedevilled by low pay, unemployment and emigration.

On the one hand, it promoted industrial development in the east whilst recognising the economic, social and economic needs of the "fragile communities" in the west. Though not a construction agency it lobbied for housing developments to meet the needs of the economy. From its inception in 1964 it lobbied for a Highland university. It provided both grants and loans to SMEs and to traditional industries such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries. However, one of its most significant contributions was the design of an integrated Highland transport plan. Bus, ferry, railway and even post bus were integrated so that a comprehensive transport time table was printed; the first I believe anywhere. For the tourist a Highland transport ticket was produced which enabled the ticket holder to trave; by rail, bus and ferries; another first.

Sadly, over the years this comprehensive approach to planning for the economic and social needs of the Highland economy has been dismantled and replaced by free market approaches. Today we lack visionary leaders such as Sir Bob, a Maryhill boy, who had been shaped by the depression, world war, and also the legendary Clydeside mountaineering club, the Craigdhu. I fully support Ms Forbes in her endeavours but she has a great, and I fear lonely, ascent of this socio-economic mountain.

Robert F Gibson, Blanefield.

Action needed on rail

WE at the Friends of the Far North Line heartily concur with Kate Forbes' analysis of the problems faced by the Highlands being left behind in terms of investment. Ms Forbes states that the region "desperately needs decent roads, good schools and reliable ferries in order to thrive"; to those we would add railways.

The Scottish Government has plans for very significant modal shift from road to rail as part of its commitment to Net Zero. In order to achieve this the region requires railways that are better than the slow, single-track lines which currently serve most of the region. To run a reliable and attractive service for passengers and freight, trains need to be able to pass each other at many places along the line. On the Far North Line the gaps between some of these "passing loops" are so great that if a train just misses the chance to pass one coming the other way, because it's running a little late, it may have to wait 40 minutes before proceeding. The "inter-city" routes from Inverness to Aberdeen or the Central Belt are little better.

There is currently no sign of the Government addressing this. We hope this will change very soon.

Ian Budd, Convener, Friends of the Far North Line, Bishopbriggs.

Read more: Kate Forbes: 'My dream of independence can halt Highland population crisis'

Roads are not the panacea

AS an exiled Orcadian who lived in east Sutherland for nine years between 1976 and 1985 and subsequently for six years on the Black Isle, I congratulate you on your comprehensive analysis of issues affecting the Highlands.

Two things have struck me from the first two days' coverage. First, better roads can be a double-edged sword; the enhancement of the A9, including the three bridges (Kessock, Cromarty and Dornoch) tended to suck trade out of communities further north. Inverness became too close. But I’m sure locals and visitors view the development positively overall as indeed I do.

Secondly I was struck by Kate Forbes’ observation that Inverness can feel "as distant as London". This reminds me of quite a recent conversation I had with a former classmate. He was a native of Eday, one of the outer islands in Orkney and his view, certainly before the inter-island ferries became ro-ro, was that Kirkwall, Orkney’s main town, was more like London than Eday. He was making a serious point so I understand completely where Ms Forbes is coming from. I also believe that these are important perspectives which deserve attention from local and national politicians.

I also share Ms Forbes’ dislike of the term Highland Clearances in a modern context and I’ll be interested to see if there is any response from your Highland readership. I was struck how emotive a term, and indeed an event, it still is when I lived in east Sutherland.

Looking forward to the next three days' coverage.

Willie Towers, Alford.

The Herald: Kate Forbes, right, with The Herald's Caroline Wilson Kate Forbes, right, with The Herald's Caroline Wilson (Image: Newsquest)

Focus on land values

ON your laudable investigation into Highland depopulation: this can be at least halted by a revenue shift towards far higher recovery of publicly-created land values, these being far lower in country areas.

And the proceeds could/should be used to cut taxes on work and/or trade (VAT), thus stimulating the productive part of the economy.

George Morton, Rosyth.

Read more: Depopulation in Scotland's Highlands and threat of new Clearances

SNP holding back the North

KATE Forbes said Highlanders need decent roads, decent hospitals, decent schools and ferries that can run. These are all areas that are devolved matters to the Scottish Government and have declined as a result of SNP Government spending decisions and are not attributable to Westminster.

To suggest Highland Council is too big at a time when more centralisation to Holyrood has been the SNP policy, along with a continuing squeeze on local government budgets, is hypocritical. The current arrangement with the Greens will see a continuing decline in roads infrastructure with no end in sight for the ferries fiasco.

The Highlands will only survive when the SNP is removed from government and the Scottish people's priorities are the focus of policy development and delivery, not the interminable focus on independence and the politically correct policies of the Greens.

Bill Eadie, Giffnock.

A picture of evasion

ROBERT Menzies' laughable defence of Nicola Sturgeon's forgetfulness (Letters, January 30) appears rather distorted.

His counting of "I do not recall" and "I don't remember" being 10 in Ms Sturgeon's empty statements may be true; however if he were also to include phrases such as "I don't know", "I didn't know", "I'm not aware" and the many other equally deflective denials then the tally is at least 50. If he wishes to check, there is a fine highlights clip to be found on a popular video-streaming website by simply searching for "Nicola Sturgeon 'I don't know'".

This is indeed indicative of someone being evasive and misleading the public.

Steph Johnson, Glasgow.

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Would Attlee be proud of Starmer?

I BELIEVE that there is a mood for a change in government in the country, not on the same scale as that in 1945, but there nevertheless. It is expected it will be shown that the UK has had enough of Conservative governments since 2010, for a time with LibDem support, under Prime Ministers Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak, with continuous internal party strife and failures to control immigration effectively.

It is also expected to be shown that Scotland has certainly had a less than nourishing fill of government by the SNP since 2007, lacking in competence and direction, under Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf with the party finances still under investigation by the police and the creation of Alba following the massive fall-out between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon.

The new Labour government, now anticipated by many, including our First Minister, is likely to be faced with a challenging financial situation, probably not to be as demanding as that met by the Labour government under Clement Attlee in 1945, when it was faced with a run on the pound. One wonders whether or not the new Labour Prime Minister, when his time comes, will be faced eventually with making a statement similar to that of Attlee in late 1951 before the General Election of that year, which brought the Conservatives back under Churchill: "I am proud of our achievements. There is an immense amount still to do."

Who knows? Perhaps Keir Hardie, Mr Starmer’s namesake and one of his predecessors as leader of the Labour Party, might look down in a few years' time, slightly puzzled by the modern Labour leader’s knighthood, and be proud of him.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.