YOUR article bringing the good news of a review of "treasure" procedures ("Detectorists spark review into processing of treasure finds", The Herald, February 19) needs more context. First, it didn’t mention the existence in England - for almost 30 years - of the hugely successful Portable Antiquities Scheme, run out of the British Museum. Scotland has no such scheme.

PAS employs 40 "Finds Liaison Officers" across England and Wales, and has recorded almost 1.5 million objects, almost all found by metal detectorists. Unofficially, the PAS had three main aims: to end the "war" between professional archaeologists and metal-detector clubs, to recruit "treasure seekers" as genuine assistants in archaeological research, and to demonstrate that the rewards for reporting found treasure were often far richer than profits from criminally hawking it on the illegal antiquities market.

The second point is that while English "treasure trove" law basically covers gold and silver items, with a few additions, Scots law is much wider. All ownerless objects ("bona vacantia") found in the ground become Crown property, flint or iron as much as bullion. This means that a Treasure Trove Unit running a Scottish PAS would need to be many times larger - and better-paid - than the present one.

So far, Scotland seems to have been incredibly lucky. A series of spectacular metal-detector finds - for instance, the Galloway Hoard - have been promptly and honestly reported to the authorities. Or maybe not so lucky. Without a PAS of our own, priceless evidence of Scotland’s past and heritage may have vanished into the global black antiquities market. We will probably never know. A cultural catastrophe could happen at any time, and that is why this ancient land so desperately needs its own Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Neal Ascherson, FSA(Scot), London.

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Buffer zones a no-brainer

I REFER to the letter (February 19) from Robert Menzies on buffer zones. I believe he thought he was bringing some nuance to the issue but unfortunately, he appears to lack understanding on maternity issues in Scotland. It has been widely reported that many maternity services in Scotland are not even safe due to staffing levels so I don’t know how he imagines that abortion "counselling rooms" would be funded.

But I question why should there even be "counselling rooms"? Do we do this for other forms of healthcare like root canal treatment or vasectomies? Midwives speak to every single patient, whether they are happily pregnant or seeking abortion, alone to ask them if they are being abused or coerced because pregnancy is unfortunately the most dangerous time in a woman’s life as this is when she is most likely to be abused. To suggest our midwives aren’t doing their jobs properly is insulting.

I also find the suggestion that unqualified anti-abortion campaigners should be allowed to "counsel" vulnerable patients an absurd and frankly dangerous idea.

I do however, agree with Mr Menzies' point that people who have suffered miscarriages should not have to "run the gauntlet" of protesters, but I believe nobody, whatever their circumstances, should have to do this. Seeking healthcare is not a political act.

The very simple and cost-effective solution is buffer zones, which allows protesters to do as they wish a short distance away and allows patients to access hospitals without harassment. It’s a no-brainier.

Gemma Clark, Beith.

The Herald: A vigil outside an abortion clinic in EdinburghA vigil outside an abortion clinic in Edinburgh (Image: free)

The thought police

I AGREE wholeheartedly with Irene Munro’s praise (Letters, February 17) of Kevin McKenna’s recent article (“Working families are the SNP’s obsession", The Herald, February 13). There is no question our freedom of speech is being removed by what is effectively bullying and shaming of independent thinking that doesn’t fit the mantra of the holier than thou “activists” who decide what is deemed acceptable.

For 70-plus years I’ve listened, learned, made loads of mistake and held strong views that I’ve later changed, but I’ve never been afraid to voice my opinion. That’s just the way we were brought up. Debating, or arguing as we called it, can only happen in a free society.

However, I think my epitaph may well say “Dad, you can’t say that now”.

John Gilligan, Ayr.

The sad demise of Glasgow

JOYCE Pountain (Letters, February 19) tells us that bus fares in Glasgow "are more expensive than Edinburgh, Manchester and London".

Like many people who live in Glasgow I am acutely aware of how expensive and unreliable the bus service is and I am sure I am not alone in wondering why, unlike most cities, Glasgow still does not have integrated ticketing to make using public transport easier and more affordable.

The economic decline of Glasgow city centre has been well documented in recent times and surely the news that we have some of the most expensive bus fares in the UK coupled with the city council's LEZ which will soon force up to 400 black taxis off the road must be a factor in this. Sadly I believe that as getting into (and home from) the city centre becomes even more difficult and expensive many hospitality businesses will not survive and the cultural and economic heart of Glasgow will die, neglected by the very people who should be standing up for our city, but who have instead allowed Glasgow to become a sad and grubby shadow of its former self.

William Gold, Glasgow.

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A false economy

REGARDING the artificially-inflated cost of health-enhancing red wine, referred to by William Loneskie (Letters, February 16), John Jamieson earlier suggested (Letters, February 14) that since alcohol duty doesn't vary according to quality of beverage, the impact of duty can be mitigated in a sense by buying less wine, but of higher quality. Though this is impeccable Aristotelian reasoning there is a practical problem.

One might resolve to make do with, say, half a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet (white wine has its place) with the quenelles de brochet, followed by a single bottle of Gevrey-Chambertain with an appropriate sirloin-based dish. The trouble with this kind of victualling is that the stuff goes down even more agreeably than does spag bol and Languedoc or Aussie Shiraz, hence one might be tempted to overindulge - something devoutly deprecated.

Robin Dow, Rothesay.

Cross words

REGARDING Saturday's General Knowledge Crossword (February 17), please note: Noddy did not live in Toytown, that was Larry The Lamb and pals; Noddy lived in Toyland. The £1 coin has two sides and 12 edges, not 12 sides. Wemyss Bay is not spelled Weymss Bay. No gold star for you.

Linda FitzGerald, Killin.