THE Scottish Green Party’s new focus on railways is welcome, but long overdue (“Greens in call for rail cash ahead of Bute House vote”, The Herald, April 23). In 2020-21 my then transport consultancy (Deltix), together with former senior rail manager David Prescott, undertook the research and analysis which underpinned the Rail for All report for the Greens, and we placed particular emphasis on the long-standing investment bias towards road improvements ahead of rail.

The report highlighted the example of the Perth-Inverness corridor, where the disparity in treatment has been woeful. Yet in all the furore over the delay from 2025 to 2035 of the completion of A9 dualling, barely a mention has been made of the scope to substantially upgrade the parallel Highland Main Line (HML) railway - reducing carbon emissions, and cutting deaths and injuries on the road. The A9 to Inverness was completely rebuilt in the 1970s and 80 , and is nowhere less than two-lane (single carriageway), with substantial stretches of dual carriageway; yet two-thirds of the HML remain single-track and its infrastructure capacity is less than it was 40 years ago.

Over the last decade, Scottish Government investment in the railway has been a very modest £57 million (spent on minor upgrades at Aviemore and Pitlochry), whereas £451m has been sunk in the A9. A total estimated bill of £3.7 billion (i.e. £3,700m) is planned for road dualling, but pledges - from the very early years of the first SNP government - to significantly upgrade the railway have been conveniently forgotten.

With the Rail for All report's publication preceding the Bute House Agreement by five months, one might have expected this be a key issue in the latter. But there were just nine references to railways in the entire 50-page document, and a complete absence of any mention of the Highland Main Line and the shocking under-investment in its infrastructure and services. One can only speculate as to why rail has suddenly come to the fore in this particular week.

David Spaven, Comrie.

• NOTHING highlights the decline of the Greens more than their demand for a £22 billion rail spend with not a single project allocated to the Highland council area, Argyll or Dumfries & Galloway: the three largest local authorities by land area in Scotland.

In addition, Patrick Harvie's proposals for minimum EPC ratings means rural homes face a bill for £33,000 against a Scottish average of only £11,000. Just what have rural Scots done to deserve policies which spend billions in the Central Belt and zero in rural Scotland, especially as there are no rail services at Ullapool, Lochgilphead or Kirkcudbright?

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.

READ MORE: We must reduce the number of businesses which sell alcohol

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Those hearts of stone

THE heartbreaking letter (April 23) from Robert Taylor must surely bring some perspective to the assisted dying issue. We seem to have a three-way split in this debate and I fail to see why we cannot accommodate all three views.

The terminally ill who wish to see out their days should be granted a far superior level of end of life care than is currently available. Those who prefer, for whatever ideological motive, a long, painful and undignified death should be allowed to die as they have chosen. Mr Taylor should be granted dignity and a peaceful exit.

Only a heart of stone would deny Mr Taylor his wish but those very hearts of stone appear to claim a moral and humane high ground which is not theirs to claim.

Steve Brennan, Coatbridge.

A deadly cocktail

JOHN Gilligan (Letters, April 24), challenging my views on there being too many places to buy alcohol (Letters, April 22), wrongly thinks I am for prohibition. In my 50 years' involvement in drugs education and supporting young people with a wide range of addiction problems, I learned a very long time ago that prohibition is not the answer.

My point about supermarkets is that they display alcohol, and market it, it in such a way that they are brainwashing us all into believing that alcohol is no more dangerous than Irn-Bru or milk. They are doing exactly the same with vaping, by taking it from behind screens at the tobacco counters and even placing it between shaving products and toothbrushes.

Mr Gilligan mentions the growth of cocaine as endemic. He is right, but what he may not know is that cocaine when consumed along with alcohol is a killer, because that mixture makes drinkers not feel drunk, so they then use more cocaine. Their bodies then create a third, lethal, drug called cocaethylene, which for many middle-aged men in particular shuts down their hearts. Over 75 such deaths are included in the latest drugs deaths statistics for Scotland.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.

Backing Fr Chido

I WOULD like to commend Kevin McKenna and The Herald for the interview which draws graphic attention to the exceptional and courageous work being done in Nigeria by Father Chiedozie Ezeribe (known affectionately as Fr Chido) ("The African priest who is breaking cycle of hate", The Herald, April 22).

Your readers may also be interested to know that a new non-denominational Scottish charity called Minna’s Children has been created to provide essential support for this work. More information is available on the charity’s website,

James Devine, Bishopbriggs.

The Herald: Father Chiedozie Ezeribe Father Chiedozie Ezeribe (Image: Colin Mearns)

Wise words

WHAT a trip down memory lane courtesy of Gordon Fisher and his letter (April 23) regarding Ernie Wise.

He evoked “this play what I wrote”, a re-run of “Bring me sunshine”; not forgetting “What do you think of the show so far?” and Eric’s masterpiece with the Roman bust (the Glenda Jackson sketch); a classic, and stroke of genius. To think he has been gone almost 40 years now. Yes, memories so happy, if poignant.

Thank you Mr Fisher; Eric, and Ern, can take the wonderful blame, any day.

Brian D Henderson, Glasgow.

Name that tunesmith

I USED to think that blackbirds did not repeat their songs, as thrushes do. However, we have had two days of repetitive song now from an invisible bird that is definitely not a song thrush. Its five notes, in the sol-fa system, are mi mi re do sol (two crotchets, two quavers, one minim). Some Herald readers are bound to know if this is just a blackbird stuck in a groove, or if we've been visited by something more exotic.

Gilbert MacKay, Newton Mearns.