THE cost-of-living crisis seems to affect some more than others.

While many families are suffering severe hardship, the “impoverished” Windsor family announced this week their latest wheeze to fleece hoi polloi by charging £150 per skull for afternoon tea and a tour of a wee bit of Balmoral Castle.

For those who are unable or unwilling to stump up such extortionate charges for access to the royal but and ben, I would remind them that access to the wee bit hill and glen of Balmoral Estate is completely free, thanks to my amendment to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

The original draft of that legislation contained a provision to exclude from public access land belonging to the monarch but I eventually managed to persuade the Establishment to abandon such a preposterous provision.

In Scotland we are blessed with some of the finest countryside in the world and possibly the best access legislation in the world. Scotland’s mountains, rivers, lochs and glens are not simply the property of royalty or any other landed gentry. They are part of our natural and national heritage.

I would therefore encourage all lovers of Scotland’s countryside to exercise their right of access by enjoying a walk up dark Lochnagar and other parts of Balmoral Estate. 

No permission or admission fee is required – but as afternoon tea is not provided, you will have to bring your own piece.
Dennis Canavan (former MP and MSP), Bannockburn.


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Rowling and the gender debate
GEMMA Clark (‘Politicians: Stop using trans people as a punch-bag’, letters, July 2) affects to characterise the ‘political establishment’ as “pandering to one very rich woman and her pet issue” namely JK Rowling and the latter’s insistence that sex is binary. 

This is framed within a political discourse centring on the “gutter politics of belly parts and bathrooms” to the neglect of other women’s issues including, inter alia, abortion, low rape convictions and the two-child benefit cap.

Ms Clark’s tone calls for repudiation. Her attack on Rowling ignores the very real fear expressed by many women that private spaces may be subject to predation by imposters.

Rowling hardly needs a voice like mine in support. She is more than able to stand her ground.
However, for Ms Clark to characterise Rowling’s stance as a signal ingredient of a political discourse of “gutter politics” is both ignorant and offensive. 

Rowling rightly draws attention to the wider implication of the gender debate. It involves two key Grundnorms of political democracy – freedom of speech and truth. Neither offer sanctuary to those willing to suspend basic observable reality and ignore, wittingly or unwittingly, Orwell’s prescient warnings of intellectual corruption.

Ms Clark insists that those who respect the dignity and humanity of trans people “have been characterised as indulging in luxury beliefs”.

Fixation on the trans issue, she intones, has effectively diverted attention from wider economic and social issues to our overall detriment.

I find the general tone of her letter patronising and condescending. The trans issue has been accorded considerable attention not to satiate “luxury beliefs” but to air and appropriately consider its full ramifications. 

I question whether this issue has colonised all political debate and sublimated concerns with “wider” issues. 

What is has done, like its independence sibling, has stirred emotions and, to an extent, caused a coarsening of relationships between ‘contending’ parties.

Notwithstanding the protestations made by the commentariat that this issue lacks resonance, may I suggest that there are many ‘shy’ voters encountered on the doorsteps who are well aware and concerned about the gender issue and may chose to make their views known in the privacy of the ballot box? 

That they are also infused with so-called wider concerns with economics and the cost of living is surely self-evident.
(Prof) Doug Pitt, Newton Mearns.


Shattering loss of a great care home
LIKE many people I find it very challenging to be motivated about the election. 

Why do I and thousands of others feel fed up and dispirited by politics? The answer is that there is absolutely nobody who is in the least way inspirational.

Coming from Lanark, I am very concerned about the total neglect of the social care sector – both the people who work in the sector and those who need social care.

We are about to lose McClymont House, our last Council care home, in August. It  has provided wonderful care to its residents; the quality of this was recognized by the consumer magazine Which’, who rated this South Lanarkshire care home as the best in Scotland.

Now it is going to be closed and the residents scattered to the four winds. This is difficult for somebody who has dementia and is ninety-six years old. It is in my opinion unbelievably cruel and a flagrant contravention of a person’s human rights.

Is anybody going to do anything? No, the closure will go ahead. Everybody will be sorry and that will be that.

Well, there is a solution and that is for the Scottish Government not to hand £340 million back to Europe but to do the decent thing and spend it on looking after its people. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this will happen. But I, and many others, will remember this for years to come.
Ed Archer, Lanark.

Governments have long failed us
THERE is no doubt that GR Weir (‘Thatcher’s impact is still being felt’, letters, July 1) is correct to remind us of the great sell-off of local council housing at severely discounted prices. This was a political decision to bring in short-term capital whilst destroying a wonderful infrastructure of what we now call “ affordable housing.”

It also dragged people into the debt caused by mortgages rather than rent. It changed people’s behaviour as council housing was a guarantee for life and if someone fell on hard times there would be rent relief or no rent paid at all. Not so with mortgages. As a council house tenant I always knew I had a guaranteed roof over my head.

All of this when linked to the systematic destruction of our mass employment industries – coal, steel, cars et cetera – led us into the need to look out for oneself and have no real support from neighbours or trade unions. We can argue all day about what is ‘progressive’ and, indeed, whose interests are best served by this oft-quoted word.

However the crime is not just in making the changes: the crime is in not investing and preparing proper alternative employment in what are now our desolate areas in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Lothians and Fife.

More recently we have sleepwalked into the explosion of online shopping that has seen the tragic demise of our high streets across the country. This was an obvious consequence and no government considered how to address it properly.

Change is inevitable and people will accept it if they believe it will make things better. The destruction of our housing stock and our high streets has not made things better and all the various governments since 1970 onwards are culpable of totally failing us.
John Gilligan, Ayr.

*( THE sheer number of letters about Mrs Thatcher’s legacy for good or ill speaks to the enormous shadow she continues to cast over the political landscape. How many other modern Prime Ministers can we say that about?
J. Hamilton, Glasgow.


Painfully slow progress on A9
GR WEIR’S memory may not be reliable when claiming that Scottish Tories begged Margaret Thatcher for investment in the A9 trunk road and that she ‘laughingly refused’ .

The last major upgrade of 130 miles of the road north of Perth took place between 1972 and 1986, so work was well under way long before the Thatcher Government came to power in 1979.

It is worth reflecting that in the 14 years during which that upgrade was undertaken, the road was completely re-aligned, numerous towns and villages were bypassed and major structures, including the Kessock Bridge, were constructed.

The current dualling programme is much less complex, essentially involving adding a second carriageway alongside existing single carriageway sections and improving junctions.

In July 2023, Cabinet Transport Secretary Mairi McAllan described the dualling of the A9 as ‘the single largest and most complicated transport engineering project in Scotland’s history’.

In the context of the work undertaken between 1972 and 1986 alone (and without even considering the hundreds of miles of railways constructed in the Highlands between 1850 and 1870), that is palpable nonsense.

Yet in the 13 years since the dualling project was initiated in  2011, less than 11 miles has been completed. So much for ‘A future made in Scotland”. 
George Rennie, Inverness.