SEVERAL contributors (Letters, September 5 & 6) have lamented the dismal performance of Edinburgh Airport; I can but agree. For 20 years, up to 2019, I commuted through the airport about thrice per month on my way to Heathrow and it was downhill all the way in the terminal at Edinburgh. Thank goodness I only pass through occasionally now.

Mind you, Heathrow T5 isn’t much better. Crowded, with a chaotic mix of people ambling along because they’ve time to kill and others rushing from one end of the terminal to the other because their gate has changed at the last minute. Barriers all over the check-in area, penning in people like sheep, just like they have at Edinburgh.

The fundamental problem is that the terminals simply aren’t big enough, and that’s because the UK has for decades failed to invest; it hasn’t invested in our infrastructure, our housing, our power distribution network or, most importantly, our people. As Neil Mackay remarked in his powerful article (“Britain is a Brutalist state falling apart like our schools”, The Herald, September 5), “We’re a nation falling apart at the seams”.

The UK is still a wealthy nation, having accumulated vast riches from its colonies in its days of imperial glory. But those riches are running out, as is the huge revenue stream from North Sea oil that, had it been invested, could have allowed the UK to escape from decline and get on a path of growth. That didn’t happen, because governments in Westminster were more interested in looking after the moneyed elite.

The UK can’t keep up with other nations if it doesn’t invest. The most important investment governments can make is in people, from pre-school through secondary and on into later-life learning and re-skilling. As things stand, the minority with significant wealth don’t need government assistance: they can afford to send their children to better schools, they can give them experiences that build confidence, they have the contacts that get them into the best-paid jobs. As a result, the country loses out on the latent skills and ideas of the majority, who never get that vital thing: opportunity.

Sadly, it’s not just the Conservatives who oppose a tax system that would raise the revenue needed to deliver investment, opportunity and growth; Labour does, too.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

Read more: The state of Edinburgh Airport shows the folly of dismantling BAA

Why does rUK still want us?

I WATCHED Penny Mordaunt speaking earlier this week in the House of Commons before I quickly felt obliged to switch off.

She talked about her recent visit to Scotland where she majored on the high incidence of both rat infestations and rickets in our country. I wonder if she has ever stopped and thought about whether many years of Tory austerity and starving Scotland of funds may have contributed to this situation (if it is true)?

Her comments reminded me so much of the time when Boris Johnson referred to us Scots as a “verminous race”.

The utter pomposity and disdain these people have for us Scots is quite breathtaking. If they truly believe what they are saying about us and if we believe them when they say that Scotland costs rUK many billions of pounds every year, then could someone explain why they are so desperately seeking to cling on to us? Could they be telling lies? Perish the thought.

Whilst I guess we shouldn’t condone our former First Minister when she said that she detests the Tories, it’s entirely understandable why she should say such a thing.

Taking control of our own destiny is long overdue.

Stewart Falconer, Alyth.

Pay n o attention to this man

I ALMOST choked on my breakfast this morning when I glanced at your Letters Pages (September 8).

Michael Watson and Keith Swinley wrote in defence of fake historian Neil Oliver, a far right conspiracy theorist, whose dangerous, unsubstantiated views on both Covid and climate change have been debunked by actual scientists.

Allowing the public to be conned into thinking that opinion is fact (via GB News, Oliver's platform as "journalist/presenter") is a very dangerous road to go down, and is an example of propaganda at its most sinister.

Neil Oliver is a particularly prominent example of the hysterical, far right thinking that has encompassed the current British political climate. We are living in very dangerous times when so many of the population are so gullible as to embrace the views of such a character.

Kevin Orr, Bishopbriggs.

Reasons behind the concrete crisis

GEORGE Dale (Letters, September 7) asks why architects and engineers specified aerated concrete blocks given their many limitations as opposed to their advantages. Well, it is precisely because of these limitations that I have never specified them in 50 years as an architect.

As a fifth form student in the 1960s I well remember using an aerated concrete block in the art class to make sculptures. It was called Siporex and you could cut it with a penknife. We used to let it soak in water for 10 minutes first because it then became even weaker and more easily carved.

Ten years later as a newly qualified architect I was surprised to come across Siporex planks. This was the same aerated concrete from my schooldays but now in the form of a slab with steel reinforcement through it. How this worked structurally baffled me. The steel has to bond with the concrete for the plank to work in tension. But it can’t bond with air, which means that when the steel flexes as a load is placed on it, it no longer works with the concrete in a homogenous fashion. Its compressive strength is also about half that of a typical concrete block, and it is well nigh impossible to get a decent fixing into it when used as walling.

On top of that you are also reliant on good workmanship when installing it as a roof slab and you need regular inspections and maintenance of it throughout its lifespan. In the public sector that just doesn’t happen. Why? Well, when you factor in the government requirement for 3% efficiency savings year on year, cutting back on maintenance and inspections is an easy choice. So for those reasons I’ve always declined to use aerated concrete.

The crisis that you are now seeing in the public estate is yet another example of the consequences of bad design decisions, incompetent managers, and the calculated recklessness of politicians when faced with the need to cut costs.

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

Read more: Yousaf missed a golden chance to be bold, honest and brave

Short-term lets stance is correct

THE Scottish Government is right in not backing down on short-term lets licensing, not least in order to safeguard users ("Warnings over law that is first of its ilk in Scotland", The Herald September 8).

While one can have sympathy with bed and breakfast establishments where the owner stays permanently in the premises, few will have sympathy for owners of whole-house short-term lets that are depriving local residents of housing opportunities. In the Highlands and Islands, locals including tradesmen, tourist and hospitality staff struggle to get places in which to stay that are anywhere near affordable. This is a far bigger problem than even the ferries.

In Edinburgh and Glasgow, if two-thirds of the whole-house AirBnBs were sold by their owners and bought for residential use, it would mean thousands of additional homes and help restore local communities.

Many of those complaining and refusing to register are burying their heads in the sand as they have known about the proposals for years and were even given a six-month extension in which to register.

As the former MSP Andy Wightman pointed out in his blog, the simple fact is “hundreds and possibly thousands of STLs in Edinburgh have been operating unlawfully for many years". In research he conducted in 2020, he examined all the STLs on the Valuation Roll for Edinburgh and discovered that of 1,609 properties being used for commercial short-term letting, a mere six had planning consent to operate as STLs. Right to Buy council houses have a clause stating not to use the premises for commercial purposes, as will most other domestic title deeds.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.

Protecting our built environment

“SOME (buildings) we take for granted, some drag us down, but the ones we care about we care about dearly, even though we may only know about their surface.” Mark Smith writes about some of his favourite Glasgow buildings (“My tips for Open Doors Day. But we need change", The Herald, September 8) and notes perceptively the need to protect and preserve them.

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Herald, you report on plans to construct a 17-storey aparthotel in the centre of Glasgow (“Glasgow Council to consider plan for 17-storey city centre building). Your report notes the many objections to this proposal, including from the local community and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s (AHSS) Strathclyde Group.

In both cases, there is the need for ongoing vigilance in monitoring the state of our existing fine buildings and scrutinising the plans for new developments. The AHSS is a Scotland-wide charity which exists to promote the preservation of listed buildings and sensitive developments in Conservation Areas. The Strathclyde Group’s weekly cases panel monitors all relevant planning applications, and our submissions to the city’s planning department receive a sympathetic hearing, although not all our objections are upheld.

Mark Smith also calls for “a plan” to protect and revive buildings. We also need a vision for future developments: the proposed “soaring edifice” in the centre of Glasgow would overshadow existing residential and near-by listed buildings. There seems to be little consensus on what the maximum height of buildings should be in Glasgow, leading to piecemeal applications. “Monstrous carbuncle” still resonates as a description of an unwelcome building.

Concern for our built environment needs active involvement to influence opinion. The AHSS’s mission is summed up in its slogan “Speaking for Scotland’s Buildings”. Help increase their voice.

Hamish McPherson, Past Chairman of the AHSS Strathclyde Group, Giffnock.

The Herald: William McIlvanney, author of the Laidlaw books, is a hero to Ian RankinWilliam McIlvanney, author of the Laidlaw books, is a hero to Ian Rankin (Image: Newsquest)

Laidlaw puts Taggart to shame

I AM overwhelmed by the recent coverage of Taggart’s 40th anniversary. It may be warranted measured against an empty and puerile collection of competitors. But what stands out by omission is any mature comparison to Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch, 1977 and 1983 respectively.

The character Laidlaw is a creation of some depth, morally, philosophically and politically, beside whom Taggart is a cartoon ably depicted by Mark McManus, no doubt in character.

Ian Rankin has acknowledged his debt to William McIlvanney, whilst the creators of Taggart have remained silent. The Anxiety of Influence maybe.

Lawrie Taylor, Bothwell.

Wakey, wakey

"FULL fibre broadband available to half of UK runs one of your headlines today (The Herald, September 8). I suppose the rest of us will just have to stick with the All Bran for breakfast as usual.

David Hay, Minard, Argyll.