YOUR recent article on homelessness ("Minister warns on homeless as figures rocket", The Herald October 11) highlights a chronic problem for which there is no excuse. Scotland has around 11,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land within urban communities, much of which could be readily used.

There is currently no incentive for landowners to release this land for development; indeed the opposite is true. Land hoarding costs the owner nothing while creating a shortage which inflates prices, encouraging further hoarding and profiteering.

In 2017 the Scottish Government instructed its think-tank, the Scottish Land Commission, to look into Land Value Taxation (LVT). The first recommendation in the Commission’s 2022 report “Land Reform and Taxation” was “strengthening the role of land in the tax base”, bringing all land on to the valuation roll and creating a comprehensive register of ownership, use and value.

In 2021 the Social Justice and Fairness Commission produced a report recommending LVT as part of a wider reform to remove our dependency on council tax, non-domestic rates and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. The convener of the committee was Shona Robison, now Deputy First Minister.

LVT would be a vital instrument in freeing up usable land. With valuation based on optimum permitted use, there would be an obvious incentive to put vacant sites to use or dispose of them to someone who would. Idle or under-used land would become a liability rather than an asset. Local authorities hoarding land would be forgoing a huge revenue stream.

If the independence campaign is to regain its momentum, the Scottish Government cannot afford to ignore its own reports and the opportunity for radical reform. Unless it can show the imagination to use its existing devolved powers creatively, there will be insufficient public appetite for seeking even more. Introduction of LVT is within those powers and ought to be a priority.

John Digney, Buchlyvie.

We can learn from elsewhere

DR Miro Griffiths ("‘Assisted dying’ Bill can never be made safe", The Herald, October 11) cites a large number of examples of where safeguards have apparently failed in some countries which have introduced laws to allow assisted dying. Whether these are true or hearsay, Scotland can surely learn from genuine problems elsewhere, and I hope Liam McArthur's Bill will do just that.

It is illogical to assume some of the apparent consequences of legislation in other countries would necessarily happen in Scotland. Indeed, Dr Griffiths can hardly criticise the safeguards built into a Scottish bill he hasn't seen, and nor have I.

Professor Charles Warlow, Edinburgh.

Read more: Let the people decide: give us a referendum on assisted dying

The real risk of buffer zones

FOLLOWING your report on the introduction of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill ("Scotland buffer zones: Plans to tackle anti-abortion protests", The Herald, October 7, there is a concern that this bill risks projecting an objectively false narrative that access to abortions is being impeded. Terminations in Scotland are in fact occurring at record numbers, while lockdown-era home abortion rules remain in place.

There is also the risk that the buffer zones debate diverts attention away from far more important issues such as advances in technology improving viability; why it is that terminations remain legal up to birth for certain so-called "disabilities" such as Down Syndrome, and wider discussions about the underlying drivers of abortion in Scotland. Ultimately, all debate around abortion, and especially interaction with expectant mothers, must be conducted with an abundance of empathy, compassion, and sensitivity, recognising that both lives in a pregnancy have value.

Michael Veitch, Scotland Policy Officer, CARE, Glasgow.

Do we need bottled water?

ONE’S initial pleasure that a Scottish business is in profit ("Highland Spring doubles profits amid difficult market conditions", The Herald, October 10) is tempered by its non-native ownership. No doubt the company employs local people and the managing director does describe admirable sustainability plans and structures.

But should we need to buy bottled water at all? Restaurants generally provide good quality tap water if asked. We also need an increasing number of public taps to fill our own bottles whether in reused plastic or in one of these elegant flasks which can be gifted at Christmas.

High streets, sports clubs, transport hubs, all can make this difference.

Water, water everywhere: it’s ours.

Philip Gaskell, Drymen.

The bourach of Gaelic

IF I'm not too late to the debate about Gaelic spelling and orthography (Letters, October 11, 12 & 13), can I recommend to the participants the excellent book Lingo, by Gaston Dorren?

This is a man familiar with more languages than I have digits, so he deserves attention. His analysis of the difficulties in Scots Gaelic spelling is involved but well thought-out: he describes the spelling as "...wasteful, arcane and outdated". This perhaps helps explain why I and others have so much difficulty in giving a good rendition of Gaelic place names, why "cnoc" is "croch" or why a name such as "Cairistiona" is just "Cristina". All to do with consonant phonemes and slender, broad and silent vowels, it seems.

A charming feature of Mr Dorren's book is his mot juste for each language - a word peculiar to it. For Gaelic, it's "bourach", which nicely describes the current debate. Mr Dorren grants Scots the status of a "half language", by the way. His favourite Scots word is the "sitooterie", from where I now write.

Brian Chrystal, Edinburgh.

• IN his lengthy exposition, Tim Flinn (Letters, October 11) attempts, often inaccurately, to denigrate Gaelic spelling and pronunciation.

I say to him "there, their, they're". Calm down and try to explain thoroughly, through simple language, the "ough" problem which confronts those trying to learn English.

It ought to be simpler than ploughing a field. But it's tough, isn't it?

Alasdair Law, Kilbarchan.

• NEVER having previously been described as estimable, I feel obliged to respond to Steve Brennan (Letters, October 13). The pronunciation of Milngavie originates from the time when the name was adapted from Gaelic to English. I know that Alba is pronounced Al-a-buh, but prefer to stick with English.

A foreigner was puzzled by a billboard which proclaimed "Noel Coward's Cavalcade; pronounced success".

The mysteries of language.

David Miller, Milngavie.

• I’M not shavie.

I’m from Milngavie.

Gordon Casely, Crathes.