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READERS’ LETTERS: An independent Scotland could care for our most vulnerable without having to depend on charities

Saltires at an All Under One Banner march in Dundee in August 2018.
Saltires at an All Under One Banner march in Dundee in August 2018.

Sir, – When I was a student there were no beggars on the streets. You never saw, as I did just the other day in Glasgow, a bundle of clothing and a sleeping bag lying on top of pieces of cardboard abandoned by someone in a shop doorway.

There were down-and-outs in those days, sure enough, people who had reached rock bottom through alcohol abuse and its consequent downward spiral.

But The Big Issue, sold by sober people with no home to go to, was as yet undreamed of. Beggars were what you expected on the streets of poor countries.

It is a virtuous thing to give to charity, and the British are good at it.

Too good, in fact. Foodbanks, used even by households with two incomes but unable to earn enough to cover bills, are a worthwhile and necessary charity. With energy prices rising rapidly they will become even more necessary.

But the sad thing is that the help they provide and the good-heartedness of those who donate to them let the UK government off the hook. Boris and Co can, as usual, shirk their responsibilities.

Finland, with a population similar in size to Scotland’s, provides housing as an automatic right to its citizens.

Four out of every five people who benefit from its social policies return to work and to homes of their own. It is a country with a fraction of the oil reserves of Scandinavian neighbours. Yet they can do it.

Shortly after the 2014 Independence Referendum the Common Weal proposed, along with many other valuable ideas, a Universal Basic Income.

The SNP has decided to back this policy whereby we would all receive enough to cover our basic needs. Any money earned through work would be additional, with no clawback from benefits.

This kind of progressive policy is what we could put in place if we had independence.

We could ditch the unadulterated Toryism we’ve had ever since the years of Thatcher presaged the appearance of poverty on our streets. We could join the Nordic models of Finland, Norway and Sweden and top, with them, the UN’s list of the happiest countries in the world. What insanity keeps us in thrall to Westminster?

Hugh Reid. Grange Park, Dunfermline.

Will nuclear fission come too late to save us?

Sir, – Reading Mr Strachan’s letter ( We should have built greenhouses over coal-fired power stations, February 2), whilst I don’t agree with his view, there is some merit in the strategy he alludes to of using excess heat for power.

I used to live close to the Logie housing scheme in Dundee which was an early community central heating project and excess heat was used in a communal wash house (a washie ) also. So the idea of integrated systems is not new. The Logie Scheme eventually stopped because of poor heat flow as I do recall.

Harping back to the closure of Longannet and other coal-fired power stations is not helpful in our present situation, where we are trying to climb the increasingly steep hill that is the challenge to drive down our CO2 emissions globally and in Scotland, however small our contribution.

Where I do agree with Mr Strachan, is that any new power generation system, could – and should – include recycling of excess resources.

So excess electric power from wind, being used to ‘backfill’ pumped storage solutions and hydrogen gas generation is also an option, where the gas could be reused to power major transport systems – trains, trams and ferries for example – using hydrogen cells.

Private hydrogen/EV vehicles do not seem to be viable at present, but maybe in the future?

In recent days, nuclear fusion has passed a major milestone and whilst it may prove a longer term solution, it is still a long way off.

A word of caution though, nuclear fission (our current method) was sold to us in the 1960s as almost free electricity. So much for that selling story. Dare I say a wee bit like Brexit? Fission costs should leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, not simply because it’s not free, but it leaves a toxic waste for 20,000 years or thereby.

This morning a professor of physics and astronomy from Glasgow University suggested that, in linking all of the pieces of the puzzle correctly, we could have a fusion power station by 2040. Much as I welcome a power generation system with a low carbon emission profile, fusion is a tricky solution and many things could hold up the delivery.

Excess heat or electricity from the fusion processes could be designed into any projects like electrolysis to produce hydrogen

However, let’s not be diverted from the goal of carbon dioxide reduction in front of us. Fission will come but most probably too late. It may be the future post-wind/tidal/solar.

Lets just focus on the priority goal and allow fusion to develop in its own good time.

Alistair Ballantyne. Birkhill, Angus.

We should not be strangled by Putin

Sir, – The latest monthly figures show that the UK is now spending in excess of £800 million per month importing gas. This cost is, of course, passed on to consumers and together with the green levies is driving households into poverty.

It is crazy for us to be importing such large amounts of gas when we have untouched supplies in the North Sea and a vast amount of frackable gas in Lancashire. This country should be a net exporter of gas to Europe and would help remove the stranglehold that Russia holds over the EU.

Once Putin invades Ukraine he will control 25% of the world’s wheat supply and be able to use that as well as gas as a further bargaining point.

Our high energy costs are driving manufacturing out of the UK so that our expansion of wind power requires us to manufacture and import the wind turbines from coal burning China. The only jobs created in Scotland are the low-skilled assembly of those turbines.

We should not have run down our traditional energy supply until a viable green alternative was in place rather than proposed.

Eric Gibbons. Coldingham Place, Dunfermline.

People of Blair need to rally round to let council planners know our feelings

Sir, – Perth and Kinross Council planning department’s support for Westpark Development LLC apparently knows no bounds with its latest activity.

Initially, Westpark’s excessive phase 1 and 2 plans were presented to the entire town of Blairgowrie and Rattray and we rejected it. It would have covered the entire west side of the town, a greenbelt conservation area; further destabilising Blair’s decimated centre, offering an unwanted school and hundreds of ‘MacHouses’.

It would also threaten the survival of a Bronze Age cairn, Blairgowrie’s 5,000-year-old equivalent of Stonehenge.

After PKC passed phase 1 anyway, bringing us a Lidl and Home Bargains, the destruction wrought on the environment has led to the developers revising their plans for the next phase. By splitting phase 2 into smaller segments they have reduced the number of households they are required to notify in writing.

Instead of the whole town, this time only 20 households were officially notified in January. This is unethical.

Dog walkers, ramblers, foot and road traffic have already seen the man-made disaster beside the Muirton Woods which the developers are now trying to dress up as landscaping.

Having excavated into the water table and spent months essentially trying to drain the North Sea through it, construction company Luddons had to admit defeat, pull the Home Bargains footprint back and create two large, cement-filled stagnant ponds either side of a core path.

On warmer days, algae, plastic bags and toilet tissue can be seen serenely floating beneath a haze of midges and all underscored by a palpable stink coming off the water itself. Lovely.

Aware they will again be excavating into the water table in phase “2a” the developers are denying flooding will be an issue, instead presenting this as an opportunity to create a new ‘loch’ which will dwarf the first two ponds combined, along with an oddly outlined smattering of houses. To repeat, they want to flood the lower part of the land so they can build houses and flats on the rest of it. When the rest of the outline phase 2 plans are examined it quickly becomes apparent that if 2a is passed, the rest of phase 2 is a given, if only to make sense of 2a’s bizarre arrangement. Deliberately opening the water table will also increase the danger of flooding on the Essendy Road.

With issues of flooding continuing in Rattray and similar water table issues by the Gamesie, we need a community response to all of these destructive plans repeatedly being facilitated by PKC’s planning department and seemingly cheered on by our elected local representatives.

Let’s see if ‘democracy’ really exists for us. The phase 1 and 2a plans 22/00060/AMM can be viewed on the PKC website (planningapps.pkc.gov.uk/) and objections should be submitted by March 1.

Write or email PKC individually as petitions will be counted as a single objection.

Ms A E Russell. West Altamount Lane, Blairgowrie.

Climate warnings must be balanced

Sir, – In his letter “An Inconvenient Truth is now coming home to roost” (Letters, February 11) Alistair Ballantyne relies on Al Gore.

Fourteen years ago Mr Justice Barton, a high court judge, criticised Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” and said there were nine scientific errors which had arisen in “the context of alarmism and exaggeration” to support Al Gore’s views on climate change.

The judge ruled that the film could be shown in schools only if accompanied by guidance to balance Al Gore’s “one-sided” views. Gore said that polar bears would become extinct. There are now over 40,000. He said that the Maldives would sink below the waves but it has not happened.

He also said sea levels would rise by 20ft “in the very near future”.

The judge said “This is distinctly alarmist”. Perhaps Mr Ballantyne can tell us when the other 19ft 11.7in will happen?

Clark Cross. Springfield Road, Linlithgow.

Green-tinted specs need to be wiped

Sir, – I’m afraid that Alistair Ballantyne’s response to the views expressed by climate realist correspondents “Green-tinted glasses are truly back on (Letters, February 12) is both unconvincing and inaccurate.

His contention that the varying strength of the Earth’s magnetic field influences the cosmic ray influx and cloud formation is completely at odds with the facts.

The eminent Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark – who he dismisses as irrelevant – has demonstrated conclusively that it is the Sun’s magnetic fluctuations, not the Earth’s which control the level of cosmic ray penetration into our atmosphere, thus determining cloud cover and the prevailing climate.

In a previous letter Mr Ballantyne allies himself to Al Gore who used the now infamously contrived ‘Hockey Stick’ graph which was also wholeheartedly endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because it distorted fact by making the Medieval Warming Period completely disappear, thus in the IPCC’s own words “strengthening the case for Anthropogenic Global Warming”.

The late Hans Rosling, a sincere seeker of the truth and author of the highly acclaimed book Factfulness was shocked on meeting Gore to hear him say: “We need to create fear” and “strike a balance between effectiveness and honesty.”

If this is the ‘science’ that Mr Ballantyne chooses to believe then those green-tinted glasses are clearly clouding his vision.

Neil J Bryce. Gateshaw Cottage, Kelso.

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