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READERS’ LETTERS: Ex-BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith could be jumping from frying pan into the US fire

BBC presenter Sarah Smith (centre) during a Scottish Leaders' debate.
BBC presenter Sarah Smith (centre) during a Scottish Leaders' debate.

Sir, – We should all welcome First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s disavowal of those of her supporters who hurled either online or street abuse at former BBC Scotland editor Sarah Smith.

This is because any attempt to raise the quality of political debate above the petty, the puerile and the personal ought to be encouraged.

Anonymous online vitriol may be part of modern political discourse.

Some of us need to be convinced that it is more edifying than university debates, town hall forums, print journalism letters and television and radio panels.

I also need to be convinced that Ms Smith will find a smoother passage in her new role as North American correspondent for the broadcaster.

We only need to look at the dreadful events on Capitol Hill 13 months ago to see that politics in Washington can be febrile.

The individuals involved represent only a very small minority of Donald Trump’s electoral support.

They would still be capable of throwing bile and bombast at anyone they thought was connected to the liberal media establishment, albeit from the other side of the Atlantic. I think Sarah Smith will be surprised at how quickly she will have to develop a thick skin over there.

She will not be regarded as an anonymous person. Scottish politics can be combative with main participants always ready to dance on the head of a pin.

In the United States there are even higher stakes involved. Ms Smith will need good professional skills and mental stamina to cope with them.

Bob Taylor. Shiel Court, Glenrothes. 

No back-pedalling on safe cycleroutes

Sir, – I was disappointed to read of the cut in funding for safe cycle routes in Perth but not surprised given the lack of progress we were seeing.

Have Perth and Kinross Council backtracked on recent Spaces for People funding allocations? Have the initiatives below been abandoned?

1) A safe pedestrian area on the upper High Street;

2) A scheme to make Balhousie Street safer for pedestrians and cyclists;

3) Edinburgh Road bike path;

4) Atholl Street safe provision for cyclists;

5) Glasgow Road bike path.

Please can the council comment? This was serious public money from Sustrans that was given for projects in Perth. Why was it decreased by so much? Was the council’s commitment questioned?

It would be helpful to know the whole story as future projects might be at risk.

Jill Belch. Highfield Road, Scone.

Too many chiefs a growing problem

Sir, – I am in a state of shock. Never did I believe that I would agree with anything that Derek Farmer said. However, in this case his view that too many chiefs and not enough workers is part of our problems is something that I concur with.

Some can remember when our industry produced and exported top-quality products throughout the world. Take the production of motor vehicles. We were once a world leader, not any more. Mexico produces and exports more motor vehicles than we do. Why? Because our management and administration was and is sub-standard.

Two examples of our problems. When I became a local authority employee in 1960, the staff ratios were as follows – admin 15%, those engaged to serve the public (who are their employers and paymasters) 85%. The team of chief officers that we had were of the highest standard. Moderately well paid and highly dedicated, honest as the days are long.

They made our town a place where everybody (well almost, you always get some, don’t you?) wanted to be.

It all started to go wrong in 1973, when the Heath government decided to reorganise our local authorities (if it works, why fix it?).

Our team of chief officers took up the offer of a well-earned early retirement. A new breed emerged and, with a few exceptions, were those who passed exams to gain certificates. Practical experience didn’t seem important any more. In contrast, those who directly served us started to decline. Chief officers’ pay rose – more for less?

Spring is on the way, so let’s prune their pay. We are all having to pay more for less, so should they! As Derek Farmer said, £161,000 for doing less? They should be made to reapply for their jobs, the pay of which should be lower – less for less so to speak. Their record of achievement or otherwise should also be considered.

Our performance in industry is also sad. What we have got are companies which were under our control, and management – with a few exceptions – that are and were failing.

Foreign companies, from Japan, the US, France et al, took over our failures.

So to Derek, I would say remember the good old days when we spoke about corvids (crows) instead of Covid.

The foregoing is, in my view, just the tip of a huge iceberg.

Mind you, the way things are, worldwide capitalism could suffer a total collapse. Marx could have been right.

Starting from scratch could be an opportunity to create a better and fairer world .

Bill Ledger. Dreelside, Anstruther.

‘Banana boot diplomacy’ shooting Britain in the foot

Sir, – We are witnessing the most serious world crisis in generations and it is worrying, humiliating and embarrassing to see the prime minister of these islands (for the time being), stravaiging across mainland Europe in the jet with the £900,000 paint job.

This is not jackboot diplomacy – this is banana boot diplomacy.

This man cannot keep his own house in order far less be a major influence on the world stage.

A gormless bull in a china shop springs to mind. It is deeply worrying.

Since leaving Europe these islands are no longer an influential nation.

We should leave high-level discussions to the influential nations on mainland Europe such as France and Germany, Nato and, of course, the US. Then the foreign secretary, five minutes in the job and not long back from her £500,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Australia in a private plane, jets off to meet the Russian foreign secretary – a man who has been 18 years in post. You couldn’t make it up.

By no stretch of the imagination could the foreign secretary be described as a heavyweight in terms of intellectual horsepower.

These are incredibly important and delicate discussions and these islands should stay well away.

We are already a laughing stock on the world stage.

Stewart Falconer. Glenisla View, Alyth, Perthshire.

Truss tied in knots over Ukraine crisis

Sir, – Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived into a scene of an international crisis unprepared, had no message, talked over her translators and blundered over basic Russian geography.

Her performance with Sergey Lavrov was poor which showed much Tory deceit.

Truss’s trip was so botched it actually made things worse – Boris had to send Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to Moscow the very next day to fix the mess she left.

Truss claimed she will consider new sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

Several problems here, as many of these oligarchs and companies reside in the UK.

Anti-corruption association Transparency International has identified more than £1 billion of UK property bought with suspect wealth or dark money from Russia.

The Home Office has been aware of a significant volume of Russian-linked illicit finance spent on luxury goods, school fees and donations.

The Intelligence and Security Committee produced a report 50 pages long in 2019 which found that no serious effort was made to ascertain Russian interference in our democratic process, in fact it actively avoided looking for evidence.

The US had a similar problem over there so after the 2016 presidential election a report was submitted and fully published within two months.

So is global Britain finished? Sounds like it to me.

The sanctions Truss envisages have not been taken and neither have any money-laundering curbs been offered and I suspect Russia will be sceptical that they ever will be.

I thought the John Profumo scandal in the early ’60s was bad. This is worse.

Looks to me like a good job done by the Kremlin to negate the UK Government, with that money well spent.

Ian Wallace. Chapman Drive, Carnoustie.

Democracy depends on a strong economy

Sir, – All the hot air being expelled over the Nato-Ukraine fiasco is being cunningly used by some Western governments to divert attention from their own critically-serious economic and social problems.

While the world falls into ever deeper chaos, the only leaders who seem to be able to improve their country’s economies and general infrastructure are at the top of non-liberal democracies.

Liberal democracy appears to work well as long as it is upheld by a strong economy and a well-balanced society with clear objectives.

However, it would seem that once the economy of a country governed by a liberal democracy begins to fail, liberal democracy becomes a major constraint towards achieving progress for all its citizens.

Kenneth Miln. Union Street, Monifieth.

Racist sexism over presenter choice?

Sir, – We have enjoyed more curling than we’ve ever seen before on the TV with the afternoon session in China coming on at breakfast time and the evening one at lunchtime.

What we don’t understand is why Steve Cram was the anchor reporter, an Englishman with no curling pedigree, whereas the BBC had available to them two Scotswomen of impeccable curling pedigree.

He took havering and wittering to new levels, exemplified when he said “all you can hear is the rush of the stone over the ice”. Unfortunately we could hear him droning on.

Would we be obliged to conclude that the BBC is racist and sexist?

Katherine Goodfellow. Elmgrove Park, Monikie.

Keep politics out of the sporting arena

Sir, – What is becoming of Scotland when we cannot celebrate the win by the men and women curlers at the Winter Olympics without it leading to arguments as to whether they are British or Scottish?

I remember watching Allan Wells in Moscow in 1980 as a teenager and celebrating his success.

I knew he was Scottish but as he was wearing the Union flag on his sportswear, he was representing GB (we didn’t have Team GB back then).

Later, at the Commonwealth Games, he would represent Scotland. It was simple and not contentious.

Move on 40 years and now it is impossible for some people in Scotland to accept that sports people are representing GB rather than Scotland.

Do football fans claim that Mo Salah when playing for Egypt at the recent Africa Cup of Nations was representing Liverpool?

Going back to the Olympics, I even saw a journalist tweet about “Team Scotland”.

These were sports people who had chosen to represent GB, wore the colours of GB and draped themselves in the Union flag.

It’s disrespectful to the curlers to try to claim their victory for Scotland. We don’t know how they feel about their nationality but it’s no one’s place to manipulate their success for a political agenda.

Jane Lax. Craigellachie, Aberlour.

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