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Dangers in echo chamber of social media

Dangers in echo chamber of social media

Sir, – Was outgoing BBC political editor Nick Robinson right to compare last September’s demonstrations outside the organisation’s headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow with situations in Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

The right to peaceful protest in support of any cause is one we should cherish.

Surely people who are concerned about the BBC’s reputation for impartiality have that right too?

I think it would be wrong to see the 4,000 marchers as people determined to attack free speech.

It was perhaps simply frustration because they felt both sides of the case were not being presented fairly.

Mr Robinson is on stronger ground when he draws attention to the role of social media. It is becoming a forum for preaching and preaching to the converted.

Personally, I can think of few things worse that constantly reading material that I totally agree with.

All media are enriched by giving platforms to a wide variety of views.

That does not mean to say each media outlet cannot adopt a broad editorial line in support of one party or cause or whatever.

The BBC’s charter obliges it to be independent so it ought not to be partisan. That’s what concerned the protestors last September.

Mr Robinson’s concerns about the way political debate is being narrowed are worthy of concern too.

Bob Taylor. 24 Shiel Court, Glenrothes.

White Paper was national shame

Sir, – I refer to Alex Salmond’s column (August 24).

In the run-up to the referendum vote last year, the main problem with Mr Salmond and his ministers was that none of them would give a straight answer to a straight question.

If you add to that the nasty habit of Nicola Sturgeon to interrupt and shout down people in televised debates who asked similar questions to Nick Robinson, then I do not think there are any grounds to term the BBC coverage of the referendum vote shameful, embarrassing or insulting.

In actual fact, the disingenuous SNP campaign plus its notorious White Paper was what was, and continues to be, shameful, embarrassing and insulting to the intelligence of the more thoughtful Scots who are not swayed by emotion, smart comments, personal ambition and wishful thinking in matters of economic and fiscal affairs.

Derek Farmer. Knightsward Farm, Anstruther.

BBC was fair last September

Sir, – May I respond to Mr Salmond’s comments on Nick Robinson in his column in your newspaper and, in particular, his assertion that Mr Robinson should be both embarrassed and ashamed of his coverage of the independence referendum.

My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that the BBC reporting throughout the campaign was both fair and unbiased.

Naturally, to ensure equanimity, it was necessary to challenge individuals and policy on both sides of the argument, and I think that this is no more than reasonable.

Also reasonable is an expectation that Mr Salmond should adopt the ability to accept that there are those who disagree with his ambitions and that their voice should also be heard, not suppressed.

I wrote to both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon reminding them that they represent not only those who have voted for independence but those who voted against it.

They would both do well to re-read my emails. They might even find time to reply this time.

A Muir. Woodlea, Corsbie Road, Newton Stewart.

Economic case did not add up

Sir, – Alex Salmond re-orientated politics north of the border along tribal lines and has left Scotland more polarised and divided than at any time since the 1745 rebellion.

Political debate had descended into a stairheed rammy where all blame was externalised and any sign of opposition drowned in the hysterical abuse of the street. While endlessly claiming to have constructed a “big tent”, there was no place in it for anyone holding a view which did not concede the necessity of independence.

He claimed that no voters had been frightened off by foreign devils but the fact is they were terrified by the adolescent economics contained in Scotland’s Future White Paper.

Argentina before the Perons had a higher GNP than France but by the time they had finished it was a basket case and too many Scots suspected the same could happen under Mr Salmond.

Dr John Cameron. 10 Howard Place, St Andrews.

Why waste cash on Gaelic?

Sir, – Recently you reported a chronic shortage of teachers in Dundee.

Then we were told Dundee was likely to lose out on jobs when the V&A opens because of poor educational standards.

Now I read (August 21) that Dundee City Council, in spite of no demand, are to offer Gaelic education. The SNP area treating us with contempt.

RHL Mulheron. 28 Cowgate, Tayport.

Admit failings in education

Sir, – Nicola Sturgeon’s request that we judge her on her record of dealing with educational inequality was rather startling. This is because she wants Scots to judge her on her future performance, not the failings of her government since it came to power in 2007.

The most recent data from UCAS shows that the number of Scottish school leavers due to enter university from the most deprived households has risen by 0.1% this year to just 9.7%. In England the proportion increased by 0.5% to 17%. Scotland is lagging far behind and the gap is widening.

Ms Sturgeon’s government has tried to tackle this problem not by employing more teachers (there are 4000 fewer) or by increasing the grant for the poorest Scots (they cut it), but by having the universities set themselves targets.

The problem universities face in meeting these targets is that there is simply not the supply of good students from deprived backgrounds to enable them to be met.

Universities are, therefore, forced to accept students from poor backgrounds who do not meet the normal entry standard.

As an academic who runs one of the UK’s top engineering programmes, I know of courses in Scotland with empty places reserved for students from poor backgrounds that don’t exist, while those Scots who exceed the entry standard are being turned away.

This is not progress but it is the record Ms Sturgeon must be judged on. There is no easy or cheap solution to closing the attainment gap in Scotland.

The first step in solving the problem we face, however, must be for Ms Sturgeon’s SNP Government to be honest about their lamentable record in office.

Dr Scott Arthur. 27 Buckstone Gardens, Edinburgh.

Value in family of nations

Sir, – George White is correct in his observations (August 18).

There is resentment among people who aren’t SNP supporters. Since half Scotland’s voters in last May’s election did not vote for the SNP, our anxieties ought to be understandable.

Deep divisions remain because the referendum about turning our country into a new state was promoted in ways that were divisive and dishonest.

Most dissenters were appalled at the prospect of erecting a boundary between ourselves and our families, friends and colleagues.

I don’t want to be made a foreigner in my own country, nor do many millions of Scots want that forced upon them.

Like many others, I respect our neighbours, and value our commercial, cultural and legal unity and which the SNP would have us abandon. I respect and support the analysis of the Bank of England that the joint use of the pound is incompatible with the economic autonomy the SNP proposes.

The continuing crises in the European Union illustrate the difficulties we would face.

As the trading price of oil sinks well below half the level the SNP asked us to rely on, we are reminded of the gambles that party would have us take with our future.

I see all these observations as entirely positive for Scotland in a union that has opened up great opportunities for us in a family of nations.

Andrew Dundas. 34 Ross Avenue, Perth.

In line for trip to St Andrews

Sir, – I have always admired the enthusiasm of the St Andrews rail link campaigners who have battled for so long to have the line reinstated.

It is such a pity that since the closure in 1969, various developments have encroached on the original track bed thus eliminating the possibility of the railway entering the former station, which was so ideally suited for the town centre and local bus connections.

All the re-opened lines in Scotland have been successful but some, like St Andrews and the Borders (north of Hawick) should never have been closed at the stroke of a pen by someone who had possibly never been on a train. But that is politics.

I travelled on the last train to St Andrews, so hopefully, I might be on the next one.

John McDonald, 14 Rosebery Court, Kirkcaldy.

Will heads roll over V&A costs?

Sir, – So a catalogue of mismanagement of the V&A project has led to the cost of it virtually doubling.

Those responsible are still refusing to be transparent about the cost of enforcing the McClelland recommendations.

We are told planners and councillors picked an elite building design despite having budgeted to do the project on the cheap.

So whose head, or heads, are to roll because of what has been a deception of the taxpayer?

We will be told lessons have been learned but then cost will probably treble by the end of the project.

What do the taxpayers, local and national, feel about this?

What do the other stakeholders feel, for example, the two universities supporting the scheme?

I want the whole waterfront project to be a raging success but I have more than a sneaking feeling that once the project had started, those who should have been in control of the costs were very happy to sit back, knowing full well that no one would be wanting it to be abandoned once we had started seeing it go up.

Mona Clark. 9 Millbay Terrace, Dundee.