The Scottish Government's own efficiency has been called into question over the handling of the new £45million Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES). An estimated 180,000 beef cows from 2000 Scottish farmers have been enrolled in the new five-year scheme which aims to improve the efficiency and quality of the beef herd and help producers increase the genetic value of their stock. But months after signing up for the scheme, farmers are still waiting to be supplied with special tags to meet the rules which call for 'tissue tagging' of 20% of cattle. And now NFU Scotland's livestock chairman Charlie Adam says farmers' confidence in the scheme is being affected and has called for the rules to be adjusted. The union has also urged the Scottish Government to update all scheme applicants on progress with BES and let them know when the necessary tags will arrive. “If tag delays cannot be resolved in the immediate future, then the Scottish Government should recognise the problem and make the tissue tagging element voluntary for 2016. This will allow those who can take samples from the animals that they still own to do so," said Mr Adam. “Applicants to this important scheme, worth £45 million to the industry, have every right to know now, and in detail, what they are expected to do to fulfil their BES obligations and Scottish Government must get back on the front foot in delivering the scheme.” Mr Adam added that it was frustrating for the farmers who have already housed and handled their cattle for the winter as many of those animals were by now located in overwintering accommodation that can be some distance from home farms. Shadow Rural Economy secretary, Peter Chapman MSP claimed it was impossible for farmers to sell store cattle in the autumn sales until they were told which animals need tagged and were sent the tags to do the job. He added: "This will create huge cash flow and logistic problems for farmers who normally sell calves at this time – this is the SNP letting farmers down yet again.” A Scottish Government spokesman said work was under way to rectify the problem and a timetable was expected by the end of the week. He added: "It is not necessary for farmers to hold off from selling their animals. "We will ensure that the sampling regime accommodates those farmers who have sold their calves and there will be no penalties for those whoo have. It may mean that some farmers will have a higher rate of sampling next year." firstname.lastname@example.org
This morning's letters look at the River Tay beavers and wildlife management, taxation, fuel prices, and road safety in Fife. Lessons we can learn from River Tay beavers Sir,-I read with interest your article 'Call for halt to beaver damage' (April 6) regarding the acceleration of beaver damage on the lower River Earn, reported to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) by an angler. As with other wildlife, most notably deer, whether the felled trees are viewed as damage or not is only really the concern of the landowner involved. SNH maintain that it is legal for landowners to kill or remove beavers if they deem it necessary so, officially, there is no problem here. If the landowner thinks he has a problem, SNH say he can do something about it. Others will dispute this and the legal position does require to be clarified. This is why the River Tay beavers are important. They will force us to address these issues much sooner than the official Scottish Government reintroduction of beavers into Argyll and everyone will benefit from that, whatever their views on beavers might be. There is little point in calling for a halt to the beaver damage as the Tay beavers do not read The Courier. What we need is a pragmatic approach from government to this issue which allows us to learn how these animals will interact with other land uses and provides landowners with a workable mechanism for dealing with problem situations. Ultimately, all our wildlife should be managed locally according to local circumstances and sensitivities, not by a centralised quango in Inverness. Scottish Natural Heritage are all over the place on this issue and do not have the answers. We will have to look elsewhere for those. Victor Clements.1 Crieff Road,Aberfeldy. Victorian species cull Sir,-I agree in part with Eric McVicar's letter (April 5) about culling non-indigenous species but he shows a severe lack of knowledge in some areas. For example, beavers are a native species, as are bears and wolves. The absence of these animals is solely down to Victorian bloodlust, which saw the eradication of a vast number of species worldwide simply to amuse bored aristocrats. This has left us with a red deer population held on estates causing genetic diversity issues and out of control numbers, due to the lack of natural predators. I believe he is referring to Japanese knotweed, not Japanese hogweed. If Mr McVicar is a teacher then I fear for his pupils as he seems to be giving out wrong information and failing to teach them to check their facts. (Mr) J. Phillip.3 Lyninghills,Forfar. March of indirect taxation Sir,-Your editorial (April 5) and related article on the launch of the Scottish Conservative election manifesto for Holyrood misses an important fact. The fees or graduate contribution to the sum of £4000 is for every year of study. Parents and students can do the maths. Common sense it may be for Conservatives but, for those affected, it will feel very much like indirect taxation much favoured, as many of your readers will recall, by the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s. Iain Anderson.41 West End,St Monans. Motorists need fuel transparency Sir,-We were conned in the Budget last month. The petrol companies had predicted the one penny reduction and had already upped the price by three or four pence. So is it now possible for the UK Government to do two specific things to regain some credibility? First tell the fuel retailers to instantly removed the ridiculous 0.99 they tag on at the end of their main price and, second, make it a rule to give the displayed price per gallon and not per litre. After all, cars in particular are sold with predicted miles per gallon consumption (admittedly often optimistic) not miles per litre. And if motorists were to see immediately the true cost of fuel for their car, instead of ridiculously having to multiply the litre price by 4.546 to find out, they would most certainly be more cautious with their travels and work a lot harder at reducing petrol/diesel consumption. Having been conned a few weeks ago, vehicle owners are surely entitled to some honesty now. Ian Wheeler.Springfield,Cupar. Wind farm risk to road users Sir,-I feel compelled to reply to your article regarding Fife's fatal road crashes. With 10 out of 13 fatal crashes in 2010 happening on rural roads, the most common contributory factor given in your article was failure to observe the road properly. My concerns are related to the plans submitted to Fife Council for the giant wind turbines on Clatto Hill. The road that runs adjacent to the proposed site is the C30. This rural road demands your full attention and concentration while driving in either direction. With the road being narrow, it requires even medium-sized cars to slow down or pull in when passing. The road has several vertical crests and sharp vertical curvatures which would make the turbines appear suddenly then disappear just as quickly. As this road has seen many accidents over a number of years, this would surely add another driving distraction to an already dangerous road. Norman Moodie.Craigview,Clatto Farm,Cupar. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to email@example.com or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.
Theatre producer and nightclub founder Sybil Christopher, the woman Richard Burton left to marry Elizabeth Taylor, has died at 83. Welsh-born Ms Christopher was Sybil Burton when Burton, her first husband, left her for Taylor in 1963. She left California for New York, where she opened a nightclub in 1965 with backing from famous friends like Julie Andrews and Leonard Bernstein. The club, called Arthur, became a celebrity hangout and turned Ms Christopher into a post-divorce success story. She married Jordan Christopher, the lead singer of the club’s house band, in 1966. Ms Christopher founded the Bay Street Theatre in 1991 with two partners and was its artistic director for 22 years. Ms Christopher, who is survived by three daughters, including actress Kate Burton, died in New York City.
Sir, It was good to read about the passionate ambassadors we have in the city. People who broadcast far and wide the virtues of Dundee, and rightly so. But anyone with more than two brain cells knows this is a great place to live. It’s built on one of the greatest rivers in Europe with more green spaces than any city I know and there is easy access to the finest glens and ski resorts in Britain. All positive points as long as you are employed and can afford to enjoy them. Try telling the hundreds of teenagers in this city how wonderful it really is; the ones who have little or no chance of securing any type of future in this fantastic place to live. Scotland’s greatest export has always been its young blood and all the V&A projects and waterfront developments will not make the slightest difference in stemming that flow. What this incredible city of ours needs is simply employment and no amount of back-slapping is going to cure that. Yes these projects will bring some employment to the lucky few but not to the hundreds. Look around without the rose-tinted glasses. We have some of the worst poverty in Scotland. Not easy to be passionate about spending £50,000,000 on a museum when you are living on £80 a week. Instead, let us be passionate about bringing employment to Discovery City, then we can all go and enjoy looking at Van Gogh’s art world. Bill Duthie. 25 St Fillans Road, Dundee. Not all genetic modificationis bad Sir, Sorry to burst Christopher Trotter’s bubble (Letters, January 21), but while the sarpo variety of potato showed good resistance to the strain of blight around at the time of its development, it isn’t doing so well against the current form of blight which has mutated five or six times since. This is why I am in favour of genetic modification, cisgenic rather than transgenic, which allows new varieties of potato to be brought to market volumes much more quickly than the traditional methods. Cisgenic is simply breeding potatoes with other potatoes much more quickly than watching what does well in the field and crossing them. Transgenic is the stupid stuff like introducing octopus genes to potatoes to make them waterproof. Not all genetic modification is bad. Neal Robertson. Tannochbrae Tearoom, Auchtermuchty. What a boon it would be Sir, The present airport is physically unable to expand to cater for increased traffic from budget airlines and holiday companies as well as national operators. There is, however, only a few miles away, a splendid, all-weather runway which has had many millions of tax payers’ money lavished on it in recent years. I refer, of course, to RAF Leuchars. Even if the RAF do not move out as planned it was not unknown in the past to have joint-user airfields operating successfully. Looking at the satellite images of the airfield on the internet it appears that there is plenty of scope for the infrastructure required. What a boon it would be for the population of Tayside and Fife to have it. John A Dorward. 89 Brechin Road, Arbroath. Real feelgood factor Sir, Since the London Olympics I have been hearing about and reading about the feelgood factor almost constantly. Could someone please tell me exactly what that means? Is it a phrase that has been coined by those same people who call anyone who won any colour of medal at the games (Brits only, of course), a hero? Their level of fitness and dedication to their chosen sport may be worthy of admiration, but come on, they are not heroes. What is heroic about rowing a boat, cycling round in circles, or throwing various shaped objects further than anyone else? My definition of a feelgood factor would be energy companies cutting household bills by half; a couple of quid off the price of a gallon of petrol; politicians stopping treating us like idiots, or given the recent weather, seeing a bit of sunshine occasionally. It would certainly not be the aftermath of some games that most people couldn’t afford to see ... even if they wanted to. T Tolland. East Park Cottage, Braidestone, Meigle. We need the clout of the UK Sir, The current situation in Algeria which involved a number of Scots being held hostage by terrorists leads me to wonder how Alex Salmond and his party would handle such a situation in an independent Scotland. It is only last year that they agreed to maintain membership of NATO so some aid may be available on that front, but his vision of a peaceful nation where everyone is Scotland’s ally is far from the truth when you have a nation of people who travel worldwide in search of work. We need the back-up of the UK Government to help in the war against terrorism. Willie Robertson. Forest Park Cottage, Lynton, Stanley. The choiceis simple Sir, With regard to Scotland’s future, surely the choice for the Scottish electorate is a simple one:Do they want a backward looking ex-colonial power harbouring weapons of mass destruction, which deter no-one, or, do they want a country which makes education and medicine its priorities and seeks to improve the living standards of all its citizens? Joseph G Miller. 44 Gardeners Street, Dunfermline.
More than 2,000 US military personnel paused at a memorial service on Friday to remember four US air crew members who died in a helicopter crash. US Air Force (USAF) Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane and Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews were killed, along with their female colleague Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce when the Pave Hawk helicopter they were flying came down suddenly on marshland on the Norfolk coast earlier this month. Body armour, rifles and dog tags belonging to each crew member were on display as their fellow servicemen and women gathered at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.
Sir, As the RAF Ensign was lowered at the sunset ceremony at the last RAF Leuchars Airshow, well- informed observers and commentators would have seen the irony in one of the displays during the flying programme, namely the Quick Reaction Alert scramble of two Typhoons. With the planned move of air assets some 150 miles north to Lossiemouth, it is in danger of being renamed Delayed Reaction Alert or Diminished Reaction Alert as even travelling at a supersonic 660mph at, say, 35,000 feet, it is going to take the aircraft approximately 14 minutes to fly from Lossiemouth to Leuchars. RAF Leuchars QRA aircraft have been protecting British airspace for over six decades, with no complaints as to their ability to do so, and as a 9/11 style attack is probably the most likely threat to our airspace these days, it is very strange that these same aircraft will be asked to patrol our skies from Lossiemouth to protect us from rogue civilian aircraft that will be flying in air corridors over Britain, 95% of which are south of the Glasgow/Edinburgh corridor. It would appear that the politicians know they have got it wrong, but none are prepared to reverse the decision. The army are destined to come in 2015, even though rumour has it they don’t want to, as it is completely unsuitable for their needs the runway and its services are being retained for emergency diversions. The £240 million price tag for this folly seems steep, but when compared to the £1.5 billion which has reportedly been wasted by the MoD over the last two years, it doesn’t seem so bad. The taxpayer also gets to see £10.2 million wasted every year in increased training costs for the Typhoons, as they fly all the way back to Fife to practise in well-established training grounds just east of Dundee. The prime directive of government is to protect its citizens. Good defence is not determined by luck but by strategy, something the Government decided to leave out of their SDSR. Mark Sharp. 41 Norman View, Leuchars. Jenny’s got it wrong Sir, Jenny Hjul’s article (yesterday’s Courier) takes up the cudgels on behalf of “female exploitation” in lads’ mags. Jenny has got this one wrong, however. In cases of exploitation it is usually the end user, or purchaser, who is being “exploited” and these magazines are no different. The ladies whose images make up the content are being handsomely paid for being photographed, with their full consent, and the magazines’ proprietors are raking in the cash. Nobody is being exploited at that end of the trade, but it is the blokes who part with their cash to buy the mags who are being exploited. No, Jenny, it’s not male exploitation of women, but quite the reverse. It’s female exploitation of men for profit. It’s being going on since the beginning of time and trying to sound trendy by reversing the roles ain’t going to stop it. Vive le difference! (Captain) Ian F McRae. 17 Broomwell Gardens, Monikie. No Scottish jobs created Sir, The brief article re Seimens turbines arriving in Dundee docks should be of interest to readers. The SNP have consistently declared these monstrosities, which are destroying our beautiful landscape, create jobs. The reality is they are manufactured abroad, connected using foreign cables and do not create any Scottish jobs, courtesy of EU procurement rules. We all know the enthusiasm Mr Salmond has for the EU, so he is right in one respect. They do create jobs. For the Germans. However, they cost us all huge amounts in massive subsidies in our electricity bills. If, God forbid, we secure independence, we will have the euro thrust upon us, increasing cost even more. Iain Cathro. 31 Ferndale Drive, Dundee. Slipping into a ‘dark age’? Sir “Humans have stopped evolving” (The Courier Tuesday, September 10). This statement by Sir David Attenborough may be the most significant of his career and deserves to be taken very seriously by governments around the world. Should he be correct, and there is much evidence to indicate he is, then we are already in regression and slipping into a “Dark Age”. Perhaps it is now time for ad hoc “think tanks” to formulate strategic global plans for the way ahead . . . taking into account the objectives and aspirations of all good people before it is too late! Kenneth Miln. 22 Fothringham Drive, Monifieth. A great day all round Sir, Having been an outspoken critic of the traffic and parking management in the past, I must now congratulate all concerned with last Saturday’s air show. In light of the number of people attending, getting on site was, for us, a breeze. The show was excellent even though the Vulcan and red nine (only eight red arrows some shapes just didn’t work!) were sorely missed. Even the weather held up. a great day all round. Marcia Wright. 19 Trinity Road, Brechin.
Marin Cilic has been suspended for nine months after testing positive for a banned stimulant, ruling him out until February 1, the International Tennis Federation has announced. The Croatian’s doping violation came when he tested positive for nikethamide a stimulant at the BMW Open in Munich in May. The 24-year-old’s ban was backdated to May 1, the date on which he provided the sample, to end at midnight on January 31. The sample was sent to a laboratory in Montreal for analysis, where it was found to contain nikethamide, a prohibited substance. Cilic was subsequently charged over the doping violation under Article 2.1 although he argued the banned substance was in his system after taking Coramine glucose tablets that had been purchased for him from a pharmacy. A statement from the ITF read: “The independent tribunal found that Mr Cilic ingested the nikethamide inadvertently as a result of taking the Coramine glucose tablets, and did not intend to enhance his performance in doing so, and that he, therefore, met the preconditions of article 10.4 of the programme, which entitles him to a reduction of the period of ineligibility for specified substance based on an assessment of his fault.” As well as the ban “it was also determined that Mr Cilic’s results at the 2013 BMW Open event should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that he won at those events. “Mr Cilic’s results subsequent to the BMW Open, up to the time that he accepted a voluntary provisional suspension, are also disqualified and the ranking points and prize money forfeited.” Following the BMW Open, Cilic was knocked out of the French Open in the third round by Viktor Troicki, who coincidentally was banned in July for 18 months for failing to provide a blood sample. He then reached the final at Queen’s where he lost to Andy Murray before withdrawing from Wimbledon, where he was seeded 10th, prior to his second-round match.
Today's letters to The Courier. Howff gravestone appeal fell on deaf earsSir,-One could almost feel the pride throughout J.J. Marshall's column about Morgan Academy, Dundee. What a pity he, and all the other former pupils, are not prepared to do something about the Morgan gravestone in the Howff. Some nine years ago The Nine Trades found it in a disgraceful state. They spent a great deal of money having new pillars cut and the stone repaired and replaced. The stone, however, needs the inscription re-cut. We obtained a quote of some £1300 for the work and committed the sum of £300 to start things off. Despite repeated pleas, often in your paper, for money to make up the balance, we have only had one response, a cheque from one grateful past pupil for £40. So much for the great pride Morgan pupils have in their old school. Work that out at a cost per proud pupil and it is less than a loaf of bread. Some pride. Innes A. Duffus.Dundee.Law Society stayed quietSir,-It must be really demoralising for law students, especially graduates trying to complete their articles and many still seeking employment, to see their profession being further denigrated. I would have thought that, even with its blemishes, the Scottish Law Society would be more than capable of dealing with any criminal case or human rights issue without any outside intervention. Whether politics were involved or not, I remember in 2009 the lord chancellor was one of the main instigators of the Supreme Court. At that time only three High Court judges from Scotland were appointed. With an issue proving so important to our nation, was there even a murmur at any level from the Scottish Law Society? In a constantly changing world perhaps now is the time for a re-appraisal of the Law Society and its role. James M. Fraser.39 High Street,Leven.Pension grumbles overstatedSir,-This morning's editorial (June 29) was spot on when it claimed the public-sector pension issue should have been addressed by the Labour government in 2005 when they memorably funked it. Increased longevity makes impossible continuance of an unreformed system. A 3% increase in contributions and a retirement age of 66 is not the end of the world. The professions tend to overestimate the income they will need in retirement and my kirk pension of £12,000 after 35 years, plus my state pension, has proved fine. My medical brothers received over four times that amount and retirement at 60 but I found the closing years before retirement at just past 65 the most rewarding of my entire career. As long as the poorer-paid public sector workers are protected, I think the better-off professionals with school fees and mortgages long past should keep a grip on reality. (Dr) John Cameron.10 Howard Place,St Andrews. Not the saviours they pretendSir,-The SNP's Alex Orr (June 27) is right to highlight Scotland's marginally better public spending deficit as compared to the UK generally, but at least the Westminster government has acknowledged the need to get it under control. However, the SNP wants to see a Scotland with fiscal policies like slashed corporation tax, significantly reduced fuel duty and tax breaks for favoured sectors such as computer games. The SNP is clearly reluctant to raise income tax or council taxes, or to impose a windfall tax on oil companies. But it makes lavish spending commitments. It surely ill behoves the Nationalists to favourably compare Scotland's deficit to that of the UK. No wonder the SNP is so keen for Scotland to have borrowing powers. Mr Orr highlights the role of oil revenues in an independent Scotland. But this merely underlines yet another future drain on Scotland's public purse, namely the subsidy-hungry renewables industry. There would also be a stealth tax in the form of rocketing energy bills. The SNP's attempts to depict themselves as the planet's environmental saviours, while at the same time portraying oil as the key to Scotland's future, shows that the party wants to have its renewables cake and eat it. Stuart Winton.Hilltown,Dundee. Fairtrade status undermined Sir,-I note with interest your article (June 28) about Scotland being on course to become the world's second Fair Trade nation. Having been on the original working group which helped set up the Scottish Fair Trade Forum back in 2006, I think it would be wonderful to see this goal being achieved. Dundee became a Fairtrade City in March 2004, the first in Scotland, but this status needs to be renewed. That is currently under threat because, unlike other local authorities, Dundee City Council does not automatically provide Fairtrade catering for meetings. It would be a great shame if Scotland's Fair Trade nation accolade were denied because its first Fairtrade city lost its status. Sally Romilly.4 Westwood Terrace,Newport-on-Tay. Leuchars still at riskSir,-The fact that the MoD has spent millions on RAF Leuchars is no guarantee of saviour. Remember that a new hangar complex was built for rescue helicopters of 22 Squadron, only for the RAF to disband the flight. Stephen Pickering.19 Abbey Court,St Andrews.
St Andrews University has honoured one of Britain’s most loved comedians at a graduation ceremony. Terry Jones, a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters in front of scores of International Relations graduates on Tuesday. Dr Chris Jones, who presented the honorary degree, said: “Monty Python changed British society fundamentally forever with its irreverent, anarchically surreal and iconoclastically anti-authoritarian humour that has given us so many catchphrases and images, now engrained in our culture. “Python is sometimes said to be to comedy what the Beatles were to pop music, and Jones is acknowledged, by the other members of the group, to be at the very heart of Monty Python.” Alongside his television success, Mr Jones has also had a successful career as a writer, penning a revolutionary reanalysis of Chaucer’s A Knights Tale, as well as The War on the War on Terror, a collection of articles attacking US intervention in the Middle East. Professor Christopher Brown CBE, an art historian, was also given an honorary degree at the ceremony. Professor Brown transformed the Ashmolean museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, while also being renowned as an expert on 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art. Presenting the honorary degree, Art History Professor Brendan Cassidy, said: “Christopher Brown has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to British cultural life and to scholarship. “He is not only one of the most distinguished and successful museum directors of his generation but also the pre-eminent British authority on Dutch and Flemish art of the 17th century.”
A group of parliamentarians plans to lodge a legal appeal in an attempt to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.The politicians believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally stop the UK leaving the EU if the final Brexit deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They want a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 can be halted by the UK on its own, without prior consent of the other 27 EU member states.The group took its fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but on Tuesday Judge Lord Doherty turned down a bid to have a full hearing on whether to refer the question to the Luxembourg Court, ruling the issue is “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.Now campaigners have announced plans to appeal against his ruling to the Inner House of the Court of Session.Two of the original group of seven have withdrawn – the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine – while director of the Good Law Project, Jo Maugham QC, which has backed the crowdfunded legal action, has been added.The remaining five members are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.In a statement, Mr Maugham said they believe the judge’s decision was “flawed”.He added: “Establishing that, alongside the political route to revocability there is a legal route, is vital in the national interest.“If Parliament chooses not to withdraw the Article 50 notice then no harm is done by asking now the question whether it has that right.“But if Parliament does come to want to withdraw the notice, knowing it has the right to do so serves the national interest.“It improves the bargaining position of the UK, it ensures we retain the opt-outs and rebates that we presently enjoy, and it places the decision entirely in the hands of the UK’s Parliament and – if it chooses – its people.”Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”