Highlands and Islands can’t be left behind - Readers' Letters

Kenneth Mackenzie (Letters, 3 December) raises some fundamental questions concerning the future funding for the Highland and Islands area in the post-Brexit era.

The economic development of the HIghlands and Islands has taken a backwards step in recent years.
The economic development of the HIghlands and Islands has taken a backwards step in recent years.

History can teach us a lesson in this respect. The creation of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in 1965 provided a focus for local investment which was controlled and monitored from its base in Inverness.

There is strong historical evidence that the Board had a major economic impact on the communities and businesses of the area at that time and this was largely attributed to the organisation being close to its roots and staffed by people from the Highland and Islands who fully understood the needs and requirements of their local communities. The organisation also received its share of the UK Barnett formula.

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The successor body to HIDB, in the form of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, provided a different model through a series of local enterprise companies covering the area .The emphasis again was on local knowledge and delivery with the Head Office hub continuing to be based in Inverness.Though the model was far from perfect and came in for a lot of criticism it continued to provide a strong representative voice for the views of those communities and businesses in the Highlands and Islands.

The move towards centralised control and resource funding under the auspices of Scottish Enterprise has done much to denude the Highland and Islands area of critical investment and local input at a time when it is most needed. Coupled with a gradual erosion of funding in real terms over the last few years it has resulted in a backward step in the economic development and social needs of the area.

One can only hope that the post-Brexit period and the decisions taken will open up opportunities to reset the unfair resource balance experienced by those businesses and communities throughout the Highland and Islands who have felt somewhat forgotten and ignored in recent times.

DG McIntyre

Davidsons Mains, Edinburgh

End of an era

Peter Alliss, the Voice of Golf, has been silenced. His death at 89 has ended a golfing era when particular commentators could command the centre stage when players on the course left a lot to be desired.

Peter Alliss was perceptive, witty and at times irreverent but that's what endeared many viewers to him. Commentating on a dreich British Open at St Andrews, Peter Alliss, by his illustrative comments, could bring a ray of sunshine into an event which otherwise would have had viewers turning off.

He was an excellent golfer but found his niche when he took to the microphone and opened up his audience to a more interesting world of golf. I was saddened when the BBC moved from live golf to highlights and could never capture the drama of instant viewing.

The likes of golfing greats such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will never be forgotten but surely Peter Alliss should be considered in the same breath. Many lesser sportsmen and media commentators have received a knighthood. Why not Peter Alliss?

Bob MacDougall

Oxhill, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Oldest swingers

I was a spotty-faced youth learning to play golf when Peter Alliss, in winning more than 20 professional tournaments, was becoming an English golfing legend, so when he eventually turned to golf commentating I naturally followed this career change with great interest.

As one would expect, he was completely knowledgable about his subject but his style of presentation was in complete contrast to that of his rather dull predecessor, Henry Longhurst. Alliss managed to inject a dry sense of humour into his commentary and was never slow to stray from the subject matter when the occasion warranted.

I remember once when the television camera caught on view an elderly couple who were holding hands and walking through some trees on the golf course. Alliss, quite spontaneously, murmured in a soft and seductive tone: "Come, my dear. Let's go the pretty way." Absolutely hilarious!

Robin Whike

Craigmount Park, Edinburgh

Loss of privileges

Barnardo's website has offered a guide for parents on how to explain white privilege to their children and what "everyday white privilege" looks like (Scotsman, 7 December).

This can only be described as political activism. As Tory MP Esyher McVey said: "Yet another charity more obsessed with political correctness and virtue signalling than actually helping people in need".

The monthly direct debit and the Christmas lump sum our family gives will now be stopped and the money and the donation of goods given to another children's charity. An outstanding example of shooting oneself in the foot.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Flag waving

The article by Brian Wilson "Please let Covid vaccines stay free of SNP's manufactured grievances" (Scotsman, 5 December) ends with this statement: "Can the vaccine, a product of scientific genius, not politics, now be described in Scotland, as elsewhere, without flag-waving manufactured grievance.”

Meanwhile, "elsewhere", the UK Prime Minister has likened the authorisation of the vaccine in Britain to the victory at Waterloo. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, says that this has happened because Britain is a better country than the French, Belgians and the Americans. The leader of the house in Westminster, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock and the Secretary for Business and Science, Alok Sharma have all falsely claimed that the authorisation was rapidly carried out because the UK was out of the EU and didn't have to follow EU procedures. A claim flatly contradicted by the head of the MHRA, Dr June Raine. Finally, and particularly pertinent to Brian Wilson's concerns, the UK Government suggested the Astra/Zeneca vaccine produced by an international team at Oxford University be branded with the Union flag.

Here, before the vaccination programme has even started, in a move which could seriously undermine the credibility of the new vaccine, the Scottish Torres have put out a tweet referencing a story in a tabloid newspaper which predicts that the programme could be a shambles.

The story quotes a WHO "official" who turns out to be an ex junior member of staff now working for a think tank founded by Mr Wilson's old friend Gordon Brown.

That's the kind of information a columnist should be producing and Brian Wilson could contribute it if he could occasionally move on from his implacable antipathy for the SNP.

Gill Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Own goals

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed our men's and women's international football teams and the international rugby team compete at a high level. In the case of the football teams, qualification for the next stages to finals was at stake and the rugby team had a chance to qualify for the final or at least secure third place in the competition.

Sadly, none of them achieved their goals, but the players deserve our respect and admiration. There will be other opportunities in the future to play with our heart strings and, on occasion, thrill us and exceed all realistic (realism being a rarity) expectation. World rankings rarely lie. 'Twas ever thus and 'twill ever be.

Our international football association has its independence, as has the Scottish Rugby Union. They have their freedom. We compete and we are where we are. Does this microcosm not indicate that independence is not a panacea? At least they are only playing a game and not materially and permanently adversely affecting lives and livelihoods. It is fair to play sport with the heart, but not one's very existence.

Fraser MacGregor

Liberton Drive, Edinburgh

Fan the flames

As the UK and EU struggle on to try to achieve a deal, one should remember that it was not long ago that Boris Johnson told us: "That oven-ready deal I talked about so much during the election campaign has already had its plastic covering pierced and been placed in the microwave."

Despite these assurances, this has proven yet again to be another untruth in Mr Johnson’s ever-growing back catalogue. A no deal, which remains a strong option, will mean deeper economic pain and disruption, and will, at least according to the EU's calculation, simply put off a scenario where he will have to sign up to an even worse deal.

Despite such a fragile situation, the UK Government is this week intent on fanning the flames and pushing ahead with the Internal Market Bill, which breaks international law and seeks to allow ministers to override the Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU.

Mr Johnson may have claimed to have an “oven-ready” deal, but he clearly forgot to switch the oven on.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road, Edinburgh

Medical evidence

Leah Gunn Barrett (Letters, 7 December) extols the performance of the NHS in Scotland compared to England. If current arrangements work so well, it is hard to see them as evidence supporting constitutional change.

Scotland spends more on the NHS; I remember that when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown massively increased health expenditure in England, so much money came to Scotland as a Barnet consequential that the Scottish Government spent some of it on non-health items.

And it is quite mistaken to allege that the NHS in Scotland could be sold; ever since it was established by its own Act of Parliament it has been under very firm Scottish political governance; there is no need 'to take back control', to use the Brexiteer slogan, because it already exists to the full.

Hugh Pennington

Carlton Place, Aberdeen