Questionable motives for Gordon Brown’s think-tank - Readers' Letters

The purpose of Our Scottish Future, the think-tank set up by Gordon Brown, is to “set out a progressive agenda for change”. In familiar fashion, Brown’s call to his fellow Scots is that we listen to each other – “the division cannot go on”.

Gordon Brown has set up the Our Scottish Future think-tank
Gordon Brown has set up the Our Scottish Future think-tank

The public face seems to be constructive dialogue on our constitutional future so it is puzzling that publications to date are all criticisms of the Scottish Government’s response to Covid. The latest on vaccination (Scotsman, 13 January) accepts at face-value the usual UK boasting in advance about targets. Not quite “moon-shots” and “world-beating”, but we are told that the UK vaccination strategy is “highly successful”.

This is an impossible claim to make at this very early stage; strategies are only successful if implemented and can only be judged by results. Somehow, it can be claimed that Scotland is “behind”.

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The think-tank also claims that Scotland has “struggled” with Covid compared to other countries. Indeed, it has been a struggle, but the current prevalence rate in England is twice that of Scotland and the total death rate is 40 per cent higher in England. I know where I’d rather be living.

An impartial “think-tank” might want to enquire about Scotland’s better performance on the fundamental measures and what lessons can be learned by the rest of the UK. That won’t happen as this is obviously a pro-union front organisation engaged in political campaigning against the SNP Government ahead of the May elections.

Robert Farquharson

Lee Crescent, Edinburgh

Why so secretive?

News that Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, called Gordon Brown’s political think-tank’s findings on Covid testing false, as they confused incidence with prevalence in their methodology which implied that Northern Ireland had a detection rate higher than 100 per cent, raises serious questions about this secretive grouping.

Our Scottish Future was set up by the failed Prime Minister Gordon Brown to oppose Scottish self-government but all its recent press releases are designed to undermine confidence in Scotland’s much better Covid performance which has resulted in half the number of cases per hundred thousand of population compared to any other part of the UK and fewer deaths.

The secretive Our Scottish Future doesn’t publish who is part of the group other than Companies House revealing that Professor Jim Gallagher, who is also a member of the Scotland in Union advisory board, owns 75 per cent of the share capital but to date no accounts have been lodged.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Trump card

It is reported that an American plane is booked to land at Prestwick Airport on 19 January. I think Nicola Sturgeon should announce the immediate closure of Prestwick until further notice for essential repairs and maintenance.

Colin McAllister

South Street, St Andrews

Music matters

The letter from Urbanist Hotels ("Old Royal High”, 13 January) completely ignores what has happened over the past ten years. I think many people will, like us, feel frustrated that the developers continue to choose to disregard the overwhelming support for the music school on the site of the Old Royal High School in Edinburgh.

Urbanist has wasted £5 million promoting their failed hotel scheme, but not a penny of this has gone on the building. No wonder they are desperate to keep some kind of hold on the site to try to recover this wasted investment. And let’s remember, it is their failure to deliver on their promises which has led to the building being held hostage to increasing decay for over ten years.

In terms of the Royal High School Preservation Trust's (RHSPT) funding they know perfectly well that the funding is in place, in the form of a cash deposit held by Dunard Fund. By contrast, the city has no such guarantees from the hotel developers, whose original partner, Rosewood, has walked away. So, they offer nothing other than vague promises.

The Idea that their proposal was better for the building Is risible. The RHSPT scheme had the support of every major heritage stakeholder, Including Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association, the Scottish Civic Trust, the New Town and Broughton Community Council and the city's own planning and listed building department. It was unanimously granted consent by the planning committee.

The fact is, if asked to proceed, we have everything in place to create a new cultural asset for the city and its residents, with public gardens and concert facilities, at no public cost. This latest desperate attempt to maintain a hold on a building against a backdrop of nearly ten years of failure would be laughable if It wasn't so depressingly predictable.

William Gray Muir

Chair, Royal High School Preservation Trust, c/o Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Pots and kettles

I like Murdo Fraser. Amongst Conservatives MSPs and MPs, he is clearly one of the few more decent ones.

I can also understand his enjoyment of the current internecine nature of SNP internal politics. That said, I am unsure if he has a great, and wicked, sense of humour or has a big blind spot because he says in his conclusion to his column (Scotsman 13 January): “The lasting impression will be that we have a party headed by duplicitous charlatans who will lie and cheat their way to achieving their political objectives. That will be the real legacy of this sordid affair.”

Aye right: pots, kettles and black, spring to mind.

Robert O’RIordan

The Bents, Hill Road, Gullane

Covid beds

The National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, is quoted (Scotsman, 13 January) as saying: “Last winter we had 13,000 beds and no Covid; this winter we have 13,000 beds and Covid.” Is he really saying that since the Scottish Government knew about Covid at the beginning of last year steps haven’t been taken to increase the available capacity we have now? Why isn’t he referencing the NHS Louisa Jordan which was surely created for this very situation? Why are patients being turned away from hospitals located elsewhere in Glasgow?

This combined with the slow rollout of vaccines and the failure to address the challenges with the poor performance of track and trace in Scotland are further examples of the inept way in which the Scottish Government has handled and is handling this pandemic.

The responsibility rests with Nicola Sturgeon. She’s not showing she is up to the task so far. Voters in May (or hopefully a more sensible later date) should take note.

J Lewis

Wilfrid Terrace, Edinburgh

Vaccine delays

I am not sure if I can believe my eyes reading a report (Scotsman, January 13) that because of a "possible delay in the creation of a national booking system" mass vaccination centres are not expected to open until 15 February! Is this government so dilatory that only now is it thinking of setting up a booking system? If this is true it is a national disgrace.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman was proclaiming in November that a million Scots would be vaccinated by the end of January. Did it not occur to her then – if not before – that maybe some system for arranging the delivery of vaccines might be an idea?

That target has gone the same way as the SNP's usual targets – down the drain. Even the revised target of 560,000 is unlikely to be met – not surprisingly given the scandalous lack of preparation.

We have known for weeks that approved vaccines were on the way. A government which mysteriously continues to earn plaudits for the handling of the crisis clearly does not know the meaning of the word "proactive".

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Majority rule

It is noteworthy that the attempts to impeach Donald Trump for a second time again require a two-thirds majority to proceed. In fact, any major constitutional change in the USA requires that same two-thirds margin.

I have thought about this. As we are engulfed by continual nationalist calls for more referendums to break up the UK, surely there is now an answer. Let us adopt this two-thirds majority for any constitutional change in this country also. It is more than fair, given the magnitude of the proposed change of separating a centuries-old union. It would give an almost unarguable majority to the winners, who could proceed with clear consciences.

However, I feel that this idea may go down like a lead balloon in nationalist circles.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Rail danger

You report trains speeding through the area where a landslip caused a fatal Aberdeenshire accident at more than double the speed limit imposed to prevent a recurrence (Scotsman, January 8).

This is a serious lapse. I would not stick to admonishing the drivers – who used to see on the trackside an illuminated sign giving advance warning of such a speed restriction, then another at the start of the limited speed section, then another at the termination of the restriction. Those systems have evolved over many decades after previous accidents to make the railway safer and safer, and are "modernised” at our peril.

Who has suddenly decided they can do without this and merely put a notice up in drivers' signing-on points? I'm not sure I would absorb every bit of officialdom at 5am on a winter morning.

Yes, some advanced in-cab signalling systems can display speed limit changes, and even stop the train over-speeding but there is no suggestion these are fully installed here. To put it another way, would you be happy to have the speed limit signs taken down around your town or village and replaced with notices in lorry drivers' canteens hundreds of miles away?

Benedict le Vay

North Street, Emsworth, Hants


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