Reader's Letters: Let's all agree to disagree

There are a few very high profile examples of the ‘Odd Couple Phenomenon’ that might offer us a hope to tackle the polarisation that has become toxic in politics and wider society.

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were cinema's Odd Couple
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were cinema's Odd Couple

In the UK most people were shocked when Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness became known as the "Chuckle Brothers” as First and Deputy Ministers on Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly, and contributing greatly to the fragile and ongoing peace journey in Northern Ireland.

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg reminds us of the friendship she had with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, with the parties coming from opposite ends of the Liberal and Conservative divide.*

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Are we open to learn lessons from these relationships which turned into friendships? What could be achieved and avoided if our leaders would learn to disagree agreeably?

While we are naturally tribal that does not give us licence to disrespect those who hold different or even opposite ideas.

Another Harvard Professor, Arthur Brooks, claims that arguing is natural, necessary and healthy but when it degenerates into contempt it becomes toxic and there is always a very high price to pay, for us all.

On the social and spiritual front the appointment of Lord Jim Wallace, a former and highly respected politician as the next Moderator of the Church of Scotland might be an opportunity for that institution to bring a new model of friendship into wider society.

Gavin Cargill, Edinburgh Road, Linlithgow

Goodwill needed

Malcolm Bruce, writing in Scottish Perspective (27 October), talks about the UK Government abandoning or accepting constructive amendments to the Internal Market Bill, which with "goodwill" will enable devolved competences to be respected.

While he has some laudable objectives, surely he must be aware that there is no prospect whatsoever that these will be achieved under our present constitutional set-up, exactly because of the lack of goodwill and respect which has become increasingly apparent since the Brexit referendum.

Ironically, goodwill and respectful collaboration tend to prosper better when both parties have their own sovereign powers and can negotiate in their own interests, and that is the direction in which Scotland must go now.

John Sharp. Murieston Road, Livingston

Missed trick

"Better six feet apart than six feet under" would have been a memorable slogan for the pandemic.

It is just unfortunate that it loses something in the conversion to metric measurements!

Patricia Macinnes, Woodlands Street, Milngavie, Glasgow

Fatal error

Mary Thomas may be correct in saying in her letter in today's Scotsman (28 October) that Prime Minister Boris Johnson dithered at the outset of the covid crisis by not bringing in a lockdown in England sooner than he did.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently followed his example in not acting swiftly in the recent outbreak which started in the west of Scotland and expanded rapidly in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Had she locked down Glasgow and Lanarkshire at the outset, as she did in Aberdeen previously, the outbreak would have been nipped in the bud.

Ms Sturgeon's reason, that she did want to hit the hospitality trade, was a smokescreen.

The truth is that she was unwilling to take the same severe action as she did to Aberdeen, hurting her core support in Glasgow. Politics is everything to Ms Stugeon

Ironically, Covid-19 has spread throughout the country from the west and the Hospitality Trade throughout Scotland has been hit, and for many businesses this will be terminal.

John B Gorrie, Craigmount Gardens, Edinburgh

Doubtful claim

The revelation in the Public Health Scotland report that 113 hospital patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 were moved to care homes in the first three months of the pandemic makes grim reading for the families of those who had lost their lives there because of the virus.

Coupled to that is the assessment that more than 3,000 hospital patients were moved to care homes without testing.

Even though the pandemic was in its early stages and little was known about its dire consequences for the vulnerable and elderly, the mass evacuation of hospitals smacks of panic and lack of care.

Nicola Sturgeon seeks to mitigate government responsibility by suggesting that the actions of the NHS did not significantly contribute to the risk of a higher number of Covid-19 cases in care homes but the public will rightly remain sceptical about this claim.

Bob MacDougall, Oxhill, Kippen, Stirlingshire

Mark students?

As usual, I'm quite stupid about something: namely, how can you stop students going home at Christmas, if that is seen as desirable?

Do you tag them electronically to trace their movements?

Brand their forehead with a big "S" so they can be spotted?

I genuinely don't see how you can do it, if it has to be done at all. I must be missing the obvious answer here –please help!

Steve Hayes, Aithernie Court, Leven, Fife

State failings

John Besley’s article in the Scotsman of October 27 perhaps should have finished with a round of applause for the achievements of Independent schools during lockdown and a severe questioning of why State Schools performed so badly .

From the London School of Economics study It seems evident that schools/teachers in the state sector signally failed to provide a decent level of education for their pupils during lockdown and the fact that 2.5 million children received no schooling or tutoring at all is a scandal which demands an in depth governmental study into the circumstances

Rather than attempting a form of obfuscation by drawing a comparison with the achievements of the independent sector, might I suggest that the authors of the LSE study would have been better employed critically assessing what heads and teachers in the State sector were employed on doing during lockdown and what it was that prevented them from providing an acceptable level of education for their pupils.

It seems evident to me that the fault for the losses in education for school pupils and university students, referred to by Professor Lee Elliot Major, falls squarely at the door of the State sector and nowhere else.

Graham Hammond, Hoghill Court, East Calder, West Lothian

Throw in the towel

The Scottish National Party is at it again, giving free sanitary products to young ladies who presumably cannot afford to pay for their own.

Taxpayers are then left to wonder how many of these young ladies cannot afford a 4G phone, or beauty care, and designer this and designer that, if they cannot afford necessities.

Again it begs the question, is the SNP merely trying to gain votes and promote their drive towards independence?

James McIntyre, Clarendon Road, Linlithgow

There’s no news

Kit Fraser (Letters, 26 October) will be aware that BBC regional radio news has been severely pruned in recent years. After a long struggle to co-exist with the First Minister’s coronavirus updates at 12.30 we are now completely denied any lunchtime bulletin. It has not been explained why these bulletins could not have been moved back to their previous slot at 12.54.

On BBC1, commentary on the Covid update is now truncated at 12.57 in favour of trailers for future entertainment programmes bursting in at greatly increased decibels. Recent BBC staff restructuring suggests that news and informed comment is likely to suffer even more. The hand on the tiller now seems unable to steer a calm course across from the Pacific quays!

Richard Ardern, Drumdevan Road, Inverness

Out of tune

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a justice of the US Supreme Court raises uncomfortable questions about academia, the judiciary and politics in our country.

Could someone of Mrs Barrett’s socially conservative Christian views become a professor of law in one of our universities? Of course not. Our universities are anything but liberal in the true meaning of the word, so they do not tolerate academics of other than left-wing views.

Could an openly socially conservative Christian be appointed to our Supreme Court? Again, the answer is a firm no. Such a person would be prevented from getting on the judicial career ladder at all.

Why does the House of Commons not have public confirmation hearings before judges are appointed to the Supreme Court? Similarly, Holyrood for appointments to the Inner House of the Court of Session?

If they did then we might in time have a judiciary more in tune with public opinion rather than the progressive views of North London and Edinburgh New Town lawyers.

Otto Inglis, Ansonhill, Crossgates, Fife

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