Readers’ Letters: Women-only train carriages not way forward


Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has pledged to tackle the ‘systemic problem’ of women’s safety on Scotland’s railways

The segregation of women, or any other particular group, on public transport would be a huge step backwards and actually constitute a form of discrimination.

Another way of protecting rail passengers from drunken, noisy or rowdy misbehaviour of others would be to significantly increase staff numbers, some of whom should be specially trained and authorized to deal with such incidents swiftly and efficiently.

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Of course, such a robust zero-tolerance approach costs more money than simply roping off a carriage as a presumably “safe space”.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to sit in a women-only carriage while having to put up with an all boozed-up hen party.

Regina Erich, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Is Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ decision to facilitate a £150 council tax rebate for all Band AD households, to ease the cost-of-living problem, a fair one (your report, 11 February)?

It has to be seen firstly in the context of the limited fiscal levers at her disposal. But it should be judged also by a need for government to help as many groups across the social spectrum as possible. Those who argue for a rigidly targeted approach need to consider a number of points. Energy and food price increases, added to the increase in National Insurance payments from April, will impact on many households in the £20,000-£30,000 income categories. Many pensioners will see their real incomes reduced as a result of the temporary suspension of the triple lock, as well as having to pay for their television licence. In the interests of social cohesion alone, they deserve to have their interests considered.

The use of the council tax lever is certainly a blunt one. Arguably it is unfair on those too poor to pay council tax as well as those in the Band E category and above. The latter could well fall into the “asset rich/income poor category” and suffer accordingly.

It ought to be remembered, though, that the Council tax freeze which lasted for nearly seven years from 2008 did help those in the higher Bands in terms of real incomes.

At this stage Ms Forbes has done as much as she can to mitigate both fuel and food poverty. Only a concerted effort by Holyrood and Westminster can tackle an impending cost of living crisis across the different social groups. Getting heating bills, council tax bills and food bills down needs a good degree of joint working. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Ms Forbes have made a reasonable start. They should not flinch at the need to do more.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

Imagine you are shivering in your cold home when you discover that there is treasure buried in your garden and it’s all yours. You are overjoyed, at least until you discover that bureaucrats won’t let you dig it up.

Well, that is pretty much the position that Britain finds itself in, with the Oil and Gas Authority ordering Cuadrilla to permanently seal the two test wells it has drilled into Bowland Shale gas formation under northern England.

According to the British Geological Survey there are 37.6 trillion cubic meters of gas in this rock formation. Just 10 per cent of that gas would meet Britain’s gas needs for 50 years!

And the decision to forego the opportunity for cheap, plentiful, secure gas supplies wasn’t taken by the cabinet or debated in parliament, but in secret by faceless bureaucrats obsessed by the future warming of the planet and utterly indifferent to rising heating bills and soaring fuel poverty now.

Instead we will have to import this gas. More carbon dioxide will be produced by shipping fracked gas to us from abroad. Vladimir Putin’s ability to blackmail the West to ignore his warmongering and human rights abuses will be strengthened. Our economy will be permanently weaker as we have to pay for all that foreign gas instead of using our own.

It is vital that the British government overturns this lunatic decision by the Oil and Gas Authority.

Otto Inglis, Crossgates, Fife

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Transport minister Jenny Gilruth pledges to tackle ‘systemic problem’ of women’s…

Alistair Carmichael’s scaremongering on pensions (Perspective, 11 February) has been rebutted by a leading UK pensions expert, Baroness Altmann, a former Tory pensions minister, who tweeted that she was baffled by comments on state pensions and independence as state pensions are built up by your National Insurance payments and paid to you whether or not you live in this country. But with two caveats, you need years of NI contributions and annual increases would need negotiation.

The 2020-21 GERS figures show that Scottish taxpayers paid £11.5 billion in National Insurance contributions and the UK paid out £8.5bn for state pensions in Scotland.

An independent Scotland using a Norwegian level of taxation on oil and gas companies would help with energy bills and could pay for a better pension than the UK – as in Iceland, Finland, Luxemburg and Ireland.

In 2015, the Tory government slashed taxes on oil and gas production but Norway kept taxation on oil and gas at 78 per cent. On Tuesday, Channel 4 News reported that for each barrel of oil the UK received $1.72 in 2019 while Norway received $21.35. In 2021, Norway earned almost £25bn from oil and gas revenues whereas the latest GERS report attributed a notional deficit of £250 million as Scotland’s share of UK petroleum tax.

The UK has the worst state pension in Western Europe and the level of payments is far from guaranteed as, since the 2014 referendum, the Tories have extended the retirement age and Rishi Sunak has failed to keep the “triple lock” promise to increase pensions in line with inflation.

As a devout supporter of the Union I am more than happy to accept the SNP’s written assurances made in 2014 that on achieving Independence payment of State Pensions in Scotland would become the responsibility of the Scottish Government. All very clear, no ifs or buts. If Nationalists are furious that this solemn pledge has been cast aside there’s no point in arguing with us. Direct your wrath to those who made then dumped it, you voted for them after all!

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

Russia is reported to have 110,000 troops waiting to invade the Ukraine. Our Prime Minister has promised to send 1,000 troops to help defend this country. To put things into perspective, Britain’s standing army numbers about 84,000, of whom 44,000 are currently deployed worldwide, leaving 40,000.

Even if we were to send the whole of our remaining land forces to the Ukraine, they would be outnumbered.

Besides which, there is no sign of these being mobilized. By the time they were, the Russians could be through the Ukraine and into Poland if they so desired. Nato allies would need to mobilize the whole of their land forces to act as a potential deterrent – ​​Germany 30,000, France 40,000, Spain 35,000, UK 40,000.

By the time this effort was made and coordinated, Putin will have retired. For various reasons, the Allies do not want war with Russia and so it is most unlikely that these forces will ever combine to see joint action against Russia.

Given that the politicians of the West lack the military means or will to war with Russia, there is great emphasis on negotiating with the Russians to withdraw their forces and with it, the threat to invade the Ukraine. The question is, what, precisely, are the negotiations about? Ukraine is a sovereign country. The people have voted to have closer ties to the West. It seems that there can be no negotiating without, somehow, infringing on the rights of the Ukrainian people. What right has anyone to do this other than the Ukrainian people?

This is very reminiscent of the “negotiations” before the Second World War when, much to Britain’s shame, Hitler took over part of Czechoslovakia. The moral position for Nato countries in the interests of world peace, is to offer to help the Ukraine in the event that Russia invades. If certain Nato countries refuse to adopt this position, Britain should do so, alone.

Brian P Donaldson, Stirling

Kenny MacAskill (Perspective, 10 February) argues that Scotland should use similar tactics to those used in Quebec in 1995 to hold another referendum. However, he fails to point out the tragedy this caused to Quebec as a province.

Quebec, then, was in a similar position to Scotland now, having had a previous referendum in 1980 won by those who wished to remain in Canada. Although the separatists lost the second referendum, by a small margin, the commercial heart of the Province was torn out by the continued uncertainty over the constitution.

More than 20 per cent of Montreal’s Canadian top 500 companies relocated, along with over 0.5 million people, in the period 1990-2011. From a high point of around 25 per cent the Quebecois proportion of Canadian GDP dropped to around 18.5 per cent by 2014 and it remains below 20 per cent

Support for separation almost completely evaporated after the 1995 referendum and remains very low.

Quebec provides a real world example of the huge damage that attempted separatism can do. Don’t let us repeat that mistake.

David Cole-Hamilton, St Andrews, Fife

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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