ALAN Simpson (“Politicians must start taking transport seriously”, The Herald, December 23) provided an excellent review of the fact that “billions are poured into the NHS for little return and it is transport that bears the brunt of any budget squeeze”. His article concentrated on the debacle over the provision of replacement ferries for Calmac but it was also a portent of the fate of rail services once they come under control of the Scottish Government in April.
However, even before the keys to ScotRail are handed over to Transport Minister Graeme Dey, there has been an announcement of 300 cuts to rail services at the introduction of the new spring timetable, which was quickly followed by the news that more than £100 million will be cut from the rail infrastructure budget over the next two years.
There has also been the declaration of a 3.8 per cent increase in rail fares next month, which the Transport Minister justified as being due to the requirement for ‘”fiscal prudence and affordability to the taxpayer”. It is the largest increase in fares for more than a decade.
The problem that has yet to be addressed by the Scottish Government is that, if the request by the First Minister for working from home becomes a legal demand, then ScotRail faces the problem of too many services and too few passengers. That could result in a further pruning of services to match supply with demand and raises the spectre of where is the tipping point at which ScotRail becomes unviable.
Ian Moir, Castle Douglas.
REAL CONCERN OVER ENERGY FUTURE
ONE is left to speculate that your Christmas Eve front page headline about rising energy costs (“‘National crisis’ warning as energy bills set for 50 % rise”, The Herald, December 24) and the report that renewable energy had fallen significantly could well prove to be harbingers of future unwelcome, but regular, increased costs and failures in supply. Are black-outs and substantial price rises to become events to which one will have to become accustomed?
Tony Blair, when Prime Minister (1997-2007), brought forward a White Paper to Parliament in 2006, where he conceded that not enough new power stations had been built and that there was the risk of supply interruptions, a very small risk according to him at the time. One wonders how high Mr Blair would rate that risk today. It was, of course, a Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher which privatised the electricity industry, resulting in a substantial shift in ownership of an essential industry outwith the UK.
Governments of all persuasions stand indicted for the predicament in which Britain now stands. Because of their lack of strategic planning and vision, the challenges posed in ensuring the provision of stable and economic energy supply long-term have been ill-addressed. Reliance on the market since privatisation has failed to protect that necessary security. Moreover, the concept that the market would ensure low prices permanently has proved to be ill-founded.
In England, UK governments have been, with limited success, endeavouring to find contractors – who are being assured of significant price guarantees – to construct new nuclear power stations. In Scotland, of course, the SNP Government has been opposed to any new nuclear power stations here.
It looks clear that there are real grounds for concern with regard to the costs and security of supply. Is your headline referred to above to become necessarily one of a regular series on this vital topic?
Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.
WEDDED TO OUTDATED MORES
ON reading the “White wedding” item in “The Best of Lorne Jackson’s 2021 Diary” (The Herald, December 24) I was reminded how still in 2021 “shame, judgement and controversy surround a woman’s sexuality”, to quote Claire Foy talking about the part she plays in A Very British Scandal set around 1963 (BBC1, this week). It is sad that the best of the Diary selection included such outdated mores.
The tale of a minister persuading a bride not to sing a song containing the lines “I’ve had so many men before” surely still can’t be seen as being humorous? In my view the groom should be chuffed that having had so many men before, she then chose him.
Christine Smillie, Kilmarnock.
WHERE DID THAT CAT COME FROM?
I WAS very interested to read in today’s edition of The Diary (December 27) of another reader’s evening meal being described as a “run round the table and a kick at the cat”. My own mother’s exasperated response to the daily question “what’s for tea mum?” would often be this very phrase. Like your reader I have often wondered where it originated from – perhaps an old radio programme from the 1940s or 50s, or a vaudeville entertainer’s catchphrase?
Perhaps one of your older readers may be able to enlighten us.
A Miller, Largs.
PLAYING THE CARDS RIGHT
CATRIONA Stewart’s column (“In which Mrs Claus, exhausted, prepares Christmas for Santa”, The Herald, December 24) reminded me of a birthday card I received a few years ago. Inside, it read: “From the one who chose the card, bought it, wrote it & posted it … & the other one.” As someone who seldom identifies the perpetrator in whodunnits, I, surprisingly, had no difficulty identifying the chooser of my card … or the other one.
Christine R McLachlan, Milton of Campsie.
WHO HAS THE OLDEST FAIRY?
WITH her usual grace, charm, and head for heights, despite the loss of an arm and a leg over the years, our happy wee Christmas fairy soldiers on, and will celebrate her diamond jubilee atop next year’s festive tree.
Is this a record?
R Russell Smith, Largs.