Letters to the editor – week 47

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Argyll at a disadvantage


The Prime Minister struggled to answer my question as to how the Brexit withdrawal agreement is good for my already economically-fragile constituency.

Our neighbours in Northern Ireland, who will stay in an advantageous position with in a customs union, will be in a very strong position to attract jobs and investment at the expense of Scotland. We have ended up with the worst of all possible outcomes, with England and Wales voting to leave and leaving, Northern Ireland voting to remain and retaining a foothold into the EU and Scotland who voted to remain being completely dragged out against its will.

No one should fall for this false choice being desperately spun by this isolated Tory Prime Minister, that seeks to force us to choose between a ‘bad deal’ or a ‘no deal’ at all.

Brendan O’Hara MP, Argyll and Bute

Promoting pipes and drums


We expect over 150 schools to be represented at next year’s Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships, based on the number of school pupils being taught in programmes run by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT).

The trust now has projects going in 18 council areas supporting lessons to over 2,500 young people.

We are getting a large number of enquiries from schools wanting to come along to the event on March 10 in Livingston.

SSPDT aims to safeguard our wonderful musical traditions and to help young people develop skills for life, learning and work, with a focus on deprived and remote areas, by helping to introduce piping and drumming tuition to state schools on a par with orchestral instruments.

We established the championships in 2011 to offer a positive and friendly experience for players who are new to competition, and as a forum for bands at the very top of their game.

The trust has resources to support more state schools in Scotland to introduce piping and drumming tuition, and we invite local education authorities, teachers and parents to contact us.

All enquiries can be made via our website sspdt.org.uk

Alexandra Duncan, chief executive, Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust

A83 commitment welcome


Having campaigned extensively for the re-opening of the A83 after a landslide in October, I welcome Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson’s commitment to identifying a permanent solution to disruption on the road, whilst continuing to invest in shorter term mitigation measures.

Closures to the A83 lead to untenable diversions and re-routing of traffic onto other roads, which is why is absolutely essential for permanent measures to be put in place to end these closures.

The safety of the people who use this road has always been the top priority for the Scottish Government, and I am grateful to all those who have been involved in working towards a practical solution to make this road accessible for local people, visitors and businesses in my constituency.

Michael Russell MSP, Argyll and Bute

Whisky and Brexit deal


The withdrawal agreement with the European Union has now been published.

Our industry has consistently called for clarity over what that UK’s new relationship with the EU will look like in practice, particularly on the continued protection of geographical indications, customs procedures and future trade policy.

The provisions set out in the withdrawal agreement provide us with a credible foundation on which to build in the next phase of the negotiations, during which a number of critical issues remain to be resolved.

A no-deal Brexit would cause the Scotch whisky industry considerable difficulties and would force cost and complexity into production, distribution and exporting.  The withdrawal agreement is a compromise, but it is a positive step towards much needed business certainty.

Karen Betts, chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association

Dog-whistle politics


I am struck by the comments of Theresa May that her Brexit plan will stop EU migrants ‘jumping the queue’ when it comes to working in the UK.

How low the UK has sunk that its Brexiteer government is now resorting to spreading resentment towards European citizens, classing them as ‘queue jumpers’. These individuals took no part in this mess and work here legally and contribute to the country in so many different ways.

They have the same general right of freedom of movement that allows British people the opportunity to work in Berlin and Paris, or retire in Spain.

Even so, their reward seems to be an increasingly hostile atmosphere. Ms May makes no mention of those British ‘queue jumpers’ in other EU countries, symptomatic no doubt of the same attitude that classes those Brits abroad as ‘expats’, while those from the other EU countries who come to work here are ‘immigrants’, an increasingly negative term.

Since the referendum in 2016 there has been an alarming increase in both veiled and more explicit verbal abuse to EU nationals, and this will no doubt increase as the negative impacts of Brexit become clearer and scapegoats will be required. Step forward those innocent EU nationals in our midst.

The UK has taken a wrong turn, as exhibited by the dog-whistle politics of Theresa May and her Tory government.

As the UK enters full panic mode, the victim of a bitter and corrupted Etonian gamble gone very wrong, we must do all that we can to support those EU nationals in our midst and defy this vile populist rhetoric.

Alex Orr,  Edinburgh