Letters to the editor – January 15, 2021

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Fobbed off over A83

Sir

The Scottish Government spin machine’s use of phrases last week like ‘encouraging progress’ about the works at the Rest and be Thankful cannot disguise its failure to make any real progress towards a solution.

At an online briefing session last month, I questioned the Transport Minister Michael Matheson on why they say it could take at least five years before they even start work on a proper solution.

He waffled on about planning permission, environmental impact assessments and compensating landowners. This is ridiculous. I have attended 14 years of meetings on the A83 and all we get is fobbed off with pathetic excuses.

We need a government which will deliver results, not spend all its time plotting to get independence while ignoring the real issues like a closed A83 which blight people’s lives.

Councillor Alan Reid, Cowal ward

Remember music in lockdown

Sir,

As we move into 2021 and parents, teachers and pupils once again find themselves facing additional challenges to deliver and attain a full and rounded education, it is worthwhile remembering the role that music can and should play in improving our lives.

Firstly, music will help to support and sustain our young people through the coming months. For children and adults alike, the creative arts play a vital role in promoting wellbeing and positive mental health, providing both a means of expression during the isolation of ‘lockdown’ and a practical as well as enjoyable pastime.

Secondly – and just as importantly – playing an instrument is complementary to academic subjects and has been shown emphatically to improve wider educational success. As we consider the often daunting challenge of the return to home schooling, those parents whose children can mix domestic timetables with musical lessons will understand the release and stimulation playing an instrument can deliver.

Across society music is integral to our identities and is made to be shared. We now have the means to do that successfully and safely with online tools whose use has been well-honed by recent experience.

So whether you’re at the start of a musical journey, or are well advanced in music-making let’s keep singing, keep dancing and keep music lessons flowing, particularly while the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic keep us apart in our own homes.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, head teacher, St Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh

Walking and health benefits

Sir,

As Scotland faces a second national lockdown, the country’s national walking charity, Paths for All, is encouraging the public to explore local walking routes in a bid to help combat social isolation, anxiety and loneliness while maintaining physical health.

The call follows the launch of the charity’s Walk Once a Day this Winter campaign, which asks people to make the pledge of walking every day throughout January.

The campaign includes an online hub which outlines the importance of walking and regular physical activity during the winter months. A variety of activities and ideas, designed to motivate individuals of all ages, are available on the hub with podcast recommendations, creative walking advice and prize incentives.

In what is traditionally the time of year which sees a surge of gym memberships and fitness plans we suggest taking up walking instead as part of our new year resolutions.

With walking being one of the few essential reasons for leaving your home, it is the perfect exercise and now is the time to get into a walking exercise routine which is consistent with the current government guidelines. Walking can help with our social health as the guidelines allow us to meet with one person from one other household outside.

Last year we saw an increase in Scots taking up walking during the first lockdown and the outcome has highlighted just how many benefits are attributed to walking and how outdoor exercise as many times a day as we can has become an important way to look after physical and mental wellbeing.

Follow the campaign over on Paths for All social media channels #WalkOnceADay.

For more information on the Walk Once a Day this Winter campaign, visit the Paths for All website.

Ian Findlay CBE, chief officer, Paths for All

Help children at risk

Sir,

The New Year is usually a time for a fresh start – making resolutions, getting fit, setting new challenges and goals. But with the continuing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems harder to commit to making a change.

With restrictions ongoing, it’s becoming even more important for us to find new and innovative ways to raise vital funds for NSPCC Scotland to help children at risk of abuse and neglect.

Children have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Since the first lockdown measures were introduced, the average monthly number of referrals from the NSPCC’s helpline to agencies in Scotland, such as the police or children’s services, have been more than 50 per cent higher than the first three months of 2020. And the effects are far from over.

Even with social distancing, there are still many ways you can fundraise for us.

From hosting a virtual quiz or coffee morning to selling handmade crafts, cakes or old clothes, we’ve got lots of great virtual fundraising ideas you can try while following the Scottish Government’s advice on social distancing.

By volunteering just a couple of hours each month to fundraise in your  area, you can help to make 2021 a better year for children.

So please think about using your new year passion and enthusiasm to come up with some ideas to fundraise and help us be there when children need us most.

To find out more or to request your fundraising pack, visit www.nspcc.org.uk or contact jen.lindsay@nspcc.org.uk by email.

Jen Lindsay, community fundraising manager, NSPCC Scotland