Letters to the editor – August 27, 2021

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No need for fire brigade

Sir,

Last Sunday I was burning some garden waste in a garden incinerator when the fire brigade arrived at my home in Lochgilphead.

I have done this almost weekly for many years and it has never caused any problems. The incinerator is metal, sitting on a stone base with a lid and I am always in attendance. There’s even a hose nearby.

Anyone could see what it was.

If the person who called the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service did so by mistake, that’s fine.

But if it was a joke, it failed miserably. And if it was done with malicious intent as a hoax call, that’s another thing entirely.

What would have happened if our firefighters were needed for an actual emergency while attending my bonfire of weeds?

Name and address supplied

We need more commercial trees

Sir,

Scotland must seize the opportunity to rapidly increase planting of productive forestry to offset the full impact of future timber supply stocks.

The UK as a whole – which currently imports 80 per cent of its annual timber requirement – is far too vulnerable to fluctuations in the global market.

Home-grown timber makes up only around 33 per cent of the UK market and while we are largely self-sufficient in fencing, there is significant unmet domestic demand for more structural timber and also pallet wood.

Scottish-based timber manufacturers could potentially triple production to meet current and anticipated future demand and produce a greater share of the remaining 67 per cent of the market which is currently imported, predominantly from Scandinavia, Latvia and Germany.

There is also significant potential to expand Scotland’s one fifth of forested land area so that we can be more self-reliant in our requirements for timber.

Sawmills in Scotland and UK produce high quantities of pallet and fencing products but mainly produce construction timber – kiln dried carcassing that is used for roof battens, floor joists and studwork for partitioned walls.

Already this year prices have risen 30 per cent as house builders and related industries struggle to secure supplies due to a huge increase in building activity, post lockdown.

This is even noticeable in the DIY stores when trying to get timber for home projects.

Transport and energy costs will increase; emerging economies around the world will demand more timber and timber-producing countries may be required to use more of their own timber at home as they seek to meet stricter climate protocols and net zero targets.

Sweden is recording the lowest stock levels in 20 years and this trend is likely to be further exacerbated as current issues like wildfires, tree diseases and pests, exert additional worldwide pressures on the supply of timber.

The UK can attempt to compete for diminishing supplies on the world market against growing economies such as China and India or do something to mitigate its exposure to these forces, by planting more commercial forestry now so that we are more self-sufficient in the future.

Mick Bottomley, head of marketing and sales, Forestry and Land Scotland

Paltry pension increase ‘an insult’

Sir,

Anyone turning 80 years old in the near future shouldn’t hold their breath for much of a state pension increase.

As I approach my big birthday, I have been informed I will receive just 25p more per week. That won’t buy me a couple of slices of bread or a pint of milk. I couldn’t even buy half a second class stamp with it.

I have worked all my life, including more than 30 years for the NHS, until 15 years ago and this is my reward.

I’ve never felt more insulted; it’s worse than a slap in the face.

Quite frankly, it’s a disgrace.

Rachel S Grant, Carradale

Greens ‘sell out’ Highlands and Islands

Sir,

As part of their newly announced agreement with the SNP government, the Scottish Greens have sold out the Highlands and Islands in their quest for power.

Within the new agreement, announced last week, the Scottish Greens have managed to retain their ability to disagree with their SNP colleagues on certain issues, however have specifically said that with regard to Highlands and Islands aviation and HIAL they will follow the SNP’s lead.

Given the ongoing issues with Air Traffic Control management proposals in the Highlands and Islands this exemption would appear to be aimed at ensuring the Scottish Government can force through controversial changes that would see jobs centralised in Inverness and a significant loss of local knowledge.

The fact that this issue is specified in the document not only indicates that the SNP is very aware of the anger, resentment and damage that HIAL’s proposals are causing to the affected communities, but that they don’t care and have every intention of forcing through the proposals no matter what engagement they get from stakeholders.

By allowing this as an exemption, the Scottish Greens have indicated that they too are now aware but aren’t particularly concerned with issues affecting the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but are willing to sell out a huge swathe of the country if it means they can get the SNP’s scraps.

Of further concern is what this indicates about the Scottish Government’s level of respect for parliamentary process.

A petition from local communities asking the Air Traffic Management Scheme to be halted while independent assessments are undertaken is currently before the petitions committee.

By including the Highlands and Islands as an exemption whereby the Greens must fall in line, Scottish Government are indicating that they know a contentious decision is on the horizon and want to be able to shepherd it through despite any and all logical and well-informed protests.

It is clear that the Scottish Greens have no intention of properly vetting policies in relation to the Highlands and Islands and are happy to allow the SNP to run roughshod over the communities there.

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands