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Readers’ letters: King Charles’ expensive coronation, the alcohol merchandise ban and lights out at Union Terrace Gardens

King Charles III, then Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Image: Getty Images
King Charles III, then Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Image: Getty Images

Sir, – Kirstin Innes, in her hard-hitting article in The Press and Journal on January 12 titled “Royal obsession is costing us far more than spare time”, asks: “As 2023 begins in a cloud of financial gloom, can we afford the Windsors?”

She goes on to question what she has learned, that is, why plans are now afoot to spend £3 million on an new ornate stage coach to carry King Charles on Coronation Day – when he has a number of limousines at his disposal.

And as for the event itself, it is reputed that it will cost people of the UK £100 million.

This, she would argue, is not only an unnecessarily high figure, it is obscene at a time when the country is on its knees, with the money much better spent elsewhere.

To question the value of royalty in days gone by, she would have been in danger of losing her head, a long spell in the Tower or banished from the country to spend the rest of her life on Van Diemen’s Land.

Thankfully, today in Britain, where we still enjoy freedom of speech, she is merely expressing views which I feel a great many of us would be in agreement with.

Allan A Fraser, Sutherland Street, Buckie.

Don’t pretend you care about safety

Sir, – How touching to hear UK Business Secretary Grant Shapps say that one of the main reasons the UK Government is proposing to tighten up on striking laws and insist on minimum levels of cover on a number of essential services is to save lives and maintain an acceptable level of safety.

This from the government of austerity where, according to research by Glasgow University, approximately 335,000 extra deaths have occurred in the UK between 2012 and 2019 (so prior to Covid) due to austerity measures introduced by George Osborne and continued by his successors. This, the government of Covid bungling and inaction – which many informed observers have estimated to have resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. This, the government of slashing regulations and standards as “red tape”.

Anyone remember the disasters of the 1980s before more responsible governments, led by the EU, realised that tighter rules and regulations were necessary?

Let’s be clear, this dreadful Tory government does not care one jot about safety if it costs money. This new Bill is nothing more than yet another round of “union bashing” straight out of the Thatcher playbook of the 1980s, and it is now offered as red meat to the nutters on the extreme right of the party and their supporters in the right-wing press. The UK Government should stop playing games and get around the table with the unions and thrash out a fair new deal with all public sector workers going forward.

Please do not tell me that the country cannot afford it. It was announced recently that since Covid, there are now 20% more billionaires in the UK. So some people are doing very well.

Robin P Smith, Cults, Aberdeen.

GPs are causing piles of problems

Face-to-face GP appointments are hard to come by. Image: Shutterstock

Sir, – May I respectfully suggest that the country comes together to clap for chemists and practice nurses who appear to be shouldering additional workloads and risk at the behest of GPs seemingly keen to avoid as much direct contact with patients as possible.

With one-to-one appointments now seemingly at a premium, given that patients are being increasingly encouraged to consult pharmacists and practice nurses for a variety of ailments, is it any wonder that attendances at A&E units have increased significantly?

Sturgeon’s latest claim that members of the public are attending hospitals unnecessarily in many instances is yet another example of the first minister’s dismissal of the facts.

Zoom calls may be the way ahead in the opinion of GPs, apparently, but will someone please explain how exactly they diagnose haemorrhoids, for example? Via a screen? Perhaps those unfortunate enough to suffer from this ailment will be required to point their rear at the screen to facilitate an examination!

Jim Black, Bellfield Park, Inverness.

Clarifications on woodland dispute

The John Muir Trust says deer damage woodland. Image Shutterstock

Sir, – I wanted to clarify two main assertions made by the John Muir Trust (JMT) in your story published January 12 (“Fight for remains of Atlantic rain forest is pitted against battle to keep deer stalking jobs in Assynt”).

The first is that the two neighbouring properties, which includes the Assynt Crofters, manage 95% of the woodland resource, and are doing so under agreed contracts with Scottish Forestry.

John Muir Trust manages 5% of the site, with no such agreement, but the small area of trees at the heart of this dispute is a tiny fragment of approx 0.02 ha, some 15,000 times smaller than the main woodland area, which is actually regenerating fairly well, and has been for some time.

So, the neighbouring estates are making a much more significant contribution to woodland restoration than JMT, overseen by our forestry regulator. Their focus is not narrow.

The property that is speaking out against JMT is the Assynt Crofters Trust (ACT), who represent 185 households across 13 crofting townships. Deer income is important to them, but they have struck the right balance between this and their natural heritage obligations.

JMT say that deer are being retained for the benefit of a “narrow elite”. If people living and working in rural Scotland are now regarded as being a narrow elite, then we have a problem, don’t we? You can see why people are speaking out against such an aggressive and increasingly arrogant neighbour, whose own conservation record in the area is lamentably poor. JMT should not be trying to undermine others to deflect from their own failures in Assynt. That NatureScot is supporting them in doing so is a national scandal, and we must call this out. For clarity, I am advising ACT on this matter, which we want to see resolved as quickly as possible.

Victor Clements, Native Woodland Advice, Mamie’s Cottage, Aberfeldy.

No evidence for claim on ‘justice’

Sir, – Catherine Deveney may be “an award-winning investigative journalist”, but that does not exempt her from the requirement to write in a responsible manner.

In her article, she states: “The courts knowingly incarcerate innocent men to maintain public confidence in ‘justice’.”

Such an attack on the integrity and independence of sheriffs and judges would, if it had any foundation, cause concern to the general public.

Perhaps not surprisingly, your columnist provides no evidence to support her outrageous claim. Not exactly what one would expect from an “investigative journalist”.

David Burnside, Albert Terrace, Aberdeen.

Union-bashing won’t pay the bills

Sir, – Peter Smith responded (January 12) to my letter of January 7 in exactly the sort of way I would have expected.

I had said let’s see the figures for making Scotland a viable standalone economy, and he responds with the usual guff and nonsense that independence supporters bombard us with. Still no facts and figures – all waffle and wind.

Of course, Scotland is a country of many resources, and there will be income to be harvested, but please show us the budget – not the emotion.

Bashing the UK does not generate income, indeed it does the opposite, so I suggest Mr Smith and his other letter-writing friends find an economist, do some homework and return to your columns with some genuine facts that show that Scotland can be financially viable without the help of the rest of the UK and Europe.

Andrew Dingwall, Garlogie House, Westhill.

Booze proposal is massive overreach

A Scottish Government consultation suggests banning alcohol-related branding from items ranging from glasses to T-shirts. Image: Shutterstock

Sir, – The latest planned restrictions proposed in the consultation from the Scottish Government have the potential to devastate the visitor centres of the distilleries in my ward. Deep in this consultation, the Scottish Government are proposing to ban any brand merchandise. Any merchandise sold (hats, bags, jackets, lapel badges, etc.) couldn’t have the distillery’s name on it.

Not only branded merchandise, but also adverts, billboards, and as far as social media pages could all be affected. It’s going to be a huge issue if left to go ahead.

Who even asked them to do this? Are there not other things for them to be getting on with? Like fixing our ferry service, the A83, our education, the health service and so much more.

I stand firmly against this latest Orwellian overreach by the Scottish Government.

It’s a bit lengthy, but I would encourage you all to fill out the consultation on the Scottish Government website. Failure to do so could see all branded merchandise banned.

Alastair Redman, Port Charlotte, Islay.

Action required on club’s captain

Sir, – Once again, Anthony Stewart has let his side down by being sent off and probably costing the club any chance of reaching the cup final, so I hope Goodwin takes the necessary action and appoints a permanent new captain. Shinnie is an ideal candidate. There are tough games ahead which will decide if the Dons can finish in the top six.

Alan Joiner, Skerry Drive, Peterhead.

Brexit Britain led by spineless bunch

Sir, – Last week Scotland’s prominent and long-serving first minister surprisingly entertained her fifth PM and heard promises of thousands of unspecified jobs for two so-called “green freeports”.

Mr Sunak is the most articulate of a very poor bunch, but failed miserably to answer several pertinent questions, especially on independence – refusing to even discuss a possible democratic route to holding IndyRef 2.

With public bodies virtually in revolt, including the NHS at breaking point and millions of people facing food and fuel poverty, the ever-smiling Rishi Sunak recently delivered a ludicrous speech, issuing promises that 13 years of Tory rule had already broken!

The earnest but ineffectual Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, then followed with an even more ludicrous speech promising a Bill giving sweeping devolved powers to communities across the UK, where people could control “their own future”. All this while still denying a referendum to Scotland!

It’s truly unbelievable. These out-of-touch, spineless Anglo-British leaders, in this broken Brexit Britain, bring to mind the words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!”

Grant Frazer, Newtonmore.

Lights out at gardens

The halo light in Union Terrace Gardens was left unlit over the weekend - days scenes of teen violence caused concern. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson.
The halo light in Union Terrace Gardens was left unlit over the weekend. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson

Sir, – I had a friend up from Glasgow at the weekend to see a show at the Lemon Tree (Moving Pictures – tremendous!) and who, as someone who had grown up in Aberdeen, was keen to see the Union Terrace Gardens in all their new-found glory.

“Best to see them at night,” says I, with the new spaceship/circle of light feature showing them off to their best.

But when we got there the light feature wasn’t on and, being a rather cold and dreich night, not a great impression was made.

Is this light feature still working or has the revelation of youths staging kick-boxing events “under the lights” already had a bearing?

Ian Craig, Aberdeen.

Adult law must apply at age 16

Sir, – The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed at Holyrood will allow 16-year-olds to say they are another gender.

In law, 16-year-olds can marry, enter civil partnerships, join the armed forces, consent to medical treatment, vote in Scottish Parliament and council elections, to name but a few.

However, when two 16-year-olds were accused of forcing their way into Lossiemouth school and vandalism, they could not be named for legal reasons due to their age (Evening Express, December 26).

So 16-year-olds are either children or young responsible adults – in the eyes of the Scottish Government to give them the opportunity to vote is to become a responsible young adult.

The law should reflect that with no exceptions!

Equality for all!

T Shirron, Davidson Drive, Aberdeen.