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Readers’ letters: Freeports ‘green’ no more, Canadian concerns over salmon and plea to restore St Fittick’s Park ahead of Aberdeen cruisers

Rishi Sunak during a visit to Cromarty Firth Port Authority in Invergordon. Image: No10/Unpixs
Rishi Sunak during a visit to Cromarty Firth Port Authority in Invergordon. Image: No10/Unpixs

Sir, – Well it looks like the “green” portion of the two Scottish “greenports” has been abandoned.

The Scottish Government has meekly caved in to Westminster pressure and they’re now just “freeports”.

Perhaps they were never really serious about the “green” requirements and were just trying to sweeten the pill. Judging by the experiences of other countries, which have dumped the idea, there is plenty to leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Tax avoidance, reduced workers’ rights, loosening of health and safety regulations and even drug smuggling have caused a rethink in many countries. The EU is reviewing the issue due to the popularity of such ports with high-net-worth individuals and criminal organisations.

How real is the claim of 25,000 new jobs? Current evidence suggests freeports redistribute employment, in this case away from areas of deprivation. Although they enrich some areas, they impoverish others. We’re all worse off in the end.

It’s a legalised version of the black economy and that’s why I think they should be called Blackports.

Bill Irvine, Tarbat, Kildary, Ross-shire.

What can city offer cruisers?

Sir, – With the fast approaching arrival of the cruise ships to the city, it is concerning me what will attract tourists to Union Street.

Perhaps the council could offer an incentive of rates relief for vacant units and then invite our most famous export businesses in Speyside and beyond to open shops and create a Scotch Whisky Mile?

Ralph Kindness.

South Harbour takes shape. Image: Port of Aberdeen

Plea to make St Fittick proud

Sir, – I wonder if someone can fly the flag for this.

The information board at St Fittick’s Church has succumbed to the elements.

Soon, we’ll have hundreds of cruise ship passengers stretching their legs in the beautiful, wild, biodiverse St Fittick’s Park, and this does not reflect well on the city.

The local community (Friends of St Fittick’s Park) does its best to keep the park tidy – a litter pick was held on Saturday – but this board needs some serious money.

Who officially is in charge of this wonderful heritage site, and can some money be found to do St Fittick proud?

Richard Caie (chair of Torry Community Council), Wood Street, Aberdeen.

A train station with no trains

Sir, – What superb news in today’s Press and Journal – a railway station at Inverness airport.

Now for the lamentable response. It would appear that ScotRail are unaware that the first two significant flights of the day depart at 6.30am and 6.40am for London.

The earliest train leaves Elgin at 6.59am. The same situation exists from Inverness to the airport – first train 5.52am!

Scottish Government Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth during the opening of Inverness Airport railway station. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

It’s almost unbelievable that we go to the massive expense of building this station but fail the travelling public so spectacularly.

I would like to think that ScotRail would consider lurching into the 21st Century, but maybe I’m being too optimistic.

May I complete my rant by suggesting that locating the terminal building on the incorrect side of the runway also beggars belief.

Simon Jackson, Birkenhill, Elgin.

Eyesore tent left over from pandemic needs to go

Sir, – Regarding the tent at the Dutch Mill.

This eyesore on Queens Road has served its purpose. The owners have admitted they make more money than ever.

The outdoor tent at the Dutch Mill on Queens Road. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

The Chester, which had a far superior venue, have now taken their tent down.

Will it be the full council or just friends of Dutch Mill that make the decision?

PS Dizzys were denied a rebuild and that was at the back of property.

DG, Queens Road, Aberdeen.

Aberdeen parking charges make it clear drivers aren’t welcome

Sir, – Aberdeen City are sending out a clear message that drivers and their cars aren’t welcome in the city with so many restrictions and high parking charges.

I have now decided to shop in Aberdeenshire towns. I attach a recent charge I had for an hour of parking… 50p

That’s the way to attract shoppers to spend their money and keep the shops and retailers busy and happy.

Dennis F Grattan, Bucksburn.

Boring old scientific facts beat fabled tales from lands afar

Sir, – In his letter “Fish farms’ threat to wild salmon has already been proven” (Letters, February 3) Peter Fraser tells quite a fantastical story that seeks to persuade the reader that a decline in wild salmon in British Columbia, Canada, is linked to salmon farming.

It is Peter’s attempt to raise doubt in a statement made by Sepa’s head of ecology that salmon farming was not responsible for the decline of the Atlantic salmon in Scotland’s rivers.

I am from Canada, where numerous comprehensive scientific assessments by the federal courts and Canadian governments on this very matter have delivered very clear conclusions.

The $30m Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River (2012) concluded that “data presented during this inquiry did not show that salmon farms were having a significant negative impact on Fraser River sockeye”.

The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) (2020) conducted nine peer-reviewed assessments of endemic pathogens found in farm-raised salmon, each assessment concluding these pathogens “pose no more than a minimal risk” to Fraser River sockeye salmon abundance and diversity under the current fish health management practices. Furthermore, the most comprehensive study of sea lice to date by CSAS (2023) found “no statistically significant” association between salmon farms and sea lice found on wild juvenile Pacific salmon.

I will concede that while fabled tales from lands afar may be much more captivating than boring ol’ scientific facts, it is the latter that should form the basis of discourse about an important business that grows a healthy food and creates economic opportunity for coastal communities and families in both Scotland and Canada.

Ian Roberts, New Brunswick, Canada.

Brexit should be UK’s wake-up call

Sir, – It is as wrong to blame Brexit for the UK’s (and Scotland’s) decline as it is to blame EU membership. Or indeed say rejoining would solve all our problems.

During the referendum, I had a letter in some papers, which contained the words: “If membership of the EU is such an obstacle to trade and economic growth, how is it that, in 2015, Germany’s exports outside the EU were £504 billion and the UK’s were £234 billion… In fact, Germany’s exports to China were three times the UK’s?”

I’ve never read a satisfactory “pro-Brexit” answer to that, because it is contained in the deeper, complex issues we face, including the collapse in our manufacturing industry; an education system wrecked by dumbed-down lessons and disruptive, often violent, behaviour; decline in family life – as evidenced by a fivefold rise in the number of single families since 1970 and consequent increase in child poverty; the shortage of low-cost housing; lack of skilled, willing labour; and ballooning benefits (and waistlines).

All major drags on economic performance and nothing to do with the EU.

Most of the above affect all Western democracies, including EU countries, but it seems worse in the UK. The blame lies at the door of a decline in people taking personal responsibility for their situation, and poor political, business, moral, religious, trade union and media leadership.

Brexit should be a wake-up call for the UK, and regarded as an opportunity to address the deep-seated issues that are the real cause of our decline.

Somehow, we must create a skilled, motivated young workforce instead of having many small businesses refusing to hire youngsters because of their unreliability, and end reliance on low value-add industries that are only profitable if they can hire cheap foreign labour. That’s the kind of “control” we need to “take back”.

Especially in Scotland.

Allan Sutherland, Willow Row, Stonehaven.

China’s on ‘climate bandwagon’ too

Sir, – Your correspondent Alex Gray expresses his doubt about climate science. That is his privilege, but he should not seek to denigrate those who, like me, accept the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and is caused by human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels.

Mr Gray dismisses the increase in river flooding as a problem for builders and planners. As a resident of Ellon, he must surely know better. In 2016 (Storm Frank) and 2020, emergency services had to rescue dozens of residents from an overflowing River Ythan. How long before the next flooding episode in his home town?

Storm Frank caused significant damage to Aberdeenshire towns, including a Ballater campsite being destroyed.

Mr Gray supposes that some parts of our planet are becoming uninhabitable, while other parts are enjoying an improved climate. With the worldwide increase in flooding, storms, wildfires, droughts, rising sea levels and collapsing crop yields, does he have any suggestions as to where we might all relocate?

Mr Gray believes that no country apart from our own is jumping on this “climate bandwagon”. There are many examples but I would refer him to China – it is the world’s leading market for both solar and wind power generation, and is about to become the number one industrial powerhouse for manufacture of electric vehicles.

They have a huge emissions challenge but are transitioning to a clean, healthy and competitive economy that is good for everyone, especially their own citizens.

Jeff Rogers, Waters of Feugh, Banchory.

Wind farm plans ignore local views

Sir, – I read your article “Group urges rethink over wind farms” (Press and Journal, January 31) with interest.

I live underneath the Hill of Fare on Deeside, which is being offered by the Pearsons of Dunecht Estate as a site for an offshore-scale wind farm.

Some 80% of residents of the five community councils surveyed rejected the proposal on the grounds of size, noise, flicker, impact on wildlife and loss of recreation space. All were supportive of renewables from wind but not at this scale onshore.

The Hill of Fare is a highly visible landmark but not a special landscape area where wind farms are banned. Its top is 250m-300m above the surrounding countryside, a similar scale to the turbines proposed.

Proposed Banchory 850ft turbines visible from Moray.
Proposed Banchory 850ft turbines visible from Moray.

High ground in Scotland is now fertile for these projects; a government racing to transition to renewables, landowners looking for large returns and developers from all over Europe looking for low-risk projects.

The Dunecht Estate owners live in the south of England and this land is an asset to them for profit. In this instance, these landowners are the wind farm vultures of Deeside.

The planning system ignores local democracy as developments such as this are considered of national importance and go straight to the Energy Consents Unit in Edinburgh. This is like the advance of the plague without a health service.

Jonathan Rose, Hirn, Banchory.

Councils shouldn’t provide chargers

Sir, – Highland councillors made a very bold and astute decision last week to more than double the cost of charging an electric vehicle using their public chargers.

They have recognised that providing charging points is costly and a distraction from mainstream council operations. If they were profitable, commercial organisations would be racing to get them installed. However, the stark reality is charging points installed by councils are full of hidden problems and costs.

Here in Aberdeenshire, the council’s website clearly shows many chargers with faults, rendering them unusable. Some of these faults go back to autumn 2021. The most alarming fact is that three chargers installed at Hillside Primary School over three years ago are still not working.

With a local councillor announcing on social media recently: “I’ve been getting almost weekly updates on the progress (or lack!) of the electric vehicle charging points at Hillside School. There is uncertainty over the quality of work done by the installers, after problems at other sites.

“This is a Scotland-wide issue, and the company has been dropped as a contractor. A safety survey will be carried out as a priority before the chargers can be switched on.”

Surely this ridiculous situation must be a wake-up call for councils to walk away from these services, which are not statutory requirements of a council to provide. Let’s hope in the upcoming financial budget setting, more councillors have the temerity to question spending on this unnecessary service.

Colin Pike, Burnside Farm, Maryculter.

The royals deserve our respect

Sir, – There is so much anger in the pen of columnist Catherine Deveney, so many injustices highlighted in the treatment of the vulnerable by our political masters, so much cowardly bile spewed in the direction of those belonging to the House of Windsor.

While I regard the monarchy as no more than background noise in a world of clamour, to a great many, the royals are important pillars in their lives, whose pronouncements are earnestly listened to.

Are they to be thought of as fools? While politicians can and do reply to what they regard as unfair criticism, that avenue is not available to the royal family. They are sitting ducks, easy targets for detractors who joyously spill ink in pursuit of their prey.

While querying the role of King Charles’s family in society, they deserve our respect. The columnist should reflect on the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”

Ivan W Reid, Kirkburn, Laurencekirk.