Letters, January 8 2021

Letters.

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Thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery in Scotland, after an incredibly challenging year for us all.

Since 2005, players across Britain have raised more than £600 million for good causes, which is just incredible. More than £6 million of this we have been grateful to receive at Sightsavers.

Money raised by players has been indispensable in helping Sightsavers to fund, in 2020 alone, eye services for more than 49,000 people and more than 500 sight-saving cataract surgeries.

In 2020, funding also helped us to support the Covid-19 response. Children with disabilities kept learning throughout the pandemic, thanks to distance learning equipment and teacher training, PPE and hygiene kits.

Children like Marie in Sierra Leone, who is blind and was in danger of being left behind when schools closed, until she was given a typewriter, a radio and assistance so that she could keep studying.

So, once again, a big thank you to all the players in Scotland for your generosity.

To find out about some of the lives being turned around by players’ support, please head on over to www.sightsavers.org/ppl or give Sightsavers a call on 0800 089 2020.

Dr Caroline Harper CBE, Sightsavers CEO.

Proud of those who kept us connected

Scots have taken to online technology like never before to keep in touch during this difficult time.

When we first went into lockdown, there were concerns on whether our networks would cope with this big increase in online traffic. But, although customers’ usage of data more than doubled during the period, our networks were able to stand up to the demands.

I’m immensely proud of the role my colleagues have played in keeping the country connected during this crisis. From the engineers who keep our broadband and mobile networks connected, to the vital contact centre staff in Glasgow, Dundee, Greenock, Edinburgh and Thurso, helping people when they need it most.

I’m proud also of the role our people played in supporting the NHS in Scotland during the crisis, including working with Scottish Government to quickly provide communications to the temporary hospitals.

The pandemic has shown the vital role digital technology and internet connectivity now plays in all our lives. If all homes and businesses are going to stay ahead, we know that fast and reliable broadband and good mobile coverage is going to be essential for the post-Covid recovery.

While BT Group continues to invest billions in these networks, we know that we can’t do this alone. We’ll continue to work with governments and local authorities to make sure that no areas are left behind.

Jane Wood, BT Group Scotland director.

Support for blind and partially sighted people

The 2020 Covid crisis has prompted a greater sense of social cohesion and solidarity but it also exposed and exacerbated some of the barriers that blind and partially sighted people still face.

Access to online shopping slots, a lack of essential health information in formats such as audio and braille, and confusion over whether social distancing allowed for blind and partially sighted people to still be guided added to the distress many felt.

The first lockdown came out of the blue when we had little real-life experience of managing a national emergency, but it is now more essential than ever that we learn the lessons and ensure no one falls through the safety-net. Another period of enforced confinement during the winter months could hit some particularly hard.

During the first lockdown, RNIB Scotland and other charities worked extremely hard to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable were met – at a time when even the most able in society were thrown by the suddenness and uncertainty the crisis had created.

We negotiated set online shopping slots for people with sight loss, worked with public bodies to ensure the often vital information they put out was available in formats accessible to everyone, and clarified the rules on guiding people with a visual impairment.

These gains must be reinforced if we are returning to another nationwide lockdown.

Currently, around 178,000 people are living in Scotland with significant sight loss. Although most are over the age of 60, around 3,500 children and young people also have a visual impairment.

The RNIB Helpline remains available on 0303 123 9999 and information continues to be broadcast on RNIB’s Connect Radio station. The RNIB Talking Book library posts and downloads thousands of titles in audio and other formats.

Find out more at www.rnib.org.uk/scotland

James Adams, director, RNIB Scotland.

Brexit outcome disastrous for Scottish farmers

As always in such matters, the UK-EU Brexit deal will invariably throw up more than a few surprises aside from the usual headlines heralding a British ‘victory’ in negotiations.

The fact that, for example, seed potatoes are not to be included in the deal will be deeply damaging to our rural economy. Scottish seed potato farmers are one of the biggest exporters of potatoes, used in the production of chips and crisps, in the world.

The sector in Scotland accounts for around 80 per cent of UK production and is worth about £122 million annually.

One fifth of these exports go to the EU, amounting to more than 20,000 tonnes a year.

This is clearly a disastrous Brexit outcome for Scottish farmers and like all other aspects of Brexit, foisted on Scotland against its will.

A terrible negotiating failure on the part of the Tory government, and a devastating blow to an extremely valuable part of Scotland’s farming industry, I am sure it will not be the first damaging impact to be highlighted once the deal is fully analysed.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.