Letters, March 5 2021

Letters.

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Beware scam callers using wrong numbers

Your interesting article headlined ‘new network will protect vulnerable’ caused me to recall several morning incoming phone calls received a few weeks ago.

The format was that a politely spoken lady suggested that I might be in some trouble if I did not listen to the details. I immediately hung up – wondering which of my frailties had been discovered – and phoned 1471 which tells you the last number that called.

I twice noted the number given by 1471 and ventured to phone it. On dialling this number, the phone company advised me that there was ‘no such number’.

Over a week, adopting identical procedures, five different ‘no such numbers’ were found. The job of answering morning calls was then delegated to the message answering machine and only once did it receive a call which was terminated speedily by the caller without a message.

Is there a flaw in our phone companies’ systems with consequent loss of income? If this flaw could be eradicated, phone scammers might be less numerous and consequently afford a little more protection for the vulnerable.

Gordon Caskie, Campbeltown.

Mishmash of worn out tropes

Going by the length of John Newall’s reply to my letter on England’s disastrous Brexit, forced upon Scotland against our democratic wishes, I had expected better than the mishmash of worn out tropes and John Bull exceptionalism trotted out by Mr Newall.

Mr Newall makes great play of the successful roll-out of the Covid vaccine in Scotland and the UK. He is absolutely right, it has been a fantastic achievement, but to then go on to use this success to denigrate the EU’s vaccine programme is crass and over simplistic.

Our success is an illusion until both doses of vaccine are administered, crowing about vaccines when only 0.80 per cent of the UK population has had the vital second jag, compared, for example, to 2.87 per cent in Denmark, is both presumptuous and inappropriate.

Mr Newall goes on to assert that Scotland has a deficit that will prevent Scotland re-entering the EU, without of course mentioning the elephant in the room, the UK’s ruinous £2 trillion – and increasing – debt. Unionists need to get their own house in order before lecturing anyone else.

Of course, legally, Scotland has no ‘deficit’ or ‘debt’. How can a country with virtually no borrowing ability have a debt? What Scotland does have is a notional ‘debt’, the price of Westminster failure within the UK, where spending outwith Scotland’s control is assigned to Scotland, such as Trident, HS2 and London’s Crossrail. Spending that Scots taxpayers cough up for.

Indeed, if Courier readers start counting now at the rate of one a second, they’ll reach the number of pounds spent on Boris Johnson’s failed Track and Trace system at about 9.45am on April 24 in the year 2718. Readers may well wonder where the money went and why this is being loaded on to Scotland’s ledger.

Straight from the ‘Better Together’ playbook, Mr Newall brings up the hoary old ‘Spanish veto’ myth. The truth is that Spain has no issue with an independent Scotland in the EU so long as this is within the framework of the UK constitution – which it is.

Unlike Catalonia’s predicament, Scotland is not a ‘region’ of the UK, there is no constitutional prohibition on independence votes or indeed of Scotland abrogating the 1707 Treaty of Union with England.

This is why successive prime ministers, from Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron, have repeatedly recognised the right of the Scottish people to independence – and why Boris Johnson’s oafish ‘No’ will run into the sand.

Mr Newall and I will never agree but that is the essence of democracy, and the right to choose in a free country.

Scotland can either remain, semi-detached and impotent, as part of an increasingly insular Little Englander Tory Britain, bringing in its wake further austerity and diminished life chances for our young people, or Scots can vote for independence, just like our neighbours.

Yes, there will be difficult choices, yes, there will be mistakes, but they will be our decisions to get right as we work for the prosperous, open and internationalist country that is within our grasp.

Ron Wilson, secretary, Kintyre SNP.

Investment in digital connectivity

I am delighted that our council will be investing nearly £6.8 million to help keep Argyll and Bute going and growing.

After relentless campaigning from myself and others it’s great to see, at long last, some substantial investment in our crumbling infrastructure.

Building on investments made in previous years, an additional £2.613 million will be invested to drive forward improvements and repairs to Argyll and Bute’s network of roads in rural, remote, island and urban communities, bringing the overall roads reconstruction budget to £10 million for 2021/22.

We are also investing more in active travel, in line with the council’s agreed priorities. This includes a further £500,000 in enhancing and improving footpaths. This investment complements the current allocation of £400,000 in green transport and travel.

This recent Covid pandemic has highlighted more than ever the need to tackle our urban-rural divide. Even now, many of my constituents are paying primum prices for snail’s pace broadband speeds.

That’s why £250,000 is being invested in a Tackling Digital Exclusion Top-Up Fund – to support people, businesses and communities to access improved digital connections for social and commercial opportunities supporting communities and in some cases individuals that are missing out on national programmes due to logistics and economies of scale.

While this budget is not perfect and there will be challenges ahead as we start to recover from the ongoing global pandemic this is a massive step in the correct direction.

Now my constituents across the Kintyre and the Islands ward will quite rightly want to see action, not more talking.

So that means more help for our small businesses, improving our digital connectivity and substantial improvements to our roads which in so many areas are sadly approaching the point of no return.

Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands ward.

Have your say on future of stroke research

Six years ago, I had a sudden and life-changing stroke. I’m not alone in this: stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK, and around 1.2 million survivors are living with its devastating effects.

Despite this, research into stroke is severely underfunded. Just one per cent of the total UK public and third sector health research spend goes towards stroke research.

The Stroke Association has launched a unique opportunity for stroke survivors and those who care for stroke survivors to have our say on the future of stroke research. Partnered with the James Lind Alliance, the charity will find out what matters to us most so research can make the biggest difference to our lives.

With such limited funds for stroke research, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s vital that we come together and make our voices heard.

If you’re a stroke survivor, or you care for or work with someone affected by stroke, join me and speak up for stroke.

Visit www.stroke.org.uk/jla by March 21.

Chris Tarrant, radio and television broadcaster.