THE call for the formation of a National Savings Bank by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp in his column is very timely, as Scotland really needs a publicly owned bank that is not thirled to the demands of private shareholders (RBS closures are proof that free markets don’t fix all our problems, The National, February 8).

There used to be such an entity, the TSB as was, until it was robbed from the people that owned it and sold back to them in a typical swindle by one Margaret Thatcher.

The Royal Bank of Scotland has amply demonstrated that its agenda is that of making money to the exclusion of all else. Our local RBS branch was closed last year, with the nearest available 21 miles away in Aberdeen. Gladly would I change banks if I thought any of the others did not have at their root the same profit-driven purpose.

The Scottish Government last year announced its intention of launching a publicly owned electricity utility, which would fix fair prices without the input of big shareholders looking over its shoulder. The launch of a publicly owned Scottish retail bank would fit in with this vision. It would in essence be run for its users and not for profit; it could make use of premises already vacated by RBS, Clydesdale etc where available, many of which are lying empty; it should also print its own banknotes.

Such a bank would, I am sure, be popular and successful and would attract many accounts from those dissatisfied by the present order.

Ken Gow

KEVIN McKenna’s article on “Male-only clubs like the Masons...” (The National, February 7) really is a lazy piece of journalism.

He refers to allegations by a former Police Federation chairman, Steve White, about Masons blocking reform. Mr White offered no evidence. Mr McKenna is happy to accept his word. There is no explanation as to how any Mason might benefit from “blocking reform”.

Mr McKenna states that Masons pledge loyalty to each other. They don’t. They do pledge that they will not use Freemasonry for personal gain. I have been a member of a Masonic Lodge in England for over 40 years (I lived there until a few years ago). In all that time I was never offered any employment advantage via Freemasonry and when I was in a relatively senior employment position, no mason ever sought any employment favours.

Mr McKenna claims that decisions regarding the Iraq War, the banking collapse and Brexit were made in Masonic lodges. Does he have the smallest shred of evidence of this?

I wonder why – other than general references to male-only golf clubs – Mr McKenna concentrates on the Masons. I can think of one other male-only organisation, similar in aims to the Masons, but which only allows members of one particular Christian religion. Doesn’t this merit a mention?

There is passing reference in the article to “the craft’s charitable activities”. A little research by Mr McKenna would have identified the millions of pounds which are donated to non-masonic charities – and that money is raised from masons and their friends and families.

In this day and age I’m proud to be a member of an organisation where I have sat with bin men, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, Protestants, Roman Catholics (they just don’t tell their priests), Jews, Muslims, Hindus and many other occupations and religions. We concentrate on our similarities, not our differences.

I suspect that there are some valid points in the article. However, there is so much unsubstantiated nonsense that it is difficult to take the article – or Mr McKenna – seriously. Rather than write from a position of ignorance, he could try talking to the people he talks about.

Douglas Morton

ABOUT 50 years ago I was staying in the Belgian town of Ghent. One day I came across two gentlemen who were having a friendly argument. They invited me to assist them in reaching a decision about a matter which was dividing them.

One was adamant that Flemish was simply a dialect of Dutch, while the other was equally adamant that it was a separate language. Having only a limited knowledge of Dutch/Flemish I was unable to help them, but it set me thinking.

There can be little doubt that Flemish is a variant of Dutch in much the same way that American is a variant of English. Closer to home in these islands, variants of English are spoken using words and expressions which are unique to the areas where they are used. On arrival in Scotland 40 years ago I was educated by several Scots on the difference of usage north and south of the Border for a number of words. It was instructive in showing to this newcomer that Scots English has a different vocabulary and grammar to English English.

Initially when I saw the Scots language page in The National, I found it difficult to read and so ignored it. It reminded me of a weekly column in my local paper when I was growing up which was written in Broad Norfolk, and I dismissed it as a curiosity in the same vein. Gaelic I could accept, but Scots? Recently I have been making an attempt to read these pages with, I think, some success, though I would not consider it proper for me to try to speak or write in Scots. I should regard that as an insult to Scotland and the Scots.

I have not yet acquired for myself a Scots dictionary, so I struggle with some words and expressions; but reading Reid Moffat’s letter (February 8) I wonder if variants of the language are a help or a hindrance, or if there is a standard Scots we poor foreigners could use to help us understand better. In the books I own which are written in the Norfolk dialect there is a glossary to help people understand the meanings of the words unique to that county. Perhaps The National could have a regular column allowing non-Scots speakers to further their education in one of the languages of this country?

Robert Mitchell