THE failure of the Forth Road Bridge was caused by a complete lack of engineering awareness by politicians in the early 1990s. The current road bridge opened in 1964 and it was hoped to last 100 years. This was based on the forecast traffic volumes at that time.

The rise of the private car, courier companies etc. was unforeseen.

So in the late 1980s, engineers put forward the design for a new second Forth Road Bridge as they estimated that the current bridge would reach its maximum daily traffic flow by 1992.

The Scottish Office then asked for tenders for a replacement bridge. These were received and a design chosen which was identical in structure to the one currently being built today.

Then for some reason, I suspect the need for the build funds to go elsewhere, the tender process was cancelled with the business that won the tender getting a good pay off for a cancelled project. If my memory is correct this was over £200 million.

The failure here, in my opinion, was that the politicians in charge at that time were like all of that breed, thinking short term. They wanted the funds elsewhere for their own projects.

The fact that engineers told them this bridge would be damaged if the traffic volumes kept going up was simply ignored. This failure was not a one-off event.

When the SNP came to power in 2007 they were amazed that there were no capital funds in place for the bridge we are building today.

Had the politicians acted correctly in the early 1990s and built a second bridge at that time the current bridge would not have been badly damaged, we would have had eight traffic lanes (four on each road bridge) and a good life left for the first Forth Road Bridge.

Instead we have a damaged bridge with a short life ahead of it. Another question one needs to ask is why, knowing that the current bridge was in such a poor state (in 2007) was the new bridge only given four lanes as opposed to six or eight.

There are many examples of politicians thinking in five-year blocks.

Take for instance the lack of action over the last 20 years to keep our lights on.

During this time we have gone from a safety factor of over 20 per cent spare generating capacity to about one per cent.

Robert Anderson
Dunning, Perthshire

IT was heartening to read Jim Sillars call for a list vote for Rise to help reintroduce an honest and thinking socialist voice to the Scottish Parliament (The National, December 4).

In the first two parliaments, the SSP brought radical anti-poverty policies to the Parliament through Bills for free prescriptions, free school meals, and a progressive alternative to council tax.

The party also argued for a more rational policy on drug use, many parts of which are now heard echoed by one-time mainstream politicians who recognised the veracity of the SSP’s outlook but said nothing until retirement from politics.

Unlike those mainstream parties and politicians, the SSP have never run away from promoting policies which we believe to be correct and necessary but which may be unpopular with the press. I am confident that the SSP will maintain that outlook as part of Rise.

The additional member system offers a realistic route for Rise to gain a foothold in the Parliament, but we have less than five months to engage with people and communities and gain sufficient support.

Today’s Rise Democracy Conference represents the next step along that road where a series of ambitious and radical policies aimed at gaining that support will be formulated.

David Stevenson

I HAVE much respect for Jim Sillars but disagree with his view that second votes for the SNP in May 2016 would be “wasted” (The National, December 4).

Although the PR element of the Holyrood voting system can make the overall results unpredictable, it is not true to say that the SNP could not gain a high number of regional seats as well as constituency seats.

Mathematically, all they need is as many first and second votes as possible. They achieved this in 2011 and can do so again.

First and second votes for the SNP will create a better chance of gaining seats for the Yes movement as it is more likely that second votes for the smaller parties would not convert to seats. This pattern too is clear from the 2011 election results.

Contrary to what Jim Sillars says, second votes for the smaller parties would be “wasted” and would be better given to the SNP.

In May, we should give the SNP our first and second votes to achieve the maximum number of Yes seats in readiness for the next referendum.

Once Scotland gets her independence, the other parties can then play a meaningful role in forming an opposition.

Dennis White

WONDERFUL news! We have found millions of pounds to bomb Syria every month for 100 years.

Those wonderfully accurate missiles costing £40,000 that can hit a moving vehicle worth £1,000 with deadly accuracy. We can drop bombs from a great height and demolish all the buildings that these evil terrorists are hiding in.

We might even kill some of them. It’s good that complete strangers should kill other complete strangers on orders from on high. We might even manage to kill more of them than they can kill of us.

Naturally we didn’t bother to ask the Syrians if they minded us bombing them — after all we never bothered about them for years but now we just have to join the queue of big and important boys.

And that, of course, is the problem. Utter childishness. The Western policy towards Arabs and Muslims has been utterly disgraceful since 1948 when we allowed the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel and forced them into huge refugee towns where their descendants live in an atmosphere of humiliation and hopelessness. We only bother about Arabs with oil and ignore the fact that they are evil dictatorships who are probably funding terrorism. Are we bombing Saudi Arabia?

Did you listen to all those politicians with their medieval mind sets blethering on with totally inane and childish reasoning — and all with a straight face.

Now we will get every night on the TV how our brave boys from a great height and playing with drones will go on their killing sprees. Why not instead of spending £11,000,000 a day don’t all these brave countries figure out, using a thing called the brain, why this is happening and what are the political and economic prices of solving the problem in a 21st century instead of 19th century manner?

By the way, aren’t the arms dealers laughing all the way to the banks?

B McKenna

HILARY Benn, shadow foreign secretary in his speech openly from the opposition frontbench criticised, challenged and humiliated the leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn. Along with other Labour members he voted with the party in Government for air strikes on Syria.

Yet, Benn is still in the post. And Corbyn slinks into the shadows yet again.

Does Corbyn have any dignity and personal integrity left after that? Can any leader of a party still function when a senior office holder openly defies and humiliates him or her in such a way?

A large coterie of the Labour MPs and, indeed, many members of the shadow cabinet are openly contemptuous of Corbyn. Looking at Westminster Labour as an outsider, I am staggered at Corbyn’s public passivity in the face of the open and covert challenges to his authority as party leader from his own ranks. In fact, in comparison, the Tory attacks on him seem benign.

It would seem Corbyn has only two options. Resign before his quiet dignity and principles are torn asunder by the cabals already taking place or strike first.

Reconstruct the shadow cabinet firstly by replacing those members of it who voted for air strikes, starting with Hilary Benn. If he fears that would rent his party asunder, then he need not fear. It is already split and the parliamentary party wants him removed anyhow. Is it a party worth saving in its present state? If he is going to be taken out, then he should take the coterie out along with him.

John Edgar

IT strikes me that Hilary Benn might be more suited to sit on the other side of the House.

His speech on Tuesday evening —oh yes, extremely erudite — being one that Cameron probably wishes he had made himself. Literally and metaphorically squeezing Corbyn out on the front bench, Benn was applauded by the Conservative MPs as he finished speaking (I thought MPs were not supposed to clap — or is that ban just for SNP MPs?) But if Benn moved from the Labour opposition to the other side his father would turn in his grave.

Jackie Scott-Mandeville
Strathlachlan, Argyll

AFTER a busy few days, I have been catching up with the papers. (It is interesting to contrast the actual outcomes with columnists’ prognostications).

I have been impressed by the insights of the many columnists to whom you have given a platform.

Michael Gray’s column on Tuesday states: “Bombs are the most dangerous strategy. Haven’t we learned all this after seven wars during this century alone?” I think the answer is that billions of us have learned that.

The question should be: “Who has benefited from those ‘seven wars this century?” The answer, as “Deep Throat” advised Woodward and Bernstein over forty years ago, is to “follow the money”.

Some 55 years ago, at his retirement, President Eisenhower warned about the “military-industrial complex”. There is a tiny percentage of the world’s population who are richer than Croesus. They have assumed a continually increasing proportion of the wealth and power.

They are increasingly insulated from the world the rest of us inhabit. They operate through proxies, who are relatively well remunerated compared to the general populace and have a degree of protection.

However, as the Ancient Greeks pointed out, there is a thing called “hubris”.

Alasdair Macdonald