AS a keen skier and climber I have been disappointed by the lack of snow in the Highlands this winter, as highlighted in your pages (Frustration for skiers as Scottish pistes remain closed due to lack of snow, The National, December 29).

I note that there has been a similar absence of snow at the European ski resorts but saw many have kept the slopes open by using snow-making machines.

I understand the economic problems caused for upland areas when snow doesn’t play ball, but it does make me reflect on the irony that people travel, often by air, a long way to go skiing.

Even getting to Scottish resorts is a couple of hours by car, at least for most people. And the snow machines use up even more energy. This fuel consumption contributes, of course, to the global warming which causes the conditions that stop the snowfall.

I don’t propose a ban on leisure travel, but the Alps are accessible by rail, and it’s not too far from the main Fort William line to Scottish resorts such as Glen Coe and Nevis Range. To be really green we could ensure these places had their own rail stations, making a day’s skiing from the central belt a greener, cleaner proposition.

John Macanenay Glasgow

Independence needs unity – not new parties

READING The National every day is a breath of fresh air as I no longer have to cringe at the coverage our movement receives at the hands of the Unionist press. However, there are times when I have to question the opinions even of my own pro-independence ‘brethren’!

Being well over 60 I have been waiting a long time for our movement to get this close to achieving our aim so you might forgive me for getting very hot under the collar at people – including Cat Boyd, Carolyn Leckie and Jim Sillars – supporting new pro-independence parties to compete with the SNP.

What are the motives for this? Self interest? Delusional ideas that by creating new parties at this stage this will, somehow, help the cause? All they are going to achieve, if that is the word, is the feeding of the mainstream media with new propaganda, such as stories about how the SNP is haemorrhaging votes to new parties as voters become ‘disenchanted’ with independence/SNP governance.

That is the way it will be interpreted in the English and Scottish mainstream media, make no bones about it. This can only be a hindrance to the main aim.

Like them or loathe them, backing the SNP is far and away the best option at this stage. The SNP is what I call a ‘collective party’, that is, made up of all aspects of Scottish political activity (correctly keeping their discipline). It is not beyond possibility that come independence, the party will split into its fairly well-defined political factions – so why can’t these calls for new parties wait until then?

Anyone who thinks that the creation of new parties at this stage in the proceedings is progressive, is in my mind, deluded. We need a concentration of minds and a resolve to vote SNP until the aim is achieved. Then let’s create a modern democratic system with as many political parties as the country wishes. Bite your tongue if you have to.

I think most of us who read The National have the same objective in mind – please don’t endanger it by going off in tangents and offering the Unionists serious ammunition to use against us. Cool it and concentrate.

Bruce Simpson Hawick

MERRY Christmas, Mr David Cameron. I read with incredulity your Christmas message, in which you stated: “As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope”.

However, you don’t appear to have set such a good Christian example yourself.

The Bible states: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods (house, wife, animals, etc); thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour.

So far you are not doing too well!

The Bible doesn’t say: “Kill thy Christians and Muslims who happen to abide in lands flowing with holy oil”. Nor does it say: “Lay blame at thy poor, thy homeless, thy hungry and those who are inflicted with a disablement, for they shall be cursed”.

I would like to remind you of Matthew 22:21, which records Jesus’s response when questioned about tax collection. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”.

Jesus didn’t say: “Arrange your tax affairs so as to defraud Caesar and leave the poor, the hungry and the disabled to suffer all your taxes.”

I would also like remind you of that books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, specifically outlaw bestiality in any form. Deuteronomy 27:21 – “Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast”.

Perhaps Mr Cameron, your own New Year’s Resolution, could be to try to follow the Bible instead of just preaching.

Roddy MacNeill East Kilbride

YOUR correspondent the Reverend John Nugent is correct about Iran’s human rights record, but is selective in criticising only the SNP about their trade visit to that country (Letters, December 28).

While he mentions China’s appalling execution rates, he does not censure George Osborne’s recent visit to drum-up trade with that country. Saudi Arabia mercilessly beats its citizens and chops off their heads in public, but David Cameron is happy to supply weapons to them.

The Egyptian army has destroyed democracy and murdered hundreds of people simply for supporting the ex-ruling party. But hey, Egypt is a friend of the West so what the hell!

As an aside, it is worth noting that Iran has not directly attacked another country in generations, whereas the USA has invaded many and tortured innocent captives for years. So if Mr Nugent rails against the SNP again, I hope he will introduce some balance.

Richard Walthew Duns, near Berwick

I CONFESS to being confused about the claim that there is a shortage of housing for low-cost rental in Scotland. You recently published a letter of mine recounting a conversation with a well-known architect and authority on the built environment.

He assured me there were one million empty houses in the UK, stressing that he meant houses and not flats or tenements. The problem, he said, was that there were not employment opportunities where the houses were. Some local authorities, he said, will gladly sell you a terraced house for a nominal £1, just to get it off their books.

I find it difficult to square this view of the housing market with the claim of a lack of cheap rental property. Scotland must have a share of these empty properties, and in a relatively small country some of them at least must be accessible to employment and education.

So what is going on? Perhaps someone can explain and perhaps our politicians can take action.

Peter Craigie Edinburgh

Letters to The National, December 30, Part 2: A key issue of 2016 is TTIP. What exactly is the SNP's policy on it?